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Foolishness!

Grunewald

In the Bible, Psalms 14 and 53 both open with the statement: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’” Whatever this may tell us about unbelief in ancient Hebrew society, today it is not only, or predominantly, fools who are saying this. And they do not restrict their utterances to their hearts alone.

Especially in the United States and Europe—the historic heart of “Christendom”—there are large (and growing) numbers of intelligent, educated, reasonable people who reject Christianity and the God it proclaims. Many of these find Christian belief to be literally incredible—not just false, but ridiculously and grotesquely so. Some of these are high-profile public figures: scientists, philosophers, journalists, novelists, politicians, bloggers, and stand-up comedians. But most of them are just normal folks. They are colleagues, friends, relatives, and even, at least sometimes, a little bit of ourselves. Crucially, we ought not to forget that, particularly in the United States, these non-fools have likely been (and will ever remain) sealed by baptism; the Catholics among them will have been catechized, confirmed, and given first Communion as “true witnesses of Christ,” as the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” describes them (LG, 11).

These hard facts, especially when combined with rising levels of those “non-affiliated” with religion (most of whom are not, or at least not yet, actual atheists), present the Church with even harder questions. For the most part, despite the Second Vatican Council’s prescient observation in the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World”—“atheism may be numbered among the most serious matters of our time and merits more careful attention”—they are questions we have scarcely begun to formulate, let alone answer. Doing so is one of the most urgent tasks that Catholics face today.

Of course, there are myriad reasons (philosophical, psychological, social, cultural, moral) why a person might become skeptical toward the truth-claims of Christianity. Here I'll focus on just one. Somewhat perversely, this is a fundamental feature of the Christian message, yet one that atheists often grasp more intuitively than we do. Basically, the non-fools have realized something essential that we Catholics have been trying to forget.
 

Monstrous Claims

 
Let’s face it: The God of Christianity is an extraordinarily odd kind of being (if one can call God a kind of “being” at all). And the followers of this God subscribe to—or say they do—a list of seemingly ludicrous claims.

It is one thing to affirm a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, who created and sustains “all things visible and invisible.” That is in itself a fairly striking and radical claim—in its time, one that was revolutionary in human history and that the infant Christianity imbibed at the breast of Judaism. Yet it is quite another thing to claim that this God—or worse, one of three persons of this one God—took flesh, resulting in someone both fully God and fully human.

Consider, for example, Christianity’s most instantly recognizable (and thereby most easily ignorable) symbols: the baby Jesus and the crucifix. The first symbol proclaims that this God-man spent a significant amount of time doing things like suffering from colic and cradle cap, screaming in the night for no discernible reason, and weeing incontinently over his sleep-deprived (human) parents. Tears, tantrums and teething are thus the works of the one true God, just as surely as are “the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Acts 4:24).

The second symbol affirms that the God-man was tortured and murdered, subjected not even to some grandiosely superlative mode of suffering and death, as might befit a king, but to the tawdrily mundane form of execution to which the Roman Empire treated countless slaves, pirates and enemies of the state (a fact that in itself raises an interesting question about the kind of God we are dealing with).

It is perhaps fair to say that most believers do not quite realize the outrageous character of these most basic and taken-for-granted hallmarks of Christianity. (Is there not something at least a little strange about hanging around one’s neck a miniature corpse nailed to a tiny cross?) Irrespective of whether they are true or not, these are surely among the wildest and most monstrous claims ever proposed in human history. And if they are true, then they are, or ought to be, the most profound and world-inverting facts about life and the universe. Yet somehow, in the course of nearly 2,000 years, these claims have become so familiar, so tamed and domesticated, as to seem hardly worthy of comment, let alone wonder or puzzlement, among the great majority of those who profess them.
 

Foolishness to the Gentiles

 
Such was not, however, the case for those to whom the good news of Jesus Christ was first proposed. As Paul famously put it: “We proclaim Christ and him crucified, a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). For the Jews, of course, the claim that the Messiah had come but had been crucified was blasphemously scandalous (skandalon being the Greek word for “stumbling-block”). And they were, it should be said, impeccably non-foolish in thinking so: No one was expecting a crucified-and-raised Messiah (hence, for example, Peter’s “satanic” rebuke to Jesus in Matthew 16:22 and the disappointment of those trudging along the road to Emmaus concerning him whom they “had hoped...would be the one to redeem Israel” in Luke 24).

For the gentiles, meanwhile—the non-Jews—the entire proclamation was manifest folly. The very idea that the king of the Jews—indeed, of the whole world—would hail not merely from a backwater of the Empire (Judea), but from a backwater of that backwater (Galilee), would arrive on donkeyback leading a motley assemblage of peasants and fishermen, and would be arrested and crucified as a common criminal before miraculously coming back to life a few days later as the savior of the universe—surely these were the ravings, as the pagan philosopher Celsus put it, of “women, slaves, and little children.”

But for those who have been brought up with this narrative and with the idea of a God who was truly a human being—however imperfectly or infrequently expressed or reflected upon—it is very hard indeed to be genuinely confronted with the Christian proclamation in all of its (apparently) scandalous foolishness. Whether one believes it all or not, it is very easy to nod along half-heartedly (a diaper-clad creator? Fine; a god who gets murdered? Sure; a carpenter who saves the universe? Whatever) as though these are the most boringly obvious facts one has ever heard. And it has to be said that all too often Christian preaching and apologetics simply reinforce this view.

By presenting “Christ and him crucified” as something platitudinous and uncontroversial—something to which all right-minded, non-obtuse people should naturally and non-problematically assent—we risk conditioning not just others, but ourselves, against ever taking this outlandish proposition truly seriously. It is an unusual person who would turn his or her life around for the sake of something platitudinous or commonsensical. And yet it is precisely such a turnaround (metanoia), or repentance, that Jesus thinks is required in order to “believe in the good news” (Mk 1:15).

In The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann remarks that the true import of Good Friday:
 

“is often better recognized by non-Christians and atheists than by religious Christians, because it astonishes and offends them. They see the profane horror and godlessness of the Cross because they do not believe the religious interpretations which have given a meaning to the senselessness of this death.”

 
In this light, consider these remarks taken from two of the New Atheists, that no doubt reflect the views of a wider group of non-fools. Richard Dawkins writes in The God Delusion:
 

“I have described the atonement...as vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent. We should also dismiss it as barking mad, but for its ubiquitous familiarity which has dulled our objectivity.”

 
And Sam Harris, in Letter to a Christian Nation, writes:
 

“Christianity amounts to the claim that we must love and be loved by a God who approves of the scapegoating, torture, and murder of one man—his son, incidentally—in compensation for the misbehavior and thought-crimes of all others.”

 
Now, as fair descriptions of the theology of the cross, these statements leave much to be desired. But as impressionist reflections on the kind of thing that the crucifixion is—a monstrous affront to, and interruption of, the normal workings of the world (“God’s foolishness,” as Paul puts it)—they are arguably onto something vital to which Christians have inured themselves. While wonderment and incredulity are not quite the same thing, an unbeliever may yet hear strains overlooked by those with ears grown “dull of hearing” (Mt 13:15).
 

Re-encountering the Gospel

 
Dawkins is correct that the problem lies with “ubiquitous familiarity”—not because it undermines our objectivity but rather because it limits our capacity to be shocked and astonished, and thus excited and challenged. It is one thing to believe that Christianity is true. It is quite another to feel amazement that it not only is true, but even could be so, and to (re)build one’s life around it. Many Catholics seem to focus on convincing people only of the former. Perhaps that is one reason why so many Catholics, having been raised and educated in the faith, are so easily able to drift away from it (often without really noticing they are doing so).

But for the growing number of people brought up outside of Christianity, or who have already drifted sufficiently far from it, the possibilities of encountering the Gospel in all its mind-bending splendor are more promising. A context in which the Christian Gospel can be received as scandalous foolery is, as the early church amply demonstrates, equally one in which it can be greeted with surprise as “all that is good and right and true” (Eph 5:9). Viewed in this light, Scripture’s cryptic preference for being hot or cold, as opposed to lukewarm, makes much more sense (Rv 3:15-16).

Naturally, in emphasizing the radical, paradoxical nature of the Christian proclamation, there is a danger of retreating into fideistic obscurity. This, too, is gravely to be avoided: Augustine and Aquinas both caution against (unnecessarily) giving rise to irrisio infidelium, or “the mockery of unbelievers.” My point is not that Christianity is actually foolish, or false or ridiculous—on the contrary! But rather that like so many profoundly true things, it should probably strike us as such on a first and cursory hearing. Compare, for example, the wonders of the universe revealed to us by modern physics: that everything in the universe was once packed into an infinitesimally small space; that the vast majority of a solid object is actually empty space; that there are perhaps a hundred billion galaxies in the universe, each with maybe a hundred billion solar systems and so forth. Popular science writers are adept at carefully explaining how and why all these things are true and the solid reasons we have for believing them. But they also revel in the scandalously foolish appearance of these claims, knowing full well that this is what excites and enthralls their readers.

The earliest Christians were no strangers to such strategies. The second-century apologist St. Melito of Sardis speaks of Christ as “treading upon the earth, yet filling heaven...standing before Pilate, and at the same time sitting with his Father; he was nailed upon the tree, and yet was the Lord of all things.” And as Augustine famously wrote in one of his Christmas homilies: “The maker of man was made man, that the ruler of the stars might suck at the breast; the fountain, thirst...strength, be made weak; health, be wounded; life, die.”

“A stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles” this may be, but better that than a platitude to the “non-affiliated” and boredom to the baptized.
 
 
Originally published in America. It is taken from Stephen's forthcoming book titled Faith and Unbelief (Canterbury Press, 2013; Paulist Press, 2014).
(Image credit: Tutt Art)

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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  • This all reminds me of a quote from former agnostic, Catholic novelist, and committed Kierkegaardian Walker Percy, which sounds like something out of "The God Delusion":

    Judeo-Christianity is indeed a preposterous religion...Judaism proposes as a serious claim to truth and for our belief that a a God exists as a spirit separate from us, that he made the Cosmos from nothing, that he made man, a creature of body and spirit, that man suffered a fall or catastrophe, and that as a consequence God entered into a unique covenant with one of the most insignificant tribes on one of the most insignificant planets of one of the most insignificant of the 100 billion stars of one of the billions and billions of galaxies in the Cosmos.

    Protestant Christianity is even more preposterous than Judaism. It proposes not only all of the above but further, that God himself, the God of the entire Cosmos, appeared as a man, one man and no other...that he came to save us from our sins, that he was killed, lay in a tomb for three days, and was raised form the dead, and that the salvation of man depends on his hearing the news of this event and believing it!

    Catholic Christianity is the most preposterous of the three. It proposes, not only all of the above, but also that the man-god founded a church, appointed as its first head a likable but pusillanimous person, like himself a Jew, the most fallible of his friends, gave him and his successors the power to loose and to bind, required of his followers that they eat his body and drink his blood in order to have life in them, empowered his priests to change bread and wine into his body and blood, and vowed to protect this institution until the end of time. At which time he promised to return.

    Atheists, as Stephen points out, are often better equipped to see the "preposterous," life-changing nature of our "strange notions." Believers need to be reminded; but they also need to be on guard against the fideism that getting stuck on this kind of thinking can engender. Bravo Stephen!

  • Rationalist1

    The Psalms referenced by the author (14 and 53) inspire me in a different way now that I am an atheist as compared with when I was a believer. It inspires me that 3000 years ago, before people knew about diseases, knew what caused day and night, knew what caused storms and earthquakes, one would expect that all people would believe in an agency beyond these events and attribute it to a God. But thanks to the Psalmist we knew people existed that were willing to stand up to their society and say no, there is no God. It caused the Psalmist such anxiety that he condemned them twice, even saying "They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good." (some things never change).

    It's so much easier to be an atheist now, post Enlightenment, post Darwin, and post Einstein. And when you're called a fool you know it also applies to 97% of the British Royal Society, 93% or the American Academy of Science, most Nobel Prize winners, most scientists and very few politicians.

    Thank you Psalmist.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The Psalmist was referring to practical, not theoretical, atheists. He was condemning the man who thinks he will get away with evil, as if there was no ultimate consequences.

      Not everyone who is a fool says there is no God (unfortunately there are an infinite variety of us) and not everyone who says there is no God is a fool (maybe).

      • Rationalist1

        That's not what the Psalms say. It doesn't talk about practical or theoretical atheists. I never heard the term "practical atheist" and it refers to theists who believe in God yet act immorally as if they were really atheists. (http://atheism.about.com/od/whoareatheists/a/PracticalAtheis.htm )

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The Psalmist is a poet not a theologian. He uses poetic, not theological or philosophical terms. So he would not call said "fool" an atheist of any sort. In fact, I'd be surprised if the word "atheist" is anywhere in the Bible.

          The assumption in the term "practical atheist" is that someone who rejects God will do any damned thing he wants. That is probably not an accurate assumption, since many atheists say they are trying to be morally good.

          • Rationalist1

            The Psalmist may not be a theologian but his writings are used for theology. If that is the assumption in the term practical atheist then I would suggest you not use it. It's a blanket statement about a group of people.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are right. It should not be used to bash atheists.

            However, it is a useful term used within Christianity: A person who says he is a follower of Christ, but acts is if God does not exist.

          • Rationalist1

            Although the goal should be to internalize the morality so that's one's actions are less because of some divine oversight or retribution and more because the actions are right in themselves. That approach works for believers and non believers as well.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree but if you consider the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs view of humanity, there are a lot of wolves who are not going to internalize morality and need fear of God and of human law to restrain them.

            Like this monster:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARRM4MaMubw

          • Rationalist1

            We can't dispense with human law, and we can't force people to follow that goal but we should, as Kant said " Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.", a variation of the golden rule.

          • Stephen Bulivant

            Hi R1 and Kevin; thanks for commenting. The issue you both raise about the meaning of 'say in their hearts...' - i.e., whether it's referring to actual atheists, or immoral believers - is a really interesting one, though I didn't want to get sidetracked with it here (hence my 'Whatever this may tell us about unbelief in ancient Hebrew society'...). My understanding is that the consensus of both the rabbinic commentators, and the early Christian theologians, was that it was the latter (i.e., 'immoral believers' - I've written elsewhere that 'practical atheist' is a term probably best avoided). The rest of the two psalms clearly focus on moral, rather than intellectual or theoretical, issues (e.g., they're where Paul got his 'no one righteous, no not one' phrase from), and some of the ancient commentators thought that the specific phrase *say in their hearts* (rather than out loud, or in their heads) implied a kind of hypocrisy between what they actually professed/believed, and where their commitments *really* lay. (My source for the above, by the way, is Mark Edwards' chapter on 'The First Millennium' in The Oxford Handbook of Atheism, due out later this year).

            *All that said*, however, it may well be that the Psalmist really was referring to actual nonbelievers (as, not unreasonably, a lot of scholars past and present have assumed him to be - St Anselm being the most obvious Christian example, I think) - in which case the Psalms are polemics against both intellectual ('fools') and moral characteristics of unbelievers. (Which is hardly unknown in either Christian or Jewish history, I'm afraid...) Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean there *were* actual, real unbelievers around at the time, as again, denunciations of atheism are perfectly common in history at times when there don't see to be (m)any people who really do fit the bill. Personally, though, I'd be a bit surprised if there weren't any proper unbelievers around at all.

            Fascinating question, at any rate, and one we will probably have a definitive answer to.

          • Rationalist1

            When that verse has been used as a put down against my non belief in person, I always agree with it and say "Yes, the fool says it in it heart there is no God, but the wise person says it right out loud." :->

          • Stephen Bulivant

            Ha!

          • Max Driffill

            Why do you think this person doesn't believe in gods? Heinous crime has been committed forever. It happens loads in countries where religious belief is high (consider Islamic countries, or consider the history of Christianity when and where it possessed real political power). Your hypothesis is further damaged by the fact that the most secular and least religious countries have lower crime rates than do religious countries.
            Well thought out human law, plus law enforcement is our only recourse against people prey on other people.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Whether this man believes in God or not is irreverent; what matters is his behavior. Behavior begins in one's upbringing which is prior to human law.

          • Joe Grech

            Intriguing! "...because the actions are right in themselves." Perhaps you'd like the community of man to believe in this animistic nonsense so that no-one comes along to bash you!?

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,

            How is that animism? No one has suggested that we dispense with law enforcement.

          • Joe Grech

            Because when you say, as was said in the reference I made, "...because the actions are right in themselves" you imbue an action with a quality of moral goodness that it does not rightly have. The next step is to worship inaminate tangibles because you have imbued them with souls. As for law enforcement - laws come and laws go, and so do their enforcers. Perhaps you'd like to discuss your idea of an ideal society with my friend Genghis Khan? I contend that when the moral relativist does good works (as deemed by the standards of this society, for instance) it is not because he is a good person as such, on the contrary, it's because it suits him to do those works AT THAT TIME. At another time it might not suit him. That's not goodness, it's an agenda. Such a man always has his price.

          • GreatSilence

            People like Buddhists and Jains (and others) have been doing damn well with morality and codes of behavior for centuries without any divine command, without any objective morals writ in stone. There need not be any agenda, simply basing your behavior on sound principles like the prevention or minimizing of suffering, ahimsa, and other principles.

          • Joe Grech

            Sound principles? Which ones? Yours or mine?

          • GreatSilence

            Neither. It works, it worked well long before Christianity and continues to do so. These religions, or philosophies if you will, have advanced and sophisticated morals and ethics that need absolutely no divine intervention. They put collections like the OT to shame. They are available to read and assess for yourself, no secret there.

          • Joe Grech

            So, not yours or mine, but theirs? Arbitrary, I'm afraid. Sorry, you can't get around it.

          • GreatSilence

            Quite easy to "get around it". Let's not look at the assertion of an objective morality, but the simple historical fact that these religions, these societies have been living their lives relatively peacefully and in good order for centuries. Bodhicitta, ahimsa, those are simple, common sense rules that we can all follow.

          • The one that you can recognize using reason.

          • Max Driffill

            This is where the debate has to be Joe. Sorry there will always be some ambiguity in such discussions. All we can do is lay out our arguments for or against things, offer what evidence we can and try to persuade people in this way.

          • Max Driffill

            Joe,

            Because when you say, as was said in the reference I made, "...because the actions are right in themselves" you imbue an action with a quality of moral goodness that it does not rightly have.

            That isn't animism. There is in philosophy serious discussion of whether actions are morally right in themselves. This goes back to ancient Greece, and is encapsulated in the Euthyphro's dilemma. From Wikipedia: "Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?"
            This is somewhat more different than the way Socrates framed it by the meaning is fairly straight forward.
            If it is the former, gods command what is morally good because it is morally good independent of gods, then we can simply appeal to the principle itself.

            If it is morally good only because gods say it is then it hard not to see how it is just arbitrary whim imposed by the powerful, whose subjects dutifully say it is good simply because they fear the gods.

            The next step is to worship inaminate tangibles because you have imbued them with souls.
            This does not immediately or even distantly follow from a discussion of the moral good and from positing that deeds may be good in themselves without celestial endorsement. So no worshiping inanimate tangibles is not the next step.

            As for law enforcement - laws come and laws go, and so do their enforcers. Perhaps you'd like to discuss your idea of an ideal society with my friend Genghis Khan?
            You are friends with Gengis Khan? I will come right out and say that I think that is unlikely. Everyone knows Gengis Khan didn't have any friends.

            I contend that when the moral relativist does good works (as deemed by the standards of this society, for instance) it is not because he is a good person as such, on the contrary,
            Who brought up moral relativism?

            it's because it suits him to do those works AT THAT TIME. At another time it might not suit him. That's not goodness, it's an agenda. Such a man always has his price.

            You are merely assuming motives here with out demonstrating anything. This is pretty lazy, and as framed also unclear. You have leapt to moral relativism which wasn't implied. Now you are impugning, for no good reason, and lacking evidence,the character of people who don't share your confession.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Is there any measurable correlation between the crime rates of the world's nations and their percentages of religious believers vs non believers??

          • epeeist

            There is a wider paper by Gregory Paul which has a wider scope than this, it is Evolutionary Psychology, 7 (3), 398-441. You can get a PDF copy.

            I should note that it isn't exactly accepted by a number of people...

          • Max Driffill

            Joe, you have expanded on your original post and made yourself even more incoherent. Excellent.

            Intriguing! "...because the actions are right in themselves." Not so rational, after all. Perhaps you'd like the community of man to believe in this animistic nonsense so that no-one comes along to bash you!?

            I am not going to spend to much time on this as I address it in your response to me. I will note a couple of things here.

            1. This isn't animism no matter how tortured a link you make to it. The question of whether actions are morally good in and of themselves dates back to ancient Greece. So the discussion, contrary to your accusation, baseless, of irrationality is false.

            See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma

            2. Whatever the value systems taught, there are always going to be people who want to come along and "bash you. " Any system of moral education should also be coupled by a society of law, and enforcement of those laws. I'm not sure why you think that anyone who doesn't share a christian conception of the roots of the moral good, suspects that there shouldn't be laws or law enforcement, or that we would hold that in the absence of laws moral and ethical philosophy would ward off bashers. All you can do when the bashers come is call the cops and hoist your own stick in opposition. The bashers have already demonstrated they don't care about any kind of moral reasoning and that their needs, wants and desires trump another individual's autonomy.

            3. Community of man? Really? And what is this? Please define it. Because humanity isn't really characterized by homogeneity befitting the label community.

            No matter how you present it, no matter what spin you put on it, your moral relativism (were it true) leaves you at the mercy of the opportunist who sees in you weakness and a chance for personal advancement.

            No one is speaking of moral relativism. I'm not sure why you keep bringing up this boogie man that seems to exist mostly in your head. Also opportunists exist across cultures, in various systems of ethics and will try to exploit people's weakness regardless of whatever system of law they are under.

            The only chance you've got is a law giver, judge and executioner who would deal with your oppressor and your murderer.
            I can only assume you mean Zeus.
            But actually this is not so. We can do a pretty good job without Zeus. You don't need a beneficent monarch, you can opt for government, of rules and laws, derived by reflection, and discussed and debated in the public square.Something like, oh, I don't know, a representative democracy? It isn't perfect, but since Zeus never comes down and actually gives laws, or judges or executes himself it does seem to be the best option we've got.

            It's a jungle out there
            Exactly, which is why representative, democratic government is the answer. It provides law enforcement, and allows people a voice in policy, and removes to a large degree cultures of honor and vengeance, and provides disincentives to violent crime in numerous ways.

            and your warm and fuzzy morality simply doesn't cut it, nor does it exist anywhere in the cosmos other than in your God-hating mind.

            I'm not sure you can describe my morality, or the morality of Rationalist1 as warm and fuzzy. But even if you could, if that warm and fuzzy reality is coupled with rule of law, then it would be warm, ever so fuzzy, and it would, contrary to your claim, have sharp teeth.

            "...your God-hating mind.
            Its true I did laugh out loud when I read this. I don't hate gods. I think it is highly unlikely that they exist. Why do you think this is a useful insult? With whom are you trying to score points? This insult doesn't advance your position, in fact, it looks desperate. Ridiculously so.

            If you persist in your belief you are a fool. At least arm yourself.
            I for one, am armed. I also am not rejecting a proper role for the state, which you seem to think vanishes the moment we stop believing in Zeus. I have my doubts that this would be the case if everyone just stopped believing in Zeus. So for me, and I suppose for R1, we are still interested in rule of law.

            There is another possibility, of course. Perhaps you would like us to believe in the innate truth of your animistic morality so that we remain good whilst you, the opportinist, knowing there is no real morality, may rape, pillage and plunder. Either way, I'm not falling for it.

            1. Again, not animism.
            2. One thing that I have enjoyed about your refreshing ripostes is how they invariably take the high road. I mean, there is nothing that furthers discourse quite like suspecting that your opponent secretly wishes to rape, pillage and plunder. Clearly the numerous people who have suspected that morality needn't, indeed can't be tied to the divine have all secretly really just want to get our ever lovin' rape, pillage, plunder and murderin' on. How positively Christian you are in your sense of charity.

            3. Do keep your responses coming. I can't wait to learn what nefarious motives lurk in my mind, and R1's mind next. Zeus has a powerful champion in you.

          • "Perhaps you would like us to believe in the innate truth of your animistic morality so that we remain good whilst you, the opport(u)nist, knowing there is no real morality, may rape, pillage and plunder."

            Thank you for this wonderfully concise summation of the Alinskyite brain trust's brilliant strategy of judicial perversion, which has just achieved the imposition of same sex pseudo-marriage, thus rendering the Constitution of the United States, and the sovereignty of the people of the State of California, inoperative.

          • Andre Boillot

            Yes, the same-sex marriage ruling really has opened the floodgates. Get used to scenes like this: http://l1.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/kXKALtKyIA9hNkkgNyFSAw--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7cT04NTt3PTYyOQ--/http://media.zenfs.com/en/blogs/sptussowexperts/kiss.jpg

          • We agree this travesty has opened the floodgates.

            I have been quite used to scenes like this for years.

            I would suggest you get used to scenes like this:

            http://www.euronews.com/2013/01/13/huge-turnout-for-french-anti-gay-marriage-rally

          • Andre Boillot

            "I would suggest you get used to scenes like this"

            Yawn. We French are just easily bored, next week it'll be riots over cheese exports.

          • Keep yawning.

            It is well for you to sleep, we will provide the entertainments which will restore you to full wakefulness soon.

            The coalition will also come as a surprise to the sleepy.

            As Kevin Drum wrote yesterday in "Mother Jones":

            "In California, it's routine for the people to pass initiatives that neither the governor nor the legislature supports. In fact, that was the whole point of the initiative process when it was created. In cases like these, of course the governor and legislature are going to decline to defend the law in court. With today's decision, the Supreme Court is basically gutting the people's right to pass initiatives that elected officials don't like and then to defend them all the way to the highest court in the land.

            To me, this has neither the flavor of justice nor of democratic governance, regardless of whether I like the outcome."

          • Andre Boillot

            "nor of democratic governance"

            Well, there's your first problem...

            I don't need to tell you that we're not a democracy, or point out that one of the functions of the SCOTUS is to insure that the rights of the minority are not trampled on by the majority, as can be the case with these initiatives. Perhaps Drum needs some reminding.

            "the Supreme Court is basically gutting the people's right to pass [unconstitutional] initiatives"

            [fixed]

            "The coalition will also come as a surprise to the sleepy."

            I dunno, as long as people keep tabs on what Glen Beck is up to, I doubt we'll be surprised.

          • As I said.

            The coalition will be among the several things that surprise you, when we wake you up.

            Sleep on now.

          • Andre Boillot

            Oh Richard, behave you naughty boy! You don't need to bring friends to come wake me up. The thought of you alone, coming to wake me up is enough for me. ;) The anticipation is killing me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Calm down, dude.

          • To work is morally good, and the worker have an interest from this action, that is, giving food to his family. To exercise is morally good (contrary to the capital sin of sloth) and the who do exercises find or have an interest on doing it, his health or improving his body. Retribution doesn't do moral actions bad or empty or miss the goal in anyway.

            Father Jaime Balme's 1880~ or so book called Ethics talks about this relation between interest of retribution and morals on Chapter VII, paragraphs 39 to 44 (sorry, I just have this copy in Spanish, and no luck so far in Gutenberg Project)... ping @Kevin Aldrich

        • epeeist

          I never heard the term "practical atheist" and it refers to theists who believe in God yet act immorally as if they were really atheists.

          I have come across the term before, but as an alternative to the term apatheist. The definition you give would seem to be a variant on the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

      • "Unto the end, a psalm for David. The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God"

        We have this on the very best Authority:

        It is an article of our Holy Faith (which will survive the present, appalling disorientation) that there is a Day appointed, upon which Day the magnitude of the fool's folly will be manifest, even to the fool.

    • epeeist

      "and very few politicians"

      In the US perhaps, we have rather more of them here in the UK.

      • Mary Kay

        so I've been wondering, are most Britons atheists?

        • Rationalist1

          There's a new poll that says only 25% of Britons age 18 to 25 believe in a God. About the same number believe in a "higher power" and the rest are no or no comment.

          • Mary Kay

            thank you

          • epeeist

            There's a new poll that says only 25% of Britons age 18 to 25 believe in a God.

            If you look at recent reports, the average age of those attending Church of England services is 61 (I can't find similar reports for Catholic services). Which means of course that they are well beyond the stage of producing new, little church goers.

            Which is why one estimate is that by 2050 there will only be 87,800 attending services each week. Quite where they will be attending services is another matter, presumably the actual number of churches in use will have fallen as well, which means you will have to travel to get to church. Not too good if you are elderly and not able to travel.

            One might draw a comparison with what happens to young people brought up in a religious household who move to go to university. A significant number of them simply cease to be involved in religion. One has to ask, if your local church closes, do you travel to another church or do you just cease to attend?

            The other question is, who will minister to these people, as well as the age of the congregation increasing the same is true of the priesthood (I believe this is true of the Catholic priesthood, but I haven't looked at the statistics to check this), and the number of people entering the ministry is falling.

            A good site to check the state of religion in the UK is BRIN (British Religion in Numbers).

        • epeeist

          so I've been wondering, are most Britons atheists?

          It's an interesting question. In the 2001 and 2011 census there was a question which asked "What religion are you" (notice how this begs the question). As Rationalist1 notes, 25% of the population ticked "No religion". The significant figure was the number who claimed to be Christian, this dropped from 71.9% in 2001 to 59.3% in 2001.

          However this doesn't tell the whole story. Another prominent survey is the British Social Attitudes survey. They periodically include a question on religion in their annual surveys. The 28th report has 50% of the population reporting "No religion", the difference between this and the census figure is probably because they asked whether you were religious, then if you answered positively, what your religion was.

          Other significant findings are that of the people who claim to be religious 56% never attend services or meetings and only 14% do so regularly.

          Retention is also of interest. Of the people who were brought up in the Church of England 43% now have no religion, for Catholicism the figure is 32%. Of those who were brought up without a religion 94% still have no religion.

          Finally, you ought to look at the graph on this page, which shows the decline in the roll of the C of E and Catholic mass attendance.

          So, Britain may not be atheist but it would seem to be a post-religious society. If I was to use a particular word to describe the majority of people it would probably be apatheist. At best they might claim to be spiritual.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I read an interesting article the other day on irishcentral.com, here's an extract....

            The ACP[Association of Catholic Priests] report has been published after the first of a series of nationwide meetings with priest councils.

            It says bishops believe that evangelisation and re-education is needed but the ACP again warned against relying on ageing priests to renew the Church.

            ACP founder Fr Tony Flannery has told the paper that without urgent action, Ireland could be without priests within 20 years.

            He said: “The age, lack of energy, tiredness of priests was very obvious. Expecting these men to bring about any real change was clearly not living in the real world. Keeping the show on the road for another few years is the most that can be expected from most of them.

            “The bishops don’t seem to grasp the urgent need to tackle falling vocations which could see most Irish parishes without a Catholic priest within 20 years.

            Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Bishops-believe-Ireland-has-become-a-nation-of-pagans-after-Celtic-Tiger-era-212730281.html#ixzz2XA6v3xcA

          • epeeist

            ACP founder Fr Tony Flannery has told the paper that without urgent action, Ireland could be without priests within 20 years.

            Given that there is only one seminary left in Ireland, and even that seems to be training fewer and fewer seminarians.

      • Rationalist1

        Maybe the erstwhile colony will learn from that.

  • primenumbers

    "My point is not that Christianity is actually foolish, or false or ridiculous—on the contrary! But rather that like so many profoundly true things, it should probably strike us as such on a first and cursory hearing." - reads rather as a rationalization for the ridiculousness. One wonders if Christianity were less ridiculous the author would be still praising it's ridiculousness as a virtue? I wonder how the argument applies to the not-just-ridiculousness but utterly absurd religions of Scientology and Mormonism? Is ridiculousness key to propagation of religious belief?

    • Rationalist1

      Shades of Tertulian's "Credo Absurdum"

      • Hey Rationalist - I almost mentioned this quote in my first comment. We have to be careful here, both in terms of the quote itself, and its application to Catholicism. Tertullian actually said "certum est, quia impossibile" ("it is certain, because it is impossible"). (I believe Hitch got into hot water with Alister McGrath for misquoting this once!) The origin of the "absurd" version is unknown, and is much more of a fideistic statement than Tertullian's.

        But as Pope Benedict XVI once noted: "The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called 'fideism', which is the desire to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith."

        • Rationalist1

          Thanks for the correction. Although maybe it comes from Tertullian's heretic years at the end of his life. Thanks again.

          • Stephen Bulivant

            Thanks R1 and MB - just to add a quick PS on Tertullian (who I'm a big fan of)... the phrase comes from his De Carne Christi ('On the flesh of Christ' - i.e., it's a polemic against the docetists, who thought Jesus was obviously God, but equally obviously, couldn't have been an actual human being; I 'm hoping to talk about this in one of my next articles).

            Matthew's right - Tertullian does say 'And being buried, he rose again: it is certain because it is impossible' (Et sepultus, resurriexit; certum est, quia impossibile). However, it's the previous sentence that I think 'I believe because it is absurd' is derived from. T says: 'And the Son of God died: it is absolutely believable, because it is absurd (et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est)'. Ineptus has lots of possible meanings, but one of them is indeed 'absurd': http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=ineptus&la=la#lexicon
            Although Tertullian never uses the Latin phrase 'Credo quia absurdum' - which seems to be a kind of reverse engineering of the phrase back into Latin - he does say something really very close.

            *None of which is to say*, of course, that Matthew's (and Randy's, below) defences of Tertullian's rationality aren't perfectly correct. The phrase comes from a clearly, exaggeratedly rhetorical bit in the text... he's obviously not suggesting maxim this as the basis of belief in 'Christ, and him crucified', whether his own or anyone else's. Personally, I read it as him meaning something along the lines of 'You can't make this stuff up!'

            [Sorry folks, looking back at all that, I realize what a boring and pedantic post it is! I'm going to post it anyway, now I've spent so much time on it!]

        • Randy Gritter

          Tertullian wasn't actually a fideist. He used reason a lot. The point is that we should expect God's wisdom to sound absurd in some ways. A higher intelligence always does. But it does not seem just absurd, We can see hints of brilliance in it. The beatitudes seem insane. Blessed are the poor in spirit? Blessed are those who mourn? Crazy talk. But there something in there that tells us it is not just the ravings of a madman.

          • primenumbers

            "The point is that we should expect God's wisdom to sound absurd in some ways" - and if it wasn't absurd you'd be saying "what sound advice God gives".

          • Randy Gritter

            and you would be saying God's word is just common sense. It is only when God's word is insightful yet counter to common sense that we can sense something. Still it could be just the wisdom of Paul or John or a merely human Jesus. When does it cross the line and become something no human could conceive of? CS Lewis thought the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection crossed this line in his mind. He was a professor of literature and so was far more familiar with the limits of human imagination than I.

          • primenumbers

            "It is only when God's word is insightful yet counter to common sense that we can sense something. " - but this is just detection of what appears to be an inherent contradiction and doesn't in any way say either common sense or contrary God is correct. You've detected an error, but you've not detected which of the two is the error, and of course, both could be wrong.

            "CS Lewis thought" - "He was a professor of literature" - I'm aware of his arguments in this area and they really amount to special pleading as he doesn't ever rationally demonstrate the uniqueness of Christianity in this regard.

          • Randy Gritter

            It amounts to knowing what writers from that time and culture would be capable of. Like a mother saying her child could not have made up a story. Not that she thinks he would not lie. Just that his imagination is not capable of telling this lie. That can be very convincing even though she is not going to have anything approaching rational proof.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One reason Jesus used paradox was to get people's attention.

          • josh

            Yes, it's a cheap rhetorical flourish known to charlatans the world over. It's related to The Big Lie. State something absurd or contradictory with confidence and people start to assume you have some important insight because they don't imagine someone would just baldy spout nonsense. Deepak Chopra is a good modern example of the strategy.

          • Stephen Bulivant

            Hi Josh. Sorry, but if I may so, I think that rather misses the point. I'm certainly not saying that any of claims above - or any of the core claims of Christianity, for that matter - are actually contradictory (and therefore false). I'm not sure that that's what Kevin is saying either (though he can speak for himself, of course). There's a different between saying something outrightly false ('a cheap rhetorical flourish', certainly), and saying something that seems like it should be false, it get one's listeners'/readers' attention. The latter strikes me as being an excellent, and perfectly honest, rhetorical strategy (which is why I'm so fulsome in my praise of popular science writers, who so often deploy it brilliantly - I'm thinking of images like 'a fly in a cathedral' as the relative sizes of a nucleus to an atom as a whole, or for that matter, Dawkins' arresting metaphor of humans as 'gigantic lumbering robots').

          • josh

            Your later examples are simply illustrative analogies, not paradoxes in any sense. I suspect Kevin is misusing the word 'paradox'. He probably has in mind Jesus's frequent use of
            reversals. Last shall be first, first shall be last. Meek shall inherit the earth. Exalted shall be humbled and vice versa. Etc.

            In fairness to a largely fictional character, a lot of the Chopra-ish deepities come from Christian writers attempting to reconcile irreconcilable doctrines, and only come indirectly from Jesus alleged speeches.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Please produce some of the "cheap rhetorical flourishes" related to the Big Lie that Jesus Christ spoke. Otherwise you will need to change your name from Josh to Bosh.

          • josh

            Well the biggest Big Lie would obviously be that he was the son of or a prophet of God. Cheap rhetoric would include,

            "I come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it."

            "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."

            I can also point you to a number of contradictory teachings, although since they don't appear in the same sentence or phrase I wouldn't call them a rhetorical strategy so much as plain inconsistency. Jesus is quite the prevaricator.

          • "I come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it."

            I doubt that Jesus actually said that. It sounds more like an invention of his followers. Jesus was an observant Jew. It seems to me highly unlikely he would even have been suspected by his enemies to claim to abolish or fulfill the law.

            "For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."

            Not quoted accurately, but in any case, this is not about martyrdom or dying. It's about commitment to something outside oneself.

          • josh

            Well, I agree that we don't know with certainty anything that the putative historical Jesus said, as opposed to later writers, but I didn't think we were discussing that particular can of worms.

            The second quote is accurate, although I can't vouch for whether or not it is a particularly good translation I copied it from, there are many available with little change in the overall thrust. I agree it's about commitment to Jesus idea of religion, although I don't see how you could know that excludes martyrdom. Either way, it serves for the sort of rhetorical pseudo-profundity I had in mind.

          • The second quote is accurate, although I can't vouch for whether or not it is a particularly good translation I copied it from . . .

            Apologies. I should have checked. It's from the NIV, which is a respectable translation. It just doesn't sound right to me. My first thought is that "whoever loses their life" should be "whoever loses his life," or "whoever loses his or her life." But it is a rather technical point of grammar.

          • josh

            No problem. Singular 'their' is always a little awkward in English.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see any lies or cheap rhetoric in these examples.

            I'd suggest considering this: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/christ-divinity.htm

          • josh

            Willful blindness is beyond my power to heal. I've considered some bad arguments before, but the one you linked is admittedly a contender for silliest.

    • Stephen Bulivant

      Thanks primenumbers - and yes, certainly that's the objection I'm laying myself completely open to here. Obviously, the point I'm making is that some things seem ridiculous/absurd/foolish because (or at least, and) they actually are false; some things seem perfectly obvious and reasonable, and yet turn out to false; and some things - often, I think, some of the most important and profound things - seem (or can seem) ridiculous, or at least extraordinarily unlikely, on first hearing, but are actually essentially true. I point to some of the revelations of modern science since I think these are the best examples of the latter category (and because I also think that anyone who can just nod along to statements about the enormity of the universe, etc. - or, for that matter, the fact that herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls, which are distinct species here in the UK, are linked right round the arctic circle by subspecies, each able to interbreed with its neighbours, etc. - really haven;t thought about them enough.) I happen to think - for reasons I hope to spell out in future posts - that the basic claims of Christianity (in fact, of the RC Church specifically) fit into the third camp too (which isn't to say I'm saying that they're the same kinds of claims as scientific ones). So, I'm not saying that ridiculousness in itself is a virtue, no (still less, a good reason for believing it to be true!).

      • primenumbers

        Basically ridiculousness (by itself, as opposed to absurdity through contradiction) is no touchstone for truth status. Whether something is true or not must be determined independently of our comedic reaction to it.

        But there's also some human psychology at work here with regards to the ridiculous nature of a belief and how dearly it is clung to once it has been held, which is what I allude to in my last sentence above.

        Another point from psychology would be to investigate why the claims made in Nigerian scam emails are so ridiculous (and riddled with errors). I think that also has relevance here too.

  • Paul says the story of Christianity is "a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the gentiles.” It is true, of course, that as a movement within Judaism, Christianity was about as close to an utter failure as one can imagine. But one has to ask why this "foolishness" spread so rapidly among gentiles. It's appeal must have strongly outweighed its foolishness.

    • Andre Boillot

      "But one has to ask why this "foolishness" spread so rapidly among gentiles. It's appeal must have strongly outweighed its foolishness."

      I've always been curious to know what figures we have to inform us of how quickly Christianity spread initially.

      • Randy Gritter
        • Andre Boillot

          Thanks Randy. I was hoping for some figures on number of followers, but the map is nice too. Incidentally, Constantine's reign fits nicely in the "Expansion" era.

          • Stephen Bulivant

            Rodney Stark has a good stab at coming up with some serious estimates (drawing on the shreds of data we have) in The Rise of Christianity. I don't have any of it to hand though, I'm afraid!

    • Randy Gritter

      Yes, that is why asserting that Christianity spread without anyone checking the evidence or some even claiming it spread without the miracle claims even being made. That is completely implausible. The only way such a radical teaching gets accepted is if it comes with credible evidence of the resurrection and/or many miracles done by the apostles.

      • Andre Boillot

        I have Muhammad on line-1 for you.

        • Randy Gritter

          How Islam spread is no mystery. Muhammad was a military winner. People follow men who win wars. If Jesus had done that then nobody would be amazed that He emerged as a messiah figure. But just preaching in an obscure corner of the world and being executed after 3 years does not explain it at all.

          • Andre Boillot

            You discount the relative ease of travel and dissemination of information that the Roman empire provided? The influence of two Emperors on allowing, then instating Christianity as the state religion?

          • Randy Gritter

            Yes, because what I am talking about happened before that. Christianity spread to Egypt, to France, to Turkey, etc. The Roman Empire was fighting it, not helping it. Yet many risked their lives to become Christian.

          • Andre Boillot

            My question is, what is meant by "Christianity spread"? For example, Christianity washed up on the shores of Japan in the 1500s. Christians make up only 1% of Japan's religious population today. So, what do we mean when we say that Christianity has spread to Japan? What do we mean in your examples of Christianity having spread to Egypt, France, etc.? It's nice to point at colored maps, but there's not a lot of contextual data there.

          • Randy Gritter

            Christians made up about 5% of the population in many areas by the year 200. It is hard to get precise numbers but there was enough of them in many corners of the empire to draw a reaction but not enough to prevent persecution.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Christians made up about 5% of the population in many areas by the year 200."

            We know this how? What constitutes "many areas"? Are we comparing to the spread of other religions/ideas? Are we considering other factors? Again, if you're going to mention how amazing it is that Christianity spread so quickly, we're going to have to see some evidence.

          • primenumbers

            Carrier addresses this in "Not the impossible faith" - much of which is online.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If I remember my history, Constantine legalized Christianity because so many people in the empire were already Christian.

            However, once Christianity because the state religion of the Roman empire, people has an incentive to embrace it for the wrong reason.

          • Andre Boillot

            "If I remember my history, Constantine legalized Christianity because so many people in the empire were already Christian."

            Odd, as I had always been taught that his mother being Christian and his belief that God helped him win battles were the key ingredients.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. I should have written "when" not "because," but he was such a political animal I think the "because" had a lot to do with it as well.

          • Ignorant Amos

            ...and don't forget his mentor Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius, he was a massive influence.

          • Andrew G.

            By Constantine's time, Christianity might have accounted for about 10% of the population (probably higher in cities).

            That's after nearly 300 years of relatively modest growth.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Joseph Smith on line 2....shall I ask L. Ron Hubbard to leave a message?

      • Yes, that is why asserting that Christianity spread without anyone checking the evidence . . . .

        Exactly what would "checking the evidence" have consisted of in, say, the communities Paul traveled to? Do you think the gentile converts traveled to Jerusalem to check out the story of Jesus for themselves? And exactly how would they have done that?

      • primenumbers

        Like how Islam and Mormonism grew - both with true miracles and checkable evidence?

    • Ignorant Amos

      Christianity promoted charity. Looking after one another when the chips are down would appeal to most. Early Christianity did exactly what it claimed to do on the tin. It promoted an in crowd group that looked after one another when sick, broke, hungry, etc.....true to the Jesuit message prior to corruption setting in. Contrast that to the Pagan alternatives the Gentiles were used to, selfish nonsense that just took, took, took. It's not too difficult to see why the Gentiles re-badged given the choice after Paul relaxed the entry criteria specifically for those Gentiles. Whether Jesus was real, crucified by the Romans and resurrected was superfluous to membership. The story stands whether Jesus was myth or historical...remember, the bells and whistles embellishments all came after Paul was writing to the churches.

  • This is—and I hope intentionally—a nice rebuke to those among the Catholic commenters here who argue that the truth of Catholicism is so self-evident and reasonable that those who do not accept it must be ignorant, self-deluded, or evil.

    • Rationalist1

      True. You really can't have it both ways.

      • Randy Gritter

        Why not? Is the truth that solid objects are mostly empty space evident? If you look at it from the right angle it is. Looked at from other angles it looks foolish. So in that case we have both.

        • Rationalist1

          Isn't it foolish that some solids we can see through, yet others we can't. Isn't it foolish that the sea can move yet it isn't alive? Isn't it foolish that stars fall from the heavens yet they don't disappear in the sky.

          It's not foolish, it's science.

          • Randy Gritter

            But Christianity is foolish the same way. What we might call a counter-intuitive truth. My point is that something can be counter-intuitive and still have strong evidence.

          • primenumbers

            There's a difference between being counter-intuitive and contradictory though.

          • stanz2reason

            No one is arguing that things that are counter intuitive aren't or can't be true. It's counter intuitive without convincing supporting evidence that makes religious claims dubious.

          • Loreen Lee

            It's not foolish, it's reliigion...(grin grin)

        • stanz2reason

          Is the truth that solid objects are mostly empty space evident?

          Evident as in apparent to our naked eye, no.

          Evident as in evidenced that it is so, yes.

    • Stephen Bulivant

      Thanks David - and yes, certainly intentional!

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Modern atheism is a "problem" for Catholicism in that it raises many questions hard to answer right now and because she sees many people being hurt by it.

    But it is not a bigger problem than any of the other "isms" which have arisen, for example, the challenge of Arianism. It may take time to come to terms with modern atheism, but the Church always has come to terms with challenges, and she emerges with a stronger understanding of the Divine Revelation entrusted to her, just as Arianism resulted in the great dogmatic definitions of the first Ecumenical Councils and has brought about deeper understandings of the person of Christ.

    • Eh, I don't think this sort of historical induction is of much use. The Catholic Church has an unexceptional record of converting peoples if you exclude those ruled or conquered by Catholic states. For example: Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Chinese folk religion; Protestants; and secular folk. The Church has been unsuccessful in proselytizing these for longer than she combatted Arianism.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Noah, I think you are conflating intellectual with practical problems.

        In regard to the practical problem of converting people, I don't think your thesis holds up to scrutiny.

        The Roman Empire became Christian after a huge number of its inhabitants voluntarily converted to it.

        The evangelization of the Germanic tribes happened without any reference to being conquered by a Catholic state, although it is true that if a king converted (often due to marrying a Catholic), his realm converted along with him (at least in name).

        The Mexica resisted the Spanish missionaries after Spain conquered Mexico, until the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, after which millions converted.

        Christianity was making great inroads in China and a city like Shanghi had a vibrant Catholic culture until Mao almost entirely destroyed it there.

        Catholicism is growing 1-2% per year in South Korea and is not something like 10% of the population, without having been conquered by a Catholic state.

        I've read that many Muslims are converting every day in the Middle East and Africa, although you don't hear about it in the media.

        • Um, all of your examples prove my point. I suspect you misread it and assumed I was making some other sort of claim.

          * Roman Empire: 90% of conversions after it became a Catholic state
          * Germanic tribes: in some cases top-down by Catholic states
          * Mexico & Latin America: conquered by Catholic states
          * China: failed
          * South Korea: unexceptional, not yet a success or failure
          * Middle east: failed
          * Africa: moderate success in a few regions, moderate failure in other regions

          Yup, that's "an unexceptional record of converting peoples if you exclude those ruled or conquered by Catholic states".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't accept your interpretation, but it is also a non sequitur.

            What is the relevance of whether the record of the Church is exceptional or unexceptional in converting nations to the problem the Church faces from atheist objections?

          • The relevance was the topic sentence of the post in question: that I don't think your historical induction of triumphalism is useful. Future unproductive follow-ups like these could be avoided if you would re-read before firing off responses. :)

            BTW, you misused "non-sequitur". A non-sequitur is a general logical fallacy in which the conclusion of a deduction does not follow a valid rule of inference from its premises. But my argument didn't use a deductive format -- I used the adversarial format, which is proposing a thesis and giving supporting evidence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I didn't intend to make a triumphalistic pronouncement and am sorry if it came across that way.

            I intended to make an observation based on patterns in Church history and making a prediction about her encounter with atheism which only time will bear out.

            The secondary definition of non sequitur is "a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said."

  • Loreen Lee

    There is thus the distinction between intellectualization of belief, i.e. epistemology, and 'living' one's faith. We must always remember that besides knowledge, there is 'love'. That great 'Greek concept' agape, for instance, which is considered by the church to be 'compatible' with eros. There is no more challenging 'faith' than Christianity, and I have been a Buddhist for five years, attempted to read the Qu'ran but found difficulty in the metaphor, although I liked many things, like the whole world is a 'miracle', The Kabbalah, which was my only access to the Jewish faith, an interest that I talked about, I was not confessing, with a priest in the confessional, and got duly reprimanded for considering the teachings of the cabal, but after reading it I understood why Jesus was rejected by the Jews, but on reflection after my penance realized that yes, they did have a contract of mutual guarantee!! so that they would not lose out on anyting? in their quest to be like God and give without receiving; and I have also read the Bhavagda Gita, learned the philosophy behind the I Ching, etc. etc. etc. And I continue to learn, in assimilating, ot attempting to relate atheist philosophy to daily scripture, etc. etc. etc. I have faced the challenges of Fideism, and thus seeks to find a rational basis, and not be satisfied that my 'personal faith' will necessarily lead to me the fullness of 'personal potential' within the theological definitions and revelations, both biblical and the insights i find in my life. There is always the challenge of the Other, as in the Golden Rule, be it God or man, the transcendental or the temporal. So Catholicism is a great challenge. Yes the concepts are 'beyond understanding', even 'beyond 'belief'', but as is noted so is modern cosmological theory. As I said in another comment, I have been diagnosed as insane in my life, and thus find faith the 'opening' to a sanity within contradiction that I have yet to experience fully. I can thus 'accept' the paradox of Christ and Christianity.

    • Loreen Lee

      Søren Kierkegaard, for example, writes, in the Philosophical Fragments, that

      But one must not think ill of the paradox, for the paradox is the
      passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the
      lover without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ultimate potentiation
      of every passion is always to will its own downfall, and so it is also
      the ultimate passion of the understanding to will the collision,
      although in one way or another the collision must become its downfall.
      This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover
      something that thought itself cannot think.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Would atheists generally argue that the universe and human life are foolish or absurd?

    The universe just *is* with matter and energy and properties which just *are* and out of all this we came to be (for the briefest time) and are born ignorant into cultures with all kinds of crazy beliefs that have no correspondence to the actually blind and meaningless nature of the universe and we will all die forever while the universe goes on doing what it will do as long as it will do it?

    Sorry for the run-on sentence but it seems appropriate to the thought.

    • Rationalist1

      I thought we moved on from existentialism. No one really cares about Sartre and Camus these days. The universe may be absurd, but what does that have to do with my life? If I seek a meaning from the universe for my life perhaps, bit I don't have to. I can make my life meaningful, by doing meaningful things.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        But aren't you just pretending it has a meaning? Aren't you giving it a meaning it doesn't have?

        I'm not disputing you, just wondering what you think.

        • primenumbers

          I'm reminded of the talk that Oliver Postgate mentioned in his biography, where he criticized semiotics in film criticism, where critics would look for the "meanings" in movies via the signs they saw and would proudly proclaim that "the director meant this or that". He talked about how his TV was made, in his garden shed with no pretence of any higher meanings what-so-ever. In other words, observers see motives and meanings in a work of art that there not explicitly put there by the creator of that art.

          Now, does that mean that those hidden meanings are not there? No - I don't think so, but I think it does mean that we find meanings where there is none explicitly there. We have generally good brains, but just as with over-active-agency-detection, we see (in many ways) what we want to see, not what we actually do see.

          For the theist, this could mean that there is no explicit meaning in the universe, but that we have the ability to derive our own meanings from what we experience. There could in this way be a God, but the traditions of theism are just ways humans have come to put their meaning to the universe-as-art from the inside.

          For the atheist, we can be aware that it is we that put the meanings into things, and that things themselves don't necessarily have explicit meanings.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "What's the point?" we are always asking.

            We are made to be (or have ended up being) persons who always have to have a point, so much so that we fill in the blanks if necessary.

            I can accept that we are "meaning-making" beings, but I hope we don't invent meaning but discover the meaning that is really there, and that the meaning is good, not evil or absurd.

          • primenumbers

            But as the Postgate (and if you don't know about Bagpus, you're really missing out) points out, we do find meaning where there is no explicit meaning. So indeed we make the meanings we find. As for there being actual objective meanings, they can be explicitly put there by creators, but we (without direct access to a creator, if indeed there is one) have no access to that meaning, should there even be one. In this sense only things explicitly created with a meaning have an objective meaning, meaning of course that the theistic God cannot have an objective meaning.

          • Joe Grech

            Meaning (the word) has a meaning and I'm sure you're fully aware of it. If not you can look it up. Your misuse of the word will not cause the concrete concept it denotes to cease to exist. The only way you can make sense of the unavoidable truth of an atheistic absense of meaning (in the context of an existing universe) is by changing the meaning of meaning to something that helps a weak arguement from a weak position. In short: "meaning for me" becomes equal to "meaning" and, hey presto, the universe of the atheist has "meaning" and the eternal search for same by intelligent man may finally be brought to an end! "Well, thank god for that! Now we can get back to more important things like same-sex marriage and freedom of speech and freedom of choice and freedom from all burdens like responsibility etc..." This is artfulness at best and flagrant dissimulation at worst. No-one is interested in the meaning the universe HAS FOR YOU (apart from you, of course). So the truth of the claim remains: the atheists universe HAS NO MEANING as it, the universe, is not THE INTENTION of any agency that precedes it.

          • primenumbers

            In your emotional anti-atheistic rant you miss the whole point I'm making, that as a human observer we see meaning where there is no explicit meaning, so when we see meaning we have no logical reason to assume agency.

          • Michael Murray

            A few years ago I read this great book about the teams who put the previous two rovers: Spirit and Opportunity on Mars. As well as being an amazing technological feat it was a really high risk mission which could have been destroyed by any number of random events. These guys had devoted significants parts of their lives to what was actually a massive gamble. Of course they are all hardcore scientists and engineers. But even they sheepishly bought into the launch the odd rabbits foot and lucky charm that had been with them at the last successful launch. We're all Skinner Pigeons at heart

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._F._Skinner#Superstitious_Pigeons

          • Michael Murray

            I can accept that we are "meaning-making" beings, but I hope we don't invent meaning but discover the meaning that is really there, and that the meaning is good, not evil or absurd.

            We all invent meanings. Theists invent a God first and then argue about which one it is and what meaning it gives them. Atheists skip the God and just argue about the meaning.

            You can't discover meanings that are really there as there aren't any.

          • epeeist

            We all invent meanings. Theists invent a God first and then argue about which one it is

            Just as we invent agency when we can see no apparent cause for things. Do children see Bagpuss as simply a stuffed animal, or do they assign agency, actions and emotions to it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your bald claim "theists invent God" is completely unsupported.

            >You can't discover meanings that are really there as there aren't any.

            This looks absurd to me. Do you mean, for example, that mathematics does not reveal meaningful things about the universe?

          • Michael Murray

            Shock horror. Unsupported claims on Catholic blog. Actually there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that humans invented God. My latter point is that there are no meanings in the sense of "meaning of life". That's what was being discussed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've thought of what you have said.

            Of course there is a meaning of life. There is such a thing as reality. If we can see reality, we can see the meaning of life.

          • Michael Murray

            Of course there is a meaning of life. There is such a thing as reality. If we can see reality, we can see the meaning of life.

            Seeing reality, even understanding reality doesn't tell us the meaning of life it just tells us how things are. It doesn't answer any of those "why are here" "what is the purpose of our existence" "what's the point" type questions which most people mean by "meaning of life".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If we really, I mean, *really* know reality, we will know why we are here, if our existence has a purpose, what's the point, etc.

            If atheism is true, and if we can formulate and understand a "theory of everything" so we fully understand the universe, won't we have an answer to those questions?

          • Michael Murray

            Hhm. I guess so. Though I suspect if the answer is negative people are still going to hang out for consciousness being special or something like that.

        • Rationalist1

          I am choosing the meaning I am giving my life rather than accepting nothing or having one imposed upon me.

          • Loreen Lee

            In my book I have drawn the distinction between 'meaning' . i.e. personal interpretation, and 'significance'; that meaning that 'can be shared'. This merely 'helps me'....

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Another question. Why does having a meaning of your life matter? Why do you think meaning is so important that you'll choose your own?

          • Loreen Lee

            May I answer for another? Because my life is my responsibility and I must learn to transcend motivations etc. which bring harm to others and myself, (and especially God), which require that I am able to discern distinctions which can only be achieved by attributing what is generally regarded as 'meaning' to them. I do not always choose my meanings, as to use psychology, I often attribute subconscious or borrowed 'meanings from others. But in order to develop I must always seek to transcend my limitations, to 'change' or repent with the goal of developing my personhood, to the point, even if not reachable, of attaining an ultimate perfection, which is God. But as Immanuel Kant the philosopher said, this task is so onerous that he saw that it would indeed require an 'immortality' of a self, or personhood, within the human context. Thus the idea of both redemption, offered to us, and salvation, which is my onus.

          • Joe Grech

            What's the point? Why bother? You have no meaning. Handle it!

          • Michael Murray

            He of she is handling it. We all are. You included. You are dealing with your lack of meaning by pretending there is a god that gives your life meaning.

          • Rationalist1

            If you can't find a meaning for your life then pick one of the thousands of religions/denominations and they will tell you what the meaning of your life if.
            That works for you, this works for me.

          • Rationalist1

            I have the meaning I give to my life. You have the meaning others give to your life. "Handle it!"

    • 42Oolon

      As an atheist I have thought that many things in the universe are foolish, but never that the universe itself is foolish or absurd. I do not think either atheists or theists can explain why the universe "is". Theists just say there is a god who knows this.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Catholics believe the universe exists ultimately because God created it out of nothing to share his divine beatitude with creatures, especially rational creatures (like us).

        • primenumbers

          I still don't get how a perfect and self-contained being can have any needs, wants or desires.

          • 42Oolon

            The Doubtcasters are pretty great on this, which is indeed the best argument I have ever heard for positive atheist position. Very well articulated here http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2012/08/29/rd-extra-the-problem-of-non-god-objects

            For all I know you are Justin Schieber!

          • primenumbers
          • Kevin Aldrich

            There was no need, want, or desire on God's part. It was gratuitous.

          • primenumbers

            "Uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted" ? - doing something without reason seems rather contradictory to the classical nature of the theistic God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. Freely.

          • primenumbers

            So you're suggesting there's a reason then? Reasons to do things don't come from nowhere - they come from our needs, wants and desires, from whatever is lacking in our environment or to make us better people. We don't invent or create for no reason, and hence it doesn't make sense for God to create with no reason, but for God there can be no reason.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He has a reason. It is just that he is different from us. We are trying to fill up an emptiness. He pours forth from his fullness out of love.

          • primenumbers

            That's a rather poetic answer, and rather unfullfilling. I don't want to keep going around in circles here though. My argument is that self-contained perfection allows for no motivation to create.

        • Catholics also believe that God took on a physical existence once and only once, for all time, when the Incarnation took place. It was only in the 20th century that we began to realize how vast the universe really is. We are left with two equally mind boggling possibilities. In all the vast universe, we are the only intelligent beings, or else there are many intelligent races, and the God they must worship has one person who is a human.

          • Excellent post.

            Clear and unshrinking examination of the logically necessary consequences of the dogmas of our Holy Faith is such a refreshing thing.

            There will be a very interesting film out soon, where an argument from probability of, I think, unusual power and rigor is advanced, by an atheist and leading cosmologist, in support of the first of your two above-enumerated possibilities.

            It is Fermi's paradox pursued in light of decades' worth of observation of the galaxy and beyond.

            If this argument is correct, we have already attained a sufficient degree of observational evidence to provisionally conclude that we are, in fact, the only intelligent life in the universe.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            provisionally conclude that we are, in fact, the only intelligent life in the universe

            That's one of the most depressing things I could possibly imagine learning.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure. Why not? Early humans had no problem worshiping God in the form of an elephant or hummingbird. Isn't the most mind boggling fact that we exist?

    • Would atheists generally argue that the universe and human life are foolish or absurd?

      I think you are talking about one meaning of absurd (from existentialism, as Rationalist1 notes), when absurdity applied to Christianity would have a different meaning. The universe, if absurd, is absurd in the sense of having no meaning or purpose. But Christianity would be absurd because it boggles the mind to think that God would send his son to be executed as a common criminal. That is just not what Gods do! Note that Paul was saying the cross was the stumbling block, not the idea of a divine person visiting earth.

      I would also add that very early Christianity was not saddled with some of the overly intellectual doctrines that began to set in later (4th century).

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Agreed.

        Many of the early heresies were of the no-way-would-God-do-this variety.

  • 42Oolon

    All of these shocking, paradoxical, weird things Catholics are only so if the god exists. They make perfect sense if the god does not exists and we are dealing with ancient mythology and tradition. For example, Christ's Crucifixion as creating some kind of loophole to a rule the god itself imposed is ridiculous. Christ being an itinerant rabbi who was killed for being disruptive and rebellious, makes much more sense as does a apocalyptic cult of martyrdom arising from it with some claims of miracles that was later adopted by the Roman empire at a time when it's predictions of the end of the world seemed to be on the horizon.

    • Randy Gritter

      A apocalyptic cult of martyrdom? From an itinerant rabbi who was killed for being disruptive and rebellious? How was He disruptive and rebellious? Did he actually claim to be God or did they kill him just for telling parables?

      More problematic, why did the Roman empire adopt this cult? What was the appeal? All the really striking things about Jesus are not there yet. They are allegedly adopted later. So you have an entirely unremarkable religion getting huge reactions and eventually taking over the empire. That makes more sense?

      • 42Oolon

        "So you have an entirely unremarkable religion getting huge reactions and
        eventually taking over the empire. That makes more sense?"

        To me yes, much more sense than an all-powerful god being incapable of forgiving sin or resolving the problem of sin other than by sacrificing himself to himself by way of brutal torture, to create a loophole for a rule he designed.

        My understanding is that Jesus' teachings really got the local clergy upset and they asked the Romans to kill him.

        I further understand that early Christians believed that the end of the world would come with Jesus, some time soon.

        I further understand that at the time of Constantine's conversion both he and the empire seemed doomed and that the Christianity predicted this.

        Moreover, Christianity was quite unique in that it requires evangelism and trying to convert others. Add this to the Roman and Byzantine infrastructure and you are well-primed to spread relatively quickly, after the Emperor converts.

        • Randy Gritter

          To me yes, much more sense than an all-powerful god being incapable of forgiving sin or resolving the problem of sin other than by sacrificing himself to himself by way of brutal torture, to create a loophole for a rule he designed.

          Would it be better for God to simply pretend sin does not exists? To tell the victims of sin that God has declared what this person has done to you to be of no consequence? Is that the right answer? Sin requires a just response. Is that so hard to understand?

          • Ben

            Well, yeah. Whether sin actually "requires" a just response is a pretty tough question. There are lots of very smart people throughout the ages who have wrestled with the different rationales for punishing criminals, and to what degree punishment should be designed to be retributive, preventive, rehabilitative, and the implications of each.

            But more on point, yes, it's incredibly hard for me to understand how you get from "sin requires a just response" (according to what rules, God's?) to "human sin doesn't require a just response if God takes human form and gets himself nailed to a cross." It's like asking directions from a local in Maine, "you can't get there from here." Call it a Mystery if it helps you, because "mysterious" is putting it mildly.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Sin requires a just response

            Of course it does.

            But a "just response", as the Mikado put it so well, is to let the punishment fit the crime.

            Eternal punishment is too much punishment for even the most heinous of criminals, much less the polite, inoffensive skeptic,

          • 42Oolon

            Yes it is. I find the very concept of sin to be incoherent.

            That malicious and harmful behaviour be punished makes sense to me. But I don`t see how a God torturing itself to death achieves anything like justice or a proper response to the bad behaviour or disobedience of humanity.

        • Randy Gritter

          My understanding is that Jesus' teachings really got the local clergy upset and they asked the Romans to kill him. My question is how he got anyone upset. The gospels talk about them being upset because He made Himself equal with God. Did He do that or did He not? Either answer gives you a lot of issues with how Christianity came to be.

          • 42Oolon

            Well, yeah, i would think that in a society that says you are to be executed if you pick up stones on Saturday or disobey your parents you should be killed, saying you are equal to God would get the religious leaders angry and try to execute you.

          • saying you are equal to God would get the religious leaders angry and try to execute you . . .

            Except the religious leaders didn't execute Jesus. The Romans did. What did you have to do in 1st century occupied Palestine to prompt the Romans to execute you?

          • 42Oolon

            Piss off the local religious and secular leaders.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The explanation in the Gospels is the moral cowardice of Pilate and his fear that the Jewish authorities would smear his reputation among his Roman superiors.

        • Randy Gritter

          Moreover, Christianity was quite unique in that it requires evangelism and trying to convert others. Add this to the Roman and Byzantine infrastructure and you are well-primed to spread relatively quickly, after the Emperor converts.

          Evangelism is unique? It seems just a natural byproduct of really believing something. After the emperor converts is not the time frame in question. What allowed Christianity to survive and thrive for the 250 years or so from when Nero outlawed it to when Constantine repealed that law?

          What did Christian theology look like during this period? Did it contain miracles and resurrection? Was that true even when the apostles were still alive?

          • 42Oolon

            Yes, prior to Christianity and Islam religions didn`t evangelize, but based on the scale of their religious architecture, I think it is safe to say they really believed! I think Christianity survived because it, like Judaism and other Religions have anti-fragile cultural elements that allow it to not only survive, but thrive under oppression.

            Early Christianity was very diverse. What I am thinking of I read in Peter Watson`s the History of Ideas. He describes early Christians as generally monastic groups who went into the wilderness, deprived themselves and awaited the return of Christ and the End of the World.

            I don`t know if early Christians believed in miracles or the resurrection, I think there was and is a wide spectrum. Don`t know anything about the apostles. I think I heard that the writer of Mark didn`t think Jesus was necessarily a god, but by Mathew, this was the intention.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you don't know something, should your really be expressing an opinion about it?

      • Loreen Lee

        Just a take. The hypothesis being a radical confrontation between church and state: the gospel where Jesus says: Render onto Caesar, etc. Christ is caught in the middle. The Jews will not accept him because their religion is a communal grounded progression towards God. Israel, the word, means just that. But God 'cannot be' in the individual, but is rather grasped within the communal interaction. (What I learned from Kabbalah). Their god is transcendent, and if it's not a negative critique, also involved with the pragmatic goals of their lives and nation. Jesus is the 'Person'. Caught in the contradiction. His truth is not of this world, as it is the truth of the inner life: The kingdom of God is within. (And in the fulfillment of the law, truth, through beauty, the beautitudes. (And or me, faith).... Hope I don't get in trouble with the catechists for saying this!

        • Linda

          I heard a homily on this once where the priest pointed out that Jesus asks someone for a coin. He doesn't have one, so he doesn't owe Caesar anything. It was a subtle hint that we will have less conflict between our faith and our world if we leave the material alone.

      • Max Driffill

        Randy

        A apocalyptic cult of martyrdom? From an itinerant rabbi who was killed for being disruptive and rebellious? How was He disruptive and rebellious? Did he actually claim to be God or did they kill him just for telling parables?

        This really does make more sense, especially if we look the gospel of Mark (which is our earliest Gospel). Jesus really does seem to think the end of all things is right around the corner. This would become a problem for followers and gospel writers later as the end never did come. It seems likely that Jesus was killed because he was a fairly popular rabbi who ran afoul the religious leaders of his day and probably claimed to be king of the Jews, which would also make him an enemy of the State, and eligible for a quick and hasty execution.

        The little that we can actually know about Jesus actually does support this view rather than the fantastical alternative.

        More problematic, why did the Roman empire adopt this cult? What was the appeal?

        This didn't happen until the fourth century. This actually does give Christianity plenty of time to build and grow. Which it apparently did, and owing to a number earthly reasons.

        All the really striking things about Jesus are not there yet. They are allegedly adopted later. So you have an entirely unremarkable religion getting huge reactions and eventually taking over the empire. That makes more sense?

        Four hundred years is a long time to build and grow your religion. Look at the power of Scientology, Officially it doesn't begin until 1952 (though Hubbard was developing his bizarre ideas before then of course). Look at it now. In about 60 years it is a multi-million dollar empire with a large following. Look at the easily falsifiable beliefs of the Mormons. This is a vibrant religious concern. This despite the fact that its founder was a convicted fraud, and his ideas about the Americas are clearly falsified by anthropology. Beliefs are adopted for a complex set of reasons. But once Christianity had the backing of the state its ability to really spread was aided incredibly. Its important to note that it didn't take over the empire until it had the backing of state power.

        • Randy Gritter

          You do skip from Jesus being executed to the 4th century. That is a lot of hand waving. Really a totally impossible historical narrative. Jesus is a totally non-supernatural guy who claimed to be king and was executed. Then the apostles did what? Decided to go preach this story of the likable dead guy who, well who knows? Do they claim to have seen Jesus rise from the dead? Then Paul makes up this amazing story of seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus. He convinces many Jesus is alive. His motivation is a love for prisons and telling big lies?

          All the details you skip are skipped by everyone because they are impossible. The story does not work without some series of completely implausible events.

          • Max Driffill

            Randy,

            I am sure Jesus' followers at the time thought he was a pretty special guy. They might have thought he was supernatural. I am guessing they did.

            But let me get to your points:

            You do skip from Jesus being executed to the 4th century.

            You simply asked why Rome adopted Christianity. You skipped around a lot too. In any event by the time of the fourth century Christianity was a fairly vibrant thing, there were may debates and arguments about who and what jesus was and represented. It was diverse community and growing community.

            That is a lot of hand waving. Really a totally impossible historical narrative. Jesus is a totally non-supernatural guy who claimed to be king and was executed. Then the apostles did what? Decided to go preach this story of the likable dead guy who, well who knows? Do they claim to have seen Jesus rise from the dead? Then Paul makes up this amazing story of seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus. He convinces many Jesus is alive. His motivation is a love for prisons and telling big lies?

            No hand waving. Jesus was a charismatic guy probably, he had loyal and loving followers. Note the emergence of modern religious traditions. Scientology, Latter Day Saints for instance. All of their claims are easily falsifiable and yet they are growing concerns. Do you suspect them of truth?

          • josh

            Randy,

            The details are unknown because there are many ways in which the religion could have been started and spread and we don't have the evidence for a decisive conclusion. Here's one plausible version:
            Jesus is a non-supernatural guy who acquires a small cult of zealous followers with claims of an impending apocalypse and a doctrine of aesthetic devotion and worldly abandonment. Possibly he is believed to be a miracle worker and/or teaches that he himself is an annointed messenger of God. People like this are a dime a dozen in global history.
            Jesus dies, possibly killed by Jewish or Roman authorities. The Jews don't like unorthodox critics of the establishment and the Romans don't like apocalyptic cults that might disturb the orderly running of their empire. Or he was killed/died for totally other reasons and later authors had to make up a suitably sinister authority, just like modern day conspiracy theorists. Either way, the apocalypse fails to happen.

            Like most failed prophets, his most devoted followers can't accept that they were wrong and must rationalize the problem away. Hence a doctrine develops that the 'real' events happened in a spiritual sense or that this is just a precursor for the final final judgement. Jesus didn't really die, he resurrected in a new spiritual body, not unlike certain Greek beliefs, that was assumed into heaven like other Jewish heroes before it could make an impression on the authorities. Maybe some devoted followers actually believe they are contacted by this risen figure, regardless, stories soon spread among the faithful of full on appearances and conversations. Christ's resurrection legend grows with increasing emphasis on physical manifestations and elaborations on an empty tomb secretly set up by a mysterious benefactor (Joseph of Aramathea).

            The cult spreads the same way every other successful religion in history has. It is psychologically appealing to many people, especially as it emphasizes sympathy with the poor and outcast, criticism of existing authorities and magical rescue from a pretty crappy life through devotion and loyalty to a figurehead. Paul's branch relaxes traditional Jewish restrictions which allows it to spread to Gentiles. At first it is mostly underground so largely ignored (and few if any check the stories in detail, they are passed around orally by those who want to believe). As it grows there is sporadic persecution, but as usual this doesn't eradicate the faith and even strengthens it. Martyrdom and more importantly legends of martyrdom serve to motivate people to devotion.

            The new religion begins to include influential people and to establish itself in several large cities. Again, see: any religion in the history of the world. Multiple factions have emerged and there are fights about doctrine and hierarchy. We know for a fact that people have no trouble making up wholly fictional accounts and gospels to support their own views.

            After a few centuries the religion is mainstream in the Western Roman Empire. A devout Christian becomes emperor and the rest is history.

            There are a lot of variations you could tell on the story above but none of them tax our imaginations if you know anything about history or human psychology.

          • Randy Gritter

            The trouble is you don't deal with any of the actual data. Did Peter and John and later Paul claim to see Jesus alive? Did John really talk to Polycarp at length about his time with Jesus? If so did he just tell lie after lie because ... well just because. Same thing with Peter and Clement of Rome. Same question with all the apostles really. Is that the generation that made the leap from Jesus stayed dead to Jesus rose on the third day?

            Is this really like most failed prophets? That their close associates claim they saw them alive when they were really dead? What is their motivation? To get others to believe in an illegal religion so they can all die together with the sure hope of a resurrection that didn't happen?

            Paul's branch is based on his own story. His conversion but also many miracles after that. But none of that happened either so it must have been based on relaxing some Jewish laws. Like Paul would have been the only one to think of relaxing a few laws. But then why do gentiles follow Paul? Compared to pagan religions Paul is strict.

          • josh

            You are the one who seems to be lacking data. In answer to your questions:

            We don't know. Paul didn't, he claimed to have a divine vision.
            We don't know.
            Quite possibly.
            Yes.
            That wasn't the comparison being made. Regardless, we don't know exactly what the 'close associates' claimed but it's not unusual for people to claim encounters with recently dead people.
            It is easier to believe a comforting lie than admit a hard truth.
            The religion wasn't illegal, they didn't all die together and self-deceived people can easily believe in a resurrection that happened in some form.
            Because Paul's version of Christianity is open to gentiles and appeals to a certain type of gullible person.

  • 42Oolon

    I would rather see a piece that tries to explain some of these seemingly foolish things. e.g. how is the torture and murder of the god a cure, atonement, resolution for the sin, and why was this necessary? "Jesus died for our sins" has never made any sense to me.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It is hard to summarize the meaning of the Redemption in a few words.

      Sin alienates a man from God, himself, others, and the natural world. The ultimate consequences of sin are suffering and death. In his human nature, Christ took on himself these consequences for everyone.

      • 42Oolon

        I would suggest that it is hard to explain at all. And that the reason it is hard to explain is that it actually makes no sense.

        It makes perfect sense if a group of people following a human man who they accepted as a deity and messiah, was easily captured and killed.

        I see no need for him to have "human nature" to take on these consequences. And even if I grant this, how or why his torture and death are required. No reason he could not just descent, as the Father and say, I will redeem your sins if you (repent and) accept me as god.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Do you believe that just because it doesn't make sense to you that it cannot be?

          • Ben

            Putting my two cents in: no, as has been noted in the comments on this website time and time again, often in discussion of quantum mechanics, there are lots of things about the way the world really is that I can't claim actually make sense to me, in the sense that I just don't get it. But I believe these things to be true because they are either directly supported by evidence, or are integral to theories that are supported by the evidence.

            With the filter of empircisim, I don't see a real problem. But when we're talking religion where we don't have empirical data backing a particular claim, yes, I am going to reject it if it can't even be explained in a way that makes any sense to me. Because once you open that door you have to let anything come through. Catholocism is full of things that to me, as an outsider, fail this test, like original sin, the redemption doctrine, and the trinity.

          • 42Oolon

            No, I believe it because it makes mountains more sense than the alternative.

    • Loreen Lee

      He resisted not 'evil, and yet 'transcended it'????? The answer to 'evil within the world?'

    • Stephen Bulivant

      THanks for the feedback 42Oolon - duly noted! Give me chance though; it's my first day!

    • ZenDruid

      The only explanation that makes sense to me is that Jesus accepted his punishment in order to spare his followers the same. Just like Socrates, but Soc didn't have the spin doctors that Jesus had.

  • stanz2reason

    Nice article. One thing I thought worth pointing out:

    "Compare, for example, the wonders of the universe revealed to us by modern physics: that everything in the universe was once packed into an infinitesimally small space; that the vast majority of a solid object is actually empty space; that there are perhaps a hundred billion galaxies in the universe, each with maybe a hundred billion solar systems and so forth. Popular science writers are adept at carefully explaining how and why all these things are true and the solid reasons we have for believing them. But they also revel in the scandalously foolish appearance of these claims, knowing full well that this is what excites and enthralls their readers."

    True that nerd nation revels in counter-intuitive qwerky truths. The big difference here is that the 'scandalously foolish appearance' of certain scientific facts are backed up verifiable empirical data. No one would take the claims of quantum physics seriously unless it was backed up be serious data. The physical properties of black holes can't be dismissed as the product of myth and superstition, nor do the calculations and observations of such things differ from person to person. I feel there is some sort of implied equivalency of both sets of odd claims that doesn't really hold.

    • Rationalist1

      Absolutely. And the corollary is that should the data show a claim of science as invalid, that claim is discarded.

      Quantum mechanics has taught us to expect answers on the microscopic level that are seemingly absurd to our macroscopic brain (an electron is a wave and a particle) but that macroscopic absurdity is only accepted if good solid experimental evidence backs up the assertion.

      It also teaches us humility that Protagoras was wrong that "man is the measure of all things" in this regard as we have evolved to have no innate understanding of the very small or the very large.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Isn't man still the measure? He uses his "nate" understanding to look into the very small and very large.

        • Rationalist1

          we don't use our innate understanding of the way things work. We have to use mathematical tools to "understand: them.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You are just saying science is empirical and Divine Revelation is myth and superstition.

      • Rationalist1

        Clearly some or indeed most Divine Revelation is myth and superstition.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If you are talking about the Catholic faith, I would agree with you a tiny bit. As ancient literature, some books of the Bible do contain myths which are there to teach metaphysical or moral truths. And there are people in the Bible who do act in superstitious ways, even though superstition is a sin. But lots of people whose stories are recounted in the Bible sin.

      • stanz2reason

        No, I'm saying the empirical claims of science can't reasonably be dismissed as such while religious claims can.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The empirical claims of science can be supported by the empirical evidence of science, but the claims of Catholicism are not empirical.

          • stanz2reason

            OK... therefore __________

          • Andre Boillot

            "the claims of Catholicism are not empirical"

            I think we've had at least one post here disagree with that. Either the resurrection did or did not happen.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree it really happened but how could you test for it short of a time machine?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One line of argument Catholics use to establish the Resurrection is historical evidence. Based on historical records we have, can a reasonable claim be made that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead?

            Another kind of historical argumentation historians use is cause and effect. Historical events have causes and effects. In this case, what is the best accounting for the effect of the behavior of the first Apostles and disciples, their own claim to personal experience with the Risen Christ or something else?

          • Rationalist1

            " but the claims of Catholicism are not empirical." Neither are the claims of the number Protestant denominations within Christianity nor are Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism or Judaism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So some other method than empiricism must be used to test their claims.

          • stanz2reason

            And we're to accept imagination combined with wishful thinking as one of those methods?

          • Vuyo

            Do you accept logic as a method to test claims?

          • Rationalist1

            Logic can only check the argument, not the premises.

          • Vuyo

            Do you mean it can check if the argument is sound?

          • Rationalist1

            Sure, but remember if you allow the premises, then anything can be proven.

          • stanz2reason

            Were you to lack empirical evidence to the contrary, I would probably find logic an acceptable method. Don't waste my time throwing in first cause or teleological arguments though. Reasoning from faulty propositions is not a convincing demonstration of logic.

          • Vuyo

            Isn't one man's faulty proposition another man's truth. If I say the tomb was empty and prove it logically, is the statement 'the tomb was empty', a faulty proposition?

          • Max Driffill

            Vuyo,

            You cannot prove the tomb was empty logically. Logic is simply following a premise or set of premises rigidly to see where they lead. The premises needn't reference anything real or correct.

            Here is what I said about logic in another thread:

            It isn't just about logic. Its about evidence that supports premises from which a chain of logic flows.
            Take the following example.

            A unicorn is a horse with a horn. New born unicorns have a very tiny horn. Adult male and female unicorns have horns all year long, and they grow continually. Unicorn horns are indestructible and can only be removed at death. Logically then all living unicorns have horns.

            My logic is sound, but does it reference anything in the real world? Probably not. For me to demonstrate this chain of logic has a referent, I would have to go find and then examine several populations of unicorns and then present my findings to skeptical experts in equine biology.

          • stanz2reason

            Isn't one man's faulty proposition another man's truth

            Perhaps one mans subjective truths wouldn't hold for another, but an objective truth is true regardless of of a disagreement.

            If I say the tomb was empty and prove it logically, is the statement 'the tomb was empty', a faulty proposition?

            Whether or not a tomb was empty doesn't seem like something you'd prove logically.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No Catholic thinker would posit imagination and wishful thinking to test claims, although great mental leaps are (actually) one way science advances (for example, the way Newton "saw" that an object falling to the earth and the moon circling the earth could be explained the same way, a genius insight).

            Rather, either self-evident or demonstrable principles and logical reasoning based on them are valid warrants for metaphysical claims.

      • Loreen Lee

        Could not the moment to moment 'expeience' of my life and my thoughts, feelings, imagination, etc. etc. etc. constitute 'data'?

        • stanz2reason

          In a subjective sense some of that might qualify as data, though if there were objective data to the contrary that would be a more accurate representation of the truth.

          • Loreen Lee

            That makes me feel that my 'subjectivity' has once again been 'absorbed' by the objectivity of science. Like I no longer have a 'person'. I was making an assumed analogy that it is the life of Christ which serves as some kind of empirical evidence for the Christian belief. Is this argument admissable?

          • stanz2reason

            There's nothing stopping you from having the experiences of a subjective person, just that if those experiences conflict with what are essentially objective fact that it's entirely irrational to favor the former (experience) over the latter (fact) when making truth claims. The empirical evidence of the hearsay of certain documents that make claims for a historical natural Jesus are not at all sufficient to substantiate the supernatural claims for Christian belief.

          • Loreen Lee

            A hypothetical story. A woman 'says' she is raped. She has no evidence. Her subjective story is dismissed because of the 'objectivity' based on the denial of the 'perpetrator', Consequently. It is one person's word against another, based on a criteria of 'objective' evidence.
            So we have historic evidence which is to some degree accepted for the claims that 'Jesus lived'. But his message is discarded, because the supernatural, or personally transcendent element cannot be 'verified scientifically'. Compared with the above story: the 'message of the gospel' is a such a transcendent truth, or supernatural to the degree that it is not understandable within 'natural reason. Kant distinguishes between the understanding in this sense and Reason. Kant held that these were transcendental ideals. The Church holds that these ideals are 'realities' that exist eternally, as do logical statements, within the context of 'always being True'. This subjective truth therefore is a criteria of a Personal interpretation of evidence, within the sphere of a transcendent truth which is also Personal in the sense of Person as a consciousness which transcends both the understanding of natural reason but which is still Rational despite it being beyond such verifiable 'understanding'.

          • primenumbers

            "She has no evidence" - ah but she does have evidence. It's us that don't. I don't know why you go onto put objective against subjective when in neither case is there any (mind independent) objectivity.

            "But his message is discarded, because the supernatural, or personally transcendent element cannot be 'verified scientifically'." - why only not verified scientifically? I'd suggest they're fundamentally unverifiable and the correct answer for us, the observer, in such a situation is strict agnosticism due to a) lack of evidence and b) lack of falsify ability.

            "The Church holds..." not a good reason.....

          • Loreen Lee

            The church holds, refers to the Magisterium, or the unified body of teaching of the church, the information of which I am not privy to. (Compare it to the laws of government, analogically), or the theories and principles of science and mathematics). With respect to the woman, the facts cannot be verified. The case therefore is not 'beyond all reasonable doubt', as it is held by Catholicism, that an ultimte explanation for the universe constitutes the basis of the postulates of God's existence. Mind Independent Objectivity? By comparison with this phrase, I would be deemed to be the 'atheist', grin grin. Surely you don't believe' that the truths of since are independent from the theories, hypothesis, etc. of mind? Agnosticism, is a doubt which in principle is not in conformity with belief. The woman's story then is doubted, which amounts to the same outcome in court. She cannot substantiate her case..... Thanks for this, you challenge me..

          • primenumbers

            "With respect to the woman, the facts cannot be verified" - is that cannot be practically verified or not able to be verified even in principle? Many rape cases do have their facts verified as it's not really possible not to leave some forensic physical evidence. But in our hypothetical case where there is none, and it's just one person's word against another, and neither person has reason to lie or character to suggest otherwise, all we can go for is strict agnosticism.

            "The church holds" reason splits three ways - either it's 1) based on reason and hence we can appeal to that reason rather than "The church holds", 2) pure argument by authority and hence can be rejected as such, or 3) faith based. If you're inclined to have a similar faith yourself I can see it convincing, but to an outsider "faith based" merely suggest lack of good reason.

            I know of the objective truth of reality, in that it represents itself truly and is mind independent. But as we don't have direct access to the truth reality, just our sense and brain filtered version, we even have to be careful with any empirical test against it, but at least we can assume it's there. For pure abstract concepts, (which although exist in reality on the arrangement of our brain matrices, are not in a form that makes their abstract nature able to be analyzed) we can judge their truth status objectively within their own framework.

            In the hypothetical case of our rape victim where there's no objective evidence either way, what good reason would their be to believe either person?

          • Loreen Lee

            Good distinction between verification in fact and in principle. I was going for the your word against mine thesis. When do you believe the other 'person'. On what basis? Do you believe in free will?.
            On the church 'holds'. please note that the church does indeed rule by authority, and has been criticized within this century for undo 'legalism'. But the authority is on principles of faith, and provide a unifying factor in church belief. On "Faith based": Faith and reason are philosophically seen as alternatives that are contrasted in many ways on principle and with regard to the kinds of ideas that differentiate them. Indeed there are forms of faith in which the support of reason is not held to be important: eg. fideism. But Christianity has found supports in rationalizations from proofs of God's existence, to the evidence of the bible, to the lessons within tradition, i.e. human experience. Sometimes I can do little better in assessing what to do within the parameteres of my 'personal' life experience.
            I still find your idea of mind independent truth difficult, as a major principle of modern philosophy is that our knowledge is indeed grounded on the principle that it's basis is derived from human experience and thought. Ironically, the church does not strictly condone this development in philosophical thought. That there is an empirical reality, is I would conclude the point of being mind independent. This I agree with. With regard to the ideality or reality of our ideas, Kant would hold the first, and the Church the latter position. I compromise and feel that even Ideals can be real to the 'person' holding them. An example would be even the psychotic who is convinced of his/her illusion. On abstract concepts, yes I agree that all thoughts are processed somehow through the neuronal circuitry, but as concepts it is held by Kant that they can be empty if taken out of the context of percepts or intuition. This, by the way, is possibly his major reason for not considering religious truth to be 'realities' in the sense that empirical evidence is held to be. But I can be a madman who 'goes with the best ideality', can't I? And this I can do by judging, 'their truth status objectively within their own framework'. Bravo. You're a Kantian. On who to believe, in the final pararaph, I guess you're stuck with whether or not to believe me. After all I gave you the hypothetical story/stories? grin grin.

          • stanz2reason

            A hypothetical story. A woman 'says' she is raped. She has no evidence. Her subjective story is dismissed because of the 'objectivity' based on the denial of the 'perpetrator', Consequently. It is one person's word against another, based on a criteria of 'objective' evidence.

            A few problems here. 1) The perpetrator denial claims aren't objective. 2) While I'm sympathetic with someone who doesn't come forward immediately, it's still tough to imagine in the dna age that someone who was raped would be entirely without evidence specifically physical evidence. 3) That being said, with the assumption of a he said / she said of hearsay, how would a 3rd party go about evaluating truth claims?

            So we have historic evidence which is to some degree accepted for the claims that 'Jesus lived'. But his message is discarded, because the supernatural, or personally transcendent element cannot be 'verified scientifically'.

            In many ways this could not be further from the truth. Much of the message isn't dependent on the truth of the stories, but retain their value regardless of the truth of the stories. Turn the other cheek is enlightened thinking (though somewhat impractical in some cases) regardless of whether Christ existed or not. Suggesting that those without sin should cast the first stone is a remarkable notion, whether or not there is a god. What's being discarded is rubbish about magic.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks, stanz2reason, for regarding the 'rape story' as hypothetical, and dismissing the need for DNA. The point was the subjectivity. It was a personal story, like Christs message of Redemption and Resurrection can be held to be a story, uncorroborated by 'factual evidence'. Thanks for understanding that I was just attempting to draw a parallel between two situations in which there is a 'personal' element.
            I believe, that Christianity, despite the only religion which claims a Personal god, is united with the message of all religion in holding the 'personal' or 'subjective' element of human experience as the 'essential'. In the rape story you are correct in saying that neither party had factual evidence or objectivity. In the case of Jesus, there was 'witness/corroboration' to his miracles, to his resurrection etc. Even I find this amazing, when, I don't know if you have had similar experience, in day to day experience, so often what the 'other' says is merely taken as 'opinion'. The reason for the loyalty rendered to Jesus can I agree be largely attributable to the prudential understanding of his teachings, etc. etc. That alone, is enough even for me, to believe that his message was by even today's standards, enlightened. These 'notions' as you call them, though are not the 'message' that is considered to be the hallmark of Christian belief. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

          • stanz2reason

            I'm sorry to hear that it was a personal experience. As husband to my wife and father to my daughter such stories resonate with me personally in some sense as well. Rape is a horrible crime.

            I don't doubt that the evidence offered by Christian teachings is enough for you to accept nor do I have any issue for you doing so. This speaks nothing to the truth of the matter, at least so much that we might establish it as so. What Christians offer in terms of evidence to support supernatural claims is no more than anyone else does for any other supernatural claims, most of which I'd gather you'd dismiss without a second thought. Many people, including myself who might easily dismiss the 'truth' of supernatural claims can still appreciate the substantive moral arguments (at least some of them) that Christians offer. By tying the substance of the Christian argument to some vagueness about the trinity of some incorporeal divine being, you're setting yourself up to be dismissed. This insistence on invoking the supernatural to satisfy an unfortunate case of wishful thinking is needlessly weighting down the Christian argument.

          • Loreen Lee

            A misunderstanding. When you said that the story resonated with you personally, that was merely the context in which I used the word: as we began the discussion if I remember correctly, with what constitutes 'personal meaning; or the 'personal'.

            Please understand that I merely attempt to understand, and find that the Catholic church offers an enormous scope of intellectual and transcendent possibilities. In a way I feel that Christ led as always by example, when he said on the Cross: Into your hands I commend the spirit. He was prepared for his descent into hell, as witnessed by the words: My God why hast thou forsaken me. I left after five years studying Buddhism, with the decision that I would return to the suffering of Samsara. That I felt it presumptious, or something to want to be a Buddha. Just an example by comparison of one of the personal decisions I have made in my life, that have brought me where I am today: and indeed remain in puzzlement, and short of committment on so many issues, etc. etc. etc. I am yet exploring where I 'stand' with the Church. Possibly if they knew my mind they would reject me. Amen. The quest, however, remains, and I can only grow and develop from what I have interated from my past Election, I just learned it is called, within my present Covenant, and towards the future Promise. I put out the last sentence, because I learned it yesterday, and it resonated with me. It is deeper in meaning I believe than I have integrated, and so it goes with my relationship to the message of Jesus. The trinity is vague only to the extent that by analogy I have not comprehend the trinity within myself, (don't know whether this is acceptable to the church) but I go with the philosophy I have studied, and thus relate to the need to overcome dualisms within my nature through the search for a wholeness and unity within my 'self'.....(Whatever that is) So I do not fear being 'dismissed'. On the 'supernatural' Kant put forward the relationship of the sublime to that which engenders in us the 'feeling' that a 'higher reality' does indeed 'exist'. I merely believe that if the Chruch could gather so much from Aristotle's philosophy, that I might find a similar relevance, (although not necessarily taking all) in relating to such philosophers. Every moment I have a choice and a responsibility to garner the best interpretation that is possible to me, as an indiidual The Covenant? The Buddhists had a Wish Fulfilling Tree. At present I have the seeds of faith, and perhaps after/when I die I shall perhaps have the foundation of hope, if not for me, then for the World!!!!!. That I believe was what Jesus Christ was 'accepting' when he died 'for our sins'.....

    • Stanz - You've made a great point, insofar as faith-based claims are not backed up by anything - i.e., insofar as one subscribes to some form of fideism. Many religions do - and many rigorous thinkers leave them (or succumb to some measure of cognitive dissonance) for just this reason. Catholicism, in contrast, has always claimed to be backed up by reason - by history, anthropology, philosophy, etc. Much like (it is an analogy, not an equivalence) the age of the universe or dark matter, the Church proposes something that initially sounds preposterous and counter-intuitive and changes the center of gravity of a person's understanding of the world - and backs it up with "serious data."

      • Rationalist1

        But can you name one religion or denomination that doesn't make that claim about themselves as well?

      • stanz2reason

        What serious data does the church propose? Put yourself in the shoes of a skeptic and imagine what sort of data would make supernatural claims worth considering in light of countless natural explanations? For me personally that threshold is beyond 2000 year old hearsay. It's often not the reasoning of catholics (and other religious groups) but the unwarranted acceptance of the propositions you base all your subsequent reasoning off of.

        • What serious data does the church propose?

          Stanz, I can't fit all of Strange Notions into a comment box! Since you gave me your own personal take, I'll give you mine: the existential (Pascal, Percy), historical (Chesterton, Lewis), aesthetic (O'Connor, Gaudi), anthropological (Girard, Wojtyla), and phenomenological (Stein, Marion) data that supports the Church's claims was key. (Science was not key for me personally - I'm not a science guy - although the Church's teachings are completely consonant with the discoveries of modern science, including evolution.) This may be phenomenal data, not empirical data, but my life and yours are phenomena, not objects; they are human histories unfurled in a world, not machines in an environment. To adequately explain them, we need a different type of data set. As Kierkegaard once said, it is all too possible to understand everything about the universe - except what it means to live and die.

          • stanz2reason

            I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage as I haven't read most of what you have. Still, I'm curious to hear something more specific than a vague 'existential, historical, aesthetic, etc.'

          • Stanz - I'm not being coy, the depth and breadth of what you're asking for is really too much to cover in a comment or two without falling tragically short. That's why I dropped a few names in each discipline for further reading. Maybe it would be easier if you highlighted a certain aspect of Catholicism that gives you the most trouble? Suffice it to say - to get back to the original point - Catholicism is not fideism, but has a long tradition of backing revelation with reason. This is what makes Stephen's analogy (again, not equivalence) a good one. We - like scientists with "scandalously foolish" sounding claims - explain "how and why all these things are true and the solid reasons we have for believing them."

          • primenumbers

            "Catholicism is not fideism, but has a long tradition of backing revelation with reason" - which means we need to look only at the relationship between faith and reason and we don't actually need to go into the details of Catholic belief other than as perhaps practical examples so we're not always talking academically.

            If I have good reason to believe something, I need little if any in the way of faith, and similarly if I believe something with little or no good reason, I need a lot of faith. Although faith and reason compliment each other, it's more like a balanced teeter-totter of belief where you can have a justified belief on faith alone, or on reason alone, or with either in any combination adding the right amount of weight to cause the teeter-totter to balance us into belief. But to the degree that reason justifies a belief, faith is not needed and to the degree that faith justifies a belief what need reason? Indeed I'd suggest that with a good reason to believe adding faith just shows you have less reason than you'd normally need to have a justified belief. For the atheist, adding faith is to the detriment of reason, for the Catholic (and I know you want to avoid fideism), any significant use of faith at all is acknowledgement to to the lack of reason. But whereas in reality we have finite amounts of reason we can have practically unlimited amounts of faith making it a very powerful weapon, perhaps too powerful even in small doses...

          • Hey Prime - I disagree with your characterization of faith as locked in a tug-of-war with reason - the implication being that ground gained for one is necessarily ground lost for the other.

            A crucial read on this question is "Fides Et Ratio," which you can find online. From section 9:

            The truth attained by philosophy [and the sciences] and the truth of Revelation are neither identical nor mutually exclusive: “There exists a twofold order of knowledge, distinct not only as regards their source, but also as regards their object. With regard to the source, because we know in one by natural reason, in the other by divine faith. With regard to the object, because besides those things which natural reason can attain, there are proposed for our belief mysteries hidden in God which, unless they are divinely revealed, cannot be known”...Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the “fullness of grace and truth” (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history...

          • primenumbers

            As I tried to explain, if you have sufficient reason what need for faith, and if you have sufficient faith, what need for reason? The two don't actually bolster each other because belief acts on a threshold - it's like an election with first past the post, either a victory of 1 or 10,000 gets you the seat. So yes, you could have lots of reason and more faith than necessary to believe, but the end result is the same belief that "just enough" faith to add to the reason gets you. I think you're right that it's not a strict tug-of-war analogy.

            I don't think your passage helps me at all. There's too much un-evidenced supernatural pre-supposition in there for me to accept it. Faith and reason are two separate epistemologies, reason being the reasonable one that we use in every day life, and faith being the one we use for religion. My argument is that faith doesn't bolster reason because it's only invoked to fill in the gap between where reason gets you and the belief you desire. Adding faith to a reasoned argument doesn't make the reasoned argument any stronger. They're not mutually exclusive as indeed you can use both together, but although faith + reason can get you higher than reason alone, the height is gained at the expense of fragility. Fragility in this sense is that you've declared through use of faith that some of your total argument is not testable, not checkable and subject (because it's an individual mind centred process) to the ravages of cognitive bias without hope for a corrective mechanism or process to eliminate their destructive influences.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If I may butt in here, I think a careful reading of Fides et Ratio could clear up or at least clarify these questions you have. I think it would be worth your while.

          • Hey Prime - But I would argue that you continue to think in "tug-of-war" terms, where faith and reason contend for the same object or phenomenon on a wider continuum of belief. Otherwise, why contend that faith is "only invoked to fill in the gap between where reason gets you and the belief you desire"? Or that "you've declared through use of faith that some of your total argument is not testable"? These assertions imply that faith is "getting in the way" of reason, or is at best a superfluous afterthought, as both struggle to constitute some belief about the same object, only through different epistemological methods.

            Again, my conception of faith and reason is different. I see them as completely distinct (as you do), yet with distinct sources and objects. More importantly, I see them as mutually supportive, with a kind of natural synergy. Without faith to fill it out and draw it forward, reason becomes narrow and cold. (As Chesterton put it: "Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.") Without reason to enlighten and steer faith, it withers into superstition and fideism. They can hold each other up and give support where the other falters, without pretending to do what the other does best or take the other's place - like a good marriage.

            At any rate, I agree with Kevin - I really do recommend reading "Fides Et Ratio," if for no other reason than to pick apart what you see as the weak points. I can think of no better modern elucidation of the definitions of and relationship between faith and reason.

          • primenumbers

            "Otherwise, why would you contend that faith is "only invoked to fill in the gap between where reason gets you and the belief you desire"? " - because that is how I see it is used. In how we get knowledge, we use reason, and if there's not enough reason to believe we don't, unless we want to believe and then we invoke faith.

            " see them as mutually supportive" - I'm sure you do, but as you're using a reasoned argument here with me rather than a faith based one, surely you admit to the superiority of reason?

            "It is an act of faith to assert" - but not it's not. That is faith==trust, we have good trust in reason because it's logically consistent, has been shown to work and produce good results. What I'm talking about is religious faith, the way of knowing that is used when (and yes, I assert) reason runs out.

            "without pretending to do what the other does best" as reason does reason best, you can easily see why faith is unreasonable then!

            If an argument (for a belief) stands on reason alone, what benefit does adding a faith based argument bring? I'd say none. If an argument lacks sufficient reason, shouldn't that argument fall? If an argument rests of faith alone, that is the fideism you seek to avoid. What benefit does faith bring other than to make the unreasonable believable?

          • Not unreasonable - suprarational! "Faith consists essentially in knowledge" - but it is not there to fill up gaps in the natural order or compete with scientific explanations. Our impasse seems to be that I'm working from a twofold order of knowledge, while for you, there is only one fold: beliefs about the world. Insofar as faith adds superfluity to, or otherwise subtracts from, reason's business, I don't blame you for being hesitant about it. But I hope you see, if nothing else, that this is not our understanding of faith either.

            From the Catechism: "Methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God." The implication is that the things of faith are not the things of the world - but rather, the origin and end of all things, human freedom, and the revelation of the divine presence.

            Thanks for the dialogue Prime!

          • primenumbers

            Yes, faith is an epistemology, a way of knowing, and it's a very very poor one. It has produced the chaos of beliefs we see around us, and people use faith with respect to beliefs about the world where it demonstrably fails to produce the same good results that reason does. Is there any reason to expect that it works for the supernatural where when it's use for the natural world it fails so miserably?

          • Yes, faith is an epistemology, a way of knowing, and it's a very very poor one.

            What about intuition, though? Some of the greatest discoveries in science have been based on intuition. It's not exactly faith, but it's not the "scientific method" either.

          • primenumbers

            Intuition isn't an epistemology though - it doesn't tell us how to know something, just gives us ideas to use an epistemology to look into.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think we need an OP along these lines. It is the questions of how do we legitimately know things in different disciplines.

            The atheists demand we must know religion the same way we know science, through empiricism (although I'm pretty sure science doesn't even know itself merely empirically).

      • Andrew G.

        Since every other Catholic here so far has ducked this question, I'll try it on you:

        What anticipated experiences do you expect would be different in a universe in which Catholicism were false and no God existed?

        • Randy Gritter

          If Catholicism were false I would not expect the Catholic church to exist. Every other 1st century or even 4th century institution is gone or changed beyond recognition. GK Chesterton identifies 5 points in history when the church looked like it was done and should have been gone but somehow came back. The fall of the Roman Empire is one example. Why would the barbarians conquer Rome and then embrace Rome's religion? Makes no sense.

          I think there are more answers. If God didn't exist I would not expect sex to exist. I mean something as good as sex when it is good and as bad as sex when it is bad and as personal and as funny and as life altering and inspiring of great art and as inspiring of bad art. Could something like that have just evolved by survival of the fittest? Seems like pure survival would produce something much more efficient!

          • primenumbers

            As an explanation it doesn't explain religious belief in general. (and also fails with the specifics of Catholicism as special pleading). I've also got that small feeling that the 4th century Catholic Church is nothing like the Catholic Church of today.

          • Randy Gritter

            I do think religious belief does flow partly from the fact that the world is beautiful in so many ways and demands an author that is capable of that. Science does not do provide one. Just the idea that enough monkey's typing randomly can produce Shakespeare.

          • primenumbers

            This is similar to how we're discussing meaning elsewhere on this thread. Things can be beautiful by design, but we can also see beauty in random and chaotic things too. And those random and chaotic things are very beautiful and authorless.

          • Randy Gritter

            What takes more faith? To believe beauty is authoress or to believe a master artist is somehow working in what appears to be random?

          • primenumbers

            What do you mean by the word "faith" in this context? We don't have access to "beauty" as a property of things, we only have our personal perception of beauty, so the question is not whether all beauty has an author, but whether our perception of beauty means we are the author of our own perception or not.

            You see when we lack evidence for something (like whether beauty in random or chaotic patterns has an author) the only rational answer is agnosticism. To invent an author without evidence is what you need faith for.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know if I agree with you. I've been reading that order in nature arises out of a combination of randomness and determinism. As we may have discussed before, one big describer of seemingly random order in nature is fractal math. It generates all kinds of meaningful and beautiful order.

            One of my "eaten" Disqus comments maybe be worth resurrecting. You probably know that over the course of centuries a system of harmony arose in classical music in which each of the twelve notes in the diatonic scale in any key have harmonic relationships with all the other notes. The combination of harmony, dissonance, and resolution back to harmony produces drama and beauty.

            In the early 20th century some composers said there was no intrinsic meaning in that system and that they could simply assign what relationship those tones would have to one another. The result as unremitting ugliness.

          • primenumbers

            "It generates all kinds of meaningful and beautiful order." - but it's not the order of the type we generally think of as order, but more of a pattern in the chaos, and chaos isn't exactly random either, nor exactly patterned. We don't have adequate language to really describe what we see there.

            I don't know if we can really discuss beauty without a non-tautological definition of beauty to use. After all beauty is what we perceive as beautiful and that doesn't help us much.... And practical beauty often relies as much on faults as perfection, which makes it hard to conceive of it being a property of a totally perfect being, and the perceptive element makes it hard to think of beauty being an actual objective property rather than a mind centred emotion.

            There's strong links between music and math, but as far as I understand there's a few different systems of scales used around the world that work differently to the one we commonly use and although sound different, don't sound bad. The note relationships as you point out cannot be arbitrary or you break the math relationship.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Isn't beauty one of those things that you know it when you see it even if you can't say why?

          • primenumbers

            So we're told..... The definition basically comes down to a rather subjective opinion. Although we can find commonality among people's tastes and opinions, there's still more than enough variety to keep things interesting.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Personally, I don't think I would want to live without it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is what John Henry Newman thought, too, but after studying the first four centuries of the Church in great detail he changed his mind.

          • primenumbers

            Do you want to go into more specifics on that. What did JHN exactly initially think?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He thought Anglicanism was an legitimate original "branch" of Christianity and wanted to bring closer to its roots in the early Church. That's why he studied those roots.

          • primenumbers

            Ok, but I fail to see what that has to do with my comment on religious belief in general or that 4th C Catholic Church is remotely like the Catholic Church of today.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He looked at what the 4th century Church believed and practiced and found that was what the Catholic Church of his day believed and practiced. So, reluctantly he converted.

          • primenumbers

            As I noted above with Iraneus, he didn't believe in the 4th C Trinity formula, thus showing significant change. Even if some beliefs and practises are the same (which they may or may not be) that doesn't lead us to the conclusion that the Church in totality is unchanged over that period, does it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm claiming that the Deposit of Faith we have today was there from the very beginning. It is not surprising that Irenaeus didn't hold to a formula that was formulated two hundred years later. There is a difference between a doctrine and its formal definition which clarifies it.

          • primenumbers

            Trinitarianism didn't even exist at the beginning though. It came later. What Irenaeus believed with regards to the nature of God and Jesus wasn't the Trinity you believe. He could not have in all honesty signed the Nicene creed while continuing to believe his stated beliefs.

            To show that there was the concept of Trinity before it was formulated you'd need good evidence, and any other concept that sounds similar to Trinity is not Trinity (as the historical battles over minute nuances in the formula will attest).

          • Andre Boillot

            "Every other 1st century or even 4th century institution is gone or changed beyond recognition."

            1) if Islam survives a few more hundred years, it will be just as convincing as Catholicism is now?

            2) explain to me how going from a humble carpenter and a band of fisherman (forsaking worldly possessions) to this: http://auntheather.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Pope-Benedict-XVI-Aunt-Heather-Piper-.jpg
            isn't changing beyond recognition?

            "Why would the barbarians conquer Rome and then embrace Rome's religion?"

            Which I'm sure happened overnight, and with nothing else to explain it.

          • Randy Gritter

            Islam is interesting. Was Mohammad lying when claimed to have seen an angel? I think the fact that Islam has lasted so long makes it more plausible that Satan gave him such a vision. I do not think a purely human institution could be as successful in both the short and long term.

            I do think popes and bishops in the early church were given ornate robes to wear to reflect their dignity as officeholders. So no, I don't think much has changed. The church has a few more resources to do what it does a bit better but the impulse is much the same.

          • Andre Boillot

            I see, so now longevity is either (both?) a factor of a religion being true, or it's the devil's work.

          • Rationalist1

            So it's a win/win or lose/lose depending upon your perspective.

            It's just amazing how one can seemingly make up stuff without restriction.

          • primenumbers

            When you can invent reasons you can rationalize anything. I think the theists here should be honest and stick to their God being an unknowable mystery and hence not engage in the ad-hoc un-evidenced rationalization.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God is not an unknowable mystery for Christians. He is knowable because he became a man.

          • primenumbers

            Christians believe they know. I strongly doubt that they actually do know. That said the man/God of Jesus never actually made any real sense, and no doubt that's why Christians had 300yrs or so of debate on the issue before the compromise version of the Trinity formula was adopted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is not the case. The measure of orthodoxy in the early church was 'what the Apostles passed down to us about who Christ is and what he did and taught.'

            What Arius claimed made sense (to him and his followers and has some evidence in the New Testament) but it was not the Catholic faith. This is why the Council Fathers had to rigorously define who Christ was based on that challenge (and Greek philosophical terms helped a lot).

            That is a basic way doctrine develops. The Church holds the deposit of faith. Somebody disputes some part of it. The the Church has to drill down and articulate that faith even more clearly and precisely.

          • primenumbers

            Um, that's a rather revisionist way to look at the history of events, and not what I read at all in the history of the subject.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is just one example, by Irenaeus: "The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith . . . " then he goes on to articulate it.

            The principle was, 'Is this what the Apostles taught?"

          • primenumbers

            Irenaeus would say that though, wouldn't he? After all, he was big against the gnostics to the point of outright exaggeration and lies, and reference to the Apostles would bolster he point of view against the gnostic view of a private oral tradition direct from Jesus.

            Irenaeus (getting back on point about the adoption of the current Trinitarian formula), although perhaps more trinitarian than he peers, didn't express the modern post-nicea Trinitarian formula, but said the Father alone is the one true God, but also tells us Jesus is God because he's begotten of God. He doesn't express three co-equal persons, but puts primacy on the Father.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Irenaeus lied about the gnostics? What do you mean?

          • primenumbers

            His characterization of them is at odds with the documents found at Nag Hamadi.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            According to Wikipedia, some scholars say that and others say no.

          • primenumbers

            So if we have to be agnostic on the issue of his representation of the gnostics, I think we should also be agnostic on his representation of the of the Church.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. It is that agnosticism can always be claimed and the world should not stop for that reason.

          • primenumbers

            Agnosticism can always be claimed, but it's only reasonable to assert agnosticism when there is a genuine lack of evidence, which it appears we have in this case. Not only is it rational to assert agnosticism on lack of evidence, but it's the only rational knowledge claim.

          • Max Driffill

            I'm going to always mentally refer to Strange Notions as Special Pleading. That seems to be one of the dominant modes of discourse around here.

          • Andre Boillot

            Heh. I'll do the rest the kindness of not painting them all with the same brush. There are better arguments than Randy's.

          • Randy Gritter

            The dominant mode of rebuttal is the false parallel! We say Jesus is unique. You say He is like everyone else. So that is what we are going to call each other.

          • Max Driffill

            Randy,
            In one sense he is unique. He was, if he existed, a unique human being, unlike another. But so am I, and so are you.
            He was different though in the following ways. He was, it a appears a charismatic human, and managed to develop a large and loving following. But he is hardly the only person in history to do this, or to impress people with his teachings and have people make up fantastical tales after his death (even Elvis has had weird post death appearances, and some people in Asia worship Bruce Lee).

            All the atheists on this site are saying is that he was human, and not likely supernatural.

          • primenumbers

            "makes it more plausible that Satan gave him such a vision" - ooh, do a spot an ad-hoc un-evidenced rationalization? :-)

          • Randy Gritter

            I am just being consistent. Purely human organizations don't survive over 1000 years. I would not call Islam an organization but it is a thing that I would expect to die if it was just human. BTW, I felt the same way about Catholicism. As a protestant I always thought people who said the Catholic Church was the work of Satan were more plausible than those who said it was just a bunch of misguided humans. We know what the work of misguided humans looks like. This is not it.

          • primenumbers

            "Purely human organizations don't survive over 1000 years"- oh come now.....

            "I would not call Islam an organization" - why, because it would ruin your argument?

            "We know what the work of misguided humans looks like" - yup - everything we see around us unless you're going in for some special pleading, or inventing agents of chaos.

          • Mikegalanx

            The Chinese imperial system lasted from 206 BC to 1911- though it, too, had its periods of Babylonian Captivity

          • Rationalist1

            Many religions predate Christianity and still exist today.

          • Max Driffill

            Randy let me rephrase your solipsistic argument for your religious preference in such a way that you might see it as silly as we who don't share your belief.

            You said:

            If Catholicism were false I would not expect the Catholic church to exist. Every other 1st century or even 4th century institution is gone or changed beyond recognition. GK Chesterton identifies 5 points in history when the church looked like it was done and should have been gone but somehow came back. The fall of the Roman Empire is one example. Why would the barbarians conquer Rome and then embrace Rome's religion? Makes no sense.

            Clearly you haven't given the matter much thought. If this is a valid thing to say any ancient religion can avail itself of this maneuver in the following way.

            If Buddhism were false, I would not expect Buddhism to exist. Every other religion that originated between 480-400 BCE is gone or changed beyond recognition. Authority figure X identifies several points in history when it looked like Buddhism was done and should have gone out, but somehow came back.

            Now are you ready to convert to Buddhism?

            [EDIT: Sorry readers that first sentence is really clunky.]

          • Randy Gritter

            I do think there is a difference between a religion and a particular religious institution. A book can influence people for a long time but the understanding of it can change. It is not the same thing as having a continuity of popes and a continuity of bishops.

          • Max Driffill

            Does the word schism not register to you? You have two institutions that claim the same thing? Unchanged indeed....
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East–West_Schism

          • Randy Gritter

            I am aware of the schism. Both claims are largely true. They both have legitimate bishops.The Eastern church has married itself with political entities more. That is why you have a Russian Orthodox Church and a Greek Orthodox Church and a Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

            Then there is the matter of the pope. A remarkable office. Popes have led the church through a maze of heresies. The consistency over of teaching over so many centuries is quite something. Then you have the power they claimed over and against the political leaders who had all the armies. It does not sound like a formula for longevity.

          • Max Driffill

            Sure it does. If you are the head of on organization that has a large influence on the local populace, it pays rulers to try to, at least in the public eye, play nice, and utilize that influence. Pandering in the way the GOP panders to the modern Evangelical movements.

            You will also note that the influence and power of the Vatican is on the decline and has been probably ever since Luther nailed his letter to the door. The Roman Catholic Church's former area of political influence continues to decline. Also the Church played footsies with the powers that be as much as, and probably more often than it opposed them.

            Returning for a moment to the Schism, The Eastern Orthodox Church uses a different bible than the RCC. And both violate your not recognizable from their earliest beginnings stage.

          • Randy Gritter

            The way the GOP panders to modern evangelicals makes sense in a democracy. They want their votes and their money. They don't really want to give them any power. Popes have frequently refused to play that game. Not always, as you point out, but often.

            The influence and power of the Vatican has been on the decline since long before Luther. People have been predicting the end of the church for a long time. They continue to do so and continue to be wrong.

            I am not sure why you think the canon recognized by the Eastern Orthodox is important. It also seems like the "not recognizable" assertion is just not seeing what you don't want to see.

          • Max Driffill

            Randy,

            The way the GOP panders to modern evangelicals makes sense in a democracy. They want their votes and their money. They don't really want to give them any power. Popes have frequently refused to play that game. Not always, as you point out, but often.

            Pandering can make sense in a number of political systems. Even ones involving tyranny. If you are a ruler, it makes sense to limit your internal conflicts. If you can convince a powerful group, made up of large numbers of people to not oppose you, (and you don't go out of your way to overly antagonize this group) you have gone a long way toward averting revolt, and not wasting precious resources squashing internal conflicts, resources you could devote to expansion or other projects of state.

            The Church has also sought to make concordances with state power to secure its own interests, and grow its temporal power. True it has opposed state institutions before, but it has also turned a blind eye to some fairly awful events. Some of its members, have of course participated in some heinous persecution as well.

            The influence and power of the Vatican has been on the decline since long before Luther. People have been predicting the end of the church for a long time. They continue to do so and continue to be wrong.

            Actually I would not be one of those who would predict the end of the RCC. What will happen is it will soften, or change many of its stances altogether if it wants to remain a robust body, with influence in the developed world. If it doesn't want to do this, it will continue to grow where ignorance and poverty reign,but will also decline into some modest organization in the developed world. Like the Anglican church say.

            "I am not sure why you think the canon recognized by the Eastern Orthodox is important. It also seems like the "not recognizable" assertion is just not seeing what you don't want to see."

            Now you cannot have it both ways. I am bringing up the changing of canon because of your criteria, of unchanging longevity indicating truth. Schism is an old story. Change is an old story and one you seem to ignore. In the first second and third centuries Christianity did not speak with one voice. There were then, as now, numerous Christianities. There were very significant differences, and different holy scriptures. Sadly our access to these debates is limited because when the organization that would become the RCC gained political power it quashed its opposition by branding them as heretics, and destroying their holy texts. This is a real tragedy because we have lost a great deal of insight into those days.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            People have been predicting the end of the Catholic Church for a long time. So now your prediction is that it only grows where people are ignorant and poor.

            A counter example is South Korea, where the Catholic faith is growing 1-2% per year and has now reached 10% of the population. Yet they are growing in educational attainment and economic development at the same time.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            People have been predicting the end of the Catholic Church for a long time. So now your prediction is that it only grows where people are ignorant and poor.
            I'm sorry this is where the church is having its most success. But don't blame me. Correcting ignorance has always been been bad for superstition.

            A counter example is South Korea, where the Catholic faith is growing 1-2% per year and has now reached 10% of the population. Yet they are growing in educational attainment and economic development at the same time

            I've no reason to doubt your case here, but I would be curious as to more specifics. One example doesn't discount the larger trend of declining church attendance for all faiths. The RCC isn't growing in the developed world generally. But neither are many factions of organized Christianity. The largest growing demographic in the US is the nones.

          • Mikegalanx

            "According to a 2012 Gallup International poll 15% of South Korean people were convinced atheists, up from 11% in its previous survey in 2005"

            Should be "THE counter-example is South Korea", where Catholic growth comes at the expense of Protestantism and Buddhism; the fastest growing segment of the population is "Irreligious".

            South Korea is something of an anomaly- it is the only place I know of that had one of the major religions that has shown a willingness to switch to another. (Christians 30% of the population).

            By "major religions" I mean the big 5: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and that syncretic mash of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism we can call "Chinese" religion.

            I can't think of anywhere elsewhere there has been mass conversions of the population, even under coloniallsm.

            Most of the converts have come from either marginalised groups - ethnic minorities, outcasts- or people seeking privilege from the new ruling power.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One major dimension of Church history from the time of Constantine has been the tension between the Church attempting to control the secular rules and the secular rulers attempting to control the Church or even destroy her.

          • "Pandering in the way the GOP panders to the modern Evangelical movements."

            Or, for example, pandering in the way the Democrats pander to the homosexualist movement.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,
            I actually don't think democrats does pander, by and large, to the GLBT community. Most democrats I know actually do believe in equality for GLBT people. There may be some pandering but not as much as has historically been the case in the GOP. Now the situation could be much different than it was in early 90s and throughou Bush 2. Tea Party politicians may actually like dealing with evangelicals. But for a very long time evangelicals were just a voting block republicans had gotten into bed with to pick up votes and use evangelical grass roots mobilization. There have been a few good books on the subject. And I remember vividly Tucker Carlson discussing the general contempt republican politicians of the last 20-30 years had for evangelicals. But as I said, it did allow evangelicals to get their feet in the door so the culture at the core of the Republican party may have changed in relation to evangelicals.

          • "The gays are the next Jews when it comes to fund raising"---

            Rahm Emmanuel

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,
            Is that pandering, or is it making an observation? This tells us nothing about Rahm's sentiments regarding GBLT rights.

          • Seems to me that the Democrats are pandering rather frantically for the new rich lode of political fundraising.

            But money is, of course, the root of all politics.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick that may be. Money certainly talks. But as I said, democrats are socially liberal, and support for GLBT people has been growing steadily for a few decades. Its hard to find a socially liberal person, in my experience, who opposes say gay marriage, or gay folk serving openly in the military. My experience is merely anecdotal, and I am sure some democratic politicians actually oppose much of the GLBT equality movement, so yeah they are out there, but year by year they are thinning in number.
            More generally the religious right has really lost this fight. Evangelical youth, at nearly 70% when last I read, support gay marriage. It will be interesting to see if the RCC changes its tune on this in the coming decades.

          • "But as I said, democrats are socially liberal, and support for GLBT people has been growing steadily for a few decades."

            >> Gay pseudo-marriage was opposed by the Democratic Party from its inception, and DOMA was passed by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by a Democratic President in 1996.

            It seems there is a distinct relationship between moral principle and magnitude of cash available to assist its evolution in view here.

            "More generally the religious right has really lost this fight."

            >> Heh heh heh. Glad to hear you say that. It is always a good thing when one's opposition imagines a fight is over.

            I predict you are in for a very big surprise.

            "Evangelical youth, at nearly 70% when last I read, support gay marriage. It will be interesting to see if the RCC changes its tune on this in the coming decades."

            >> I don;t think it will take decades, but rather weeks, for the magnitude of the judicial tyranny which the SCOTUS has just arrogated to itself to sink fully in even to the more pathetic Republicans.

            One thing I can guarantee you, is that this fight is about to get much bigger than you expect.

          • Max Driffill

            Oh I am sure there will be more silliness from those who oppose gay marriage (which seems anything but pseudo- to my gay friends who are married). Evangelicals still have plenty of money, and the will to keep opposing happiness.

            You are correct that the Democratic party has evolved on this position. Being able to change one's mind is a good thing. And gay people are simply awesome.

            This fight is lost if trends continue. Young people just don't care and most really are just fine with gay people, because gay people are simply great people.

            Its funny its always judicial tyranny when the court doesn't vote your way, but sound law when SCOTUS gives you a verdict you like.

            Well, I am going to go listen to Dan Savage's podcast now. I think you should give it a listen.

          • I am very familiar with Dan- try to keep his tongue away from your doorknobs if he ever comes to visit.

            As for the travesty perpetrated by SCOTUS yesterday.....

            7,000,000 Californians voted in a free and fair election to retain the definition of marriage which has pertained from the beginning of the Republic.

            This vote was disregarded by our elected officials.

            These two officials arrogated to themselves the power to set aside 7,000,000 sovereign citizens' votes.

            This is a travesty.

            Here is a worse one.

            This travesty was enforced by the legal fiction that we the people have no standing to defend our sovereign votes, if some elected official decides to ignore them.

            This is far worse than a travesty.

            This is tyranny, and I promise you solemnly, that we will not allow it to stand.

            Cheers.

            Interesting times ahead.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,
            The numbers don't really matter to me. If the law was sound. Millions opposed marriage between african americans and white people. Millions opposed the suffrage. Millions opposed abolition.

            I have no opinion of whether the law was sound. I am not a constitutional lawyer. If you are, by all means explain to me how the ruling violated constitutional law. If it was unsound I would surely like to know.

            As of right now though, I am just happy that my gay friends who are married can breath a little easier.

          • Thanks, Max, it is well established now that the constitution is not something which you- or the Supreme Court- are prepared to allow to interfere with the establishment of your preferred laws.

            Interesting times ahead.

          • Andre Boillot

            I don't see how "well established" your claim is, what with the nones of explanations you gave for it.

          • "The numbers don't really matter to me."

            >> Therefore the concept of majority vote is irrelevant.

            "If the law was sound"

            >> The law was not only sound, it represented the twice-expressed will of the people to retain marriage as it pre-existed the Republic itself.

            "I have no opinion of whether the law was sound"

            >> Therefore the majority can be ignored without disturbing Max even if the law was sound.

            His friends are happy.

            So it is well established that the constitution is not something which Max- or the Supreme Court- are prepared to allow to interfere with the establishment of their preferred laws.

            Very interesting times ahead indeed.

          • Andre Boillot

            "So it is well established that [the establishment of preferred, yet unconstitutional, laws] is not something which Max- or the Supreme Court- are prepared to allow to interfere with the [Constitution]."

            Fixed it for you.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            One of these days you are going to have to learn to respond to what I actually say, and not what you imagine I have said. Given your fevered imagination I can see this getting tiresome rather quickly.

            I am a staunch defender of the constitution, and no where have I said suggested what you say I do. I said in an earlier post to you, if the Supreme Court has acted in a way that isn't legally sound I would want to know. I am not a constitutional lawyer and would certainly be curious to hear, real legal arguments with the credibility of recent SCOTUS rulings on DOMA and Prop 8. From what I understand SCOTUS found DOMA unconstitutional. You will have demonstrate why they are wrong, and use legal justification not pointless and immaterial outrage at the gays.

            In the Prop 8 ruling they ruled that they didn't have standing. This seems like an important legal distinction and worth mulling over.

            On the matter of ballot initiatives, I find them to be a problematic apparatus at best, and absolutely crippling at worst. Many of California's woes are because of voter initiatives. What they appear to be is a way for uninformed voters who are upset about something to lash out. This probably feels great but so you get some initiative passed, they have not crafted a workable bit of legislation. They dump some ill formed initiative in the laps of their representatives without logistics, unfunded and expect everything to work out. On top of this it isn't always the case that ballot initiatives will pass constitutional muster. So they create vastly more problems than they solve. And mostly what they solve is a need for voters to whine and run another election. This is poor way to govern.

          • Told ya this fight was just starting, Max- and by the way, the arrogance of the judicial tyrants in California may have just handed us the opportunity to reopen the SCOTUS appeal :-)

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/06/breaking-news-prop-8-defenders-fight.html

          • Max Driffill

            Probably not. They were not tyrants, they were simply following their understanding of the law. Sit down, have a beer, and chill out.

          • Joe Grech

            "And gay people are simply awesome." How so? Please explain. Do you mean they are 'awesome' in as much as they are human beings or they are 'awesome' in a particular manner so that their total awesomeness exceeds in quantity the awesomeness normally associated with the ordinary human nature? If the latter is the case is it because gayness itself brings with it its own awesomeness to add to the ordinary human awesomeness?

          • Max Driffill

            Joe, All of those things and more. Mostly I just threw that line in there because I thought it would drive Rick crazy. But yeah totally awesome, but for me in the way all humans are awesome.

          • Yes, some citizens are certainly more equal than others in the Former Republic of California, Max....

            But there are advantages in such instances of lawless tyranny.

            And these advantages do not accrue to the tyrants:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/06/the-7000000.html

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            You have yet to provide one single legal argument for why you think the court was in the wrong. Please get on with the legal discourse, and dispense with the histrionics.

            The decision did not go your way. SCOTUS exists to trump voters and the constitution. It is not present to see the will of the people done it is there to decide if laws are constitutional or not. Not everyone one in the Union will be universally happy with the decisions of SCOTUS, that is the nature of things.

            Things not going your way doesn't equal lawless tyranny.

          • I have provided a link to the argument, Max.

            Since you apparently did not read it, let me post it here:

            OK, let's take stock.

            The judicial and executive branches of the Former Republic of California have managed to arrive at an understanding of our constitution that renders the votes of 7,000,000 sovereign citizens null and void, just so long as the Governor and Secretary of State determine they don't wish to defend them, in the face of a show trial by a non-recusant judge with an undisclosed, direct, personal interest in the outcome of the case challenging that vote.

            This is tyranny.

            The Supreme Court of the United States has managed to arrive at an understanding of the law that renders those 7,000,000 voters disenfranchised, since they have no standing to defend their votes in the face of the above.

            This is tyranny.

            So where do we go from here?

            In California, it is time to recognize that we can no longer rely upon, or expect, our basic constitutional rights to be respected by either the executive or judicial branches.

            This has a silver lining.

            We no longer need to, nor should we, pursue the disastrous strategy of assuming this is a fair fight, and that it will be settled according to the rule of law.

            We must organize, very rapidly and very effectively, to take advantage of the benefits which accrue to being what we in fact now are in California.

            We are a disenfranchised, disfavored minority, whose rights have been grotesquely trampled.

            What benefits accrue to us now that we are a persecuted, discriminated-against class?

            The most important one is that we can now use the quite significant political, economic, and financial resources at our disposal to make life very difficult for our persecutors.

            The fact that this travesty involves the disenfranchisement of California voters, not only with respect to Prop 8, but with respect to every single voter-passed initiative which might not please our masters sufficiently, is the key issue by which we can organize a coalition to exact political retribution upon the perpetrators of this foul and lawless act of tyranny.

            It is time to organize, first in order to provide for the security of our churches and parishes against the onslaught of targeted provocation and persecution certain to come, but also to build a coalition of citizens prepared to stand up and fight against the disenfranchisement of the People of California by these disgraceful tyrant-conspirators.

            The broader picture depends upon leaders in other states learning from the odious and disgraceful perversion of justice which was carefully orchestrated and perpetrated by the enemies of the rule of law here in California.

            This has already begun to manifest itself, as state constitutional amendments to preserve marriage are being rapidly organized in states (like Iowa) where- wonder of wonders- the elected officials are prepared to defend the votes of the people.

            This was a difficult lesson to learn, but it has been learned.

            Having learned it, the next phase of the fight is one much more palatable to those of us who understand what has just happened.

            It is our turn, now, to make life very difficult indeed for the architects of this atrocity.

            We need security for our parishes.

            We need legal resources to defend parents against the homosexualist outrages certain to commence in California schools.

            We need to understand that our opposition is now supremely overconfident, and will be unable to restrain its darker impulse to parade its new mastery of California before the eyes of the vanquished.

            Every time they do, we need to give them a political bloody nose.

            Let's get started.

            This is a fight for our survival and our liberty.

            Let's win it.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            Histrionic nonsense, with a persecution complex thrown in for good measure.

            You have still not provided one legal argument for why SCOTUS got the ruling of no standing. What you have provided is a whole lot of whining.

            If they had found standing, it is likely that Prop 8 would have been struck down and gay marriage would now be the law of the land everywhere.

            I'm also not sure that the governor or the attorney general are under any obligation to defend a law they feel is unconstitutional.

            If that 7,000,000 had voted to institute a religious test for office, I'm not sure any executive or judicial branch of any state government would defend it.

            Offer a valid legal reason why SCOTUS got it wrong and you can bend my ear. Keep up with histrionics and I am just going to laugh.
            Out loud even.

          • Max Driffill

            Here is a fairly nice breakdown of the SCOTUS rulings. There doesn't appear to be anything tyrannical going on there.
            http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/06/26/195857796/supreme-court-strikes-down-defense-of-marriage-act

          • Max Driffill

            And here are the two rulings: With annotations.

            Find some legal reasons why you disagree. http://www.npr.org/2013/06/26/195863800/read-the-rulings-inside-the-same-sex-marriage-decisions

          • Max:

            I get that you are completely cool with a justice system that disenfranchises 7,000,000 California voters.

            This is a matter upon which we voters decline to agree with your legal arguments.

            The legal arguments have worked in such a way as to suggest it is logical that 7,000,000 voters are slaves, unless they happen to vote the way the judicial and executive slaveowners tell them to vote.

            We decline to accept this.

            We now have the distinct advantage of understanding the tactics that will, and will not, rectify this appalling perversion of justice.

          • Michael Murray

            Equal rights for homosexuals. Yep that really is appalling. Next thing it will be red heads, left-handed people, short people and bald people.

          • Some folks seem to think the phrase "equal rights for homosexuals" involves the disenfranchisement of 7,000,000 sovereign California citizens.

            This does not seem to be logical.

            And it isn't.

            Then again, some people think the statement "the universe is 13.8 billion years old, and has always existed" is perfectly logical.

            This explains much.

          • Michael Murray

            Some people seem to think that you can vote against human equality. Usually we call them bigots. That explains a lot.

          • BenS

            I wonder if two guys wandered up to Rick and informed him that they'd had a vote and they both want him to hand over everything he's carrying - money, watch, phone, car keys, clothes etc - if Rick would just go along with this because, you know, it wouldn't be fair to disenfranchise two thirds of those who voted on the issue.

          • Yes, it does.

            It explains that those of us who understand that the human race is constituted in two genders, are therefore to be demonized as enemies of the human race.

            It's tough to sue biology, so go ahead and sue the sane.

            Not looking good for the rule of law in these United States.

            Interesting times ahead.

          • Andre Boillot

            First, I find it quite amusing that this is the one issue where you think that consensus matters or that, despite throwing the word 'tyranny' around frequently, you're unaware of the most powerful critique of ballot initiatives specifically (and direct democracy in general), that of 'tyranny of the majority'. I find it equally amusing to imagine you railing against the courts overturning a ballot measure if it were meant to legalize same-sex marriage.

            Ballot initiatives, like any law, are subject to judicial review. If found unconstitutional - as this one was on the grounds of violating both Due Process and Equal Protection (at both the state and federal court level) - it doesn't matter how many people voted for them. Unless you'd like to argue how the courts failed in their interpretations of Due Process and/or Equal Protection, all I see is you complaining that ballot initiatives are subject to the same checks and balances common to other legislative efforts.

          • Ballot initiatives are subject to legal review.

            Except when the tyrants don't like the initiative.

            In that case they can exercise the privilege of masters over slaves, and simply refuse to participate in the review.

            This can then be used as a basis to throw the votes out.

            This is tyranny.

            It is important to notice that such acts of lawless tyranny engender a predictable and entirely just reaction.

          • Andre Boillot

            Can you specify how the "tyrants" are preventing the review?

            Also, it should be noted that the measure was enforced throughout the appeals process - hardly the sign of tyrants trying to enslave or disenfranchise.

          • Quite to the contrary, Andre.

            "In the end, what the Court fails to grasp or accept is the
            basic premise of the initiative process. And it is this. The
            essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in
            the people and flows to the government, not the other way
            around. Freedom resides first in the people without need
            of a grant from government. The California initiative
            process embodies these principles and has done so for over
            a century....... In California and the 26 other
            States that permit initiatives and popular referendums,
            the people have exercised their own inherent sovereign
            right to govern themselves. The Court today frustrates
            that choice by nullifying, for failure to comply with the
            Restatement of Agency, a State Supreme Court decision
            holding that state law authorizes an enacted initiative’s
            proponents to defend the law if and when the State’s usual
            legal advocates decline to do so. The Court’s opinion fails
            to abide by precedent and misapplies basic principles
            of justiciability."

            This travesty of justice sets aside the sovereign right of the People to amend their constitution, and replaces it with a slaveowner's plantation where the slaves can vote on whatever they like, but the masters will decide whether it gets a hearing in court when challenged.

            It must be kept in mind that such lawless exercises of naked tyranny engender predictable, and entirely just, responses.

          • Andre Boillot

            Quoting without citations, my favorite.

            "The essence of democracy is that the right to make law rests in the people and flows to the government"

            A statement which would hold drastically more weight were the United States a democracy, and not a republic. The founders went to great effort to curb the types of injustices that pure democracy entail, namely the 'tyranny of the majority'.

            "The Court today frustrates that choice by nullifying, for failure to comply with the Restatement of Agency, a State Supreme Court decision holding that state law authorizes an enacted initiative’s proponents to defend the law if and when the State’s usual legal advocates decline to do so. The Court’s opinion fails to abide by precedent and misapplies basic principles of justiciability."

            I'm not sure I understand what this means or is referring to, care to expand or rephrase in your own words?

            "This travesty of justice sets aside the sovereign right of the People to amend their constitution"

            While this right exists, like so many other rights, it's not an unlimited one. Again, the residents of California are not free to amend their state constitution in such a fashion that brings it into conflict with the US constitution.

          • The citation is:

            Justice Anthony Kennedy, dissenting, "Perry v. Hollingsworth"

            In both a democracy and a Republic, the power flows from the people to the State.

            This is the fundamental principle of representative government.

            This principle is grotesquely perverted by the judicial conspiracy which has lawlessly imposed same sex pseudo-marriage on California, against the constitution, and against the principle of representative government itself.

            The Restatement of Agency is the principle by which the majority declined to accept the proponents of prop 8 as having legal standing in the case.

            This argument is well-answered here:

            http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/352113/prop-8-case-part-2-ed-whelan

            "In determining that Prop 8 proponents do not act as “agents of the people of the State,” the Chief Justice relies on technical concepts of agency set forth in the Restatement (Third) of Agency, including the “essential element” of “the principal’s right to control the agent’s action.” He thus finds it meaningful that Prop 8 proponents “answer to no one.”

            Justice Kennedy, by contrast, understands (as I do) the term “agents of the people” to be “shorthand for a party whom ‘state law authorizes’ to ‘represent the State’s interests’ in court.” He points out (as I did) that elected officials “are no more subject to ongoing supervision of their principal—i.e., the people of the State—than are initiative proponents.”

            Lastly, you state:

            " Again, the residents of California are not free to amend their state constitution in such a fashion that brings it into conflict with the US constitution."

            >> The point, of course, is that no such conflict with the US constitution exists, since there is no right to same sex marriage in the US constitution.

            What has happened here is that the people of California have had their sovereignty usurped by a lawless judicial conspiracy dedicated to imposing, by judicial fiat, a redefinition of marriage which exists nowhere in the US Constitution, upon the people of California, in direct and flagrant disregard for their sovereignty.

            This is a travesty, and it will engender- is engendering!- a completely predictable and just backlash.

          • Andre Boillot

            This principle is grotesquely perverted by the judicial conspiracy which has lawlessly imposed same sex pseudo-marriage on California

            I always knew that when the government decided it was time to ram same-sex marriage down our throats, that it would be Roberts and Scalia leading the charge, with Sotomayor standing up for "traditional" marriage.

            This argument is well-answered here

            I'm not sure how well-answered it is, and apparently more judges than not don't think it was.

            He points out (as I did) that elected officials “are no more subject to ongoing supervision of their principal—i.e., the people of the State—than are initiative proponents.

            I (and 5 justices) disagree. If enough people don't like how they're being represented by their officials, they can vote them out of office. As Roberts notes: "Yet petitioners answer to no one; they decide for themselves, with no review, what arguments to make and how to make them.”

            The point, of course, is that no such conflict with the US constitution exists, since there is no right to same sex marriage in the US constitution.

            There's no right to marriage in the US constitution, so I'm not sure how "lawlessly imposed same sex pseudo-marriage on California, against the constitution" applies.

          • "There's no right to marriage in the US constitution, so I'm not sure how "lawlessly imposed same sex pseudo-marriage on California, against the constitution" applies."

            In exactly this way.

            The Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution states:

            "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

            The California constitution was amended, lawfully, by the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

            There exists no basis under the US Constitution to deny this right.

            The contrary claim, by a homosexual judge with a direct, personal interest in the outcome, was allowed to stand against the 7,000,000 sovereign voters of California.

            This is a travesty of justice, and will, predictably, engender entirely legitimate and just responses.

          • Andre Boillot

            "The California constitution was amended, lawfully, by the people to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

            Not lawfully, it was found in violation of both Due Process and Equal Protection.

            "The contrary claim, by a homosexual judge with a direct, personal interest in the outcome, was allowed to stand against the 7,000,000 sovereign voters of California."

            Just to be clear, would you feel so aggrieved were this a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution in favor of gay marriage? Would you feel twice as aggrieved if 14 Million votes had been "disenfranchised"?

          • "Not lawfully, it was found in violation of both Due Process and Equal Protection."

            >> This finding was by a Federal District judge who failed to disclose a prior conflict of interest; that is, he had a direct personal interest in the outcome.

            A Federal District judge's finding is subject to appeal.

            The people were robbed of this right by the lawless malfeasance in office of the executive branch, which refused to uphold its constitutional oath to defend the laws of the State of California.

            The people were further robbed of this right by the decision of the SCOTUS to deny standing to the people in the face of this malfeasance.

            This is a travesty.

            "Just to be clear, would you feel so aggrieved were this a ballot initiative to amend the state constitution in favor of gay marriage?"

            >> Of course. The constitution of the State of Califonria allows the people to amend their constitution via ballot initiative.

            This is how the rule of law operates in California- or did, until the lawless tyranny of the executive and judicial branches was permitted to stand as a full and total disenfranchisement, and a direct violation of that constitution.

            "Would you feel twice as aggrieved if 14 Million votes had been "disenfranchised"?"

            >> Of course not. Our Republic's constitution specifies that a majority, not a unanimity, is dispositive.

          • Andre Boillot

            "This finding was by a Federal District judge who failed to disclose a prior conflict of interest; that is, he had a direct personal interest in the outcome."

            Way to engage the substance of the ruling, and not simply resort to ad hominem.

          • The substance of the ruling was the basis of the appeal, which appeal was treasonously denied by the lawless malfeasance of the executive and judicial branches.

            We are left with a dictatorship of the judiciary in California, where one homosexual judge, with a direct and personal stake in the outcome, is allowed to disenfrachise 7,000,000 sovereign California voters.

            This is a travesty.

          • Andre Boillot

            "The substance of the ruling was the basis of the appeal"

            Which you've failed to articulate.

          • To the contrary.

            Which you have failed to notice.

          • Andre Boillot

            I must have missed the part where you indicated how Due Process and/or Equal Protection were misapplied in this case. I trust you'll correct my oversight.

          • Yes, you did miss that part.

            I am happy to correct your oversight.

            Due process involves the right of appeal.

            This was lawlessly denied, by the lawless refusal of the lawless executive branch to fulfill its constitutional oath of office.

            You're welcome.

          • Andre Boillot

            You're talking about the SCOTUS decision, we were speaking of the US District Court decision. You've not engaged with the substance of that ruling, you've settled for ad hominem attacks on the Judge.

            I'll wait.

          • You'll wait????

            That's nice.

            The lawless tyrants in California didn't wait.

            They have paraded their demolition of the rule of law in the sight of the vanquished for the better part of a week now.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The SCOTUS ruled that the party that brought the suit didn't have standing and so returned the matter to where it stood when Judge Walker ruled in favor of (I think it was) four couples in two counties of the state.

          • Kevin, Kevin, Kevin.

            You seem to imagine that the rule of law is in any way involved here.

            Please understand:

            1. The SCOTUS ruling was not to take effect for 25 days, in order to allow for a petition for rehearing

            2. The lawless judicial tyrants, co-conspirators in this travesty, immediately disregarded this, and allowed same sex pseudo-marriages to proceed immediately.

            3. The lawless executive tyrants- the very ones who betrayed their constitutional oath of office in refusing to defend the laws of the State- have immediately proceeded to a full implementation of same sex pseudo-marriage in the entire State.

            This is utterly lawless, and is intended- quite brazenly- to send a message to the 7,000,000 voters of California that they have no constitutional rights whatsoever, other than those which their masters choose to allow them.

          • BenS

            Please get on with the legal discourse, and dispense with the histrionics.

            But histrionics is so much easier than having to come up with legal (or even compelling) arguments...

          • Andrew G.

            The barbarians who conquered Rome were already Christians - albeit mostly Arians rather than Trinitarians. (Both Alaric the Goth and Genseric the Vandal, who sacked Rome about 50 years apart during the 5th century, were Arian Christians.) To ask "why would they conquer Rome and then embrace its religion" is anachronistic.

        • I suspect that if there were no God, the universe and everything in it (including the Catholic Church) should not exist at all. Nothingness would prevail. (Given how simple, elegant, and logically seductive nothingness is, it's a wonder why it doesn't! Check out Jim Holt's book "Why Does the World Exist?")

          • primenumbers

            Unfortunately, in the sense of nothing existing at all, "nothingness" makes no sense :-) I don't think pure nothingness is strong enough to hold it's own weight!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It seems to me that perfect nothing is perfectly conceivable: it is just not imaginable.

          • ZenDruid

            Word play. Did you know that conceivable and imaginable are synonyms?

          • "II. The distinction between Imagination and Intellect.

            A. When I imagine something, I intuit that thing as present to my mind.

            B. Imagination is thus distinct from thought since I can think of things without intuiting them as present. An example is a thousand sided figure, the chiligon. I can think of this even though I cannot form an image of it.

            C. Effort is required for imagination, while it does not seem to be for Thought.

            D. The faculty of Imagination is not essential to me. I can exist without this faculty.

            E. In thought the mind turns on its own ideas. In imagination the mind turns toward the body."

            General Outline, Descartes Meditations

            http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/medol.htm

          • ZenDruid

            Stick with the mathematics, Rene. Your theory of mind still needs a lot of work.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yeah, what he said. To imagine means to make a sensory image. You see a picture in your head or hear a sound in your head. I imagine perfume makers can imagine new scents.

            Concepts are invisible mental ideas that can be conceived. As per the example, it is easy to image a thousand-sided figure but we just can't see it in our minds eye. But a three sided figure, no sweat.

          • primenumbers

            Only conceivable in the abstract in that we can talk and write about it, have an idea what we mean about it, but we lack any non-contradictory way to formalize the conception beyond the abstract.

          • Andrew G.

            If you can't imagine a universe with no God at all, then try imagining one created by a malicious God; what would be different? See Stephen Law's articles on reverse theodicy for how to explain the existence of good under such conditions.

          • primenumbers

            Reverse theodicy actually makes more sense as the evil of such a God would be minimized if there's no-body to be evil too, and hence a reason to create a universe. For a good God who gives free will, the creation of a universe only gives rise to mass suffering which means there'd be no reason to create (not that there's reason for a perfect God to create anyway).

          • Wait--"the creation of a universe *only* gives rise to mass suffering"? I suspect you don't mean that literally, that you acknowledge the universe we have includes great good as well as "mass suffering"?
            Btw, imagining a universe "created by a malicious God" actually is an absurd proposition because it seems to pre-suppose the possibility that the Divine Being's Divine Will could somehow be measured by something other than Itself and found to be "malicious". That's the fundamental flaw of reason applied many times over in discussions regarding God's existence and nature as defined in monotheistic Christian terms: *If* such a God exists, then it's not up to us to explain whether or not God is "moral" since the rightness of God's Will is based solely upon...God's Will. If God exists, then there can be no moral framework apart from God's Will....

          • it seems to pre-suppose the possibility that the Divine Being's Divine
            Will could somehow be measured by something other than Itself and found
            to be "malicious".

            I have always been of the impression that God "says" things are good because they are good, rather than that things are good because God has designated them as good. If things are good just because God says so, it seems to me that God could designate rape as good if he so chose. Or God could have designated slavery as good up until a certain point in history, after which slavery would be evil.

            It seems to me that if good has no meaning apart from what God says is good, then it is tautological to say that God is good. It would just mean that God is God.

            I suppose there is some philosophical "proof" that God must be good, but it doesn't seem self-evident to me that a supreme being would be all-good. It might make more sense, actually, that the creator of the universe might have a good side and an evil side. Then it would not be so difficult to account for the existence of evil.

            And of course there was pain and suffering long before any possible existence of "original sin," so pain and suffering and death can't be blamed on "Adam and Eve."

          • primenumbers

            It seems to me that maximal goodness cannot be achieved along with the goal of free-will beings, only a limited goodness outweighed by vast suffering. On the other hand maximal evil is necessitated upon beings created for the purpose of subjecting them to natural evils and free-will serves the purpose of them being thoroughly evil among themselves. I see vastly more reason for an evil God to create than a good one because free-will creates an imbalance.

            It's no more absurd to imagine an evil God than a good one as your argument that "could somehow be measured by something other than Itself " cuts equally hard agains any notion of goodness as it does against evil.

            "since the rightness of God's Will is based solely upon...God's Will" - exactly. We cannot say such a God is good or evil or give any kind of moral judgement. "If God exists, then there can be no moral framework" - yup, morality becomes thoroughly and utterly subjective upon the will of God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't understand this speculation. We live in an actual universe with just the good and evil we observe. Shouldn't we be asking "If God exists, does a good or an evil God better account for what we see?"

          • primenumbers

            Well, if you ask me, both deism and atheism are utterly compatible with what we see with respect to good and evil. Theism cannot stand to the problem of evil and the problem of suffering, leaving only an evil or amoral God. Of all the above, I find atheism fits best with what we observe if I'm asked to choose from the above options, but quite frankly the only real honest answer we can give to this aspect of the subject is strict agnosticism.

            (To be clear, I live under the assumption there is no God, I don't believe in a God , I'm agnostic to God in general and atheist to specific Gods that are defined well enough to refute though proof by contradiction).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for that clarification. I was thinking you might be a Mormon. (Just kidding.) Did you mean utterly "in"compatible?

          • primenumbers

            Nope - I think both deism and atheism are compatible with what we see in the universe with respect to good and evil - either a creator God who plays no part in that creation or no God at all.

            And nope, not a Mormon although getting your own planet does have more appeal than the timeless boredom of the Catholic heaven.... I'm ex CofE actually.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry. I didn't read you post carefully enough.

          • primenumbers

            That's why an interactive forum is so much better than a stodgy old formal debate format.

          • Michael Murray

            What is the obsession amongst Catholic theologians with the false dichotomy?

            Shouldn't we be asking "If God exists, does a good or an evil God better account for what we see?"

            The answer is "neither". What best accounts for what we see is "no gods".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You might be a little bit off here, Jim. I think it is more correct to say, God's will is good because its object is the good, not because it is simply his will. Islam posits that things are good or evil according to God's will alone, meaning Allah could change his mind and make something good evil and evil good just by decreeing it.

          • I'll try to be clearer: God's Will, first of all, is *immutable*, so part of the nature of God is that He cannot change His Mind/Will regarding what is good and evil. God Himself is Infinite Good--the concept of "the good" is ultimately wrapped up entirely in Who God really is. All that is "good" comes from God. it is in this sense that I make my observation above that we cannot "judge" God based on something apart from God and His Will. If we *could*, that would mean that there is really some higher authority out there that God falls "under," which then means that He's not really God after all...

          • If we *could*, that would mean that there is really some higher authority out there that God falls "under," which then means that He's not really God after all...

            Then it would be meaningless to say that God is good, and if so, he's not really good after all. He's just God.

          • Actually it's just the opposite--if one defines the nature of God as necessarily and infinitely good, then it brings to the concept and meaning of "good" the most meaningful understanding possible. While in one sense, you are correct that God is "just God," but the Christian definition of God is that not only is He "really good," but He is actually the *perfect* good. As a result, the meaninglessness, as I say above, results in the attempts to "judge" God's conduct according to some other authoritative or "objective" moral standard. Doing so demolishes both objective morality and the Christian definition of God all at once...

          • I disagree. Assuming for the sake of argument that God exists and that he is all good, we say that he is all good because we judge him to be all good. If we were to say, "These many aspects of God are good, but these few are bad," we'd be mistaken about the bad things. But we'd be saying something meaningful and true about the good things. Christianity says that God is good because God is good. If goodness is defined as "whatever God is," then there is no point in saying that God is good.

          • "we say that he is all good because we judge him to be all good."
            David, this seems to be where we dis-connect. Actually, it is the philosophical/theological root of our definition of "God" that demonstrates the reasonableness of defining God to be both the source and the "being" of all goodness. This is not a "judgment" based upon comparing God to some objective external moral standard but rather a *conclusion* based upon what it *means* to "be" God.
            Thus it is *crucial* to say that "God is good" when speaking of God because it is a crucial aspect of God's existence, God's "divine being."
            The corollary, however, is that we don't get to "judge" whether God meets "my" or "some" subjective moral standard. Rather, we look to trying to understand God's will *as* good precisely because we already understand that God's will *is* good, so to speak...

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you are hoping to catechize Catholics with your atheist wisdom you're gonna have to be a lot more clear that that.

          • primenumbers

            No, it's not a formal essay on the subject, just a point for discussion. God is really too ill-defined to refute. Most definitions of God are rather negative qualities telling us what God not is, and nothing is really referenced to anything we have good concrete notions of. Even the whole nature of existence is such that theists use a very different definition of "exists" for God than everything else.

            So yes, I'd have to be much more clear. I'll do that when I get clarity on the definitions because otherwise my effort could be seriously wasted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In addition to negations of the conditions of creatures, like immortal or immutable, there are many positive characteristics of God in philosophy, like omniscient, good, all loving, and beautiful.

          • primenumbers

            Omniscient doesn't tell us what God knows, only what he doesn't know, which is nothing. Omnipotent similarly tells us what he can't do, which is anything logically impossible - it doesn't iterate all that he can.

            Good is the negation of evil. Loving is the negation of hate and beautiful is rather subjective (and the negation of ugly). - whether you look at these are positive or negative attributes is arbitrary.

            The main qualities - timeless, spaceless, no physical form, invisible, immaterial etc. are all negative. On balance, the descriptive qualities are in the negative.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Omniscient means knows everything that is knowable. Omnipotent means able to everything that is doable.

            Good is not the negation of evil. Evil is the absence of good.

            Love is willing the true good of the other. Etc.

          • primenumbers

            "Omniscient means knows everything that is knowable." true enough, but "everything that is knowable" although making a basic sense, doesn't tell us what is known. The negative version works on defined limits of knowledge, so it's a bit of a better definition as it lists explicitly what is not known. Same argument applied to omnipotence.

            The absence of good is not evil, but a kind of neutrality. Evil is an explicit negative of Good. If you don't agree to that I'll just say the absence of evil is good.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            An evil Supreme Being is not possible. Because I am moral and somewhat good, I would be more moral than God. Therefore, he would not be the supreme being.

          • Andrew G.

            I didn't mention any Supreme Being. Assume if you like that the Evil God who created the universe was a morally inferior one if you like.

            (Reverse theodicy argument: for an evil god to create creatures who are more moral than he is simply increases his scope to increase their suffering.)

          • stanz2reason

            So for you existence is enough evidence to presume a god?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Drat! Disqus dis-authorized me and then ate a hour's worth of my profound comments!

    • Andre Boillot

      "ate a hour's worth of my profound comments!"

      We'll have to take that on faith :)

    • It is clear that this evil exists only to bring forth a subsequent greater good; that is, thou shall not compose in Disqus without also saving to a word processing file.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I don't think my comments are *that* profound!

  • ZenDruid

    This fool's heart pumps blood.

    Excising that trifle of foolishness, I say that the Christian god violates the law of non-contradiction, thereby negating himself.

    • Rationalist1

      Not to mention "And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." Matthew 5:22

    • I challenge you to demonstrate this assertion.

      • ZenDruid

        The problem of evil.

        • I challenge you to establish that the existence of evil constitutes a violation of the law of non-contradiction.

          • ZenDruid

            So if I refuse to rise to the bait, you'll claim victory, right?

            When apologists need to twist the definition of 'good' in such a bizarre, nay perverted, fashion that it encompasses evil as well as good, there's a strong indicator. Likewise 'love', which boils down to a jealous god demanding that his minions love him as he loves himself.

          • No need to claim victory.

            Either an assertion can be demonstrated, or it can not be.

            Thus far, no demonstration.

          • ZenDruid

            I don't suppose you expect me to use your storybook to refute the existence of the central character of your storybook...?

          • Merely to demonstrate a violation of the law of non contradiction.

            Seems to be an awful lot of build up here.....

            Just give us the demonstration.

            You do know what a violation of the law of non-contradiction consists in?

          • ZenDruid

            Consists 'of'... never mind, prepositions are my bête noire as well.

            Do you have anything beside sophistry, Rick?

          • I think it is quite safe to say you have no demonstration.

            Cool.

            Just checking.

          • Stew

            How about:
            If God is all-knowing, he cannot have free will, as He already knows what His decisions and actions will be, including any deviation from any plan He may have. If God does not have free will, he is not all-powerful. Therefore, God cannot logically be both all-knowing and all-powerful.
            Thus, any claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent, violates the law of non-contradiction.

          • The argument is incoherent.

            I know whether I shall type a period or a question mark at the end of this sentence, and I know any possible deviation from that plan in advance.

            There.

            It was a period.

            I was free at any time to change my mind, and type a question mark instead, wasn't I?

            Now God knows all things in advance, including any possible deviation from that plan He has freely chosen.

            Freely chosen.

            Next.

          • Stew

            The argument is sound. It proves that omniscience and omnipotence are logically incompatible.

            Your example supports your argument because you have chosen one of two possible outcomes: the one that makes you appear to be omniscient and omnipotent - you didn't change your mind.

            The other possible outcome is that, knowing what you will type at the end of your sentence, including any possible deviation from that plan; you do change your mind, and type a question mark instead of a period. This would prove your knowledge to have been imperfect.
            The logic is that; in your case, you denied your omnipotence (free will) by sticking to the choice you knew you would make, to prove your omniscience. In the case I make above, you exercised your free will and changed your mind; but by doing so, disproved you omniscience by being wrong.
            You simply can't logically have it both ways.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Theists really do have a terrible time with the omnimax problem and evil. I've no idea why.

          • "The argument is sound. It proves that omniscience and omnipotence are logically incompatible."

            >> Except it isn't, and it doesn't.

            "Your example supports your argument because you have chosen one of two possible outcomes: the one that makes you appear to be omniscient and omnipotent - you didn't change your mind."

            >> In fact I have selected an example in which I possess knowledge of all possible outcomes in advance, and I then demonstrate that I am perfectly free to choose one of them.

            You have no way of knowing whether I changed my mind.

            But I do.

            Therefore I am the logical arbiter of the question.

            I knew, in advance, whether I would type the period or the question mark.

            Just as I know, at this very instant, that I shall end this present sentence with exactly six periods......

            I was free to choose one, or seven.

            So, limiting the range of possible outcomes to two- that is, a period and a question mark- I am omniscient, at this instant, concerning the symbol which shall end this present sentence, and yet I have not decided which I shall choose.......now I have decided, and would you be kind enough to notice, please, that it shall be a question mark?

          • Stew

            Knowing that there are two possible outcomes is not omniscience. Knowing which of the outcomes will turn out to be correct is. If you know in advance which of the outcomes will prevail, you are not free to change your mind.

          • Stew

            Ok, to simplify matters, I'll use your example. As I type this, I know whether this sentence will end with a period or a question mark8
            By exercising free will, I chose to end it with an eight, thus proving that my prior knowledge of how the sentence would end to have been wrong. Had I not exercised free will, it would have ended with a period - my knowledge would have been perfect, but I would not have had the freedom to exercise free will.
            It really is that simple!

          • To the contrary.

            You have not proven your prior knowledge wrong.

            You have merely falsely reported it.

            Free will is, therefore, identified by you with premeditated falsehood.

            It is true that God does not engage in premeditated falsehood, but then again, neither does the employment of premeditated falsehood constitute the only evidence of an actually free choice.

            The argument is incoherent.

            Next.

          • Stew

            Your inability to understand the concept of omniscience does not make the argument incoherent.
            I am not identifying free will with premeditated falsehood. I am stating that if you know an outcome in advance, even if that includes a change of mind, you are not free to change it, as doing so would make your prior knowledge inaccurate and imperfect. Calling me a liar does not change this.
            Again, knowing all the possible outcomes is not omniscience. By your definition, I am able to predict the outcome of the toss of a coin with 100% accuracy, as I know that it will be either heads or tails. Knowing all possible outcomes, and then reconciling the actual outcome with that knowledge after the event, does not constitute omniscience.

            The argument is logically correct.
            I would put "Next." now, as you so pompously and arrogantly do; but I "know" that you are too stupid to understand this and will continue your inane arguments.

          • Your inability to understand the concept of omniscience does not make the argument incoherent.

            >> What makes the argument incoherent, is that it separates omniscience from omnipotence, as if the one could exist without the other.

            An omnipotent, and therefore omniscient, being can both foresee the possible outcomes of the toss, freely choose among them, and bring them about in accordance with that choice.

            Without any loss of freedom.

            "I am not identifying free will with premeditated falsehood. I am stating that if you know an outcome in advance, even if that includes a change of mind, you are not free to change it, as doing so would make your prior knowledge inaccurate and imperfect."

            >> Omniscience is a necessary attribute of omnipotence, and the omnipotent being can foresee all possible outcomes, freely choose the one that will occur, and bring the chosen outcome about, without any loss of freedom.

            In fact, if such a being were to change the decision, then there was no omniscience in the first place. The being would not have known about the decision to change the choice of outcome.

            So, instead, the omnipotent being both knows (omniscience), chooses, (freedom) and brings about the choice (omnipotence).

            God is not asserted to be omniscient apart from His omnipotence, and so the argument is useless from any standpoint of falsifying Catholic theology.

          • Stew

            You appear to have got it! (bear with me here). If we look at your seventh paragraph above, you wrote:

            "In fact, if such a being were to change the decision, then there was no omniscience in the first place. The being would not have known about the decision to change the choice of outcome."

            This is the crux of the whole logical problem - that the being cannot change the decision, as doing so would negate his original omniscience. If there is something he cannot do, he is not omnipotent.

            Your happy with the idea that the omnipotent being can create whatever outcome he chooses - even one that we may not perceive as a possibility - he could make the coin land on its edge, or turn into a gerbil, if he so desired. Thus satisfying that he knew exactly what would happen and made it so.

            At some point before the event, he must have made the decision of what the outcome would be and thus know the outcome: without that prior knowledge, he could not claim to be omniscient.

            It is at this point, that he loses the power to change the decision. Doing so would negate his prior knowledge and therefore omniscience. But in losing the ability to change his decision, he loses omnipotence.

            Deciding all outcomes at the exact time of their happening, belies prior knowledge and thus omniscience.

          • This is the crux of the whole logical problem - that the being cannot change the decision, as doing so would negate his original omniscience. If there is something he cannot do, he is not omnipotent.

            >> The unexamined assumption underlying this assertion is that an omnipotent being is subject to the arrow of time.

            This cannot be true.

            An omnipotent being (which, necessarily, involves omniscience) must both know all things, and must know them not merely at some given point in time, but from a point which is above all time.

            If the being were only able to know a given outcome at a given time, then he would be neither omnipotent, nor omniscient, since there would be some other time at which the given outcome was not known (contradicting omniscience), or some other time at which the thing known could not be done (contradicting omnipotence) or some other time at which the thing chosen could not be changed (contradicting freedom).

            "Your happy with the idea that the omnipotent being can create whatever outcome he chooses - even one that we may not perceive as a possibility - he could make the coin land on its edge, or turn into a gerbil, if he so desired. Thus satisfying that he knew exactly what would happen and made it so."

            >> As shown above, this is absolutely required by the assumption of omnipotence.

            If He cannot do either of the specific things you mention above things, then He is not omnipotent.

            "At some point before the event,"

            >> There is the error again. Assumes omnipotence involves subjection to the arrow of time.

            Clearly false.

            The being does not do anything "at some point in time".

            The being simply knows all times, all possible times in fact, timelessly.

            "he must have made the decision of what the outcome would be and thus know the outcome: without that prior knowledge, he could not claim to be omniscient."

            >> To the contrary. The word "prior" introduces a false assumption into the argument, as above.

            An omnipotent and omniscient being cannot be subject to time.

            "It is at this point, that he loses the power to change the decision. Doing so would negate his prior knowledge and therefore omniscience. But in losing the ability to change his decision, he loses omnipotence.

            Deciding all outcomes at the exact time of their happening, belies prior knowledge and thus omniscience."

            >> Concluding, once more:

            If the being were only able to know a given outcome at a given time, then he would be neither omnipotent, nor omniscient, since there would be some other time at which the given outcome was not known (contradicting omniscience), or some other time at which the thing known could not be done (contradicting omnipotence) or some other time at which the thing known and done could not be changed (contradicting freedom).

          • Stew

            So your omnipotent being, is incapable of acting within one of the laws of nature governing our universe - time? In that case, you have successfully identified something of which he is incapable, and therefore not omnipotent.

            You would be absolutely correct in asserting that the great being exists outside our linear understanding of time, and is not subject to it, if it was not claimed by the religious, that he acted within our physical universe.

            There may well be a great being existing outside all human cognisance and impervious to the laws of nature affecting our universe. But, the instant, he acts within our realm, he is subject to investigation by our laws and our logic. We are not talking about an omnipotent and omniscient being outside our realm, we are talking about a human god; who, it is claimed, can affect any and every aspect of our lives.

            In order to affect human existence, he must be able to act within the natural laws of our existence, otherwise, we would be incapable of recognising his intervention, and we would remain unaware of it. If he is incapable of this, he is not omnipotent.

          • "So your omnipotent being, is incapable of acting within one of the laws of nature governing our universe - time? In that case, you have successfully identified something of which he is incapable, and therefore not omnipotent."

            >> Except nowhere is it demonstrated He is incapable of doing this- in fact He does it regularly.

            He is outside of time, but His actions impact what occurs inside of time.

            Like, analogously, a scientific discoverer operates outside the model when he discovers a new principle, not present within its logical-deductive theorem lattice.

            But his discovery certainly impacts the deductive theorem lattice, by changing it from the outside.

            "You would be absolutely correct in asserting that the great being exists outside our linear understanding of time, and is not subject to it, if it was not claimed by the religious, that he acted within our physical universe."

            >> See above. This is asserted by you, it is not in any way demonstrated by you, and my analogy above shows that there is nothing self-evidence about your objection here.

          • Stew

            If, "He is outside of time, but His actions impact what occurs inside of time", then: when he is acting in a way that "occurs inside of time", my argument stands. This is the whole point.
            Read that again: "When he is acting in a way that "occurs inside of time" as you claim he does, his actions are subject to the linear progression of time. Therefore whenever he acts within our world, in our time, my argument stands and god violates the law of inconsistency.

            You then write: "Like, analogously, a scientific discoverer operates outside the model when he discovers a new principle, not present within its logical-deductive theorem lattice. But his discovery certainly impacts the deductive theorem lattice, by changing it from the outside."
            >>This is just inane pseudo-philosophical waffle, unworthy of serious consideration. If you try to write it in plain English, this will become obvious. ""logical-deductive theorem lattice"" - completely meaningless crap, of the kind one expects from post-modernist cretins trying to sound clever whilst saying nothing.

          • "Read that again: "When he is acting in a way that "occurs inside of time" as you claim he does, his actions are subject to the linear progression of time. Therefore whenever he acts within our world, in our time, my argument stands and god violates the law of inconsistency."

            >> This is demonstrably false.

            Mozart reports to us that he composed his works instantly, that is, he held the completed composition timelessly in his mind as an object, while writing down its linear exposition as a series of instructions to the players and singers.

            Mozart is neither omnipotent, nor omniscient, but his works involve a timeless choice among possible outcomes, it involves a choice between this or that one, it involves the acceptance of one and the rejection of the other, it involves all of these things outside of time, since no linear exposition of the choices has occurred in the timeless object he holds in his mind.

            Yet when the composition is performed, it is performed in a linear progression of time-deterimed events.

            "This is just inane pseudo-philosophical waffle, unworthy of serious consideration. If you try to write it in plain English, this will become obvious. ""logical-deductive theorem lattice"" - completely meaningless crap, of the kind one expects from post-modernist cretins trying to sound clever whilst saying nothing."

            >> To the contrary. The term "logical-deductive theorem lattice" is term of precision, possessed of a precise meaning.

            I don't mind the ad hominem, by the way. On the one hand it is a sign of your defeat. On the other, you have greatly assisted me in this exchange, by confronting me with an unusually sophisticated objection, which has been refuted.

            Thanks, I am in your debt.

          • Stew

            Mozart was undoubtedly a phenomenal composer. But, anecdotal, self-proclaimed instantaneous brilliance can hardly be considered evidence for anything. What one man says about his own composition technique is entirely subjective - he could have been exaggerating or even lying.

            Calling a spade, "a spade" is not really ad hominem, nor is it a sign of defeat. Not everyone is magnanimous in victory!

            But please, forgive my ignorance and prey enlighten me:
            What does, "logical-deductive theorem lattice" actually mean?
            By the way, I didn't bother to point out that the paragraph containing the phrase was completely wrong!

          • "Mozart was undoubtedly a phenomenal composer. But, anecdotal, self-proclaimed instantaneous brilliance can hardly be considered evidence for anything."

            >> To the contrary. That is precisely what it is: evidence.

            First hand testimony, from the individual who did the deed.

            Logical-deductive= derived logically by deduction from postulate.

            Theorem-lattice= the developed set of theorems consistent with postulate by valid deduction.

            Thanks again.

          • Stew

            "That is precisely what it is: evidence."

            >>Au contraire, that is precisely what it is not!

            In a court of law, an individual's personal statement may well be considered "evidence". In the world of science it is not. Unless it is repeatable and can be independently verified, it is not evidence.

            Would you class my statement that I have a dragon as "evidence" that I have?
            You're welcome again!

          • "In a court of law, an individual's personal statement may well be considered "evidence".

            >> Indeed, it must be.

            "In the world of science it is not. Unless it is repeatable and can be independently verified, it is not evidence."

            >> It is indeed true that science is not capable of addressing all the things we know to be true in reality.

            For example, science cannot in any way address the point at issue between us, which is a philosophical/theological point, so your introduction of scientific method here is a red herring.

            In terms of the philosophical/theological question of whether a Being can affect time from outside of time, the Mozart analogy is both evidence, and it is evidence consistent with my thesis, and inconsistent with yours.

            "Would you class my statement that I have a dragon as "evidence" that I have?"

            >> It is evidence that a claim for a dragon is in hand.

            We can assess it on scientific grounds, since the existence of dragons is a legitimate question for the application of the most excellent scientific method- we can never achieve theological or metaphysical certainty on the non-existence of dragons by scientific means, of course.

            The conclusions of science are always provisional.

            But this is not a scientific question we are examing here, so the analogy of the dragon is a red herring.

            Or a red dragon.

          • Stew

            That there is evidence there is a claim, is NOT evidence for that the validity of that claim.
            The only thing your Mozart analogy could be considered evidence for, is that Mozart made the claim. It is not evidence for the truth of that claim.
            The question we are discussing is one of logic, which fortunately, leaves us with only two possibilities - that an argument is logically sound or it is not.
            The statement that god cannot be simultaneously omniscient and omnipotent, as omniscience denies omnipotence as explained above, is logically sound; and proves that your god breaks the law of non-contradiction, if he is claimed to be both.
            This is becoming tedious. You have made several attempts to disprove the logic of my claim, every one of which has failed. It's time to give serious consideration to the logic involved and to realise that it is sound.
            Close the door on your way out. Next!

          • Stew

            Rick, Guess what?!?

            Regarding...
            "The term "logical-deductive theorem lattice" is term of precision, possessed of a precise meaning."

            I just Googled it. Of the billions of websites on the internet, there are only three instances of the phrase ever being used.
            And they were all by you!
            This proves you are a pretentious intellectual lightweight.
            I believe the internet vernacular for this situation is: "pwned!"
            Thank you and goodnight! ;-)

          • I do not see, to be honest, any possible connection between googling frequency of a given formulation, and assessment of one's intellectual weight.

            But I do sense you are progressively melting down here, and this is a good thing for both of us :-)

          • Stew

            Still not found a good argument then?

          • The respective arguments stand, Stew.

            I think you made a very good one.

            I think mine was better.

            I am sure you decline to agree, but that is consistent with your principles.

            At the end of the day, one metaphysical world view allows us to move forward, into the timelessness, the instantaneity of eternity, and one does not.

            I believe that the one that does is the one that will prevail, since after all.....

            Materialist metaphysics is at a dead end- in cosmology, in particle physics, in biology.

          • Stew

            The problem lies in trying to rationalise faith. Faith, by definition does not require proof - logical, rational or otherwise. Where there is proof, there is no need of faith.
            You have your faith, I have none. Without faith there is no God; with faith, there is no doubt.
            You believe that your metaphysical world view will allow you to move forwards, I believe that my physical world view will do the same.
            We simply aren't going to agree, but the world is big enough for both of us.

          • "The problem lies in trying to rationalise faith. Faith, by definition does not require proof - logical, rational or otherwise."

            >> To the contrary. It is a dogma of the Catholic Faith that

            "The existence of God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty by the light of human reason alone."

            "Where there is proof, there is no need of faith."

            >> Proof is not available in science. There exists no scientific proof, merely experimental demonstration of the provisional validity of an hypothesis.

            This can only be obtained by direct, experimental test of some "risky" prediction of the theory, with the intention of possibly falsifying it.

            If the theory survives such a test, then it has corroborating evidence.

            There is no other form of corroborating *scientific* evidence.

            All other allegedly "corroborating" evidence:

            1. Consilience
            2. Logical consistency
            3. Personal assent

            Is metaphysical, not scientific, in nature.

            "You have your faith, I have none. Without faith there is no God; with faith, there is no doubt."

            >> But see above. For the Catholic, Faith and Reason are inextricably bound to one another, since Faith cannot contradict right reason, even if it is infinitely above reason.

            This is why Catholicism does not agree with your proposed hermetic sealing off of Faith from Reason.

            "You believe that your metaphysical world view will allow you to move forwards, I believe that my physical world view will do the same."

            >> Yes. The issue will be settled, ultimately, on the grounds of which world view gets science out of its present dead end, since science is a quite powerful tool of our species at this particular time, and its present, existential crisis is the most interesting it has ever faced.

            "We simply aren't going to agree, but the world is big enough for both of us."

            >> Indeed, and I again thank you for an exchange which, even if it did not enrich you, certainly enriched me.

          • Stew

            You bloody great prat! I was trying to end on a positive air of agreement to disagree; I was not asking for a further demonstration of your ignorance. Frankly, I've had enough of it.
            - Your church may dogmatically insist that "The existence of God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty by the light of human reason alone." The church can assert this all it wants, but it has never been demonstrated to be true. The faithful have been trying for centuries to prove god by reason alone and have consistently failed.

            Regarding you points about science, I would suggest that if you want to profess knowledge of science, you need to study reputable scientific sources rather than taking your views on science from religious sites; as much of what you appear to believe about science is not quite accurate.
            I am glad you've been enriched, at least all this time has not been completely wasted.

          • "You bloody great prat! I was trying to end on a positive air of agreement to disagree; I was not asking for a further demonstration of your ignorance. Frankly, I've had enough of it. "

            >> It appears you are back at meltdown stage.

            Oh well.

            Entirely up to you.

            "Your church may dogmatically insist that "The existence of God, our Creator and Lord, can be known with certainty by the light of human reason alone."

            >> The Church *definitely* dogmatically insists upon that.

            "The church can assert this all it wants, but it has never been demonstrated to be true."

            >> Actually, it has been demonstrated to be true for centuries, and it is being demonstrated to be true right now, over on the thread with Mike and Vicq.

            "The faithful have been trying for centuries to prove god by reason alone and have consistently failed."

            >> The demonstration has never been refuted, it is not being refuted here, and all of the evidence science has brought to the table in the form of mathematical elaborations of the various forms of inflationary universes, have served to massively enhance the argument's credibility within a modern scientific context.

            "Regarding you points about science, I would suggest that if you want to profess knowledge of science, you need to study reputable scientific sources rather than taking your views on science from religious sites;"

            >> I quite agree.

            If you had paid any attention to the ongoing discussions concerning cosmology and the KCA, you would know I have satisfied this requirement.

            In fact I have gone a good way further than that.

            "as much of what you appear to believe about science is not quite accurate."

            >> So you assert, but do not demonstrate.

            "I am glad you've been enriched, at least all this time has not been completely wasted."

            >> Exactly :-)

          • Stew

            Is this how your religion works? Wear down your opponent by an unremitting onslaught of asinine arguments?

            I have neither the time, nor inclination to waste the next few years of my life explaining to you why you are not even wrong, on so many levels.
            And yes, I'm fully aware that your references to Mozart were entirely plagiarised and your actual knowledge of music is as pathetic as your understanding of science and logic.
            The only question now is one of Poe's Law. Are you a troll taking the piss? or do you actually believe the inane rubbish you claim?

          • The really interesting question at this point is just how many times you are prepared to tell us you have no time :-)

          • Stew

            I just added another paragraph to the above.

          • An interesting point:

            You claim I am *not* guilty of plagiarizing "logical deductive theorem lattice", since you cannot google it up anywhere else.

            You claim I *am* guilty of plagiarizing my references to Mozart.

            The truth is I completely nicked the former.........

            Google does have its limitations, apparently :-)

          • Stew

            You're still a knob!

            Actually, I didn't claim you weren't guilty of plagiarising it, I merely stated that there were only 3 instances on Google, all yours.

          • Let us agree to disagree on that one :-)

          • Stew

            Sorry, that one is indisputable. The evidence is stacked above.

          • There is plenty of evidence stacked above, Stew.

            The evidence is conclusive on at least one score, which is that you get quite flustered when confronted with logical argumentation that challenges your assumptions.

            But that is exactly what I like best, and the truth is, you provided an unusually sophisticated and welcome challenge.

            I enjoyed it!

          • Stew

            I still refuse to believe you're serious.

          • Well, as they say, denial is more than just a river in Egypt, kemosabe :-)

          • Stew

            You're still a knob!

          • But there is a deeper irony here, Stew.

            If only you knew who I nicked it *from*.......

            LOL!

          • Stew

            Still a knob!

          • "The only thing your Mozart analogy could be considered evidence for, is that Mozart made the claim. It is not evidence for the truth of that claim."

            >> Hilarious, and sad, both at the same time.

            The proof is in the pudding.

            Try the "in mortis examine" of the "Ave Verum Corpus", a small motet.

            Then notice that the keyboard Fantasy, K 475, elaborates every possible Lydian interval over the course of the exposition.

            Now if you cannot hear these things then Mozart will speak to you just as any other Joe.

            If you can, then you will understand the difference between a genius and a hack, as well as the difference between time and eternity.

            Good luck.

          • Stew

            Your musical knowledge far exceeds your logical ability. Perhaps you should stick to music, and leave logic to those who understand it.

          • Since scientia, ars nihil est.

            Mozart- who could write a fugue when he had a mind to do so- would have instantly recognized that the retrograde inversion is also true.

            There is a world view which hermetically seals off science from art.

            That world view has reached a dead end, in physics, in biology, in cosmology.

            God knows in art :-)

          • severalspeciesof

            An omnipotent being (which, necessarily, involves omniscience) must both
            know all things, and must know them not merely at some given point in
            time, but from a point which is above all time.

            Just what exactly does 'from a point which is above all time' mean?

            'from a point' denotes space/time, does it not, especially when used in conjunction with the term 'above'?

            Glen

          • "Just what exactly does 'from a point which is above all time' mean?

            'from a point' denotes space/time, does it not, especially when used in conjunction with the term 'above'?"

            >> Of course we are required to use language anagogically in this case, since we are dealing with orders of existence which do not comport with the geometry of our space and time (and language is just another form of geometry).

            But we can say:

            If a being should be omnipotent and omnsicient, then that being cannot exist within the spatio-temporal limitations of our space and time; otherwise the being were neither omniscient, nor omnipotent.

            In other words, there are no omniscient or omnipotent beings subject to our space and our time.

            This much is certainly non-controversial for both atheist and theist.

            The atheist takes from this that no omnipotent and omniscient being, therefore, can exist.

            This is a metaphysical, not a logical, conclusion.

            The theist takes from this that our space and our time cannot be all that exists.

            This is both a metaphysical, and a logical, conclusion.

            Logicvally, we must be able to speak of the omnipotent and omniscient being, anagogic ally, by making reference to things such as "points" outside of space and time.

            It is a problem, but not an insuperable one.

            We can envision all points, both in time and in space, as subsumed under the idea "universe".

            We can then envision a being "outside" of and "above" the universe, Who is able to timelessly know the configuration of all points of space and time at once, and arrange the linear exposition of these points *in* space and time, so as to bring about the outomce consistent with his omnipotence, omniscience, and freedom.

            Mozart shows us, by analogy, that a limited but similar type of action is consistent with human creativity.

          • "Knowing that there are two possible outcomes is not omniscience."

            >> Given: a condition with two possible outcomes.

            Knowledge of both constitutes omniscience of the condition.

            "Knowing which of the outcomes will turn out to be correct is."

            >> Since I had perfect knowledge which outcome would be correct, in advance, omniscience is again satisfied.

            "If you know in advance which of the outcomes will prevail, you are not free to change your mind."

            >> But this is completely false.

            At any moment before the act, I can change its outcome, by changing my free and sovereign will's determination of what it shall be.

            It is *I* who determine the outcome, and I am free to select from among all possible outcomes, freely.

            As God, when considering in eternity all possible outcomes, is completely free to select among them, without compromising in any way his omniscience.

  • Corylus

    In the Bible, Psalms 14 and 53 both open with the statement: “Fools say in their hearts, ‘There is no God.’”

    Nice to see an unprompted acknowledgement of a bit of repetition in there. Well done, Stephen.

  • Stew

    Just started reading this, and would like to point out that the USA is not, and was never associated with "the historic heart of Christendom". The US wasn't even a twinkle in its father's eye in those days.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      As a former English teacher, Stew, I'd recommend you read the article before commenting upon it. The phrase you quote refers to Europe.

      • Stew

        From the article... "Especially in the United States and Europe—the historic heart of “Christendom""

        The expression, "the United States and Europe" could be taken to suggest "the United States and Europe". As it is written. Perhaps some punctuation or re-wording could have helped to avoid the ambiguity.

        As a former English teacher, you should realise this, and be quietly tutting about it, rather than wasting my time.

        • "Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you."

          • Stew

            "For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise." Corinthians 11:19

  • Stew

    OK, so the whole article is an admission that biblical claims are incredible. Happy days, I'll be forgiven for giving them no credibility then.