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One Reason Why People Hate Religion

Faith Hope Love
 
Fr. Robert Barron explains why confusion about the three cardinal virtues fuels disdain for religion:
 

"I think one reason why religion is often seen in a negative light today is that people misunderstand dramatically what we mean by faith, hope, and love. The distortion of those three has led to all kinds of problems."

 

 
 
(Image credit: Gmalcarde)

Bishop Robert Barron

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Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • BenS

    Perhaps people misunderstand what theists mean by 'faith' because it's almost impossible to pin down a sensible definition. I don't just mean between different theists, often - as we've seen on these very boards - the same person will give a different definition depending on what they're arguing for or against. It's easy to misunderstand when the goal posts are moving all the time.

    Additionally, 'faith', according to my definition of 'belief without evidence' is categorically NOT what I would consider a virtue. It's a liability.

    • Sample1

      Peter Boghossian defines faith as a cognitive illness. I don't have the credentials to do so (and be taken seriously) so I don't, but I do see his point.

      Frankly BenS, I stopped watching at 1:30 when such a blatant, deceptive, rhetorical device was used by Fr. Barron to create, what looked like to me, a snarky division between atheists and believers when he mentioned Daniel Dennett and the Bright Movement. Even his hand gestures got in on the tactic (waving them high for the Brights and lowering them for the "simple" people of faith.)

      Maybe I'll finish it later.

      Mike

      • Thanks for the comment, Mike. Next time you may consider watching the full video before commenting, though.

        • Sample1

          Point taken.

          I don't think I'm under an obligation, however, to not express behavior that turns me off. If you want to know how some of us atheists tick you're going to have to let me express what may or may not be comfortable for you to hear. And I see that you are letting me express that, so thank you.

          Time is valuable. If I asked you to view a documentary about the Virgin Mary and the producers kept translating her honor as latria rather hyperdulia, I'd sympathize with your desire to change the channel or light a votive instead.

          Mike

          • Phil Steinacker

            It's not a matter of being comfortable with what you say; it's a matter of why should your remarks demand respect when you use hand gestures as a "turn-off" which excuses you from commenting without having watched the full presentation of ideas?

            Like you, Father Barron is not under any obligation, in this case to stay within the boundaries of the terminology of the Bright Movement. Father Barron's use of the term "Dull" is merely the natural conclusion that "dull" is exactly the inference of applying "bright" to atheists, despite the superficial intent behind the term "super."

      • BenS

        I didn't watch it at all. I can't be arsed with videos, far too slow and not information dense enough. I responded to the sole piece of text that comprised the article and that doesn't appear to have been appreciated either. Ho hum.

        Anyway, doesn't sound like I missed much. And considering this site has:

        Rule #3: Thou shalt not straw man.

        It's incredible how many of the posted articles are just that. Blatant misrepresentations of atheism and positions that some atheists hold.

        • Sample1

          Well, as has been often repeated by Mods and others, the ComBox is "where it's at". I look forward to reading the comments later.
          Mike

    • BenS, you've asked for a sensible definition of faith several times on this site, and Catholics have responded time and again. I'm not sure whether you didn't see any of the replies, intentionally ignored them, or just openly dismissed them.

      Your definition is simply wrong, from a Catholic perspective. Faith is not 'belief without evidence'. It's better described as the author of Hebrews does: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

      Note, this isn't "blind" or "without evidence." It may be, though not always, without *empirical* evidence, but we believe all sorts of things without empirical evidence (i.e. mathematical truths, ancient historical facts, the truth that the world is real, etc.)

      Also as I've suggested several times before when you've asked this question, read the comprehensive article on faith from the Catholic Encyclopedia. If you're sincerely interested in the Catholic view you'll find an excellent summary:

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05752c.htm

      Finally, you may be happy to know that Pope Francis just released a whole document on this very topic. Titled "Lumen Fidei" (The Light of Faith), it explores the many dimensions of faith (and it's relationship to empirical truths, which you'll find especially interesting.) This is precisely why we published the post here at Strange Notions titled, "Why Atheists Should Read Lumen Fidei".

      • BenS

        BenS, you've asked for a sensible definition of faith several times on this site, and Catholics have responded time and again

        Yes, and each time with something different or irrelevant or simply incoherent. When I finally get a definition from someone, they then go and change it a couple of hours later when they have a different point to make.

        "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

        Sorry, conviction of things not seen? Do they mean not in the visible spectrum or things without any method of determining their existence at all? 'Cos the latter sounds remarkably like 'belief without evidence' which, funnily enough, is exactly what I said.

        It may be, though not always, without *empirical* evidence, but we believe all sorts of things without empirical evidence (i.e. mathematical truths, ancient historical facts, the truth that the world is real, etc.)

        Ah, not really. Mathematical truths are just concepts, historical facts are derived from evidence, as is the existence of the world (unless you're going down the route that we can't claim anything is real in which case you're really scraping the bottom of the barrel).

        Also as I've suggested several times before when you've asked this question, read the comprehensive article on faith from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

        Really? I don't recall you saying that once, never mind several times. Perhaps Disqus was hiding it from me. I'm sure you'll have no problem providing links to your comments.

        Regardless, a quick glance at that link shows thousands of words of drivel that doesn't give a coherent definition of 'faith'. And you seem surprised this leads to misunderstanding? How hard is it to give a two line definition of a word?

        This is precisely why we published the post here at Strange Notions titled, "Why Atheists Should Read Lumen Fidei".

        Yes, I saw that. It got savaged so I'm not sure why you're pointing at it. What are people beating it up about? Oh, yes. The elastic definition of faith... which is exactly what I referred to in my post an hour ago - so pointing to that article was rather a spectacular own goal on your part.

        • Loreen Lee

          Following up on a couple of points:
          I read a comment where mathematics was held to be tautological, meaning empty concepts. This is the perspective of the analytic philosophers. I would go with Kant, and say that mathematical equations are not tautological, are not empty but are rather an instance of synthetic a priori concepts. To illustrate this, the tautology 'a bachelor is an unmarried man' without a precept is indeed empty. But fill in the possibilities, and one could even encounter a deception. A person may put himself out to be a bachelor to deceive a spinster into thinking that he is indeed an unmarried man. You can't do this with a mathematical proposition. A specific content is implied by the concept, and there can never be a deception that l plus l is not two. Not even if you are a married bachelor! So I trust are the 'concepts' deemed 'religious' that are held in faith. But this thesis would have to be examined.
          As far as faith is concerned. Again I will stress, that if it is taken seriously that faith is a virtue, then, therefore, it follows that faith needs to be regarded as a state of 'being', a way of life, a propensity in which one's perceptions inform the concepts with which one is engaged with a perspective that does not immediately 'judge', but awaits (in faith) the full evolution of what is yet to be. (source: borrowed from Kierkegaard)

          • Loreen Lee

            Thought I'd address the thumbs down, as I infer they were directed towards whether a mathematical equation is or is not a case of 'synthetic a priori'. Kant holds they are, because there is a synthesis between for instance l plus l and the other side of the equation 2. There has been a development, a synthesis in thought, and the two is consequently an expression of a unity not obvious or apparent in the assimilation of the parts l plus l. Consequently, it is a synthesis made a priori to experience, or from the mine alone, and is therefore not merely analytic, and consequently not tautology. This is not the case with a bachelor, and an unmarried man. These 'mean' the same thing, except of course when you place them within a percept, in which case a bachelor could be 'anyone', and married could indeed be 'defined in a number of different ways......But tautologies do not consider these possibilities in relation to percepts, and are instead taken for their denotative meaning, and are thus regarded as empty, without reference.

        • Jonathan West

          And here we have a perfect example of something I've been commenting on. Brandon has put up a definition of Faith (one of several i have seen), BenS has raised various objections, and Brandon has not been seen here since.

          I bet we will have another article on faith come long soon, which will repeat the original assertions as if BenS's comments had never been made.

          • Susan

            And here we have a perfect example of something I've been commenting on. Brandon has put up a definition of Faith (one of several i have seen), BenS has raised various objections, and Brandon has not been seen here since.

            That does seem to happen a lot. It doesn't seem quite right, does it?

            I bet we will have another article on faith come long soon, which will repeat the original assertions as if BenS's comments had never been made.

            It would be very frustrating if that happened, wouldn't it?

          • Michael Murray

            Brandon has not been seen here since.

            Probably at a book signing

            http://brandonvogt.com

            I bet we will have another article on faith come long soon, which will repeat the original assertions as if BenS's comments had never been made.

            Would that bet be due to "faith" or "a reasonable expectation based on prior experience" ?

      • primenumbers

        ""Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."" - lets take the two sections of this definition -

        "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for" - faith == hope. Faith is often used to mean hope.

        "the conviction of things not seen" == belief without evidence.

        • PolishRoman

          "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for" - faith == hope. Faith is often used to mean hope." - I would say that is wrong to equate the two because they are at different levels. Assurance: A statement or indication that inspires confidence. So to use the definitions given, hope is God is the Sovereign Lord of the universe or another way of saying it is confidence in God in taking care of the universe. So what that statement is getting at is that Faith is the confidence of confidence in God taking care of the universe. I think a parallel in understanding the level of this is to look at acceleration. It is the second derivative of displacement. Sometime people mean velocity when they say acceleration and vice versa, but it would be hard to prove such a thing without other parameters on the environment. I just wanted to express the differing levels.

          "the conviction of things not seen" == belief without evidence." Well that is also not true and a fallacy to leap that it is belief without evidence. I will use another science example: when people say they base their life on science, do they really? I would say no. Why? because even if they are the most scientifically minded person, to justify everything with science would mean for them to look up all the studies on everything they do (including their ability to look up things) it would simply make his life to be anything more than checking/experimenting on everything he ever did. To clarify, when you take the word of a professor that states that "such and such studies prove this and that" do you look it up all the time or do you take the word of that person. If you look it up all the time when a scientific claim is made, I have no idea how you are here with us talking about such a deep philosophical thing. On the other hand if you merely took his word or a scientist's word that stated the same thing without redoing the experiment, you are in fact convicting yourself to a thing not seen. How? because you didn't witness the event, so you cannot claim to have seen it, pure and simple but you believe it because it is supported by evidence and by other people. A more everyday approach is your mom tells you its going to rain based on the weather channel, you look up see no clouds but you still take an umbrella with you. Conviction of things not seen. Your doctor states that to better your blood cholesterol to do X so you do it, whether it be a lifestyle choice or drug. Jurors base their decisions off a variety of evidence, yet the action they are judging, they were not there for. That is a conviction of things not seen. I could go on and on with examples of everyday life that is simply a conviction of things not seen, it makes up almost everything we do yet it would be inappropriate to state belief without evidence because even with the evidence, you did not witness what happened so you are merely going off the word of another.

          • Michael Murray

            To clarify, when you take the word of a professor that states that "such and such studies prove this and that" do you look it up all the time or do you take the word of that person. If you look it up all the time when a scientific claim is made, I have no idea how you are here with us talking about such a deep philosophical thing. On the other hand if you merely took his word or a scientist's word that stated the same thing without redoing the experiment, you are in fact convicting yourself to a thing not seen.

            The good old false dichotomy. Where would we be without it.

            In science you don't take the word of any individual you look instead at the degree of consensus amongst scientists working in that field. You have trust in that consensus because you understand how science works and you have the experience of knowing that science has worked in the past.

            You don't check everything because you can't know enough to check everything.

            Nice introduction to science here

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/07/03/what-is-science/

          • PolishRoman

            I understand how science works, I am a scientist. Philosophically speaking, you're still stuck with the same problem. You are not seeing everything and still simply trusting a group of people, a conviction of the unseen. You are sidestepping that point and merely assuming that because it has worked in the past that it must work in the future which is a fallacy.

          • Michael Murray

            It would be a fallacy if I said that because it worked in the past it must work in the future. I"m not. I said you have "you have the experience of knowing that science has worked in the past". That creates a reasonable expectation that it will work in the future. If it it doesn't we have to adapt and deal with that. So far we haven't needed to.

          • primenumbers

            Confidence is not hope though. If you had confidence, you'd not need faith because you'd have the rational evidence to give you that confidence, unless of course it's just un-evidenced or irrational confidence, but being confident without good reason is daft.

            "to justify everything with science would mean for them to look up all the studies on everything they do" - which in principle can occur, and in practise does occur when what is being looked up is important enough. Take your example: "Your doctor states that to better your blood cholesterol to do X so you do it, whether it be a lifestyle choice or drug. " - so yes, those of us that are interested in health and diet actually research this issue, and because we've researched it rather than have faith in the doctor, we don't take the drugs because science studies tell us they won't help us, and the side effects are not good for us, and other studies tell us that if we take almost the complete opposite dietary advice we'll be healthier.

            The problem here is the word conviction - a strong belief, so not just an ordinary level of belief, but a strong deeply held belief. What rational examination of evidence gives you is a belief that is strong as the evidence - no stronger, and a belief that will change if new evidence comes along that adds more light to the subject or shows that our earlier thinking on the matter was wrong. Faith doesn't do that, and religious faith can even get stronger in the presence of disconfirming evidence.

          • PolishRoman

            I didn't say confidence is hope, I said hope is confidence in God taking care of the universe. The definition given is from Fr. Barron's video. I was merely describing the explanation of levels that you seem to have not understood.

            You can have a conviction of something by merely acting on that belief no more. It is the fact you are acting on it means it isn't something you just simply take for granted as knowledge but use that belief in your daily life.

            To your second part of your second point, that is why miracles are so miraculous. We understand the world around us to the best of our ability and then we witness a miracle. For example a recent one of a women being cured of Parkinson's, we don't know how it happened from a scientific perspective but the fact it did happen is extraordinary from the normal distribution of events when it comes to Parkinson's. It is an outlier and unique in that in recorded history it has not been done. It was verified several times before the miracle because of the treatment she was receiving and then it was gone, she was checked again and found that the disease was gone. Looking at the general understanding of the disease this sounds crazy and impractical. Why? Because we can't scientifically find out what made that disease disappear. So we check the people who verified the disease, find that they checked and diagnosed it correctly and were in fact going on with the treatments when she appeared at the office the morning she no longer felt the pain stating she had been cured. They checked again and found that the disease was gone. Could she have cured the disease herself? Well that is a possibility in science's paradigm but not likely given the track record for the treatment and the lack of research/equipment the patient had.

          • primenumbers

            " I said hope is confidence in God taking care of the universe. " - hope is a desire for good outcomes. Your "confidence in confidence" just collapses to "confidence" though - I don't see different levels actually occurring.

            " For example a recent one of a women being cured of Parkinson's," - wasn't that a Parkinson's-like disease that sometimes goes into remission, and indeed, didn't this patient have a relapse?

      • Michael Murray

        mathematical truths

        Mathematical truths are tautologies. Nothing to do with anything empirical.

        • Mathematical truths are tautologies.

          I don't know why you would say that. As I have mentioned, I am currently reading a biography about Paul Dirac, and what is quite striking is that mathematical calculations keep yielding predictions of truths about the physical world that are later experimentally verified. Dirac, for example, had an equation about electrons that yielded two (numerically) positive results and two (numerically) negative results. The numerically negative results made no sense, since they implied electrons with negative energy. Even Dirac began to lose faith in the theory. Then the anti-electron (positron) was discovered, and the equation made sense. If mathematics is just a pure invention of the human mind, why does it keep happening that pure mathematics, worked out just for its own sake, keeps being so useful in describing the physical world?

          • Michael Murray

            I mean things like 1+1=2 . Properly defined this is a tautology. You see up definitions of what 1 and 2 and + and = are, decide on your axioms and turn the handle to get the theorems. It isn't something we believe without empirical evidence because empirical evidence isn't relevant.

            Of course it's related to the physical world because we get the idea of numbers and counting and addition from physical things. But the mathematics on it's own doesn't need empirical evidence to back it up.

            But I wasn't thinking of the predictive power of mathematics applied to physical reality though. I think that's a different question related to the remarkable regularity of nature.

          • primenumbers

            Why is math good at modelling the universe - because math came about by observing the universe.

          • Michael Murray

            Is it the math(s) we got or some of the underlying logic with the result that making a mathematical deduction reflects the predictability of the universe ?

          • primenumbers

            Our underlying logic comes from our observations of the universe. Our mathematics in many cases models the universe very well, not surprising given it's observational foundations to it's axioms. Of course, we still test our math models against the universe, but we shouldn't be surprised when math predictions work out in reality.

          • josh

            David, just echoing others here but you are describing a model of the physical world. That model was empirically based and part of the model is mathematics which is also empirically based. 1+1=2 historically comes about as a useful model for the behavior of physical objects which we think of as more or less permanent and individuated, etc.

            Now you can imagine doing purely abstract math with no model in mind, in which case you are basically defining a set of rules for relating symbols to each other. Usually we impose the rule that you have a standard of non-equivalent true and false which make the rules potentially a model for a logically intelligible system. Whether or not we correctly follow the rules in a particular system can itself be thought of as empirical: we do a test to see if we can actually write down a set of steps from one symbol to another that follow the rules.

            But putting that aside, whether any particular math is a good model for anything outside itself is an empirical question.

          • David you are writing about the power of the tools as applied to that problem. If the tool was not so good for that, we would change the tool until it was. There are an unlimited number of different mathematical systems to choose among generated by different postulates, but we spend most of our attention on the ones that yield beneficial application.

          • Well, a number of times in the Dirac biography, he or someone else is in a situation in which they need a more fruitful mathematical approach. And then they think of some branch of mathematics or some technique that they had run across that hitherto was absolutely pure mathematics, with no applications to the real world at all.

          • josh

            David, I think we can think of pure mathematics as a study of logical structures. When we try to study the physical world we try to put it in a logical structure which suggests that some math will describe it. At this point in history, and going back at least a few centuries, the exploration of abstract logical structures has been going on in great detail and has gotten to the point of very general classifications of problems. So it doesn't surprise me that when we formulate the demands of a particular model, we can often say 'There's a math for that already'. Nonetheless, there are also many instances of scientific models driving math, as in the development of calculus by Newton, or the demands of string theory for modern mathematics.

          • And then they think of some branch of mathematics or some technique that they had run across that hitherto was absolutely pure mathematics, with no applications to the real world at all.

            Yes, artificial selection of memes. Note that they did not select one that did not work.

          • Yes, artificial selection of memes. Note that they did not select one that did not work.

            Sure they did. There were lots of failures. There were also famous cases of two quite different mathematical approaches (Heisenberg's and Schrödinger's) being discovered to be completely equivalent.

          • I wrote selected, not just tried. I used it as known in terms of memetic evolution. Many are tried, but few are selected.

        • Have you read WVO Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empricisim", if so what do you think? If not, I include a link below. You may find it interesting.

          http://faculty.unlv.edu/jwood/wm/Quine.pdf

          • epeeist

            Have you read WVO Quine's "Two Dogmas of Empricisim"

            Take 17 recommends.

            But also, go and find Quine's On what there is and read that.

      • According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

        Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"

        This, it seems to me, makes it fundamentally different from a scientist's "faith" that the world is intelligible, the future resembles the past in such a way that repeated experiments will give the same results, and so on.

        So it is somewhat misleading, it seems to me, to make analogies between the fundamental assumptions scientists make about the physical world and religious faith. Fr. Barron didn't really say it, so perhaps it is unfair to bring it up, but in some ways he may have been hinting at the notion that atheism and theism are both faiths, so atheists have no basis for criticizing theists because we all have our own faiths. But of course if religious faith is a supernatural gift bestowed by God, then it is fundamentally different from "faith" that all the findings of other scientists you have not actually verified for yourself are reliable.

        • Vickie

          I think that science and scientist do have faith. A faith that says there is more than what we have knowledge of and we can only know
          of it if we seek it out. It is not impossible that the spark that propels us into the unknown to seek out and discover is that "supernatural gift bestowed by God".

          • "It is not impossible that the spark that propels us into the unknown to seek out and discover is that "supernatural gift bestowed by God".

            >> Not only is it not impossible that this is a supernatural gift, It is impossible that it is not a supernatural gift.

            Human cognitive faculties are unique in the observed cosmos.

            This is because Revelation correctly informs us that we are "imago Dei".

          • Ben

            They appear to be unique in degree, but not necessarily in kind. Was just reading the other day about how it's now thought that dolphins have names for themselves and each other...

          • That is a difference in kind, not in degree.

            It is one thing to name an object.

            It is another to hypothesize and experimentally demonstrate the existence of a universal organizing principle which accounts for the fact that some objects are alive, and others are not.

            It is yet another to hypothesize and experimentally demonstrate a universal organizing principle which accounts for the fact that some living objects are capable of creative hypothesis, and others are not.

            Get back to me when the dolphins show evidence of this.

          • primenumbers

            It's not faith that allows us to know we don't have total knowledge, just basic humility and observation. No faith necessary.

          • Vickie

            Faith is not what allows us to know we don't have total knowledge. Faith causes us to seek out and discover what we have no or little knowledge of.

          • primenumbers

            Is that faith==hope that there's more knowledge out there to seek, or faith==trust that because every time we've looked for more knowledge we've found some? It's not religious faith that we're discussing here. It's a well earned trust based on humility and observation as I note above.

          • Vickie

            Originally we did not have that record to rely on but we sought and discovered anyway.

          • primenumbers

            Eh? The record gets built automatically as we do things. We can formalize the process, but that doesn't mean there was a time when we didn't do it, even if just implicitly.

          • Vickie

            LOL would you allow me to use the word implicit in a Catholic argument? If my response to anything was "it was implied" the retort would most likely be "go evidence?"
            While the record does get built automatically, before there is a record the very first step is into an unknown or little known area. There has to be an element of faith, or trust or belief in something, not necessarily in God, but faith all the same

          • primenumbers

            Watch a baby - they're doing this implicitly without thought as to what they're doing, which we can see as adults is building up that record for themselves.

            "There has to be an element of faith, or trust or belief in something, not necessarily in God, but faith all the same" - I see no argument as to why there "has to be", just an assertion.

          • Vickie

            My bad. Let me rephrase. Implicitly that could be an element of faith

          • primenumbers

            eh? Care to be more clear?

          • Vickie

            Just rephrasing "the has to be" . The edited sentence in question should read. - Implicitly that could be an element of faith, or trust or belief in something, not necessarily in God, but faith all the same. Are you going to get out your red pencil and jump on everything I write "like a monkey on a cupcake" (quote - Ray Ramano, Everybody Loves Raymond) just so you don't have to admit that even scientest have faith sometimes?

          • primenumbers

            Well there neither implicitly nor "has to be" an element of faith.

            For working scientists indeed there is a great deal of trust, trust that is earned. There's nothing wrong with that because due to the nature of science, if we trust in a scientist who is a fraud or has bad procedure, that trust gets revoked when it's found out, for instance. It's not blind trust, it's earned trust, and it's provisional, not absolute.

            So no, not "faith all the same".

          • Vickie

            faith [fayth]
            (plural faiths)
            n
            1. belief or trust: belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof
            I wouldn't put my faith in him to straighten things out....You are right. Not your faith

            2. religion or religious group: a system of religious belief, or the group of people who adhere to it
            3. trust in God: belief in and devotion to God
            Her faith is unwavering. Again, not your faith

            4. set of beliefs: a strongly held set of beliefs or principles
            people of different political faiths Possibly your faith

            5. loyalty: allegiance or loyalty to somebody or something Observed to be your faith
            Faith all the same

          • primenumbers

            So your argument relies on an equivocation of faith. The word "faith" has many meanings. But trust isn't the same as hope, isn't the same as religious faith. It's not your fault the word has all these meanings, but you conflate them so as try to put scientist who have good trust (that has been earned) with religious faith which is blind and irrational.

          • epeeist

            So your argument relies on an equivocation of faith.

            T'was ever thus. You really do have to examine the word for meaning each and every time it is used.

          • Vickie

            Ah, I see the problem here. I always was working from a broader definition of faith. You seemed to be the one bogging us down in minutia. The issue here is that I used the idom "all the same" which you seem to have interpreted as "faith the same as mine", when I was only using an expression. I suppose I should have limited myself to merely "a faith" or at the most "a faith after all". I never said it was a religious faith. As a matter of fact I qualified that earlier in the discussion. I was originally observing that element of a faith of some kind under an accepted definition was present in scientific exploration. But while we have the read pencils out...babies are not implicitly doing. It is not implied it is instictive.

          • primenumbers

            I only use faith to mean religious faith, using the other words hope, trust where appropriate. It appears you're making more of a semantic argument than a meaningful one.

          • Vickie

            So you are the one stuck on semantics. I believe that aruging from the standpoint of an accepted definition is acceptable and meaningful. If not I will write that down for the next time. Note to self...you cannot rely on a universally accepted definition when arguing your point.

          • primenumbers

            The definition reflects the wooly use of the word to mean a number of completely different concepts. I will argue about the concepts individually using a unique word or word combination to describe them so as to show what I mean. That you are using the very broad definition means when you say "all the same", you mean semantically, not with respect to their meaning. If all you're saying is that they come under the same dictionary definition, all I can respond with is "so what? I don't really care".

          • Vickie

            I can see that further discussion would just be beating a dead horse. That is an expression by the way.

          • It's his modus operandi. When his arguments are threatened or refuted, he retreats into word games.

          • epeeist

            So you are the one stuck on semantics. I believe that aruging from the standpoint of an accepted definition is acceptable and meaningful.

            Except that "faith" has multiple meanings,and one should not equivocate between them.

          • Are they contradictory? If so how?

          • epeeist

            Are they contradictory?

            They don't need to be contradictory. Equivocation is a fallacy of ambiguity.

          • What are the key differences that you see which cause a difficulty in dialogue?

          • epeeist

            What are the key differences that you see which cause a difficulty in dialogue?

            That kind of response makes you sound like an Eliza program.

            I gave a link to the description of the fallacy before, if that was insufficiently explanatory then this page is reasonable.

            Otherwise I can recommend this little book.

          • I don't see any meaningful differences in the definitions I read. Some are more detailed descriptions while others are subsets of a more comprehensive definition.

          • TristanVick

            Are you reading only "Christian" definitions?

            There is enough variance there I should think. Unless you biases are too great that you simply can't see them.

            Try comparing your definition of "faith" with other religions and cultures.

            It's called comparative religion. It's beneficial to engage in a bit of CR to see that not everyone defines things exactly in the same way. But when it comes to overarching, often absolutist claims, then we can say the definitions--at the least--ought to line up more than they do.

          • [---
            Are you reading only "Christian" definitions?
            ---]

            Perhaps it did not dawn on you that this is a Catholic site where we are using the terms as defined in Catholic theology for dialogue.

          • TristanVick

            Then there is your problem!

          • TristanVick

            Yes, are faith definitions contradictory? If so, how?

            That's a test that faith believers have to run to test their faith claims against other competing faith claims.

            Have fun with it!

          • [---
            That's a test that faith believers have to run to test their faith claims against other competing faith claims.
            ---]
            We are not talking about how other religions use the term faith. This site is explicitly Catholic so Catholic terms are used. Please follow the bouncing ball.

          • TristanVick

            But then how do you justify your usage when there are other valid, competing, usages of that term?

            All you are doing is saying they are wrong and you are right.

            Without explaining how you come to that conclusion.

            Yeah, this is a Catholic website. It's sort of besides the point.

            You're using a term which explains a human experience which is broader than this website, and broader than the catholic faith.

            Just to offer a friendly retort, it seems the only bouncing ball here is the one rattling around in your empty head. Yeah, I can dish them out too. If you keep up this juvenile approach though, I will have to question your sincerity. After all, I thought you wanted to have a conversation and not just a group huddle. Why then are you saying this is only a Catholic club? Group huddle much?

          • [---
            But then how do you justify your usage
            ---]
            Last I checked, vocabulary use was not a matter of justice. It was a matter of communication.

          • Vickie

            oops. red pencil... misspelling. instinctive

          • [---
            For working scientists indeed there is a great deal of trust, trust that is earned. There's nothing wrong with that because due to the nature of science, if we trust in a scientist who is a fraud or has bad procedure, that trust gets revoked when it's found out, for instance. It's not blind trust, it's earned trust, and it's provisional, not absolute.

            ---]
            And we change faith systems or to no faith if we lose trust.

            I don't see the difference because our faith is like love. When you tell someone you love them, it also takes earned trust in something that cannot be verified with evidence. Scientific laws also cannot be verified empirically. They both are based on trust.

          • primenumbers

            Well actually no, most people don't change their religion from the one they were born into, not just not even in the face of disconfirming evidence, but to the extent that disconfirming evidence can strengthen a faith not weaken it.

            Our trust in the methods and results of science is well founded, not least because the results are empirically verified, which also gains us trust in the methods used to produce those results.

          • [---
            Well actually no, most people don't change their religion from the one they were born into
            ---]
            20 years ago, 95% of Brazil was Catholic. Now it is 60%.

            [---
            Our trust in the methods and results of science is well founded, not least because the results are empirically verified, which also gains us trust in the methods used to produce those results
            ---]

            I meant empirical verification in the strict sense. The study of past events can at best, only predict future ones with high probability. They can not verify laws. So in that sense, any foundation on probability is a foundation on trust/faith.

          • primenumbers

            So in your Brazil example most people didn't change their religion of birth, and hence you agree with me. Thanks.

            No, no faith is needed. We have a well founded trust in the results of science as I point out. There is a vast difference to the very high level of trust we have in scientific results and the blind faith needed to hold religious beliefs.

          • [---
            So in your Brazil example most people didn't change their religion of birth, and hence you agree with me. Thanks.
            ---]
            Very funny:) No, I do not agree, because 20 years is not a lifetime. If you extrapolate that reduction over 70 years, then you are wrong. I would also add that if you look at the percentage among the younger Brazilians it is a majority as compared to the older generation.

            [---
            No, no faith is needed. We have a well founded trust in the results of science as I point out. There is a vast difference to the very high level of trust we have in scientific results and the blind faith needed to hold religious beliefs.
            ---]
            Trust in science is well founded. I agree. What about trust in love?

          • primenumbers

            " If you extrapolate that reduction over 70 years," - ah, so you do have good trust in science then after all! Thanks.

            "Trust in science is well founded. I agree. What about trust in love?" - what about religious revelations? Do you trust them, and if so, by what method do you use to determine that such a revelation is not imagination or delusion?

          • Prime said
            [---
            ah, so you do have good trust in science then after all! Thanks.
            ---]
            I never said that I don't have good trust in science. You seem confused.

          • primenumbers

            Do you have good trust in religious revelations though?

          • [---
            "Trust in science is well founded. I agree. What about trust in love?"

            What about religious revelations? Do you trust them, and if so, by what method do you use to determine that such a revelation is not imagination or delusion?
            ---]
            It is customary in dialogue to at least attempt an answer to the question put forth to you before asking your own

          • primenumbers

            Nice dodge - second time you've not answered the question.

          • That is very dishonest of you.

            I asked you a question. You ignored it and asked your own. Now you accuse me of dodging yours as I await an answer to mine.

          • primenumbers

            Dishonest? I'm not aware of me telling lies in the above posts.

          • TristanVick

            You used the word "dishonest" wrong.

            Would that be an indicator of dishonesty? Or just ignorance on your part?

          • [---
            You used the word "dishonest" wrong.Would that be an indicator of dishonesty? Or just ignorance on your part?
            ---]
            No. I used it correctly. However, I did not expect you to understand the word in the first place.

          • TristanVick

            Grammatically, yes. It is used within the sentence correctly.

            But you used it explain someone being dishonest who was not being dishonest.

            Hence, you falsely attributed the term to someone where there is no sign of dishonesty.

            Like I said, it is either dishonest on your behalf, or you didn't know what you were doing.

            You can always retract your statement and prove you are able to recognize when you've made such a blunder.

            Because, you see, that would be the *honest thing to do.

          • TristanVick

            But that's not how psychology works.

            Why do you think religion preys on children and the young? Why do you think Evangelism and proselytizing are used so extremely in, say, countries like Brazil?

            It couldn't have anything to do with trying to get people to believe... could it?

            Save some souls?

            Haha. Too funny. But you seem to shrug it off as... if it doesn't happen. Strange.

          • Tristan said
            [---
            Why do you think religion preys on children and the young?

            ---]
            You seem confused. I gave you no indication that I would think that. You should first learn how to have a proper dialogue first. Then come back.

          • Mikegalanx

            Would also point out that the vast majority of Brazilians who changed their faith became Pentecostalists, another denomination of Christianity. People change denominations within a particular religion much more easily than they change to a different one entirely

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Artigas, my favorite philosopher of science, claims that some important presuppositions of science are derived from revealed truths (though they are not, in themselves, beyond reason): (1) that there is order in the universe; (2) that we can know this order; and (3) it is good to know this order.

          • primenumbers

            "derived from revealed truths" - eh?

          • epeeist

            Artigas, my favorite philosopher of science

            Which other ones have you read Kevin?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He's the only one I've read in depth. Knowing Things for Sure, The Mind of the Universe, Celebrity Scientists, and Galileo in Rome.

          • epeeist

            Knowing Things for Sure, The Mind of the Universe, Celebrity Scientists, and Galileo in Rome.

            I think the last one gives the game away to a large extent. He really isn't (wasn't) representative of any of the current work in philosophy of science.

            In fact looking through my small and admittedly eclectic library of books on the philosophy of science I can't see any mention of him.

            Why not try something a little wilder, say Paul Feyerabend's Against Method

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you read THE MIND OF THE UNIVERSE, I'll read Against Method. Deal?

          • epeeist

            If you read THE MIND OF THE UNIVERSE, I'll read Against Method. Deal?

            Can I switch books, I would much rather read Knowing Things for Sure. If you will accept this then we have a deal.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure. I just think MIND is a lot more interesting but it's up to you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've purchased AGAINST METHOD and have begun reading it. How about you?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why are you using faith as a synonym for curiosity? They are most assuredly NOT the same.

          • It is not impossible that the spark that propels us into the unknown to seek out and discover is that "supernatural gift bestowed by God".

            Well, I suppose if the only thing that allows human beings to think abstractly and to reason is a spiritual soul, the fact that I am responding to your thought with my thought is a supernatural act! I have never heard that argued before, but by my miraculous powers to draw conclusions, I have discovered this important truth! :-)

          • Vickie

            So you agree that it is not impossible? ;-) God has not been disproven? Though there may be other theories and aruments presented God remains as one of the many possiblities?

          • Jonathan West

            There are so many different definitions of God. And some of them have been designed specifically that they can't be disproved.

            But if the best justification for believing that God exists is that he hasn't yet been proved not to exist, don't you think that is just a little bit weak?

          • Vickie

            I wasn't making a justification. Just clarifing that God was still in the running.

          • Jonathan West

            Strictly speaking yes, in that he can't be disproved. For all practical purposes no, in that there is no reason to think he does exist.

          • ZenDruid

            It's wonderful to think that billions of people have invested their life's hope in a fiction that is forever unproven and unprovable.

          • Vickie

            Strictly speaking. That's good enough for me. I will then continue to seek in that area. You never know, I may be exploring an area that science and practical knowledge have not caught up with yet. That has historically happened before.

          • Jonathan West

            Are you seeking, or do you believe you have found? If the latter, why?

          • [---
            there is no reason to think he does exist.
            ---]

            If you don't trust your own senses or the testimony of others then there is no reason to think He exists. However, when my mother says she loves me, I trust her even though empiricism falls far short of verifying love. Since the the empirical domain of science is ill suited to verify something as accessible to everyone as love is, it is utterly a hopeless endeavor to think it could verify God.

          • severalspeciesof

            However, when my mother says she loves me, I trust her even though empiricism falls far short of verifying love.

            Really? Do you mean you have no senses that tell you, beyond her telling you, that she loves you?

            Glen

          • Glen,
            Love is willing the good of the other. No amount of evidence can verify that a person loves you because you don't know the motivation.

          • severalspeciesof

            Love is willing the good for the other.

            If that is as far as 'love' goes, then you are right in that 'love' has little empirical evidence, but then, if it goes only that far, I wouldn't exactly call that 'love'. I would call it hope. Willing the good for the other is an empty love if there are never any tangible actions toward the other.

            I love my family. I 'will' the good for them, but if I were to leave at this very second, never to see them again or have contact with them, it would become a love that does no one any good...

            Glen

          • [---
            Willing the good for the other is an empty love if there are never any tangible actions toward the other.
            ---]
            The will is in the mind, but the gerund willing implies voluntary action based on the will.

          • severalspeciesof

            but willing implies voluntary action based on the will.

            (italics mine)

            ...so there you have it, 'action' is the empirical evidence...

            Glen

          • [---
            ...so there you have it, 'action' is the empirical evidence...
            ---]

            Absolutely not. The evidence is not reliable because you don't know that the motivation was for the good of the other. The evidence of action is just evidence of action which may have benefited the recipient.

          • severalspeciesof

            ['action' is the empirical evidence...} Absolutely not. The evidence is not reliable because you don't know that
            the motivation was for the good of the other. The evidence of action is
            just evidence of action which may have benefited the recipient.

            so that means you can't really know that your mother loves you when she tells you that she does...

            That's a sad state of affairs I'd say...

            Glen

          • [---
            That's a sad state of affairs I'd say...
            ---]

            Its only a sad state of affairs if you think of empiricism as the only way to illuminate truth.

          • severalspeciesof

            So then, how else would one illuminate the truth of love? [BTW, you do understand that empiricism can entail the use of all one's senses, right?]

          • TristanVick

            "Good of the other" is not a working definition of love. Maybe of utilitarian morality or altruism.

            But "love" as a definition is more basic. Love as a phenomenon is much more complex.

            But I think most people know what is meant by "love" because nearly everyone has experienced love.

            I don't think you need to offer new, questionably erroneous, definitions of love.

          • [---
            "Good of the other" is not a working definition of love. Maybe of utilitarian morality or altruism.
            ---]

            It has been a working definition of love for many centuries. The definition is not utilitarian for the lover because it is willed for the beloved and not the self. However, I will grant that love according to atheism probably is reduced to a utilitarian view of what you get out of it in this life.

          • TristanVick

            Love is a psychological and emotional feeling of affection.

            A great interest or pleasure in something.

            A person or thing that one has affection for.

            What dictionary are you using? lol

            I was merely talking about love as it is defined and as we commonly use it in the English language.

            "Good of the other" is a reciprocal based concept, and has more to do with ethical considerations than love actually.

          • TristanVick

            False.

          • Jonathan West

            If you don't trust your own senses or the testimony of others then there is no reason to think He exists.

            My trust in my senses is qualified. I know that the senses can be fooled. My trust in the testimony of others is extremely limited, and the limitation is shred by many others. That is why courts do not admit hearsay as evidence and why scientists repeat each others' experiments. The motto of the Royal Society is nullius in verba ("on the word of no-one").

            However, when my mother says she loves me, I trust her even though empiricism falls far short of verifying love.

            I see you are committing the fallacy of reification, and treating "love" as a concrete entity. Your trust undoubtedly comes from your mother's loving behaviour towards you, which is entirely observable and was in fact observed by you.

            Since the the empirical domain of science is ill suited to verify something as accessible to everyone as love is, it is utterly a hopeless endeavor to think it could verify God

            That depends on whether God is a concept or an entity. If God is an entity, one which intervenes in the universe in ways that result in observable phenomena (for instance in answering prayers), then those interventions are at least in principle amenable to scientific investigation.

            But then again, if God doesn't intervene in ways discernible to humans, then one has to ask how it is people came to have such knowledge of him in the first place.

          • TristanVick

            Not true.

            We have a good understanding of love at the psychological as well as physiological levels. We also understand much of the chemistry of love. And in recent times, we also have quite a bit of cognitive science to back it up as something that is more than just a "feeling."

            You seem to be talking about love as a philosophical concept. That would be a mistake.

            Your analogy is false.

          • [---
            We have a good understanding of love at the psychological as well as physiological levels.
            ---]

            No. They have a some understanding of desire and addiction, but not so much of love or evil.

          • TristanVick

            Incorrect.

          • I certainly am not hostile to the idea of believing in God, or being a believing Christian. I don't know why it drives some people so crazy or makes them so angry. I don't understand why some "atheists" here feel the need to demonstrate that God is evil or Jesus was some kind of murderer. I sense a lot of anger in some of the atheists.

            However, as someone brought up in the Catholic Church who once considered himself a believer, I would have to say that with age and continued education came disillusionment. And I do feel a certain amount of resentment that I was so thoroughly indoctrinated with such a pat and oversimplified answer to practically everything.

          • Vickie

            Did I imply anger or was that just a general statement?...I thought we were making smiley faces with each other.
            I am sorry that you felt indoctrinated and disillusioned. I guess my experience came slighly after yours when the times they were a changin'. Personally, though, I cannot claim to be indoctrinated. It is in my personal nature to resist such things. Call my mom and ask her. Science is merely the study and discription of the world around us. Reason and logic are ways to process these things. They are but two of the many tools available to us. They are but tools, however, and not all sufficient within themselves. Sometime we treat them as if they were the all sufficient. I would maybe suggest that you use all the tools available to you to seek knowledge of God as diligently as you seek science and logic and reason. As children we are often given pat and oversimplified answers and then as adults we find that it is not as pat and simple as we thought. That is an experience that we all share I think. In my own experience I have found that any disillusionment usually sprang from the inconsistancy of the human element and not with God himslef.

          • No, I didn't mean to imply anger on your part at all. The anger I am referring to is on the part of some of the atheists. I am not going to name any names, but I don't think it is difficult to tell when someone is angry. Of course, every once in a while, I write something that I think probably sounds angry, and I am usually laughing when I do it. So perhaps I should not jump to conclusions about other people's emotions.

          • Jonathan West

            I think that you are confusing anger and exasperation.

          • I think that you are confusing anger and exasperation.

            Perhaps in some cases, but some people clearly come here to vent their anger and also to feel superior for not believing in God.

            Of course, to be fair, I think just about anyone who is opinionated enough to write in this kind of forum thinks he or she is superior to everyone. I mean, I myself am sometimes stunned not only at how right I am initially, but how nobody ever lays a glove on me when they try to criticize what I say. Some time ago, I went through a crisis when I asked myself, "Can one person really be right 100% of the time? What (as Sam Harris might ask) are the odds?" But for the next few days, I carefully reread everything before I posted it, and I could find nothing I didn't wholeheartedly agree with. The crisis passed.

          • Susan

            :

            Perhaps in some cases, but some people clearly come here to vent their anger and also to feel superior for not believing in God.

            It's not so clear to me. You suggested that and your two examples were:

            some "atheists" here feel the need to demonstrate that God is evil or Jesus was some kind of murderer.

            The first is an obvious response to the claim that Yahweh is the source of all goodness despite the stories about Yahweh. The double standard is a problem to begin with, but it's always a concern when people justify actions we would usually agree are terrible by saying it's for "the greater good" without drawing a clear connection to a truly greater good.

            The second I think was just Max having a bit of fun, and calling the profound truths of Jesus to account at the same time. The stories about Jesus are so murky that they can be interpreted any which way.

            Both are valid points of discussion and you would have some work to do to say that those points are raised by people who came here to "vent their anger".

            Interesting also that you've decided that that's an atheist thing. The anger venting. Fascinating. "Clearly" is cheating. I know you can do better than that.

            The burden is on the side making the claims. I don't feel "superior" because I don't believe in your god. I do expect those claims to be supported on a site that invites us to "reason together".

            Unless you can demonstrate it, "some angry atheists" is a terrible misrepresentation of the non-theists who make an effort to participate here playing by all fair rules of reason that they know and respect, and it borders on smugness.

            Show it or drop it. No. That's not me being angry. That's me trying to be reasonable.

            That's the point in dialogue, isn't it? We weren't invited here to talk about the weather.

          • Show it or drop it. No. That's not me being angry. That's me trying to be reasonable.

            With all due respect, it doesn't sound like someone trying to be reasonable. "Show it or drop it" isn't a rational argument. It's a command. Reasoning together is not about issuing orders.

            Also, you seem to totally ignore my second paragraph, which begins, "Of course, to be fair, I think just about anyone who is opinionated enough to write in this kind of forum thinks he or she is superior to everyone." You respond with indignation to a message of mine that, I think successfully, attempted to be humorous in tone and self-deprecating.

            Unless you can demonstrate it, "some angry atheists" is a terrible misrepresentation of the non-theists who make an effort to participate here playing by all fair rules of reason that they know and respect, and it borders on smugness.

            I plead guilty of feeling smug now and then—perhaps even more smug than the average commenter here, since I am critical of both the "theists" and the "atheists." But I have not noticed that either the theists or the atheists here have a monopoly on humility. Of the major players here, whether theist or atheist or in between, I can't think of anyone (and certainly not myself) who is a simple seeker of truth "playing by all fair rules of reason" seeking honestly to give a fair hearing to views that are in apparent conflict with his or her own.

            your god

            I am interested in the use of this phrase by some nonbelievers, but I will deal with that at some later point.

          • Susan

            With all due respect, it doesn't sound like someone trying to be reasonable. "Show it or drop it" isn't a rational argument.

            Allow me to rephrase. The burden is on the one making the claim. You claimed that "some atheists clearly came here to vent their anger". Please support that claim.

            I can't think of anyone (and certainly not myself) who is a simple seeker of truth "playing by all fair rules of reason" seeking honestly to give a fair hearing to views that are in apparent conflict with his or her own.

            Again, the burden is on the one making the claim. Show me where that burden has been met.

            How can I type that so it won't be misconstrued by you and others as "angry"?

          • Allow me to rephrase.

            Fair enough. Allow me to rephrase. A number of people who post here whom I believe self-identify as atheists (or if not atheists, critical of religion in general or Catholicism in particular) often seem angry to me. Whether it is anger, exasperation, frustration, attempted irony or humor, or some other emotion or mode of expression I can't say for sure. It is impossible to know without meeting them personally, and perhaps not even then. But to me they sound angry—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that to me, they sound hostile. That's my perception, whether accurate and fair or not.

          • ... Whether it is anger, exasperation, frustration, attempted irony or humor, or some other emotion or mode of expression I can't say for sure.

            Perhaps we need to establish an emoticon convention so people can know. :-)

          • Susan

            But to me they sound angry—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that to me, they sound hostile. That's my perception, whether accurate and fair or not.

            That's an entirely different thing. Your emotional reaction is not evidence and is subject (as is mine) to bias. That's why a fair examination of the evidence is important before we assume that what we feel is what's actually going on.

            Your feeling is, so far, just your feeling and does not justify this accusation:

            some people clearly come here to vent their anger and also to feel superior for not believing in God.

            If I make unsupported, one-sided accusations, I expect to be called on them.

          • your god

            I am interested in the use of this phrase by some nonbelievers, but I will deal with that at some later point.

            Often in our discussions, using this medium, we write things that are short for more carefully phrased presentations. I would read "your god" as short for "the supernatural being that you believe exists, made the world, and interacts with you personally." There are several other possible meanings, and would expect someone such as yourself to ask for specific clarifications when the context indicates that it would make some kind of difference.

            Show it or drop it. No. That's not me being angry. That's me trying to be reasonable.

            With all due respect, it doesn't sound like someone trying to be reasonable. "Show it or drop it" isn't a rational argument. It's a command. Reasoning together is not about issuing orders.

            As above, I would read this as more formally "please demonstrate the substantiating evidence and justification for your assertion, else you should expect that what you have presented will be disregarded." Again, the short form could have several other shades of interpretation, but does seem reasonable and not particularly angry, to me. You might contrast that with the more common short form:

            "Put up, or shut up."

          • Since Susan has rephrased "show it or drop it," and since I have rephrased my comment on atheist being angry and coming here to vent, it is probably wiser not to quarrel over what either of us originally said.

            It does strike me that we are all talking about more or less the same God here, this being a site sponsored by Catholics. I have never seen an argument for or against the existence of God anywhere—and certainly not here—that was not about the Judaeo-Christian concept of God, which is essentially also the God of philosophy. If I see a book on Amazon titled Does God Exist?—and there are many—I know it is not going to be about Zeus or Vishnu or Ra.

            So I appreciate your giving an interpretation of "your god" as shorthand for something more formal and not uncivil, but I am not convinced you are correct. Of course, each person who uses the phrase may mean (or intend) something slightly different by it, so while I am tempted to hunt for uses and evaluate them in context, I think such a meta-discussion would probably just cause squabbling.

            I think civility and cordiality are important, and I appreciate yours. On the other hand, I don't think civility and cordiality are the be all and end all. I reserve the right to zap someone now and then, and it would be a pretty dull experience for me never to get zapped. What puzzles me a bit is that I really do consider myself somewhere in the center between the theists (generally the Catholic) and the atheists, but I believe I am much more likely to get zapped by the atheists for a "theist-leaning" comment than by the Catholics for an "atheist-leaning" or "Catholic-critical" post.

          • robtish

            "the Judaeo-Christian concept of God, which is essentially also the God of philosophy."

            Spinoza would be surprised to hear that, as would Enlightenment deists.

          • Spinoza would be surprised to hear that, as would Enlightenment deists.

            Oh, this is embarrassing. I thought they were all dead.

          • robtish

            They are. But they do not predate philosophy.

          • " If I see a book on Amazon titled Does God Exist?—and there are many—I know it is not going to be about Zeus or Vishnu or Ra."

            >> Mr. Nickols' point is extremely cogent, well-made, and indisputably true.

          • ... but I believe I am much more likely to get zapped by the atheists for a "theist-leaning" comment than by the Catholics for an "atheist-leaning" or "Catholic-critical" post.

            Are you truth-leaning?

          • ... I have never seen an argument for or against the existence of God anywhere—and certainly not here—that was not about the Judaeo-Christian concept of God, which is essentially also the God of philosophy.

            Did you read the Greek philosophers? How about Spinoza? The Buddha? The Hindu philosophers? The Concept of God has many variations around the world, and going back in, what we have of, recorded history.

          • I thought it went without saying, but I am talking about popular books and arguments on blogs such as this one. I checked what came up on Amazon when I searched for the title Does God Exist? and they were (or appeared to be, as I scanned the list) all about the Judeo-Christian God and/or the God of philosophers.

          • It does go without saying.

            Or at least one would have thought it would.

            Given the propensity of some of the contributors here to insist that there is no empirical evidence for God, it apparently does bear repeating.

            History has brought us to an outcome, in the present, where the gods of antiquity have vanished.

            The God of Abraham, and the God of the Philosophers, is the One Who answers to the title God.

            Even the atheists acknowledge this, whether or not they admit it.

          • ""Put up, or shut up."

            >> Yes, Q Quine has an earlier, unanswered similar "short form", outstanding lo these many weeks..........

          • severalspeciesof

            I plead guilty of feeling smug now and then—perhaps even more smug than
            the average commenter here, since I am critical of both the "theists"
            and the "atheists."

            Were you the source of this?

            https://xkcd.com/774/

            (just kidding...) ;-)

            Glen

          • severalspeciesof

            I certainly am not hostile to the idea of believing in God, or being a
            believing Christian. I don't know why it drives some people so crazy or
            makes them so angry.

            Speaking for myself, I am not hostile to the idea of belief in a god, so long as that belief has no negative impact on my journey in life. When/where there is negative impact (or potential for impact down the road) then yes, hostility may be in store, proportional to that impact...

            Glen

          • Speaking for myself, I am not hostile to the idea of belief in a god, so long as that belief has no negative impact on my journey in life.

            Couldn't you say exactly the same thing about a political ideology or a party platform, for example? I personally have nothing against political parties, but I am "hostile" to the Republican Party. But since I live in a democracy, I acknowledge limits on how "hostile" I can be, even if I feel Republican policies have a negative impact on me and the things I care about. It is part of living in a pluralistic society.

          • epeeist

            Couldn't you say exactly the same thing about a political ideology or a party platform, for example?

            As you might gather I am a fencing coach. Now I have one pupil who has a large number of tattoos and piercings as well as fairly long hair. I have had to point out to him that he needs to ensure that his hair doesn't cover any of the metallised jacket that defines the target.

            Now, what I and other fencing coaches don't do is to insist that anyone else in the more general community with long hair needs to wear the same kind of bandanna as my pupil.

            I am not particularly fond of tattoos or piercings, but I don't take my pupil to task about these since they don't have anything to do with me.

            So, believe what you like. As long as it has no impact on anyone else then why should it matter. But as soon as you insist that others must follow the rules that your particular hobby demands of its adherents then you shouldn't expect these rules to be meekly accepted without any justification. And "this is what I say my god wants" doesn't count as justification.

          • Michael Murray

            You should tell try telling him that he must not have sex with other people with tattoos and he very definitely can't marry anyone with tattoos. I'm sure he'll understand that you have only his best interests at heart and that you have enormous respect for him as a human being.

          • severalspeciesof

            Of course, but this is StrangeNotions not The New Republic or National Review

          • Michael Murray

            It is part of living in a pluralistic society.

            Indeed it is but it's made harder when one side believes that if they don't have lower taxation they and their children's children will burn in hell for all eternity. It makes it harder to compromise which is essential to a pluralist society.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's also true that there's no evidence that curiosity is a 'supernatural gift bestowed by god,' either. Given the lack of any evidence of god, it's pretty reasonable to conclude that it's not.

          • [---
            Given the lack of any evidence of god, it's pretty reasonable to conclude that it's not.
            ---]
            Miracles are by definition rare, but they are still evidence.

          • TristanVick

            No they're not.

            You keep making unfounded claims. Try justifying the existence of even one miracle!

            Good luck to you!

          • [---
            No they're not. You keep making unfounded claims. Try justifying the existence of even one miracle!
            ---]
            I don't have to justify to others what I myself have experienced. However, though my private experience is not accessible to you, there have been public miracles that were accessible to atheists, Muslims, agnostics, Catholics etc, We have the miracle of Fatima and Zeitoun which was witnessed by tens of thousands of all faiths and no faith.

          • TristanVick

            Well thank you for being honest. And thank you for proving my point for me.

          • Explain how tens of thousands of witnesses prove your point?

          • TristanVick

            Because it doesn't address the problem of confirmation bias, which seems to work more vigorously when ubiquity is involved.

            http://psy2.ucsd.edu/~mckenzie/nickersonConfirmationBias.pdf

          • The atheists and non-christians had confirmation bias when witnessing the miracle? What were they confirming?

          • TristanVick

            They were biased in the belief that they witnessed a miracle.

            There are likely better explanations. Explanation being the key word here.

            What they 'think' was a miracle likely wasn't. You and everyone else could be mistaken, and yet, still believe you witnessed a miracle.

            This is the bias you have to overcome.

            Hence, you need to prove it was a real miracle.

            It comes down to the wise Obi Wan Kenobi saying, "Who is more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

            To my knowledge, no such proof for miracles exists. And "eye-witness attestation" isn't reliable. Period.

            Even if the confirmation bias could be dismissed, you would still need something in the way of evidence, individual experience not withstanding.

          • [---
            They were biased in the belief that they witnessed a miracle.
            ---]

            What about the photos? Were they edited to support this confirmation bias theory?

          • TristanVick

            To what photos are you referring to?

            Please share.

          • The Catholic Church declared this miracle/apparition was worthy of belief.
            http://youtu.be/dVXEh4Jzs2s

          • TristanVick

            Haha. Yes. This is the quality of the "evidence" I expected.

            The hearsay of religious fanatics, teary-eyed over having had a moving religious experience, and a few snapshots of an optical illusion that occurred in the 1960s is not definitive proof that a miracle occurred.

            Or for that matter, by the same token, proof that aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico.

            At best it is proof that something strange or peculiar occurred and that there are crazy people who will simply attribute it to magic just as there are those who think aliens from far off advanced civilizations had nothing better to do than give them a proctology examine.

          • Michael Murray

            I like this comparison because it shows our society's biases in favour of religion. The media is happy to laugh at Roswell believers but wouldn't laugh at miracle believers because that might cause offence. But in reality aliens landing on earth is vastly more plausible than miracles. You don't have to overturn everything we now about science to have an alien landing.

          • TristanVick

            I find it amusing.

            Religious believer: I saw lights in the sky!

            Religious community: It's obviously a miracle. Praise the Lord!

            UFO believer: I saw lights in the sky!

            Community: You're a crazy, deluded, sap! Go home!

            And then when you make the comparison... religious people will act offended or like it is no comparison at all.

            Too funny.

          • Susan

            What about the photos?

            Do you have links?

          • Susan

            Explain how tens of thousands of witnesses prove your point?

            Where would I find those tens of thousands of witness reports as opposed to reports that tens of thousands of witnesses saw something?

            There's a difference.

          • For what purpose would they all file reports? Tens of thousands were at the site where it occurred. The actual Zeitoun miracle which persisted for a period of time was also broadcast on TV to an even larger crowd.

          • Susan

            For what purpose would they all file reports? Tens of thousands were at the site where it occurred.

            This is already flawed methodology. Did they all report seeing a miracle? You can only claim the witnesses you can demonstrate.

            Assuming tens of thousands saw something because tens of thousands were there is not a good start.

            How many people were there? Where do you get your data?

            Are there people who were there who said they didn't see anything at all?

            This is basic (unbiased) evaluation of a claim.

        • Hey David - Of course, but an analogy is not an equivalence. Too many arguments go horribly wrong as a result of that confusion - i.e., "how dare you compare ___ to ____?" - when what the speaker is pointing out is that two things are similar in some key respect, not in every respect. The key respect here is that scientific "faith", like religious faith, admits a broader horizon of knowledge beyond "got evidence?" The Principle of Verification is not self-verifying - it is not irrational or unreasonable to speak of other ways of knowing.

          • primenumbers

            "scientific "faith"" is properly termed trust, and is based on countless experiments and experiences for longer than we've had recorded history. It's an earned trust. There is no equivalence to religious faith.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If we compare people who have tried to live virtuous lives with those who have led vicious lives can we see evidence that one is better than the other?

            And if living a virtuous life has worked about better for most or all, can't we have faith it will work out that way in our own?

            I think a similar argument could be made for religious faith.

          • primenumbers

            "can't we have faith it will work out that way in our own?" - if you mean trust, use trust or hope use hope. Using "faith" without qualifying it is half the problem we have.

            "I think a similar argument could be made for religious faith. " "- If you think such an argument can be made, then make it.

          • Sage McCarey

            Except that so many of those who led/lead vicious lives claim to be acting for god. The Spanish missionaries, the Inquisitors, the priests who sexually abused little kids.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Except what?

            So you are saying we should live vicious lives? But then, why condemn Catholic sinners?

          • Mikegalanx

            Better how? For the person involved? In terms of enjoyment?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Go devote yourself to killing, lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, scorning your parents and anyone in authority, coveting what others have, and see how it works out for you.

          • Prime said-
            [---
            "scientific "faith"" is properly termed trust, and is based on countless experiments and experiences for longer than we've had recorded history.
            ---]

            Wrong. When will the hyperbole cease from you. First of all, the number definitely falls within the domain of countable. Secondly, it is interesting that you count experiments from before recorded history (how does that work?), and argue the trust enjoyed today is based on experiments from pre-history. Furthermore, you say there is no equivalence to religious faith which is true because we use reason, and your comment was not imbued with it.

          • primenumbers

            If you're interested in a reasonable discussion, then engage in one.

          • TristanVick

            @IrenaeusOfNewYork:disqus

            Have you ever listened to yourself think? It must be confusing for you. Case in point:

            "...it is interesting that you count experiments from before recorded history (how does that work?)..."

            Because Prime has considered the corollary to that statement, and you (obviously) haven't.

            Down below in the comments thread you scolded me for not contributing to the conversation (falsely I might add).

            So here I am contributing. But here is some friendly advice for you.

            Try thinking before you speak.

          • [---
            Because Prime has considered the corollary to that statement, and you (obviously) haven't.
            ---]
            Which was a meaningless assertion that had no persuasive force. So i rightly rejected it.

          • Of course, but an analogy is not an equivalence.

            Listening again, Fr. Barron said, "Science rests on something not unlike faith." So you make a valid point.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I think the faith he meant is what is called natural faith, our wise acceptance of trustworthy human authority as a shortcut to figuring out everything ourselves, like when we look up a word in the dictionary and trust it is true and not a gigantic joke being played on us.

          • primenumbers

            "our wise acceptance of trustworthy human authority as a shortcut to figuring out everything ourselves" - that's not rational though, is it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess you could say it is pre-rational. We fill little kids heads with all kinds of things they accept on our authority, like states and capitals. Later we do judge things ourselves.

          • primenumbers

            But because of cognitive biases, not least confirmation bias, if we already have a notion in our heads, we don't tend to judge it as wisely or as fairly as we should.

        • Sage McCarey

          There you go again! Atheism is not a faith no matter how many times you say it. Atheism is not a faith. Atheism is a lack of belief in one more god than you lack a belief in.

          • David Nickol

            There you go again! Atheism is not a faith no matter how many times you say it.

            I agree 100% that atheism is not a faith. Can you point out to me where I said or implied such a thing?

            I did say the following:

            Fr. Barron didn't really say it, so perhaps it is unfair to bring it up, but in some ways he may have been hinting at the notion that atheism and theism are both faiths, so atheists have no basis for criticizing theists because we all have our own faiths.

            But first, I am attributing the idea to Fr. Barron, and second, I actually think it would be more correct to substitute "scientism" or "belief in the scientific method" for atheism.

            If you go back and check the notes I am sure you keep on my messages (or borrow somebody else's), you will see that I have been quite consistent in maintaining that atheism is not a religion or a faith.

        • [---
          So it is somewhat misleading, it seems to me, to make analogies between the fundamental assumptions scientists make about the physical world and religious faith.
          ---]
          I don't think its misleading. The empirical domain is limited in that it cannot verify scientific laws. This is because it relies on past event to predict the future. I can do 100k successful experiments but the very next experiment you do can still falsify it. The world of probabilities is the world of faith with a little f.

          • I can do 100k successful experiments but the very next experiment you do can still falsify it. The world of probabilities is the world of faith with a little f.

            That is not how science works. It simply never happens that after 100,000 verifications, the results of one experiment falsify a theory.

            And of course the philosophical problems with inductive reasoning, for those who take them seriously, affect everything, not just the scientific method. There's no way to prove that when we all wake up tomorrow morning, the Bible will not have changed.

          • "That is not how science works. It simply never happens that after 100,000 verifications, the results of one experiment falsify a theory."------David Nickols

            "No amount of experimentation can prove me right. A single experiment can prove me wrong."------Albert Einstein

            I know, it's a tough call........but Al does seem to have a little more science background than Mr. Nickols, empirically speaking.

            And Einstein knew whereof he spoke.

            He watched one single experiment falsify the utterly unmatched, stupendous and persuasive edifice of Newtonian physics.

            One.

            Single.

            Experiment.

          • Sample1

            Einstein is only correct if he means, by the single experiment, that it had been retested and confirmed to be so. And, of course, that's what he means.

            Mike

          • So stipulated.

      • 42Oolon

        Being assured of something that is hoped for, rather than justified by evidence is contrary to reason. The reasonable approach is to not be assured when you dont have good reasons to believe.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi 42Olon,
          Have you ever placed your trust in another to do something for you? has anyone ever failed you when you asked them for something? do you still not place your trust in another again? i think as one grows in their faith they begin to see a pattern. they may not know what's going to happen or if something is going to work out, they pray about it and entrust it to God. but when things continue to work out your confidence in your faith grows and you begin to see what a worthwhile investment it is. as one's confidence in faith grows that confidence in faith assures one that eternity is something that is assured.

          • primenumbers

            Generally trusting people is a good long-term strategy. In other words, it works.

            "i think as one grows in their faith they begin to see a pattern. " - exactly - you remember the incidents that confirm your beliefs and ignore or forget or rationalize away the instances that go against it. That is why faith is seen as a cognitive bias.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Primenumbers,
            I may have to disagree with you. particularly with big decisions or hurdles in life. God has always come through for me. one may posit something to the effect of; well, you just forget when he hasn't, but that isn't true. sometimes I've prayed for things and haven't gotten an answer for a while but I've realized perhaps there were some things i needed to understand, or perhaps change about my life. my experience is that God always has given me more than what i have asked for.

          • primenumbers

            So let's pick a population and random events occurring. Those random events will, by their very nature and given a sufficient population always work out "well" for some people. You could be that person. There can be many such persons, and even more when you play in the cognitive biases where people will ignore the fails or rationalize them away.

            "I've prayed for things and haven't gotten an answer for a while but I've realized perhaps there were some things i needed to understand, or perhaps change about my life." - exactly the rationalization process I mention.

          • Prime, you might be interested in a piece I have written about that subject under the title Personal "Evidence."

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Primenumbers,
            i guess you could say at the heart of our discussion is whether my experience of God's fidelity is actually God's fidelity or mere chance. the only way to know for sure to to put that idea to an empirical test. Read through the gospels, pray and ask God to reveal himself to you, and ask God to guide you. he will then send you little signs (actually he already is, you just need to be attentive to them) when you listen to those signs and apply them to your life you will discover things. continue to do so and you will see how real and faithful God is. standing on the sidelines and guessing will never reveal how real God is. so if others have done a certain thing, prayed, read, and have received a certain affect than the only way to know for sure is to do the same thing.

          • primenumbers

            If it's chance + the cognitive bias of faith, a sample of 1 out of billions is not going to cut it. We should see a measurable difference statistically in populations. That the majority of the world is not Catholic and that religion generally follows accident of birth (location both temporally and spatially) or parental choice would indicate there's no real revelation at work here.

            "Read through the gospels, pray and ask God to reveal himself to you" - what is the psychological motivation for this, to somehow get me to kick-start a confirmation bias in myself? How do I rationally do as you suggest? Rational investigation involves the removal of cognitive biases, not the explicit inclusion of them!

          • Ben

            "Faith" that it justified by another's performance is not faith. It's having reasonable expectations based on evidence. Trust isn't the same as faith.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            That's true, but if you trust someone to do something and they come through for you, and then you have to trust them to do something again you'll have more confidence that they will indeed come through for you. it's like that with faith in God. once one realizes that God has the best plan for their life, and they trust him with small or big decisions in life and God comes through for them their faith or confidence in the faith grows.

          • Ben

            That's fine as far as it goes, but I'd worry a lot about cognitive biases in this case. When I trust things to my wife, it's usually pretty clear what results were her doing or within her control, and what were not. When people trust God to take care of something, it never really seems to be clear that God actually did anything, and people tend to give God the credit for the good things that happen without giving an equal amount of credit for the bad. When people actually try to control for and verify that God is actually helping in the mix (like medical prayer studies), the evidence doesn't show God doing anything at all.

          • Linda

            Have you ever trusted your wife to do something and then, instead of doing what you expected, she did something else because ultimately it was the best decision? If so, and even though you didn't get what you expected, were you okay with the results? And would you trust her again? I must say this situation happens a fair bit in my marriage, and all the time with God.

          • Ben

            Yes, my wife frequently shows better judgment than I do, and because I can actually see HER actions and decisions leading to good results, I trust her. And if you could actually see God's actions and decisions in response to your trust, if you had some mechanism for telling what results and actions were the result of his plans, what were not, and where the credit should go, it could be reasonable trust, not faith, to count on God. But as I did my best to explain above (below? curse you Disqus), whenever we actually try to see God's work in the mix, we find nothing. From the outside it looks like cognitive biases and cherry picking.

          • Linda

            Hey Ben!
            I see what you're saying. But I bet you know your wife so well that you would recognize her -- her work, her voice, her touch -- even if you didn't see her, even if she didn't tell you. She wouldn't have to. She'd know you'd know it was her, because that's how well you know each other. Heck, even on this site, some people have such a distinctive "voice" that I can tell without looking at the name, just by reading what is said and how it is said, who is commenting.

            That's how it is with God. When you talk to Him, you get to know His voice. When you look for His special touch, you can see it and feel it. I see God work in my world, in many little ways. The more I look for Him, the more I see. And feel and hear and touch. But if you are not in regular contact, I can see where it would be hard to discern His presence in your life.

          • 42Oolon

            This is the kind of ridiculous logic and analogy that concerns me about religious thinking. Neither Ben nor me would recognize or trust in our wives if they behaved like you say God does.

            We know and trust our wives because we ALWAYS see them when they are present, I am told God is always present but I NEVER see him, ever. Maybe you hear voices, but I NEVER hear any, much less something that is distinctively the creator of the universe with a lapsed obsession in foreskin. They touch us physically, on a daily basis. I smell her, I taste her. God has never done anything remotely like this. I have no faith in my wife, I have trust in her and love for her built up by her actual actions over a long period of time. Actions that are seen and experienced by me and often others.

            Now before you get into free will etc. My wife has demonstrated her love to me by thousands of direct physical actions, do think I no longer have free will whether to love her or not? Be true to her, to dedicate myself to her?

          • Sage McCarey

            LOL. ...creator of the universe with a lapsed obsession in foreskin...! Who was it who had to come back from battle with the foreskins of God's enemies?

          • Linda

            I've re-read what I wrote and am unclear as to my ridiculous logic and analogy. I am saying that I have a relationship with God, that I see God at work in my world, in my life and in the lives of others, that I have felt His presence and "heard" His call to me. I wonder if the difference in our experiences is due to expectations. I fully expect to see God in my life, and I do. You do not expect that and then don't experience it. But I must say, you sound a bit angry about it and I can't see why you would.

            It also sounds like you and your wife have a loving, respectful and caring relationship. I am happy for you. It is something to be treasured.

          • Ben

            I agree that the difference may be largely due to a difference in expectations. I suspect 42Oolon might agree as well. The part where I disagree is that I think the fact that you see God at work in the world is purely product of your expectations, and not something actually out there in the world. You mentioned earlier how it seemed to you almost as if atheists lacked a sense that you have. I don't expect you to agree with me, but I do hope you can put yourself in our shoes. Which will seem more reasonable or likely to us: that you somehow have an extra sense that we don't which allows you to see God which we lack, despite the fact that many atheists WERE once devout believers, or that your belief in God, combined with normal human cognitive biases, colors your perceptions and makes you inappropriately attribute feelings and events to the God you believe in?

            And it's really not like a normal description of a missing sense. I mean, blind people tend to believe that sighted people can see, because there are so many ways in which sighted people can prove they have access to types of information the blind do now (e.g., blind people can conduct the impressive experiment of "how many fingers am I holding up?"). Likewise, deaf people can be shown the lack of a sense as well, they can bang a drum hidden behind a screen and note that those who can hear can tell how many drum beats there were. It's a pretty trivial problem. What exactly is it out there that you can see that we can't, but can't give us any evidence for it? Because it sounds like nothing, you just have different feelings and interpretations in response to the same reality we experience, and ones that, to us, don't seem sensible.

          • Linda

            Hey Ben,
            Yes, I think we are in close agreement. I apologize for the earlier analogy. I was not saying that Atheists lack a sense that others have, merely how it felt to me trying to explain things. Again, it was obviously the wrong way to put things. I think we have exactly the same senses and abilities. You are right - it is definitely a case if cognitive bias and selective perception. But we diverge here: I think it is *your* bias against seeing God that prevents you from seeing Him. :) I see God because I look for Him. I "hear" Him because I listen for His voice. To quote one great thinker: "you just have different feelings and interpretations in response to the same reality we experience, and ones that, to us, don't seem sensible."

          • Ben

            I have no reason to doubt your sincerity. But can you see how, from the outside, what you are describing looks a lot more like pretty normal mental phenomena then any actual outside God interacting with you or your life? Does it matter to you at all that when people do things like prayer studies, the prayers don't help?

          • Linda

            I'm trying to picture our positions reversed and I can see where it would sound a bit mental. From my end of things though, I feel like I'm trying to describe sound to someone who is deaf. It's hard for me to imagine being without this relationship with God.

            What are the prayer studies? I can't imagine how that would work.

          • Max Driffill

            Linda,

            Here is a link to the largest prayer studies, funded and carried out by people who would rather the results have been different:

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567

            From the abstract:

            RESULTS:
            In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.

            CONCLUSIONS:
            Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.

            After you have read the paper, you can read this analysis if you like

            http://web.med.harvard.edu/sites/RELEASES/html/3_31STEP.html

          • Linda

            I bet that one made a lot Atheists happy!

          • Max Driffill

            It didn't make the Templeton funded, believing scientists happy. What do you think of these results?

          • Linda

            Well, obviously, based on the results of this one study, prayer is pointless and I have changed my evil, Catholic ways and am now a card-carrying Atheist. ;)

          • Max Driffill

            Linda,
            Excellent.

          • Susan

            From my end of things though, I feel like I'm trying to describe sound to someone who is deaf.

            Psychics use the same argument and I'll bet at least half of them believe it. But Derren Brown can show what happens when those beliefs and claims are examined. Here's a link to start but you'll see many more on the right column:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAa4k_1XXo0

            I've never met a deaf person who didn't accept that there is evidence that sound exists, because there is evidence that sound exists. They don't have to rely solely on claims from from people who say they can hear sound. Sound can be measured.

            Also, the people who try to explain that "sound" exists to people who are "deaf" don't give the appearance of being people who are aware of something that we are not aware of, nor do they use language that describes anything extra, nor do they make good arguments for its existence.

            They give every impression of being humans as susceptible to false conclusions as any of us are and as humans have always been.

            I appreciate that your comment is a friendly one and I hope it doesn't seem that I am pouncing on it. I'm simply trying to explain why the feeling you have that we are "deaf" is not necessarily so.

            I've read the prayer links. It's been a while. I don't have them. I'm sure someone will be along soon.

          • [---
            I've never met a deaf person who didn't accept that there is evidence that sound exists
            ---]

            That's mostly because they can still feel sound or see its impact on other materials. It is still accessible to them through experience. Just as science can only describe Beethoven's ninth as a series of pressure waves becomes a reduced view of what that symphony actually is.

          • Susan

            That's mostly because they can still feel sound or see its impact on other materials.

            Exactly.

            The second part of your post has nothing to do with Linda's analogy about trying to explain the existence of sound to a deaf person. Science does not reduce Beethoven to a series of pressure waves any more than it reduces language to a series of pressure waves.

            Beethoven's ninth exists. Thank goodness.

          • I think it does have to do with what is being discussed because if they can't access the full meaning of sound, then they have a reduced view of what sound is. It does not have to be a question of full access or no access.

            Sure the ninth exists fully when it is played, but even the language of music is a reduced view apart from it being heard.

          • Susan

            I think it does have to do with what is being discussed because if they can't access the full meaning of sound, then they have a reduced view of what sound is.

            Except that we're not talking about the "full meaning" of something, are we? We're talking about its existence.

            I might have misunderstood the "explaining sound to the deaf" analogy, but I thought that's what Linda was getting at.

          • [---
            Except that we're not talking about the "full meaning" of something, are we? We're talking about its existence.

            ---]
            Full meaning is important when talking about existence, or you wind up being like the flat earth crowd who recognized the earth existed, but thought it existed in a different form.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            You make a good point, when you ask your wife to do something for you you can see your wife and if she follows through your trust in her grows. But it's the same notion with God. when you pray about things or ask God for guidence and strength and he comes through for you your trust in him grows. certainly the first couple of times it may happen one may ponder whether or not it was just chance, but when it happens repeatedly you begin to see it isn't just chance that there is a God really there who loves you, knows you better than you do and lead you to what your really longing for. Experience with God's fidelity confirms a God who loves and cares for you, but you first have to start the process to discover how real he is.

          • Linda

            Yes!

          • 42Oolon

            How does God come through? How does God do anything to gain trust? Does not the Bible tell us to trust God even though it looks like God has abandoned us or is demanding intolerable cruelty? Job and Abraham would have been reasonable to conclude that God was playing some kind of game with their suffering, and in fact that is exactly what God was doing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you think it's a game, play it through to the end by reading the whole story and you'll get your answer.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi 42Olon,
            I have a dog named garrett. Garrett ironically must have good jeans because he's 17 years old and he's doing okay. He does have a tumor between his legs but the vet told me he can't remove it because it would never heal, he also can't see all that well. my mom thinks i should put the dog down which she may be right, but naturally after listening to people's problems i've encountered a few who felt a lot of guilt because they put the dog down to early. my vet doesn't think i should put him down (he still wags his tail, wants to go for walks etc.) anyway, i guess you could say my dog is still happy and the main reason is because he doesn't do what we tend to do when we have problems.... he doesn't self reflect. self reflecting is good to some extent but too much causes much more suffering. Nevertheless some self reflecting about life, the meaning of life, what i am to do with my life etc. is actually a good thing but it usually only comes around when i go through difficulty. Job is more of a parable to help answer a couple of important questions; why if God is good does he allow the just to suffer? while he doesn't give a definitive answer in the book it does convey 1. we learn a great deal about ourselves and about life when we go through suffering. 2. sure we'll love God if he gives us everything we want, but what if he doesn't? will we still love him. He loves us unconditionally, the struggle causes us to ponder within ourselves, it purfies us, it purifies our motives, we learn to love him more unconditionally as well. think about your own life; have you grown more as a man, have you learned more about yourself, about life when everything was going well, or have your learned more when you struggled.

            the truth is the bible does convey that we are to trust when we are going through difficulity but it also shows that we get through the difficulity. i can only attest in my own life that i have been there, in the adversity, but i've also reached the other side when i've gotten through it. if one looks back they may even say to themselves something to the effect of; "i was so worried about such and such a thing, all for what, all that worry was a waste of time." i guess after a few of those experiences one sees the futility of worry, it gives them confidence of God's love and care and worry becomes a thing of the past. God has been there in the past, and he'll be there in the future so my trust is based on my experience.

          • Vickie

            Though I do understand the nuances of words and why we would chose one over the other, when I put the word trust in my computer thesaurus the first word on the list is faith and one of the definititions is "to have faith in"

          • Ben

            You know, maybe as commonly used I'm wrong in insisting on the distinction between those words. I'm open to the idea. But I think the distinction I'm making in concepts is legitimate and (I hope) clear.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            We may have to disagree just a little. if i have faith in God, and he comes through for me, my faith or my trust in him may grow. After repeated experiences my faith will continue to grow but i still will not have physical evidence of his existence, just repeated experiences of his fidelity.

          • Ben

            So...when you make a decision to put your faith in God...how do you tell which part of whatever happens next is because of God? What makes you think that there has been any divine interference in your life at all, or that the "results" are outside what we'd expect to statistically happen to people every now and then?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            That's a good question, i suppose unless you have empirical evidence of something you can never be 100% certain about anything, but evidence can lead to certain conclusions. every now and then i go golfing, but i wouldn't consider myself much of a golfer. for years i've had a pretty bad slice. a friend of mine who's a much better golfer once mentioned to me that when you swing the club because you're trying to hit the ball you usually swing a little harder, and thus the club comes from the outside in thereby putting a spin on the ball which causes it to slice. he suggested i try to hit the ball on the inside corner to offset how the club would hit the ball. i did what he said and the ball went straight. i've never really had a slice since. now i suppose it's possible that i don't slice any more for some other reason but i think is logic was the real reason the ball no longer slices. seeing things work out in prayer is the same. When you commit to prayer and learn to listen you get certain impressions (and yes you do have to discern what is the Lord's voice and what is not, and hearing what you want to hear etc.) basically it's the impressions you get in prayer or when reflecting on scripture. when you put them into practice and follow through on them you get an effect, just like the golf suggestion. through continuous cause and effect responses your confidence in faith grows and you begin to see how real God is through your experiences and the blessings you receive from listening and obeying the Lord. There also other times when you may feel God's presence or pherhaps a sense of peace, but seeing positive results from following through in prayer allows your confidence to grow in God's abiding presence.

          • Ben

            You and Linda have been nice enough to respond to my comments on this thread, and I appreciate it. This is where I get off, however. You guys are comparing trust in a spouse to faith in God, and the causal relationship between altering a golf swing and the path of a golf ball with praying to God and whatever happens next in your life. To you, these comparisons apparently seem reasonable and persuasive; to me, the enormous diferrence between each case just drives home to me how different your faith is from the normal trust we see in everyday life. For more on this subject, get ye to the most recent article and thread on this subject, but I think we're just too far apart on this here.

          • Fr.Sean

            Ben,
            I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, i've had a very hectic week. Let me try to address them when i have time and thank you for your patience.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            I understand your concern but i think perhaps the difference isn't all that stark. if you were to meet someone with whom you had to ask them to do something for you and you didn't know very much else about them you would have to make a choice, to take a risk and ask them to do something, or to take a different type of risk and not ask them because you don't know them well enough. if you chose to make a leap of faith and ask them to do something for you and they followed through your trust in them would grow. I suppose faith in God isn't all that much different, except that your knowledge of him would be based on scripture and how he had reacted to people in history. if you chose to make a leap of faith in various ways and you saw that it worked out, or you saw evidence that he affected circumstances in life then your trust in him would grow. repeated occurences would strengthen your faith even more unto the point that you had confidence in his presence even though you could not produce empirical evidence.
            we all make decisions based on probability and not certainty, making decisions according to one's faith does built that confidence and trust.

          • 42Oolon

            Yes, yes. No! I do not keep my trust in those who have abused it. I certainly would not trust an organization that just relocated sex offenders. Trust is earned slowly and easily destroyed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Nobody should have trust in officials who have abused their trust. Don't project that on the entire Church.

          • 42Oolon

            When it is this widespread I think we are entitled to project it on the whole organization. This was not an isolated incident, or a few bad apples. It occurred all over the world, and the efforts to hide it went to the highest level. I can give the benefit of doubt if it were isolated, but in this case it got so bad that we need to doubt the benefit.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Every public school district has had the same problem. Do you reject public education? Congress has been full of it. Do you reject congress? How about the Boy Scouts of America?

          • Paul

            Every public school district, both houses of Congress and the BSA have all been involved in child rape and its systematic obfuscation?

          • 42Oolon

            I disagree that these institutions have this problem to the same extent as the Catholic church. But, yes, if any school board, business or public body that was found not only to have endemic child abuse but a clear pattern of trying to relocate offenders, rather than reporting it to the police, should be disbanded completely. No, I am not saying get rid of all Christian religion, but this organization I think should be disbanded and re-started by new people, if at all.

          • Michael Murray

            It would be if it wasn't the Church. What we see coming out here in the latest enquiries in Australia I can't find words for anymore. I've worn out appalling, diabolical, despicable, …

          • ZenDruid

            I've been led to the conclusion that there is a secret ritual of pederasty, known to every priest, that serves both to test the acolyte and to 'consecrate' the boy's sexuality to Jesus. There are many poor lads who have been thereby scarred for life, but those few who are enlivened by the experience have the best chance of becoming priests.

            The "What's the problem?" attitude displayed by the Vatican serves to demonstrate that they accept this type of behavior as normal and unremarkable.

            I expect this comment to be deleted rather than answered.

          • I've been led to the conclusion that there is a secret ritual of pederasty, known to every priest, that serves both to test the acolyte and to 'consecrate' the boy's sexuality to Jesus.

            Got evidence?

            I went to Catholic school for 12 years, including a high school that was staffed by Christian Brothers (who are religious, though not ordained priests). The only scandals I ever knew about were that the congregation thought it immodest for our pastor, a man in his 60s, to work in his garden wearing Bermuda shorts. Also, some were taken aback when one of the parish priests swam at the local swimming pool wearing swimming trunks. I have known a lot of gay men who might have been open to a relationship with a priest when they were in their early teens, but I have never known anyone, gay or straight, who was molested.

            I think the scandals in the Catholic Church have been largely exposed, and while some of the figures are extremely disturbing, there is nothing to suggest that priests molest underage youths at a rate higher than any other comparable group of people who work with youths. It is simply preposterous to suggest that there is something like "a secret ritual of pederasty, known to every priest." It puts to shame any other crackpot conspiracy theory I have ever heard. It's too bizarre for words.

          • ZenDruid

            Got evidence?

            It's been in the news for years now. It's also everywhere. Don't be obtuse.

          • It's been in the news for years now that "there is a secret ritual of pederasty, known to every priest, that serves both to test the acolyte and to 'consecrate' the boy's sexuality to Jesus"? Could you cite a few articles? It hasn't been in The New York Times or even The Boston Globe, which one the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the scandal.

            I think the conclusion you claim to have been led to is a homophobic fantasy.

          • ZenDruid

            I think the conclusion you claim to have been led to is a homophobic fantasy.

            There you go with that 'thinking' again. More like a spastic knee-jerk.

            And no, the news serves to inform my conclusion without specifically expressing it. I used to work in the intel field during my stint in the military. What we have in the news are some of the classic flags and indicators of organized covert behavior.

          • Wow.

            Military intelligence.

            Now if our resident analyst can discern "there is a secret ritual of pederasty, known to every priest, that serves both to test the acolyte and to 'consecrate' the boy's sexuality to Jesus"...

            No surprise that his co-"thinkers" found biological weapons in Iraq.

          • ZenDruid

            That was after my time. Thankfully. I saw the end of the cold war, and the restructuring that followed. I was retired before Prince Dubya and his pet warlords came along.

            I'm going to use a familiar stance here: Prove me wrong.

          • I am going to use a familiar reply here:

            The burden of proof rests on the one making the assertion.

            But please, don't bother.

            Your assertion is absurd, and would be laughable if it did not disclose the depths of anti-Catholic bigotry which is gnawing away at your soul, as well as your sanity.

          • ZenDruid

            I'll share an item of personal intel here: My enmity toward your religion stems from the fact that I was cuckolded by priests. I don't trust any of them, and why should I?

          • This certainly mitigates the personal culpability you bear for your insane lie concerning the Catholic priesthood.

            May God heal you.

          • ZenDruid

            Thank you, but I've invested my hopes in the Eternal Child.

          • Your hopes are yours to invest where you will.

            My prayer is that God will heal you.

          • The comment probably should be deleted, because it's the most gratuitously nonsensical remark I think I've seen at this site...just like with my kids, sometimes the best way to "answer" nonsense is to ignore it....

          • Sample1

            From my perspective as a person with a naturalistic world view, if nonsensical remarks were a criteria for deletion this site would evaporate.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            Zen, thank you for posting your feelings on the matter. It certainly is on point with the title of this article.

            I have also been led to a conclusion about the Catholic Church Episcopacy. If they went to great lengths to protect priests and nuns who boiled toddlers like lobsters I would have ZERO doubt that there would be articles written about how such actions strengthened the faith of lay Catholics. I dare anyone to deny this.

            That is precisely what I have witnessed with their cover up of sexual crimes against children--arguably no less heinous a crime that outright murder by boiling.

            Mike

          • That is ridiculous. Less than 5% of the abusive priests fit the diagnosis of pedophilia. Over 85% fit the diagnosis of ephebophilia. This was because the vast majority of victims were post-pubescent. Therefore, it was same-sex attraction which makes it a homosexual problem. After VII, the restrictions on homosexuals entering the priesthood was relaxed with horrible consequences. Thankfully this has been changed.

            Almost all the priests who abuse children are homosexuals. Dr. Thomas Plante, a psychologist at Santa Clara University, found that 90% of all priests who in fact abuse minors have sexually engaged with adolescent boys, not prepubescent children.

          • Corylus

            That is ridiculous. Less than 5% of the abusive priests fit the diagnosis of pedophilia.

            I suspect I know the source for this figure The causes and context of sexual abuse by minors by Catholic priests in the United States 1950 to 2010. In this report the cutoff age for paedophila is arbitrarily assigned 10 years old, as opposed to the DSM cutoff of 13.

            Discussion here.

            If you use the DSM criteria (aka the expert measure) then the percentages go flying up. Ages at puberty vary of course, however, someone having sex with an 11 year old is not an epheophiliac: they are a paedophile.

          • robtish

            So very wrong, Irenaeus. According to the report commissioned by the US Council of Catholic Bishops:

            "Men who were seminarians during the period of a reported increase in homosexual activity did not go on to abuse minors in any substantial number. The 1980s cohort of seminarians is associated with a marked decrease in the incidence and a sustained suppression of abusive behavior."

            Also:
            "The data do not support a finding that homosexual identity and/or preordination same-sex sexual behavior are significant risk factors for the sexual abuse of minors. The only significant risk factor related to sexual identity and behavior was a “confused” sexual identity, and this condition was most commonly found in abusers who were ordained prior to the 1960s"

            http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/The-Causes-and-Context-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-in-the-United-States-1950-2010.pdf

          • The conclusions don't logically follow the data. The age and sex of the victims and the abusers show same-sex attraction on part of the abuser. The report could not possibly possibly publish conclusions that said it was a homosexual problem. The careers of the academics who carried out the study would be ruined.

          • robtish

            Ah, the "ad hominem" defense. Always a good fallacy for disregarding information you don't want to accept.

          • The data agrees with me. The published conclusions attached to them don't for obvious reasons.

          • robtish

            Can you be more specific? Can you point to the information that contradicts the two quotes I provided above?

          • Susan

            Did you read the full report?

          • Susan

            The report could not possibly possibly publish conclusions that said it was a homosexual problem. The careers of the academics who carried out the study would be ruined.

            What do you base that assumption on?

            If the evidence shows that it's not a homosexual problem, then what? Can you summarily rule out evidence just because it comes to a conclusion that protects academic careers?

            How can we ever know if it's a homosexual problem then?

            According to you, anything that conflicts with your assumptions is part of an academic conspiracy.

            So, nothing can be said on the subject by anyone. Not by you, either.

            So, what do you base your opinion on?

          • Almost all the priests who abuse children are homosexuals.

            Actually, according to the John Jay figures, 3.6% of accused priests had both male and female victims, 22.6% abused female victims only, and 64% abused male victims only. I would say 64% is certainly a significant majority, but I would not say it is "almost all."

            Also, if you define everyone who commits a homosexual act as a homosexual, then 64% of the abusers were homosexuals. However, that would mean that adolescents boys who fool around together, prison rapists, the ancient Greeks who courted boys, and men who have wives and children but seek occasional furtive sex in public places are all "homosexuals." (It means, of course, that bisexuals are also homosexuals, if you define anyone who has sex with a member of the same sex as a homosexual.) The John Jay researchers did not claim that all the priests who engaged in homosexual acts were "homosexuals."

            Conservative Catholics love to vastly oversimplify the abuse crisis and blame it all on gay men. It is not nearly that simple. By all accounts, there where and are a lot of gay men in the priesthood. But not all gay men are attracted to and/or seek to have sex with underage boys. And not all men who have sex with boys are gay.

            The best evidence I have seen (compiled by Richard Sipe) is that 50% of priests at any given time are sexually active. The vast majority of these are not, of course, pursuing underage boys or girls. There are many countries in which it is common for priests to have mistresses. There have been several scandals in the fairly recent past of big name priests (Marcial Maciel, Alberto R. Cutié, John Corapi, Thomas Williams) being discovered to have wives, mistresses, or to have committed sexual improprieties.

            If you believe priests are seriously bound to celibacy, then heinous as taking advantage of underage boys and girls is (and for a priest, it is clearly reprehensible), it no doubt amounts to a small amount of the sexual misconduct of Catholic priests. Of course, if you feel that mandatory celibacy is an terrible burden unnecessarily placed on priests, then their sexual conduct with consenting adults is something you would not judge harshly, but there is no excuse for a sexual relationship with a minor.

          • ZenDruid

            You don't need to be a pedophile to engage in pederasty.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That makes you not only ignorant of reality but a fascist as well.

            And don't complain when the same entity you want to empower to carry out this total injustice turns and devours you and yours.

          • Corylus

            Now there is an 'f word' that requires some careful consideration and a cool head before using.

          • "No, I am not saying get rid of all Christian religion, but this organization I think should be disbanded and re-started by new people, if at all."

            >> Pure fascism.

            Well said, Kevin.

          • Corylus

            Pure fascism.

            Well said, Kevin

            Catholics have also expressed the same sentiment in light of the child abuse scandals Rick - seeking not bury it but to rebuild it.

            This lady springs to mind.

            Is she a fascist? I don't think she is. I suspect she may be hard work in real life, but I don't question her motives.

            Fascism is about advocating centralized societal and/or political control, along with the silencing of dissent, and often, with a streak of racism and archetype worship added to the mix. It is a dangerous thing, and a style of thinking that has blighted humans since they started to manage large scale organization. It is something that require vigilance to prevent, and due to the severity of the change, never a word to be used likely.

            Oolon is very capable of speaking for himself, but it seems to me be was talking about a change of management rather than anything else. As, is appears, was Sinead.

            Would you call her fascist, Rick? I do hope not. She just seems angry that children were hurt and people in power did not put their needs and their safety first.

          • Anyone who imagines that they possess a right to disband the Catholic Church is an enemy of humanity, an enemy of Christ, and an enemy of Rick DeLano.

            I am told to love my enemies, and I will do this chiefly by warning them, sincerely and in all seriousness:

            You will not prevail in this desire.

          • Corylus

            Is Sinead an enemy of Christ, Rick?

          • Oh yes.

          • Corylus

            Out of your own mouth.

            [Shakes head]

            An alternate view to clear the head.

          • I generally say exactly what I mean the first time, Corylus.

            If you shake your head, it is because you do not believe what I believe, and that is fine.

            But neither Sinead O'Connor, nor Kris Kristofferson, are Catholic.

            When they start running their solipsistic, self-absorbed, Hollywood jet-set, ignorant mouths about disbanding my Church......

            Well.

            I suggest they stick to songwriting and media events.

          • Corylus

            If you shake your head, it is because you do not believe what I believe, and that is fine.

            No, that's not why. I do it whenever I see someone showing themselves up.

          • Perhaps you imagined that I was a fraud, like Sinead O'Connor, that notable phony priestess excommunicated Catholic circus performer?

            No.

            I am actually Catholic.

            This, I assure you, is what makes you shake your head.

            It is an ancient and well-attested reaction.

          • WSMFP

            The Catholic church is one of the worst criminal organizations in generations. Disbanding it is the absolute least that should be done.

          • WSMFP,

            It's very courageous of you to speak out so bluntly with comments that many would find offensive.

            Where did I read the following?

            Commenting Rules and Tips
            Strange Notions is all about conversation. Whether you agree or disagree, whether you're Catholic, atheist, or agnostic, we want your input. But to keep the dialogue serious and fruitful, we must agree on some simple ground rules. By commenting you agree to the following:

            1. Use your real name.
            This provides a basic level of accountability and transparency. Strange Notions does not allow anonymous comments. . . .

          • John Bell

            OK, changed to my real name. The point is the same. The church is despicable and no self respecting person would ever associate with it.

          • And yet you send your children to Catholic school, it appears.

          • Do the people at your children's school know this is your opinion of the Catholic Church?

          • WSMFP:

            What should be done?

            Well.

            There are many views as to that.

            What will be done?

            One thing that will not be done, is for you, or anyone else, to disband the Catholic Church, which is instituted by the Divine command of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

            You would have a much better chance of emptying out the Pacific with a tea cup.

            Just saying..........

          • No, I am not saying get rid of all Christian religion, but this organization I think should be disbanded and re-started by new people, if at all.

            Would you say the same of Islam?

            I am wondering who would have the authority to disband the Catholic Church and start it over. The United Nations?

          • Caesar always desires to "disband" the Catholic Church.

            He will attempt various methods, appropriate to the given historical circumstances.

            Caesar will sense victory within his grasp, Caesar will dance for joy, Caesar will plan the burial....

            Then Caesar will himself die, and the Catholic Church will bury him, and pray for his soul.

            This is immutable, it will be so until the end of the world, by the decree of Almighty God, and there is not a thing any power on earth or in heaven or in hell can do about it.

          • Your observation here is correct, Kevin.

            But this civilization is a project of the Catholic Church.

            She founded it.

            She civilized it.

            She educated it.

            She nurtured it.

            When She is infested with the kind of filth that has infiltrated Her priesthood; when that filth is allowed to fester, to burrow, to infect and ultimately to become florid in the BY FAR most unspeakable scandal in the history of the Catholic priesthood......

            Well.

            Something is very wrong indeed.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi 42Olon,

            There have been many bad priests, bishops and popes but there have also been many good ones, and i'm sure many of the good ones still made some mistakes. Jesus commented on future scandles when he said, "scandles will eventually come but woe to him through who they come. the messengers do not disqualify the message?

          • Eriktb

            Faith in god and trust in another person are not the same thing and
            comparing the two is silly. With another person you at least have some
            kind of experience with that person to be reasonably assured of how they
            will act. If I were to ask my girlfriend a favor, she would almost
            certainly help me in whatever way she was able. If I asked a stranger,
            or an acquaintance, for the same favor I would be far less certain that
            they would help at all due to the far less past experience I have with
            that person.

            When it comes to faith in god, since there is no
            definitive way to tell if god is real, no matter how often you "ask"
            that god for help, you have no way of knowing whether things worked out
            for you because of that god. It boils to wishful thinking. Oddly, no one
            seems annoyed at god when things don't work out.

            Comparing the
            interpretation of past experiences to determine your level of assurance
            to wishful thinking in terms of a god is simply silly.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Eriktb,
            I certainly understand your perspective that your girlfriend is a real person therefore you can ask for for things and when she accompllishes them your trust in her grows. But in the context of faith the notion is the same. If your girlfriend was going shopping and you asked her to pick up a few things and she came back with everything you asked of her your confidence in her would grow. if you asked her to go shopping and she picked up not only what you asked her for but also things you needed that you didn't know you needed your confidence in her and in how she knows you and knows your needs would grow even more. one little nuance that every person of faith grow though is the childish interpretation that if i just pray hard enough or long enough God will give me everything i want. a mature faith helps the person to understand that not everything is good for them and in fact God knows what they need better than they do. thus when God answers prayers time and time again your confidence in him grows as well as your awareness that he knows you better than you do. But the only way i know of of discovering that is by applying it to your own life.

          • Eriktb

            Fr. Sean,

            No it's not the same at all. One relies on past experiences with a person who can be held accountable and lose and gain trust as a result. The other is hoping that a specific outcome occurs with no one to be held accountable, and as a result, could just as easily be attributed to chance.

            Also, your description of faith in god, or "mature faith", is condescending and essentially rationalization of not getting your way. What you're telling me to do is trust in god to do what's right. My question would be why bother when god is either not real or at the very least indifferent toward me?

            I don't mean to sound rude, but you have to understand to someone like that doesn't believe any of this, your statements on faith just sound childish.

          • Fr.Sean

            HI Eriktb,
            I apologize if i sounded condescending, i did not intend to do so. In one sense one may say that the only thing you can be 100% of is that you exist, everything else is somewhere between 99.99- and 0. I suppose if you boil it down to the nuts and bolts there's no way to really understand what i'm saying unless you try it yourself. when one prays, discovers the value (in my opinion) of prayer, and has prayers answered there's a cause and effect that builds one's confidence. after repeated experiences or perhaps even being aware of blessings when one follows through on inspirations one's trust goes from -perhaps that was just chance, to wow, God really is faithful)(as well as experiences when one does not follow through on inspirations)
            it's a cause and effect response that is one of the things that confirms God's presence and love.

          • Eriktb

            You do realize that there's a chance those of us who don't believe did at one time in our lives, and did so with quite a bit of conviction. I've always found it really odd when believers just assume those of us who don't never had or had an "immature" faith. There's a level of arrogance that goes along with that kind of thinking that I'm not sure believers either recognize in their own words or possibly ignore.

            You must understand that from our back and forth, I've asked you a question that you didn't answer, pointed out how faith in god and trust in another person aren't the same thing and you've responded by basically telling me to believe anyway. You do understand that this is not only unsatisfactory as a response, but also hedging on dismissive of my points?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Eriktb,
            I apologize for not answering in a satisfactory way. Naturally, i go on this blog site because either there is a God and if I can get you to think and be objective, pray and search then that may lead to your conversion and the salvation of your soul etc. or because there is no God but i'm deluded into thinking there is a God and and i am trying to get you to believe something untrue.
            to be completely honest, i attempt to answer everyone's questions as concise, thoughtful and respectful as i can, but i've had so many responses i just haven't had as much time to go through each question as i normally would. also i've had death in the family and am struggling with it as this is the first close person in my life that i've lost. as you can imagine since i'm a priest i have a lot of pressure on me from family (from myself) and trying to grieve. i feel like if i don't try to give some satisfactory answer to some of your questions than i kind of fail you i guess but i just have had a hard time giving them adequate time but here goes.

            I've read some of the God Delusion as well as some atheist website material and i suppose this is where i perceive believers and atheists do not understand each other. although i may be wrong it appears that atheists think they use reason, logic and science to evaluate their world and to make decisions. thus believers just have faith and fail to apply reason and logic to important issues. thus a believers mentality actually hampers society because it slows humanity down on progress of sciences, healthcare, sociology, and other important issues.

            as one coming from the believers side of the coin i think most of us have not been aware that we were perceived in such a way. science, the human mind, and the scientific method of done wonders for our world but i've always seen them as being two different spheres.

            Now, what troubles me about the argument is when i hear atheists separate the two as if they were simply two different ways to view our world and life when in fact they are intertwined. everyone makes faith decisions. what i mean by faith is that one looks at the evidence, makes a decision without quite knowing the outcome. or, moreover one may believe the opinion of another without over-analyzing every detail. both the atheist as well as the believer applies faith in such a way. when you chose your vocation in life, or when you got engaged, you weren't completely certain it was going to work out, but you made a decision that it would most likely work out. You and i both make decisions in life based on some amount of faith and some amount of observable data, or simply using reason. Furthermore, we both have faith in persons, for example i have a great amount of esteem for C.S. Lewis because i've read a lot of his material. if someone asked me a question i did not understand i may decided to see what Lewis has said about it because he has succeeded to answer others. You may have the same esteem for Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens. Thus we have faith in someone else because of what they have said in the past.

            Now this leads us to faith in God. When i was younger i became curious about my faith, perhaps the way all young people do. i couldn't simply go to church and "believe" because my parents wanted me to. so i investigated the issue. i read Mere Christianity, i read a good part of the bible, and i prayed. i got board with the old testament and went on to read the new testament. although i had not realized it at the time God was still somewhat of an idea, powerful creature up in the heavens whom i didn't understand. but as i did those things i began to become aware of little things or signs i was previously unaware of. i realized prayer had an affect, the bible, particularly the New testament seemed to have a lot of truth about life and truth about myself. the more i read the more i wanted to know. one day when i was kneeling down to pray i had an unexpected experienced that made me see God was not a mythical figure up in the heavens but was real, personal and loving (either that or i was deluded).

            thus my faith in God comes from my experience of him and his fidelity. he's answered prayers, been there when i needed him, comforted me, and consoled me, strengthened me gave me words to help others and has given me means to accomplish things when needed. he has not always given me what i wanted nor as he always made things easy on me. i say there's a possibility that i'm "deluded" but i largely do that to avoid a "how do you know, how do you know" argument. i suppose it's possible that i am deluded but i would love to here your take one the whole thing if you had the same experiences.

            thus regardless of whether i am deluded or not, one thing i can say with confidence, is that i am either the luckiest man in the world in terms of having prayers answered, or having God there when i needed him or God is indeed real. My faith in him is not simply based (in my opinion) on a mythical person written about two thousand years ago but is based on a person i know and have experienced and continue to experience, not because i am a good person or always do what he wants. i often wonder why he would chose someone who seems to struggle with selfishness so much, nevertheless i feel he has.

            i feel as though my faith is in a real person and have a history of his fidelity to me and have witnessed his fidelity to others. my goal is to help some atheists to think and be objective with the faith question so they too may experience the same thing (or perhaps be deluded as i am) i apologize if i have sounded dismissive of your perspectives i guess it's just that i think we both use faith in a general sense when making decisions or having faith in another, so neither one of us strictly adheres to pure reason and logic. but i do take the notion of faith one step further and believe in something that is not material.

          • Eriktb

            We don't use faith in a general sense though. I have trust in others who have had to develop that trust. You have faith.

            I prayed quite a lot when I was younger. I realized that those prayers made no real difference. I realized that most of the Bible, particularly the old testament, is little more than an embellished history of a middle eastern tribe that was rather insignificant at the time, though the victors write history books and all that. I came to the conclusion that the Christian god was a myth and that eventually led to the realization that all gods are myths much later on.

            Also, what is it exactly about Mere Christianity that everyone finds so compelling? I made it through the first chapter and saw the same old arguments and got bored with it.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Eriktb,
            I suppose at some point we could say we're splitting hairs. when Dawkins gives a potential theory to the source of something i'm sure you would believe him to be most likely right, even though you can't prove it. perhaps a general philosophy of where the idea of God came from; ie. as an invisible agent that one would be able to attribute intention to. hypothetically speaking if in fact there was no God, Dawkins theory may be true, but i'm sure there are other philosophical perspectives that could also be true and perhaps the invisible agent theory is actually wrong? Yet most people who follow his line of thinking of faith or trust that he is right even though they can't prove it. Most decisions in life as you know aren't based on certainty, but on probability, thus we all have to make "leaps of faith" when making decisions. I was only attempting to point out that atheist scientists do use more than just science and reason, but they also have estimates, theories that can't as of yet be proven. thus people who adhere to them and to their theories do have some amount of "faith" or as you said trust.

            I teach a chess course with the kids at school. i am fascinated by the game and particularly some of the GM's and enjoy observing a classic game and seeing some of the ways they think etc. yet i'm no where in their camp but i still enjoy playing once in a while. don't know if you know anything about the game but there are probably close to a thousand openings where each opening focuses on certain theories of how to proceed. Now when i teach the kids to play i can't possibly go over all those openings or all of the theories later on in the game so i give them a couple of basic guidelines (that i learned from books) 1. develop your knights and bishops early, 2. get control of the middle of the board, 3. castle early 4. attempt to improve mobility/position on the board while decreasing your opponents position/mobility. 5. look for checks, captures, and threats.

            now, teaching them some of those guidelines some of the kids will apply them and some will not. the one's that do usually become more proficient, but it takes a while and some practice. the one's that do it find out that it works and become better players.

            i think in a sense learning is a little like that. i know you said you prayed and you didn't see any effect, but if you continued to pray, continued to commit to it you would begin to notice things. i read a book written by a nun who said that you don't always notice a difference when your praying, sometimes you will but sometimes God appears to be silent, which i won't bore you with right now. but what she said is you will ALWAYS notice a difference as you go about your day, in how you view life, your world and others. Prayer has an effect, but it does take developing at least a little bit of a habbit or some consistency before you notice it. as a priest i always notice a difference if i neglect prayer. since i try not to neglect it the difference is most prominent when i neglect it.

            Descartes made the observation that if you have a belief that's false, every belief built upon that one belief is also false. i know you've probably subscribed to many of the theories about the origins of God, but perhaps take everything and set it aside. we as Catholics don't believe your supposed to read everything in the bible literally, we simply believe the bible was inspired by the holy spirit but still written by people. if you took that perspective and read through the gospels, perhaps spent some time in prayer every day i think you might discover something you haven't anticipated. i suppose you could say it would be a cause and effect.

            when i was a younger catholic i had faith, but largely it was to what appeared to be a mythical old man up in heaven who was going to send me to hell if i didn't obey. experience has liberated me from that but it was only through employing those "simple" moves, like teaching the kids chess that i discovered something i didn't anticipate.

          • Eriktb

            Fr. Sean, I have to ask why do you bring up Dawkins? As an atheist there's at least one thing he and I would agree on, but frankly, there's only one subject in which I would trust his judgement or what he says and that Biology. It's his expertise after all. Beyond that, no matter what the subject, he's earned no more trust from me than you have.

            Again, faith and probability have nothing to do with each other. Also, scientific theories and lay theories (rules of thumb would be more appropriate) are quite different. One attempts to explain natural phenomenon from current evidence and must be able to be falsified, testable, make predictions based on observations, etc. the kind of theory you're comparing that too are general ideas that seem to be effective. While they are similar in a single regard, scientific theories go well beyond making general statements that seem accurate. The idea that Germ Theory and what piece to move first in a chess match are similar is just silly.

            How long would I need to pray to see an effect? How long did I pray? If you can't answer either of those questions, then your statements on that point are condescending, again. I will say that prayer does show, and has shown , that it can create a placebo effect can cause people who are sick or just plain down feel better. That doesn't mean any prayers are being answered, it just means the act of prayer has an effect.

            Also, I never took much of the Bible literally. The only thing I remember believing was 100% true was that Jesus lived and was crucified, that he was the son of God and all that. After a while I just realized that probably wasn't true for various reasons that I won't bother you with.

            Could you do me a favor and stop making statements that require you to know me and my history on a personal level through the rest of our discussion. It's just getting annoying and leading me to more snark than I would otherwise like to have.

          • Fr.Sean

            Eriktb,
            Please accept my apologies, i did not mean to offend you. I think we may just have to agree to disagree. the chess analogy was simply brought up to show the more someone applies a theory the more they become aware that it works. i should not assume that you haven't already had a consistent prayer life, nor should i assume that you haven't spent a great deal of time pondering some of these ideas

          • GreatSilence

            Hi Erik
            My only quibble with your post is your view that faith and probability have nothing to do with each other. Speaking for myself, I regard my faith as very much premised on probability. It is largely because of my understanding and assessment of the probabilities of creation, abiogenesis, human consciousness and so on being all natural occurrences that I have faith as a Catholic. Surely the more probable a metaphysical / theological proposition is the more warranted faith in accepting that will be?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If I have good reason to believe that God is in charge of the universe, then I have good reason to hope that he will keep his promises to me.

          • Jonathan West

            What promises do you think he has made to you?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Eternal life.

          • Jonathan West

            In person? Do you have records? How will you hold him to the promise?

      • Phil Rimmer

        "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

        Rather than us misinterpret these two less than clear phrases it would immediately set us to rights if Brandon could discuss in the fullest detail he can, what they are intended to mean.

        Pointing hither and thither does not aid our collective discussion. It mostly fragments it.

        • Loreen Lee

          I would look forward, also, Phil, if a clear distinction could be made between 'faith' proper, and its association not only with 'belief' but 'dogma'. Should faith be the 'priority'? How many people 'blindly' follow 'dogma'?

          • Phil Rimmer

            I think you may have a nice point there. May indeed faith be blind? From the religious perspective should a "perfect faith" bring rebuke or reward?

      • Ben

        We don't have faith in ancient historical "facts." To the extent that we accept them, we accept them as the best answers we have based on the knowledge available, and are open to learning new things. Though that can be tricky when the "facts" are entangled with religion, my parents were not pleased to be told at a family seder that there isn't actually archeological evidence suggesting Jewish slaves had anything to do with construction in ancient Egypt! Outside of their own story, we got nothing backing Exodus.

        Others have explained how math doesn't really compare with religion, one can have abstract constructs and manipulate them by logical rules without having "faith" in their "truth." You're just equivocating.

        Did you read the comments in "Why Atheists Should Read Lumen Fidei?" Using flowerly language to talk about faith being illuminating doesn't actually transform faith into a virtue, or make it true that faith is *actually* illuminating. Reason is what's illuminating, not least because it resulted in the lightbulbs in your house.

        [It's better described as the author of Hebrews does: "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."] This is beautiful flowery language. It's gorgeous. In meaning, however, how does it differ from "believing stuff without evidence"???

      • GaryJByrne

        "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
        Hi Brandon, you mean to say, if only I'd had 'faith' in passing my exams, I'd need not have bothered studying?!
        I'd hoped to pass (obviously); it is an assurance (given the above description); ergo, faith invalidates study.

      • Loreen Lee

        I just disagree that 'blind' should be equated to 'without evidence'. I believe for instance, like Kant, that tautologies i.e. concepts without percepts are empty, and that percepts without concepts are 'blind'. The without evidence therefore could refer to the existence to any percept, or 'experience', but Kant's dictum holds that such percepts are blind because they are without concept - or 'erudition'. Blind faith, could also mean, then, could it not, following the beliefs of others, and assuming that because of this one is acting 'on faith'. One's percept is not directly related to the 'concept'!! But I have not determined whether faith is indeed, mainly a concept or a percept: the guiding rule, or an experiential intuition are analogies that come to mind. The term virtue, implies for me a 'personal dimension' in an experience, and thus I am questioning whether a distinction should be made between the 'virtue' faith, and a blind adherence to rule: i.e. a lack of understanding of dogma, or belief, adherence to rote answers and even legalism taken from an external source, (even the church). It is said that we need to grow in faith. Here too I would make the distinction between 'growing' in personal experience, and the assimilation of dictates from external sources. Because of this I would hold the personal, i.e. the 'virtue' of faith, as more important, i.e. of prior value, as it implies the life experience rather than in the case of blindly following either belief or dogma, if my assumptions are correct on what is meant by the term 'virtue' (I understand the term evolves from Aristotle and such ideas as manly, courageous, etc. etc.). Do I pass?

        • Loreen Lee

          Someone I trust will point out the relevance and importance that faith is a 'gift' and is 'theological'......

      • 42Oolon

        What kind of good evidence is not empirical?

        We certainly do have empirical evidence for math and ancient history and the reality of the world.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Maybe the reason you have this confusion is that the word "faith" in the English language has different meanings and there is nothing we can do about that but to define our terms.

      Your definition of "faith" has nothing to do with the theological virtue of faith, which is never "belief without evidence."

      • BenS

        Then what's the theological virtue of faith? Brandon gave a definition below from Hebrews which does seem exactly like belief without evidence. Despite him saying one sentence previously that's not what it was he then goes on to provide a definition that looks remarkably like that's what it is.

        The problem is, the OP states that part of the problem people don't like religion is that they misunderstand what's meant by faith... which is largely because religious people wont' define it. They say 'That's not what faith is' but very seldom do they give a coherent explanation of what it actually is.

        No wonder we misunderstand.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Here is a definition by Fr. John Hardon:

          "Divine faith is the virtue or power which enables us to assent with our intellects to the truths revealed by God not because we comprehend them, but only on the authority of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived."

          • BenS

            Blindly accepting things you don't understand because a deity you can't show exists revealed it to you through a method you can't demonstrate or verify.

            How is this not belief without evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The evidence is our reasonable grounds for accepting that God has revealed the truths.

          • Kevin, you have been unable to produce reasonable evidence that your deity exists, at all. How do you expect us to accept a leap to getting revealed truth from that lack of even a starting point?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is really the point, isn't it? What is the value of discussing anything with atheists who reject every rational argument for the existence of God and when most pour scorn on everything related to the Catholic faith?

          • Jonathan West

            The rational arguments are usually flawed. But when we try to discuss what those flaws are, there is no debate except in as far as you simply restate the flawed arguments as if the objections had not been made. As a conversation, it does leave something to be desired.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A conversation needs a conversation starter, not claiming right off the bat in a discussion about faith that faith is believing what is false.

          • Jonathan West

            Well, let's refine that. Faith is believing in something for which you don't have evidence. I think that is reasonable, since if you had evidence, there wouldn't be any need for faith on the subject.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are fundamentally misunderstanding (deliberately?) what Catholics understand faith to be.

            The object of the virtue of faith is truths which go beyond the power of human reason to discover on its own.

            Some of these truths are actually discoverable and comprehensible by reason, but most people will not arrive at them on their own (three examples are the existence of God, the immortality of the human soul, and the contents of the moral law).

            Other truths are partly comprehensible, reasonable in themselves, and various forms of evidence exist for them, but unaided human reason could never discover them on its own (three examples are the Incarnation, the Atonement, the Blessed Trinity).

            They are accepted (assented to by one's mind and will) because good evidence exists they are revealed by God and God is a completely trustworthy authority.

          • Jonathan West

            You are fundamentally misunderstanding (deliberately?) what Catholics understand faith to be.

            The object of the virtue of faith is truths which go beyond the power of human reason to discover on its own.

            I don't greatly mind whether you say "without reason" or "beyond reason". I understand why you prefer the second, it sounds much more positive. But the fact is that whichever formulation you use, you aren't using reason and evidence as the basis of your claimed knowledge.

            Some of these truths are actually discoverable and comprehensible by reason, but most people will not arrive at them on their own (three examples are the existence of God, the immortality of the human soul,
            and the contents of the moral law).

            If those "truths" are actually discoverable by reason, then by definition people can arrive at them on their own. So when you goon to say that they cannot, you are simply contradicting yourself. Far from me to discourage you from undermining your own arguments, but I suggest that you make some passing attempt to avoid this in future.

            They are accepted (assented to by one's mind and will) because good evidence exists they are revealed by God and God is a completely trustworthy authority.

            They are accepted (assented to by one's mind and will) because good evidence exists they are revealed by God and God is a completely trustworthy authority.

            Well, if the evidence is so good, then the whole issue can be comprehended by reason and there is no need for the faith that goes "beyond reason".

            So forget all the business of faith. If your last statement is correct, we have no need for it, and we can settle this whole thing by the application of reason to the available evidence - in other words by applying the scientific method.

            So, what evidence should the scientists be looking at?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you want to understand what Catholics mean by faith, look it up yourself then. But stop pretending you know something you don't.

          • Jonathan West

            Oh, I have. And I thought it a reasonable assumption that you know something on the subject as well, since you described your understanding at some length. but it seems that you are as keen as Rick DeLano to assert that faith isn't really needed at all for religious belief, everything is based on evidence and accessible to reason.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            it seems that you are as keen as Rick DeLano to assert that faith isn't really needed at all for religious belief, everything is based on evidence and accessible to reason.

            I've never said that and I'm certain Rick has not either.

          • Jonathan West

            In that case, perhaps you would care to revisit what you actually have said, and explain how it is that "truths which go beyond the power of human reason to discover on its own" are in turn "accepted (assented to by one's mind and will) because good evidence exists they are revealed by God and God is a completely trustworthy authority"

            It seems to me that if your second statement is true, then the first false by virtue of being contradicted by the second.

            Could you clarify your thoughts for me?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Explain how it is that "truths which go beyond the power of human reason to discover on its own" are in turn "accepted (assented to by one's mind and will) because good evidence exists they are revealed by God and God is a completely trustworthy authority."

            Here is an analogy.

            >You are in second grade and teacher says the earth is round. This is beyond your seven-year-old reason to arrive at yourself but you know teacher would never deceive you so you accept that as true.

            >You are now an adult. You have studied the history of the Church and all the claims she makes about herself and her founder Jesus Christ. You are convinced by all the evidence you have found that these claims are true. You convert. You have assented to everything the Church teaches because you are convinced that what she teaches is revealed by God and you understand God is completely trustworthy. One of the truths you have assented to is the Blessed Trinity. In your further study and prayer you meditate on the mystery of the Blessed Trinity. You understand pretty well that there is and can only be one God. Yet the Church teaches there are three persons in God. You understand what persons are and it makes sense that each of those three person can be God. What you cannot grasp is that there can be three persons in one God because you can only grasp the idea of one person per being. Yet you readily assent to this mystery as true because you know it is revealed by God and God (to use the traditional expression) can neither deceive nor be deceived). This is a doctrine neither you nor anyone else could have reasoned to (unlike the round earth which you could reason to as an adult).

          • Of course I haven't, Kevin, but Jonathan is rather better at arguing against what he wishes you would have said.

          • BenS

            Which is based on....?

            The answer to this is not 'evidence'.

          • alexander stanislaw

            More precise language would be helpful, would you endorse the following definition?

            "Divine faith is knowledge granted by directly by God and not through induction or deduction"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. It was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and entrusted to the Church from whom we receive it. We receive it by instruction. It is not a private revelation.

          • alexander stanislaw

            Thanks, how about this definition then?

            "Divine faith is knowledge granted by God through the Catholic Church, not obtained via deduction or induction.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is wrong with Fr. Hardon's definition?

          • alexander stanislaw

            If you can't explain a concept in your own words then you probably don't understand it. This is my attempt to see if I understand what you mean by faith.

          • If you can't explain a concept in your own words then you probably don't understand it.

            I don't think that is true. We just went through a whole thread about defining love. It is not at all easy to do. Yet most people know what it is and experience it as well.

            I would say faith is belief that there is a God coupled with trust that he is aware of you, loves you, and wants what is best for you, even if you don't understand why things in your life are the way they are. And of course faith in the Catholic Church (or in almost any Christian denomination) includes belief that God manifest himself in the person of Jesus. I think, in some ways, faith is much more about trust than belief.

          • alexander stanislaw

            Your explanation differs significantly from Kevin Aldrich's. That leads me to wonder if there is a consensus on what faith is.

          • Your explanation differs significantly from Kevin Aldrich's.

            I think if you read all the attempts at defining love, you would have found quite a bit of different approaches. There are no simple definitions for the big things—religion, faith, justice, the scientific method, truth . . . .

          • josh

            I wouldn't say that trust isn't a belief. And I would say that people who experience love don't necessarily have any great understanding of it.

          • josh

            "What is wrong with Fr. Hardon's definition?"

            Faith is a 'power which enables' an assent, and not the act of assenting itself? Then what sense can we make of 'faith in X'? Can one have faith but not assent? And is it a virtue or a power? What do these words mean? Does faith only apply to things we can't comprehend? Can we assent with things other than our intellects? And doesn't the whole thing just beg the central question, which is about faith in God and faith in a correct understanding of his nature, including statements about his authority, deceptiveness, and revelations?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why don't you think about the definition, which uses normal words in their normal meanings, and then ask a sensible question?

          • josh

            I asked a number of sensible questions, though I suggest you focus on the last. I've come to find that Catholics, when attempting to justify their beliefs, don't use the normal meanings of words. Why don't we just use a normal definition of religious faith? May I suggest the definition offered by one of the great authorities on American English:

            "Faith is believing something you know ain't true."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is sensible about your questions? Why should I focus on the last? Why do you say Catholics don't use the normal meanings of words? Give me some examples. What is normal about your definition? Why should you expect me to respond to an insult?

          • josh

            Kevin, I wrote those questions down to illustrate the ways in which Hardon't definition is ambiguous, confusing, and contrary to the normal meaning of the words involved. This isn't some rhetorical trick on my part, the definition he offered is very artificial and unilluminating. You should however focus on the last because it is the central issue. Fr. Hardon can make up whatever obscure definition he wants for common words, but the key point is that we don't have a way of verifying that anything meets such a definition. We are asking about faith in god and various beliefs about him including the authority of revelation or the existence of special authority-driven guarantees of ultimate truth. It is circular to appeal to this sort of faith when it's legitimacy is the thing in question.

            For an example of Catholics perverting the normal meaning of words, see for example, Rick's assertion that power and virtue are synonyms. See the confusion that arises when he avers that faith is the power of assent but that you can't have faith without assent. Normally a power to do something doesn't entail that one necessarily does it. Generally, by faith we mean a type of belief and in religious usage it is most generally associated with belief in the absence of solid evidence or in the face of contrary evidence. Hence Twain's witty formulation of the sense in which people regularly use 'faith' to avoid thinking about the hard questions. It's not an insult but it is a gentle nudge that part of you may know better.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Generally, by faith we mean . . . belief in the absence of solid evidence or in the face of contrary evidence.

            By *we* you mean atheists? It's nothing like what Catholics mean. Fr. Hardon's definition is very precise. I'll try again.

            "Divine faith is the virtue or power which enables us to assent with our intellects to the truths revealed by God not because we comprehend them, but only on the authority of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived."

            "Divine faith" means we are talking about faith in what God reveals.

            "Virtue or power" *are* synonymous. Look them up if you don't believe me.

            It is a divine gift or grace (grace=gift), meaning it is a power or virtue God *gives* to us.

            "Assent with our intellects" means our minds agree that what God reveals to be true. Note that the gift does not force us to assent. It merely enables us.

            "Truths revealed by God." Catholics believe these are found in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture and interpreted by the Magisterium.

            "Not because we comprehend them." We can partly but don't fully understand a doctrine like the Blessed Trinity.

            "On the authority of God who can neither deceive nor be
            deceived."

            This definition presupposes we have sufficient reasons (="solid evidence) to believe that what is proposed is actually revealed by God. The *reasons* are established in what the Church calls the Preambles of Faith.

            So, to put it together, we have good reason ("solid evidence") to believe that what the Church proposes for belief is actually revealed by God. God gives us grace to assent to it. On our part we freely assent because we believe God has revealed it. And we are confident that God is not playing some kind of cosmic joke on us.

          • josh

            By 'we' I mean the English speaking world at large. I know you don't define your beliefs as unjustified, but really those are the situations where you are most likely to fall back on declarations of 'faith'. Twain was able to observe this 150 years ago and all your tortured hemming and hawing above only furthers the point. (Seriously, you don't think that 'power' and 'virtue' in common meaning aren't synonyms?) You beg every relevant question, so what is the use of this definition? It boils down to: you say you believe a number of silly things, even if you don't understand them, because you think God, through the Church, told you to do so. How hard is that? (I realize you will want to take out 'silly'.) But that exactly comes down to the belief on insufficient evidence that atheists keep pointing out.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Is your aim understanding or destruction?

          • josh

            Creation of new understanding in people like yourself.

          • "Does faith only apply to things we can't comprehend?assenting itself?

            >> "to believe is an act of the intellect, in so far as the will moves it to assent"-- Summa II ii

            "Faith" is the infused virtue which allows the will to move the intellect so as to believe.

            "Then what sense can we make of 'faith in X'?

            >> The material object of Faith is God. Therefore, an act of Faith is to believe in God.

            "Can one have faith but not assent?"

            >> No.

            "And is it a virtue or a power?

            >> It is a virtue/power. They are synonyms.

            "What do these words mean?"

            >>"The ability to do something or act in a particular way, esp. as a faculty or quality"

            "Does faith only apply to things we can't comprehend?"

            >> Since the material object of Faith is God, it applies to what we cannot comprehend.

            "Can we assent with things other than our intellects?"

            >> The will directs the intellect to render assent.

            "And doesn't the whole thing just beg the central question, which is about faith in God and faith in a correct understanding of his nature, including statements about his authority, deceptiveness, and revelations?"

            >> One must certainly have the right God, in order to have Faith.

          • Nothing at all. It is excellent.

            Not only is Faith not obtained through deduction or induction, neither has any valid creative hypothesis- scientific or artistic- ever been obtained through deduction or induction.

            All the good things come from above induction and deduction.

            Faith comes from the best place of all.

            Faith comes from God, and allows us to believe Him.

          • I suspect children are instructed that rabbit's feet are lucky and the number "13" is unlucky. I doubt they come up with these things themselves.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What are you talking about?

          • What are you talking about?

            The propagation of "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." People hope for good luck and hope to avoid bad luck, while the mechanism of luck remains unseen.

      • josh

        BenS's definition has to do with the behavior of theists.

      • primenumbers

        "which is never "belief without evidence."" - yes that is what you say, but once you show us the definition, it reads to us as belief without evidence.

    • TristanVick

      I agree. Faith is one of those problematic words which people force into different semantic fields, so as to make it mean whatever they want.

      'God' is another word which is problematic for the same reasons.

      • Michael Murray

        'Soul' is another good one. First it's consciousness, and surely you agree we all have one and then a quick wave of the wand and it's an immortal soul embedded at conception and off to heaven, or the other place, at death.

        • TristanVick

          Yes, I would definitely say religion has a host of semantic problems it needs to address.

          As it is, I see religious language as one giant mess of semiotics.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Hence my basic problem with theology: I have never been presented with a 'god' concept that is semantically and logically coherent.

            But the simplistic versions that many christians use are pretty easy to knock down.

          • TristanVick

            Indeed, the theist has to face the challenge of Ignosticism squarely if they want their definitions to be meaningful.

            Every theist I have ever confronted on the issue has failed to provide a coherent definition of God, and what's more, I am able to convince them of it by pointing out why.

            Usually they just leave the conversation, unable to create an adequate apologetic defense for what should be so basic they wouldn't need to.

            That's why I take the Ignostic-atheist position with regard to all 'God' concepts. I want to know what I am talking about will have any relevant meaning before I begin to talk about it meaningfully.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Given that criteria, I suspect most of your conversations with theists are meaningless. ;-)

          • TristanVick

            They are, not surprisingly, often ambiguous at best.

            But the discourse involves more than just the claim God exists, which is meaningless.

            Much of the religious dialog concern codes of behavior and ways of reasoning morally. These areas carry their own baggage, of course, but overall I don't think it is meaningless, or for that matter fruitless, and is a discussion worth having.

            At the least we can seek to find common ground and perhaps a little understanding.

            So while much of the terminology may be confused, the overall conversation is worth having.

            At least in my opinion.

          • Another long atheist huddle patting each other on the back to reinforce their opinions. Try engaging in conversation with people who oppose it, which is the purpose of the site, instead of treating it as a hangout.

          • TristanVick

            @Irenaeus

            So when the religious who flood this site start talking about prayer, or faith, or anything involving religious language that is off topic, they aren't guilty of *not engaging in the conversation? lol

            How about you zip it, mind your own business, and stop dictating what people have a right to talk about. While you're at it, I will also offer this constructive criticism, my response to your asinine comment isn't benefiting the conversation, because your stupid comment doesn't have anything to do with the topic either.

            Talk about being hypocritical. lol Nice try being the school yard bully, but it won't work. We're all adults here.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    "Love is willing the good of the other. And then doing something about it".

    Actually a pretty decent definition, Father Barron.

    But by that definition, it is meaningless to speak of loving God, whose "good" is in no way affected by our actions.

    • But by that definition, it is meaningless to speak of loving God, whose "good" is in no way affected by our actions.

      Fascinating observation.

      • Vickie

        Who says the "good" actually has to be affected by our action. The definition merely says that we will the good and then follow that with action that demonstrates that will.

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi Vicq,
      You are right, God isn't changed by our actions but he does wish us to treat others with love and respect. Jesus conveys that when we love others we are loving him.

      • ZenDruid

        When it comes to treating other humans as beings with essential dignity, I'd rather have Marcus Aurelius' voice in my head than Jesus'.

        • [---
          I'd rather have Marcus Aurelius' voice in my head than Jesus'
          ---]
          Marcus was one of the best men of heathen antiquity, but he still falls far short.

          • I'd sure rather have Marcus Aurelius' voice in my head than Barack Obama's.

          • Amen to that!

          • ZenDruid

            Marcus Aurelius was the last of the 'five good Roman emperors' and a philosopher king. He could have had himself deified, but he was too much of an honest man.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It describes God's love for us and the love we should have for one another.

  • Jonathan West

    I got to about three and a half minutes and had to stop because of the numerous misrepresentatons involved.

    • I got to about three and a half minutes and had to stop because of the numerous misrepresentatons involved.

      You and some others here are such delicate flowers! I am such an insensitive clod that I can stand to read whole books I disagree with.

      • Jonathan West

        Its not a matter of disagreement. Its a matter of the tiresomeness of listening to yet another recitation of all the usual religious misunderstandings and misrepresentations of science to justify a claim that faith and science are just the same really. I got to three and a half minutes and then decided that I had better things to do with the next six and half minuted of my life than listen to the remainder.

        The decision was also made in part because even if I were to listen to the end and take the trouble to describe the misrepresentations, It was most unlikely that Brandon or any other other catholics here would make any attempt to address the objections except by restating the original misconceptions. I'm not interested in such a nugatory conversation - I might as well try and strike up a discussion with a speak-your-weight machine.

        Of course, Brandon (or any other other catholics here) could prove me wrong by actually entering into a detailed discussion concerning objections I or other atheists have raised, in which case my attitude would change significantly. But it hasn't happened yet.

        • I understand what you are saying, and I share a certain amount of your frustration. With all due respect to the "theists," it is rather rare to be intellectually challenged by them here. I thought the Peter Kreeft piece was an embarrassment. I had sometimes thought of reading something by him, but now I won't bother.

          There are a lot of standard objections that atheists make that get pat answers from the theists. Of course, the atheists are playing into the hands of the theists by making all the standard objections that the apologists have pat answers to. With occasional exceptions, the arguments here are on a very basic level.

          Still, I think much the reason why the atheists come here is with the intention of demolishing and deriding whatever the theists say. I think very few of us here, certain not me, approach things we instantly disagree with by saying, "Let's not be too hasty. Let's think how this might possibly be true, even though my gut reaction to it is negative." We once went through a program at my place of employment in which we were instructed to, at meetings, begin by coming up with three positive things about any new idea a person expressed. In the very early days of computerization, I remember saying to my boss, "We need a database to which everyone contributes and from which everyone draws." There were only a few computers in the department at the time, and my boss asked, "Who's going to input the data?" It was a purely rhetorical question, the meaning of which was, "No, that is a bad idea." Of course, it was not long after that that we got such a database. The point, though, is that almost anything can be shot down immediately after being brought up.

          • Jonathan West

            Still, I think much the reason why the atheists come here is with the
            intention of demolishing and deriding whatever the theists say.

            No, I think it is in the vague hope that they theists will actually say something new. But they haven't yet here as far as I can see.

          • I don't think atheists come here to be intellectually challenged by arguments that might intellectually challenge them to consider theism seriously any more than, say, Catholics come here hoping to find something that will shake their faith. Nor do I necessarily think anyone should come here to be swayed one way or the other. I don't think there are many true seekers of truth here. I think we all come to express our own opinions, bolster them, and disagree. I would like to think that my mind is open just a little bit. But I am not sure that is true. I, and probably most other commenters here, could use my time reading books by experts that I would have a much more difficult time expressing intelligent disagreement with.

            That is not to say that I think writing here is a waste of time. But in terms of trying to determine what is true and what is false, this is a minor part of what I do.

          • ... Of course, the atheists are playing into the hands of the theists by making all the standard objections that the apologists have pat answers to. ...

            We can't stop them from giving pat answers that are wrong. All we can do is present the truth as best we see it, and back it up with reason and evidence. I have to remind folks that we, who don't believe, are not trying to convince those, who do believe, of an alternate belief. We are letting them know why the things they believe don't hold up when we examine them against known facts. The hope is that they will drop the pat answers that don't hold up, and come up with something valid in support of their positions.

          • ZenDruid

            The hope is that they will drop the pat answers that don't hold up, and come up with something valid in support of their positions.

            When Hell freezes over.

          • Look Zen, I am trying to do the charitable part that Barron mentioned. :-)

          • The hope is that they will drop the pat answers that don't hold up, and come up with something valid in support of their positions.

            How many people can honestly say they are not here, at least in part, because they enjoy shooting fish in a barrel? The atheists think the theists' arguments are easily answered, and the theists think the atheists' arguments are easily answered.

            And who would do this if they didn't think it was fun? there is no reason to participate here if it really makes you feel angry or insulted.

            The hope is that they will drop the pat answers that don't hold up, and come up with something valid in support of their positions.

            Well, I suppose the theists believe they are here for the good of the atheists, but I didn't know the atheists believed they were here for the good of the theists!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            From the start I have found three benefits.

            First, this forum give me an opportunity to work on not sound like such a jerk online.

            Second, it has educated me to see things from the atheist perspective which is different from what I assumed.

            Third, it has made me examine some aspects of the Catholic faith in much more depth--those ones that atheists especially object to.

          • Jonathan West

            I'll leave it to you to decide whether you have succeeded in the first of those objectives.

            But I would be interested in examples of the other two if you are willing to provide any.

  • 42Oolon

    I don't hate religion, I have serious concerns with the unjustified reverence religion gets and that this allowed widespread sexual abuse of children to remain hidden and assist in avoiding prosecution. That it warps people's reason so that cutting an infant or a child's genitals is seen as a good and necessary thing. Only religion could make someone think this. My concerns have nothing to do with a misunderstanding of love or hope.

    • Sample1

      I agree with all of your words following "I don't hate religion." Can I ask why?

      Religion is a human generated phenomenon in a way that gods are not. I mean to say that religion is real after all. I can say I hate religion without meaning to say I hate all people who are religious. I'm reminded of Greta Christina who said (I think it was her) name me one social justice movement that didn't begin with anger, anger at injustice.

      Yes, I hate religion (tempered by the brand of course). If I were to personify it, it would look, oh I don't know, it would look like the Apple Witch from Sleeping Beauty.

      Mike

      • 42Oolon

        I disagree with religion but I do not hate it. Hate is a strong word I do not really hate anything. The priest in the video is not actually reacting to hate anyway.

        • Sample1

          I'm sure I can find myself on the same page regarding hatred (and I'm going to include anger with that word) as you do. I also agree that content of this article doesn't measure up to the title.

          It's almost pitiable that the priest never points out that his own faith environment, the one which claims divine trademarks on love, faith, and hope is the legitimate source of much suffering.

          Finally, when I say I hate religion, I am thinking along the lines of these dozens of examples:

          Greta Christina, Atheists and Anger. Have you seen it?

          (Link may not be safe for work/profanity)

          Mike

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi 42Oolon,
      your concerns about religion are justified but don't you think some religions also do some good? I don't believe the messenger automatically disqualifies the message. If you look at the Gospels, all of the apostles abandoned the Lord or betrayed him, yet he still used them to allow the faith to grow. i do believe there are many more positive examples than negative ones? Wouldn't it seem reasonable that all of those people who give their lives for the good of others are motivated by something more than an illusion. I know for myself that if i don't pray it's kind of easy for me to dry out. Prayer gives me strength, hope and love.

      • Loreen Lee

        Dear Father: Which is the theological virtue? Faith. or 'The Faith'? Will you distinguish please, between faith, belief and dogma?

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Loreen,
          you ask a good question. there is the "Deposit of the faith" which is everything that is considered revelation. basically it's the scriptures and the councils of the church, but the theological virtue of faith is a little different. it's in a sense faith in what has been revealed but it's also faith in a person. having faith in Jesus is more the theological virtue, i think psalm 23 summarizes it best.

          • Loreen Lee

            That was helpful. I am well familiar with that Psalm. Could you help out again, with a definition or at least an explanation of what makes a virtue theological?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Loreen,
            Well, off of the top of my head, i would have to say a theological virtue is connected to the divine. faith, for example is rooted in a person, hope and love is also rooted in a person. charity may in fact be a virtue not necessarily rooted in the divine. certainly an atheist may have charity that isn't rooted in the divine? Does that clear it up for you?

          • Loreen Lee

            Not really. I understand that faith, hope and charity are all theological virtues. I have just been wondering if I am correct associating the terms theological, divine, etc. with what in philosophy is called the transcendental/metaphysical, and other such terms. This would put them on a plane or level that is above what a priest explained to me once constituted natural faith, etc. etc. etc. Even Kant makes a primary distinction between moral good and pragmatic good, the latter being directed towards earthly/natural goals, and the moral good being directed towards a 'greater good', - the attainment of 'heaven' or the beatific vision in Catholic terms, and the kingdom of ends, in Kant's philosophy. Certainly atheists though can act in good conscience, as well as in faith, with hope, and with compassion. I'm attempting to 'pin down' the distinction. Even Paul in Corinthians notes that we are not capable of 'love' in the sense of the Greek term agape, as we see 'others' through a glass darkly. So to be on that 'plane' and to have that comprehension of faith, and hope, as well as charity, would be an end that I believe is expressed more succinctly, in the phrase Kingdom of Heaven, (or even Nirvana) than in the Kantian dictum, to treat others as ends, and not means to an end. This approximation of a divine vision seems to be a bit more pragmatic than the religious one. (Also, unless an atheist had the comprehension of such a goal, I believe that Kant would not agree that they are indeed being charitable. He is very strict about the intentions of individuals, and points out how often an act of charity is 'underneath it all' an act of self-interest, or self- in the ego sense- love, as it is not taken within the wider 'visionary' dynamic. I have come to appreciate too, that the post moderns, such as Richard Rorty, who say that less time should be spent on concentrating on a 'higher power' instead of simply being good to others, is also missing the point of how 'valuable' it is to have a 'metaphysical/theological/eternal', call it what you will, ideal: a context in which to assess/judge/discern the 'happenings' within the 'earthly' realm....... a measuring stick and 'objective' point of view, even if merely a Kantian postulate, from which to measure one's own thoughts, actions, etc. Thanks.

          • Fr.Sean

            HI Loreen,
            i think your understanding is correct as well as i can understand it. i'll try to address your questions as best i can. the Church teaches that humanity is essentially good. thus a person can do good or be charitable and thus an atheist would be cooperating with the good, or even perhaps cooperating with the divine even though they may not know it.

            i suppose you could naturally categorize faith into several different types. there is the deposit of the faith, then there is faith that St.Paul spoke of in terms of connecting faith to Jesus and then there is faith in a general understanding, like having faith that someone will carry something out for you.

            A book i read called, "Awareness" by anthonly demello, demello pointed out that none of us doing anything for a purely altruistic reason. if i see a homeless person who needs help i may wish to help them while they may have no benefit to myself. but i could still trace part of the motivation back to the idea that the homeless person's plight makes me feel uncomfortable, thus by helping them i'm getting rid of my uncomfortable feeling. Demello says that this particular awareness should be liberating. so what if part of our motivation is selfish, help them anyway, because after all, the uncomfortable feeling can also be removed by leaving the scene and distracting myself with something else.

            With respect to doing good to others or concentrating on a higher power i think the story of Martha and Mary explains it rather well. in the story prior Jesus speaks with the scholar of the law and asks what the greatest commandment is? Jesus then uses the story of the good Samaritan to define how one is to follow the law. in other words, "go and do". then when visiting Martha and Mary, Martha is "doing" she's busy about many things. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening. Mary has chosen the better part. Thus we are called to be loving and kind towards others, we're called to "go and do". but that going and doing has to be preceded by sitting and listening, or prayer.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks Father. The clarification was 'needed'. After all, how often do "I" not do anything at all because I am not able to be 'altruistic' enough. I particularly think that these thoughts you give here will be welcomed by our atheist friends. We should let them know that all of their 'good works' are not only needed but 'appreciated'. It is good to have the clarification, as in the case of Mary, that the need to develop a capacity of contemplative 'prayer?' is a prime requisite. How often to I complain, like Martha, about the obligations I have to meet in the world, without the advantage of a higher or more developed perspective. I am finding it interesting, however, that in following New Advent, I run across diverse interpretations of scripture, even of the Martha/Mary alternatives. Also, in writing my previous answer to you, I found I increased 'a little' in understanding of what is meant by objective morality, even though the need to be 'objective' about oneself, is another possible interpretation within the hierarchy of 'understanding'. After all, it's hard enough to understand and accept how I am seen by other people, let alone within the context of the prayer that hopes to see ones self as God sees one. Thanks father.

      • 42Oolon

        I think people do good in religions and the way some religious groups organize themselves are set up to further that. These networks of charity are generally good things, but they come with baggage. The concerns I raised are the issue and they deserve a response.

        And yes, I think the messenger can disqualify the message in some circumstances. With respect to Catholicism, we should expect the one true church to be more or less a beacon of justice and charity. However, over the last 2000 years we have seen a series of abominable crimes against humanity. We had crusades, inquisitions, and now widespread sexual abuse and cover ups. We have a book held up as the true word of God in which God tells people to commit genocide and marry their rapist, and stone children. This church and many others have lost the benefit of the doubt and should be disbanded or hugely reformed.

        You don't need illusions to do good things and help other people you just need empathy and the will to help.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          A warped reading of history. Six bad non-examples balanced by nothing.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi 42Olon,
          if you look at the history of the church your certainly going to have poor examples and poor leaders, but the good the church has done far outweighs the bad. i agree that there are some things in the Old Testament that are troubling, but Jesus even faced some of these things in the Gospels. for example, woman were often seen as property, bearer of children, and temptations to sin. Jesus elevates women to being authentic disciples, he speaks to the woman at the well (John ch. 4) thus violating social norms as she becomes the first evangelist in John's Gospel and he reverses the temptation idea "if someone looks at a woman with lust, he has already committed adultry with her" (incidentally, noticing the beauty of a particular woman is not a sin, but staring at her or imagening things is). thus the sin is not in the woman but in the man looking at the woman. Jesus is not an illusion he is a real person whom i pray you will discover just how much he already loves you.

      • Sage McCarey

        Ah yes Fr Sean and this is one of the things that has always bothered me about your church. "If you look at the Gospels, all of the apostles abandoned the Lord or betrayed him, yet he still used them to allow the faith to grow." And Mary Magdalene, according to the story, stood with him all the time until his death and after. She never ran away. She never denied him. Why wasn't she used to allow the faith to grow? Why is she given no credit for her loyalty by the church? Simple. She was a woman. The church is a misogynistic organization and therefore cannot be the true faith.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Right. That's why Mary Magdalene and the other faithful women are called the Holy Women and Christ's mother Mary is esteemed with hyperdulia (highest honor). This is why St. Paul preached the radical equality of men and women. And so on.

        • Mikegalanx

          Not only that, Dan Brown made gazillions saying she married Him.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Sage,
          One of my Priest friends who happens to be much more liberal than i am likes to say Jesus was crucified for being a liberal. while i disagree with him i think there is some merit to his statement. the fact that Mary Magdalene was the first to witness the risen Christ i believe was not mere chance. I think providence had something to do with that. Jesus also did things that would have been somewhat offensive to the social norms of the day. In Luke's Gospel Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening. Sitting at the feet of a rabbi and listening is something only a disciple would do. furthermore also in Luke's Gospel Jesus is going from town to town preaching the good news while a group of women are providing for him out of their resources. Woman are just as much disciples in the Gospel as Men are, and the Church supports that belief, she just doesn't support female Priests because Jesus didn't choose any female Apostles. Nevertheless, woman are disciples and are just as important to the gospel message as men. There are several other places in the gospel where Jesus upset the applecart so as to speak by raising the dignity of women, so if you want me to list them i can.

          • Loreen Lee

            Just saw this. Following your example of relating gospel texts to previous texts, in order, (like the Good Samaritan story preceding the story of Martha and Mary) I too found a relationship that shed some light on the way I now believe Jesus interprets the actions of women. I am talking about the woman who is found to be adulterous, and Jesus's response to not judge her. I wonder if you would agree that there is a precedent for this story in the old testament: the story of Susan, a woman who is raped, and whose case is overseen by David, I believe. Within the chronology of gospel verses the story in the new testament closely followed the presentation of Susan's story. Could Jesus have told the accusers that 'he who is without sin -let him cast the first stone' because, like the story of Susan, He considered the woman to be falsely accused, and indeed his remarks were consequently a judgment placed upon those who deceptively, to cover up their own involvement in her rape, indeed could not cast the first stone, if they were complicit in a crime against her. (Just taking advantage of your good advice in another comment section, to ask about this possibility of extending the scope of transforming relationships, which distinguish the new from the old testament.) I am of course 'looking for evidence' to back up the thesis that Jesus did indeed give a what- liberating interpretation? to women within the new testament.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Loreen,
            I like that interpretation? i think there may be some truth to it. the sin that they brought before Jesus was not her sin but their own? hmm, i also heard one interesting aspect to that story is that only those with humility were able to see who Jesus was. Jesus was writing on the ground, thus her eyes would have most likely been the only one's who saw what he wrote, thus her humility allowed her to see the event as a transforming moment whereas the rest were simply ready to cast stones because of pride but i do like that nuance, the sin was actually in the men who brought her to Jesus.

          • Loreen Lee

            I think I was wrong about the Old testament story, in that I believe now it was Daniel who 'brought them to trial' or something, (I'm not sure of the whole story here). But Jesus was not in the position of power that Daniel was. I have imagined what Jesus was writing on the ground, (if we are thinking a trial here, perhaps the -what's it called' disposition?). Also he says at the end. Sin no more - to the woman, which could just be a commandment suitable to anyone, or could it also be a absolution of his involvement in the 'trial'!!! I have always wondered why, if both parties involved in adultery are equally responsible, why in this story only the woman was accused. I've always been suspicious therefore. I am very happy that you see this possibility that she was 'framed', as we speak of being falsely accused. Looked for the story of Susan again, but couldn't find it, to check it up again. (And thank you for seeing the possibility that a woman might actually be 'innocent' in such a matter)!!!!

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Loreen,
            The story was from Daniel ch. 13. from what i can recollect i think in biblical times women were much more seen as property or temptrists, naturally Jesus tried to offest that by pointing out the sin was in the man not the woman and the fact that he had mary at his feet listening to him speak. Moreover he spoke to the woman at the well, which violated social norms of the day. Jesus didn't have problems violating social norms when they went against what he felt his father wanted of him. in biblical times i think a woman's witness or account was considered half of a man, so susanna was down by 75%. you almost get a sense from the story that the people suspected she was innocent but no one had the courage to speak up. i often think Daniel took a risk, but his confidence in God assured him things would work out. that is one of my favorite books in the old testament.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you Fr. Sean. I found it.

          • Loreen Lee

            Just checked up on my interpretation again. Looked up both disposition and deposition in the dictionary, and am open to which might describe what Jesus is writing . I like the idea that perhaps (disposition) he is directing a judgment outside of the context of what is immediately happening, although he could also (deposition) be writing out the woman's case. Speculation here, of course. But what I find interesting is that indeed no 'judgment' is made, neither towards the woman nor towards the men. Indeed, it is said in scripture that Jesus would make the final judgement, but that time is not yet. Perhaps then the message of the scripture, is indeed, that he who is without sin, should be the first to case the stone, meaning that we should 'judge not'.....!!??

      • Sid_Collins

        I don't believe the messenger automatically disqualifies the message.

        Agreed. But neither does the messenger automatically validate the message as true. That is why atheists judge the messages on their merits, and not on the basis of whether they come from the Bible or Koran, or participants in a Vatican council, or a priest or preacher or imam.

        One of the things that atheists REALLY hate (as opposed to faith, hope and charity) is believers expecting knee-jerk respect and special treatment for religious messages and religious messengers, just because they are religious. There is no reason why religious messengers and their utterances shouldn't be subjected to as much skepticism and scrutiny--and sometimes deserved ridicule--as the teachings of Scientologists, Raelians, politicians and economists.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Sid,
          I agree with everything you just said

  • primenumbers

    So, the video states that faith is not below reason, faith is not irrational. But then he says it's a leap beyond the place illuminated by science, philosophy and reason. Then he says faith is trust.

    I clearly see that faith being a leap to a place not illuminated by science, philosophy and reason is exactly what we claim faith is - blind faith not illuminated by any of the rational tools we have at our disposal, directly contradicting his initial statement that faith is not irrational.

  • Ben

    Haven't had a chance to watch the video--but find dubious from the outset that the problem is that non-religious don't understand what the religious "really" mean by some fairly short words, available in every dictionary, and used pretty commonly in evreyday language by everyone. I get the impression that some religious folks get upset when non-religious judge them by the behaviors, attitudes, and language that are commonly encountered when dealing with the religious, rather than the "official" line that can be found buried in some pronouncement or edict that the average person of that particular faith has never heard of.

  • primenumbers

    Hope being faith/trust in God being sovereign, is basically to say "God works in mysterious ways". This hope sounds like an attempted theodicy. Trust is earned, yet as Fr Barron mentions the dark things that happen, those things that he admittedly cannot understand, and utterly reconcilable with them. If both good things and bad things lead to this trust, isn't that a blind trust because there has been no demonstration of any event that would ever break that trust? And this trust is not placed now, but indefinitely off to the future where things will, in the fullness of time eventually turn out "well". Against a criticism of naivety, this trust is blind, irrational and indeed naive.

  • primenumbers

    As for love, when atheists challenge Catholics on their beliefs, that's our tough love towards you, and yes, we have to come on pretty strong and that's just our tough love for you. We're here because we love you! Fr Barron gets it right.

    • Phil Rimmer

      Yes the last of the three is his best. Hope is, in atheist terms, incoherent and faith gets in a terrible metaphorical muddle failing even to get to the comparatively safe haven of arationality.

    • Linda

      Thanks for Sharon' so much love!

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You do provide a service to Catholics.

      • primenumbers

        Yes, the Gospel according to PrimeNumbers. Today's sermon was brought to you by 2, the only even prime number, and the number 3, the first odd prime number.

        • Linda

          I *love* prime numbers. I had a dream once that there actually *is* a pattern and that they are predictable. In the dream there was a lovely Matrix-like sequence of binary code and for a few weeks after I tried to see if I could figure it out. Of course, I failed. But ever since I came to this site and saw your name it's been on my mind again and I've been wondering if there's a way to incorporate Fibonacci spiral pattern…

  • Loreen Lee

    The video left me a little confused between his 'definition' of faith as distinct from hope. My attempt to understand what constitutes faith, has left me thinking that it is more related to what motivates 'me' in my thought, word and deed. It is 'interior' to 'my-self', to attempt to clarify the difference I am speaking about. Hope on the other hand, is that over which I would have no 'personal' control; that which is 'exterior' to my-self, as it were. Is this what Father Barron is getting at when he equates hope with some kind of Divine lawgiver, or something. In any case, does this mean that I can have faith that I am redeemed, because this is Christ's promise to us, but I still need hope that I will find eternal salvation. The 'judgment' as it were, is 'beyond' me. In this context I like to think that faith is what I need to live this life, and the hope will be something to 'hang onto' after I'm dead and buried. (grin grin).

  • 42Oolon

    I do not think this video is really about hate, but I thought I would mention, that in my experience the people who are the angriest at religion are the ones who used to be religious and the more religious they are, the angrier they are.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I watched this video one and half times and I think Fr. Barron didn't really define faith as well as he defined hope and love (love was very precise).

    So, here is a good definition by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.:

    "Divine faith is the virtue or power which enables us to assent with our intellects
    to the truths revealed by God not because we comprehend them, but only on the
    authority of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived."

    http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Holy_Spirit/Holy_Spirit_010.htm

    • BenS

      Divine faith is the virtue or power which enables us to assent with our intellects to the truths revealed by God not because we comprehend them, but only on the authority of God who can neither deceive nor be deceived."

      Blindly accepting things you don't understand because a deity you can't show exists revealed it to you through a method you can't demonstrate or verify.

      How is this not belief without evidence?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Blindly accepting things you don't understand because a deity you can't show exists revealed it to you through a method you can't demonstrate or verify.

        That is an extremely clever formulation but it distorts the entire enterprise.

        "Accepting things you don't understand." We can understand all kinds of things about the Incarnation but can't understand all of it right now or maybe ever.

        "A deity you can't show." The existence of God can be shown through reason, but you don't find those proofs persuasive.

        "Revealed it to you." Jesus chose Apostles whom he taught this revelation. He confirmed it by rising from the dead and continuing to teach them for forty days.

        "Through a method you can't demonstrate." I think that would be apostolic succession.

        • BenS

          You've basically responded to my points either confirming them (the first one) or with things you have no evidence of. If you're basing it on things you have no evidence of then you're still without evidence.

          So, you agree you don't understand it now and may never understand - that's accepting things you don't understand.

          God can only be reasoned to, you can't provide evidence for - so a deity you can't show.

          Revealed to you has been twisted to mean not actually revealed to you, but revealed to some other blokes 20 centuries ago.

          And via apostolic succession... so a method you can't properly demonstrate or verify.

          Which neatly confirms my 'extremely clever formulation' of

          "Blindly accepting things you don't understand because a deity you can't show exists revealed it to you through a method you can't demonstrate or verify."

          I stand by that statement and you've done nothing to dismantle it.

          Despite saying that my comment that 'faith is belief without evidence' is wrong, all you're doing is showing it's correct by putting forward beliefs you have no evidence for!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes but you have retreated back to, only scientific empirical evidence is valid, all the rest is BS.

            > I said that revealed divine mysteries can be partly but not fully understood. I'm sure you can imagine that if God exists you might never fully understand him. Ever.

            > If God can be reasoned to that is adequate to show he exists. A scientific test is not reasonable or possible. Old discussion.

            > Revealed to some other blokes 20 centuries ago and passed down. Right. That's the kind of religion it is.

          • BenS

            Yes but you have retreated back to, only scientific empirical evidence is valid, all the rest is BS.

            And you haven't shown how any of the other 'evidence' put forward like 'revelation' are worth anything at all.

            I'm sure you can imagine that if God exists you might never fully understand him. Ever.

            Firstly, you've correctly credited me with the 'if' part. If god exists. You've not even bothered with that yourself - you just assume he does and then blindly accept whatever you imagine the teachings to be. Blind faith.

            If God can be reasoned to that is adequate to show he exists. A scientific test is not reasonable or possible. Old discussion.

            Yes, one you backed away from when it was shown, conclusively, that a god that no evidence is even possible for cannot be said to exist in any meaningful sense. That point still stands. If you can't even potentially provide evidence for god then in no practical sense does he exist. As you say, old discussion.

            Revealed to some other blokes 20 centuries ago and passed down. Right. That's the kind of religion it is.

            One based on chinese whispers rather than evidence? Just faith it was passed down correctly and no method of verifying this?

            Like I said. Belief without evidence.

          • primenumbers

            "Yes but you have retreated back to, only scientific empirical evidence is valid, all the rest is BS." - that's no the case. The problem is that we have no way of knowing if those revelations are true or imaginary. You can try to provide a reliable method if you wish of determining true revelation from imagination, but without such a method you can claim your revelations as true but nobody not already believing in your religion is going to believe you, and you also have no method of saying that any revelation from any other religion is false (other than to assert it false because it's not from your chosen religion).

            We like empirical evidence because it's testable and verifiable and proven reliable. Methods that use EE are generally reliable and work well to produce working results. In strong part they're reliable as we're able to use our knowledge of cognitive biases and remove them so that the results we get are not altered by pre-existing opinions on what the data "should" say.

            We can never know if your methods are reliable (due to no EE), but because that in-of-itself doesn't imply that your methods are unreliable. However, your lack of methods to deal with cognitive biases does demonstrate a known source of unreliability that you've not accounted for, and hence we can be sure your methods are unreliable.

            So the question becomes why would you use knowingly unreliable methods that produce results indistinguishable from imagination or delusion?

        • primenumbers

          ""A deity you can't show." The existence of God can be shown through reason, but you don't find those proofs persuasive." - well no it can't or we'd all not be atheists. You think the arguments are reasonable, but when the flaws in them are pointed out to you, you ignore those flaws.

          A reasonable person says "sure, you've got an argument - it might be right, it might be wrong, I see flaws in it, you see solutions elsewhere - why not settle this with evidence?" And you answer with zero evidence for your God. A reasonable person says "we have an argument of disputed soundness, we have no evidence, reasonably you cannot expect me to believe in your God".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You dismiss dozens if not hundreds of philosophers working today who support cosmological arguments with the claim they have "no evidence"?!

          • primenumbers

            Yup. As noted by anyone with even meagre philosophical training, there's very well known flaws in the reasoning of the CA. If we're doing appeal to experts though, most professional philosophers are atheists - they obviously don't see CA as sound.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Most professional philosophers are working in the area of proofs of God? There are lots of branches of philosophy.

          • primenumbers

            The argument has very little to do with God, and very much to do with parsing of what basic words mean and standard examination of tricks and fallacies that any professional philosopher is more than capable of dissecting. Even we amateurs can do it.

          • josh

            Do you have any idea how small 'dozens if not hundreds' is in a world of 6+ billion people?

        • ... I think that would be apostolic succession.

          That always reminds me of the game of telephone.

          • "It is a matter of wonder that through something like one thousand years the text underwent so little alteration. As I said in my first article on the scroll, ‘Herein lies its chief importance, supporting the fidelity of the Masoretic tradition.'"

            -----Millar Burrows, The Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Viking Press, 1955), 304, quoted in Norman Geisler and William Nix, General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 367.

          • josh

            Wikipedia to the rescue-

            "According to The Oxford Companion to Archaeology:

            'The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include
            at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther,
            provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of
            Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to
            reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic
            text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch.
            It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100. '"

            And how this would make the Apostolic succession legitimate is beyond me.

          • First:

            "There are literally thousands of differences, albeit mostly minor, between the Masoretic text and what Cross calls the Old Greek tradition. At Qumran, before the “textual crisis” was resolved (in favor of the Masoretic tradition), the proto-Masoretic and proto-Septuagintal traditions lived happily side by side."

            Second, an example of the "dramatic differences in both language and content":

            "Finally, 4QSama allows us to recover an entire paragraph that had fallen out of the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible—and an important one at that. The beginning of 1 Samuel 11 tells about an attack on the Israelites of Jabesh-Gilead by the Ammonite king Nahash. The Israelites asked for surrender terms; Nahash demanded that the right eye of each of the Israelites be gouged out. The Masoretic texts gives us no explanation for this barbaric cruelty. Why did Nahash make this demand? The answer lies in a paragraph at the beginning of the chapter (or the end of chapter 10) that had fallen out of the Hebrew text but is preserved in 4QSama: The Israelites had apparently rebelled against Nahash, and in those days that was the punishment for rebelling. Fighters whose right eyes were gouged out could see but they were no longer effective fighters since they had no depth perception."

            Lastly, the conclusion of the Biblical Archaeology Society author:

            "Indeed, one of the most important contributions of the scrolls is that they have demonstrated the relative stability of the Masoretic text."

            http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/bible-versions-and-translations/the-masoretic-text-and-the-dead-sea-scrolls/

            http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/reviews/qumran-cave-4-xii-1-2-samuel-discoveries-in-the-judaean-desert-series-xvii/

            As to apostolic succession, josh- not only have we managed a "wonder" in preserving over thousands of years the biblical text, but we have managed to preserve the apostolic succession in virtue of the same "wonder"; that is, God will simply not allow His people to be without their Scriptures and their Church.

          • josh

            Yes, and?

          • And........you ought to start dealing with that 55 orders of magnitude, unless you are ready to start thinking top down :-)

          • josh

            We've got good people on it. What 55 orders of magnitude do you have in mind? We typically say around 14 for the Higgs hierarchy problem, reducible to 1-2 with Supersymmetry. The cosmological constant is around 120 or 30 depending on how you count (reducible to 15 with Susy). But of course neither of these is formally a problem with the theory.

          • "We've got good people on it."

            >> Here's one of them:

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1306.1527.pdf

            "What 55 orders of magnitude do you have in mind? We typically say around 14 for the Higgs hierarchy problem, reducible to 1-2 with Supersymmetry."

            >> This 55 orders of magnitude:

            Specifically, the number ρΛ on the r.h.s. of equation (6.18) must be re-tuned with 55 digits of precision
            as many times as the number of diagrams (typically thousands) that contribute to the highest nth-loop still providing a contribution to the CC that is at least of the order of the experimental number placed on the l.h.s. of that equation.......This looks preposterous and completely unac-
            ceptable. It goes without saying that this situation worsens even more for higher energy extensions of the SM, such as in GUT’s. Actually, replacing the cosmological term by a
            cosmic scalar field with some peculiar potential only iterates the same kind of fine tuning problem, let alone that it does not explain why e.g. the electroweak vacuum energy can be
            hidden under the rug with no relation to the CC value."

            "The cosmological constant is around 120 or 30 depending on how you count (reducible to 15 with Susy)."

            >> Slight problem that there is no SUSY observed. Bigger problem even if it is:

            "Special symmetries such as Supersymmetry (SUSY)[85], for example, are of little help to solve the CC problem, despite some early hopes [86], since SUSY is necessarily broken,
            and hence all the above problems replicate very similarly to the SM case[6]. Only dynamical mechanisms could really help here"

            "But of course neither of these is formally a problem with the theory."

            >> Nice to know your theory is just fine despite being off by 55 orders of magnitude.

            That helps a lot.

          • josh

            Okay, so the 55 is from some portion of the typically cited 120. Anyhow, the 15 orders in Susy I mentioned comes exactly from the fact that it is a broken symmetry (if it exists in the first place). Also, the 1-2 orders I mentioned for the Higgs is given the fact that we haven't seen Susy yet. Being good scientists we won't declare any such 'problems' solved unless Susy is actually detected. (Hint hint, theists :) )

            The cosmological constant 'calculation' involves some rather hand-waving arguments since we don't actually have a complete theory of gravity and quantum fields. (This doesn't mean it's wrong necessarily.) But my understanding is that the observed expansion can be a fine tuning between a bare CC term and, e.g, contributions from vacuum energy. Fine tunings might well be a pointer to a deeper theory, but they aren't formally problems with the theory, it just means you have two suspiciously close parameters.

          • I suggest you read the paper, josh.

            There is good news, and there is bad news.

            The good news is, it's not 120 orders of magnitude anymore.

            The bad news is, it's still 55 orders of magnitude.

            The worst news is, it cannot be fudged by a bare CC term anymore, since the electro-weak force is now an unfudgeable reality in the CC calculations.

            Honestly, lots of luck.

            Maybe you guys will find new physics in 2017.

            If not...........

            Well.

            55 orders of magnitude is hopeless.

  • Sample1

    Ok people of faith, here's a request for any of you to give me your best sales pitch. What do I need faith for? I really don't see how it could enhance my life. I promise not to get too nit picky or request heavy theological explanations.

    Any takers?

    Mike

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Here is one example:

      One needs faith to believe in eternal life, either ultimately in heaven or hell.

      Here is just one way it could enhance your life:

      This comes in useful in my present life, since it steers me away from lying, cheating, stealing, murder, adultery, dishonoring my parents, blaspheming God, and things like that.

      It steers me toward good and useful things like telling the truth even if it will cost me, not cheating people, respecting other's property, being faithful to my wife, and so on.

      • Sample1

        Thanks your viewpoints Kevin. I hope to hear many more reasons why I should add faith to my "life's portfolio", as it were.
        Mike

        • It would help you never again confuse life with a portfolio, for one thing........

          • Sample1

            I appreciate that sentiment. I'm freely opening myself up to heavy criticism when using euphemisms that for some is a sacred and serious subject.

            But I'm still not any closer to understanding why religious faith is something I should give much thought to let alone incorporate into my daily life-decision-making-processes.

            Another analogy for my life might be architecture. Danish modern might be a good visual representation of my brain as opposed to say Jewish kitsch or Old World heraldic ornateness.

            Rick, for all intents and purposes you're basically selling a product: faith. Why should I buy it or even if it's free, why should I take it? After all, I don't really think of life as a portfolio.

            Mike

      • BenS

        Are you implying Mike doesn't already stay away from such behaviour? That he's a lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, adulterous, parent dishonouring, blasphemous* ne'er-do-well?

        If you're not, and I don't for one moment think you were, then how would this faith 'enhance' his life? He's already at the point you are but without needing faith.

        ---

        * Though, personally, I find blasphemy - and people's reactions to it - amusing.

        Additional: He promised not to get too nit-picky. I made no such promise.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I know nothing about Mike, but I know myself, and I have temptations in regard to all of those.

          I also know people who have gone heavily into lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, adultery, and neglecting their parents, and that doesn't work out well.

    • Linda

      Hey Mike!

      I'll take a stab. First, I think whether or not to have faith, or which faith to have, depends on what kind of life you'd like to have. Each faith offers a different perspective on life. I don't know enough about other major religions to say diffinitively what your life would be like with them so I will confine myself to Catholicism and how I have experienced it and see it work in the world. The Catholic faith calls you to love in every aspect of your life. It is not easy to do this, but I think it rings true and so I follow it. It calls for perfection, but recognizes that we are imperfect, and so offers forgiveness. It expects you to take the gifts and talents you've been given and use them to help those around you. It calls you to focus your life, but not necessarily on what you want. But in denying yourself, you are given so much more. Catholic faith offers a spiritual, psychological, emotional and physical depth and freedom that is satisfying and life-affirming. It can give you an energized peace that can propel you to great accomplishments, and inspiration to get you through your toughest times. It is so compelling that I would almost advise you to stay away, because once you embrace it, it is impossible to believe anyone would choose any other way to live. It makes that much sense.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I appreciate your enthusiasm, but that's almost incoherent. Could you break it down?

        • Linda

          Hey M. Solange,
          Thanks for the compliment. As I mentioned to Mike I * was* in pep club in high school. :)

          I'm sorry if I was incoherent. I realized I misinterpreted Mike's original request and have responded to him. If my response does not clarify things, let me know and I'll try to give you an answer that makes sense.

          Linda

      • Sample1

        Thanks Linda for your enthusiastic pitch for Catholicism. I'm really asking something different though: I'd like a sales pitch for faith itself. Your faith exists within a culture of Catholicism.

        I can experience Catholic culture by flying to Argentina and witnessing World Youth Day. I can experience Catholic culture by watching The Bells of Saint Mary. And I can experience Catholic Culture by studying with anthropologists.

        But I can't walk into my supermarket and ask the clerk for a box of new and improved faith. You have it, Linda, I don't. Where do I get it and how can you be sure I will like it? But most importantly for me, why do I need it? You seem to be suggesting my life is somehow intrinsically deficient without it and that your life is therefore more complete or fulfilling than mine?

        Is that fair to say?

        Mike

        • Linda

          Thanks for the compliment on my enthusiasm. It's probably redundant to say I was in pep club in high school. :)

          Also, I see where I misinterpreted your original question. I thought when you asked about faith that you were interested in faith, but I think, if I am reading you correctly now, that you just interested in how I would sell it to you., what it could possibly offer you. And you are not speaking of faith in general, just religious faith. You seem to have faith already, it is in your own beliefs. You would like to know why you would need anything beyond this. To that I will say: the I examined life is not worth living. I suspect that we would both agree that we have just this one life to live and we are both looking to get the most out of it. But what's the best way to do this? We need to examine our lives, our goals, our affect on our world and those around us (if we think that in any way matters). But what yardstick are we using to measure our growth and progress? Certainly we can decide for ourselves what we think seems reasonable. But will that help us maximize our return on investment for our time and effort? Will we set the bar high enough? How will we know? This is where a religious faith comes in. As I said in my original post to you, you need to decide what kind of life you'd like to have. Different religions offer not only different outcomes (heaven/hell, nirvana, reincarnation), but radically different lifestyles to get there, as well as entirely different personal and social obligations. I want to get the most out of my life, to be best possible person I can be, to get the most out of the talents I've been given, to know that I have reached for perfection in the best possible way. My faith gives me that.

          • Susan

            My faith gives me that.

            What is faith? Please explain it in clear language.

            And how does it give you the things you claim it gives you?

            Why do I see people striving for and attaining those things without your faith?

          • Linda

            Hey Susan,

            I hope that I can provide you with a proper answer, but im not sure I have faith that I will. ;)

            My faith is a religious faith - that God exists, that He has revealed Truths to us, and that by living in right relationship with Him, that we will come to know Him. I believe that Catholicism is the one, true faith - that I am called to love in every bit of my life, and that by doing that, I will be the best version if me that I can be.

            You could have the Faith of You - you exist, you determine for yourself what is true, you will live your best life by listening to your own ideas. But as no one is perfect, I can't see how, if you're setting your own standards, they could possibly be the highest ones to set.

            I think you see people striving for similar things, but not the same things. If they were the same things, the people you see would be Catholic.

            I hope this is helpful.
            Linda

          • Susan

            Hi LInda,

            Your paragraph on faith sounds exactly like belief-without-evidence even though catholics here continue to assert that it's not. I would very much appreciate a definition that doesn't sound like belief-without-evidence, that is, belief with sufficient evidence that it doesn't appear to be a wholehearted commitment to a concept before that commitment is justified.

            You could have the Faith of You - you exist, you determine for yourself what is true, you will live your best life by listening to your own ideas

            I'm not sure what any of that means. I don't have the Faith of Me. I try to understand reality better by examining the evidence and the evidence says that in the larger scheme of things, I am not that important.

            My general motto is to not take myself too seriously but to take what I do seriously. This is because what I do affects countless sentient beings including, but not exclusive to humans. This is why evidence matters so much.

            I work on finding out what's true by examining evidence, including factoring in the evidence that as a human, I have all kinds of thinking flaws by nature, that can lead me away from determining what is true. That last part is very important evidence. We need strong methodologies to make progress past it if we'd like to find anything resembling "truth".

            So, no. I don't think I will live my best life by only listening to my own ideas. The fact that you wrote that paragraph makes me think you have made assumptions about the way non-catholics think that are inaccurate. Having read dozens of articles on this site and conversed with many catholics (and having been exposed to catholic dogma through my formative years), I would guess you didn't come up with those assumptions on your own. I could be wrong about that but "The Faith of You" approach is consistent with the sort of slant the priests and teachers liked to use.

          • I try to understand reality better by examining the evidence and the evidence says that in the larger scheme of things, I am not that important.

            You are important to me.

            This is because what I do affects countless sentient beings including, but not exclusive to humans.

            That's why.

          • Linda

            Hey Susan!

            Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. We're on vacation.

            First - an apology. I re-read the Faith of You paragraph and it is not well-developed or explained and I worry that the tone, since you don't know me and can't hear me, isn't as kind as I intended. It does sound like something from a teacher or a priest, and while I'm sure I've read or heard something like that at different points, I wasn't trying to parrot something I've heard before.

            Your response is actually exactly what I was getting at. You look at the different ideas out there, evaluate them for their truth, then accept or reject them based on their merits. However, if you are the final judge of what is true, then it is a Faith of You, as you are the one making the determination. If you accept the teachings of someone else (Hitchens, Buddha, Christ) than you have the faith of (Hitchens, Buddha, Christ). The temptation wih the former is that you could put the cart before horse and think, "I accept/believe this, therefore it is true." With the latter, you may be stuck, as Catholics often are, with: "I believe this is the Truth, but it is hard to accept." You mention methodologies that you use to be sure of your choices - what are they and how do they work?

            I don't think I have belief-without-evidence. I have been questioning God's existence since elementary school. When I told the priest I doubted, he said, "Good! Keep looking and you'll find the Truth. But the worst thing you can do is just accept that there is or there isn't without thinking about it." (Or something to that effect).

            In any case, I *have* spent time thinking about it. I have drifted away from the Catholic Church more than once. But whenever I give it serious consideration, whenever I stop and think about whether the teachings and the thought behind them are true, I decide they are. It is not belief-without-evidence. I believe there is sufficient evidence to make an intellectual decision to believe in God, and from there to Christ and Catholicism. My own experience with prayer and in developing a relationship with God has reinforced this belief.

            Last, you mentioned that you see people striving for the same things I am (you are referring to my comments about being the best person I can be, I think) and that, regardless of whether we have faith or not, we are striving for the same things. But I don't think we can be. Catholics are working with a particular prescription for life that differs radically from Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Atheists, and even substantially from many other Christian religions. At our cores we are after different ideas of perfection. So my faith absolutely helps me define who I would like to be and how I can best get there, what my obligations are to my God, to myself, to others, and to the world around me.

            Is this any better yet? I am willing to keep working at it; I believe I can be clear and am disappointed in myself for making such a poor showing so far.

            Thank you for your patience and continued queries. Peace and joy!
            Linda

          • Sample1

            Hi Linda

            I think faith is a lot like atheism. Like atheism, faith only exists in relation to something else: religious culture and actions in everyday living. Where religious culture is weak, atheism is weak. Same with faith.

            We say a person has faith when they choose poorly as in denying a child insulin in favor of prayer. And we say a person has faith when they, like Maximilian Kolbe, take on martyrdom that they may have otherwise passed by.

            The letter F stands for fluorine in the periodic table of the elements, not faith. And so I think you can try to sell me faith but what you seem to really be doing is selling me a culture or a way to behave.

            Why would you want to change my culture or behavior? Isn't it a bit presumptuous to think my own actions and social environment are somehow deficient? Perhaps I misunderstand you, but that's what I'm getting from your reply.

            Mike

            (Thanks for the second attempt btw, might there be a third explanation?)

          • Linda

            Hey Mike,

            Y'know, I'm a Try-Try-Again kinda gal, so a third attempt is a possibility.

            Before I throw myself into the ring again though, I feel like I must owe you an apology. Twice now you have said that I have implied that your life is somehow deficient and that mine is better. I am very sorry. I would never intentionally say or try to imply something like that. I know nothing about your life, but even with people I know well, I can't imagine thinking such a subjective thing.

            I am definitely grateful for all that I have been given - family, health, friends, food and shelter, and all those intangibles - but I would think you could list the same or similar. I have tried to focus on what I get from my faith, keeping in mind always that you are happy with your life already. That, I thought, was what your request was in the first place: to sell you on something you don't think you need.

            As I type that though, I realize something: I have been telling my children for some time now not to get sucked in by advertising, because it is designed to make you feel inadequate and insecure about your life. Because the only way to sell someone on anything is to make them think their life is lacking in some way in the first place. I'm not sure where that leaves us, since you requested the sales pitch in the first place, which could imply that you *aren't* satisfied with your life. But I think you are perfectly happy with your life, and are merely engaging in an interesting discussion. I hope that is the case. If not, I am sincerely sorry. Please forgive me.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the reply Linda.

            I'm not insulted at all (this is not personal). You're right, I am just engaging in discussion. I'm also just perplexed about what faith is and why I (apparently) need it. I do know of some theological reasons why others want me to have it but nothing has been compelling for me. I'm someone who finds theology overrated (kind of like The Doors). :-j

            I'm starting to form the opinion that faith isn't even a real thing. It's a concept for sure, but faith, as I've said elsewhere, only has a shadow like existence in the presence of something more tangible like culture and behavior.

            Take away the culture/behavior by entering a laboratory for instance, and faith vanishes. Same with grace for that matter. Grace only means something in a certain cultural context; a religious one. I see the words faith (and grace) as being as real as cherubim, seraphim and Sasquatch.

            Mike

          • Linda

            Hey Mike!

            Thanks for the reply, though I now feel my faith in The Doirs is shaken. Of course, if we can agree on early Rolling Stones and The Who, there may be hope for conversation.

            I think you're right about faith incorporating a certain amount of culture and behavior. I'm not sure that you'd get a full appreciation of Catholicism by attending World Youth Day or watching "Bells of St. Mary's" ( that's a good one!), but you'd get a taste. Catholic faith goes to the core of who a person is and what he does with his life, so from my perspective faith is much more than just a concept.

            But I agree that for some people it does seem like something layered on, like a jacket, that they don because they are supposed to or because those around them seem to expect it, in which case it probably is more just a concept.

            I think you're probably right about grace existing mostly in a religious context. But here, too, I will say it is more than just a concept, at least for me and others I know who have received God's grace in their lives. It's a powerful experience.

            Does faith appear to you to be something that would be helpful (or that others think is helpful)? Or does it seem more like it would be confining and controlling, something designed to regulate behavior?

            As to culture, for Catholics the overarching catechism does provide a common way of looking at the world, but each country/region/ethnicity adds its own layers to the beauty of The Church. For that matter, community culture varies from parish to parish in a big city. The "feel" you get at one parish can be very different from one a mile away.

            What do you mean by the idea that faith would fall away in a laboratory? Is it that scientists of all faiths can pursue the same scientific goals?

            And you mention that people around you (apparently) think you need faith. Is this just friends and relatives? Are people trying to "save" you? What are the theological reasons you've been given? (I suspect saving your everlasting soul which, if you don't believe in God, must seem like a fairly useless reason to buy into faith and/or religion.)

            Does this count as a third attempt? :)

            Linda

  • GaryJByrne

    Replace 'faith' with 'wishful thinking' and ask yourself if it's something worthy of respect.

    • Replace 'faith' with 'wishful thinking' and ask yourself if it's something worthy of respect.

      And if so, try again with "superstition."

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Rather than being clever, why don't you engage with what Barron said. He said the Church is against superstition. Why don't you attack that?

        • primenumbers

          And they just define as what they do as not superstitious and what other people do, what they object to as superstitious.

        • Yes, the Church is against superstition when a particular superstition is not something included in official faith. Religious faith seem to me to be an aggregate of individual superstitions, that organizations get away with not recognizing as superstitions when enough of them have been knit together to be called a "Faith."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What would be a superstition you think belongs to the Catholic faith?

            Will this definition of superstition work for our discussion?

            The unseemly or irreverent worship of God, or giving to a creature the worship that belongs to God. Rendering unbecoming worship to God may stem either from false devotion or from a tendency toward magic. Giving divine worship to a creature is either idolatry, divination, or vain
            observance. The term "superstition" more commonly means unbecoming worship to God.

            When supersitition arises from false devotion, it is really superfluous worship of God, which may take on a variety of forms. Their common denominator is an excessive concern that unless certain external practices, such as multiplication of prayers, are performed God will be displeased.

            When superstition stems from a tendency toward magic, it reflects a false mentality that may or may not be the root of false devotion. Behind the false mentality is the notion that certain ritual practices, such as chain prayers or veneration of unapproved objects, carry with them an efficacy that is contrary to sound reason or the teaching of the Church.

            http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=36723

          • What would be a superstition you think belongs to the Catholic faith?

            Exorcism, Lourdes, efficacy of prayer, patron saints, magic power of statues and amulets, ... The list goes on and on, but the easy way to get it is to go search "superstition and Catholic Church" and read the articles written by members of other Christian movements. It has been a big objection since the Reformation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Just to begin with your first example, please explain what is superstitious about exorcisms.

          • Just to begin with your first example, please explain what is superstitious about exorcisms.

            Really?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. Really.

          • Mikegalanx

            Why not? We've had creationism, geocentrism, elan vital- look for a vigorous defence of bloodletting and the four humours next.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What is so back with wishful thinking?

      If you think you can do something which you can, wishing you can do it can lead to action which can lead to doing it.

      If you think you can't do something which you can, you will just give up and will never do it.

      • BenS

        What if you have faith (wish) you can do something which you can't?

        Faith can't make you fly. Wishful thinking can't make you breathe underwater.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Faith that man can fly worked out for Orville and Wilber and faith that man can breath underwater was accomplished by Cousteau and Gagnan.

          But obviously if you wish something is true that isn't, you will have the experience Yogi Berra so eloquently captured: "It ain't what you don't know, it's what you do know that ain't so."

          • But obviously if you wish something is true that isn't, you will have the experience Yogi Berra so eloquently captured: "It ain't what you don't know, it's what you do know that ain't so."

            Or that which Mark Twain earlier captured: "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."

          • primenumbers

            Faith is the cognitive bias that causes you to place more weight on confirming evidence than it can bare, and less weight on disconfirming evidence than it would fairly demonstrate is reasonable. This bias of faith causes belief when normally such a belief would not be held due to it not passing the evidentiary threshold of belief. In other words, you'll believe things that are not rational to believe.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If I have good reason to think that God has revealed something, then it is reasonable for me to believe it.

          • primenumbers

            What has this un-evidenced God revealed that you have good reason to believe? What good reason do you have that if there is a God they'd reveal in this manner? If you were revealed to directly what good reason do you have for not thinking you're delusional? If it was revealed to others, what good reason do you have for believing them, for not thinking they are delusional?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I tried to respond to these questions below.

          • If I have good reason to think that God has revealed something, then it is reasonable for me to believe it.

            If you hear voices in your head, then it is reasonable to have that checked out.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That has nothing to do with what the Church means by the supernatural virtue of faith.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's very clever but it's wrong.

          • Mark Twain also said

            There is something fascinating about science.
            One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture
            out of such a trifling investment of fact.

          • The reliability of scientific knowledge has been significantly improved after the time of Twain; religion, not so much.

          • It's still funny, although not as funny as my favorite Twain quote: "Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

            Not quite so funny, Twain said of Henry James, "Once you've put one of his books down, you simply can't pick it up again."

            And of course there's Mark Twain on Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science.

          • BenS

            Well, putting to one side the disingenuity exhibited there, thinking about it I'm pretty sure you're right, it WAS faith that caused the numerous refinements in designs for aeroplanes and whathaveyou. They didn't just come up with a design and go, 'this will work'. They tested the designs and refined them based on the evidence of their tests and...

            Wait! I'm wrong! That's not faith at all! That's science!!!!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The difference is due to the difference between assent to divine revelation and the experimental method.

            Faith can't make you fly but an airplane can't get you to heaven.

          • BenS

            But as there's no evidence for heaven then we're right back to faith being believing in things without evidence. It always gets back to that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have a book I just got from the library called "Proof of Heaven: A neurosurgeon's journey into the afterlife."

            I have good reasons to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God whose revelation includes information about heaven. So, evidence for heaven really rests on evidence for Christ.

          • Sample1

            I just saw that book the other day on the rack. I was saddened to see a trained physician, one boarded in neurology no less, succumb to bad reasoning. How are you liking the book Kevin?
            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I haven't started it yet.

            Is it rational to assume the author has succumbed to bad reasoning just by seeing the cover of a book?

          • Sample1

            Is it rational

            That depends.

            In my case, I didn't just see the cover. I read the table of contents and a few pages. I don't doubt he had fantastical experiences. I don't doubt that at all. How could I? I hear auto-erotic asphyxiation produces pleasurable experiences too, not that I would know.

            And I am aware that cover titles are often publisher gimmicks that authors may not have control over.

            However, when I read his claim (among others) that the place he says he went to was literally real, well...let's just say that if I swabbed my mouth I'd have bet my saliva would have had elevated cortisol levels. Cue the "Windows Shut Down Theme," crazy had just entered the building.

            And another thing, it was placed on the non-fiction side of the rack! Grrrr.

            Mike

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I spent about a half hour on it and it is a disappointment. To be taken seriously, I think it needed the support of serious medical and scientific testimony, which is lacking besides, a brief letter from his physician. The author also lists a bunch of hypotheses to explain what happened to him which he rules out. He shouldn't be the one proposing them or judging them.

          • I have a book I just got from the library called "Proof of Heaven: A neurosurgeon's journey into the afterlife."

            A family member who believes the NDE superstition sent it to me a few months ago, so I read it. The author confuses memories constructed during post coma psychosis with ordinary memory of living events. The author has been debunked:

            http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/07/proof-heaven-author-debunked/66772/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I knew that. He has not "been debunked." Somebody has written an article debunking him. Anyone can do that. One article just begins the discussion.

            Not that it would not be a way to rake in a few million bucks!

          • primenumbers

            So your book is evidence, but our article debunking it is just for discussion? Notice how you add weight beyond the evidence's worth to your favoured position and dismiss disconfirming evidence (did you even read it?). That's the cognitive bias of faith for you!

            "So, evidence for heaven really rests on evidence for Christ"- of which you have no extra-biblical evidence, no contemporary evidence, only the word of later anonymous writers who were not eye-witnesses. All that evidence should lead to in a rational person is agnosticism on the issue.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your counter-evidence is a house of cards resting on assumptions assumed in order to dissolve evidence for Christ.

          • primenumbers

            But there's not even enough actual evidence (late anonymous stories from believers is all you have got) to warrant any more than agnosticism - any counter evidence just reduces any reason to believe still further.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let me ask you this.

            Are the assumptions that underlie the conclusion--that the New Testament (and post-Apostolic writings) cannot be evidence for what Christ did and taught and for what actually happened in the Apostolic Church--impartial, sound historical assumptions, or are they ideological assumptions chosen so as to discredit these sources?

          • primenumbers

            The question comes down to - do we have reason to trust the gospel writers? We don't know who they are, where exactly they lived, when exactly they wrote (only a rough timeline ~40 to ~70 years after the events). We know they wrote in Greek. We know they had knowledge of OT scripture. Some of them copied from each other. They are writing as believers seeking to convert people. That's our basic starting point.

            To figure trust of such an unknown author is tricky. No documentation of where they got their stories from is given. They do mention real places and historical characters. Given their anonymous status, we cannot begin with a high level of trust.

            So we can start to look at what they wrote and to see if there's any mention of the events they talk about in the contemporary historical record. For small events we'd probably not expect mention of such events, but for large-scale events (earthquake, darkness, triumphal entry, saints rising from dead, murder of the innocents etc.) they're significant enough to make a strong argument from silence. (note - arguments from silence are not necessarily invalid - but they're only as strong as the expectation that should such an event have occurred that they would have been mentioned). If these large scale events had been mentioned, that would bolster our trust in the authors. But because we don't have mentions, that either means, if we're being generous with our trust in the authors with our agnosticism, or depending upon how strong we see the argument from silence based on how much we'd think we'd have mentions of these large scale events should they have occurred, with a diminishment in our trust.

            Now we can look at other aspects of the texts are presented. The authors were no eye-witnesses, so no mind how trustworthy we find them, the stories can only be as trustworthy as the undocumented trail of sources from where the stories originally came. Such an undocumented trail over ~40 to ~70 years cannot be something we give our trust to. Again, we must at the very least be agnostic.

          • Such an undocumented trail over ~40 to ~70 years cannot be something we give our trust to. Again, we must at the very least be agnostic.

            Who is "we"??? Do you get to speak for all of humanity?

            The Christian (and Catholic) Church wasn't founded on the Gospels. The Gospels were written by Christian believers and accepted by the Christian Church as its scripture. While scripture is very important to the Church, it is certainly possible to imagine that the Church could have flourished and grown to be much the same as it is today without the Gospels ever having been written or without them having been officially adopted as scripture.

            Christianity, or the "Jesus movement" was not founded because the Gospels were written. The Gospels were written because there was a Jesus movement. People became Christians before the Gospels existed.

          • primenumbers

            "Do you get to speak for all of humanity?" - absolutely and all the time!

            Yes, indeed there were Christians before the Gospels were written. But we only know of the earthly Jesus through the Gospels, and of early Christianity through other books/letters of the NT. But we don't doubt the existence of early Christianity - we doubt that the Gospel stories are true. Christians are no more evidence for the truth claims of the Christian religion than any other religious follower is for any other religion.

          • Christianity, or the "Jesus movement" was not founded because the Gospels were written. The Gospels were written because there was a Jesus movement. People became Christians before the Gospels existed.

            Unfortunately we don't know which "Jesus movement" or what "people became Christians" means before we have writings from those people. We know there were followers of Jesus, but we don't know how they saw him or his teaching until the letters of Saul of Tarsus tell us. The view as written after 70 C.E. when the Romans crushed Jerusalem, was that of the more Hellenistic churches that survived and may have been helped to form an independent view by the vacuum left by the fall of the Jewish Temple system.

          • Unfortunately we don't know which "Jesus movement" or what "people became Christians" means before we have writings from those people.

            There is no question in my mind that the message of the early Christian documents (Gospels, letters of Paul, and some other non-canonical writings) is a record of the faith of the (fairly) early Jesus movement, not an objective account of the life and teachings of Jesus. It seems clear to me from the Gospels that Jesus intended his movement to be made up of Jews. (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”) It is not at all clear how much Paul knew about Jesus, and without Paul, it seems extremely doubtful that the Jesus movement would have survived. While it certainly is not impossible, to those who believe in God, to believe that the risen Jesus appeared to Paul and commissioned him to spread the Jesus movement beyond the Jews, I don't need Bayes' theorem to make me highly skeptical. From my point of view, Jesus spent his entire ministry preaching to Jews and commenting on Jewish controversies common in his time. The Introduction to Volume IV of John P. Meier's monumental (and unfinished) work A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus is titled The Historical Jesus is the Halakic Jesus, which is to say the historical Jesus is the Jesus who interpreted Jewish Law. It would seem to be a great stumbling block to believe that God would become a Jewish man for the purposes of interpreting Jewish Law for the Jews, getting rejected and killed by them, and then gaining a following of non-Jews to whom the Jewish law he interpreted during his lifetime was deemed inapplicable, and in fact, as a result the Jews were supposed to give up their Law (which Jesus had interpreted to them) and become Christians.

            All of that is just my personal opinion, and I am sure most of it will be considered gravely heretical to the more orthodox Catholics on the site. Nevertheless,having said all of the above, I disagree with those who way that "we" must be agnostic about the existence or teachings of Jesus, and I disagree that it is irrational to be a Christian or that Christianity is not supported by evidence. Human being simply do not make religious commitments based on cold rational calculations. I have read a few accounts of people who have a certain part of their brain damaged and as a consequence are without emotion. For them, it is an impossible task to make a simple decision about what movie to go see or what restaurant to eat at. They can weigh such decisions for hours, coming up with endless reasons for and against every possible choice. People make almost all choices based on emotion and intuition. And I would say that someone who is drawn to Christianity and believes they have enough "evidence" to become a Christian is not to be told they really ought to remain agnostic about the whole thing.

            Adhering to a religion is a lot like trusting a person, it seems to me. It is about personal feeling and intuition and gut reaction. I don't think anyone has the right to tell people who become Christian, or Jewish, of Buddhist, or Hindu, or Muslim that the "evidence" does not justify their doing so.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

            Why do you interpret that as evidence that Jesus' teachings was to be limited to Jews alone, while interpreting "Go and teach all nations" as what, an invention of the followers of St. Paul?

          • robtish

            Pointing out contradictions in the New Testament is a funny way of bringing people to the Christian God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To what contradictions are you referring?

          • robtish

            “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
            "Go and teach all nations"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not a contradiction at all. It is a complementarity. Christ's preaching was to be confined to the Holy Land. His followers' preaching was to be to the whole world.

          • robtish

            That doesn't comport with Matthew 15 at all, and no reading of it can support the notion that Jesus was merely referring to a geographical restriction on where he would preach. The woman he was referring to was right in front of him.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What does that have to do with moving from the lost sheep of the House of Israel to preaching the Gospel to the whole world?

          • robtish

            Because Jesus does not say “I was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and then later the whole world.”

            No. He says: "“I was sent ONLY to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I honestly have no idea what point you are making.

          • robtish

            I'm making the point that the Bible contradicts itself on whether Jesus was sent for the whole world or "only the lost sheep of the house of Israel," as he says in Matthew 15.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is great. An atheist who interprets the Bible literalistically!

            Do you not think that Matthew noticed this "contradiction", yet did not change it? That's because there is no contradiction.

          • robtish

            Merely saying "there is no contradiction" does not give anyone reason to believe there is no contradiction.

            Clearly there is a difference between "all nations" and "only the lost sheep of the house of Israel." If there are subtleties that resolve this contradiction please explain them rather than merely asserting that this contradiction does not exist.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is nothing subtle about it.

            Acts 1:8:

            "You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth."

            Stage One: Christ preaches the Gospel personally to the Jews in the Holy Land. Founds a Church and trains her leaders. Suffers, dies and Rises. Trains those Apostes some more.

            Stage Two: Christ commissions those Apostles to preach the Gospel starting here in Jerusalem and keeping going, but not to start until they receive the Holy Spirit. Sends the Holy Spirit. They start preaching in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, and then into Asia Minor, then Europe, and so on.

          • robtish

            Stage One does not explain what made Jesus so callous to the Canaanite woman until she debased herself by comparing herself to a dog begging for crumbs (actually, Jesus doesn't come off especially well in this encounter).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You just changed the subject, robtish.

          • robtish

            I certainly added a new note to the subject, but I did not change it. I explained why I think your explanation does not account for the story as recounted in Matthew 15. That's very much the subject.

          • I honestly have no idea what point you are making.

            I think, to boil it all down to simple terms, it seems quite curious that Jesus, as a religious leader, would preach Judaism to Jews, object to dealing with Gentiles, and then (after being crucified) claim that the movement he started was for everyone, only to have the one group he said he came for (the Jews) drop out of his movement altogether, whereupon Jewish law is dropped altogether, and centuries of anti-Semitism follow.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the evidence against your hypothesis is that we have the passages in Sacred Scripture which make your curiosity possible. Nobody went back and edited Jesus' words so they would fit a "new" doctrine that included Gentiles.

            Jesus commonly said something much different to people than what they expected. This is another instance.

            If he was "only" concerned with Jews, why would he heal the woman's daughter?

            The Jews expelled the Jewish Christians from the synagogues, which along with the destruction of the Holy Land by the Romans in the first and second centuries, cemented the split.

            If Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and created a New Covenant Chosen People, then it's understandable that this people would move beyond a strictly Jewish identity to one able to be lived by people with much different customs.

            Antisemitism is a mystery to me. Perhaps it began because of the anti-Christianity of the Jewish leaders and continued due to the human failures of many Christians.

          • Nobody went back and edited Jesus' words so they would fit a "new" doctrine that included Gentiles.

            Editing was not needed because the words had yet to be written.

            If Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and created a New Covenant Chosen People, then it's understandable that this people would move beyond a strictly Jewish identity to one able to be lived by people with much different customs.

            Yes, that is true. It would also be true if the "Christ" story was made out of legends of a deceased Jesus (post facto) so as to look as though he "fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and created a New Covenant Chosen People."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If your hypothesis were true, then the whole thing would be a fraud and I would have no interest in it.

          • That would be reasonable of you.

          • robtish

            "If he was "only" concerned with Jews, why would he heal the woman's daughter?"

            Because she grovelled to him and flattered him? Because, really, that's the story as it's told.

          • Because she grovelled to him and flattered him? Because, really, that's the story as it's told.

            I think that is not the most sympathetic reading of the story! Remember, those who related the story (as it was almost certainly passed along as oral tradition), and finally the author who wrote it down, saw Jesus as divine. They also saw Jews as God's chosen people and Gentiles as "inferior." There would have been nothing particularly remarkable about a reference to the Gentiles as dogs. Jesus has made it clear that he believes his mission is to the Jews, not the Gentiles.

            What would, I think, strike the early Christians as remarkable about the story is that it is usually Jesus who is the master of encounters that make use of wordplay. Here, not merely a Gentile, not merely a woman, but a Gentile woman gets the best of Jesus in an encounter. And while Jesus has trouble with the Jewish authorities, and also has trouble getting Jews to believe in him, here is a Gentile woman who has faith in him.

            What I find at best naive about the way many here who are critical of Christianity read the Bible is that, first, they insist on reading it as literally true. And second, they read it as if God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament were just another two characters in the story. If Jesus is just some guy wandering around preaching, then perhaps the Canaanite woman "grovelled to him and flattered him." But if Jesus is divine, or God incarnate, that changes the relationship between Jesus and the woman dramatically. She's engaging God himself in a kind of contest of wills, she wins, and Jesus admires her for it. She may be acknowledging the superiority of the Jews over the Gentiles or the Canaanites, but that is an absolute given to the author of the Gospel. She is not grovelling to acknowledge the Jews as God's Chosen People, because they are (in this particular account). She is not "flattering" Jesus to recognize his power, because as the author of the Gospel sees it, Jesus has that power. The woman is only recognizing what is true.

            The Gospels are literary works. For believing Christians, they may be a lot more than that, but nevertheless they are literary works, and to read them other than on their own terms is to misunderstand them and ruin them. It's like reading Lord of the Rings and criticizing all the characters for believing rings can have power and wizards can work magic. It is one thing to believe Jesus never existed, or to believe he existed but has been falsely depicted as a divine being in the Gospels. But it is quite another thing to read the Gospels as literary works and discount what the authors believed about Jesus. It's like reading Superman comics with the attitude that they are filled with falsities because men (even men from Krypton) can't fly, and coming up with alternative explanations of Superman does what he is depicted of doing that don't depend on Superman having superpowers.

          • robtish

            "For believing Christians, they may be a lot more than that, but nevertheless they are literary works, and to read them other than on their own terms is to misunderstand them and ruin them."

            I think you're right. Let me expand that with two points:

            1. It's hard to read them as purely literary works when others are telling me they are, well, gospel. I would read Lord of the Rings differently if someone were trying to convince me to accept as my religion.

            2. Even looking at this as a literary text, God and Jesus do not come off very well. God has created this Canaanite woman, and yet demands that she regard herself as a dog compared to the deserving humans (i.e., God's chosen Jews) who sit as Jesus' "table," and whom God has decided to focus his redemption on, leaving everyone else to go, literally, to Hell.

            I don't find this so hard to take if I view it as an ethnocentric myth told by a group of persecuted people as a way of forging an identity. I find it impossible to take if you want me to believe that this is how a God of perfect love and mercy actually is. And it's the latter interpretation that matters on a website whose stated purpose is for Catholics to understand more about why atheists are atheists.

          • Why do you interpret that as evidence that Jesus' teachings was to be limited to Jews alone, while interpreting "Go and teach all nations" as what, an invention of the followers of St. Paul?

            Well, we get to the Council of Jerusalem, which is generally dated to be about 50 A.D.—20 years after the crucifixion—and the remaining Apostles chosen by Jesus are conventional, practicing Jews in all respects except they believe Jesus was the Messiah. So it has been 20 years since they have been told to "go and teach all nations," but it is Paul, who wasn't there to hear that, who is advocating not merely for Gentile converts, but also to release Gentiles from the Judaic Law. Jesus during his lifetime allegedly declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19), and yet the Apostles 20 years later were all following Jewish dietary laws, and it is a matter of controversy what Gentiles must do. It really does not seem as if the 11 remaining Apostles had any plan for teaching all nations. It does not seem to me, either, that Jesus, during his lifetime, had any intention of bringing anyone other than Jews into his community or had a plan to teach all nations.

            If, knowing that Judaism was going to cease to be "God's official religion" after his crucifixion, Jesus would have spent his time explicating Mosaic Law, seems a rather serious problem for Christianity. The Jewishness of Jesus was largely lost sight of for almost two millenniums, but the focus is back on it now. Jesus said

            “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven. I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

            But in Christianity as we understand it today, and in fact as it was understood shortly after the death of Jesus, the law was abolished. If Jesus, during his lifetime, "made all foods clean" (a very dubious assertion), then he abolished quite a number of dietary laws. So I find this very confusing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You make it sound like the Apostles hunkered down in Jerusalem and never left the place. Peter had his "kill and eat" vision long before the Council of Jerusalem and he's in Antioch when Paul criticizes him for switching to kosher foods when Jewish Christians come around.

            Why can't it be that the first Christians, who were all Jews, didn't think that much about Jesus' teaching about food until the number of Gentile converts made it an issue? Or, why would you assume that just because Jesus declared all foods clean and Peter had a vision about all kinds of animals being eatable, that they would say, "Hey guys, let's roast a pig!"? While the Apostles were in Jewish lands, their eating non-kosher would have been hard practically (where would the get the non-kosher food)? and would have scandalized their fellow Jews.

            That fact that James was the religious leader in Jerusalem implies to me that Peter was usually elsewhere.

            As far as the law being abolished or not, the usually way to look at it is that Jesus corrected, enlarged, and perfected the Jewish Law. For example, he corrected the Mosaic permission of divorce, enlarged the scope of the law to thoughts and words, and gave it a focus sacrificial love.

          • Why can't it be that the first Christians, who were all Jews, didn't think that much about Jesus' teaching about food until the number of Gentile converts made it an issue?

            The first followers of the Jesus splinter cult branch off Judaism were Jews, but Christianity as it came to be known in the late first, and early second, century was losing its Jewish ways (and taking on the ways of the Greek world) on its path to becoming the Church of Rome in the fourth.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm unclear about what point you are making.

            The Council of Jerusalem was before Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and the name Christian was already being applied to followers of Christ in Antioch by then.

            Of course I reject your notions that the "Jesus splinter cult branch off Judaism" and early Gentile Christianity and the form of Christianity legalized and adopted by the Roman Emperors were different things.

          • Yes, the branch that lead the Council of Jerusalem did not make it much past the destruction of Jerusalem. Those who were following Jesus in the Greek speaking lands came to be called "Christians" because of the Greek translation of the Hebrew "messiah" (khristos). I was less making a point about the names, but more about the customs and theology, which would not settle down for hundreds of years.

          • The first followers of the Jesus splinter cult branch off Judaism were Jews . . .

            I would say the first "Christians" were firmly within Judaism, not a cult that branched off. When Gentile Christians began to predominate, they parted ways with Jewish-Christianity, but some Jewish-Christian communities survived for quite some time.

          • I would say the first "Christians" were firmly within Judaism, not a cult that branched off.

            The lines a pretty fuzzy so you can call it that way if you like. The first followers of Jesus were Jews within Judaism. Some followers thought Jesus was a messiah in the Jewish tradition of divine appointments of kings. The Jewish leaders who had James the brother of Jesus (aka James the Just) stoned to death thought they were a heretic cult. The concept of "Christ," as a deified Jesus, was pushed by Paul, and was considered full-out blasphemy, and not any part of Judaism, by the Jewish leaders.

          • There is no question in my mind that the message of the early Christian documents (Gospels, letters of Paul, and some other non-canonical writings) is a record of the faith of the (fairly) early Jesus movement, not an objective account of the life and teachings of Jesus.

            I would grant a retrospective telling of one group of followers. We don't know how many others there were, or what happened to them, or what they wrote that was destroyed by the winning orthodox, or just not carried forward. Even among the churches we do know about, we don't know how they presented the story of Jesus, or the theology of his deification, in the time following his death but before the letters of Paul.

            ... It seems clear to me from the Gospels that Jesus intended his movement to be made up of Jews. (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”) It is not at all clear how much Paul knew about Jesus, and without Paul, it seems extremely doubtful that the Jesus movement would have survived.

            It is also my opinion that Paul founded Christianity, as it became to be known, amid the the Hellenistic community as the Jesus followers in Jerusalem faded out or where killed by the Romans.

            ... While it certainly is not impossible, to those who believe in God, to believe that the risen Jesus appeared to Paul and commissioned him to spread the Jesus movement beyond the Jews, I don't need Bayes' theorem to make me highly skeptical. From my point of view, Jesus spent his entire ministry preaching to Jews and commenting on Jewish controversies common in his time. The Introduction to Volume IV of John P. Meier's monumental (and unfinished) work A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus is titled The Historical Jesus is the Halakic Jesus, which is to say the historical Jesus is the Jesus who interpreted Jewish Law.

            Seems reasonable.

            ... It would seem to be a great stumbling block to believe that God would become a Jewish man for the purposes of interpreting Jewish Law for the Jews, getting rejected and killed by them, and then gaining a following of non-Jews to whom the Jewish law he interpreted during his lifetime was deemed inapplicable, and in fact, as a result the Jews were supposed to give up their Law (which Jesus had interpreted to them) and become Christians.

            Which is why, I think, it had no hope of taking over the Jewish community. Both theologically and politically it was a non-starter.

            All of that is just my personal opinion, and I am sure most of it will be considered gravely heretical to the more orthodox Catholics on the site. Nevertheless,having said all of the above, I disagree with those who way that "we" must be agnostic about the existence or teachings of Jesus, and I disagree that it is irrational to be a Christian or that Christianity is not supported by evidence.

            That Christianity exists is a fact; it need not be irrational to be a Christian because any given person may be getting some specific benefit out of doing so. However, I would say that the truth of Christian doctrine is not supported by evidence. (see Why I am not a Christian by B. Russell)

            I think Jesus probably did exist and lived a life that included a short period of street preaching before being swept up in the Roman occupation politics of putting down any organizing efforts that might lead to revolt, by execution. What Jesus actually taught I can't know because he left no writings and was not transcribed contemporaneously. There is a good chance, IMHO, that much of what the Gospels say he taught, he did teach, while talking in riddles to keep the Temple authorities and the Romans off his trail. There is also a good chance that much of what is attributed to Socrates was also from him, but we just can't be sure how much was actually from Plato.

            ... Human being simply do not make religious commitments based on cold rational calculations. I have read a few accounts of people who have a certain part of their brain damaged and as a consequence are without emotion. For them, it is an impossible task to make a simple decision about what movie to go see or what restaurant to eat at. They can weigh such decisions for hours, coming up with endless reasons for and against every possible choice. People make almost all choices based on emotion and intuition.

            There is many things in there. First off, yes, we need the brain functions that drive us to make decision and do things. This evidence goes against the idea of a "soul" providing that from some supernatural standpoint. However, our rational minds are also involved; we may want to eat at given restaurant, but don't because it would take the money we need for something else, or because we just read a review that questions the way they treat their workers.

            ... And I would say that someone who is drawn to Christianity and believes they have enough "evidence" to become a Christian is not to be told they really ought to remain agnostic about the whole thing.

            You used the "ought" word.

            ... Adhering to a religion is a lot like trusting a person, it seems to me. It is about personal feeling and intuition and gut reaction. I don't think anyone has the right to tell people who become Christian, or Jewish, of Buddhist, or Hindu, or Muslim that the "evidence" does not justify their doing so.

            Again, they can do what they want to do for whatever reason that they like, as long as it "neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."[ref] What I want to know is what is true, that I may know the truth. From what I have been able to find out, no religion offers me truth supported by evidence.

            What we do find are cases where people look at the evidence and change their minds. You can go read personal stories on the web of people growing up in a religion and then finding out that what they had been brought up to believe is not true. A recent story was going around about how facts from the web are cutting away at the support for the Mormon religion, and I suspect they are not the only ones.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I looked at two, including the one I assumed might be scientific, the one from Scientific American, written by the founder of the Skeptics Society (totally unbiased), but I found the book itself to have no apparent merit.

          • WSMFP

            How can you have good reasons to think this guy was the son of god when there are no good reasons to think he ever existed?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            *There are no good reasons to think he ever existed."

            Please present your evidence for the non-existence of the most famous person and influential person in human history.

          • Ben

            Yeah...you might want to read up a little more on that book. Turns out all the medical claims made by the author about how his brain was "completely shut down" were false, and there's really no reason to think the guy wasn't just hallucinating.

          • primenumbers

            "Faith that man can fly worked out for Orville and Wilber and faith that man can breath underwater was accomplished by Cousteau and Gagnan." - they didn't fly, they build machines that could fly - they didn't breathe underwater but built machines to carry air so breathing could function normally.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And as Fr. Barron attempted to argue, supernatural faith, hope, and love, are gifts God gives the Baptized to get to heaven.

          • primenumbers

            He failed to demonstrate that faith was anything other than blind faith. He claimed at first it isn't, then contradicted himself. See my top level post on this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Disqus is hiding any top level post from you from me.

          • primenumbers
          • Kevin Aldrich

            How did you do that?

            Anyway, I think I would be better for Fr. Barron to answer you than me. I point out elsewhere that he does not actually give definition of faith (he does for hope and love).

            I think you are mostly pointing out the limits of attaching natural faith (=trust in trustworthy authority) with supernatural faith (=trust in trustworthy supernatural authority) and then using that as similarity in analogy comparing supernatural faith with the natural faith/trust the scientific community places in each other.

          • primenumbers

            I see plain contradicting in his words - if you want to discuss, start under my top level post so we've got it all in context.

          • ZenDruid

            Not faith, but confidence in sound science.

  • I am just going to pick a couple of quick points to respond to re the video by Robert Barron. First, listing scientists who you claim to be also holding your faith does not make it anymore likely to be true. Those scientists are doing work that requires results that match reality while they are doing that work. What they do in church on their off time need not.

    Science does not need to have "faith" that the world is understandable. Individual scientists hope to find some part where they can extend our understanding. We don't know how long we can keep doing that, but finding out the limits to our technique is always a parallel goal. Scientists don't have blind faith in the results of other scientists. They check each other carefully and have come to have reasonable expectations based on prior evidence.

  • Sage McCarey

    Here's a good example of faith: An apt building is on fire. A woman in wheelchair drops a new born out of a second story window and a little girl about six catches the baby. Then the fire dept arrives and saves the woman in the wheelchair. And there she is on tv news, "If it wasn't for god I would be dead. I thank the lord." She is not thanking the children who caught the baby or the firemen who saved her life. She is thanking her lord. She doesn't ask why her lord let the bldg. catch fire. She doesn't thank the people who really saved her. This is faith.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If you watch the video, this is not what Fr. Barron is talking about at all.

  • Rationalist1

    Do atheists hate Quakers? Not really. Do atheists hate Episcopalians? Do atheists hate Menonites? No, of course not. They don't even hate Catholics, Mormons or Baptists.

    What they object to is any denomination seeking to make its parochial laws on internal beliefs universal to all members of society. If these religions stopped trying to do that, then there would be no need for this website.

    • "What they object to is any denomination seeking to make its parochial laws on internal beliefs universal to all members of society. If these religions stopped trying to do that, then there would be no need for this website."

      >> Exactly. Just let Rationalist make *his* parochial laws on internal beliefs universal to all members of society and he will be perfectly fine.

      • Jonathan West

        You can propose laws based on your beliefs, and you can a publicly argue for them on their merits. If your proposal is good enough, the legislature will support you and turn it into a law.

        But don't expect people to treat "God wants things to be this way" to be much of a persuasive argument in favour of your position, unless you can get him to come down to earth and make his case in person.

  • Slocum Moe

    Faith, hope, love and charity are things that we find and develop within ourselves. We join together with others for community, strength and to exchange and compare thought. This banding together is religion. Over the course of time, we may come to modify our beliefs through our religious association. Religious thought may be modified through the contributions of some individuals.

    Religion does not have primacy over the thoughts, beliefs or actions of the individual nor does the individual dictate to other members of the religious community. There remains a commonality of purpose that all may appreciate, enjoy and benefit from.

    Too much religion today seeks to be dictatorial. I will not condemn the considered conscience of others in the name of religion. I will not personally tolerate the subjugation of women, the vilification and ostracizaton of out Gays, the abuse of the weak or innocent or any attempts to coerce my thoughts and behavior to conform to an accepted normative, religious standard that I do not personally and independently endorse. I realize that in some places and some times, the individual may be forced to give up individually held values to successfully coexist in society.

    I do not live in such a place or such a time. For that I am truly grateful.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Wow! Six upvotes for

      I will not condemn the considered conscience of others in the name of religion.

      I realize that in some places and some times, the individual may be
      forced to give up individually held values to successfully coexist in
      society.

      In other words, if you decide it is necessary, you will condemn the religious conscience of others and force them to conform to your vision of society.

      That is tyranny.

      • robtish

        Tyranny? In the past some people used their religious beliefs to fight against the right of women to vote, while others used religious beliefs to fight for it.Same with slavery. Somebody has to win that battle. Not everyone can get their way.

        That, I think, is what Slocum is talking about. It's not tyranny. It's a democratic republic with certain rights guaranteed, even if they are momentarily unpopular.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You mean like the right to make me pay for your abortion? Or the right to make me make your gay marriage wedding cake?

          Which could easily become the right to deny my children a religious education? Or as some have argued here, the right to abolish Christianity and refound it on "reformed" principles?

          • robtish

            No, I mean the simple fact that even among religious people, not everyone has been able to have their way on things like slavery and women voting. I'm pretty sure I made that clear.

          • Slocum Moe

            My taxes can be the ones that subsidize Planned Parenthood and your's can go to some of the stuff I don't like, okay? It seems to me that refusing to sell wedding cake to Gays is like having a lunch counter or hotel that will only allow White patrons. Is that the kind of society you want? I think it's proper for you to take your children to church with you, right up to the point when they tell you they don't want to go any more. I don't think the government has any business founding or reforming religion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "My taxes . . . your taxes." Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. Government taxes and spends.

            The false parallel between civil rights for people of color and homosexual marriage is rejected by most blacks in the US, Prop 8 in California being a case in point.

          • Michael Murray

            The false parallel between civil rights for people of color and homosexual marriage is rejected by most blacks in the US, Prop 8 in California being a case in point.

            But not apparently by Desmond Tutu

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/26/desmond-tutu-hell-homophobia_n_3661120.html

            PS: I thought we weren't doing marriage equality here ? Not complaining mind.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not. Others keep bringing it up.

            Tutu, is far left, so no wonder.

            He also says that homosexual clergy in Anglicanism should remain celibate "for now." Like that's going to happen.

          • The false parallel between civil rights for people of color and homosexual marriage is rejected by most blacks in the US, Prop 8 in California being a case in point.

            Marriage is in deep, deep trouble within the African-American population of the United States, with 71% of births being out of wedlock. Comparing the marriage rates, we have

            Percent Married
            White women 51%
            Black women 26%
            White men 44%
            Black men 32%

            I don't see why African-Americans are any better qualified to judge whether same-sex marriage is a civil rights matter than whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            They are not, but when someone wants to justify one thing based on the experience of another, it's worth considering what the other thinks of the first thing.

            A second matter is sociological. Why blacks oppose homosexual marriage--or rather, *which* blacks and why.

            A third is demographics. Those who opposed same sex marriage in California *voted* so we have to ask, which blacks voted and are they in the group of the 75% or the 25%?

      • Corylus

        Wow! Six upvotes for

        I will not condemn the considered conscience of others in the name of religion.

        I realize that in some places and some times, the individual may be
        forced to give up individually held values to successfully coexist in
        society.

        In other words, if you decide it is necessary, you will condemn the
        religious conscience of others and force them to conform to your vision of society.

        That is tyranny.

        No Kevin, that is quotemining. Lets look at what you omitted.

        Too much religion today seeks to be dictatorial. I will not condemn the considered conscience of others in the name of religion. [Emphasis mine]

        .... some stuff about the history of the subjugation of those who tend to come up against religious authority also omitted...

        I realize that in some places and some times, the individual may be forced to give up individually held values to successfully coexist in society. I do not live in such a place or such a time. For that I am truly grateful. [Emphasis mine].

        You seem determined to see yourself as a victim of late. Why is this?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It's not quote mining. It is critical reading.

          • Corylus

            It's not quote mining. It is critical reading.

            Hmm, we shall have to agree to disagree on this.

            What I will say, is that when making the judgment on this, I look most closely at the sentences that both immediately precede and come immediately after quoted text - this to see if there is a qualifier missed or context omitted.

            I also look out for three little dots, for one never knows what the ... has been missed out ;)

            I admit you did not do the second thing, but I maintain you did the first.

      • Slocum Moe

        I just mean that most societies even today are not really free and many are severely restricted. If a person lives in one of these places and we probably do, it restricts our choices.

        Personal autonomy is perhaps God's greatest gift to us. I do not seek to take away yours, I hope you do not seek to take away mine.

        Personal autonomy is one of God's greatest gifts, Kevin. Religion should honor God's gifts, not restrict them. My choices and your's may not be the same but they may both be the right choices for us.

      • severalspeciesof

        I will not condemn the considered conscience of others in the name of religion.

        I realize that in some places and some times, the individual may be
        forced to give up individually held values to successfully coexist in
        society.

        In other words, if you decide it is necessary, you will condemn the
        religious conscience of others and force them to conform to your vision
        of society.

        That is tyranny.

        Except you didn't quote the next line:

        I do not live in such a place or such a time. For that I am truly grateful.

        Did you realize that line "I do not live..." certainly negates your pulling his words out of context? Or am I reading it wrong?

        Glen

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I could have misread him.

          I think the ambiguity is in "give up individually held values to successfully coexist in society."

          That sounds like the writer thinks that is a good thing, since he uses positive words like "successfully" and "coexist."

          If I had written that and wanted to show my disagreement, I think I would have said, "Deplorably, some governments coerce individuals into violating their consciences to conform to the government's ideology."

          At least, that's what I'm against.

  • Vickie

    I have not been able to follow all the discussions presented today but it appears from a quick overview that faith is the argument of the day. The science of faith or the lack there of, depending of which side you are on. As science is observation and description of our universe and logic and reason is the processing of that information...the universe is where I am going to go.

    I am going to go to the parts of the universe that we can see with our naked eye or with the strongest telescope but we cannot go there because the distance would take beyond our lifetime even traveling at the speed of light. We do realize that what we see of those things is only an image? Right? That we are seeing what was and not what is? That the reality of those things is so radically changed over the span of millions of years that our current information is no longer relevant to that reality? Or that it may no longer even exist any more? No matter what we do, or how well we are able to magnify it, we will only be observing what was and not what is? That we can only PROVE what was and not what is? That any method used to prove it would always be millions of light years off? Big, big margin for error. Right? The best we can do is best guess? But if I said to you "prove the current existence of these things" your evidence could be disproven in an arugment through logic and reason?

    So I am wondering how much else in science is best guess? I am wondering if it is logical and reasonable to employ the best guesses of science and logic and reason as the only two all powerful, all sufficient tools of providing truth for me? I am wondering if I might want to explore the use of a few more tools? Such have been the musings of my mind today.

    • Jonathan West

      I think that you would do well to read some good popular books on science so that you could understand better how scientists check their guesses to see if they are right. I have a short reading list for you which I think you would find extremely enlightening.

      The first, since your comment has addressed astronomy and cosmology, is Big Bang by Simon Singh, which traces the development of the Big Bang theory from the first realisation of the cosmological consequences of Einstein's equations on relativity through to the detection of variations in the cosmic microwave background radiation which demonstrated the necessary variations in the density of matter during the Big Bang that allowed galaxies to form.

      The second is Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Goldacre is a medical doctor, and so he concentrates on medical science, how we can tell whether drugs will kill us or cure us. In the middle of the book is a short but wonderful chapter titled "Why clever people believe stupid things", which quite frankly is worth the entire price of the book by itself.

      The third is The Drunkards Walk by Leonard Mlodinow. This concentrates on how randomness affects our lives, how bad we are at understanding it and how we frequently interpret patterns when in fact there is nothing but randomness.

      If you were to read those three books, you would come to a much better understanding both of how poor "common sense" or "intuition" often is at accurately understanding the world around us, and the extreme lengths scientists go to in order to be sure that their answers are right.

      I don't ask you to read these books in order to convert you to atheism. I ask that you read them in order to come to a better understanding of what science is and how scientists work, so that you won't unwittingly misrepresent science.

      • primenumbers

        Excellent choices there Jonathan. I'd add Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) - http://www.amazon.ca/Mistakes-Were-Made-But-Not/dp/0156033909/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374880029&sr=8-1&keywords=mistakes+were+made+but+not+by+me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

      • Vickie

        Thank you for the sugestions. I may add those to the science section of my tool box.

        I like the subtle shifts in these discussions though so that often we are discussing apples and organges. Science, as in observable fact as opposed to science, as in methodology. Are my facts incorrect?
        I am not discounting science or reason and logic for that matter. They are two very good tools. What I am questioning is whether or not I should limit myself to only these two tools or should I explore others as I have observed a deficiency.

        • Yes, Vickie, one always has to keep in mind the difference between the knowledge derived from scientific work and the methodology of science, itself.

          • josh

            I like to point out that 'science' in common usage means at least 1.)The methodology/philosophy of science. 2) The institutions of science. 3. The results of science.

            A lot of bafflegab relies on equivocating between these things.

          • A lot of bafflegab relies on equivocating between these things.

            Indeed.

          • Vickie

            Really? There have been no scientific discoveries based on the observance of an anomoly and the subsequent exploration of said varience?

          • Every single discovery of new scientific principle has been *exactly* of the form you suggest above, Vickie.

          • Vickie

            Rick,

            Got all wrapped up in my discussions and forgot to say thanks

          • I don't understand what you mean. Discoveries happen all the time between what is expected and what is observed; perhaps some of the best. However, the comment Josh made was not about that at all.

          • Vickie

            actually, I was responding to the bafflegag thing. As in "Bafflegag? Really? ...and then I see no need to repeat what I said.

          • actually, I was responding to the bafflegag thing.

            But, what does that have to do with discoveries? Josh was talking about mixing up the different referents of the word "science"?

          • Vickie

            Josh submitted a definition and I let it stand. He then presented my previous statements as bafflegag, which you then agreed with. I was referring to my previous statement of having observed a deficiency otherwise termed as an anomoly...and then queried as to whether or not there were any scientific discoveries that sprang from the observance of and subsequent exploration of such a varience.

            I hope I caught you up now.

          • Yes, Vickie, I read your original comment and the exchange as it happened, and did not think the "bafflegag" was directed by Josh at you specifically. I took it as a general comment about the mix-up about science that we hear so often, and agreed with him about that. Josh encouraged you to lean more about how ideas move from speculation to well supported theory, and gave you some pointers about how to do so. I also agree with that.

          • Vickie

            Am I doing it incorrectly. I believe that I have observed an inconsistency. I have decided to explore it. Is that not how you move from speculation to theory? By exploring what you have observed and compiling those observations?

        • Jonathan West

          When I was at school in Britain, more years ago than i really care to remember, science lessons were largely about teaching us the achievements of science - in the other words what we knew. When my children were at school, I was very gratified to discover that the emphasis had significantly changed, and much more was taught about how scientists could tell whether they really knew what they thought they knew.

          At the very simplistic level, the answer to that question is "try it and see". Ultimately, any scientific theory stands or falls on whether we can observe the world behaving according to the predictions of the theory.

          Science has gained very great prestige, so much so that many people seek to appropriate the language of science even though they have never themselves actually carried out any kind of scientific experiment and have no idea what is involved in eliminating alternative possible explanations for some phenomenon. An absolutely perfect example of this is the Peter Kreeft article How Your Conscience Leads to God recently posted here. Kreeft goes through the motions of eliminating alternatives to God as a source of conscience, but he quite clearly has no idea of the lengths that you really have to go to in order to truly eliminate the other possibilities, and as a result his argument has more holes than a colander.

        • Jonathan West

          By the way, it's a little known fact the the earliest ever record of a clinical trial is in the Bible. Look up Daniel 1:1-16. the story contains many (though not all) the elements of a modern clinical trial.

        • Jonathan West

          What I am questioning is whether or not I should limit myself to only these two tools or should I explore others as I have observed a deficiency.

          What deficiency? This is in fact a question I have asked a number of religious people, and I have found it remarkably hard to get a clear answer out of them. Quite a number of religious people claim that the scientific method is unsuited to the task of discovering facts about God. If this is so, then I am interested in answers to the following questions.

          1. What alternative method would you use instead?

          2. What weaknesses of the scientific method does it overcome?

          3. How can you tell that it doesn't introduce new weaknesses that the scientific method avoids?

          Do you have any thoughts on these questions?

          • Vickie

            Well, those are the questions that are answered by exploration are they not? So are you telling me that becaus questions have arisen I should no longer explore anything else?

          • Jonathan West

            I'm asking you what tools you use for your exploration.

          • Vickie

            Well the next step in the scientific method would then be experimentation with various tools and compiling my observations. Just because you are satisfied with those two tools doesn't mean that they are all that there is. Or are they absolute so that therefore no further study or discovery is necessary or possible.

          • Jonathan West

            Yes, I realise that is what you mean. It is just that you haven't actually mentioned what additional tools you might try to employ. I'm interested to know what they are.

          • Vickie

            Again, I ask are those two tools absolute? If not then the field is open and it would not be unreasonable to think that there are other useful tools. At the end of things I may find that it is not one tool or two but the cooperation of many tools that leds me to the truth. This, as you may already have surmised, is the hypothesis I am leaning towards.

          • Jonathan West

            Yes, but what additional tools do you think may be useful? I really don't understand why you are so shy about naming them?

          • Vickie

            I don't understand why you are so shy about answering my question about whether or not your tools are absolute?

          • Jonathan West

            I have not the faintest idea what you mean by "absolute". Certainly the scientific method is highly effective in terms of acquiring knowledge with a high degree of confidence that the answers are correct. But "absolute" is a term introduced into the conversation by you, i have not used it and I don't know what you mean.

            So my question is what other techniques of discovery do you regard as more effective than the scientific method in learning about God?

          • Vickie

            You are avoiding. Do not try to corner me into another discussion of varying definition of word usage. been there done that all day today. I have already conceded that science is an highly effective tool. You know the meanings of absolute and the context in which I am using it. Is your answer to my question yes or no?

          • Vickie

            By the way, I do not believe I used the word God, including my original post. I used the word faith, not religious faith, just faith. And I used the word truth. I believe it is you who have introduced God.

          • Jonathan West

            Well, let's lose "god", "absolute" and "religious", and concentrate solely on "faith". What tools, comparable in effectiveness to the scientific method, do you think you might be able to make use of, in order to gain more certain knowledge about the things you have faith in?

          • Vickie

            That's funny...kind of like my husband when we would discuss an issue in our marriage that was problamatic. Next thing I knew we would be talking about something else entirely.
            First of all I never said that I was going to lose the scientific method. I believe in another discussion I made a distinction between "science" as in observable fact or "science" as in methodoIogy. If you read my original post you will see that I have a problem with what science told me and not in the method they used to get there. Because of this obseved deficiency, I then said I found a problem with having it as the only tool in the box in leading me to the truth. I also never said that I would abandon logic and reason either. My problem is not really with logic and reason at all, it is with the system of the logical argument especially as it is often employed here where truth becomes secondary to trapping your opponent in an inconsistancy. I am observing the use of these two tools alone to be unsatisfactory in coming to the truth and believe that I would benefit from the use of others.
            So I will rephrase my question but I am keeping absolute. Are the tools of what science tells me and logical argument so absolute that therefore no other study or exploration is necessary or possible?

          • BenS

            If you read my original post you will see that I have a problem with what science told me and not in the method they used to get there.

            Not sure I follow. You have no issues with how the answer was arrived at, you just have a problem with the answer? That kind of sounds, to me, like you simply don't want to hear the answer.

            So, the scientific method is a good way to arrive at an answer... until you don't like the answer?

            If you'll only accept a single answer, why bother with a methodology at all?

          • Vickie

            There you go. We got a lot of monkees jumping on a lot of cupcakes out there on both sides.
            You are telling me that there was never a scientist who did not like the answer he got? Found it was not helpful for his purposes and went back to the drawing board?
            So what I was expressing came secondary to how I said it
            You just proved my point.

          • Vickie

            And again, I never said I would only accept a single answer. I said that I wouldn't accept the answer I was given. My position in this discussion has been from the beginning that I did not want to accept a single answer but wanted to explore and discover if there are more.

          • BenS

            The problem lies in that you seemingly accept the methodology used to provide the answer... but you just won't accept the answer.

            So you'll keep on 'seeking' additional answers until you find one that you like. So it's not the methodology that's important, it's the answer. Seems to me like you'll disregard science when it doesn't say what you want to hear and take inferior paths as long as they confirm your own opinions.

            You are riding a horse - and that horse is called 'Cognitive Bias'.

          • Vickie

            Is my mantra in these discussions continually going to have to be "That is not what I said"?
            One person jumps me for only accepting a single answer, another jumps me for exploring for more answers. Talk about bias. Flex those intellectual muscles why don't you? You may prove yourself more adept than I, it won't make you right.

          • BenS

            You are telling me that there was never a scientist who did not like the answer he got?

            No.

            Found it was not helpful for his purposes and went back to the drawing board?

            No.

            So what I was expressing came secondary to how I said it. You just proved my point.

            In which case, your point was so subtly disguised, I simply did not see it!

            If you'd reiterate your point in a more coherent fashion, that would be nice.

          • Vickie

            Gladly. It was not disguised I said it quite planly but it could have been that you were so focused on a perceived mistake that you pick on that you didn't see it.

            "it is with the system of the logical argument especially as it is often employed here where truth becomes secondary to trapping your opponent in an inconsistancy."

          • Jonathan West

            Back near beginning of this part of the thread, you said this

            I am not discounting science or reason and logic for that matter. What I am questioning is whether or not I should limit myself to only these two tools or should I explore others as I have observed a deficiency.

            To which I asked (and I'll paraphrase for brevity) What deficiency? And what additional tools do you have in mind?

            You made the positive statement. I've just been trying to get some clarification from you so that I can understand you better. You are behaving as if I'm trying to catch you out.

          • Vickie

            But that's the thing. I have told you what the deficiency was from the get. I have actually said it more than once. Sometimes in answer to you sometimes to another in this same disussion. Scientific information can't always tell me what IS because it does not have the capablity to so sometimes. In logical argument the thought or idea itself gets lost in favor of catching a misstep. It does not matter at all whether it may be true or not, that gets gobbled up by the nit picking. So if what I am looking for is the truth, why in the world would I hang my hat on something that unreliable as my ONLY source or tool. No one in this discussion has been able to answer my question as to whether these things are "absolute so that therefore no further study or discovery is necessary or possible." And what I got back was "I have not the faintest idea what you mean by "absolute". Really, a man as intelligent as you does not know the definition of absolute and cannot discern my context? That's a little bit hard for me to believe. As no one has answered that question, has avoided it quite blantantly, I can reasonably infer that the answer is no. So further study of tools and sources is necessary and possible. At this point what does it matter "what tools?". It's about exploration and discovery and I have always stated it as such. Do I really have to explain the concept of exploration and discovery? Again, that is hard for me to believe.

            Funny, thing if you had actually read what I wrote carefully you might have had a better idea of what I actually said but everybody was too busy quoting out of context, changing the focus of the discussion and feigning that they had no idea what I was talking about then to actually discuss the idea. You were so focused on the little things that you couldn't see the forest for the trees. How do I know, because there is an actual discrepency in my part of the discussion but nobody caught it because they were too busy pouncing on what they thought they could catch me on or misrepresent. If you had caught it I would have given you kudos. Great catch dude. (because that's how I roll) And gone on to discuss actual thoughts and ideas with you. Go back and read it more carefully and you might gain a new perspective on what was said and if you spot the discrepency get back to me and then we will talk.

          • Jonathan West

            Scientific information can't always tell me what IS because it does not have the capablity to so sometimes.

            I think an example here would be helpful to my understanding of what you are on about. Can you suggest an instance where this capability is absent?

          • Vickie

            In my original post. Science no matter how hard they try can tell me what is concerning things that are millions of light years away. They can only tell me what was. They can calculate, they can extrapolate from current information but they are not capable of actually telling me what is. And you got back to me way to fast to have gone back and reread things like I asked you to do.

          • Jonathan West

            This is what I call the Auguste Comte fallacy. you are assuming that something that is unknown at present is therefore forever unknowable, in other words, current events at a distant star.

            But assuming that this is forever beyond us (rather than merely presently beyond us) assumes that the speed-of-light limit is in fact absolute and that no future technology will ever enable us to go faster. And while I think that may be so, I would hesitate to be absolutely certain about it.

            The reason I call this the Auguste Comte fallacy is because he committed the best-known example of this mistake. . In 1835, Comte stated the following.

            On the subject of stars, all investigations which are not ultimately reducible to simple visual observations are ... necessarily denied to us. While we can conceive of the possibility of determining their shapes, their sizes, and their motions, we shall never be able by any means to study their chemical composition or their mineralogical structure ... Our knowledge concerning their gaseous envelopes is necessarily limited to their existence, size ... and refractive power, we shall not at all be able to determine their chemical composition or even their density... I regard any notion concerning the true mean temperature of the various stars as forever denied to us.

            However, only 14 years later, Kirchhoff discovered that the chemical composition of a gas could be deduced from its electromagnetic spectrum viewed from an arbitrary distance. This method was extended to astronomical bodies by Huggins in 1864, who first used a spectrograph attached to a telescope. Not only have we learned how to determine the chemical composition of the stars and nebulae, but the element helium (the second most abundant in the universe) was first identified in the spectrum of the Sun, rather than in an earthbound laboratory.

            But even if we were to accept your example to be true, that science cannot and never will be able to tell us here on earth what is going on now at a distant start, what alternative means would you offer in order to try and find out?

          • Vickie

            you are assuming that something that is unknown at present is therefore forever unknowable, in other words, current events at a distant star.

            Again too fast to have gone back to see what I said and again putting words in my mouth. I never said it was forever unkowable, I said it was currently unkowable. Heck I am not an idiot, I've watched Bill Nye the science guy and Star Trek :). I get science whether you realize it or not. But if I were talking about ANYTHING else but science and said that it lacked the capablity to always tell you what is and I was willing to explore other things you would find that reasonable and logical. Science is not the be all and end all to everything there is. So your next question to me would probably be...what is then? And I bet you think I will reply...God and then we can go back to the nit picking about whether or not God actually exists. Why am I not going to go there right now? Because you are already locked and loaded, man. Not that I am afraid of that or you. I just feel it wouldn't really be productive with you right now.
            I asked you to go back and find my actual discrepency and then we can talk because then I will know that you are actually interested in what I have to say.

          • Jonathan West

            Again too fast to have gone back to see what I said and again putting words in my mouth. I never said it was forever unkowable, I said it was currently unkowable.

            Well, i you accept that it might be knowable in future, what is your problem?

            I was willing to explore other things you would find that reasonable and logical.

            Offer an example that we can discuss. Unless you actually do that, you have no way of telling whether I would find it reasonable or not.

          • Vickie

            You are a real trip. I have church this morning. Might get back to you later. Could you find it
            or you just didn't look? Doesn't matter. I don't mind admitting it. It wasn't diliberate to trap any one just came about because of my tongue in cheek nature and then I noticed it and was wow I gave them something there.
            I was using science to choose my new tools.

          • Jonathan West

            If you are using science to choose your new tools, then you are now giving the impression that these new tools are an application of the scientific method, whereas earlier you were giving the impression that because you had observed what you considered to be "a deficiency", and that in the context this seemed to be a deficiency in "science or reason and logic".

            So, not unreasonably (or so I thought) I gained the impression that you were talking of some weakness in the scientific method itself, rather than a shortcoming in current measurement technology.

            But in order to see whether my understanding was correct, I asked for examples. Not to catch you out but in order to understand you better, and you have in turn interpreted this as being "locked and loaded".

            So, I'd appreciate it if you would take my questions at face value and try and answer them, as I have been trying to do with your questions.

            So, in order to clarify matters, do you think you could now offer an example of a tool that you had in mind, and in what way you think or hope it would get you past the deficiency you observed?

          • Vickie

            You may not be locked and loaded but you are jumping the gun. We have not yet reached common ground on the necessity of more tools so any discussion of what tools and why would sort of be moot. And actually, no you have not answered my questions because that absolute thing is still the elephant in the room. That "shortcoming in current measurement technology" was what I was trying to get at all along but everybody just automatically jumped on the science method bad wagon. Thanks for that clarification. I hadn't thought of putting it that way. I will also say, however that the scientific method and logic and reason suffer from a malady as it were. They are subject to human error as all things are. The scientific method can at times suffer from bias, miscalculation, and differing interpretation or misinterpretation of data. Logic and reason can also suffer from bias as well as stubbornness. Which is why we have gone "round, like a circle in a spiral , like a wheel within a wheel"(musical interlude) and maybe unreasonably misunderstood each other.

            So I am going to try and get us past this hump to common ground and answer my own question and you will actually be surprised. Of course science is not absolute.....and that is the coolest thing about it. And if you had come to that on your own. I would have said...good point. Paradoxically, it is actually because of it's flaws, of what it lacks that it challenges us to go further. We reach a point when we think we have come to a conclusion and find that we have only just reached the next question which causes us to explore and discover more. We don't have to be afraid to admit that science has it limitations, it is precisely because of these limitation, this flaw, that we come to the next question that causes us to find the ways to expand its boundaries and gain more and more knowledge. Exploration and discovery is so cool.

            But again, paradoxally, we do have to admit the flaw. We then say that while very good, effective and cool tools, they have their shortcomings. And if we have truly come to this realization we are at the point of asking the question. So how do I solve this problem?

            The next logical step then would be probably get more tools.
            And if we are truly there. If you are truly not afraid to admit the shortcomings and the necessity of more tools.

            The next logical question would of course then be "what tools?."

            And my answer would be? If you truly are there, what tools would you use? You see how this critical and independent thought thing works? I have been accused by others of accepting only one definitive answer or seaching until I find the answer I like. I would not presume to impede your freedom by forcing you to accept my answer. If YOU have found that more tools is a possiblity then think about it for yourself. If you wanted more tools in your box what ones would you use? I'm a Catholic...you already know some of the tools I like. So here we are at the precipice of discovery. Do you want to stop at the limitations? Or do you truly see a need for more tools?

          • Jonathan West

            You may not be locked and loaded but you are jumping the gun. We have not yet reached common ground on the necessity of more tools so any discussion of what tools and why would sort of be moot.

            I was looking for answer from you as to what you meant, whether you were looking for an alternative to the scientific method itself, or to new scientific technologies that would be applied using the scientific method. In other words whether you were looking for new intellectual tools to replace the scientific method, or new technological tools to make measurements using the scientific method.

            The original form of words you described implied the former, but it is now clear that you mean the latter.

            It has been useful to clear up that potential misconception.

            We are on a religious website where quite a few people talk about the "limitations of science", and in doing so mean that they regard the scientific method of itself to be unfitted to the task of asking and answering questions about God, and that forms of non-scientific reasoning based on "faith" should be used instead.

            Had you listened to even part of of the recording (you stated that you have not), then you would have realised that this was the topic of this particular thread. So I think it is not so unreasonable that I wanted to get clarification from you.

            I will also say, however that the scientific method and logic and reason suffer from a malady as it were. They are subject to human error as all things are. The scientific method can at times suffer from bias, miscalculation, and differing interpretation or misinterpretation of data.

            Scientists are extremely well aware of that. A classic example of such bias is mentioned by Richard Feynman in his essay "Cargo Cult Science", concerning the Millikan oil-drop experiment to determine the fundamental charge of the electron.

            We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of an electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bit bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

            Why didn't they discover the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number close to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that. We've learned those tricks nowadays, and now we don't have that kind of a disease.

            Having described the disease, Feynman goes on to describe the cure, in as far as human fallibility allows it.

            The first principle is that you must not fool yourself--and you are the easiest person to fool. So you have to be very careful about that. After you've not fooled yourself, it's easy not to fool other scientists. You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that.

            Of course, the institutional processes of modern science are also designed to guard against self-deception or even fraud on the part of scientists. These processes involve peer review of scientific papers and the repetition of experiments by different scientists using different equipment (something mentioned by Feynman in the Millikan story).

            Of course science is not absolute.....and that is the coolest thing about it.

            Now that you have finally provided some context for that word "absolute" (in the sentences following the one I have quoted), I can now say I agree with you. We could have got there much earlier if you have not been quite so prickly. Scientific knowledge is always (at least in principle) provisional and conditional, subject to being disproved by some new observation. That said, in practice there are some things we aren't in the least bit likely to be wrong about. I can say with great confidence that nobody is going to disprove Archimedes' theory of why things float in water, Newton's laws of motion are going forever to provide an accurate description of how billiard balls behave, nobody is going to find that Benjamin Franklin was wrong about how lightning is caused by electricity, and Darwin's principles concerning the mechanisms of evolution are not going to be overturned (much as some religious people would dearly love to be able to do so!).

            The next logical question would of course then be "what tools?."

            And my answer would be? If you truly are there, what tools would you use?

            The tools available to us at any one time are limited by two things. First is the state of our current scientific knowledge - for instance we can't even think how to construct a tool that would enable us to gain information from distant stars at faster-than-light speeds unless and until we have a confirmed scientific theory on faster-than-light information transfer.

            The second limitation is the ingenuity of our engineers in devising and building tools that can make use of the known scientific principles.

            It might be nice to daydream about such tools, but even the spectrograph (solving Auguste Comte's problem) had to wait until other scientific discoveries had made its invention possible.

          • Vickie

            Let me share something with you. I am not here to convince anybody of the existence of God. To have those discussions right now with the people here would be like asking each of us to jump over the grand canyon. "Nope, ain't going to do it". We will almost always come to an impasse. I also agree with the biblical advice about throwing pearls before swine. Some things are just not productive. So you will find, with me at least, that I will never take you by force, I will never force feed you the cathecism nor the bible. I have come here only to provoke further thought. If through that further thought and by your own conclusion you come to a clearer understanding of God so be it, if not then so be it as well. But it will be YOUR conclusion. Because if you do come to an understanding of God it needs to be free, unimpeded and of your own volition. Also do not always think that I am automatically talking about God when I use the word truth. Sometimes I will only be talking about the concept of that which is true and how to we come to it. But if indeed I was prickly I am sure you can understand why. I had words put in my mouth, I had people willing to jump on something without the slightest intent of actually understanding what it was that I said. As you said, you made an assumption based on your past dealings with others which caused you to automatically misunderstand me. It may not actually have been my orginal form of words but your perception of them that kept us from coming to our answers more quickly. And here is the thing. I never said that I did not listen to the video. I did listen to it. What I said quite clearly is that I had not followed each and every discussion thread.

            The reason I kept talking to you is that we had not yet reached our impasse. But now we have. You are satisfied with the limitations of your tools and I am not. Maybe other tools are a dream. I know that there have been many scientists who have been lmao'd by their peers and told they were dreamers too, so I guess I am in good company.

            Good talk, though, I learned a lot. Maybe we will do it again.

          • Michael Murray

            I also agree with the biblical advice about throwing pearls before swine.

            Oh very nice.

          • Jonathan West

            Let me share something with you. I am not here to convince anybody of the existence of God.

            Let me share something with you. I'm not here to convince anybody of the non-existence of God.

            Quite frankly, I'm not even that much interested in discussing the evidence (or lack thereof) for the existence of God.

            That is because unless we have a common approach as to how to evaluate such evidence as may be relevant, any discussions concerning individual bits of evidence are going to be a dialogue of the deaf.

            So, I'm primarily interested in discussions as to what makes a good argument (i.e. argument as in line of reasoning, not argument as in slanging match), whether there is justification for applying different standards of reasoning and/or knowledge to the question of God as opposed to any other aspect of the world around us.

            One of the common claims of the religious is that science is not an appropriate tool for learning about God. I think that is an interesting claim, one worthy of investigation to see whether or not it is true. So I ask why they think that, what is their line of reasoning which brings them to that conclusion. And I ask what alternative approach would do better than the scientific method in order to gain knowledge of God that is of the same quality and reliability as science achieves on other subjects.

            The reason I ask about these things is to see if we can establish an agreed yardstick against which we can measure the evidence and see whether it indicates God's existence.

            So far, I have found few people who believe in God who have thought through these issues in any detail.

            If you have, then I would be happy to discuss the matter with you, if not on this thread, then perhaps on another.

          • Vickie

            I am sure we will be speaking again but not today. I have a large family and have neglected them enough today.
            I will say though that part of our problem is our paradigm of what constitutes acceptable evidence may not match. So my question is, if this were a court of law could I build a case by fitting together what would be the equivalent of cirmstancal evidence? Or must I only use physical evidence equivalent to DNA and fingerprints.?

          • Jonathan West

            You say that "our paradigm of what constitutes acceptable evidence may not match".

            I agree, at the moment our opinions on this undoubtedly do not match.

            I think that rather than trying to work from a courtroom analogy, it would be better for us to address this difference directly.

            Let me start from what I hope is a point of agreement. I think that if there were evidence of a scientific standard that indicates the existence of God, we would both accept it.

            Therefore, if I understand you correctly, the difference in paradigm revolves around whether, specifically in the context of knowledge of God, evidence that is not of a scientific standard should be accepted, and what is the justification for making such an exception.

          • Vickie

            -Therefore, if I understand you correctly, the difference in paradigm revolves around whether, specifically in the context of knowledge of God, evidence that is not of a scientific standard should be accepted, and what is the justification for making such an exception.-

            Ok my brain won't turn off. I have refined my tool idea so that it may be more agreeable for our purposes. What if we consider science, reason and logic to be the tool box itself. So one side of my tool box says "science" and the other says "logic and reason". In order for something to be a tool it must be useful to one side or the other. So to justify a tool it must be useful to the process and not contrary to it. On the science side our tools would be the science method, observable fact, etc. On the logical side we would have logical argument and any intellectual attribute that can be defined as useful to the process and not contrary to it.

            Would we be cooking with gas?

          • Jonathan West

            So to justify a tool it must be useful to the process and not contrary to it. On the science side our tools would be the science method, observable fact, etc. On the logical side we would have logical argument and any intellectual attribute that can be defined as useful to the process and not contrary to it.

            Since we are talking about factual propositions, I think that those two tools should be considered together as one, and that we call it the scientific method. In other words we are looking at observable facts and lines of reasoning which start from observable facts, which in turn make predictions which can be tested by further observation. A line of reasoning, for all that it may be logically sound, it not much use to us unless it has as its starting point one or more observable facts. Let me give you an example of a piece of reasoning that would not qualify.

            1. All blondes are unintelligent
            2. Emma is a blonde
            3. Therefore, Emma is unintelligent.

            The logic by which you derive #3 from #1 and #2 is unimpeachable. Moreover #2 is an observable fact. But #1 is an invalid premise. We can determine this by checking the intelligence of blondes and see whether we find any intelligent ones. I think you would agree that #1 is definitely false, and therefore the conclusion in #3 is not valid. It might of course be that Emma really is unintelligent, but that we can't deduce that from this particular piece of reasoning, though we could by checking Emma's intelligence directly.

            There is a further kind of reasoning or hypothesis which I think we must also regard as invalid, the hypothesis which cannot even in principle be tested by observation. An example is the well-known "Five Minute Hypothesis" which suggests that the entire universe sprang into existence five minutes ago, complete with us and all our memories of all times further back than five minutes, and that the creation is so perfect that it is impossible for us to distinguish between our real memories of the last five minutes and the synthetic ones from earlier.

            There is no possible observation that you can make that would distinguish between the truth or falsity of that hypothesis. It makes no prediction concerning how the universe would look which we can check against reality. The very thing that makes the hypothesis impossible to disprove also causes us to have no reason to think that it is true.

            Could we proceed on that basis?

          • Vickie

            Did I not say that the scienctific method was the tool box itself? Well,ok, I said the toolbox was science but I think you know what I meant. I merely divided it between what would be the more physical aspects of that method and the mental. Therefore, for example, critical thinking is something that helps us in applying this method (a tool) and not contrary to it. This is what I am talking about when I say tools.

            But I do get what you are saying. If I were to compare God to something that we cannot see with our eyes, say wind for example. So if I said to you "Well, you cannot see wind but you believe in that don't you?", I would not be on solid ground evidentially. The force, flow and velocity of wind CAN be seen and felt and measured repeatedly and in a reliable way. So I cannot use a comparision to wind as evidence unless I can demonstrate a comprable effect on the material world.

            Also, I like what you said here...This is what I call the Auguste Comte fallacy. you are assuming that something that is unknown at present is therefore forever unknowable, in other words, current events at a distant star.
            As you presented it than it is in play and all that I ask is that if mutually agreed upon evidence is ever discovered that we be unbiased enough as to treat it equally. So that, if proper evidence is presented, the unknowns of God be treated equally to that of a distant star.
            How we doing so far?

          • Jonathan West

            As you presented it than it is in play and all that I ask is that if mutually agreed upon evidence is ever discovered that we be unbiased enough as to treat it equally. So that, if proper evidence is presented, the unknowns of God be treated equally to that of a distant star.
            How we doing so far?

            Not too badly. I think it would be a good idea if we stay off individual items of evidence for the time being, or at least individual items of evidence as they relate to God, until such time as we have come to a more detailed common understanding of the principles of what counts as good evidence. I suggest that as we develop those principles, we continue to use non-religious examples, as they tend to carry less emotional baggage. Once we have done that, we can then turn to the application of those principles to whatever evidence for or against God that you might like us to discuss.

            I think our problems are going to be less with the existence of this or that phenomenon, but rather on what conclusions can justifiably be drawn from them. That is why I want to plod slowly through some principles to obtain agreement on them before we start applying them to individual bits of evidence.

          • Vickie

            So we are jumping ahead of ourselves to say, discuss what is commonly termed medical miracles and how they are caused, with God being one of many possible causes. But having a general conversation about causative effect and how we determine that one possiblity is more credible than another would work for right now. And if this particular phenomenon was interjected we can discuss what can actually be determined about them and to avoid an emotional bias we would drop the miracle and consider them as an event where cause has not yet been determined.

          • Jonathan West

            Yes, I think that is a good approach.

            In doing so, we could also discuss the principles we would apply in order to attempt to discover the cause of a phenomenon of unknown origin, either by positively identifying a specific cause or by a process of eliminating elements that can be shown not to be relevant.

            I would also be interested in your opinion of the null hypothesis. I don't think we will be able to proceed without a common understanding of how to handle that.

          • Vickie

            So the news reports that Big Foot has been stealing newspapers all over town. My newspaper has been missing. If Big Foot is stealing my newspaper I must also refute that Big Foot has nothing to do with the theft of my newspaper. So in other words, unless I refute the null hypothiesis Big Foot is not even relevant to my newspaper. Because even though Big Foot has been stealing newspapers all over town that doesn't prove he stole mine.
            The null hypothesis for dummies. I think I can deal with it.

          • Jonathan West

            If you want to believe that Bigfoot has actually been stealing newspapers, then catch him and let people take a look at him. Otherwise, I think we can more likely put it down to the mischief of local children.

            But either way, in order to be sure, you can train video cameras on various newspapers awaiting collection by their owners and see who actually picks them up.

            The danger of drawing unsafe conclusions through ignoring the null hypothesis is amply demonstrated in this children's riddle.

            Q. Why do elephants paint their toenails red?
            A. So they can hide in cherry trees.
            Q. Have you ever seen an elephant in a cherry tree?
            A. No, that shows how well it works!

          • 1. What alternative method would you use instead?

            >> Theology

            2. What weaknesses of the scientific method does it overcome?

            >> Its methodological limitation to the realm of observation, hypothesis, and crucial experimental test.

            3. How can you tell that it doesn't introduce new weaknesses that the scientific method avoids?

            >> The scientific method cannot address that which lies outside its operational domain.

            When we see it beginning to succumb to the temptation to do so (e.g., multiverse, something-from-nothing, inflation, dark matter, dark energy), it is time to charitably point out that metaphysics are metaphysics, however much better it might sell these days if we put "Science" on the box.

          • Jonathan West

            1. What alternative method would you use instead?
            >> Theology

            Oh yes? How can you tell that your theological conclusions are correct?

            2. What weaknesses of the scientific method does it overcome?
            >> Its methodological limitation to the realm of observation, hypothesis, and crucial experimental test.

            if you aren't able to make observations, what reason do you have for thinking that your theological conclusions are correct?

            And am I correct in understanding that your answer means that you believe that neither God nor any of his interventions is observable in any way?

            3. How can you tell that it doesn't introduce new weaknesses that the scientific method avoids?

            >> The scientific method cannot address that which lies outside its operational domain.

            What do you think is science's "operational domain" and why can it not go beyond that?

          • "Oh yes? How can you tell that your theological conclusions are correct?"

            >> If they comport with Revelation.

            "if you aren't able to make observations, what reason do you have for thinking that your theological conclusions are correct?"

            >> Theological conclusions must be deductively consistent with the data of Revelation.

            "And am I correct in understanding that your answer means that you believe that neither God nor any of his interventions is observable in any way?"

            >> God is not observable in any direct way. His interventions are of course observable, and are observed.

            "What do you think is science's "operational domain"
            >> Already addressed that:

            "the realm of observation, hypothesis, and crucial experimental test."

            "and why can it not go beyond that?"

            >> Because beyond that lies the domain of metaphysics.

            And beyond that lies the domain of theology.

          • Jonathan West

            "Oh yes? How can you tell that your theological conclusions are correct?"

            >> If they comport with Revelation.

            Well, that just pushes the question back a point. How can you tell that Revelation is correct? There are after all many different religions in the world, they believe different and mutually contradictory things, and all claim Revelation in justification for those beliefs. So how are you able to tell whose revelations are true?

            "if you aren't able to make observations, what reason do you have for thinking that your theological conclusions are correct?"

            >> Theological conclusions must be deductively consistent with the data of Revelation.

            I'll refer you to my previous question. it applies here as well.

            "And am I correct in understanding that your answer means that you believe that neither God nor any of his interventions is observable in any way?"

            >> God is not observable in any direct way. His interventions are of course observable, and are observed.

            If those interventions are observable, what it is that bars scientists from observing them?

          • "Well, that just pushes the question back a point."

            >> Brick by brick.

            "How can you tell that Revelation is correct?"

            >> Excellent question. It requires a comparison of the various truth claims of the religions. I suggest limiting the investigation to the religions which can be shown to have had world-historical impact- clearly, if any religion is truly in possession of a Revelation from God, it can be reasonably expected to have been discernible as a major- in fact, as the single greatest- empirical fact of all of human history.

            That would, of course, be the Catholic Church, and number two is probably a tossup between two schisms from Her, the Orthodox and Islam.

            "There are after all many different religions in the world, they believe different and mutually contradictory things, and all claim Revelation in justification for those beliefs. So how are you able to tell whose revelations are true?"

            >> See above.

            As to observations, they are relevant in theology only to the extent that they serve to orient us toward the religion which can empirically demonstrate its claim to be in possession of a true Revelation- again, by demonstrating itself to be the single most important historical agent in human history.

            The Catholic Church, in other words.

            "If those interventions are observable, what it is that bars scientists from observing them?"

            >> Scientists observe them regularly, as in the case of the miracles at Lourdes. Historians observe them also, in the form of the concrete development through history of the single greatest fact of human history.

            Again, the Catholic Church.

          • Jonathan West

            "How can you tell that Revelation is correct?"

            >> Excellent question. It requires a comparison of the various truth claims of the religions. I suggest limiting the investigation to the religions which can be shown to have had world-historical impact- clearly, if any religion is truly in possession of a Revelation from God, it can be reasonably expected to have been discernible as a major- in fact, as the single greatest- empirical fact of all of human history.

            That would, of course, be the Catholic Church, and number two is probably a tossup between two schisms from Her, the Orthodox and Islam.

            If I understand you correctly, you regard Catholicism as true because it has most believers, the greatest impact being measurable in terms of the largest number of adherents. I just want to be sure i understand you correctly before I go on. Am I correct in my understanding? if not, then by what other criteria do you determine that Catholicism has had the greatest "world-historical impact"?

          • "If I understand you correctly, you regard Catholicism as true because it has most believers, the greatest impact being measurable in terms of the largest number of adherents. I just want to be sure i understand you correctly before I go on. Am I correct in my understanding?"

            >> Close. No cigar. Catholicism is not true *because* of these things. These things are *because* Catholicism is true.

            Or, if you like, consider the question this way:

            1. Either all religions are false, or else all but one are.

            2. If all are false, then theology is a joke.

            3. If one is true, then theology is the queen of sciences; that is, theology will provide the highest knowledge domain accessible to our intellects.

            4. If one is true, it ought to bear empirical "marks" of its unique status among the religions.

            5. As developed earlier, Catholicism does bear these "marks", in a truly singular way.

            6. HYPOTHESIS: Catholicism is the one true religion, and bears a true Revelation.

            Now we have a starting point for our exercise.

            "if not, then by what other criteria do you determine that Catholicism has had the greatest "world-historical impact"?

            >> The creation of the world's dominant civilization; in fact, the only world-civilization in human history, is the direct project of the Catholic Church, as inheritor of the ruins of Rome.

          • Jonathan West

            "If I understand you correctly, you regard Catholicism as true because it has most believers, the greatest impact being measurable in terms of the largest number of adherents. I just want to be sure i understand you correctly before I go on. Am I correct in my understanding?"

            >> Close. No cigar. Catholicism is not true *because* of these things. These things are *because* Catholicism is true.

            I'm going to labour this point because i really do want to understand your thinking. I'm not suggesting that catholicisim is true because of these things, I was suggesting that it is because of these things that you are in a position to know that catholicism is true. In other words, if I understand you correctly, the number of adherents is not the cause of catholicism's truth, but rather is evidence of it.

          • " In other words, if I understand you correctly, the number of adherents is not the cause of catholicism's truth, but rather is evidence of it."

            >> World-historical impact. Number of adherents is a subset.

            Notice, please, that the argument is not that these things of themselves "prove Catholicism is true".

            Instead, they provide us sufficient empirical *grounds* upon which to venture a working hypothesis:

            If there is a true religion, Catholicism would seem to be the logical candidate for examination.

            Grant this much and we can get started.

          • Jonathan West

            >> World-historical impact. Number of adherents is a subset.

            Notice, please, that the argument is not that these things of themselves "prove Catholicism is true".

            It seems to me that all this demonstrates is that Catholicisim is persuasive. As is Islam, given that its world-historical impact is comparable to that of Catholicism.

            And yet, the beliefs of Islam conflict with those of Catholicism to a significant degree, such that if one is true, the other must be false. So mere persuasiveness, as defined in terms of world-historical impact, is surely an inadequate measure.

            Moreover, a new Revelation occurs at a time when it has not yet had an opportunity to have a wide world-historical impact, and yet it must be widely believed in order to achieve that impact.

            So we are still left with the question of how you can tell whether a specific Revelation is true.

          • epeeist

            It seems to me that all this demonstrates is that Catholicisim is persuasive. As is Islam, given that its world-historical impact is comparable to that of Catholicism.

            It would seem that there are now more Muslims in the world than Catholics (note that the information comes from the Vatican year book).

            So, given that there were more Catholics in the world at one time and there are now more Muslims does this mean that Catholicism was true at one time, but no longer is? That Islam is now true?

            Or does it mean, as you say, that Islam is more persuasive than Catholicism?

            It still looks like an argumentum ad populum in either case to me.

          • "It would seem that there are now more Muslims in the world than Catholics (note that the information comes from the Vatican year book)."

            >> Apples and oranges. The Muslims themselves fall into sects, chief among which are the Shia and Sunni. To compare apples to apples, we must compare Christians to Muslims, and there are far more Christians than Muslims.

            Your other points have already been refuted, above.

          • Jonathan West

            I think we might get further by just asking them questions about the basis of their beliefs, and seeing whether they can build a line of reasoning that starts from a valid premise (i.e. something self-evidently true or which can be demonstrated to be true by observation.)

            I've noticed that the lines of reasoning are often not all that bad, but it is the premises which generally don't stand up to examination. It makes me wonder sometimes how much they have examined the premises themselves.

          • epeeist

            I've noticed that the lines of reasoning are often not all that bad, but
            it is the premises which generally don't stand up to examination. It
            makes me wonder sometimes how much they have examined the premises
            themselves.

            As a slight variant on this the standard lines of reasoning are often rolled out, but as soon as corner cases are presented then things tend to fall apart.

            We have, for example, had the "ensoulment takes place at the time of conception" argument, to which the question was raised as to what happens in the case of mono-zygotic twins. We either get silence or something that is obviously an ad hoc addition produced in order to save the premiss.

          • "It seems to me that all this demonstrates is that Catholicisim is persuasive. As is Islam, given that its world-historical impact is comparable to that of Catholicism."

            >> I would suggest we examine the comparative world-historical impact of Islam and Catholicism.

            This is easily done, since the two civilizations vied with one another for world dominance several times.

            Catholicism triumphed, and the circumstances of that triumph were, on several occasions (Lepanto and the Battle of Vienna, for example) frankly miraculous.

            But let us stipulate to your thesis for the moment- the two religions are comparably world-historical in impact.

            Notice that our hypothesis has already served admirably, to narrow the field of consideration down to two.

            "And yet, the beliefs of Islam conflict with those of Catholicism to a significant degree, such that if one is true, the other must be false."

            >> Completely agreed. We have already adopted the logically bulletproof proposition that either all religions are false, or else all but one are.

            "So mere persuasiveness, as defined in terms of world-historical impact, is surely an inadequate measure."

            >> To the contrary. It has already served to narrow the field of consideration down to two, and while I can confidently show that the same criteria will yield a clear and convincing edge to Catholicism, we can stipulate to a more-or-less equal impact of both for purposes of the argument.

            This leaves us with two, contradictory, world-historical religions, each claiming to be in possession of an authentic Revelation from God.

            Nothing requires us to abandon our hypothesis:

            World-historical impact= valid empirical grounds upon which to assess the truth claims of religions.

            In fact it has worked like a charm.

            We are down to two.

            There is an interesting thing about the two.

            One is a schismatic offshoot of the other.

            "Moreover, a new Revelation occurs at a time when it has not yet had an opportunity to have a wide world-historical impact, and yet it must be widely believed in order to achieve that impact."

            >> It is an excellent observation you make here. But it seems reasonable that God, if He exists, and if He has granted a revelation to humanity, will have done so in a way that empirical evidence of His intervention can be found- *easily* found- in history itself.

            We have already noticed that it can be, if we examine the two great world-historical religions.

            Next, we notice that both proceed from the same source:

            The Abrahamic, Hebrew religion and Scriptures.

            This is beginning to fall together, isn't it?

            "So we are still left with the question of how you can tell whether a specific Revelation is true."

            >> Indeed.

            Both religions are Abrahamic. Both claim to be corrective to the Hebrew religion. One claims to be corrective of both the Hebrew religion, and the Catholic development of it.

            We notice that there is one, supremely important, factor that unites all three religions.

            They all can be distinguished, in terms of their theological differences, by reference to one single factor.

            They diverge based upon their interpretation of the historical figure Jesus Christ.

            Here is the ground upon which we can distinguish the truth claims of the three great Abrahamic faiths.

          • Jonathan West

            "It seems to me that all this demonstrates is that Catholicisim is persuasive. As is Islam, given that its world-historical impact is comparable to that of Catholicism."

            >> I would suggest we examine the comparative world-historical impact of Islam and Catholicism.

            This is easily done, since the two civilizations vied with one another for world dominance several times

            I think you need to be a bit less Eurocentric in your history. They vied for dominance of the Mediterranean basin. I think that you have completely neglected the eatern religions, - Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto and Hunduism, all of which have or have had a large number of followers and a a significant world-impact, it is just that it isn't an impact over the bit of the world that you are familiar with.

            Catholicism triumphed, and the circumstances of that triumph were, on several occasions (Lepanto and the Battle of Vienna, for example) frankly miraculous.

            Miraculous? Really? As in God coming down and smiting the opponents? or just that there were a few close calls? There are in most battles that aren't entirely one-sided. Are you going to seriously suggest that the Battle of Vienna is evidence that god is a Catholic?

            "Moreover, a new Revelation occurs at a time when it has not yet had an opportunity to have a wide world-historical impact, and yet it must be widely believed in order to achieve that impact."

            >> It is an excellent observation you make here. But it seems reasonable that God, if He exists, and if He has granted a revelation to humanity, will have done so in a way that empirical evidence of His intervention can be found- *easily* found- in history itself.

            Well, if it can be found so easily, there there is no need for faith because you have evidence on which build reason. this rather conflicts with your original statement that faith and revelation lies beyond reason.

            The rest I am not going to respond to for the moment. You're trying the Gish Gallop on me, trying to rush through several stages of reasoning before we have had a chance to establish whether the initial premises are valid.

            i think that we had better stick with Revelation for the moment, how you can tell that your revelations are correct and Islam's revelations aren't. So far you have only given me persuasiveness and the Battle of Vienna. I think you need to do a little better than that - after all, everyone in the world once believed that the heavens moved round the earth (there are several biblical references to it) and yet it was not true, and it was eventually accepted to be false without the assistance of any battles at all.

          • "I think you need to be a bit less Eurocentric in your history."

            >> Ahem. I am sure you mean to say "we" need to be a bit less Eurocentric in "our" history, since it is after all your own suggestion that Islam and Catholicism were comparably world-historic.

            In addition, it is probably not the case that "Eurocentric" could be applied to the argument in any case, since Islam is not a European phenomenon.

            "They vied for dominance of the Mediterranean basin. I think that you have completely neglected the eatern religions, - Buddhism, Confucianism, Shinto and Hunduism, all of which have or have had a large number of followers and a a significant world-impact,"

            >> There exists a world civilization- the first one to arise on the face of the Earth in fact- and that civilization is not incubated in the East. It is not incubated in Arabia, or in any place other than Europe.

            This is a simple fact of history.

            The civilization which has arisen, has arisen from Europe.

            This fact of history can, of course, be ignored.

            But any honest search for the truth of Revelation- if any!- cannot ignore such a foundational fact of human history.

            A dishonest one, of course, can and will ignore it completely.

            "it is just that it isn't an impact over the bit of the world that you are familiar with."

            >> To the contrary. It is not the civilization of the East which has arisen to shape the face of the world civilization.

            It is not the civilization of Islam.

            It is not the civilization of Buddha, or Confucius.

            "Well, if it can be found so easily, there there is no need for faith because you have evidence on which build reason. this rather conflicts with your original statement that faith and revelation lies beyond reason."

            >> Not in the slightest. This investigation is firmly empirical assuming only that God, if He exists, and if He has granted a revelation to the human race, ought to have made it *easy to discern* the fact of His intervention, merely by empirical examination.

            And so He has.

            Only after we have empirically established which faith can be seen to have most compellingly influenced human history, can we then turn to an examination of its truth claims.

            And only then, once the truth claims have been carefully examined, can we rise to the consideration of Faith in God, the only legitimate Source and Object of Faith,

            "The rest I am not going to respond to for the moment. You're trying the Gish Gallop on me, trying to rush through several stages of reasoning before we have had a chance to establish whether the initial premises are valid."

            >> I see that your commitment to a rational dialogue is declining in reasonable proportion to its legitimate, brick by brick development.

            This is always disappointing, but hardly unexpected.

            "i think that we had better stick with Revelation for the moment, how you can tell that your revelations are correct and Islam's revelations aren't."

            >> We have never stopped sticking to that. Or at least we hadn't until you started Gish galloping back from your own position concerning the relative world-historical impact of Islam and Catholicism ;-)

            "So far you have only given me persuasiveness and the Battle of Vienna."

            >> To the contrary. *You* have given your intellectual assent to the argument that Islam and Catholicism satisfy the condition of world-historical impact.

            It would be logical to proceed to an examination of their relative truth claims.

            I showed you that question focuses on the Person of Jesus Christ.

            We might have spent this latest round moving forward to that examination.

            But for your Gish gallop.

            "I think you need to do a little better than that - after all, everyone in the world once believed that the heavens moved round the earth (there are several biblical references to it) and yet it was not true, and it was eventually accepted to be false without the assistance of any battles at all."

            >> This is of course highly relevant- how fortunate that you should, as if by coincidence, have chosen just this interesting thing!- since no experiment has ever shown the Earth to be in motion around the Sun.

            Only the relatively scientifically literate know this, so I do not hold the lack of this knowledge against you.

            But so that you can be certain that what I say is true:

            “I have come to believe that the motion of the Earth cannot be detected by any optical experiment.”

            Physicist, Albert Einstein[1]

            “…to the question whether or not the motion of the Earth in space can be made perceptible in terrestrial experiments. We have already remarked…that all attempts of this nature led to a negative result. Before the theory of relativity was put forward, it was difficult to become reconciled to this negative result.”

            Albert Einstein[2]

            “Briefly, everything occurs as if the Earth were at rest…”

            Physicist, Henrick Lorentz[3]

            “There was just one alternative; the earth’s true velocity through space might happen to have been nil.”

            Physicist, Arthur Eddington[4]

            “The failure of the many attempts to measure terrestrially any effects of the earth’s motion…”

            Physicist, Wolfgang Pauli[5]

            “We do not have and cannot have any means of discovering whether or not we are carried along in a uniform motion of translation.”

            Physicist, Henri Poincaré[6]

            “A great deal of research has been carried out concerning the influence of the Earth’s movement. The results were always negative.”

            Physicist, Henri Poincaré[7]

            “This conclusion directly contradicts the explanation…which presupposes that the Earth moves.”

            Physicist, Albert Michelson[8]

            “The data [of Michelson-Morley] were almost unbelievable… There was only one other possible conclusion to draw — that the Earth was at rest.”

            Physicist, Bernard Jaffe[9]

            “We can’t feel our motion through space, nor has any physical experiment ever proved that the Earth actually is in motion.”

            Historian, Lincoln Barnett, foreword by Albert Einstein[10]

            “Thus, even now, three and a half centuries after Galileo…it is still remarkably difficult to say categorically whether the earth moves...”

            Physicist, Julian B. Barbour[11]

            There is no planetary observation by which we on Earth can prove that the Earth is moving in an orbit around the sun.

            Physicist, I. Bernard Cohen[12]

            Thus, failure [of Michelson-Morley] to observe different speeds of light at different times of the year suggested that the Earth must be ‘at rest’…It was therefore the ‘preferred’ frame for measuring absolute motion in space. Yet we have known since Galileo that the Earth is not the center of the universe. Why should it be at rest in space?

            Physicist, Adolph Baker[13]

            [1] Speech titled: “How I Created the Theory of Relativity,” delivered at Kyoto University, Japan, Dec. 14, 1922, as cited in Physics Today, August, 1982.

            [2] “Relativity – The Special and General Theory,” cited in Stephen Hawking’s, A Stubbornly Persistent Illusion, 2007, p. 169.

            [3] Lorentz’s 1886 paper, “On the Influence of the Earth’s Motion of Luminiferous Phenomena,” in A. Miller’s Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, p. 20.

            [4] Arthur Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World, 1929, pp. 11, 8.

            [5] Wolfgang Pauli, The Theory of Relativity, 1958, p. 4.

            [6] From Poincaré’s lecture titled: “L’état actuel et l’avenir de la physique mathematique,” St. Louis, Sept. 24, 1904, Scientific Monthly, April, 1956.

            [7] From Poincaré’s report La science et l’hypothèse (“Science and Hypothesis”)1901, 1968, p. 182. L. Kostro’s, Einstein and the Ether, 2000, p. 30.

            [8] Albert A. Michelson, “The Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Ether,” American Journal of Science, Vol. 22, August 1881, p. 125, said after his interferometer experiment did not detect the movement of ether against the Earth.

            [9] Bernard Jaffe, Michelson and the Speed of Light, 1960, p. 76. Jaffe adds this conclusion to the above sentence: “This, of course, was preposterous.”

            [10] Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, 2nd rev. edition, 1957, p. 73.

            [11] Julian Barbour, Absolute or Relative Motion, Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 226.

            [12] I. Bernard Cohen, Birth of a New Physics, revised and updated, 1985, p. 78.

            [13] Adolf Baker, Modern Physics & Antiphysics, pp. 53-54.

          • Jonathan West

            >> There exists a world civilization- the first one to arise on
            the face of the Earth in fact- and that civilization is not incubated
            in the East. It is not incubated in Arabia, or in any place other than
            Europe.

            This is a simple fact of history.

            I think the Chinese might have a few things to say about that statement. They had a civilisation when the ancestors of the English-speaking people were still running around painted in woad.

            The civilization which has arisen, has arisen from Europe.

            This fact of history can, of course, be ignored.

            But any honest search for the truth of Revelation- if any!- cannot ignore such a foundational fact of human history.

            I was hoping for (but alas not expecting) something a little bit better than a restatement of the post hoc ergo proctor hoc logical fallacy.

          • If history itself is to be dismissed, in examining the question of revelation, then I can affirm that I, too, had hoped for, but not expected, better.

            Thanks for the chat.

          • Jonathan West

            Well, perhaps you would like to explain yourself in a little more detail? Given the fact that western civilisation exists, in what way does this demonstrate the truth of Christian (and specifically Catholic) revelation?

            When you say this

            Only after we have empirically established which faith can be seen to have most compellingly influenced human history, can we then turn to an examination of its truth claims.

            It seems to me that you are tacitly accepting that the existence of western civilisation is not of itself evidence of the truth of Christian revelation, a position I wholly agree with, but which seems to contradict your earlier points.

            So forgive me for becoming increasingly skeptical, but you have moved from a position where science is unable to explore the question of God because of "Its methodological limitation to the realm of observation, hypothesis, and crucial experimental test." (your words) and yet you are throwing out facts here there and everywhere which you claim are things which have been observed and on which you are basing hypotheses.

            Quite frankly, it seems to me that you have been seduced by the prestige of science and so you have been trying to use scientific-sounding language in order to have some of that prestige rub off on you and make your ideas sound more authoritative. But what you are doing is what is known as "cherry-picking", assembling a carefully selected group of facts which can be interpreted as supporting your ideas.

            I can quite believe that you think that this is what scientists do, that there are hordes of atheist scientists who have appointed Darwin as their God, Dawkins as his Prophet, chosen "The Origin of Species" as their holy text and gone to war with all competing religions, cherry-picking facts to support atheism.

            But that isn't what scientists do (at least not when doing science). Scientists look at all the relevant facts, including the inconvenient ones. In fact especially the inconvenient ones - they are the ones which are interesting and may lead to new discoveries.

            What I have been doing, in an extremely basic and mundane way, is to subject your ideas to the kind of critical analysis that scientists apply as a matter of course to their own theories.

            So far, you aren't doing very well. Shall we go back to the beginning and try again?

          • "So far, you aren't doing very well. Shall we go back to the beginning and try again?"

            >> I think it would be a waste of time, don't you?

            I mean, you yourself accepted the premise that world-historical impact was a valid empirical means of assessing whether a religion might be in possession of a valid revelation.

            Then you rejected it.

            You yourself proposed that Islam and Catholicism were the two best examples of this phenomenon.

            Then you rejected it.

            No, I don't think I have done poorly, so much as what I have done is to smoke you out, and derived a better understanding of the sort of interlocutor you are.

            That having been established, by all means, let's have some fun ;_)

            "It seems to me that you are tacitly accepting that the existence of western civilisation is not of itself evidence of the truth of Christian revelation, a position I wholly agree with, but which seems to contradict your earlier points."

            >> To the contrary. You have contradicted your own points, as above, and so the discussion needs to move forward along lines appropriate to a debate, rather than a discussion.

            This is always fine with me :-)

            "So forgive me for becoming increasingly skeptical, but you have moved from a position where science is unable to explore the question of God because of "Its methodological limitation to the realm of observation, hypothesis, and crucial experimental test."

            >> Science is unable to address the question of God directly. We have established this. Science- at least historical science- is *of course* able to address the question of God's interventions in history. We established this as well, before you Gish galloped off, sensing what was coming :-)

            "(your words) and yet you are throwing out facts here there and everywhere which you claim are things which have been observed and on which you are basing hypotheses."

            >> Well, at the time I as obligated to suppose you were interested in a discussion oriented toward truthful examination of evidence.

            I am now prepared to admit that supposition is no longer sustainable in the face of developments, of course.

            "Quite frankly, it seems to me that you have been seduced by the prestige of science and so you have been trying to use scientific-sounding language in order to have some of that prestige rub off on you and make your ideas sound more authoritative."

            >> Why, that sounds to me like a bit of pseudo-psychological folderol.

            "But what you are doing is what is known as "cherry-picking", assembling a carefully selected group of facts which can be interpreted as supporting your ideas."

            >> To the contrary. What I have done, is demonstrate that you will renege on agreed propositions in a discussion when it suits you.

            This is fine.

            It is simply important to know this about you.

            Now we can just have some fun :-)

            "I can quite believe that you think that this is what scientists do, that there are hordes of atheist scientists who have appointed Darwin as their God, Dawkins as his Prophet, chosen "The Origin of Species" as their holy text and gone to war with all competing religions, cherry-picking facts to support atheism."

            >> Now since the word "Darwin" has never appeared in any of our exchanges, I must hereby nominate you as the successor of the Gish Gallop.

            I shall henceforth refer to it as the "West Gallop", although only for purposes of this exchange- it doesn't quite have enough of a ring to it, does it?

            "But that isn't what scientists do (at least not when doing science). Scientists look at all the relevant facts, including the inconvenient ones. In fact especially the inconvenient ones - they are the ones which are interesting and may lead to new discoveries."

            >> That is what good scientists do.

            Of course, Darwinism is not science, but is instead metaphysics:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

            "What I have been doing, in an extremely basic and mundane way, is to subject your ideas to the kind of critical analysis that scientists apply as a matter of course to their own theories."

            >> Quite to the contrary. I have had the recent pleasure of interviewing several of the truly greatest scientists in the world, at length, and I recognize in them exactly what I do not recognize in you; that is, intellectual integrity and commitment to truthful discussion of ideas.

          • Jonathan West

            I mean, you yourself accepted the premise that world-historical impact was a valid empirical means of assessing whether a religion might be in possession of a valid revelation.

            Not at all. I accepted that the impact of catholicism demonstrated that it has been persuasive.

            I did not accept at any time that this meant that it was a candidate for being in possession of a valid revelation. I was only establishing that this was your position.

            You are welcome to read back through the thread and check.

            Then perhaps we might start again at the beginning, since you seem to have misunderstood me so thoroughly.

          • Nah, I am quite familiar with the thread.

            Let's go ahead and have some fun instead.

          • Jonathan West

            In that case, without using either argumentum ad populum or post hoc ergo proctor hoc, would you care to explain how it is you can demonstrate both the truth of Catholic revelations and the falsity of all others?

          • Sure.

            Go up to the top of the thread and get back to me when you arrive at this part:

            "Both religions are Abrahamic. Both claim to be corrective to the Hebrew religion. One claims to be corrective of both the Hebrew religion, and the Catholic development of it.

            We notice that there is one, supremely important, factor that distinguishes all three religions.

            They all can be distinguished, in terms of their theological differences, by reference to one single factor.

            They diverge based upon their interpretation of the historical figure Jesus Christ.

            Here is the ground upon which we can distinguish the truth claims of the three great Abrahamic faiths."

          • Jonathan West

            No, because I was questioning premises that you made before you got to that part.

          • OK then.

            Thanks for the chat :-)

          • Jonathan West

            So you're not prepared to defend and justify those premises. As I thought.

          • Mikegalanx

            I'll give you that, after six or seven hundred years of Catholic backwardness compared to the other great civilisations (including the Orthodox) they did start picking up with the High Middle Ages, though it wasn't until the end of the 15th C. they they began to make a world impact, mostly by infecting, enslaving, or slaughtering the native inhabitant of the Americas, and stealing everything in sight.

            Catholicism had a good heyday for a few hundred years, first with Spain and then with France, until they were eclipsed by Protestantism, which went on to actually form that world civilisation you speak of.

            For the last two and a half centuries, to say a country was Catholic was, and is, to say it is backward, poor, uneducated, stagnant, corrupt, inegalitarian and autocratic.
            ( compared to Protestant countries)

            Compare northern and southern Europe, or North America vs. Latin America.

          • English Catholic

            Vicky, Rick, I respectfully disagree. The existence of God can't be demonstrated through scientific experiment (God, being immaterial, can't be made the subject matter of experiment -- just as pure mathematics can't); but it can be proved through logic, allowing for a few premises that science itself relies on, and that any sane conception of the universe relies on. We begin by demonstrating the necessary existence of formal and final causes, and proceed from there.

            I urge you to read Edward Feser's The Last
            Superstition
            . It cleared up many of my misunderstandings, refuted every single argument that atheists bring up, and convinced me that the case for God was irrefutable. It will for you, too.

          • Jonathan West

            The existence of God can't be demonstrated through scientific experiment (God, being immaterial, can't be made the subject matter of experiment

            Does God (whether or not he is immaterial) have any effect on the material world?

          • English Catholic

            Not in the sense of God's being a proximate cause of anything natural, or being a 'God of the gaps' substitute for things whose proximate cause is yet unknown. Some religious arguments proceed upon these lines, unfortunately -- and atheists quite rightly treat these arguments with contempt. (But the existence of a weak argument doesn't mean there are no good ones!)

            So no in the sense of proximate causes, but yes in the sense that the premises from which the proofs for God's existence proceed are premises about the material world.

            The arguments are impossible and absurd in a materialist context. (This is one reason that Dawkins' denunciation of Aquinas's arguments seems plausible; the assumptions from which the two men approach the universe are radically different.) If I said 'God sustains everything in existence from instant to instant' -- which is one way He affects (and effects, actually) the material world -- you would accuse me of violating Occam's razor, or make some comment about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This would be a flawed argument, but we should probably proceed with our discussion above to see why this is so, since it isn't immediately obvious.

      • English Catholic

        For what it's worth -- and I realise the discussion has already gone a long way from this point -- pace Vicky's comment, God's existence can be proved through logic. No argument for God should make belief in Him an 'alternative' to science. Science is reliable and (in a sense) absolute when talking about its subject matter, the material universe. And logic, in the form of Aquinas's proofs, is reliable when talking about its subject matter.

        It is of course essential to distinguish between logical reasoning and the scientific method. The latter assumes the former, but they're distinct things. The latter has nothing to say about God's existence either way; the former can prove it (though not, I'm afraid, in the space of a Disqus comment).

        • Jonathan West

          God's existence can be proved through logic

          Do you mean that it can be proved by logic, but hasn't yet?

          Or do you mean that it has been proved by logic?

          If the latter, let's be seeing it!

          • English Catholic

            Neither. The proofs for God's existence, like all logic, exist independently of time. (But perhaps you dispute the possibility of this?)

            It is true that the proofs were written down for the first time at a specific point in history, in the mid-thirteenth century, and that these are the proofs I would intend on deploying in an argument. Does that answer your question?

            It would be well to find some common premises that we agree on. Where should we start? Do we agree that there's a common reality outside our minds that exists independently of them?

          • Jonathan West

            It is true that the proofs were written down for the first time at a
            specific point in history, in the mid-thirteenth century, and that these
            are the proofs I would intend on deploying in an argument. Does that
            answer your question?

            I presume you are referring to Aquinas. If so, I'm sufficiently familiar with his arguments (and so are many generations of philosophers) to know that they fall far short of proofs. But you're welcome to go over them again if you think you can do better than anybody else who has trotted out the Five Ways.

          • English Catholic

            The so-called Five Ways are just a summary aimed at people who were already believers; they're not intended to be read in isolation. They're also based on an Aristotelian metaphysics, which is something that most people assume (wrongly) has been disproved.

            As I said, it would be good to agree on a starting point. What about the one I suggested?

            I have to go to bed now - will reply tomorrow.

          • Jonathan West

            OK, let's give it a go.

            Where should we start? Do we agree that there's a common reality outside our minds that exists independently of them?

            That belief is known as Materialism (as opposed to Subjective Idealism). I'm quite happy to take Materialism as a starting point.

          • English Catholic

            We seem to be using different definitions:

            I am of the belief that there is a common reality outside our minds, that exists independently of them, so we agree to that extent. But materialism is the belief that this reality is restricted to that which is, in principle, directly or indirectly, detectable by our senses. And I disagree with that.

            Do we have our starting point?

            (For the avoidance of doubt, I include things that we might discover through science one day, but haven't yet, within the definition of 'material'. I also include invisible things like radio waves and gravity. A Sunday school teacher once told me that we couldn't see radio waves but we believed in them anyway; and God was like this. It nearly put me off Christianity for life. I'm not going to insult your intelligence with arguments of that nature, don't worry.)

          • Jonathan West

            I am of the belief that there is a common reality outside our minds, that exists independently of them, so we agree to that extent. But materialism is the belief that this reality is restricted to that which is, in principle, directly or indirectly, detectable by our senses. And I disagree with that.

            Well, you're welcome to, but if some aspect of reality is not even in principle directly or indirectly detectable by our senses, how are you ever going to obtain knowledge of it?

            By the way, I agree with your clarification of "senses" to include invisible things like radio waves and gravity. For the purpose of this discussion, let's take "senses" to include our senses as including them being extended by whatever scientific instrumentation is available now or may become available in the future.

            So, to clarify my point, if some aspect of reality is even in principle inaccessible to our senses (extended as defined above), then while we can say that it might exist, it seems to me that we cannot ever have any knowledge of it.

            So if your starting point is going to be evidence from the material world, then you're going to have either to exclude the intangible aspects of reality, or to explain how it is we can gain knowledge of them by means other than the direct or indirect use of our senses.

          • English Catholic

            Sorry for the late reply.

            Before getting into the proofs for God's existence, we need to disprove materialism. Otherwise Aristotle's and St Thomas's arguments won't make sense (as I think I said earlier).

            Therefore what I'm writing doesn't lead directly to a proof of God's existence, but it sets the necessary groundwork.

            As we've established, we agree that the material universe is reality, not something whose existence our minds posit or imagine. Our disagreement is over whether it makes the sum total of reality. So we might think of material reality as a circle on a piece of paper; we both agree that the contents of the circle exists and is real; the difference is over whether there's anything outside that circle (and, crucially, whether this can be rationally known). Or to put it another way: are there any component parts of reality other than the material (and can these be rationally known)?

            (Just to be quite clear: we need to draw a distinction between 'that which is known rationally' and 'that which can be known through experiment'. They might be the same thing, but this needs to be demonstrated, not assumed. No experiment will ever prove the existence of God. However, scientific experiments only look within the 'circle', telling us about it with greater and greater accuracy. God doesn't exist as a fact or an object within the circle, so it isn't surprising that no experiment will ever prove His existence. That belief in Him is therefore irrational follows only if one assumes materialism. This is why the claim that scientific progress has disproved God's existence is so laughable: not only has it not done so, but it cannot do so, unless one begins by assuming that the material is the sum total of rationally-knowable reality -- a first-year textbook example of question-begging.)

            Anyway, back to the point. Consider mathematics -- think of something simple and axiomatic, like the statement 'x + x = 2x'. My proposal is that this statement, along with all true mathematical statements, is every bit as much a 'component part' of reality as the material. I further propose that it's impossible to reduce mathematics to something material, or to argue that it's merely an extrapolation or generalisation of observations of the material.

            And I don't think this is too difficult to show. Firstly, although mathematics appears again and again in material reality, the statements it lays down are true ('obeyed' by material reality) regardless of any given material state. Indeed, it couldn't be any other way. 2 bananas and 2 bananas will always make four bananas. 10 stars each having mass of 10^1000 kg will have a total mass of 10^1001 kg. Etc. By the nature of what numbers are, and by the nature of what addition (or multiplication, or whatever) is, the answers follow necessarily from the premises.

            Nor is this mere extrapolation from observed facts. We know what will happen in material reality when we apply mathematical principles to it. Combining a barrel of 2349 apples with another of 8891 apples, provided nothing interferes with the process, will give us 11240 apples. This is an absolutely certain fact. That nothing will interfere with the process is not a certain fact; it's technically possible that some quantum fluctuation or magic trick will make 10 apples appear as if from nowhere; but this will not break any of the statements laid down by mathematics. It would just be an example of 2349+8891+10=11250. The laws of arithmetic will always hold, because they cannot be broken; they're necessarily true. And what is true for arithmetic is true for mathematics as a whole.

            (Physics, by contrast, is contingent on the situation of the object being observed. That's why we test in a lab -- to remove external influences as far as possible, and investigate a particular phenomenon in isolation. There's a great deal more that could be said here on Aristotle's final cause, and on why sociology isn't a real science, but not now.)

            Further, mathematical statements are true even when they have no appearance in material reality, or when they have no appearance that we know of. It might be that nothing in material reality is instantiating 234233424+86789, and it might be that this has never been instantiated, but 234320213 is the result nonetheless. Again, this is a certain fact, and it applies to everything from the most basic mathematics to the most advanced. The mathematician G.H. Hardy famously boasted that none of his work would ever be useful, but it was none the less true for that.

            Even more so, any reasonable experiment depends on mathematics' being true. If I want to measure the speed of sound, I depend on dividing my distance from the source of the sound by the time it takes to reach me. I can't prove division, and still less can I disprove it! It just is. It's a statement about how the universe is - just as much as 'objects with mass attract' or 'light is affected by gravity' are. And the same is true for any aspect of physics that uses mathematics -- virtually all of it, in other words. Changing physics is only intelligible through unchanging mathematics. Going deeper into physics means having to go deeper into mathematics first.

            Mathematics is a component part of reality -- we don't make it up, in the way atheists claim we make God up -- but it isn't material. It exists outside our 'material circle', because it isn't an extrapolation from observation: it exists in and of itself. I will happily admit that this is difficult to conceive or imagine. But it's still real. And because of this, materialism must be false.

          • English Catholic

            Who's been voting me down before the argument has even started? Is it you, prime? :)

  • Ben
  • Jay

    I liked this. I do wonder though how much of what Fr. Barron is saying is official doctrine of the Catholic Church and what is more his own personal opinion. I was just thinking that when he gave his definition of love. I think it is a nice definition, but the way he said it with such authority did make me wonder if it was something official... Couldn't find it in the Catechism. I suppose he got the definition from scriptural interpretation and thoughts he's gathered from theologians.

    I personally believe that love is most epitomized by the way we treat our enemies. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for if you love those who love you what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them." I've encountered so many people who say something akin to, "I'm a nice person until you cross me." It's easy to be nice to those who are nice to you, but how do you treat those who've crossed you? Difficult family relationships are often a good example... It's also relatively easy to be charitable towards those you believe deserve compassion. Hemant Mehta from the "Friendly Atheist" often talks about the many atheist charities out there (including one that I believe he started). While I think it's wonderful that there are individuals with and without religious belief in their lives who are willing to give to others, it just doesn't strike me as the deepest form of love since they are simply giving to others what they believe others need/deserve. How we treat those who have wronged or hurt us comes across as a much deeper form of love than anything else, but that is just my opinion.

    • Corylus

      Hemant Mehta from the "Friendly Atheist" often talks about the many atheist charities out there (including one that I believe he started). While I think it's wonderful that there are individuals with and without religious belief in their lives who are willing to give to others, ....

      I understand and sympathize with concerns over charities that mention either religion or lack of it. In an ideal world you give to those in trouble and that should be that.

      The reason why I do concentrate on charities that are either
      not religiously affiliated or divorced from religions is a practical one. This is because I want my money to go (as much as is possible) to organizations that are less subject to placing ideological concerns over evidence.

      ... it just doesn't strike me as the deepest form of love since they are simply giving to others what they believe others need/deserve.

      I wonder if it is that clear cut. When we give people what we believe they need we are often setting aside the question of their individual personality (individual child sponsorship charities aside) and may even be doing so at possible risk to ourselves.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        While philanthropy in limited forms was known by the Greeks and Romans, Christianity is the source of countless charitable institutions: hospitals, orphanages, housing for the homeless, food banks and soup kitchens, schools for the poor, and so on, all growing out of Christ's admonition, "whatever you did to the least of these you did to me."

        • I would like to think "the least of these" means "the poorest of the poor" or "the least worthy" or some such thing. And certainly Catholic charities often seek to take care of such people. However, here is a note from the New American Bible which casts doubt on interpretations of who "the least of these" really are:

          The criterion of judgment will be the deeds of mercy that have been done for the least of Jesus’ brothers (Mt 25:40). A difficult and important question is the identification of these least brothers. Are they all people who have suffered hunger, thirst, etc. (Mt 25:35, 36) or a particular group of such sufferers? Scholars are divided in their response and arguments can be made for either side. But leaving aside the problem of what the traditional material that Matthew edited may have meant, it seems that a stronger case can be made for the view that in the evangelist’s sense the sufferers are Christians, probably Christian missionaries whose sufferings were brought upon them by their preaching of the gospel. The criterion of judgment for all the nations is their treatment of those who have borne to the world the message of Jesus, and this means ultimately their acceptance or rejection of Jesus himself; cf. Mt 10:40, “Whoever receives you, receives me.”

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank goodness that the Magisterium of the Church is not the people who write footnotes for the NAB, which calls *everything* into question.

            The *practice* of the Church from the beginning has been to serve all the poor and those suffering in any way. This is not to say that passages of Scripture may not legitimately be interpreted in different senses, so rich in meaning they are.

          • Vickie

            Agreed.

            I told someone else in a discussion today that I would never force feed anyone the catechism. In light of this footnote reference, I would, however, invite you to check out 2443-2449, 2462-2463 for a clearer understanding. Especially 2463 which mentions this scripture specifically.

      • Jay

        I've heard good things about Doctors Without Borders.

        However, I disagree with the idea that simply because one goes to an organization that lacks a religious affiliation/divorced from religion(s) that one is escaping ideology. Ideology is not limited to religion (ex, political ideology) and can potentially be just as potent or even more potent within some secular institutions. I think it is safe to say that there was at least a twinge of a political ideology going on with the IRS and how it was targeting conservative groups. Who knows, maybe Doctors Without Borders has an even stronger ideology going on with them than some religious charities.

        I often go to http://www.charitynavigator.org to see where to donate. They do a good job with evaluating charities.

        Interesting thoughts on giving to others. Something else to think about

        • Corylus

          However, I disagree with the idea that simply because one goes to an organization that lacks a religious affiliation/divorced from religion(s) that one is escaping ideology.

          Yes, that is a possibility. That's is why I qualified with "less subject to placing ideological concerns over evidence." rather than going for the stronger claim of "not subject".

          • Jay

            Fair enough. Still, I'm not sure what evidence there is to back up the claim that organizations that lack a religious affiliation are less prone to ideology than religious organizations.

            Furthermore, ideology in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. Some ideologies can actually lead a person and potentially an organization to more benevolent acts. I'm sure there are a multitude of charitable organizations with both a Christian and non-Christian background that have ideologies that actually help them to better serve others as opposed to hinder.

          • Corylus

            Still, I'm not sure what evidence there is to back up the claim that organizations that lack a religious affiliation are less prone to ideology than religious organizations.

            I gave some evidence in my link above regarding the pushing of abstinence only teaching. This doesn't work you know: not even in the bible :P

            However, if you would like another example, then that is fair enough. See this example. I think you will agree that the level of arrogance required to potentially put children and aid workers at risk with this sort of thoughtless propaganda could only come with the certainty that ideology brings.

            Some ideologies can actually lead a person and potentially an organization to more benevolent acts.

            Not a problem in theory, in practice, however, you tend get baggage and hence harm. The acid test is whether the charity in question prioritizes the needs of the recipient or the needs of the giver.

            As there is discussion of anger on here, I will point to an example that made me very cross. From the link:

            In 1996 the Catholic Church took a similar measure in cutting off aid to the United Nations childrens' fund UNICEF, also accused of promoting abortion.

            UNICEF was distributing in refugee camps around the
            world a post-intercourse spermicide for young women or teenage girls who had been raped.

            Vatican aid to UNICEF totalled 2,000 dollars a year.

            There is a putting of ideology over evidence here (a spermicide kills sperm not babies) and common emergency contraception works by preventing ovulation - so this emotive talk of abortion was not merited. There is also an egregious lack of care for the people that are the most vulnerable and in the most need of care.

          • Jay

            Good examples. I do agree that a good way to evaluate a charity's worth is if the charity prioritizes the needs of the recipient or the needs of the giver.

            You might be interested in this article http://www.ncbcenter.org/page.aspx?pid=1263&storyid2509=204&ncs2509=3

            I think though that we are at a point where we are going to have to agree to disagree. You've given some very good articles; however, you still haven't convinced me that institutions that do not have a religious affiliation are less prone to ideology. The ideologies might be more politically correct, but they are still still ideologies none the less--some of which are harmful. I could give examples, but I believe my thoughts would cause anger and not produce anything productive. Good discussion. Take care.

          • Corylus

            Take care.

            And you :)

  • TristanVick

    I'm not anti-religion, per se.

    I'm just anti-sexism.

    I'm anti-racism.

    I'm anti-gay hate and homophobia.

    I'm anti-women abuse.

    I'm anti-child abuse.

    I'm anti-war.

    You see... in reality...

    It's religion that is AGAINST me.

    Now one could claim their religion doesn't sponsor these things. All we would have to do is look at history to see that they either grossly misunderstand the consequences of their own religion, or else, they are delusional not seeing that holding certain dogmatic and often inherently dangerous doctrinal beliefs inevitably leads to certain negative net outcomes.

    They could ignore their religion's folly on the basis that they themselves are good people and wouldn't allow their religious beliefs to compel them to act in the name of bad beliefs and even worse propositions--most of them faith-based.

    This is why we rationalists and nonbelievers oppose the irrational attitudes fostered by unquestioning devotion and blind faith.

    As for Barron's quote:

    "I think one reason why religion is often seen in a negative light today is that people misunderstand dramatically what we mean by faith, hope, and love. The distortion of those three has led to all kinds of problems."

    I think this quote is a bit naive. It assumes most people do not understand the very basic elements of religion. One of the things I've noticed about most atheists and nonbelievers is that they understand religion too well. Often times better than the religious. How is this? Because many of them were religious.

    I know I was a devout card carrying member of Evangelical Christianity for three decades.

    For a person to claim I didn't understand my faith, well, that's just talking down to me in the rudest possible fashion. Which might explain why there is a certain about of animosity between the religious and nonbelievers, because in many cases, we have to educate the religious on their own religion while correcting their wrong assumptions about us. It can be vexing.

    • I'm not anti-religion, per se.
      I'm just anti-sexism.
      I'm anti-racism.
      I'm anti-gay hate and homophobia.
      I'm anti-women abuse.
      I'm anti-child abuse.
      I'm anti-war.

      This reminded me of the old Tom Lehrer song The Folk Song Army, especially Lehrer's introduction and the first verse of the song itself.

      One type of song that has come into increasing prominence in recent months is the folk-song of protest. You have to admire people who sing these songs. It takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee-house or a college auditorium and come out in favor of the things that everybody else in the audience is against like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on. . . . .

      We are the Folk Song Army.
      Everyone of us . . . cares.
      We all hate poverty, war, and injustice,
      Unlike the rest of you squares.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You may not be as smart as you think because Fr. Barron's post is about the act of faith, not the content of various religions.

      As for all those things you list you are against, the Catholic Church is against them to.

      • TristanVick

        So the history of the Catholic religion, and faith, is absent all these things?

        I know my position of Humanism is. But if you can say that, with intellectual honesty, that religious faith has never run into these problems for what are faith-based reasons, then sure.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Individual Catholics and even groups of them have behaved abominably, as have atheists.

          But, honestly, none of the things you have mentioned you are against is the Church for. That said, we would likely frame most of these issues far differently than I'd guess you would.

          For example, to take the most contemporary of your complaints, the Catholic church is completely against hating homosexual persons and is not in the least bit afraid of them. However, the other side claims that anyone who doesn't agree with their ideology is a hater and bigot.

          The Catholic Church is against war, defines carefully the circumstances under which it can be waged, and tries to mitigate its evils as much as possible. At the same time, Christian nations have had to fight for their lives many times over the centuries from Islam (and many have lost).

          • TristanVick

            I wasn't denying such things happen. But it seemed you were.

            But you see, my point is that the Catholic church has been FOR war far more than not.

            Just because it has recently calmed down a bit, still doesn't make it a civilized institution.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Really?

            Do you have a handy list of all the wars since AD 33 that the Church has been aware of and what her attitude toward it was?

            Or is that just a hasty generalization that the people you hang out with would never question?

          • TristanVick

            You're saying that the progress of the Catholic church, and it's expansion, has nothing to do with wars?

            I counter your hasty generalization with history denial.

            Granted, I gave you that the Church isn't undergoing any current war, per se.

            Unless we talk about the war against civil and human rights.

            The war of ideologies.

            But I was actually talking about war in the classic sense. From the Crusades to the support and backing of Adolf Hitler in his "purification" of the Jewish plague.

            An idea he got, from a Catholic theologian no less.

            So for hundreds of years the church has engaged in what could only be considered war mongering. Only recently, at least since WWII has the chruch settled down a bit.

            Do you deny this?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have no problem defending the Crusades on general grounds, despite the many absurdities and evils which resulted.

            The claim that the Church backed Hitler is a slander of the highest order.

          • Michael Murray

            the Catholic church is completely against hating homosexual persons and is not in the least bit afraid of them.

            The problem is that goes hand in hand with telling them they can't live a normal sex life and they can't get married like heterosexuals.

            side claims that anyone who doesn't agree with their ideology is a hater and bigot.

            There isn't an ideology. There is merely an observation. The observation is that a minority of humans are sexually attracted to the same gender. This is no more remarkable than a minority being redheads or a minority being left handed. There is no reason to discriminate against these people than there is to discriminate against red heads or left handed people.

            As for people being haters and bigots I think it's a fact that many people have been raised in an environment with a lot of fear and hatred attached to homosexuality. I certainly was. The worse thing I could be called at school was a "homo" or a "poofta". For my fathers generation it was a lot worse. These things are changing but many of us bear some psychological scarring. Nowhere near as much as our friends who were gay and grew up in that same environment of course.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I largely agree with your final paragraph, but as for the rest, not so much.

            But since this OP is about faith, hope, and love, why don't we leave homosexuality and human nature for another time.

      • TristanVick

        @Kevin Aldrich

        Do you know the history of the Catholic church?

        If you plot it out on a timeline, it seems they are in favor of such things!

        At least I am smart enough not to make the mistake you and Fr. Barron make in dismissing nearly the entirety of church history just to make that erroneous claim.

        Now it may be true that in today's era the church no longer stands for those things. But I'm not quite sure it's all that clear. I could cite numerous examples of church abuse of children, women, gays, and so on and so forth.

        Do you deny it happens? If so, then I implore you, stay within your happy little bubble of faithy-faith. It's the only way to maintain your innocence of faith.

        So cute.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I wrote a teacher manual for an 800 page history of the Church and it included all kinds of evils, so I am not naive. I have read two other books on Church history as well. How about you?

          However, I would put the Church's treatment of women up against any institution. On the other hand, if your standard of the correct attitude toward women is the one given to us by modern feminism, I'd say "no" and thank goodness for that.

          If child molesters didn't know it was wrong they would not have tried to cover it up.

          • TristanVick

            Yes, I've read numerous books on Church history. Five or six to be exact.

            I suppose the insinuation is that I don't know what I'm talking about. I don't get into quoting wars, because lifting text out of a book does nothing to prove one is capable of original research.

            I was merely surprised that you seem to brush church ascendancy off as trivial.

            If you wrote a history book on the subject, you of all people should know it's not trivial. Moreover, you'd be one of the few people who would be able to distinguish the separation between exclusively church motivated crimes, such as the Magdalene laundries, and simple patriarchy which, sadly, still exists as the dominant attitude with regard to women and how they are treated around the world today.

            The same could be said for the abuse of children. Or of civil rights issues.

            But why ignore that distinction? That's what I was getting at.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You asked me if *I* knew any church history and dismissed my attitude as "cute."

            By the way, I didn't write a history book. I turned a history book into a teacher manual to help teachers teach it.

            I'm not familiar with the term "church ascendancy."

  • Sage McCarey

    Why do some people hate religion? I personally do not hate all religion. I hate dogmatism and groups of people who think they are the only ones who know what their god/gods want everyone to do to such an extent that they want to influence politics in my country to force those beliefs on me and everyone else. I hate the kind of religious hubris that causes a religious leader to blame lesbians, gay people and feminists for 9-11. And like TristanVick, I am anti-sexism, anti-rascism, anti homophobia, anti-child abuse, anti-woman abuse and anti-closed mindedness.

  • Roger Hane

    Fr. Barron makes a rhetorically persuasive argument for his definitions of faith, hope and love. But it makes me wonder where he gets the source of reasoning for these definitions from. Is it from some official Catholic teaching? He didn't mention any. Or did he just invent this reasoning on his own to make it sound persuasive?

  • Tim Robinson

    Simple, people hate religion because it is in their hearts that everything is an accident and they can't believe being judged for doing something they are able to do. A way that lets them sleep at night.