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If God is Real, Why Won’t He Show Himself?

Invisible God

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said that “just as important as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance they are transposed into untruth.”

SorenGod hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode. He is not an object. He is not an old man in the sky, available to our observation, nor a slight grease on the surface of all things, available to our scientific probing. God is love. What merit is it to know of God’s existence as a man knows the existence of his right foot? God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love. He wants to be known in truth, as he is, as love, which is only known in the act of loving.

If we’re going to speak of “knowing” God at all, we must mean to know him in such a way that we infinitely strive for him, in which our knowledge and our panting after him are one in the same, for love is not known disinterestedly, rather, love is interest. We cannot know God cooly, as an object is known.

The knowledge of this tree or that apple sets myself and the object apart. I and the tree are divided into the categories of observer and object, because all knowledge is knowledge of something – some thing we refer to — apart from ourselves. But God is not a thing. God is love, and love will tolerate no separation.

Observation brings certainty. We see the tree and are certain of it. Our relationship is simple, call it I-thing. But with God, what’s needed is precisely uncertainty.

Uncertainties are known — not by knowledge, for knowledge attains certainty and thus eradicates uncertainty — but by belief, and belief always has the quality of hurling us upon another person.

ManFor instance, my father calls, and before he hangs up, he says “I love you.” I do not know this to be an objective fact. I do not observe it with the certainty I observe the tree, because the words “I love you,” are an outward expression of my father’s subjective, interior life — a life I cannot know. From my perspective, his kindness to me may have been born out of no more than duty, the pressures of his surrounding moral society, or the desire to raise a child in such a manner that he does not become an embarrassment.

In short, the words “I love you” may not be true, and no objective knowledge can eradicate their uncertainty. Even if I were to add up all the constituent parts – his expression, his tone, our history, etc. — I could not arrive — with objective certainty — at the conclusion, “Yes, it all adds up to love,” and this is apparent in the fact that no one bothers to engage in such arithmetic. I cannot know love as an objective fact, existing outside of myself and available to my objective verification. I can only believe in it.

But this is the point. My believing in the love of my father and my entering into that love are one in the same, for in believing — which embraces the uncertainty precisely as an uncertainty — I fling myself entirely on him. I trust in his word. I trust him as I would myself. This blurring of he and the I in the moment of love’s expression; this taking on of the other’s hidden, subjective, interior life as if it were my own; this taking for myself as true what only he can know is true — this is love. In believing I participate in the life of the one I trust to believe. What a pitiful, boring world which elevates objective knowledge over belief! By belief I attain a greater certainty of what cannot be known than the certainty I have of those things that can.

Now we approach, with trembling hearts, the infinite uncertainty of God himself. God is invisible, and this terrible absence, this awful gap in our ability to attain certainty, and this necessary possibility of atheism is also the way in which we come to know God as he is, in truth and in right relation to him. By being objectively uncertain, yet communicating himself to us in beauty, in truth, in the goodness that inexplicably guides our lives, and ultimately in the fullness of revelation, through his only begotten Son, he offers us a qualitatively different type of certainty that would not be possible were he visible in the way a tree is visible. He gives us he opportunity to believe, to know him in such a manner that our knowledge of him is simultaneously a total reliance on him, indeed that our “knowledge” — which we should refer to as faith, for it maintains the objective uncertainty by never rendering Eternity objectively visible — is a participation in the life of God himself.

“If God had taken the form, for example, of a rare, enormously large green bird, with a red beak, that perched in a tree on the embankment and perhaps even whistled in an unprecedented manner–then [the modern man] surely would have had his eyes opened,” says Kierkegaard, but then we would not have related to him in truth, but in untruth. But since God is hidden, we must believe, and in belief we approach God in truth, as we approach love.

That this is truly the proper mode for “knowing God” seem evident in that difference between belief and simply knowing a visible something is that the former requires eternity while the latter requires a moment. Once the green bird is seen, it is known. No further effort is required. We may walk away from the embankment, close our eyes, and still know that the green bird exists. All that was required was the singular moment of perception. But when it is precisely an objective uncertainty that is being offered, an invisible reality expressed to us, the effort to know this uncertainty must be an eternal effort. At no point do we master God. At no point can we walk away. At no point do we attain a certainty by which we are “finished” with the project of belief. Belief is knowledge that comes from a participation in the life of another, and thus our belief in God only remains insofar as we, in every moment of our life, actively participate in the life of God. “I must continually see to it that I hold fast to the objective uncertainty, see to it that in the objective uncertainty I am “out on 70,000 fathoms of water” and still have faith.”

This is precisely why the Christian says he is saved through faith. To be saved means to become the self who you are, the self you are for all eternity, and only by faith do eternal selves act eternally. Only by faith do we participate in the self-offering of God, do we freely and eternally participate in the life of Love himself, do we attain that reality which, in religious tradition, is referred to as Salvation, or Heaven.

CoupleBut this is hardly a distant mystery: As goes life so goes love, for there are few distinctions between the two. The words “I love you” — spoken in truth and by their very nature — tend towards relationships that last forever. Man and woman marry to express with a lifetime what cannot be expressed in a moment. The one requirement of erotic love is faithfulness, not simply in reaction to the evil of its opposite, which we call adultery, but because the very essence of love is belief in the other, a participation that renders adultery unthinkable. Theirs the eternal, theirs the ritual, theirs the belief in the other’s love that is simultaneously a participation in that love. And what lovers would prefer objective knowledge over the infinite strive of faith? What lovers would demand the singular moment that forever establishes certainty over a lifetime of active love, over the ecstatic comedy of forever proving the unprovable and rendering visible the ever-invisible?

God wants us to relate to him in love, for only by relating to God in love do we relate to him as he is — love himself — and only in this relation are our finite frames expanded and exploded with the infinite. God does not want our validation of his existence any more than the lover wants the beloved to simply say “You exist.” He wants us all swept up in love, forever and ever, amen.
 
 
Originally posted at Bad Catholic. Used with author's permission.

Marc Barnes

Written by

Marc Barnes is an English major at The Franciscan University of Steubenville. He writes at Patheos.com for the Catholic Channel, focusing on bringing Catholicism to secular culture through natural law, humor, and ADD-powered philosophical outbursts. He recently created and released the website 1flesh.org with some friends, a grassroots movement in opposition to artificial contraception, promoting natural methods of family planning. He has also written for Crisis Magazine, LiveAction.org, LifeSiteNews, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal. He loves blowing things up, and has a man-crush on Soren Kierkegaard. Follow Marc's blog at Bad Catholic.

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  • staircaseghost

    "God hides himself..."

    That's not what Mr. Wright was saying the other day.

    Which one of you should I be listening to?

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago

      Stair,
      Do you see any contradiction between the statements "God hides himself" and "God chooses to reveal himself to those who seek him"?

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      DHS

      • primenumbers

        But the revelations to those that seek are not distinguishable from pretence or imagination.

        • Rationalist1

          And God seemingly reveals himself in many varied ways telling many varied message dependent upon their religion.

          • primenumbers

            And dependent upon region and era too!

          • Rationalist1

            Temporal and positional theological relativism.

          • Please provide evidence for this accusation. How is Catholicism temporally or positionally relativistic?

          • Rationalist1

            No God is. Depending upon the time and depending upon the Culture, God seemingly manifests himself in varied ways. Catholicism being one of them.

          • But that doesn't make Catholicism akin to Relativism. Relativism posits that mutually-contradictory truth claims can both be true, depending on the person, place, or context. Catholicism doesn't claim that about God. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, for every person and every place. That he chooses to reveal himself partially and gradually over time doesn't make him Relativistic.

            I think you may be confusing "varied" with "contradictory." Something can vary without being Relativistic.

          • Andre Boillot

            "God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, for every person and every place. That he chooses to reveal himself partially and gradually over time doesn't make him Relativistic."

            How do you reconcile that with instances of divinely mandated or prescribed genocide, rape, and slavery in the OT?

          • I don't see a conflict regarding those passages--properly understood, of course--and therefore nothing to reconcile.

          • Andre Boillot

            Since you'll apparently not be elaborating on how to properly understand those passages here, perhaps that would make for an interesting post someday.

          • primenumbers

            Of course "properly understanding" means "rationalized to avoid conflict with a belief in God". I'd like to see an epistemology discussion on the correct method for knowing the correct understanding myself.

          • This is a very interesting comment. Your first suggest that understanding a biblical passage in a way that avoids conflict is necessarily "rationalizing." If you begin with that presupposition--unproven of course--I'm afraid I'd be wasting my breath outlining how Christians up-and-down the centuries have read the so-called "difficult" or "dark" passages of Scripture.

            But also, in the last sentence you suggest there exists a "correct understanding" of Scripture. Catholics don't necessarliy believe that. We believe there are definitely *incorrect* understandings of Scripture--both Scripture as a whole and individual passages. But we believe Scripture must be read through multiple lenses--what the Church calls "senses"--and that there is not one single "correct" understanding of each passage.

            That might be a good topic for a future post. I'll work on it.

          • primenumbers

            "This is a very interesting comment." - I do try my friend, I do try!

            "Rationalizing" is not so much a pre-supposition but an observation of how apologists generally deal with such passages. It follows a three step plan - 1) throw out the OT, 2) different culture / different meanings back then 3) it's a mystery. I can only observe how theists behave - I can't see into their mind. So what I observe is the appearance of rationalizing. So yes, unproven and merely asserted by me above, so I hope that explains my position better.

            When you say there's not necessarily a correct understanding, do you mean that for some passages there's no correct understanding but for at least one passage there is a correct understanding? If there are no passages for which a correct understanding exists, then I don't see the need for the word "necessarily".

            If you can go into the topic (when you line up that future post) from an epistemological point of view, that'd be appreciated.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll second that motion.

          • Agreed! I'm hoping to write some myself on the question, "Is God a Moral Monster?"

            I think those OT passages--so often cited by atheist writers--are routinely and almost completely misunderstood.

          • Andre Boillot

            "so often cited by atheist writers"

            I know, they're always misunderstanding everything!

          • Not always, but often. Please don't misquote me.

          • Andre Boillot

            I didn't quote you at all, and I look forward to the article on this topic.

          • By beginning your sentence "I know", I thought you were agreeing with something I supposedly said. Not sure how else to read it.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I thought you were agreeing with something I supposedly said."

            Well, there's your problem :)

            Cheers.

          • Rationalist1

            What is my misunderstanding that causes a revulsion of the story of killing the first born of the Egyptians.

          • John Corbett

            Rationalist1

            You are asking for someone else to explain
            your misunderstanding? The only clue you are giving to the basis for your misunderstand is that you are revolted by the killing of first born Egyptians.

            Do you not believe in justice for genocide?

            The wrong of infanticide?

            The abolition of slavery?

            Freedom of religion?

            Freedom to profit from the work of one’s own
            hands?

            The right of a nation or people to be self-governed?

            Freedom of oppression of the migrant worker?

            The oppressors here are the Egyptians. They
            have first imposed a law condemning the male children of the Israelites to death because they fear them growing too powerful. You might recall that is why Moses was hidden by his mother and put into a basket. This is the wrong doing of the Egyptians of that story.
            Wrong doing must be atoned for.

            We are all Egyptians. God sends his own first
            born son into the world to die in our place.

            In the NT God hides His First Born son in
            Egypt. What a great symbol of redemption for the Egyptians.

          • Michael Murray

            This is the wrong doing of the Egyptians of that story. Wrong doing must be atoned for.

            Oh well that makes it OK to kill innocent children. Why didn't someone explain it before.

            I really do worry about the damage people do to their basic human empathy in their attempts to keep this good god myth alive in face of all the contrary evidence.

          • Rationalist1

            I guess that's the difference between you and me. I wouldn't reply with the killing of first born with the killing of first born. Just the difference between secular and Biblical morality. Fortunately, IMO, western civilization use secular morality when constructing its legal code.

          • John Corbett

            Rationalist1,
            No difference actually on the mutual killing of firstborn because for me Christ died to atone for the wrongs of all us Egyptians.
            But why do you not believe there should be justice to balance the wrong doings?

          • michael

            Justice should be aimed at scaring people into not repeating or imitating the crime. It is not an end but a means, otherwise it's revenge, not justice. Revenge is about balancing suffering, justice is not. Justice is using the balance to prevent more crime and suffering.

          • Max Driffill

            Um,

            John,

            You are framing the exodus story (which apparently never happened by the way) in a way most suitable to your belief that god is always just, loving etc. This is not an accurate reading of the story, nor does it display much integrity on your part. But such are the games that the believer must be play to square the monstrosity of the Passover story with human empathy and our sense of justice and fairness.

            The oppressor was Pharaoh not Egyptians. You seem to act as if the average Egyptian was possessed of some kind of political voice in this time. This isn't indicated at all in the myth.

            But even he isn't the true monster of the story, that role belongs to God. Pharaoh you may remember was, on several occasions convinced by Moses and had decided to let those people go. But God continually hardened his heart so that he would not (so much for free will eh?). The god of this story did this to show off more of his power. Just? I think effing not.

            When the god has had enough the games he drops the hammer blow of the murder of the first born not just of egyptian humans, but of every living thing in Egypt. How is this just? But of the humans this god of love even struck down the first born of the slave in the mill. So you cannot wiggle out of the monstrosity of this awful story, let me quote you Exodus 11;5 for the full sweetness of one particular god's mercy.

            Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. NIV

            Is this justice? Is this mercy? What possible hand could a female slave have in the oppression of the Israelites, she herself being one of the oppressed of Egypt? And the cattle? Please. This is really so preposterous as to be funny and yet Christians and Jews think this is an example of the most extreme and exquisite justice.

          • severalspeciesof

            It's amazing how a believer will cherry pick (complete avoidance of the first born animals and slaves bit) to support a view, isn't it?

          • John Corbett

            Max Driffill,
            As Catholic Christians we read the Bible especially the OT through the lens of the NT and revelation of Jesus and the holy Spirit now present in the world in His Church.

            Even the scribes and those who sat in the seat of Moses in Jesus’s time and indeed the Apostles themselves found it hard to understand how to reconcile their misunderstandings about the God of the OT and The Good News of Jesus. You are not discovering anything new in having difficulty with it. The Good news for you is that the Apostles and many others got over it. The Bible is not
            just any piece of literature, a History, an allegory, a legend, poetry, it is all of these and when read with in the power of the Holy Spirit it takes on a deeper communicative meaning greater than the sum of its parts.

            Re: the son of the slave at the handmill
            You appear to equate social status with the ability to do wrong to sin? Was the guard at Auschwitz less guilty than the camp commandant?

          • Max Driffill

            John,

            Apparently what the holy spirit helps a read do is ignore crucial context, and forget other key details of the story. Undoubtedly this helps to maintain the illusion of a just, loving, god. If the holy spirit does that, then that makes of what you say below.

            Re: the son of the slave at the handmillYou appear to equate social status with the ability to do wrong to sin? Was the guard at Auschwitz less guilty than the camp commandant? No, he was merely deemed less responsible.

            This is one of the most spectacularly wrong headed bits of reasoning that I have read. And, perhaps one of the most offensive to boot.

            God, in the story of Exodus was not punishing people for their wrong doing (he killed the first born of everything, including animals that, according your church's teaching cannot be said to sin- things like cattle). God was visiting his wrath on all of Egypt because of Pharaoh's actions. Also, I have to remind you and other readers, Pharaoh's refusals only occurred after god hardened Pharaoh's heart (he had been convinced by the magic tricks and the plagues, but the OT god wanted to show off). Pharaoh, at several points in the story was willing to let the Israelites beat feet outta there. He would have chosen that course were it not for god trampling all over Pharaoh's free will.

            To return to the slave at the mill who is forced to suffer a double injustice (being a slave and then having her firstborn sin killed for actions, Pharoah's, in which neither she nor her son could have any part, or affect in favor of Israel at all). One thing that we can see clearly, is how much the OT god values the lives of children.

            You imply a moral equivalence between a guard at Auschwitz, who stood by whilst the final solution was played out before him, and slave girl with precisely no political power, no way to really affect Pharaoh's decision, who was, like the Israelites also a slave and held against her will. Her only crime apparently not being one of the OT god's chosen people (what a peculiar thing that in itself is). The story of the Passover is not a story about justified punishment for the sins of people (if it was, why not simply punish those people, and not their kids). It is an indiscriminate application of force aimed at anyone in Egypt merely for the crime of being there.
            I would A suggest there is no such moral equivalence, and B suggest you read that awful tale again, but maybe without the help of the holy spirit.

            The story of Exodus is one of the most morally reprehensible in the OT, and most of those transgressions fall on the god at the heart of the story.

          • BenS

            Excellent post, Sir.

          • Michael Murray

            I wonder if the wildebeest pass down stories on how the lion loves them and acts only for they good?

          • John Corbett

            Alas Max Drivill,
            if you will keep reading the story so literally and
            with such a narrow view you'll never get it. And of course I see where most of your misconceptions are coming from and no I would not read the Bible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with reference to the the traditions of the Church and the holy saints.

            Context? What was slavery in the ancient world? Joseph the slave in the house of Potiphar was in charge of the whole household.

            Animals.
            These were the creatures normally sacrificed in atonement. Their juxta positioning in the text with the first born sons underlines the meaning and purpose of all their deaths.

            As to our poor slave girl. God loves her. God loves her son. God made her and him. God can restore life. God is the only one who can take life and give it back. The slave girls destiny and that of her son and of all of us lies in heaven with God. The death of God's first born son Jesus has redemed them.

            I like to imagine that when she and her son realised the truth of the afterlife and the amazing part they played in the revelation of the true Gods plan for all humanity that they rejected the cult of the demi God Pharaoh and rejoice now and forever in the presence of God.

            My point which you claim to find offensive regarding The Camp Guard and the Commandant is that the sins of a country rest on all citizens of that country who do not actively reject those wrongs. e.g. subjugation of other nations, culturally, morally, economically, militarily. Abortion. unjustified death penalty, Torture. That is all part of a Catholic Social Responsibility. No man is an island.

          • Max Driffill

            John,

            Were you attempting an insult with a juvenile permutation of of my name? If so, bravo. I've not heard that one since grade school. I can only hope that was a mistake, because if it was an attempt at wit, I feel I am in for a rather dreadful read.

            Lets look at what you have for us today:

            if you will keep reading the story so literally andwith such a narrow view you'll never get it. And of course I see where most of your misconceptions are coming from and no I would not read the Bible without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with reference to the the traditions of the Church and the holy saints.

            I'm not sure what there is to get John. I'm not adding anything to the text. I can see no reason to do this. Were this any other mythology, you would have no trouble thinking the god at the heart of the story was a monster.

            Again, I don't see any evidence of a holy spirit, is this an app I can purchase? All I can see this holy spirit does for believers is make them ignore the plain meaning of words, and ignore problematic actions by the "heroes" of a tale.

            Context? What was slavery in the ancient world? Joseph the slave in the house of Potiphar was in charge of the whole household.

            Did IQs drop sharply while I have been away? What was slavery in the ancient world? It was as bad as slavery was for Africans in the US. A slave, according to OT law could be beaten to death (so long as he or she didn't die immediately and lingered on a day or two- or was that law a metaphor too). Sure a slave might have an okay life, relative to other slaves. This is not the same thing as having a decent life by the standards of free people. Consider the sex slaves Moses had his army make of the Midianite virgin women (this only after killing all the men and non-virgin women, and all the males of the little ones-children). Perhaps you forget the relevant passages:

            And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp; and Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle; and Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord. Now, therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him; but all the women-children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. Classy, and utterly moral stuff. And proves again what a joy it was to be a slave in antiquity according to this myth.

            Animals. These were the creatures normally sacrificed in atonement. Their juxta positioning in the text with the first born sons underlines the meaning and purpose of all their deaths.

            Why should this ever have made sense? I know many modern Christians like to think this was paving the way for the sacrifice of Jesus, but this doesn't make sense. Israelites were hardly the only ones offering sacrifices. And when you read it, the whole thing seems like a scam. The priests certainly got to keep a nice portion of the sacrifices made to the gods. And the priests were the ones telling people what to sacrifice. Well, well, call me cynical.

            This does neglect the suffering of the animals as well. Which is, on the whole, pretty crappy.

            As to our poor slave girl. God loves her. God loves her son. God made her and him. God can restore life. God is the only one who can take life and give it back. The slave girls destiny and that of her son and of all of us lies in heaven with God. The death of God's first born son Jesus has redeemed them.

            You cannot just say that your god loves person x and have someone not addled by your religious conviction to believe it. The actions of said being must comport with the statement. The god of the israelites cannot be said to be acting in a way consistent with your phrase "God loves her son." He killed her son for no reason. There is no indication that heaven awaited the slave girl and her son (indeed heaven is not yet invented in the OT). Your picture of the god of the OT is like that of an abusive spouse who claims to love his girl friend or wife, and yet punches and kicks this person they claim to love anyway. That is not love. But this is the way in which the abused and scared are cowed, always hoping they can avoid the next awful beating.

            I like to imagine that when she and her son realised the truth of the afterlife and the amazing part they played in the revelation of the true Gods plan for all humanity that they rejected the cult of the demi God Pharaoh and rejoice now and forever in the presence of God.

            This is pure fancy. None of this is implied by the text.

            My point which you claim to find offensive regarding The Camp Guard and the Commandant is that the sins of a country rest on all citizens of that country who do not actively reject those wrongs. e.g. subjugation of other nations, culturally, morally, economically, militarily. Abortion. unjustified death penalty, Torture. That is all part of a Catholic Social Responsibility. No man is an island.

            No they don't. And even if this was the case, the god of the OT provides no caveat for those opposed to Pharaoh's treatment of the Israelites. The passover was only for them. In any event, the sons of many of those people would have been too young to have any opinion in the matter.

            Luckily, the whole thing appears to be a myth anyway. That is, the archeology implies that none of it, ever happened.

          • John Corbett

            My sincere apologies Max for name mix up. By the time I
            realised it was too late and I must confess that I did giggle. I did not mean to recall your degrading school experiences.

            You are consistently basing your argument on limited context. Not even our Jewish brothers would limit their understanding of what we Christians refer to as the OT like so. You are quite simply quoting out of
            context, misusing and therefore misinterpreting.

            Would you expect a non medical person to pick up a text book on psychological disorders read chapter 2 and diagnose themselves properly?

            Further context you are missing is that of the writers of
            the text and the geo political, social context in which the stories were written which was in some cases millennia after the “actual” events.

            It may come as a surprise to you that as Catholic Christians we do not hold that all of the Bible is the inspired word of God, but rather that it contains clues to and about the course of man's relationship with God. It is not the exclusive source. It is not infallible. It is not even believed to be infallibly translated or understood. Some of its writings are indeed political propaganda designed to promote the aims of particular factions within Israel and Judah. Likewise the NT shows similar evidence of prejudice and limitations of the scientific knowledge of its writers. Despite this it does communicate much about the christian life and mission and man's relationship to God.
            Through the Christian era there have been examples of movements who used snippets of text to excuse invasion and genocide torture etc. It is precisely your style of interpretation that would lead to such travesties. You simply must contextualise more completely and be guided by the Holy Spirit in order to get it. No He's not availiable as an apple app Max, but he is dowloadable through baptism, prayer anointing and the laying on of hands if God so chooses to bless you.

            We are in agreement that mainstream archaeology doesn’t
            provide concrete correlation of the Exodus story as yet. Hardly surprising in a culture where obliteration of the names and monuments and history of passed kings who’s deeds were seen to have been unworthy was not uncommon. Why would the line of proud Egyptian Demi God Pharaohs record a humiliation at the hands of a God of mere slaves? Or would you apply a mordern day emotionalism and expect a momument to the first born.

            About your fantasy slave girl. We are taking the context of
            the 4000years BC. To you she appears to have been an oppressed modern American woman with a wee baby just trying to make ends meet kidnapped into forced labor in a cane or cotton plantation. This was her own culture. She was Egyptian. To be a slave in a household was in many ancient cultures a higher status than some of the toddler children. She probably had more status than a commoner. She was property. A work unit and had value. Like livestock. She was therefore protected by the power of her owners. She apparently had access to the grain. The grain which the Israelites were severely rationed. The Israelites slavery was different in that they were being worked to death like the final solution under the Third Reich. The inclusion of the description of the high born to the low born in the list of those who were killed is about you and me the modern day Egyptians.

            Numbers 31.
            I'd prefer if you'd reference an approved modern catholic copy of the text. I'd recommend NJB. catholic.org provide a good online version.

            Re Treatment of the peoples under the curse of destruction. It’s the theme mimicked in many modern action movies. If your bad you will be wiped away brutally. Israel’s soldiers who lay with the women of the nation under the curse of destruction contracted disease. This recalls the fact that what was to be destroyed was not wholesome. The Medianites - have caused offence by worship of false Gods and corruption of Gods people and were to be exterminated. Child Sex slaves Max? Who’s fantasy is that?

            Here we have an act of 4000BC mercy and hygiene by Moses. How was an army paid for in 4000BC? Spoils of war. Young female slaves could be absorbed into the society. Males could not. War and invasions and land grabbing are nice business? don’t think so. No different to armies up to this present day. What would you prefer?,some sugar coated account of how all the peoples simply packed up and vacated the land? Moses’s control over the people/army was not absolute. They were an unruly people. These very people with the exception of Joshua were deemed unworthy to enter the promised land.
            Moses and this generation of people were cursed never to enter the promised land and died in the Desert over a period of 40 years. The will of God is worked out through actions of people and nations and his creation.

            God's hand is in the affairs of men but men do mess it up most of the time. Thankfully God writes straight with the crooked lines of man's doings. Because God can do this it is no licience to act immorally. Some figures through history have applied the logic with enemies send them all to heaven and let God sort them out.

            If you read the Bible lineage of Jesus there are king's, adulterers and adulteresses murderers, foreigners, shepherds, migrant construction workers. The Bible is not a book about some utopia Max. In a mythic manner it expresses a truely visceral nature of human life and against that is the wonderous Love of God. He chooses to love us not because we or anybodys actions deserve it but purely because He loves us; His creatures and He want's us to do better He calls us to know him and live for Him. Do try to download that app.

            Re:- Societal and individual responsibility.

            “No they don’t!” Don’t be so lazy Max, some argument please?

          • Max Driffill

            John,
            Why should the supreme power in the universe, the author of the cosmos dream up such a boneheaded text, sure to be mis-interpreted by almost everyone? Why are its moral laws so obviously parochial and of their time? There is nothing in the bible that smacks of the overly profound, or that couldn't have been written by bronze age ignoramus.

            I could certainly invent a new context in which to read the bible, which is what some Christians do. But I am not sure how that is justified.

          • John Corbett

            Max,
            It was written by a "bonehead" like me and you and not God. Catholics aren't fundamentalist Muslims we don't believe that the text was dictated by God. The "ignoramus" author was in part recording a cultural "history" struggling to see the hand of God in events and to increase understanding of
            the unknowable. To find direction in his own day. Using it this way still works for Christians.

            Look at the events of the Holocaust? The modern Exodus? The foundation of modern Israel. The Six day war. How do you make sense of them? Is there not a element of those events that are beyond human? The revealation continues. It is all around you. Be opened.

            “How have you misinterpreted Exodus and the OT.?”
            Other than the points I've already outlined in previous posts, I'd add your error is in reading them in isolation, at the level of a mathematical equation and without reference to your own physical and spiritual life your faults and need for your personnal redemption.

          • Max Driffill

            John,

            Look at the events of the Holocaust? The modern Exodus? The foundation of modern Israel. The Six day war. How do you make sense of them? Is there not a element of those events that are beyond human? The revealation continues. It is all around you. Be opened.

            There is no evidence of anything beyond human in the events you describe. I'm not sure why you think there are.

          • John Corbett

            God
            acts through history.

          • Max Driffill

            John,
            Can you not see why a statement like this is problematic? How would you tell if your god "acts through history" (whatever this vague phrase might mean)?

            How could you distinguish between an act of gods and no act of gods when everything can be attributed to an act of gods?
            Six million jews (the so-called chosen people of god) can be killed and some will chalk this up to an act of a god. Jews are rescued from the camps as Nazi Germany falls to the allies. Chalk it up to an act of God. A solution that explains everything, as the saying goes, doesn't really explain anything, and such explanations, when examined turn out to be more assertion any way than explanatory frame work.

            And how would it work? Human history looks a lot like the actions of men and women acting in a certain historical context.

          • Max Driffill

            John,

            It was written by a "bonehead" like me and you and not God.

            We almost agree here. I agree, gods were not involved in the penning of biblical passages.
            However the books of the bible were not written by boneheads like you and me. They were written by people considerably stupider, more ignorant and more provincial in every single way imaginable. You and I know vastly more about everything than any of them. The books of the bible were written by people who thought bats were birds, that rabbits chewed the cud, that Earth was the center of the universe, and don't lets get started on Jesus terrible grasp of botany and agriculture.

            Catholics aren't fundamentalist Muslims we don't believe that the text was dictated by God.
            Except in those cases where you do. But even if this were completely the case among Catholics, I think that makes the Catholic case for interpretation considerably more difficult. In fact it creates more problems than it solves. Because anyone can dwell on any section of a reading and invest in that segment, or passage meaning. But without recourse to evidence there is no way to differentiate among true interpretations and false ones, hence the cumulative vastness of sectarian divides.

            The "ignoramus" author was in part recording a cultural "history" struggling to see the hand of God in events and to increase understanding of
            the unknowable. To find direction in his own day. Using it this way still works for Christians.

            The key phrase is struggling to see the hand of God isn't it? There is no indication that his hand was ever identified. And what does it mean to increase the understanding of the unknowable?? This seems like an empty phrase, a deepity.

            There is no question that mythology can be applicable to our lives. I still marvel over the myths of the Greeks and the Norse as these most resonate with me. But this usefulness is available to us through most literature and we can use our myths and fiction in this way, without ever straining to say it is literally true.

            My major problem is the way Christians approach these texts, which is largely by ignoring their horrendous bits or trying to excuse them in unjustified ways. I don't think any of the events of Exodus occurred. I am bothered by the manner in which these events (often taken as fact) are approached by believers.

            “How have you misinterpreted Exodus and the OT.?”
            Other than the points I've already outlined in previous posts, I'd add your error is in reading them in isolation, at the level of a mathematical equation and without reference to your own physical and spiritual life your faults and need for your personnal redemption.

            Actually I am not the one who ignores the historical context. That I leave to the believer. But nor do ignore the troubling aspects of the story, which don't square with the O-3 god.

          • John Corbett

            Our God by definition is infinite. I for one am not infinite. Can a finite being really know the infinite being? The Infinity of God is unknowable in this finite human lifetime, and that is de pity. We can however know of Him through His works and His Revelation = Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God acts through history.

            I am bothered by both how some believers have approached these events and but even more so by
            the way they are approached by some non-believers.

            You have the right context of course referencing racial slavery, animal rights and applying the standards of the Geneva convention to mythic acts of tribal war circa
            4000BC.

            A least we appear to agree about aspects of the utility of mythic style literature and its deep communicative ability. I especially like those “modern” constructs of Tolkien
            and CS Lewis. I'll leave you be now to go and sharpen your battle axe and make your vegetarian preparations for Lithasblot.

          • Max Driffill

            John,

            I'm just going to address one paragraph here:

            Our God by definition is infinite.

            Define gods however you want, this is not the same thing as demonstrating that they exist. I define god as Odin Allfather, whose one eye sees far, and crucified himself to Yggdrassil to gain the wisdom to use the knowledge he gained by plucking out his eye and putting it in Mimir's well of the future.
            Odin Allfather is an awesome god, whose knowledge is infinite, and wisdom also infinite. He does not love me I don't think, but expects me to earn his respect. I am incapable of knowing his ways.

            I could challenge you to do the impossible and demonstrate that this being does not exist. But simply defining Odin is in no way the same as demonstrating that my definition has a referent.

            I for one am not infinite. Can a finite being really know the infinite being? The Infinity of God is unknowable in this finite human lifetime, and that is de pity.
            Understand what this means. You cannot say anything at all about this god then. You cannot claim it exists, you cannot claim that it is all good, or all loving, or all powerful, or all knowing. You have just said so yourself. The word you used is unknowable. You are about to contradict yourself in the very next sentence.

            We can however know of Him through His works and His Revelation = Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. God acts through history.

            No you cannot. You just said so yourself. Revelation is just people talking. There is no evidence linking any such being to Jesus and there is absolutely no evidence that there is a Holy Spirit. Its all just people making unsupported claims.

            In fact, your definition of god is question begging in the extreme (as was mine).

          • John Corbett

            'of' Max 'of'.
            I can know something of Max from his writing and public profile but I cannot truely know Max, even if I met Max.

          • Max Driffill

            This was just silly.

          • John Corbett

            Are you for real Max Driffill?
            The revelation of Max, the proof of the existence of Max, I think they serve a models (not parallels) for the examination of your questions. Where did Max come from? What will be his end? I could challenge you to explain and prove your own existence. Put your self in the whole story Max. Internalize it.

            This is what the examination of the Myths also does. They can serve a models for the examination of the truths of our existance, the nature of Good (God) and evil and the moral order. It is ok that it is foggy with only fragments of light from time to time. We're finite trying to grasp the infinite.

            Silly? I'm glad you can see that now.... so when
            will you be coming to RCIA? I find the dialogue informative, faith enhancing and good exercise for my puny intellect.

            May God bless you on the journey.

          • Michael Murray

            1. There are many people in the world.
            2. Some are bigger than others.
            3. There must be a biggest one.
            4. He is called Max.

            This is a metaphysical proof of Max's existence.

          • Michael Murray

            Was the guard at Auschwitz less guilty than the camp commandant? No, he was merely deemed less responsible.

            So maybe when the Allies took over Germany they should have gone around and massacred the first born of every family ? Strange isn't it that we think that would be wrong but your god, from whom we are supposed to derive our morals, thinks it is fine.

          • Dr. Paul Copan knows, after all he wrote "Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God" Maybe you could get some help from him?

          • michael

            I firmly disagree. If they are in Th eKoran or any other book, you'd mock that answer. And check out this article on Deuteronomy 22:28-20: http://www.answering-christianity.com/karim/answering_apologists_and_exposing_rape.htm I've even seen a page on EWTN's website where the author, who is a friar, acknowledges it is saying a rapist is supposed to marry his non-betrothed victim.

          • epeeist

            Since you'll apparently not be elaborating on how to properly understand those passages here, perhaps that would make for an interesting post someday.

            Look, its dead easy. All you need to do is buy this device off Ebay and you will be immediately to get the correct reading for those passages you have difficulty with.

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            I'm sure you won't respond, because you tend not to when pressed,
            But lets have it.
            For the benefit of everyone who is getting it wrong, give us a proper exegesis of the biblical prescriptions regarding genocide, rape, slavery, and while you are at it, why not throw in your God's obsession with the sweet savor of animal torture.

          • aaaaaa

            Catholism is praying to maria a counterfiet god so basiclly the religion breakes its own rules instead pray to god in jesus name!!! Amen!!!

      • staircaseghost

        Yes, I do, just as everyone can see the clear contradiction between "God reveals himself to those who seek him" and the entire premise of this article.

        Come back to us (nonbelievers) when you've got your stories straight.

      • Do you see any contradiction between the statements "God hides himself" and "God chooses to reveal himself to those who seek him"?

        Maybe not, but that is not at all what Catholicism teaches!

        God revealed himself to his Chosen People, became man, and said,

        Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

        This is not a God who hides himself. No way.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          David,

          I think you are confusing presence with revelation. Jesus promised he would stay with us, but in different & mysterious ways. Here is what the Church teaches about this:
          ----------------------------
          1373 "Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us," is present in many ways to his Church: in his word, in his Church's prayer, "where two or three are gathered in my name," in the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned, in the sacraments of which he is the author, in the sacrifice of the Mass, and in the person of the minister. But "he is present . . . most especially in the Eucharistic species."

          1374
          The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend."In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole

          1375
          Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained. This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present."
          ------------------
          As you can see God can be present in different form while remaining hidden.

          Mt 28:20 which you are quoting speaks of Jesus promise to be present to his apostles and the world. Not about the ways in which Jesus plans to be present.

          Revelation refers to God's act of self disclosure, the Catholic Church teaches that God chooses different ways of enacting this self disclosure. (You might want to check "Models of Revelation" by Card. Avery Dulles for a more detailed explanation of these types).

          In the OP from this past Friday Mr Wright spoke of God's revelation to him and nobody else. The Church calls this "private revelation". This is what the Church teaches about these. Again from the Catechism:

          67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.

          As you can see although the Church admits these happen, they are not part of God's self revealing plan for the world.

          I hope this clears your confusion.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          DHS

          • I hope this clears your confusion.

            Thanks! But I don't believe I was confused!

            My understanding of Catholicism is that God is not hidden. To quote the Catechism:

            50 By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation.

            According to the first sentence, God is not in hiding. His existence is supposed to be evident from his creation. I would be hesitant to assert that, but many people would say, "Look around you. See the beauty of the world. See the complexity of life. See the power of the oceans. See the amazing energy in storms. How can you not believe in God?" Such people do not believe God is hidden. And I daresay if one of them wrote a post to that effect for Strange Notions, most of those who are defending the post above would defend that post, too, and argue that God is not hidden. His presence is self-evident and undeniable.

            Yes, I understand that Catholic belief is that "public revelation" ended with the death of the last apostle, and no one is required to accept the private revelation another person believe he or she receives. But I don't think it is correct (according to Catholic thinking) to say that because public revelation ended, God is hiding. We are supposed to see evidence of God everywhere we look.

      • Susan

        Do you see any contradiction between the statements "God hides himself" and "God chooses to reveal himself to those who seek him"?

        The trouble with that is that so many people who seek your choice of deity at the prompting of their family and culture don't find your deity.
        That's when they are told that they didn't "sincerely seek him". Even if they did. Even if they did for years and years.

        Whoever doesn't come up with the answer you think they should come up with hasn't quite done it right.

        It's dirty pool.

        There's a very high probability that your deity of choice doesn't exist.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Yes, actually I do.

      • Bill Cipher

        Yes, This comment is 4 years old and I want to know if anyone here finally has faith in GOD now?

      • michael

        Viva mi, quen no tengo un rey!

  • staircaseghost

    "...knowledge attains certainty and thus eradicates uncertainty..."

    Incorrect.

    Or do you not claim to know that the capital of Lansing is Michigan?

  • Rationalist1

    It is curious that the God of faith is indistinguishable from the non-existent God. Do you think God planned it that way or had no choice in the matter?

    • "The God of faith is indistinguishable from the non-existent God."

      I'm not sure I agree. What proof do you have for this claim?

      • Rationalist1

        Can you think of any way today that your God is distinguishable from a God that does not exist.

        • Yes. He exists.

          • stanz2reason

            'He exists' doesn't seem to be consistent with the idea of 'objective uncertainty' presented in this article.

          • Must there be a conflict between my belief that "[God] exists" and objective uncertainty? Most scientists are overwhelmingly confident in things like the law of gravity. They would say "Gravity exists." But almost all would admit an ultimate, objective uncertainty about gravity and all other surest truths. There's nothing wrong with that; no conflict.

          • Rationalist1

            Of course certainty is spans a spectrum from extremely unlikely to extremely certain. To lump all that uncertainty together would be akin to saying that the your uncertainty in the results of astronomy is like your uncertainly in the results of astrology.

          • stanz2reason

            I don't think the author of the article is suggesting that everything be held up to an impossible Humeian level of scrutiny to be called something we are 'certain of', just that gods existence is one of those things for which you will never fall into the category of 'certain of' (and somehow that's a good thing). This is not consistent with saying 'god exists' in any meaningful way.

            Scientists would say 'gravity exists' due to countless observations of the phenomena we refer to as gravity. Such observations are the compelling evidence for claiming the existence of 'gravity'.

          • epeeist

            Most scientists are overwhelmingly confident in things like the law of gravity. They would say "Gravity exists."

            But they wouldn't make the claim to metaphysical certainty.

            On the other hand, you make the claim

            Yes. He exists.

            Which admits to no uncertainty at all.

          • primenumbers

            Things that exist, and specifically beings that exist do so in space and time, and minds that exist have physical brains to support cognition. Unless you can attest to a spatio-temporal being with at least a physical brain, I think you're using the word "exists" outside of it's definition. I am ruling out the other meaning of "exists" that we use for abstract concepts because abstract concepts don't think or interact, although I can certainly agree with your God existing purely as an abstract concept.

          • Susan

            Can you think of any way today that your God is distinguishable from a God that does not exist.

            So, he's distinguished by your assertion?

          • Andrew G.

            What anticipated experience would you expect to differ between a universe in which God exists and one where no god exists?

            If these differences are only subjective, how do they differ between a universe in which God exists in reality and one in which God exists only in your imagination?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Ah, the quintessential theistic answer, offered by every believer.

            To which I ask the basic, most fundamental atheistic question:

            "How do you know?"

        • Susan

          Can you think of any way today that your God is distinguishable from a God that does not exist.

          Or from anything that doesn't exist?

          • epeeist

            Or from anything that doesn't exist?

            But dragons in garages do exist!

          • Andrew G.

            This is why I've tried hammering on the "anticipated experiences" concept.

            When I propose some test to the dragon-believer and they respond with an explanation of why it wouldn't work, it shows that they have access to a mental model of the universe which lacks dragons; they can accurately anticipate the result of my test even though it's the same result as expected in the absence of a dragon.

            A lot of what we've seen from believers in the comments on this site, especially the stuff like "science can't handle immaterial things!", is all geared to protecting the belief in belief - the believer has an accurate model of the godless universe, but they also have a strong commitment to the idea of being a believer, so they set up defenses in advance to cover the discrepancies between the accurate model and the believer-model.

            (see Mysterious Answers to Mysterious Questions at LessWrong.)

      • stanz2reason

        That doesn't seem to like a claim that requires him to prove. It is comment about the picture the author of this article presents of god, that being that this god seems indistinguishable from one that doesn't exist at all. It would seem if any anything additional is required it would be for you to point out how his comment is mistaken.

  • How does all this fit in with the God, who is depicted as having direct conversations with Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc., and also sending angels as messengers to a number of people, such as Joseph and Mary?

    Also, how in the world can this be reconciled with the idea that Jesus is God Incarnate and spent perhaps three years preaching and working miracles, and continued his encounter with human beings even after he was executed (and rose)?

    And then, of course, there are a number of apparitions of Jesus "approved" by the Catholic Church.

    Finally, there is the claim that God's existence may be known through reasons, and that God's existence is apparent in creation.

    I acknowledge that to me, God, if he exists, seems to be totally hidden. But this is not what Christianity teaches.

    • Rationalist1

      He previously was much more social with his creation but since the time of Jesus has kept to himself. And I don't think there are any apparitions of Jesus Post Pentecost that the Catholic Church approves. Like the Marian apparitions they are very much optional for believers.

      I agree God is totally hidden and I see no merit in it. When I was a believer I prayed and prayed for a feeling of God's presence but Like Mother Teresa "the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

      • And I don't think there are any apparitions of Jesus Post Pentecost that the Catholic Church approves.

        Well, there's this:

        The most significant source for the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the form it is known today was Visitandine Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690), who claimed to have received visions of Jesus Christ, the first on 27 December 1673, and the final one 18 months later. The visions revealed to her the form of the devotion, the chief features being reception of Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month, Eucharistic adoration during a "Holy hour" on Thursdays, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. She stated that in her vision she was instructed to spend an hour every Thursday night to meditate on Jesus' Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

        Like the Marian apparitions they are very much optional for believers.

        No one is "required" to believe in them, but certain apparitions are "approved" while others are rejected. Lourdes and Fatima are clearly accepted by the Church. You are free to disbelieve that the Virgin Mary appeared there, or that Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, but communion on "First Fridays" is a practice that is certainly encouraged by the Church.

        • Rationalist1

          My point was that Catholics can't say God continues to reveal his presence in the world because even a good Catholic can choose not to believe those "revelations". I may be wrong on this?

          • Rationalist, we do believe God continues to reveal himself in many ways. However, we don't believe that God continues to reveal divine principles or commandments binding on all humanity (this would be a belief in "continuous revelation," which Catholics don't hold.)

            We do believe, though, that God reveals himself through nature, beauty, individual experience and, most especially, through his Church, the Bible, and the sacraments.

          • Rationalist1

            So personal revelation may continue but revelation for all humanity stopped. And Catholics are not obligated to accept personal revelation.

          • but revelation for all humanity stopped.

            No, read what Brandon said:

            We do believe, though, that God reveals himself through nature, beauty

            and what is said on the post:

            the way in which we come to know God as he is, in truth and in right relation to him. By being objectively uncertain, yet communicating himself to us in beauty, in truth, in the goodness that inexplicably guides our lives,

            If what you said were true, the rest of the planet, except Catholics, will be no-religious in any sense. This may explain why the majority of humans of all age have believe and worshipped a god or something like a god.

            Hope that this get clear for you...

          • Rationalist1

            Then read what I wrote "So personal revelation may continue but revelation for all humanity stopped. And Catholics are not obligated to accept personal revelation." Mohamed wasn't another revelation for Catholics, neither was Joseph Smith and Catholics are not required to accept as revealed truth the personal revelation of another person.

            The Catholic Church is not like the Mormon Church where the head of the Church can announce one day a new revelation.

          • indeed, they weren't. But they acknowledge that God exists at least, and that is why I said "No, revelation wasn't stopped for all humanity".

          • epeeist

            No, read what Brandon said:

            We do believe, though, that God reveals himself through nature, beauty

            You might believe this, but without justification that is all it is, a belief, an opinion.

            And it doesn't get you to the god of Catholicism. In fact I would go further, it doesn't even get you to a deity. It is in fact a complete non sequitur.

          • What, without justifications for your objections? Then is just your opinion anyway.

            I'll hold what you object without justification if the "god of Catholicism" or "my deity" where nothing but a magical sky fairy or a old man in the sky. But, since I'm aware of what we Catholic means by God, that is, The uncaused cause of the finite, contingencial universe, paradigm of good and the ontological source of the truth and the beauty. I'll say that you are wrong in your objections.

            But since I don't hear any explanaition of why God isn't the ontological source of the Good, the Truth and the Beauty, I see my own answer very appealing (even thought I have no deeper studies on this matter).

          • epeeist

            But, since I'm aware of what we Catholic means by God, that is, The
            uncaused cause of the finite, contingencial universe, paradigm of good
            and the ontological source of the truth and the beauty. I'll say that
            you are wrong in your objections.

            My original comment was to meant to distinguish between belief and knowledge. The same applies to your comments above, it may be what you mean but it certainly doesn't count as knowledge.

            But since I don't hear any explanaition of why God isn't the ontological source of the Good, the Truth and the Beauty, I see my own answer very appealing (even thought I have no deeper studies on this matter).

            Ah, an attempt to shift the burden. But as ever, "he who avers must prove". If you want to claim that your god is "The uncaused cause of the finite, contingencial universe, paradigm of good and the ontological source of the truth and the beauty." then it is down to you to demonstrate this.

            Otherwise I might just point you at links about Wicca, Candomble, Cao Dai, Ikuantao and Scientology. They too have their claims. Going by your logic they must be presumed to be true until proven false.

          • You haven't provided any justification for your objection against the claim that God reveals Himself through Beauty and Nature. How it comes? Is burden a spider that you need to shake off?

            Ah, an attempt to shift the burden. But as ever, "he who avers must prove". If you want to claim that your god is "The uncaused cause of the finite, contingencial universe, paradigm of good and the ontological source of the truth and the beauty." then it is down to you to
            demonstrate this.

            Well, if the Universe and everything inside of it doesn't have the sufficient reason to exists in themselves, that means, they existence is contingent in something else, an explanation for their existence must be found outside of them in order to explain it. Even if you have a infinite set of contingent things that cause the existence of the thing next to it, you have no explanation for the existence of every thing in the infinite set. Besides, using common sense you have to acknowledge that traverse an infinite set is impossible.

            So, in order to explain the existence of the universe and everything inside it because such existence is contingent, we most conclude that there must be a reality that is necessary, I mean, that it cannot not exists and that it is not contingent, meaning that it is uncaused. His essence is to exists. He is the uncaused cause of the finite, contingencial universe, paradigm of good and the ontological source of the truth and the beauty.

            This is what we mean by God.

          • BenS

            against the claim that God reveals Himself through Beauty and Nature. How it comes? Is burden a spider that you need to shake off?

            So... you get to make whatever fanciful claims you like and the burden isn't on you to prove them, it's on us to justify our objections? Doesn't work that way, kid.

            He is the uncaused cause of the finite, contingencial universe, paradigm of good and the ontological source of the truth and the beauty.

            Got evidence?

          • Yes: Reason, Logic and Philosophy.

          • BenS

            So... no, then. Just word games.

          • answer me then, what type of evidence you want, besides knowledge of reality, experience and reason, to support philosophical claims?

          • BenS

            God is supposed to be real. Consider the kind of evidence you would provide to prove all the other real things - like cancer, woodworm and gravity. That kind of evidence.

          • C'mon, Those things exists physically inside the finite universe. that's plain scientism what you propose to support philosophical claims older than modern science. If that where the case, science cannot be true because it rest on philosophical assumptions that cannot be proven scientifically.

            But if you insist, wait here, I'll come back with a piece of God for you to measure, test and touch. brb!

          • ZenDruid

            [insert Eucharist joke here]

          • BenS

            You could have stopped after your first four words.

          • I thought on that too, but, I didn't feel it enough...

          • epeeist

            You haven't provided any justification for your objection against the claim that God reveals Himself through Beauty and Nature. How it comes?

            But I am not making the ontological commitment, you are. Hence the burden is yours. The idea is fairly simple, if I claim there is a dragon in my garage it is down to me to demonstrate this, not down to you to disprove it.

            Well, if the Universe and everything inside of it doesn't have the sufficient reason to exists in themselves, that means, they existence is contingent in something else

            I don't accept either of your premisses. Firstly, how do you know that the universe is contingent? The best we can say is that it was in existence after the Planck time. Before that (if before is meaningful in this context) we have no knowledge. If you want claim that the universe is contingent then again, I would want to see some justification.

            Secondly you assume that anything that is contingent must have a cause. But as Hume demonstrated you cannot know this with metaphysical certainty.

            Besides, using common sense you have to acknowledge that traverse an infinite set is impossible.

            But this is to assume an Aristotelian view of time. If you want a more modern philosophical view then I would refer you to McTaggart (The Unreality of Time) or Mellor (Real Time II). If you want a scientific view then you might try Barbour (The End of Time). None of these people think time exists.

            I mean, that it cannot not exists and that it is not contingent, meaning that it is uncaused.

            And this of course is just special pleading. If you want to claim, without justification, that your god is uncaused then in the same way I can claim that the universe is uncaused. My explanation is simpler than yours since I avoid the mistake that the good Friar William of Ockham identified, namely not multiplying entities when it can be avoided.

          • But I am not making the ontological commitment, you are. Hence the burden is yours.

            I did objected what you claimed, giving some sound justification for what you said in previous comments:

            And it doesn't get you to the god of Catholicism. In fact I would go
            further, it doesn't even get you to a deity. It is in fact a complete non sequitur.

            But you started with the burden stuff, even thought you didn't provide any justification for that comment from the begging. and I feel like I'm going to petrify waiting for it.

            if I claim there is a dragon in my garage it is down to me to demonstrate this, not down to you to disprove it.

            You claimed that God doesn't reveals himself through nature, beauty even further you claimed that «it doesn't get you to the god of Catholicism. In fact I would go
            further, it doesn't even get you to a deity.»
            , Well, I'm waiting for you to demonstrate that.

            I don't accept either of your premisses. Firstly, how do you know that the universe is contingent?

            Well, let me borrow this quotes from a debate of Craig vs. Smith:

            Now some people are suspicious of philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe. They want to know if there is empirical evidence for this thesis. And in fact there is. I mention in (2.3), first, the confirmation based on the expansion of the universe. According to the standard Big Bang cosmological model, the universe is not infinite in the past, but began to exist at a point in the finite past about 15 billion years ago. Not only all matter and energy, but physical space and time, were created in that event, so that there is literally nothing prior to the origin of the universe. Paul Davies, in his article, "Space–time Singularities and Cosmology," says,

            If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of space–time, through such an extremity. For this reason, most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view, the Big Bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of space–time itself.

            Now, of course, some theorists were unhappy with the notion that the universe began to exist from nothing, and alternative models have been proposed. But none of these has been tenable either empirically or philosophically. For example, the oscillating model, which says that the universe expands and contracts from eternity, is physically, observationally, and thermodynamically untenable. The vacuum fluctuation models, which hold that the universe emerged from a quantum vacuum by a
            fluctuation, are untenable because they predict a non–zero probability for a universe existing at every point in space–time in the quantum vacuum, so that given an eternal quantum vacuum, all of the space–time
            points would spawn universes, which would then collide and coalesce into an infinitely old universe, which contradicts observation. The quantum gravity models all depend on the use of "imaginary time" prior to 10–43
            second after the Big Bang; these are simply non–physical solutions.
            They are non–realistic solutions. Once you convert the numbers back to real time, the singularity reappears. So the most plausible model of the origin of the universe remains the Big Bang model, which posits a creation out of nothing. And that goes to confirm premise (2) the universe began to exist.

            Secondly you assume that anything that is contingent must have a cause. But as Hume demonstrated you cannot know this with metaphysical certainty.

            No, he didn't:

            I really don't think that it's necessary [to defend the premise] because the premise that whatever begins to exist must have a cause of its existence I think is so intuitively obvious that scarcely anybody could sincerely deny that it is false. In fact, David Hume himself agreed that this principle is true. In a letter to John Stewart dated February, 1754, Hume wrote, "But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without cause:
            I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falshood of that
            Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from another Source." Hume didn't think that you could prove the causal principle, but he
            certainly believed in it. In fact, he thought that the denial of that principle was simply absurd.
            Similarly, as is well known, Kant held the principle "Every event has a cause" to be a synthetic a priori principle; that is, it's an informative proposition characterized by both universality and necessity. Only Kant’s implausible and perhaps incoherent restriction of the categories to phenomena alone prevented him from holding that this principle applied to reality. So, as I say, it seems to me that this first premise is intuitively obvious, and even detractors of theistic arguments such as Hume and Kant themselves admit it's true.

            But this is to assume an Aristotelian view of time. If you want a more
            modern philosophical view then I would refer you to McTaggart (The
            Unreality of Time) or Mellor (Real Time II). If you want a scientific
            view then you might try Barbour (The End of Time). None of these people
            think time exists.

            I have nothing to say about that, I mean, those authors written books arguing such thing as there is no time. Why I could even object that idea in a comment? In my search of what other professionals have to said about such argument, I have found just one review of the first book you mentioned, no luck with the second and the third have almost no data on Wikipedia, this idea have't had go mainstream, yet. Anyway, if this claim is true, it might mean that our scientists have been doing science with something that (ironically) even don't exists.

            However, even if time is just a illusion in our mind, it doesn't follow that you can traverse a infinite set of finite things, May can you traverse a infinite set of 1 inch^3 space?

            I can claim that the universe is uncaused.

            You claim is very unscientific and arbitrary, we know today that the universe «begun 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago.», so, How it comes that the universe is uncaused? If that were the case, it will have no beginning, therefore, his age would be infinite. Even thought the sky at night will not be black since the universe would be filled by the light of all the stars that existed since... ever.

            If we appeal to a infinite regress of causations to explain the contingencial existence of any beign, i.e.: the Universe, will end explaining nothing. So, why I said that in order to avoid this we most arrive to a reality that is uncaused, a reality that cannot not exists? ¡Because the Okham razor! How many causations we end up trying to explain the existence of the universe if we don't arrive to such uncaused reality? Infinite! We have a violation of the Ockham razor principle here. But this will not happen if we end the series of causations to explain the universe in a uncaused reality, there you have your justification, such uncaused reality is what we Christians means (not by just this reason, but we have plenty of them to back this claim) by God.

            wow, I'm tired...

          • epeeist

            I may make several responses to your post in order to separate out the various topics.

            Let's start with:

            You claimed that God doesn't reveals himself through nature, beauty even further you claimed that «it doesn't get you to the god of Catholicism. In fact I would go further, it doesn't even get you to a deity.», Well, I'm waiting for you to demonstrate that.

            No, I said that if Brandon believed that nature, beauty showed the existence of god he believes in then he would have to justify the claim. To go from "nature exists and humans find some things beautiful" to "therefore god" has, I hope you will agree, has several lacunae between the premiss and conclusion.

          • ZenDruid

            Epeeist,

            First, bravo.

            Second, it is beginning to impinge upon my consciousness that Aristotle is the alpha-omega of these folks' collective philosophical stance. Might I be mistaken?

          • epeeist

            econd, it is beginning to impinge upon my consciousness that Aristotle is the alpha-omega of these folks' collective philosophical stance.

            Well, Aristotle as interpreted by Aquinas.

            If we look at Aristotle's physics, it is wrong. If we look at his cosmology it is wrong. If we look at his theory of causality, it has all but been discarded. If we look at his biology, it is wrong.

            Does this detract from our appreciation of Aristotle? It shouldn't, what we should value in him and other thinkers is that his work led to the advancement of human understanding even though his ideas have been superseded.

          • ZenDruid

            If we look at Aristotle's physics, it is wrong. If we look at his cosmology it is wrong. If we look at his theory of causality, it has all but been discarded. If we look at his biology, it is wrong.

            ...And his metaphysics were not much more than formulae for 'just-so stories'. In my addled opinion.

          • epeeist

            And his metaphysics were not much more than formulae for 'just-so stories'

            Well yes, the problem being that certain elements of the metaphysics are derived from the physics. The need for an unmoved mover for example...

          • Er, no, there is not a "lacunae" between the premise and the conclusion, but you are actually ignoring the knowledge that @bvogt1:disqus have about it, which is different. For instance, take a look at the arguments

            from Degrees of Perfection or the argument from Aesthetic Experience(!)

            But basically you are right if God is a old man in the sky.

          • epeeist

            For instance, take a look at the arguments

            from Degrees of Perfection or the argument from Aesthetic Experience(!)

            If you can't see that both of these are, shall we say, lacking in merit then I think we have a difficulty.

            The first one, to get from a finite "degree of perfection" to complete absolute perfection falls prey to a variant of the Sorites paradox. How much perfection do you need to add to get to complete perfection? An infinite amount, if you have a finite amount then it is always possible to add more.

            Now you object to infinite amounts of time, so why should I allow you infinite amounts of perfection?

            Second one, I think this cartoon is apposite. It isn't an argument, it is two unconnected statements.

            By the same "argument" I could say, the "Skolion of Seikolos", therefore Zeus. Or Martineau's "Epic of Gilgamesh", therefore An, Enki, Ningal etc. Or perhaps, Michael Tippett, therefore no god at all.

          • The first one, to get from a finite "degree of perfection" to complete absolute perfection falls prey to a variant of the Sorites paradox. How much perfection do you need to add to get to complete perfection? An infinite amount, if you have a finite amount then it is always possible to add more.

            Now you object to infinite amounts of time, so why should I allow you infinite amounts of perfection?

            Because the first one is a qualitative property and the second is a quantitative property (between two points in time, A and B, were time is infinite, how many seconds do exists between the two points? infinite. How many seconds will take you to be from point A in time to point B in time? infinite). So no, this don't fall in the "Sorites paradox" because perfection isn't a quantitative property. Trying to be more moral than yesterday or than any "deity" is an example of the argument from perfection. You are just trying to reach perfection.

            About the second argument. Here is another example to support the argument http://www.harmonycentral.com/t5/The-Singer-s-Forum/She-Makes-Me-Believe-in-God/td-p/28025337 I also know many atheist that were convert to Christianity by the very experience of Aesthetic (and btw, How many know you that change their belief to atheism by the mere Aesthetic experience?).

          • Max Driffill

            The notion of degrees of perfection is rather laden with assumptions. It hinges on a bizarre notion of the goodness of things that is not justified in the slightest.

            From the essay that offers this argument we get:

            But if these degrees of perfection pertain to being and being is caused in finite creatures, then there must exist a "best," a source and real standard of all the perfections that we recognize belong to us as beings.This absolutely perfect being—the "Being of all beings," "the Perfection of all perfections"—is God.

            We might note, and I admit this might be splitting definitional hairs, from the outset that there are no degrees to perfection. A thing is either perfect, or it is not. I have either had the perfect day or I have not. So the phrase is imprecise, and imprecise in a way that I suspect makes the whole argument useless.

            When you replace degrees of perfection, with degrees of good and bad the strength of the idea vanishes. There needn't exist a "best" for me to compare my experience to. I don't need a perfect being as a referent to know I could have had a better X. My brain can simulate what it might be like to have a better day, or a better physical attribute, and all I need to confirm this state in reality someone who has a slightly better X than me.

            I am also not sure why any of the following is compelling (from the same article):

            Now when we think of the goodness of things, part of what we mean relates to what they are simply as beings. We believe, for example, that a relatively stable and permanent way of being is better than one that is fleeting and precarious.
            Why? Because we apprehend at a deep (but not always conscious) level that being is the source and condition of all value; finally and ultimately, being is better than nonbeing. And so we recognize the inherent superiority of all those ways of being that expand possibilities, free us from the constricting confines of matter, and allow us to share in, enrich and be enriched by, the being of other things. In other words, we all recognize that intelligent being is better than unintelligent being; that a being able to give and receive love is better than one that cannot; that our way of being is better, richer and fuller than that of a stone, a flower, an earthworm, an ant, or even a baby seal.

            This is so laden with assumption and question begging it is hard even to know where to begin.

          • epeeist

            A thing is either perfect, or it is not.

            Yes, I had rather missed that one. Personally I think this site might offer better proofs for the existence of god ;-)

          • epeeist

            Let's move on to the argument from contingency and to pick out a particular phrase from Craig (I do find it amusing that you have to refer to a protestant theologian for this):

            According to the standard Big Bang cosmological model, the universe is not infinite in the past, but began to exist at a point in the finite past about 15 billion years ago.

            Now this is fairly typical of Craig in debates, in his Gish Gallop style he often asserts half-truths, which this is (you will find I rarely cite debates, useful as dialogue is, viz. Plato's dialogue form, debate rarely gets above the superficial especially when it is a competitive sideshow).

            Two things here, firstly the extrapolation back to the "big bang" is based upon general relativity which treats c (the speed of light) and G (the gravitational constant) as significant and h (Planck's constant) as insignificant. This is fine until we start looking at the microscopic or extremely short periods of time, both of which are evident as we get closer to the big bang. At this point therefore cannot use GR, we need a theory of quantum gravity, something we currently do not have. Hence you will find cosmologists reluctant to use the phrase "began to exist" when one gets into discussions about the state of the universe before the Planck time.

            One of the better books on the subject is Physics Meets Philosophy at the Planck Scale. It is fairly readable, though you do need some background in both GR and QM.

          • So, basically you say: "We don't know if the universe have a beginning because the Planck time, therefore, the universe have no beginning"(?)

            But anyway, as I read here, «everyone always knew that General Relativity breaks down by that point [of sub-atomic proportions].» however, any adjustment don't affects the fundamental «prediction of the standard model of the absolute beginning of the universe.» But, I'm more interested on the BGV Theorem (yes, I know this, and I'm looking for a reply for it, even thought I have one from the same paper but I cannot remember where it is...):

            With respect to the alternative of Eternal Inflation, it was suggested by some theorists during the 1980s that perhaps the inflationary expansion of the universe was not confined to a brief period early in the history of the universe but is eternal in the past, each inflating region being the product of a prior inflating region.
            Although such models were hotly debated, something of a watershed appears to have been reached in 2003, when three leading cosmologists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.

            What makes their proof so powerful is that it holds regardless of the physical description of the universe prior to the Planck time. Because we can’t yet provide a physical description of the very early universe, this brief moment has been fertile ground for speculations.
            (One scientist has compared it to the regions on ancient maps labeled “Here there be dragons!”—it can be filled with all sorts of fantasies.) But the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem is independent of any physical
            description of that moment.
            Their theorem implies that even if our universe is just a tiny part of a so-called “multiverse” composed of many universes, the multiverse must have an absolute beginning.

            Vilenkin is blunt about the implications:

            It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a
            past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).

            Some current cosmological speculation is based upon attempts to craft models based upon possible exceptions to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin condition that the universe has on average been in a state of cosmic expansion. In his article Jim provides the following chart of possibilities: Too long, didn't paste...

            Actually, Alan Guth is blunt about those who do not accept the model: they're crackpots.

            And as you noted, yes, if the universe were actually infinite in time, we should have a dead universe, however, if that is true why we still have a "living" universe?

            Now this is fairly typical of Craig in debates, in his Gish Gallop style he often asserts half-truths

            Which none of those "half-truths" are noted by any of his opponent debaters, ever, btw...

            In other words, Hume contended that there was no deductive proof that all events required a cause, thus there is no metaphysical certainty this is the case.

            And that conclusion were drawn from demonstration or from intuition or from another source? But, Can you deny that Hume even saying that such principle cannot be demonstrated, he didn't believe on it? (I mean, is quite clear: "But allow me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without cause")

            You are claiming that each and every being must have a cause, all except for this one particular being. Looks like special pleading to me.

            straw man fallacy here!, you are good at reading and understanding physics long books but not comments on a website, huh?. I said No, it is not a special pleading. If we appeal to a infinite regress of causations to explain the contingencial existence of any beign(sic). Did I claim on any comment that God have a contingencial existence (or did you demonstrated that yet)? No, I didn't it. Then God, the uncaused cause of the universe, have no place on the category of beings with contingencial existence, and therefore, His existence don't need to be explained, or are you willing to ask "What is the causation of the uncaused cause"? I hope no.

            But, as I know that you are very... wealthy than me and can buy books as you please, I know that you will arrive with better arguments to knockdown theism or the idea that God is ontological source of beauty (and truth, and goodness) and He is reflect in nature, and post them here (instead of asking for space to @bvogt1:disqus on Strange Notions!) I'll not reply, because, well, I have no time to answer anymore. so, thanks for the objections.

          • epeeist

            Secondly you assume that anything that is contingent must
            have a cause. But as Hume demonstrated you cannot know this with
            metaphysical certainty.

            No, he didn't:

            To use your quotation:

            In a letter to John Stewart dated February, 1754, Hume wrote, "But allow
            me to tell you that I never asserted so absurd a Proposition as that anything might arise without cause:
            I only maintain’d, that our Certainty of the Falshood of that
            Proposition proceeded neither from Intuition nor Demonstration; but from
            another Source." Hume didn't think that you could prove the
            causal principle, but he certainly believed in it. In fact, he thought
            that the denial of that principle was simply absurd.

            In other words, Hume contended that there was no deductive proof that all events required a cause, thus there is no metaphysical certainty this is the case.

            This shouldn't surprise you, after all we don't observe causality, we only infer it. And given that our inferences are of individual cases then these must particular, contingent and probabilistic. Any generalisation from individual cases is inductive in nature and again to go back to Hume, we are not justified in reasoning from repeated instances of which we have experience to other instances of which we have no experience. We only do so because of custom and habit.

          • epeeist

            For example, the oscillating model, which says that the universe expands and contracts from eternity, is physically, observationally, and thermodynamically untenable.

            I am going to ignore the rest of Craig's points since they are merely hand waving. They are essentially one line quote mines from whole books on each of the possibilities he mentions. For oscillating universes for example one could reference Steinhardt and Turok's Endless Universe or Penrose's Cycles of Time. A popular book which gives details and problems of a large taxonomy of possible types of universe is Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality.

            This is to neglect a huge journal literature on things such as the problem of low entropy at the start of the universe.

          • epeeist

            You claim is very unscientific and arbitrary, we know today that the universe «begun 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago.», so, How it comes that the universe is uncaused? If that were the case, it will have no beginning, therefore, his age would be infinite. Even
            thought the sky at night will not be black since the universe would be filled by the light of all the stars that existed since... ever.

            As I have noted, because we have no theory of quantum gravity that will describe the situation at the Planck time we cannot, definitively, say that this was the case.

            As for your restatement of Olber's paradox. You do realise that stars have a finite lifetime...

          • But light doesn't.

            Therefore the Olbers paradox does apply in an eternal universe, unless it is asserted to be expanding.

            Which, as Vilenkin argues, is highly unlikely.

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1204.4658v1.pdf

          • epeeist

            No, it is not a special pleading. If we appeal to a infinite
            regress of causations to explain the contingencial existence of any
            beign, i.e.: the Universe, will end explaining nothing.

            You are claiming that each and every being must have a cause, all except for this one particular being. Looks like special pleading to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are correct.

    • Hey David - I don't think Marc's claim is that God is "totally hidden" any more than it is that God is totally visible - only that he hides himself, like a ragged figure moving from tree to tree, to use Flannery O'Connor's image. But does obscurity preclude meaningful contact with God apart from faith? If so, wherefore and whither Strange Notions? We believe we can glimpse God through reason and experience, just as Marc can glimpse his father's love in their history and his tone of voice. But the point is this: I can't finally subdue and disassemble him as known object or solved problem any more than I can my father's love. Does this mean that belief is irrational? Does it leave us with Kierkegaard's passionate fideism - "faith is not a form of knowledge"? Aquinas certainly didn't think so: "the act of faith consists essentially in knowledge."

      As to why God was so busy revealing himself to the first man, the greatest prophets and saints, the holy family, and the apostles, while hiding from skeptical, languid moderns - I wonder whether a terrible dearth of holiness on our part might have something to do with it? (Not to mention an inundation of noise, which Kierkegaard also addressed. "Create silence.")

      • But the point is this: I can't finally subdue and disassemble him as
        known object or solved problem any more than I can my father's love.

        But fathers don't normally hide themselves, or hid their love, and force sons or daughters to go in search of it.

        If God hides himself, what would prompt people to go looking for him? This piece is similar to something a commenter said in another thread—that God balances his visibility and and invisibility just carefully enough so that you can believe in his existence or not, as you choose.

        This is simply not the idea of God one gets from Catholicism or Christianity in general. We have just had long arguments about the existence of Jesus, with the Christians insisting not only that Jesus existed, but that the miracles he worked and his resurrection are historical facts one cannot escape believing if one evaluates the evidence with an open mind. Catholicism insists that the existence of God can be known from reason alone, and that moral truth can be known from reason alone. Theists on this site generally insist that atheists are willfully blind, and that it is easier to believe in God than not to believe in him.

        I wonder whether a terrible dearth of holiness on our part might have something to do with it?

        God seemed to have put up with a tremendous dearth of holiness on the part of the Israelites. One metaphor has God as the husband of the faithless wife, Israel. Paul wasn't a holy man on the road to Damascus.

        It seems to me the whole idea of the Church is that it is supposed to be Jesus present to the world.

        As I said elsewhere, I see the defense of this post as the Catholics "circling the wagons." I was raised Catholic, and although it would be a very weak claim on my part to say I was a Catholic, I am definitely not an atheist and am sympathetic to much of the arguments against atheism. But as someone who was educated Catholic, I don't see anything particularly familiar or anything particularly Catholic about this post. It seems to me to go against what I was taught. And if it is an attempt to reach out to atheists to explain God's silence, I don't see anything the least bit convincing in it, or anything that would resonate with someone who was inclined to believe in God but who was baffled by God's silence. It is, in fact, an attempt to explain God's silence to those who already believe in God. It argues that God maintains his silence because he wants to accomplish by his silence certain things, and of course to buy that type of argument, one must already believe in God.

        • But fathers don't normally hide themselves, or hid their love, and force sons or daughters to go in search of it.

          Well, no, they don't. They usually say "I love you" and I cannot be sure if that is a objective fact as I see the tree and I know that the tree exists.

          That's the main point, I think.

          • I am not sure I get the whole line of reasoning. If a person says to me, "I love you," I can believe them whether I love them back or not. Or I can love them even if I know they are deceiving me when they tell me they love me. It is not uncommon at all for one person to love another who does not love them back. Maybe the existence of their love is not as undeniable as the existence of a tree, but their existence is certainly undeniable. And the way love is communicated convincingly is not by hiding.

          • Yes, you can believe it, but that is different from objective knowledge of that love to you. let me cite this part of the post:

            For instance, my father calls, and before he hangs up, he says “I love you.” I do not know this to be an objective fact. I do not observe it with the certainty I observe the tree, because the words “I love you,” are an outward expression of my father’s subjective, interior life — a life I
            cannot know. From my perspective, his kindness to me may have been born out of no more than duty, the pressures of his surrounding moral society, or the desire to raise a child in such a manner that he does not become an embarrassment.

            In short, the words “I love you” may not be true, and no objective knowledge can eradicate their uncertainty. Even if I were to add up all the constituent parts – his expression, his tone, our history, etc. — I could not arrive — with objective certainty — at the conclusion, “Yes, it all adds up to love,” and this is apparent in the fact that no one bothers to engage in such arithmetic. I cannot know love as an objective fact, existing outside of myself and available to my objective verification. I can only believe in it. But this is the point. My believing in the love of my father and my entering into that love are one in the same, for in believing — which embraces the uncertainty precisely as an uncertainty —
            I fling myself entirely on him. I trust in his word. I trust him as I would myself. This blurring of he and the I in the moment of love’s expression; this taking on of the other’s hidden, subjective, interior life as if it were my own; this taking for myself as true what only he can know is true — this is love. In believing I participate in the life of the one I trust to believe.

            So:

            He gives us he opportunity to believe, to know him in such a manner that our knowledge of him is simultaneously a total reliance on him, indeed that our “knowledge” — which we should refer to as faith, for it maintains the objective uncertainty by never rendering Eternity objectively visible — is a participation in the life of God himself.

            Maybe you are missing something?

          • Maybe you are missing something?

            I guess I must be. I had always thought that God would be like the guy in the old popular song—To Know Him Is to Love Him. (It's not the original recording, which was by the Teddy Bears, but I prefer it.) And I find it difficult to accept the argument, put forward in a number of forms, that God is so lovable that if he would reveal himself, we would be forced to love him, which would violate our free will.

          • jajaja, yes, maybe.

            But...

            that God is so lovable that if he would reveal himself, we would be forced to love him, which would violate our free will.

            No, actually people can say: "Oh, I just was having an hallucination" and choose not correspond to that Being as correspond.

        • David - Thanks for the reply! Yes, the Church embraces reason and science, the arts, and ethics (truth, beauty, and goodness) - which can be seen by all, and all of which point us to God. But Marc's point is that none of this constitutes trust in God, i.e., faith. Faith is not merely "connecting the dots." It's not the result of an empirical experiment or syllogism - if it were, it would be coerced, and unfree (this is where "enough light, enough shadow" comes into play - the formulation of a Catholic philosopher, Pascal). Faith is a free movement of the will to trust God, at the invitation of grace. There is great evidence to confirm it, but necessarily enough obscurity to say "no." It's not irrational (against reason), but it is suprarational (beyond reason). As to whether this is something the Church teaches, see the Catechism #153-163, and JPII's "Fides et Ratio."

          • As to whether this is something the Church teaches, see the Catechism #153-163

            Matthew,

            Thanks for the Catechism references, which I just read. The Catechism says such things as, "Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit," and "Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him." Whereas Marc Barnes says, "God hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode." As I said earlier, according to Catholicism, God sent his son, Jesus, and then Jesus commissioned his followers to go out and preach the Good News to the world. To accommodate Barnes's views, there seems to be an extra step in there. God sends his son (and also inspires scripture, giving us both a living Church and a written record), his son founds a Church which is to evangelize the world, Christian evangelists preach the Gospel, and then God hides so we have to approach him in the right mode. I still don't see how Catholic teaching is compatible with the idea of God hiding himself.

            Also, the Catechism says

            For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his "beloved Son", in whom the Father is "well pleased"; God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: "Believe in God, believe also in me." We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." Because he "has seen the Father", Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.

            If God the Father is hidden, God the Son can be known through scripture. And of course it is Catholic belief that God is revealed through Jesus. So in order for God to be hidden from us, apparently somehow God is not revealed through Jesus in the Gospels. But it is Catholic teaching that he is.

            It just seems to me that (I guess I am repeating myself) the argument that the Gospels make a true and compelling case for the existence and deeds of Jesus (including the resurrection), and the idea that God is hidden don't seem to be very compatible. Also, the idea that God is constantly answering prayers and giving more than one asks for does not seem compatible with the idea of a hidden God, either.

            As a minor aside, when it comes to prayer, I think we are much more likely to get stories from people about how God answered their prayers than stories about how God didn't answer their prayers. If St. Monica had prayed 20 years for Augustine to convert and concluded that God did not answer (or answered "no"), I don't think it would have made it into the Catholic collection of stories about prayer.

          • the argument that the Gospels make a true and compelling case for the existence and deeds of Jesus (including the resurrection), and the idea that God is hidden don't seem to be very compatible.

            But even some of the greatest saints - John of the Cross, Mother Teresa - have acutely felt God's absence in a "dark night of the soul," while still believing in the truths of the Gospel. In a more prosaic way, God's hidenness is simply a lack of obviousness. Tomorrow morning, he could eradicate cancer and natural disasters, appear to every atheist on the planet in bodily form, answer millions of prayers, and write "I AM WHO AM" across the sky in gold letters at dusk. But I'm quite sure he won't. This lack of obviousness (i.e., hidenness) doesn't preclude faith in God - in fact, it makes it possible. Without that, he would be the Godfather, making us an offer we can't refuse.

            An interesting and unexpected interchange, thanks! The last word is yours if you want it.

  • primenumbers

    "God hides himself so we will come to him in the right mode." is a rationalization (for the benefit of the believing theist) as to who we don't observe God, not an evidenced reason for God's non-appearance. It is rather telling that God (so the theist says) wants us to know him in a way that is utterly indistinguishable from either pretending to know him or imagining you know him.

    "But God is not a thing. God is love" - God is not a thing - agreed, and that leaves only abstract concepts. God is indeed an abstract concept. Beings are things, so God is not a being. Only things can be said to exist so God does not exist. To equivocate God == Love, a human mind-held emotion is not to define God in a way that is useful to any discussion.

    " I cannot know love as an objective fact," - indeed, because objective facts are mind-independent. If God has a mind or is mind, he cannot be an objective source of anything. (well, as atheists show there is no God, God is the ultimate objective source of absolute nothing, but that's not what the theists wants or means...)

    "I trust in his word." - so please use the word trust, not faith, not belief. Let's be explicit about what we mean and not equivocate. Such indeterminacy of language renders most of what comes next in the article utterly unintelligible.

    • Rationalist1

      It doesn't help that the English language has one word, belief, that can be used in many varied contexts. I believe in God (as a faith only assertion), I believe that Regina is the capital of Saskatchewan (as a statement of knowledge), I believe I'll have another beer (as a statement of preference) and I believe evolution (as an acceptance of evidence). It causes much confusion.

      • primenumbers

        Indeed, and in any such article from a theist where they equivocate on trust = faith = belief with various meanings for faith and belief, it's not just hard to follow, but impossible to the point where it appears that the word-play is deliberate.

        • primenumbers, it's not impossible to follow. (And honestly, do you think it's *impossible* or merely difficult? Do you think nobody can comprehend what particular people mean by "faith" and "belief"?)

          Catholics have very clear understandings of each of those words. The trouble comes when you lump the Catholic understanding in with the dueling definitions of their co-religionists, and then categorically dismiss all of the definitions as "deliberate word-play" since they, as expected, conflict.

          This article (like this website) is not discussing "faith" or "belief" in general, but a specifically Catholic form of faith and belief.

          • Rationalist1

            No I can't. For instance I use belief to me acceptance without evidence, like a belief in a God or Gods. Whereas I try not to say I believe in evolution, I say I accept evolution, based upon the evidence.

            Yet on this site there are article after article trying to show evidence for God. So for you which belief is it? With or without evidence? And which is better?

          • Rationalist, it seems that you are unfamiliar with what Catholics mean by "believe." Here's a coherent explanation of the different ways we use that word. It's consistent with how Catholic contributors have used it at Strange Notions:

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02408b.htm

            If further confusion arises because *your* definition of belief differs from the way Catholics understand it, I'm afraid there'a little I can do to help. Engaging an article, and the arguments within, require you to understand terms the way the author intends them.

            In response to your final two questions:

            "So for you which belief is it? With or without evidence?"

            It depends on the context, and it depends on what you mean by "evidence." Catholics refer to beliefs that are supported by empirical evidence--such as "I believe the universe had a beginning"--as well as beliefs that are driven by authority, such as Divine Revelation or the magisterium of the Church.

            "And which is better?"

            Better according to what scale?

          • Rationalist1

            I'm not saying my version differs. I try to use belief only for assent without evidence. So taking a non theological point I would say "I believe there is life on other planets". I have no evidence for that but believe it is true. That was what I felt Catholics meant by belief.

            That link says that belief is "That state of the mind by which it assents to propositions, not by reason of their intrinsic evidence, but because of authority." Do you ultimately believe as assertion based upon authority?

          • "That was what I felt Catholics meant by belief."

            But it's not, and that's the confusion I'm trying to correct. Only when you understand how Catholics use that term, and not how you "feel" they use that term, will you be prepared to engage in fruitful dialogue.

          • primenumbers

            I find there is a difference between how Catholics say they mean by belief and what they actually do mean by belief upon further in-depth questioning on their epistemology. There is indeed a disconnect, but I suspect it's between Catholic theory and Catholic practise.

          • Ignorant Amos

            As Dan Dennett might say..."belief in belief"

          • Rationalist1

            By felt I should have said thought.

            But based upon that link you gave me is your definition of belief based upon authority? Do you, in order words, believe what you are told to believe?

          • ZenDruid

            In order to make your point, you had to equivocate on the definitions of 'belief' and 'evidence', as well as wordplay on the scale of good and bad.

            Don't feel bad... every advocate of your god does the same.

          • primenumbers

            I'm talking specifically about equivocations on words, when the meaning shifts throughout a sentence, paragraph or article.

        • Rationalist1

          One thing science does is formulate very precise definitions of terms. Energy, momentum, charge, spin all have very precise meanings in science but varied meaning in general discourse. Could theology do the same?

          • It could and does, particularly in this case:

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02408b.htm

          • Sid_Collins

            From the link:

            Belief: "That state of the mind by which it assents to propositions, not by reason of their intrinsic evidence, but because of authority."

            So when a Catholic says I believe God exists and sent his son to die for humans as a human being, the Catholic's "believing" state of mind is an assent to authority?
            Sid Collins

          • Rationalist1

            Even Saint Aquinas described the argument from authority as the weakest of all arguments,

          • Sid_Collins

            It's a rather ironic argument, at any rate, at a site where an article has been posted that criticizes atheists for being too dogmatic in their lack of belief in God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Yes. That is precisely what Brandon said. It doesn't sound doctrinally correct to me.

          • Andrew G.

            Time to once again reference 37 ways words can be wrong:

            7. The extension doesn't match the intension.

            The set of things that people call "beliefs" (the extension) does not match the intension of the provided definition.

            20. You defy common usage without a reason, making it gratuitously hard for others to understand you.

            "Belief" is a pretty commonly used word; to have a private definition for it and to use it in argument is unnecessarily confusing.

          • Susan

            Time to once again reference 37 ways words can be wrong:

            Excellent timing.

    • ACtheV

      "Beings are things, so God is not a being."
      If you can convert "Things" to "Beings" (as I agree with) then God is not a "Thing" but "Thinginess" just as He is not a "being" but the source and sumit of all being, the ability to "Be." We are talking about a Being whose essence is existence.

      • primenumbers

        Existence is just what we apply to beings that are real, as compared to imaginary. Existence is not an essence or a property (thinking it a property is the mistake ontological arguments make). You're basically reciting a theological "formula" that has no meaning other than to the believer trying to rationalize their misuse of language for apologetic reasons. You're also contradicting the vast array of religious texts that give your God all the anthropomorphic properties if a being.

        • ACtheV

          "Existence is just what we apply to beings that are real, as compared to imaginary"
          I agree. Existence is "What Is"

          " Existence is not an essence."
          Do you have an inkling of what it meant by "essence?"

          "You're basically reciting a theological "formula" that has no meaning other than to the believer trying to rationalize their misuse of language for apologetic reasons."
          All that is, is a bulverism. I say that your dismissing this "formula" ex hypothesi without any understanding of what is actually meant by it.

          "You're also contradicting the vast array of religious texts that give your God all the anthropomorphic properties if a being."
          Your basically saying that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, 3 in 1 creator of all that is can't explain himself in the form of metaphor to people that don't have the time to study theology?

          • primenumbers

            An essence is an essential property. As existence is not a property but what we say something has if it's real (and hence is able to have properties), existence cannot be an essence.

            "without any understanding" - no, I'm specifically stating that the formula doesn't make sense.

            "without any understanding" - yup an anthropomorphic being is a metaphor for something that isn't an anthropomorphic being!

          • ACtheV

            We are talking about a Being that is "Pure Act." If God existed, there would be no better term than "Pure Being" to describe Him, since the most defining and essential property of God (a Thing that made existence from nothing) would simply be existence He is the Power to Exist.

            "yup an anthropomorphic being is a metaphor for something that isn't an anthropomorphic being!"

            met·a·phor [met-uh-fawr, -fer] Show IPA
            noun
            1.
            a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance, as in “A mighty fortress is our God.”

          • primenumbers

            Actions are verbs, not things. "pure act" is meaningless.

            "would simply be existence He is the Power to Exist" - so you're defining your God as existing. Wow. That makes for easy proofs that God exists if you're into circular arguments, doesn't it. Do you ever wonder why atheists don't find such word-games convincing?

            "to suggest a resemblance" - so in what way does an anthropomorphic being resemble something that isn't an anthropomorphic being??

          • ACtheV

            "Pure Act" is Thomistic slang for "A Being with only Actualities and no Potentialities"

            "you're defining your God as existing" Notice how I said "If."

            "so in what way does an anthropomorphic being resemble something that isn't an anthropomorphic being??"

            In the same way that one could say "The tree waved it's arms in the strong breeze" or "The thunder in the distance announced the coming of the storm."

          • primenumbers

            "A Being", but earlier you said "He is not a "being" ". So he's a being when it suits you and not-a-being otherwise.

            I think your "if" renders your sentence somewhat meaningless as you're saying "if" on what amounts to a necessary being (as in it necessarily must exist).

            Tree branches are somewhat like arms in that they can look arm-shaped - long and thin with fingers at the end, joining onto a body. I cannot see how "an anthropomorphic being" in any way resembles something that is neither anthropomorphic nor a being. Metaphors don't work on what appears to be almost a perfect negation.

          • primenumbers, I think you might benefit from Thomas Aquinas' important treatise titled, On Being and Essence (De Ente Et Essentia).

          • primenumbers

            What's I'd benefit from is theists using words in meaningful ways :-) I think I'm using essence (an essential property that without which the thing is not that kind of thing, but something else) and existence (that which we describe real things as being, and without which something cannot have it's properties, essential or otherwise) correctly.

          • Rationalist1

            And why would existence be essential for the Catholic God, but not for the Muslim God, or Buddha, or Vishnu?

          • Rationalist, the mistake you're making is to begin with a particular conception of God--or multiple conceptions--and then reason backward to determine his (or her, or their) traits.

            Catholics take the opposite approach when thinking about God. We begin with things we can see and observe like the universe, or cause and effect, or beauty, or morality, and then from those things we reason forward to God--we deduce the traits of the being who logically is behind these things.

            When we do, we discover that this God must be all-powerful, perfect, self-existent, immaterial, and creative, along with other traits that falsify other deities.

            (Regarding your specific question, the above reasoning falsifies Buddha or Vishnu as God--even Aristotle could arrive at this conclusion--but Catholics don't necessarily believe that the Judeo-Christian conception of God is distinct from "the Muslim God" as you call him. We believe the Islamic view of God is incomplete, and in some ways deficient, but that in a sense they're worship is directed toward the same God as that of Catholics.)

          • primenumbers

            " and then from those things we reason forward to God--we deduce the traits of the being who logically is behind these things." - so you produce a God theory, but you have produced a theory that cannot even in principle be tested, because you've pushed what your God is to a place beyond knowledge. That is why you need / have faith to believe, and why those of us that don't use the epistemology of faith don't believe.

          • primenumbers, you say:

            "You have produced a theory that cannot even in principle be tested, because you've pushed what your God is to a place beyond knowledge. "

            This is not true. It can be tested philosophically and logically, and is not therefore beyond knowledge. To disprove the God which Catholics arrive at through deduction, you merely need to show where they err in logic or premise.

            Yet what I detect in your comment, and correct me if I'm wrong, is the unspoken assumption that all theories must be *empirically* testable to be true (a claim that cannot, of course, be empirically tested) and that the limits of knowledge stop at the boundaries of the natural sciences (and if this is what you hold, then you must provide evidence for this claim.)

            Am I understanding your right or have I assumed too much?

          • Rationalist1

            If the existence of God were empirically testable would you shun that as being against your faith. If the prayer studies had have come out as showing that prayer was efficacious, would you discount it as being contrary to the nature God's love for his creation. Indeed are the various philosophical proofs in danger of removing the need for faith. Should they be abandoned and the replaced with belief based upon authority?

          • Rationalist, you ask, "If the existence of God were empirically testable would you shun that as being against your faith."

            You continue to display the same basic confusion, and I've tried to help correct it several times. To a Catholic--or even to a pagan philosopher--your question is like asking, "If I proved, through testing, that a square circle is possible, would you still believe that circles exist?"

            You'd be met with confused stares. A circle, by definition, does not have sides (much less four). You could never "prove" or "test" a square circle unless by "circle" you mean something other than a commonly-understood circle.

            Likewise, the existence of God is simply not empirically testable since one of the qualities of the reasoned-to God is that he is immaterial. Therefore turning to empirical science would be turning to the wrong analytical tool. The self-existent creator of material things must logically be immaterial, and thus not empirically verifiable.

          • Rationalist1

            Except there's nothing inherently impossible about a God, but a square circle is by definition impossible.

            But you have answered my question by saying the existence of God is not empirically testable and therefore those who resort to the claiming the efficacy of prayer or the observation of miracles are not expressing the real ideal of God.

            By the way, a circle has 2 sides, inside and outside. :->

          • primenumbers

            "It can be tested philosophically and logically" - but that's just testing the theory, not the result of the theory. That's like theorizing a new particle and getting someone else to check over the math. Yes, you must check the math, but in the end you've got to bake the cake, fire up the accelerator and find the particle. It's the empirical testing of knowledge that I'm referring to when I say "tested", not checking over the math.

            "that all theories must be *empirically* testable to be true". Empirical testing is the method by which we determine truth, or correspondence with the real world (correspondence with reality is just what truth means in this context). "Empiricism" isn't a real world object thing, so empiricism is not the right method for seeing if it's true. What we use to test empiricism is "does it work", and yes it does! We don't test empiricism itself, but the use of it by people and as "the use of things by people" is something that can be empirically tested, it's a valid test and empiricism passes.

            "and that the limits of knowledge stop at the boundaries of the natural sciences" - and the natural sciences are the best tools we have for gathering such knowledge because when empirically tested they tend to work quite well.

            If you have a method to suggest we can all use to gain knowledge beyond the boundaries of natural sciences, we can also empirically test it's use by humans to see if it works.

          • "Empirical testing is the method by which we determine truth."

            Please tell me what empirical test you ran to prove this truth.

          • primenumbers

            I thought I explained that above. You're conflating two different uses of truth - truth that is a correspondence with reality which is the kind of truth that empirical testing verifies, and the concept of truth as applied to abstract concepts etc. The method of empirical testing is an abstract concept hence it doesn't fit into the kinds of truths that empirical testing tests for.

            However..... People can use empirical testing, and the results of people using empirical testing can be tested empirically.

            This takes us back to the issue of equivocation in that reality truths are not abstract concept truths. We have the concept of true and false for both of them, and yes it gets confusing. However, I don't have the words to differentiate reality truth from abstract truth, but I hope my words above explain the difference.

          • BenS

            Well, you can take a question where the answer is already known to you and then take two groups of people who do not know the answer and set them to the question.

            You set one group working the question empirically and the other using gut feeling or guesswork or whatever you want to compare efficacy against.

            Then, when the answers have been provided, you see which group contained the most number of correct answers.

            I think that's testing empirical testing empirically. If it's not, no doubt Prime will kick me in the kidneys and explain it properly.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It what sense can it be tested philosophically and logically? In the sense that you have a self-consistent model? What use is that? We can construct a number of self-consistent models (that's much of what science does); but without empirical testing, none of them can be shown to be TRUE. And that's what we're all after, here. Truth.

            Pilate was no fool.

          • Andrew G.

            and then from those things we reason forward to God--we deduce the traits of the being who logically is behind these things.

            Except of course you don't - you write down the answer at the bottom of the page first, since coming to any different answer would make you a heretic, and then fill in the arguments leading to the predetermined conclusion. Historically, the conclusion came first, and the arguments (or apologia, really), a distant second.

          • BenS

            We begin with things we can see and observe like the universe, or cause
            and effect, or beauty, or morality, and then from those things we reason
            forward to God

            So... why is it that no-one else manages to reason forward to the Catholic god? The only people who manage to reason forward to the Catholic god are those who have heard of Catholicism before.

            How likely is it that if you grab someone from a remote village who's never heard of the Abrahamic god and set them towards supplying a reason for cause and effect and beauty that they will reach Catholicism?

            It's just not going to happen. Hence, it's not reasoning fowards that's getting you there - it's post hoc rationalisation, going backwards and filling in the pages from the conclusion.

          • So... why is it that no-one else manages to reason forward to the Catholic god?

            It is not Catholic belief that the "Catholic God" can be known through reason alone. The "Jewish God" and the "Catholic God" are the result of God revealing himself. The God people are supposed to be able to know through reason alone is something like the "God of philosophy."

          • BenS

            Thanks for the correction.

            Interesting, then. So, I wonder what this god's motivation was in only having a vague notion of himself available through reason alone to people in say, the South Americas (which, incidentally, none of them managed to reason to) and who was 'revealed' to people in one clump of the world at the time of Christ... but this revelation wasn't available to those in the aforementioned South Americas until ~1500.

            Because that doesn't sound or look like how a supposedly clever god would make himself available to his chosen species. It does, however, look *exactly* like how we'd expect a meme to propagate in a time when humans were clumped about on the planet with no real interaction between disparate cultures.

          • Meaning if only you had been God, or perhaps if God had been able to consult you, it all would have been handled better! :)

          • ACtheV

            Your definitions are good, but I fail to see the contradiction. I might say that your "essence" is your personality or something like that. God's "essence" is existence (one might say) is because the thing that separates God from everything else is the simple fact of his existence. You might want to read the article posted above on this, it is to hard to explain in a dialogue box.

          • primenumbers

            "God's "essence" is existence" - but essences are properties and existence is not a property, hence that statement makes no sense.

            "it is to hard to explain in a dialogue box" - you're doing just fine, but you're using words outside their meanings. You're using existence as a property when it is not.

          • ACtheV

            You exist. Therefore existence is "a" property of you, in at least the sense it describes your state of being. Now existence is "The" property of God, not only describing his state of being, but also showing that He is the source of all secondary existence. Seeing how Aristotle and Aquinas show that existence is the same as being which is perfection which is simplicity which is goodness ect ect... this makes perfect sense to say that God is Existence.

          • primenumbers

            No, existence is not a property of me. It's fine to say I exist, but not to say that a property of PN is existence. If PN exists, PN has the property that it's only divisible by 1 and itself. I have divisibility properties. I don't have existence properties because existence isn't a property.

            By your trying to define existence as a property (which it is not) you make it non-sensical to say "God doesn't exist", or tautological to say "God exists", which is to say, your definition of God is essentially nonsensical.

            BTW I'm not discussing this issue with Aristotle or Aquinas, but with you. I'm interested in what you think and what you can justify. If all you're going to do is send me off on an argument from authority, this discussion is somewhat pointless. I do try (and no, I'm not perfect here) not to direct people off to other work or authors and make a point of really trying to actually engage as a human being as part of the discussions.

          • ACtheV

            I think the issue here is Devine Simplicity. That is what I was trying to talk about when I said God was "Pure Act." It means that God has no component parts. I have an essence. I exist. Two separate parts. When I mentioned Aristotle and Aquinas above, I was talking about how they knew this, and thus said God's essence is His existence which is his Goodness ect ect. The only reason I made an appeal to authority is because it takes books upon books to discuss this subject with any sort of depth. Edward Feser (http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html) makes a good intro the the concept.

          • primenumbers

            "It means that God has no component parts" - component parts are physical things. We can agree that God has no physical parts, but I agree with that only because things that a purely abstract concepts don't have physical parts.

            "and thus said God's essence is His existence" - yes, but I can say meaningless things too! Just your restating existence as a property when it is not doesn't make it so....

          • ACtheV

            "component parts are physical things" Component parts are simply larger parts of whole. A bad example, but for instance, a Sonnet. Not physical (though can be written down), but has words, structure, verse and rhyme. It has component parts.

            "yes, but I can say meaningless things too!"
            I have told you the meaning of the phrase several times.
            "Just your restating existence as a property when it is not doesn't make it so...."

            I am not saying existence is a property of God. I am saying Existence is God.

          • primenumbers

            Your Sonnet is basically a data-set. Of course data sets can have component elements without being physical. Is your God a data-set?

            " I am saying Existence is God." and I'm saying that's nonsensical. You're using the words "existence" in ways that it just doesn't work as a word. You are basically playing word games.

          • ACtheV

            "Is your God a data-set?"
            No. It was just an example of how a non-physical thing can have component parts.

            I have said God = Existence. Einstein said that Energy = Mass * Speed 'o Light squared. In order to prove or demonstrate the latter you either have to write a book about it or make an appeal to an authority smarter than you are. Without either of those, one could easily dismiss general relativity as "playing word games,"in ," ways that it just doesn't work as a word." Just cause you can't wrap your head all the way around a phrase (like myself with general relativity) doesn't mean it's not true.

          • primenumbers

            But a data set is essentially an abstract concept. As I said I can agree your God is only an abstract concept. You seem to be able to tell me what your God isn't, but have a very hard time telling me what it is, which is exemplified by you saying "God == Existence", which applies "that which we call things which are real" (existence) with the thing itself (God).

            What you are doing is using "existence" to mean something other than what it means. We've not even got to the realm of truth or false because you've not made a coherent statement. It's not about "wrapping your head" around a concept, because you're using the word "existence" so inappropriately. Don't worry, theists do this all the time. But that's what these forums are for, to explain these things so that you can have a reasonable dialogue with us.

          • BenS

            I'm saying Misery is God. Now deconstruct and show me where I'm wrong.

          • ACtheV

            Misery is considered to be negative or a bad thing. God however is Existence, which can be shown to be the same as Goodness (not exactly something I am going to try and do right here, but if you want i'll show you where to look.) God is also completely simple as I have said. Under this it would be a contradiction to say that Goodness = Misery. Thus one of the two is wrong. Show me a source that can show that God is Misery.

          • Susan

            God however is Existence

            No. Existence is existence. "God is existence" seems to be a meaningless statement.

          • primenumbers

            Absolutely, and any help explaining this to @ACtheV is appreciated.

          • Susan

            You've done a very good job of explaining it PN but it doesn't seem to be getting through.

          • primenumbers

            It must be hard when they continually read these wrong use of a word like "existence" in apologetic literature. I guess all we can do is be patiently persistent.

          • ZenDruid

            Existence is not a predicate.

          • BenS

            Misery is considered to be negative or a bad thing

            I consider the Catholic god to be a negative or bad thing. Try again.

    • epeeist

      To equivocate God == Love, a human mind-held emotion is not to define God in a way that is useful to any discussion.

      Is that a transitive relation? If so then one could presumably also write Love==God. Does it make sense in either direction?

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        No. It doesn't. Theists often use a specialized vocabulary that is pretty much meaningless to anyone not a follower of their specific sect. It makes conversation difficult, even between theists.

        The problem of specialization of dialects is, of course, an old one.

  • Dcn Harbey Santiago

    I Believe this:

    "If God had taken the for, for example, of a rare, enormously large green bird,"

    Should read:

    "If God had taken the FORM, for example, of a rare, enormously large green bird,"

    At least it reads better to me.

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
    DHS

  • Fr.Sean

    That was an excellent article. I also think one discovers something similar in prayer. Most knowledgeable Christians know that you can't just pray for anything you want, because sometimes what you want isn't good for you. Thus when we pray to know God's will about something (and therefore for the good for ourselves) it might take a while to get an answer (although sometimes we do get a rather immediate answer) but when one finally get's an answer if the glance back they will notice they've gotten much more than they've asked for. i can't tell you how many times I've prayed for something only to find God has given me more than what i asked for. similarly, when pondering the existence of God, praying about it and researching various issues one not only gains a knowledge that God exists, but that God loves the searcher unconditionally, and wants to be a part of the searcher's life. if one had simply discovered God existed and went about their business they may not have discovered how much they are loved and how interested God is in their life.

    • ZenDruid

      When we try to engage with a figment of our imagination as if it were a sapient entity, we should not be put off by the lack of consistency in its imagined responses.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi ZenDruid,
        That is very true, the imagination can come up with amazing things! But having one's prayers answered, and experiencing God's love and care far exceeds the imagination!

        • BenS

          How does one test whether a prayer has actually been answered by god or whether it just occurred through happenstance?

          Because every experiment done with proper methodology has never shown prayer to be effective.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            I may have to disagree with you about Prayer having an effect. i read an excerpt from a book when i was in the seminary where a psychologist wanted to do a study on a controlled group of people. or in other words, people who have the same routine day in and day out. his two options were basically jail or a convent. he chose the convent. towards the end of his study his original purpose for doing the study was discarded because he had discovered something much more important. During the time he was doing his study the common understanding of the human person was basically the body and the mind. sometimes problems are with the body, sometimes the mind, and often both. but when he evaluated sister after sister he was amazed at how happy and contented they all were. they were all contented, has peace and fulfillment but there lives were anything but what most psychologists identify with happiness. they didn't have a significant other, no material possessions, no profound accomplishments to nurture their ego, but they did have one thing, they were all happy. The psychologists scraped his original intention for doing the study because he felt he had discovered soemthing much more important, when one nurtures their spiritual life that has an effect on the whole person. i know other studies on prayer revealed no results, but they were done by people "evaluating prayer" who didn't really have an appeal for it. you might say that only supports it all the more. someone praying to an unknown God with no faith and only as an experiment seems to reveal nothing. but when others pray as their lives are rooted in God it does have an effect because the source nurtures the whole person.

          • BenS

            Sorry, but this is a) anecdote and b) not accurate.

            Not everyone who prays is happy. Not everyone who doesn't pray lacks the happiness those nuns showed.

            Furthermore, exactly the same results can be gained regardless of who or what you pray to. If the same results had been gained from those at a buddhist retreat or islamic madrasa then it eliminates the external effect of the prayer - i.e. it's not a specific god that's responding to make someone feel better, it's something else. See Zen's response above about the ritual of prayer.

            Anyway, I asked you how one could tell whether it was god answering your prayers or just happenstance. Do you have an answer?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            Hmm, I'll try to be succient but you do raise a lot of questions. C.S.Lewis wrote a piece where he kind of handled part of the question about people of other faiths etc. he used a dialogue where when one reached heaven they discovered that the one they thought was God was not actually God, thus because they followed their conscience as it was formed, right or wrong they were welcomed into heaven. I don't know if you've ever heard of revelation theology but it deals with something many of the Christian missionaries discovered when they went out east. they realized that a lot of buddhism is very similar to Christianity. the ideas of selflessness, overcoming the self. caring for others etc. they reasoned that many of the people there did in fact have the Holy Spirit but they did not have the fullness of revelation. So a buddhist praying in a sense should have a positive effect since they are praying to a God they know at least a little about.

            i will have to disagree on your point that many find a bennefit by praying to just any God. i read the "atheist prayer experiment" didn't really produce anything and if you asked me before hand if you were going to do an experiment to prove it had no effect i can almost guarentee you that you will not have any effect. I don't think people praying to zuse, the flying spaghetti monster, or garden fairies are going to show any results. however, someone praying to Jesus, or a Jewish person praying to God will have an effect because it has an authentic source. prayer is not magic, and having a committed prayer life does have an effect. i read one book written by a nun who said there are times when you won't notice any difference in prayer when you're praying, but you WILL notice a difference as you go about your day, or as you think about life and how you treat others. i can attest that she is exactly right in my experience.

            With respect to your last question the answer would be for the most part no (unless it's a miracle or mystical event). but that simply goes back to the idea that you cannot prove empirically a spiritual reality using material means. I hope i've answered your question?

          • BenS

            he used a dialogue where when one reached heaven they discovered that the one they thought was God was not actually God, thus because they followed their conscience as it was formed, right or wrong they were welcomed into heaven

            Firstly, this is pure guesswork; secondly, it makes a mockery of organised religion. I follow my conscience, homosexuals follow theirs but both I and they are apparently going to hell.

            they realized that a lot of buddhism is very similar to Christianity. the ideas of selflessness, overcoming the self. caring for others etc.

            A lot of many things are similar to many other things - but they have differences so they're not the same. Unless you believe atheists cannot be selfless and cannot care for others then you're not making a point at all.

            I don't think people praying to zuse, the flying spaghetti monster, or garden fairies are going to show any results.

            As long as they really believe in Zeus or fairies it will show exactly the same effect as a christian praying to the god they really believe in. It's essentially the placebo effect.

            The point is, beyond the 'feeling better' that everyone who really believes in their god gets when praying to their god, there are no recorded differences. If you really, truly, believe in your god and pray for someone (who doesn't know you're praying for them) the results of that prayer are indistinguishable from chance. Having a really devout church congretaion pray for a different person each week shows no recovery rate better than chance. The congregation might feel better thinking they're helping but their prayers have no effect on anything else.

            however, someone praying to Jesus, or a Jewish person praying to God will have an effect because it has an authentic source

            No, it won't. If it will, let's see the double blind studies that show it. Also 'authentic source'?

            but you WILL notice a difference as you go about your day

            Yes, you'll feel better - this is known, it's the same with meditation et al. Doesn't help anyone else, though.

            With respect to your last question the answer would be for the most part no (unless it's a miracle or mystical event)

            So if there's no way of telling the effects of prayer from random chance, what use is it at all? If the only thing it actually does is make you feel better then prayer is pretty much selfish.

            but that simply goes back to the idea that you cannot prove empirically a spiritual reality using material means.

            What exactly is a spiritual reality and how is it different from reality? Because reality CAN be empirically tested - so if a spiritual reality cannot then you've proposed a whole new reality which you would then need to demonstrate the existence of.

            I hope i've answered your question?

            Not really, but I appreciate you taking the time to type a response.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That dovetails nicely with an OP I was reading earlier...anecdotal I know, but then so is the New Testament too.

            http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/2013/6/8/how-i-got-over-my-disabilities-led-me-to-question-christianity-and-finally-to-abandon-it

          • Ignorant Amos

            Ben, many have tried to use the god defence to avoid incarceration...e.g. Peter Sutcliffe.

            Peter Sutcliffe told police that in 1967, at the age of twenty, he had heard the voice of God speak to him as he worked at Bingley cemetery. He would claim that he had first heard that voice while digging a grave. He stated that the voice had led him to a cross-shaped headstone upon which were written the Polish words JEGO, WEHBY and ECHO. It was this same voice that had ordered him to kill prostitutes. Police officials were satisfied that Peter Sutcliffe was mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and should be incarcerated in an institution for the insane.

            I'm left exacerbated by how someone hearing voices in their heads would "know" who it was other than their own conscience, and how anyone outside that person would "know" it wasn't god.

            George W. Bush says it is his God, that's okay, Peter Suttecliffe says it was his God, he's locked up for life as an evil monster.

            "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ." And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

            Apparently, God gave a lot of his instruction to individuals on a material one to one basis, not just a voice in the head.

          • BenS

            This would also serve as an excellent response to a comment I made elsewhere on this discussion.

            I, too, despair at people hearing voices believing they're from their god - and concerned that they don't have a robust way of determining 'voices in the head' from legitimate godly commands.

            Actually, no, I don't care whether it really is god or whether it's just a brainfart. What I care about is what the command is and whether they act on it.

            Even if it really is their god saying 'Kill all the girlie men!', I still don't want them to act on it!

        • ZenDruid

          ...exceeds the imagination...

          I posit that the ritual of praying, besides stimulating the imagination, elicits a conditioned (Pavlovian) response in the prayor's limbic system, that is, a surge of dopamine.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi ZenDruid,
            That could be, but it could also be that the effect given by the one praying also has that effect on dopamine. in other words, the chemical reaction could be considered evidence of a spiritual effect upon the person.

          • ZenDruid

            I think the 'spiritual' effect is a result of the dopamine surge.

            A cheap high, in other words.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi ZenDruid,
            Well, you could be right, but i guess there's only one way to find out?

          • ZenDruid

            Yes, put a devout person in a fMRI and ask that person to pray. It's been done, but to bring the hypothesis forward, many thousand test subjects should be recruited.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Zen,,
            Okay but our we saying, people praying in general or Christians praying who have faith and either are praying to God or our deluded into thinking they are praying to God? I don't know if i can give support or substatiate and bennefits of people praying who either don't think God exists or aren't concerned about it. The Sisters i spoke of earlier were either praying to God who exists or they were deluded into thinking they were praying to a God who does not exist?

          • ZenDruid

            However the details play out, there is a specific neurological pattern or quale in the act of prayer, which the prayors may interpret as various levels of ecstasy.

            Instead of baldly accusing you and yours of being deluded, I'll offer the most significant delusion I entertained in my life: the monster under my bed. It took a few years, but I grew out of it.

            1. Is this figment universal with young imaginations?
            2. Is any god or demon more substantial than the monster under the bed?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi ZenDruid,
            Did the idea of the Monster living under your bed contribute to our happiness or unhappiness? If the nuns as well as many other Christians either gain a physiological benefit because their prayer deludes them, or gain a benefit because they are praying to a source that does in fact have an affect on their well being detract from the fact that they do in fact receive a benefit? if in fact it was the first option than how in your opinion would evolutionary processes conform the human person to recieve a benefit that can be measured from chemical process in the brain from praying to a God that does not exist. In other words, there's only two possibilities that i know of, if the nuns as well as other Christians receive a benefit from prayer, however they were only deluded in their prayer, than what evolutionary forces do you know of would conform the human person to receive a benefit from such prayer. furthermore why would that benefit not be measured as being as affective by someone who was praying to a God simply to prove a point and not because they believed the God existed?

          • ZenDruid

            Did the idea of the Monster living under your bed contribute to our happiness or unhappiness?

            "Our"? If you meant "your", meaning mine, then all the monster did was underscore the primordial instinctive fear of the dark and unknown. The fear of your unproven god and his 'justice' is a potent tool in your storyteller's kit.

            If the nuns as well as many other Christians
            either gain a physiological benefit because their prayer deludes them, or gain a benefit because they are praying to a source that does in fact have an affect on their well being detract from the fact that they do in fact receive a benefit?

            Whatever gets them through the night....

            if in fact it was the first option than how
            in your opinion would evolutionary processes conform the human person to receive a benefit that can be measured from chemical process in the brain from praying to a God that does not exist? In other words, there's only two possibilities that i know of, if the nuns as well as other Christians receive a benefit from prayer, however they were only deluded in their prayer, than what evolutionary forces do you know of would conform the human person to receive a benefit from such prayer?

            It's a false positive, like the proverbial tiger in the tall grass, when you can't see the tiger that may or may not be there, but you can't afford to ignore the fact that the grass is moving. There's survival value in that, but not necessarily when you're being whacked upside the head with a false positive every Sunday of your life.

            furthermore why would that benefit not be measured as being as affective by someone who was praying to a God simply to prove a point and not
            because they believed the God existed?

            Difficult to parse this one, sorry.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi ZenDruid,

            Thanks for pointing out my typo, i try to get a few responses in when i can.

            "It's a false positive, like the proverbial tiger in the tall grass, when you can't see the tiger that may or may not be there, but you can't afford to ignore the fact that the grass is moving. There's survival value in that, but not necessarily when you're being whacked upside the head with a false positive every Sunday of your life."

            I would agree with the "tiger in the tall grass" idea, but that seems logical and reasonable. human's would have to develop a cautionary attitude towards the world around them to survive. but what the nuns or other Christians experience goes beyond simply a "calming of one's fears". there's a joy, sense of peace, sense of rightness with the world, a change in attitude that helps one be loving towards their neighbor. it doesn't seem reasonable that those effects on the human person would come simply because a fear had been calmed or something to that effect. i've read a little on how pron has negative effects on the brain in terms of brain chemistry, it makes one a slave to the brief rush but then the chemicals cause one to be angry and depressed. Prayer does the opposite, but it can't simply be boiled down to calming of a fear, that just moves one back to neutral. Prayer moves them above neutral, to joy, peace and happiness? is there another evolutionary means you can think of that would cause these effects on the brain?

            Difficult to parse this one, sorry. [edit] except if you're talking about Pascal's wager, in which case, given the fact that thousands of gods made an appearance in human imaginations, then there's roughly a 0.1% chance that the Judeo-Christo-Islamic god is the real deal.

            I may have to disagree with you on this one. as you pointed out it's a difficult question to answer, yet your other question about all of the gods i suppose can be boiled down to; the atheistic understanding; aka. man trying to imply intention to an invisible agent, or the theists; God planted a desire to know and seek out the creator. thus many religions may give weight to the idea that man has an innate desire to search for his creator, and thus prior to the revelation those desires built up notions of God largely from imagination. as i said earlier, with the idea of "revelational theology" it's certainly possible that the Holy Spirit worked within those religions until further revelation was revealed. i know some fundamentalist Christians beleive that since Jesus Claimed to have said; "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me." if you understand the context my take on it is that because Jesus freely offered up his life everyone has the opportunity to save their soul. Thus other people, as long as the attempted to adhere to their conscience and were objective to the truth would in fact be saved.

          • ZenDruid

            Hi Sean,

            Thanks for your equanimity....

            there's a joy, sense of peace, sense of rightness with the world, a change in attitude that helps one be loving towards their neighbor. it doesn't seem reasonable that those effects on the human person would come simply because a fear had been calmed or something to that effect.

            That is undeniably the case, but I can't help attributing the effect to a strong sense of community, even to the exclusion of any higher meaning. To indulge in a little 'evolutionary psychology' (which bears many of the earmarks of myth at this point in our understanding), we as a race have evolved very early the necessary habits of teamwork and community. Seeing as our ancestors didn't have thick hides or claws or ripping teeth, or even threatening size, strength in unity was paramount for survival.

            I'm no stranger to the feeling myself, though I experienced it in the military instead of through religion. It is indeed good to 'be' a part of a bigger and stronger entity.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Zen,
            I would agree with you, i do think a sense of community or belonging does contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing. it certainly possible that one of the benneficial aspects to those sisters was the support they feel from one another. but if i take for example theistic view from the sister's perspective i would know that Jesus promised them they would have joy and peace that went beyond their circumstances if they tried to stay connected to him and if they attempted to discern and carry out God's will for their lives. they stay connected through their prayer life and through a commitment to selfless behavior. Jesus said this would be the effect if you do such and such a thing. they do such and such a thing and receive the aforementioned affect. i can also attest to he affect of one's prayerlife that is most notable noticed when one fails to pray. in others words, the lack of prayer and commitment to the Lord is often felt when i allow prayer to fall by the wayside.

            Further, i do think most chemical reactions in the brain can be traced back to evolutionary means. falling in love or being in love would make sense because i need to procreate and care for my offspring. being angry about something may make sense because i may need to focus on an apparent threat and have the energy to deal with it. those seem rather cut and dry, but there is a positive physiological as well as psychological effect on one's brain when they pray (at least from a Christian or Jewish perspective i haven't read about islam) that i don't think has a clear meaning derived from evolutionary means?

          • ZenDruid

            I understand there was a test of Buddhist monks in Tibet or Nepal, where they attempted to meditate themselves into a measurably altered brain state. I'm not sure what the conclusions were, but it's an idea pregnant with possibilities.

          • Fr.Sean

            yea, i think i have heard something about that too, something about "out of body experiences" through meditation. but i'm not all that familiar with what the method may have been?

          • ZenDruid

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-12661646

            Yet another fascinating glimpse.

          • Fr.Sean

            That was a fascinating article, thanks for sending. i do think we get so inundated with so many distractions that's good to draw back from computers cell phones, tv. etc. it almost seems like that could be a form of therapy

          • ZenDruid

            ...the atheistic understanding; aka. man trying to imply intention to an invisible agent, or the theists; God planted a desire to know and seek out the creator.

            Yes, agency. It is quite simple to infer agency from observations of otherwise inexplicable events. I surmise that the notion of supernatural agency was only reinforced by early humans ascending to their own level of agency over the environment. That would require tools, and fire, and language.

            I reckon the benchmark of sapience is best revealed through all the 'why' questions of the young'uns. Answering those questions though, is a different thing. Bottom line is, do you want a quick easy feel-good answer, or will you wait for the more accurate, and more useful, answer? We are agents, after all.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi ZenDruid,
            you make a good point and i do think one can perhaps reduce the notion of God specifically to those two potential sources, either agency to explain the unexplainable, or God planted a desire to know him within us. Would you consider yourself to be one who has objectively evaluated the second possibility?

          • ZenDruid

            I'll need to very specifically define the sort of God that I would have in mind: this deity would be a genderless archetype which embedded its latent instructions in the infant human consciousness, irrespective of whether the infant is Inuit or !Kung. In other words, a deity which evolved as part of the complete species. For context, we can easily envision a spirit of catness or dogness in our pets....

            The god of Abraham drags a lot of xenophobic dross behind him, and serves more to divide the species instead of unite it. In my not-so-humble opinion, our species will never get to the next level, whatever that might be, until we pull together, and the god of the old Hebrews is not a good guiding light.

            I can, however, pay at least lip service to the Jesus that emerges from the gospel of Thomas. I'm with those who feel that Thomas portrays a valuable human dimension that is absent from the canon. Except for some of the synoptic gospels' content, which may or may not have been copied from Thomas to begin with.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi ZenDruid,
            I'm really glad you brought up this point. i often find some atheists/agnostics believe all Christians are fundamentalists and therefor take everything in the bible literally. as you pointed out there are some things that are difficult to grasp of a good God. Joseph Fitzmeyer who is a scripture scholar once said that "for someone to read everything in the bible literally one either needs to commit intellectual suicide or undergo a total loss of faith". The Catholic church as well as many other denominations believe that God interacted with his people, revealed some truths and did some events in history but those events were transcribed by human authors under the influence of the Holy Spirit. imagine if you and i witnessed a car accident from the opposite sides of the road. if a police officer asked for details each one of us may have witnessed a few different things or recounted the event a little differently but the event still took place. if you get a chance you might want to read "flowers in the desert" by Demetrius Dumm. it's a book about the spirituality of the bible, and sifts through a lot to help one to see what God is truly like.

            We all have concepts to understand the world around us. i have a concept of God in my mind but my concept (assuming he exists) falls much shorter than what God is really like. we learn things about him, experience things about him but still grasping him entirely is i believe impossible. i think one of the best portrayal's of what God in the old testament is really like is brought out in the book of Hosea. i might start there if i was trying to discern revelation about God's nature in the Hebrew Scriptures.

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            Did the idea of the Monster living under your bed contribute to our happiness or unhappiness?

            What does that have to do with whether it was real or not?

          • jasmine999

            Similar surges happen as a response to music, sex, fear, etc. That our brains respond to stimuli is no proof that the stimuli are real or imaginary.

            If you want to get empirical about it, we are radically limited to our perceptions, with no objective proof that anything exists beyond these perceptions. As a result, our most powerful method of discovering objective reality (science) also provides the most powerful argument that we can not aver the existence of this reality. Hume had a real problem with this.

            Warning: I'm not a philosopher lol.

          • ZenDruid

            Neither am I....

            If you want to get empirical about it, we are radically limited to our perceptions, with no objective proof that anything exists beyond these perceptions.

            Agreed, but the limitations are put upon us by our hindbrains, which are common to most mammals [afaik]. Luckily, we have well-developed forebrains that can use science.

      • Sage McCarey

        Hi ZenDruid, I saw one of these articles where you provided a link to a movie set in concentration camp questioning god's goodness. I've been looking but I can't find it. Could you please provide that link again? Thank you.

    • i can't tell you how many times I've prayed for something only to find God has given me more than what i asked for.

      Isn't it foolish, then, to pray for something specific? Why not just say, "God, grant me what is best for me—you know better than I do—according to your will"?

      When I read this, I thought about ESP researchers who do tests on subjects, such as having them try to "perceive" in turn each card that the experimenter pulls from a pack of cards with various symbols on them. It you take the data afterward, and look for something other than correct identifications of the cards, you are sure to find some kind of pattern.

      Suppose I am sick, and I pray to God to get well, and what happens is I get even sicker. Then in my fear of dying, I turn to God even more, and claim, "I prayed to God to get well, and—glory be!—he made me sicker, drawing me even closer to him!" Virtually anything that happens after a prayer can be interpreted as God's answer.

      I don't doubt your reports of your subjective experience, but (and I hope you will forgive me for saying this) what strikes me is the creative way in which you apparently interpret whatever happens as a response to your prayers that is even more generous than what you prayed for.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi David,
        You make a good point. certainly when someone wants to consider "anything" as being good from God it kind of negates the evidence. I like to use the example of Monica and Augustine. Monica as you may know was a committed Christian who had prayed for years and tried to reason with her son to get him to convert. he wouldn't. she prayed for almost 20 years and it appeared that God was silent on the matter. But what was happening during that period was actually kind of important. Augistine was learning the art of rhetoric as well as various forms of philosophy. you might say he was the one steeped solely in logic, reason, and various philosophies. when he finally did convert he was able to articulate why those various forms of philosophy were false. his experience in rhetoric as well as aspects of learning over the years made him a very articulate writer and thinker. had Augustine converted shortly after Monica started praying for him chances are good we would have never heard of either one of them.

        • Fr. Sean,

          Not to join the "empiricists" here, but of course you would be able to find the hand of God in virtually anything that had happened. For example, if Augustine had converted immediately, he would have be spared from being steeped in false philosophy. Or he could have studied it as a Christian and refuted it even more deeply. There are almost an infinite number of reasons one could make up to justify God (allegedly) answering prayers even if the (alleged) answer is the exact opposite of what the person prayed for.

          Like the post above, your response (and I am grateful for it, please understand) is something that may be convincing to some, but only if they already believe what you believe.

          It takes a great deal of interpretation to accept this as in any way true: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." After knocking for 20 years, one's knuckles would be awfully sore! :P

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Monica prayed for her son's conversions, but Augustine was a free agent. Remember his prayer, "Make me pure, but not yet"?

            Fr. Sean's example might speak more to God's ability to bring good out of evil.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,

            I see your point, almost as if the theist can twist anything to appear as though God brought a better situation out. But i might have to disagree with the point about Augustine. I do think one is much more effective at discussing a particularly philosophy if they've been involved in it for a while. when i think of some of the most prominent Christian writers of the last century, such as Chesterton or Lewis, both of those men were atheists. Both almost had a vehemence against religion. But when both converted they become some of the most thought provoking apologists because they have been there. or even if you read Wrights's article, granted he's a little inflamatory, but i do think he was trying to be a little overly cynical to make a point. he had been steeped in atheism or only looking at things through material lens using science and reason. but now, seeing things from the other side he in a sense can see how short sided he may have been?

            i also appreciate your objectivity, that you have been knocking for twenty years. while i grew up catholic it appears to me that most converts come to some kind of an awe haa moment where they feel the need to look at the faith objectively because there are some things to the faith that are compelling. most of them seem to decide to look at it due to trying to find the source of the natural law, or moral law. it appears to me that when one says something to the effect of; "alright, i have to look at this and research this from the their perspective" and then evaluate the faith in an honest and open manner while praying that God reveals himself that eventually he does. i will pray for you that you do find the truth whatever that may be,

        • Ignorant Amos

          That'll be this Augustine too then?

          Behind the Augustinian understanding of hell lies a commitment to a retributive theory of punishment, according to which the primary purpose of punishment is to satisfy the demands of justice or, as some might say, to balance the scales of justice. And the Augustinian commitment to such a theory is hardly surprising. For based upon his interpretation of various New Testament texts, Augustine insisted that hell is a literal lake of fire in which the damned will experience the horror of everlasting torment; they will experience, that is, the unbearable physical pain of literally being burned forever. The primary purpose of such unending torment, according to Augustine, is not correction, or deterrence, or even the protection of the innocent; nor did he make any claim for it except that it is fully deserved and therefore just. As for how such torment could be even physically possible, Augustine insisted further that “by a miracle of their most omnipotent Creator, they [living creatures who are damned] can burn without being consumed, and suffer without dying” (City of God, Bk. 21, Ch. 9). Such is the metaphysics of hell, as Augustine understood it.(http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heaven-hell/)

          Which is not the same "concept" of Hell the sophisticated philosophers of today's theology would argue, or most Catholics on here for that matter...which is the confusing bit for me, since it is exactly the Augustinian interpretation of Hell that the many Catholics turned Atheists I know were terrified with, and brought up on in the chapels and Catholic schools they attended.

    • BenS

      but that God loves the searcher unconditionally

      I do wish Christians would stop saying this. Either his love IS conditional or it's such a shitty kind of love that god is a twat.

      If god loves homosexuals, why are they going to hell? If he loves them unconditionally and STILL SENDS THEM TO HELL what kind of worthless love is that?

      It's not like the love of a parent who smacks a child - a short term punishment to correct unsociable behaviour. It's eternal, irredeemable torture. Love, my arse.

      That 'unconditional love' phrase really pisses me off.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Ben,
        I can't remember if i discussed this event with you but i think it hints at your question. a friend of mine who is a priest used to be a Christian brother who used to take care of emotionally disturbed youth at a Catholic school, where the youth lived. (this was back in the 70's and 80's when there were a lot more orphans etc.) my priest friend, we'll call him jim related a story to me that changed his life. he said a young man we'll call him bob came into his school who had been raised in a terribly abusive home situation. he said bob was suspicious of everyone, hated life and was always getting into fights etc. jim tried very hard to show bob he was loved and that they cared for him. he would encourage bob to come to Mass ,and to pray and he went out of his way to show bob that his parents were not the way most people are. bob was stubborn, he didn't trust anyone and hated God. after years of being kind and loving bob started to change. his disposition began to become a little more trusting a little happier. he was doing better in school, he was praying and going to church on sunday. (previously bob had a drug problem) when bob finally graduated he was a bit of a different person but he still had a lot of emotional scars. a few months went by and bob was back on drugs. Jim tried to contact him to help him thinking that the lack of structure was causing him to fall back to his old ways, but it was difficult. bob was finally out on the street, selling drugs to feed his drug habbit. Jim was walking home one day when he walked under a train trussel and saw bob leaning back against the wall, but he was practically incoherent, he had apparently taken a lot of whatever drug he was on. Jim went up to him to check on him and bob collapsed. Jim held him and a car was driving by, he waved the car down and asked them to call an ambulance. he held bob for a while when his head fell back, his eyes rolled up in the back of his head and he said bob vomited some dark fluid. then he expired. all jim could think is that he had failed him, not only did bob lose his life but he probably even lost his soul. at that point he said he had a bit of a vision not a literal one, he didn't visual see anything just a profound impression of Jesus coming down, taking bob from jim's arms and taking him up to heaven. jim knew beyond doubt that bob had saved his soul.
        there's a little phrase i like to use when i begin confession that i had heard when i was younger; "Jesus came to save sinners, not the Just, have confidence in him". the idea that you have to "perfect" you life in order to save your soul is ALWAYS going to result in scrupulosity and frustration. similar to what AA teaches, we are helpless, we need God's help. God's love isn't based on what we do or how good we are, he loves us all the time just as we are. if we began to think "God loves me more when i'm acting in a better way" than that would only lead to pride and self-righteoussness. he loves us all the same and so when you begin to discover that he has always loved you it becomes a liberating moment and something you want to share with others.

        Furthemore, God doesn't make any of us perfect in this life, we all have things to struggle with because that teaches us humility and teaches us to rely upon him and not ourselves. i for one do not believe anyone chooses to be a homosexual, i think one can be conditioned that way if they were molested, but most homosexuals are born that way, that is their cross to bear. but when one learns that happiness isn't achieved by getting my needs met, but rather happiness is achieved through a relationship with God and through being a caring and loving person than one sees the true meaning in life? sometimes our crosses can lead to an awareness of our need for God which can turn out to be a bennefit. God doesn't send anyone to hell, but some people choose it. i for one believe most homosexuals, even the one's who haven't overcome a homosexual lifestyle most likely need to be purified but do end up saving their soul. it's not if one is perfect, but is rather if one is trying. Jesus came to call sinners NOT the just, have confidence in him.

        • BenS

          That's a nice story, but it's just that. A story. It's anecdote. There's nothing in there that couldn't be replaced with Mohammed instead of Jesus. It fails the find/replace test.

          God doesn't send anyone to hell, but some people choose it.

          You literally just said that most homosexuals are born that way. They can no more choose to be straight than I could choose to be black. They can PRETEND to be straight and marry a wife they're not sexually attracted to and go through the motions but they will still be gay, still have gay feelings and gay desires and live their entire life in despair and guilt and self-hatred.

          You're telling me that people are born gay - but god won't send them to hell if they spend their entire lives lying. They can lie their way into heaven.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            I'm so glad you brought this up, if that's what i conveyed i made a big error. First, just to be clear, i do have some pastoral counseling classes as well as a few in psychology so i'm just trying to convey everything about the gay issue as i know it. what i meant was there are two kinds of people who think they're gay, one is a person who is gay and was born that way, they were made that way. the other is a person who's been molested. for a young man to be molested he will struggle with sexual identity if he was molested by a male because the experience will put thoughts and memories into his mind as well as some if it might have felt good so they wonder if that's what they are. it's a conditioned thing. or with young women who may have been molested by a male they may identify sexual activity with a male as rape, but they will need love and support, another woman may make them feel loved and supported. both of those people need counseling to discern what they are really attracted to. i do not for one minute think a gay person is supposed to lie about their sexual desires and "hide" by getting into a heterosexual marriage. i think gay people are treated in a very negative way in most societies and i think they need to be loved and respected.

            what i don't subscribe to is the whole idea that in order to be happy one needs to A.make a lot of money B.have someone you are sleeping with C.have 2.3 kids and a dog d. retire a millionaire and live in some tropical paradise playing golf every day. i beleive happiness is a byproduct of doing the right thing and if it is sought as an end in itself one set themselves up to be unhappy. (aka, the most unhappy people in the world are usually those who are the most selfish, and vice versa)
            I also believe people are born alcoholics and not necessarily conditioned that way. but i thinnk alcoholics need to find meaning and purpose in life outside of the use of alcohol. i have had gay parishioners and i am always welcoming to them. i never judge them but if they bring up the issue in the confessional i uphold the churches teachings, i continue to encourage them to pray and practice their faith and believe they will find they don't need another relationship to be happy. i live in the U.S.A. and many places almost seem to convey that if you're not sleeping with someone, something's wrong with you. i believe people can find happiness being single and that eros love as a requirement for happiness may be overrated.

          • BenS

            You comments about how people 'become gay' lead me to believe you really need to look up what the medical community has to say on the matter.

            However...

            i do not for one minute think a gay person is supposed to lie about their sexual desires and "hide" by getting into a heterosexual marriage

            But if homosexual behaviour is a sin and a person is a homosexul from birth then god has made them in such a way that they cannot behave in line with their sexual orientation (or, they can, but they're going to hell).

            i think gay people are treated in a very negative way in most societies and i think they need to be loved and respected.

            This, we can agree on.

            what i don't subscribe to is the whole idea that in order to be happy one needs to A.make a lot of money B.have someone you are sleeping with C.have 2.3 kids and a dog d. retire a millionaire and live in some tropical paradise playing golf every day.

            I'm not sure where this came from but I don't think many people believe you have to fulfill those things in order to be happy.

            i believe people can find happiness being single and that eros love as a requirement for happiness may be overrated.

            Some people can find happiness being single but the majority seek companionship. It's the nature of most human beings to seek out a companion and form a lifelong bond. The church, however, says that for homosexuals this is a sin and therefore the majority who are trying to be a good Christian and deal with being gay will be unhappier than their straight counterparts who are allowed to have their heterosexual relationships.

            In my view, it's a shame you're a Catholic. You seem like a really decent guy who's sitting between genuinely wanting the best for people and bronze age church teachings that have no place in a modern society.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,

            you probably know that most people are either left brained or right brained, or rather they are either better at understanding math or their better at understanding languages. i have always been better at Math therefor i often find conveying my thoughts in a way that the reader understands has been a bit of a challenge for me. i think we probably agree on most issues revolving around the gay topic, but let me try although i will readily admit i am not a psychologist and so i am not an expert on psychology.

            1. there are two people who think they are gay,

            1. the first is a gay person. their born that way, sexually attracted to members of the same sex and fall in love or develop "crushes" for people of the same sex.

            2. people who have been molested which is almost always by males. (as a side note i'm sure you know many people come to priests to talk about their problems, my policy that i've just developed over time is to first recognize that i am not a psychologist and so one of my jobs is to get them to see a psychologist. my experience is that if i try to get them to see a psychologist after our first visit than i am unintentionally conveying to the person that i don't really care and i want to shift them off to a psychologist, so i normally don't bring the psychologist suggestion up until our third meeting. i then attempt to follow up with them to make sure things are working out so that they know that i still care. when meeting with people i've come to realize two things that can help them even though i am not a psychologist. i make a choice to care about the person when they come in. even if i can't give them the best advice when they pick up on it that i do genuinely care it helps them. the second thing i do is what's called "reflective listening" which is basically trying to understand how the person is feeling and reflecting back questions that indicate the person is being heard and understood. no one knows why but developing the ability to do reflective listening helps the person.) Now, in my experience i've encountered several woman who said they were lesbians. the moved in with their lesbian lover. after being in that relationship for a while they leave and get into a heterosexual relationship. the reason being is that when they were molested by a male the identify all sexual encounters with a male as rape but find philias love with a woman and confuse that for eros love. after being in a relationship with a woman they come to the conclusion that it is men they long for and in a sense have worked through their problems. secondly males who have been molested by males have memories that continue to turn in their minds plus some of their encounters felt good so they think they are gay but after counseling or learning to move on from their difficult event they realize they truly desire and fall in love with women. the point being that when someone thinks they are gay one needs to discern the cause such that if they are gay they need to learn to accept it, and they need to learn to love themselves and not hate themselves for being gay which most societies subsciounsly convey to them that they are bad or inherently evil people. they need to learn to love, and accept themselves the way they are and not always hate the way they feel. if they were molested then they need to work through their painful event to see what's really there.

            Fundamentally the question boils down to this; if there is a God and God has given people certain desires does it seem reasonable that part of their goal in life is to fulfill those desires. this is where i believe we would disagree. i would simply use the analogy of an alcoholic. i believe some people are predisposed to be alcoholics and i believe some people can become alcoholics if they're continuously disposed to alcohol (i have a lot of alcoholics in my family) they can become addicted to it. to a genuine alcoholic there's no way to become a social drinker in my opinion. they don't have the ability to moderate it the desire is to powerful. thus they have to learn to live without alcohol. this will naturally mean that they won't have as good of a time at parties or social gatherings but the rest of their lives will in fact be much better, because they will be much freer. Now with respect to homosexuality lets first start with the notion of sexual desire. i remember reading, i think it was john bosco who said "when a man goes into a brothel what he's reallly searching for is God". in a sense we long for oneness, wholeness, love. lust can be an imitation of love, but really it's just an attempt to use someone else to gratify their sexual impulses (i know some homosexuals love each other, no need to imply i think all homosexual love is nothing but lust). genuine love boils down to someone love the other so much, wants to be with the other so much, wants to be "one" with them and the sexual fulfillment is a byproduct.

            but at heart we all have a need to be loved, to give love and to receive love. Bosco's point is that when one has grown in their relationship with God they find that love, or fulfillment, it's the real thing they have been searching for (recognizing of course that many are called to have that love also met by a partner in marriage)
            Finally, as i said earlier, i think they're a misconception with the catholic faith that goes something like this. become part of the church, root out all sin and you will go to heaven. that kind of thinking only leaves one frustrated. we come as we are, sinful, broken addicted to various forms of sin. through growing in our relationship with the Lord we begin to discover he is what we are truly searching for so the other "desires" lose their appeal because we've found something better. if someone was in either a heterosexual or homosexual relationship and they are not married they should still practice the faith until they feel the need and desire to give that relationship up or perhaps get married.

            therefore, i believe many homosexual people living in a homosexual relationship but still trying to practice their faith do end up going to heaven but they still will need to be purified before they enter. i do not believe "every" homosexual person living a homosexual lifestyle by default lose their souls. As Catholics (and orthodox) we believe in purgatory which isn't another "place of fire" that you have to go to "suffer more because you didn't suffer enough here", but rather it's predominently my attachment to sin, that if i haven't realized it's God i'm truely searching for and was still attached to some sin that i need to be detached from that sin before i am in the presence of perfect love. what that place is like i don't know, but i would say a good analogy is that if you had a disagreement with a friend, perhaps a verbal argument with your friend, but you still like your friend that they "air would still need to be cleared" so you could amend your friendship.

  • stanz2reason

    God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love.

    It's nice that someone has taken a moment to point out that 'attempts to prove (god's) existence are pitiful'.

    God is love, and love will tolerate no separation.

    God sounds awfully like an obsessed jealous husband or a jilted ex-lover.

    Observation brings certainty. We see the tree and are certain of it. Our relationship is simple, call it I-thing. But with God, what’s needed is precisely uncertainty.

    Ad hoc much? Next to clumsy attempts to make believer problems (say, the problem of evil) an issue for non-believers (and for the record it's still not), my favorite believer flim flam act is taking huge problems, such as 'objective uncertainty' and presenting them as an asset. It's kind of hilarious, like a driver trying to convince you that 4 flat tires and no steering wheel makes it so much easier to drive a car.

    I won't copy and paste the entire bit about 'knowing' that his father loves him, but it must be pointed out that him 'knowing' such a thing is far more credible than 'knowing' gods love if for no other reasons than his father actually said the words directly and also had a life's worth of time to directly demonstrate said love. This doesn't require the same leap of faith of not directly saying nor directly demonstrating said love as god purportedly does.

    • Rationalist1

      It seems like a type of love we would be wise not to engage in ourselves with others or more importantly demand that type love from others. If we know anything about love it's a two way relationship and that relationship is impossible if one party isn't present.

    • cowalker

      "God sounds awfully like an obsessed jealous husband or a jilted ex-lover."
      Yes, except God has the resources to rendition faithless loved ones to hell.

      Much more satisfying than beating or shooting them.

      Sid Collins

      • Rationalist1

        That aspect of the relationship is very much downplayed these days (although it was popular in my youth). I believe it became a bit socially embarrassing.

  • Rationalist1

    Why is loving God on earth where God is distant, invisible, silent, etc. then so different from loving God in heaven where one is constantly in God's presence. Although maybe you'll get to heaven and God is just as inscrutable in heaven as he is on Earth.

    • jasmine999

      It's the all-purpose free-will defense, and heaven, unfortunately, shreds it.

      Another shredder: Thousands of people have been declared saints by the church, and the number is growing. Among other things, a person must perform two miracles to be declared a saint. Miracles are visible proofs of God's existence. Those people who were the recipients of said miracles were given one proof on earth, at least, that God exists. What of their free will?

  • Sage McCarey

    Another article full of ideas that will never convince any non-believer of anything. It's an argument for people who already believe in an invisible god. I don't believe Catholics are reasoning forward from beauty to god or from the universe to god. You already believe in a god and you reason backward from that. I see beauty and I do not attribute it to a god. I see the universe and I think "mystery". None of us know what caused the universe or what it really is--- yet. Why pretend to know things you don't know? IMO, it's a lack of faith and a deep fear of the unknown.

    • Thanks for the comment, Sage, though we could do without the psychoanalyzing or the conjecture about the article's general persuasiveness. A better way to phrase your comment, one which may have led to more fruitful dialogue, would be to say:

      "This was an interesting article. I found Point A to be very intriguing because (insert reason.) However, I'm not sure about Point B. I may be wrong, but it seems to me (insert objection or criticism.)"

      See our Commenting Rules and Tips for more advice:

      https://strangenotions.com/commenting/

      • Sage McCarey

        OOps. I must really have hit a nerve! If I had time, I could go through these comments and show where ppl have responded to things exactly as I did. I could show where ppl have actually been quite rude and never received any comment from you. I stated my opinion and I even qualified it with IMO. I may be wrong, but seems to me you're a touchy today.

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          Sage,

          You must have missed the hidden commenting rule whereby Catholic posters get a secret "Snark x 3" multiplier.

      • BenS

        This wasn't a very interesting article. In points A,B, C... in fact in all the points, the author says that god cannot be seen, draws comparisons to things that 'can' be seen (love, a whopping great budgie etc) and then says you just have to believe it all anyway and god wants you to love him.

        Extremely unconvincing. It fails the find/replace test. If I went through that and replaced 'God' with Zeus (or Batman, even) it would still hold exactly the same weight. That's why it's not very interesting.

    • Also, you claim "I don't believe Catholics are reasoning forward from beauty to god or from the universe to god."

      I struggle to see how you hold such a belief when we do exactly that in this featured article:

      https://strangenotions.com/god-exists/

      • primenumbers

        In time though, don't arguments for the existence of God post-date the first beliefs in the existence of God?

      • Sage McCarey

        Brandon, you believe the article you refer to shows that catholics reason forward from evidence to the existence of god. How many of the non-believers who responded to that article seemed to agree? As I said, I see that the writer and you and other catholics perhaps seem to accept these reasons for your belief in a god. You said Rationalist was reasoning backwards while you reason forward to god. IMO, you are reasoning backwards from your position that there is a god.

  • NowHereThis

    Thank you for writing this article. I've been eagerly awaiting explanation on the hiddeness of God.

    When I think about a relationship with God, what I think about is interaction. Specifically, I think about the interaction of a conversation. Love can be communicated that way, as in the example you gave of the phone conversation between father and son. You also noted that God can communicate to us through truth, beauty, goodness, and revelation.

    Those are fine things, but what I want to know is, "where is the conversation?" We are language using creatures, and a common language is important to understanding. The Bible acknowledges this in the account of the Day of Pentecost. The mere fact of the existence of a book claimed as a method of revelation acknowledges this.

    So given that words are so important to us, why doesn't God go the extra mile and communicate with us directly, objectively, and interactively through words? We're talking about a God who is said to be willing to give his own son to death that we might live. Yet he won't write us messages on the nearest available wall, and then respond to our responses? Think of the souls that might be saved from hell with just that one extra step.

    In an age when even humans can communicate practically instantaneously with each other through IM, e-mail, and blogs, is it too much to ask for God to do the same? And to find it suspicious if he does not?

    • BenS

      In the Eschaton novels by Charles Stross, he has a weakly godlike AI that was born as a result of the technological singularity. Once it's formed and bootstraps itself up to weakly godlike status, it leaves a message - on every computer network in existence and on physical monument littered all over the place that reads:

      "I am the Eschaton; I am not your God.
      I am descended from you, and exist in your future.
      Thou shalt not violate causality within my historic light cone. Or else."

      Consequently, absolutely no-one has any doubt whatsoever that this entity exists and what its rule is. No doubt at all. Oh, people still try to disobey or bend the rules, but there's still no doubt as to the existence of this entity or what its commandment is.

      You'd think an actual god would be equally explicit. I've not heard a good reason yet why it wouldn't be.

      • Rationalist1

        Especially since the ambiguity if God's presence and message has been responsible for so much death and destruction over the years. If the reliance on faith alone that important?

        • BenS

          And especially given that the purpoted costs of not believing and not following the rules are so high. Hell.

          God loves us so much he refuses to give credible evidence he exists or what his rules are and then hits you with the mother of all penalties when you breach them.

          I'm not feeling the love there...

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This dialogue you say your seek is achieved in prayer.

      • NowHereThis

        Has God has written messages to you on walls in response to your prayers? And then written new messages in response to your responses?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Nope.

          • NowHereThis

            What form does the dialogue portion of your prayers take?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here are two examples of my experience of God-speak.

            Twenty-four years ago, I saw a young woman around and I was interested in knowing her better but I was very shy and we had no mutual acquaintances. One morning when I was doing my mental prayer, I got the very clear message, "The next time you see her, go talk to her." I obeyed, even though I was afraid to. Before long, she was my girlfriend and in six months my wife. We have been married ever since.

            Another "response" happened about eight years ago when I was doing my mental prayer while taking a walk. Immediately before this, my boss told me he wasn't going to renew my contract. My prayer was basically, "God, what am I going to do? No job. No savings. A family to support." Suddenly I experienced intense and enduring joy that came out of nowhere.

            I have gotten tons of great insights through prayer. However, I think the main thing God wants to give us through prayer is Himself, not messages.

          • NowHereThis

            Perhaps whether a message is deemed "from God" depends on what you believe about yourself. In both your examples, you received unexpected confidence. Rather than deciding that you had strength of character that you weren't giving yourself enough credit for, you decided that it must be coming from outside you. Another person, with a different self-concept, might come to the opposite conclusion.

            Is that interpretation of things plausible to you?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Another interpretation of anything is always possible.

          • ZenDruid

            I'd simply like to reiterate what NowHereThis said, as it is a very salient thought:

            Rather than deciding that you had strength of character that you weren't giving yourself enough credit for, you decided that it must be coming from outside you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If we are probing psychology, I'd say strength of character wasn't the issue. I had the strength of character already, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to do what it did. What was different was the impulse to do something I never would have normally done and the free decision to do it.

            In the second example, I can't imagine how anything I consciously did could have elicited that response, one that was singular, both before and after.

          • ZenDruid

            Even from the meta-psych perspective, there is no real argument against the impulse residing in your consciousness.

            Supposing your first example didn't proceed as it did, would you make the excuse that the devil made you do it?

            [edit] As for your second response, I've been arguing with Fr Sean on this thread that prayer elicits a dopamine surge, which would account for your good feeling.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            (1) The devil can't make you do anything and God, a respecter of freedom, won't make you do anything.

            (2) Dopamine could physically account for the joy, which I have no problem seeing as a psychological/physiological state. But why that singular reaction when my own experience would predict depression, sadness, anger, or angst?

          • BenS

            But why that singular reaction when my own experience would predict depression, sadness, anger, or angst?

            I can't speak to the mechanics of it, but I've experienced this myself. I once had someone who was personally close to me steal my entire business model for the business I'd sacrificed so much for (time, relationships, money, my health etc) and I had that emotional flip.

            I was initially hit by the crushing sense of despair and hurt etc.... and then I was hit by a massive surge of elation followed by self-confidence and the desire to really push ahead. It's hard to characterise but it felt like relief, like I'd been unshackled. Strangest thing.

            I didn't, however, for one moment think it was a god.

          • BenS

            I got the very clear message, "The next time you see her, go talk to her."

            And if that voice had said, very clearly, "Next time you see her, rape her and kill her.", then what?

            Would she have not become your wife and become your victim or do you somehow filter which of these messages are from your god and which aren't?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you think?

          • BenS

            I asked you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You question is unworthy of a response.

          • BenS

            I think only because you don't like to consider the answer.

            If you heard that voice - that you knew was your god's in the same way you knew the one telling you to talk to her was 'very clearly' from your god - you'd then have a choice.

            Obey your god as you did when it told you to go and talk to her... or not.

            Which would you choose? To obey the voice you knew was your god's... or ignore it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It has nothing to do with not wanting to consider the answer.

            It has to do with somebody using the words "rape" and "kill" in reference to a person I love.

          • BenS

            So.... you don't want to consider the answer? Or do you mean you have no problem considering raping and killing people you don't love? If so, substitute someone else.

            It's a simple, if tough, question.

            If you heard the voice that you knew to be your god telling you to rape and kill someone (whether you love them or not), would you do it?

            That's what I'm asking.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My answer would be the same as yours unless you are insane or a sociopath.

          • BenS

            So, if you got the 'very clear' message from your god to do something you didn't want to do, you would ignore it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            An idea or impulse to do something evil could not be from God.

          • BenS

            I was wondering if you'd say that.

            Firstly, the Bible is littered with examples of where your god has commanded horrific acts and...

            Secondly, how do you know? If you're telling me you know how your god thinks then I never expect to see you to say anything like 'god moves in mysterious ways' or 'man cannot know the mind of god'.

          • primenumbers

            BenS pointless asking them "how they know". Their epistemology lacks any method to distinguish between what they think is God and pretence or imagination.

          • BenS

            I know. But sometimes, prompting them to think about that occasionally gets results. More often than not, we end up with what we have here. Question dodging as they do everything in their power to avoid thinking about the idea that their god might tell them to do something they don't want to do.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To the extent that I really know Jesus Christ I do know how God thinks.

          • BenS

            And we're RIGHT BACK to the initial question.

            How do you know you know how god thinks? How do you know that "Go up and talk to her." is god and "Go up and kill her." isn't?. How do you know which of these voices to act on and which not to?

            What if it said "Run up and push her to the ground.". How would you determine whether to do it or not? Maybe god has a plan, Gaius. Maybe pushing her to the ground would save her life as a wheel that's come off a truck is going to pass through that area in 6 seconds time. Maybe pushing her to the ground would save her life and THEN you'd get married and live happily ever after. Maybe pushing her to the ground just causes her to crack her head on the kerb and die.

            How. Do. You. Know. ?

          • jasmine999

            I'm sorry as this is too embarrassingly obvious, but what of Abraham and Isaac? God ordered Abraham to kill his son. Abraham didn't stop to think that an "impulse to do something evil could not be from God," and came very close to killing his son.

            Add to that the many accounts of men, women, and children being massacred at the behest of this God, and I don't think the answer is that simple.

          • Sine Abraham knew very well that God could not break His promise, that "in Isaac shall your seed be called", He had not the slightest hesitation in proceeding according to God's command that he sacrifice his only son.

            God, after all, was perfectly certain to raise him from the dead, since, as Abraham understood and as no atheist can, God is capable of delivering on all of His promises, and Abraham was the man who believed.

            The deeper theological meaning escapes atheists entirely, of course.

            God stops Abraham, saying "I will provide Myself a sacrifice".

            Which He does.

            On the same spot.

            Thousands of years later.

          • jasmine999

            That interpretation destroys the power of the story, not to mention its deeper theological meaning. If Abraham knows all along that his son is in no danger, then there is no testing, no possibility of loss, no sacrifice. It all becomes a rather juvenile exercise in dragging the kid off to a makeshift altar, with no real consequence attached to the act. Consequence, however, must be attached to the act, as Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac is a precursor of God's sacrifice of his son. In neither case are we supposed to lighten the burden laid on the father, or on the sacrifice himself.

            btw, your interpretation destroys the ending of the tale. God doesn't giggle and say, "thanks for playing along." His angel praises Abraham's obedience and fear instead: "'Do not lay a hand on the boy,'” he said. “'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.'"

            And then we have the famous "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”

          • Ignorant Amos

            Also, why a test? Isn't there something about God and omniscience? Did God not know the result of the test?

            Mind you, there is a lot of that going on in the OT. God forgetting the answers to the tests that is.

          • Oh hi amos. Glad to see you back in fighting form so to speak.

            Why a test?

            So that Abraham could advance.

            Did God know the result of the test?

            Of course.

            Got any more pizza, amos?

          • Ignorant Amos

            But why a test? If God knew the result, what was the point? There is no point putting someone through a test if you know they will pass.

            Furthermore, I'm sure Issac was delighted with being bond to a sacrificial alter.

            " A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defence: ' I was only obeying orders ' Yet the legend is one of the great foundational myths of all three monotheistic religions."

            Of course there are modern biblical scholars that postulate the pyre was actually lit.

            Richard Elliott Friedman has argued that in the original E story Abraham may have carried out the sacrifice of Isaac, but that later repugnance at the idea of a human sacrifice led the redactor of JE to add the lines in which a ram is substituted for Isaac.

            Jephthah's daughter didn't fair so well though in that story did she now?

            Or Lots daughters for that matter.

          • jasmine999

            If God knew the result of the test, then why was the test given? Testing implies the test giver does not know how the test taker will perform.

          • jasmine999

            Oh I totally agree. The whole concept of a triple omni god coming up with the situation in the old and the new testaments is ridiculous from creation on. I'm looking at this as a piece of literature. Abraham has to be tested. If not, the story falls flat, and the words of the angel at the end, that Abraham is blessed BECAUSE he was willing to give God his firstborn son, are meaningless. It's like adding an extra chapter to King Lear, where Lear wakes up from a very bad dream, having learned a lesson.

          • Ignorant Amos

            True. And there is scholarly doubt (surprise, surprise) about just why the final speech of the angel occured.

            It is argued that Abraham’s obedience to God’s command in fact necessitates praise and blessing, which he only receives in the second angelic speech.That speech, therefore, could not have been simply interpolated into E’s original account. This has suggested to many that the author responsible for the interpolation of the second angelic appearance has left his mark also on the original account (v. 1-13-19). More recently it has been suggested that these traces are in fact the first angelic appearance (v. 11–12), in which the Angel of YHWH stops Abraham before he kills Isaac. The style and composition of these verses resemble that of the second angelic speech, and YHWH is used for the deity rather than God. On that reading, in the original E version of the Binding Abraham disobeys God’s command, sacrificing the ram “instead of his son” (v.13) on his own responsibility and without being stopped by an angel: "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son; but Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and beheld, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went, and took the ram, and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son" (v. 10,13). By interpolating the first appearance of the angel, a later redactor shifted responsibility for halting the test from Abraham to the angel (v. 11–12); due to that shift of responsibility, the second angelic appearance, in which Abraham is rewarded for his obedience (v. 14–18), became necessary. This analysis of the story sheds light on the connection between the Binding and the story of Sodom (Genesis 18), in which Abraham protests against God's unethical plan to destroy the city, without distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked: "Far be it from you to do such a thing.. Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?" Abraham's ethical rebellion against God in Sodom culminates in his disobedience to God, refusing to sacrifice Isaac.

            So, Abe would've failed the test...if indeed the test was meant that way. Child sacrifice by the early Israelite's may have been practiced and this story and the laws in Leviticus an expression for it to stop.

            Jon D. Levenson, Susan Nidditch andSusan Ackerman have speculated that at least some Israelites may have believed child sacrifice was a legitimate part of ancient Israelite religion.

            The Tanakh was not put down in scriptural form until after the Babylonian exile, circa 400 BC, while it is addressing myths from nearly 2 millennia earlier. No margin for error there much.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you think it is necessary to be so disrespectful? Triple omni god? Why can't you say Trinity? Or trinity. That at least is courteous.

            If you think the ideas that the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament are absurd, that is exactly how the early Church read these books.

          • Susan

            Do you think it is necessary to be so disrespectful? Triple omni god? Why can't you say Trinity? Or trinity. That at least is courteous.

            I'm guessing that "trinity" gives the idea a respect that Jasmine doesn't think it has earned. The catholic god is supposed to be three gods in one and every one of them is Omni. It's wrapped in the warm, fuzzy term "trinity" but that doesn't make it less absurd to the non-believer.

            One can be courteous to the person they're addressing without having to show respect for their ideas. The idea hasn't earned her respect. That's how it goes with courteous dialogues.

            If you think the ideas that the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the New Testament fulfills the Old Testament are absurd, that is exactly how the early Church read these books.

            I know and obviously Jasmine knows too. That doesn't make it less absurd if you don't put a lot of stock in how the "early church" read things.

          • The catholic god is supposed to be three gods in one and every one of them is Omni. It's wrapped in the warm, fuzzy term "trinity" but that doesn't make it less absurd to the non-believer.

            There is a difference between catholic (with a lowercase c) and Catholic (with an uppercase C).

            The Catholic idea of the Trinity is not three Gods in one. It's three persons in one God. There is a difference.

            One can be courteous to the person they're addressing without having to show respect for their ideas.

            I don't think it is showing respect for a person to restate his or her ideas in mocking language, especially when the restatement doesn't actually get the ideas right.

            It is one thing to criticize, dispute, argue against, or pick apart other people's ideas. It is another thing to mock them, particularly in a forum set up by the people who have those ideas and by whose invitation the rest of us are here.

            Also, I don't think that having the personal opinion that an idea is absurd means the idea is not worthy of at least some respect. I remember hearing on the new many years ago that the US government was using federal land out west which the Native American tribes near that area had considered the gateway to the afterlife. Now, I don't believe there is land out west that truly is the gateway for Native Americans to the afterlife. However, I do believe that ideas and things that other groups of people hold sacred deserve some minimum of respect. I am not a Muslim, but I wouldn't desecrate a copy of the Koran. I don't have much use for monarchies, but if I met the Queen, I would address her as "Your Majesty." I think part of respecting people is to use the language that they use when discussing their ideas. So when discussing the trinity with Christians, I think the appropriate word to use is trinity.

          • Susan

            The Catholic idea of the Trinity is not three Gods in one. It's three persons in one God. There is a difference

            What is the difference?

            It is one thing to criticize, dispute, argue against, or pick apart other people's ideas. It is another thing to mock them

            I'm not sure how it's mockery. It seems to be three deities under one and it would be better to explain our error than to assume it's mockery.

            Also, I don't think that having the personal opinion that an idea is absurd means the idea is not worthy of at least some respect

            The people holding them should be treated with respect but their ideas are up for grabs. The issue is about how that's handled. I agree with that, but the "trinity" has been given far too much respect without earning it and for far too long.

            I am not a Muslim, but I wouldn't desecrate a copy of the Koran.

            I wouldn't either. I don't burn books. (Unless I needed a fire for survival in which case, one book wouldn't matter). There's a huge difference between destroying a book and not deferring to "sacred" terminology that protect bad ideas.

            if I met the Queen, I would address her as "Your Majesty."

            I'm pretty sure I wouldn't. I would treat her with all the respect that any human being deserves, though. I doubt I will ever meet the queen of England.

            I think part of respecting people is to use the language that they use when discussing their ideas.

            This is a tricky issue and I work it out on a case-by-case basis. If the language they use is part of a strategy (conscious or not) of expecting their ideas to be given special status, I'm inclined to use different terminology and to do my best to describe their ideas the way I see them.

            Their best response would be to correct me on my (mis)understanding of those ideas, not to ask for "respect" for those ideas because they are dearly held.

            Particularly on a site that describes itself as a "dialogue" between catholics and atheists.

            Particularly if those ideas are long held and have a tremendously strong grip on culture and politics.

            (I know there is a difference between "catholic" and "Catholic" but I can only bring myself to capitalize proper names and geographical areas and derivatives of those. I use "muslim", "hindu", "mormon", "scientologist" etc. Also, "atheist" and "humanist". I understand that this creates a technical problem with "catholic" that I'm not quite comfortable with but that's how it's going to be for now.)

          • What is the difference?

            I am not going to attempt to explain the trinity except to say that, as interpreted by Christians for over a millennium and a half, it definitely is not "three Gods in one."

            . . . but the "trinity" has been given far too much respect without earning it and for far too long.

            You seem quite sure of that, and yet you don't seem to understand that the trinity is not "three Gods in one." Wouldn't it only be fair to understand a concept first before asserting that it has been given far too much respect without earning it?

          • Susan

            You seem quite sure of that, and yet you don't seem to understand that the trinity is not "three Gods in one."

            I understand that you are saying what it is not. I also have never heard an explanation that makes sense so when you say "interpreted by christians for over a millennium" that it isn't, I have yet to have a christian explain how it isn't.
            If there is a good explanation, I'm not convinced most christians are familiar with it.

            That's why I asked you. You struck me as someone who might understand it well enough to explain it and to do it as honestly and as intelligently as anyone could.

            You've told me what it's not. That doesn't help. I don't think that's an answer you would accept

            When it's demonstrated as an idea that makes sense and is deserving of respect as an idea, I will give it respect.

            Until then, it's as incoherent and unworthy a concept from my point of view as the moon being in the seventh house.

            That is not to say that I'm not missing something key, but until that's demonstrated (so far, it hasn't been), I have to treat it the same way I treat an astrology claim.

          • Well, I was all set to explain the Trinity in great detail and in terms that would be clear to both atheists and non-Christian theists, but now jasmine999 has cleared things up by telling us that "triple omni" does not refer to the Trinity. I was going to clear up many points that even Aquinas left fuzzy, but now I see it would be off topic.

            "Triple omni" in my book would be omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. I see by googling that some people talk about omnibenevolence, but it's not in the dictionary, and I don't find it in the old online Catholic Encyclopedia. The term I grew up using was all good. (God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful.)

            In my opinion, and I think almost all contemporary Jewish and Christian exegetes would agree, it is an egregious error to try to analyze the story of Abraham and Isaac positing an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and all-good God. The authors of Genesis clearly are not writing with that concept of God, and so it does violence to the story to substitute the God of philosophy for God in the story of Abraham and Isaac.

            One real possibility is that the story of Abraham and Isaac dates to a time when human sacrifice was not considered evil. Abraham is being tested not by being commanded to do something wrong, but something very difficult—to sacrifice his own son. Abraham, under the circumstances, would not be doing something against his conscience. As I have argued before, the Bible is ancient literature and must be approached as such. Reading the God of philosophy, or even the God of the New Testament, back into Genesis is anachronistic.

          • epeeist

            You seem quite sure of that, and yet you don't seem to understand that the trinity is not "three Gods in one."

            Whatever it it is, it is contradictory and breaks the law of identity:

            1. G is defined as {F, S, H} (God defined as {Father,Son,Holy Spirit})

            2. F=G AND S=G AND H=G (God wholly present as Father and wholly present as Son, and wholly present as Holy Spirit)

            3. F=S=H=G (from 2, because '=' is a transitive relation)

            4. G := {F, F, F} (from 1 and 3)

            5. G := {S, S, S} (from 1 and 3)

            6. G := {H, H, H} (from 1 and 3}

            7. G := [G, G, G] (from 1 and 3)

            8. G := {{F, S, H}, {F, S, H}, {F, S, H}} (from 7 and 1)

            In other words statements 4-8 contradict statements 1 and 2. I believe the correct terminology is that it commits a mereological error.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What a lovely word, "mereological".

            Which is why the most sophisticated theologians like to stay clear of the quagmire of defining the Trinity and prefer to call it a mystery.

            In Christian tradition the Trinity is a mystery of faith revealed in scripture, beyond human understanding. Theological explanations thus tend to lack or avoid a logical or philosophical foundation. In his explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity, Augustine pointed out that Jesus spoke in similitudes and would later reveal the Father more plainly. Despite his lengthy exposition to explain the Trinity in light of scripture, Augustine states that an explanation is beyond human language, and that the definition of the Trinity as three persons is but a similitude needed in order to express it.

            The catechisms don't help much either...

            251 In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop her own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: "substance", "person" or "hypostasis", "relation" and so on. In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable mystery, "infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand"

            See that..."infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand"...in other words, nonsense.

            Anyway, David is a bit skew when he says, "The Catholic idea of the Trinity is not three Gods in one. It's three persons in one God.". He left out "divine" between his "three" and "persons"...what is a god if it isn't a "divine person"?

            253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the "consubstantial Trinity"...

            254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. "God is one but not solitary."...

            255 The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: "In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance."...

            It is understandable why Susan or I don't get it, and why the church likes to call it a mystery...it's gobbledygook. The church hierarchy must have had a kitten when JP2 decided to publish the catechism online.

            The favoured church father around these parts had this to say about the persons bit...

            In regards to the Trinity of persons, Aquinas lists the following objection:

            "It would seem that there are not several persons in God. For person is the individual substance of a rational nature. If then there are several persons in God, there must be several substances; which appears to be heretical."

            Of course it's not just non-Christians that believed the Trinity as theological contortionism, Christians from the earliest times have also believed it as a nonsense.

            I was a bit surprised that there are a variety of catechisms, although you'd have thought by this time, nothing in Catholicism would have surprised me by this stage. The very popular "Dutch Catechism" issued 1966 is particularly telling.

            Thus, the issuance of local catechisms, such as the Dutch Catechism, was confirmed, although Dutch views on particular theological issues remain controversial within the Church

          • epeeist

            What a lovely word, "mereological".

            So is henotheism.

          • BenS

            I like 'spoon'. If I had a warcry, 'Spoon' would be it.

          • Max Driffill

            If you cried 'spoon' at battle, I'm sure you would just as likely say after that:

            Destiny's powerful hand has made the bed of my future, and it's up to me to lie in it. I am destined to be a superhero. To right wrongs, and to pound two-fisted justice into the hearts of evildoers everywhere. And you don't fight destiny. No sir. And, you don't eat crackers in the bed of your future, or you get all... scratchy

          • BenS

            The clumsy but well-intentioned words of this great philosopher touch my heart in ways the brutal savagery of the bible cannot.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Indeed...very good.

          • In regards to the Trinity of persons, Aquinas lists the following objection

            Are you simply unfamiliar with Aquinas, or are you deliberately trying to deceive people???

            Aquinas's arguments take the form of a proposition or question. In the case you are referring to, the question is "Whether there are several persons in God?" He then states several objections which appear to contradict the position he is going to take. You quoted one above. He then states his own position. In this case:

            On the contrary, Athanasius says: "One is the person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost." Therefore the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are several persons.

            I answer that, It follows from what precedes that there are several persons in God. For it was shown above (Question [29], Article [4]) that this word "person" signifies in God a relation as subsisting in the divine nature. It was also established (Question [28], Article [1]) that there are several real relations in God; and hence it follows that there are also several realities subsistent in the divine nature; which means that there are several persons in God.

            Then Aquinas refutes all the objections he raised. In this case,

            Reply to Objection 1: The definition of "person" includes "substance," not as meaning the essence, but the "suppositum" which is made clear by the addition of the term "individual." To signify the substance thus understood, the Greeks use the name "hypostasis." So, as we say, "Three persons," they say "Three hypostases." We are not, however, accustomed to say Three substances, lest we be understood to mean three essences or natures, by reason of the equivocal signification of the term.

            By selectively quoting, you made it seem to anyone who is not familiar with Aquinas's method of argumentation that Aquinas said the exact opposite of what he really believed.

          • The catechisms don't help much either...

            The Catechism is not supposed to be an in-depth exploration of all Catholic belief. It is a summary or outline. It is meant as a tool to teach the uninitiated or as a quick reference. No one should expect to understand the Trinity from reading the Catechism. It is a starting point—no more.

            He left out "divine" between his "three" and "persons"...what is a god if it isn't a "divine person"?

            Three divine persons in one God is still one God.

            It is understandable why Susan or I don't get it, and why the church likes to call it a mystery...it's gobbledygook.

            So everything you or Susan doesn't understand is gobbledygook? Several people (including me) argued against the idea that there had to be an uncaused cause or a first cause by making reference to quantum mechanics. How many of us really understand quantum mechanics? Does anybody understand how light can be both particles and waves? Does anybody understand why radioactive decay is random? The list of what we all don't understand is endless. I am inclined to believe that life on earth arose from nonlife. Do I, or does anybody, know how it happend?

            The church hierarchy must have had a kitten when JP2 decided to publish the catechism online.

            Nonsense. Why in the world would you say something so totally unwarranted? And by the way, the irreverent way to render his name is J2P2, which, while I admonish people for mocking religion, I think is funny enough to make an exception for.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The Catechism is not supposed to be an in-depth exploration of all Catholic belief. It is a summary or outline. It is meant as a tool to teach the uninitiated or as a quick reference. No one should expect to understand the Trinity from reading the Catechism. It is a starting point—no more.

            I spent this afternoon with some friends and Susan, my friends partner is a lapsed Catholic. I made a point of speaking to her on some of the issues being discussed here and what her teaching and understanding of the subjects being defended here by the religious side.

            Her knowledge of the Catechism is based on rote learning, she hasn't a clue what content means. She has no fathomable definition of the Trinity, and her interpretation from her Catholic upbringing is that Hell was used to put the fear of God into she and her wee pals as a real place of torment and torture.

            Three divine persons in one God is still one God.

            Devine....Having the nature of or being a deity.

            Person...Christianity Any of the three separate individualities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as distinguished from the essence of the Godhead that unites them.

            That looks like 3 gods in 1 God to me.

            So everything you or Susan doesn't understand is gobbledygook?

            Gobbledygook...Language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms; nonsense.

            I can't speak for Susan, but yes, until I understand it, it remains gobbledygook.

            Several people (including me) argued against the idea that there had to be an uncaused cause or a first cause by making reference to quantum mechanics. How many of us really understand quantum mechanics? Does anybody understand how light can be both particles and waves? Does anybody understand why radioactive decay is random? The list of what we all don't understand is endless. I am inclined to believe that life on earth arose from nonlife. Do I, or does anybody, know how it happend?

            All non sequiturs. Laypeople are not required to know the minutiae of those things, it takes years of studying. Are you suggesting it requires years of theological study to grasp an understanding of the Trinity?

            "The negative mysterian holds that the true doctrine of the Trinity is not understandable because it is too poor in intelligible content for it to positively seem either consistent or inconsistent to us. In the pro-Nicene consensus this takes the form of refusing to state in literal language what there are three of in God, how they're related to God or to the divine essence, and how they're related to each other. (See section 3.3 in the supplementary document on the history of Trinity theories.) The “persons” of the Trinity, in this way of thinking, are somewhat like three men, but also somewhat like a mind, its thought, and its will, and also somewhat like a root, a tree, and a branch. Multiple incongruous analogies are given, the idea being that a minimal content of the doctrine is thereby expressed, though we remain unable to convert the non-literal claims to literal ones, and may even be unable to express in what respects the analogies do and don't fit. Negative mysterianism goes hand in hand with the doctrines of divine incomprehensibility (that God or God's essence can't be understood completely, at all, or adequately) and divine ineffability (that no human concept, or at least none of some subset of these, applies literally to God). Some recent studies have emphasized the centrality of negative mysterianism to the pro-Nicene tradition of trinitarian thought, chastising recent theorists who seem to feel unconstrained by it (Ayres 2004; Coakley 1999; Dixon 2003)."

            Just one angle put up there...you can read the whole paper at...

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/#NegMys

            Nonsense. Why in the world would you say something so totally unwarranted? And by the way, the irreverent way to render his name is J2P2, which, while I admonish people for mocking religion, I think is funny enough to make an exception for.

            I couldn't be arsed writing Pope John Paul the Second, my bad. It is as unwarranted as when King James made the bible available to the masses that could afford them...the religious didn't like it.

          • Andrew G.

            Yeah, somehow I doubt the early trinitarian theologians were too bothered about the mereology :-)

          • Of course the entire exercise above proceeds from a logical fallacy; that is, F, S, and G are treated as identical, when they are explicitly defined as distinct-only in relations of origin!- in the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church.

            Is anyone at all actually *impressed* by such argumentation?

            I am honestly curious.

          • epeeist

            I should add that the the initial two sentences are derived from this diagram.

          • jasmine999

            By "triple omni," I meant omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent. That has nothing to do with the Trinity.

          • Susan

            By "triple omni," I meant omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent. That has nothing to do with the Trinity

            Sorry Jasmine. That should have been obvious.
            There have been some problems with references from some non-catholics to a 3-in-1 god and that threw me (and Kevin, it seems) off course.

            Oops. :-)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yep...it's all in the capitol "T"...attention to details.

            It's all a bit of a hang up with Kevin, this particular issue. It's just a pity his God wasn't as persnickety as Kevin is when he was narrating his word to all the bibles authors.

          • epeeist

            One can be courteous to the person they're addressing without having to show respect for their ideas.

            To expand on that, here is a quotation from Salman Rushdie:

            At Cambridge I was taught a laudable method of argument: You never personalize, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s opinions. You are never rude to the person, but you can be savagely rude about what the person thinks. That seems to me a crucial distinction: People must be protected from discrimination by virtue of their race, but you cannot ring-fence their ideas. The moment you say that any idea system is sacred, whether it’s a belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That'll be the "HE" trinity war god Yahweh that wasn't an 3-in-1 god at the time in question yet. So, triple omni-god has nought to do with the Catholic trinity god, he has not been invented yet. Any god with a triune association can be trinity god.

            A triple deity (sometimes referred to as threefold, tripled, triplicate, tripartite, triune or triadic, or as a trinity) is a deity associated with the number three. Such deities are common throughout world mythology; the number three has a long history of mythical associations. Carl Jung considered the arrangement of deities into triplets an archetype in the history of religion.

            Triple omni descriptor is being a god specific, in this case, Yahweh, or as he should be more accurately referred to, as the tetragrammaton, YHWH. This was the name the old ones gave their god in this particular yarn. YHWH was part of a polytheistic set-up prior to getting his field promotion.

            Is this god the one that is not an anthropomorphic god, yet is male, talks to Abraham, dispatchers divine messages via angels and sets tests among many things....all by using his godly immaterial mind which is unseen, hidden and outside space and time?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Because Jasmine's not referencing "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost", but rather "Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent." An entirely different concept.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            It's like adding an extra chapter to King Lear, where Lear wakes up from a very bad dream, having learned a lesson.

            Normally I just up-vote a good post. But this line deserves extra recognition. A pitch-perfect analogy.

          • "That interpretation destroys the power of the story,"

            >> Quite to the contrary. That *is* the power of the story.

            "not to mention its deeper theological meaning."

            >> Says the atheist :-)

            "If Abraham knows all along that his son is in no danger, then there is no testing, no possibility of loss, no sacrifice."

            >> But this is the whole point- Abraham does know- by *faith*. Just as you know, or I know, or anyone who has heard the gospel knows, that if they *believe God*, if they have *faith*, then they can receive baptism for the remission of sins.

            I believed.

            I *knew*.

            You do not believe.

            You do not know.

            Abraham believed, and his faith was strong enough to *know* that God could not promise his seed would be called in Isaac, were Isaac to die.

            Therefore, it was very simple.

            God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac.

            Abraham *knew* by *faith* that Isaac would be restored to him, risen from the dead, since God had promised by Himself that in Isaac his seed would be called.

            "It all becomes a rather juvenile exercise in dragging the kid off to a makeshift altar, with no real consequence attached to the act."

            >> What is juvenile, if you will pardon me, is the obtuse notion that a command from God to sacrifice one's son has no consequence attached.

            "Consequence, however, must be attached to the act, as Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac is a precursor of God's sacrifice of his son. In neither case are we supposed to lighten the burden laid on the father, or on the sacrifice himself."

            >> In neither case *is* the burden lightened. Abraham had no knowledge that God had commanded this as a precursor to the sacrifice of His Son. God taught *us* that, in the act of delivering Isaac, and "providing Himself a sacrifice".

            All Abraham knew was that God had promised him that in Isaac his seed would be called, and God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac.

            A true test of faith.

            Abraham passed.

            "btw, your interpretation destroys the ending of the tale. God doesn't giggle and say, "thanks for playing along." His angel praises Abraham's obedience and fear instead: "'Do not lay a hand on the boy,'” he said. “'Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.'"

            >> As if God did not know from all eternity that Isaac would obey?

            Please.

            The story is, as are all theophanies, a *lesson in salvation* for us, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.

            "And then we have the famous "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.”

            >> But of course we do. God has already promised Abraham that in Isaac his seed will be called. God leads and prepares Abraham, and as a reward for his passing this test, adds even more richly to the blessed promises.

            This, by the way, is a most interesting promise.

            We know of approximately sixty septillion stars, so far.

            Either we have a very long way to go until the judgement....or the universe is closed on a scale smaller than the Hubble horizon :-)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Then we get into the double..triple...quadruple bluff, which means that as a test. it's moot.

            God knew the result of the test before he set it. Abraham knew that God wouldn't harm Issac because of his faith. God knew Abraham wouldn't sacrifice Issac because he knew Abraham, knew God knew, that Abraham knew that God wouldn't make him sacrifice Issac.

            Not much of a test.

            Issac still got the fear of God up him mind you, because presumably he was in on it?

            Then we are left with verifying the myth,

            And subsequently not denying all those that have killed because they reckon they heard Gods voice instructing them to do so as a test, even if it wasn't Gods voice or a test, which they failed. To believe such things is to believe in the scripture, God's scripture allegedly.

          • jasmine999

            @Rick, Kevin: This exchange began in response to Kevin's statement that "an idea or impulse to do something evil could not be from God as God never asks for anything that is evil." I then brought up Abraham and Isaac as an example of an evil request.

            Your interpretation of Abraham and Isaac, designed to let God off the hook for the horror, also makes it impossible for a Christian to disobey God, even if God asks him to commit murder. After all, God ordered Abraham to kill his own child, and you believe that was not evil, given God's promises to Abraham that all would work out for his son.

            God has also made promises to Christians. If a Christian is certain that the request to kill is from God, he can't get away with "God never asks for anything that is evil." God, after all, demanded that Abraham kill Isaac, and that was GOOD. The Christian must attempt to kill, the way Abraham attempted to kill, and have faith that God's promises are true.

          • God did not demand that Abraham murder Isaac.

            God demanded that Abraham offer Isaac in sacrifice to God.

            Sacrifice is always seen as evil by the atheist, who demands that God have created us in heaven with full power to spit in His face; in other words, the atheist is furious at God for not creating white blackness, square circles, free slaves.

            Sacrifice is always seen as holy, as redemptive, as terrible and awful and un-Venn diagrammable by the faithful, since we, for all our catastrophic faults, still understand that God is God, and we are not.

            Sacrifice is seen as barking madness by the atheist, who suffers from the terrible handicap of imagining themselves to know good and evil.

            There is a difference, however, between the circumstances facing Abraham and the circumstances facing the Christian today.

            The ancients understood, in a profound way, that sin was a reality, that an awful breach had occurred between God (or, for most, gods) and man, and that this breach demanded a propitiatory sacrifice of the offended One (or, for most, ones).

            This concept is, as I have said, barking madness to the modern, who is much worse off, being convinced in their own eyes that they are so much wiser, although they (we) are instead miserable, blind, poor, and naked.

            As God knew, and Abraham did not, all such sacrifices are merely shadows, merely gropings of the creature toward the Creator.

            Only one sacrifice can remit the sin of Adam, and restore the communion of God and man.

            That sacrifice must be prepared, and our part in it was to be the act of Faith.

            Now here is a framework in which to read the story as it is to be read with the eyes of Faith.

            Take it or leave it.

            We are in fact free, which is our blessing, and our curse.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            The faithful . . . . still understand that God is God, and we are not.

            I find this to be the only way to make sense of the Old Testament God (and since Christ endorsed the Old Testament, the New by extension).

            If a Christian were to say,

            "God is God, and we are not. A thing which is "evil" when men do it is not necessarily "evil" when God does it, because that's just the way God is",

            I don't have to like that view, but I will admit that at least it hangs together.

            It's when Christians try to explain God's actions (and inactions) within the frame of reference of what humans commonly understand to be "good" and "evil" that they wind up tying themselves in very visible knots.

          • Very close to the truth, Vicq.

            But not quite all the way there :-)

            It will be seen that humans can indeed, by reference to what is commonly understood to be good, explain God's documented actions.

            The careful reading of the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moria is an example of this.

            It is difficult, of course, for the atheist to do this, since the atheist is unable to distinguish between God and man.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick's interpretation echoes Hebrews 11:19: "He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back."

          • Bingo.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In the story of Abraham and Isaac, God put Abraham to a test. Abraham lived in a pagan environment in which he could well have believed that God would ask something like this--many tribes did practice infant sacrifice to their pagan gods. Did it ever occur to you that Abraham could have been objectively wrong and that he had a very defective understanding of God and morality due to his ignorance and primitive mentality? Ultimately, God did *not* ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son through whom God promised to give a universal blessing to humanity; rather, Isaac is a "type" or symbol of Christ.

            As for OT massacres, ask the Jews about that. I'm a Catholic.

          • primenumbers

            So when God asked for the sacrifice he was telling a lie then?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He wasn't telling a lie. He was testing Abraham.

          • primenumbers

            God told Abraham he wanted a sacrifice. That he didn't really want a sacrifice (because it was a test) made that initial request for a sacrifice a lie. God lied.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It was a direct command. Go do X. If you want to find fault, say, "God commanded Abraham to commit a murder."

          • primenumbers

            It was indeed a direct command to do something he didn't actually want to happen, hence God was deceitful and told a lie. I find fault with God commanding murder also.

            But lets get back on topic - we're asserting that you don't have a method by which to reveal a true divine command from a false one.

          • "It was indeed a direct command to do something he didn't actually want to happen"

            >> It was a direct command to do exactly what He wanted to happen- that is, He wanted Abraham's faith to rise to the test.

            Which it did.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's weird. First you assert gratuitously that I need a method for telling true divine commands from false ones and then chide me for not having one.

          • primenumbers

            I assert you need a method for you to make your idea of divine commands distinguishable from pretence or imagination. That you do not have such a method means that you cannot tell the difference between a true command and a false one. This is only an issue if you believe in divine commands.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I say again, this is weird. You think Christians are regularly getting divine commands to do this or that? Nobody needs more than a healthy conscience to discern good or bad inclinations.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I say again, this is weird.

            You are telling us it is weird.

            You think Christians are regularly getting divine commands to do this or that?

            Well you started it Kevin. The non-believer can only go by the claims of the believer and try to refute those claims with a bit of rationality.

            You said...

            "One morning when I was doing my mental prayer, I got the very clear message, "The next time you see her, go talk to her." I obeyed, even though I was afraid to."

            Which by now I'm guessing you regret. All that is being asked of you is that had the "very clear message" from God I presume, had been..""The next time you see her, go kill her."...would you have proceeded to do it? If not, why not? After all, you obeyed the command you assumed was from God answering a prayer.

            Nobody needs more than a healthy conscience to discern good or bad inclinations.

            As Rick would say "B-I-N-G-O-!".

            You just exploded another irony meter there.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is ironic?

          • Ignorant Amos

            What is ironic?

            When you make this comment...

            Nobody needs more than a healthy conscience to discern good or bad inclinations.

            The Atheist would agree wholeheartedly with that assertion.
            Ironically, it is by the God believers that we are continuously being told that we also need their God, although in this particular embarrassing instance, God can safely be omitted from the hypothesis. Why?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A healthy conscience is how God normally speaks to people:

            Moral conscience, present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil. It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1777)

            What is ironic?

          • Ignorant Amos

            You said, "Nobody needs more than...", now you invoke a god, a particular god at that...but gods don't just talk to those with healthy conscience...apparently.

            But as has been pointed out, yours is not to reason why, yours is but to do or die. You are not privvy to the greater plan and according to those that know about these things, it is just a human arrogance to say you do.

            By following Gods command to hammer prostitutes to death, he may have been saving the world in a bigger picture, yet mere men thought differently.

            How would you know the difference, allegedly Abraham could tell the difference in the myth, how would you?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your comment is incoherent to me.

          • Ignorant Amos

            of course it is, just as your argument for the power of prayer and its efficacy is incoherent to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            But as has been pointed out, yours is not to reason why, yours is but to do or die. You are not privvy to the greater plan and according to those that know about these things, it is just a human arrogance to say you do.

            By following Gods command to hammer prostitutes to death, he may have been saving the world in a bigger picture, yet mere men thought differently.

            Something about Gunga Din and a guy with a hammer? What are you talking about.

            Ask me a question and I'll try to answer it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            The Yorkshire Ripper claimed that God gave him instructions to hammer prostitutes to death....was it God that instructed him? How does anyone other than Suttcliffe or the percieved God voice in his head know any different?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Question 1: No.

            Question 2: Can't answer because the question is incoherent.

          • Max Driffill

            Here is one for you:
            A man claims that God has instructed him to commit genocide and clear land of pagans in the American west. Was God really talking to him?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            I made a mistake, the man I was thinking about actually lived in the Middle-East, and he was charged by God, to kill a people, Midianites I think they were called, Interestingly enough, they were to kill all the men, male children and women who had slept with men. But the virgins they should keep. I wonder why that was.

            Also, the same god, commanded the same man, to wipe out utterly a people from the land of Sihon. Men, women, and children all slaughtered. This same god must have disliked the people of Og as well, because he had the man and his armies do pretty much the same thing to them.

            Was this guy I'm thinking of commanded by God? If you think not then I think you have a bit of a problem.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I though you were trying to lay a trap, Max.

            Let's save the dark passages in the OT for later. They are not going to go away.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            I'm sorry your holy book causes so much trouble for believers.

            Still I have obvious questions;

            Was Moses hearing the voice of God or not?

            What about the mass murder Joshua?

            That is just two? Were they not directed by God?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know how to account for those things.

          • BenS

            I think that's a terrible answer when it comes to the issue of whether people hear the voice of god, but at least it's honest.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You nor anyone else can know what Suttcliffe heard. Just like no one knows what Abe heard. Or what you heard for that matter.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the question cannot be answered, why did you ask it? Was it a trick question of some kind?

            In addition, in a sense it does not matter what the person says he heard or was told. The criminal justice system judges us based on what we do.

          • Ignorant Amos

            If the question cannot be answered, why did you ask it? Was it a trick question of some kind?

            You opened the Pandora's box with that inane anecdote.

            God talking to you in your head is a schizophrenia.

            In addition, in a sense it does not matter what the person says he heard or was told. The criminal justice system judges us based on what we do.

            Fortunately we have a criminal justice system in the western world, so most of the time...unless one is an abusive priest under the churches protection, claiming God-made-me=do=it doesn't work. as a defence. Not so everywhere mind.

            Would Abe have been locked up I wonder?

          • . . . . unless one is an abusive priest under the churches protection, claiming God-made-me-do-it doesn't work. as a defence.

            I am certainly not going to defend the way the Catholic Church handled the abuse crisis. But it is simply false that any abusing priest used a defense to his superiors in the Church or in the courts that "God made me do it." It is utterly false and does not advance your argument in any way.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry for the confusion there, I can be a bit ham-fisted and sometimes I don't type with my hands what my brain wants to say.

            I meant that the criminal justice system fails on the aspect of the abuse scandal. I didn't mean an individual abuser has claimed the god defence. Although the devil-made-me-do-it is not much cop as a defence either in my opinion.

            That said, the clergy seem to feel that the criminal justice system doesn't apply to them.

            "The second concept is "clericalism", a word used to describe priests' sense of entitlement, their demand for deference and their apparent conformity to rules and regulations in public, while privately behaving in a way that suggests the rules don't apply to them personally. (O'Brien was, in that sense, a classic example.) The Vatican is an independent state; the Holy See a sovereign entity recognised in international law and governed by the Pope. The Nunciature operates like government embassies in different countries worldwide. It is even governed by its own rules: Canon Law. All this contributes to the notion that the church can conduct its own affairs without interference or outside scrutiny. It demands a voice in society without being fully accountable to it."

            But I apologize for the confusion in my comment, I was just attempting, poorly as it happens, that the clergy think they are above secular laws.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your contempt has ended our dialogue.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Of course it has...projectionism always works.... it's a lot easier than facing up to stuff. I get this all the time from the religious, once the debate gets too awkward...run away...its par for the course.

            No matter, I got my answer eventually anyway.

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            A healthy conscience is how God normally speaks to people...

            Occam's Razor cleanly and decisively dispenses with this idea. Our conscience is quite enough and there is no need to be multiplying entities unnecessarily.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Max, I'm not sure you are being as logical as you want to be.

            My statement "God normally speaks to people through their conscience" is the answer to the question, "How does God speak to people?" It is a very simple explanation.

            You can't ask a question about God and then leave him out of the answer!

            What question is your statement "Our conscience is quite enough" the answer to?

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,

            Of the two of us, I am being more logical, and more observant of the evidence, or lack thereof. I am saying that your explanation is wrong. Also it is crucial to realize you aren't really explaining anything.

            You said:

            My statement "God normally speaks to people through their conscience" is the answer to the question, "How does God speak to people?" It is a very simple explanation.

            Let me rephrase this to demonstrate how little explanatory power really exists in this phrase.

            How does the Flying Spaghetti Monster speak to people?Answer: The Flying Spaghetti Monster speaks to people through their conscience. Its a very simple explanation.

            What does this explain? I contend that it actually explains nothing, but is mere assertion. Would you accept this as an explanation for any other god or supernatural entity?

            There is no evidence that gods speak to anyone. Our consciences are sufficient explanation enough for whatever it is we need consciences to explain. I presume you think they are that which we check our actions against for feelings of guilt, satisfaction at an action etc. Well we certainly don't have evidence of any extra step, and we also have broad variability in human conscience. John Wayne Gacy held a host of actions up as permissible that most of us find heinous in the extreme. His conscience was utterly satisfied with his actions. Bill Gates conscience is causing him to help the world in as big a way as he can. Though he will never be considered a saint by Catholics because he is an atheist. Was god speaking to both men? There is no reason to presume so.

            Since we have no evidence even to suspect that supernatural entities are manipulating our consciences Occam's razor allows us to cut away that explanation you offered. It unnecessarily multiplies entities, complicating our explanation, again, unnecessarily.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think I finally understand where you are coming from.

            You are asking the question, "What kind of power is conscience?" Your answer is that it is a human power. There is no need to posit any entity outside the individual human being for it.

            Is that correct?

          • The Atheist would agree wholeheartedly with that assertion.

            Some of the atheists (and others) that I have been in discussion with have rejected the idea of objective right and wrong. If they are correct, different consciences will give different answers to what is right and wrong. In fact, they may give wildly different answers, and nobody can say which conscience is right. It wouldn't even make sense to say that one conscience was right and the other wrong. It would be like telling people who don't like Brussels sprouts that they are wrong, because Brussels sprouts are delicious.

          • Ignorant Amos

            That's right....a conscience is subjective to the person, that's true. Good and bad are subjective concepts also. But Atheists contend that there is no requirement for the extra bit. Each of us will decide what is good or bad, right or wrong, based on our subjective conscience's. What is deemed good or bad is the question.

            Kevin says it's good to talk, but bad to kill...fair enough, but when god tells some to kill, it is bad sometimes and good sometimes...how are the simple to know which is which?

          • That's right....a conscience is subjective to the person, that's true. Good and bad are subjective concepts also.

            But the Christian view (and even the view of some atheists) is that good and bad are objective.

            Kevin says it's good to talk, but bad to kill...fair enough, but when god tells some to kill, it is bad sometimes and good sometimes...how are the simple to know which is which?

            If you and Kevin disagree about what is good and bad, and good and bad are subjective concepts, neither you nor Kevin is right. And the simple people can decide for themselves what's right and wrong, and there's no way of arguing with them. If good and bad are subjective, nobody is right and nobody is wrong about what is good and what is bad.

            From your point of view, whatever anybody believes is right or wrong is right or wrong for them, but it is not necessarily what is right or wrong for others. That is what subjective means.

            If right and wrong are subjective, there is no point in arguing about what is right and wrong. It's like arguing that somebody who says blue is their favorite color is wrong because your favorite color is green.

          • Ignorant Amos

            All correct, until Kevin re-introduced the God caveat...that was my point. He left the God aspect out of the debate when he said...

            "Nobody needs more than a healthy conscience to discern good or bad inclinations."

            ...then when I raised the issue, catechism was quoted and God reintroduced. Both a healthy conscience and good and bad inclinations are subjective issues...which was the point I was addressing as ironic coming from an RC, albeit an RC under the cosh on the subject of prayer.

          • primenumbers

            So your healthy conscience would tell you not to sacrifice a child even if you thought God commanded it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If I thought God was commanding me to do evil I'd be insane.

          • primenumbers

            But are we not always told that God has a higher purpose? So when he commands you to kill that little baby next door you shouldn't be second-guessing his motives, should you? After all that little baby is the next school shooter mass murderer and you've just saved 50 lives.

          • But are we not always told that God has a higher purpose?

            There is a principle in Christianity that one may never do evil so that good may come of it. Killing a baby, even with the understanding that it will grow up to be a murderer, would be evil. Even believing a command came from God would not permit you to jettison your conscience.

          • primenumbers

            So we're back to Abraham being evil for obeying God's command, and as that command made someone perform an evil act (to prepare their child for sacrifice with the full intention to carry it through), that command was itself evil.

            Methinks Christianity is tied up like a Gordian knot.

          • Methinks Christianity is tied up like a Gordian knot.

            Methinks you are reading the Old Testament like a fundamentalist—something you would scoff at a real fundamentalist for doing.

          • primenumbers

            I don't scoff at fundies for reading the Bible literally, especially when there's no verified way to know what the correct interpretation of any individual section is. I think it takes great moral courage to feel for the poor Israelite soldiers as WLC feels for them being forced to kill all those innocent women and children to do God's will.

          • BenS

            There is a principle in Christianity that one may never do evil so that good may come of it.

            But this doesn't apply to the christian god, right? I mean, what with that great flood and everything...

          • So you believe there was a great flood, and an arc with two of every animal on board? And a guy named Noah, from whom (along with his sons and their wives) we are all descended? Your faith is amazing!

          • ZenDruid

            Having read a cockamamie storybook and believing it are two different things.

          • It is indeed certain that there was a great flood, and an ark with two of every *baramin* (kind) on board. And a guy named Noah, from whom (along with his sons and their wives) we are all descended.

            This we have on the very best Authority imaginable.

          • BenS

            No, I do not. But Jesus apparently did* - and he was god, so god believed he did it. I think. Pretty hard to keep up with all the mental gymnastics and rationalisations that go on in Christianity.

            ---

            http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?s=O&search=Luke%2017:26-29&version=NIV

          • Pretty hard to keep up with all the mental gymnastics and rationalisations that go on in Christianity.

            It is not difficult at all, if you don't approach Catholicism with the intent of finding something to object to in every verse of the Bible and every sentence of the Catechism. I certainly don't believe everything the Catholic Church teaches, and I have a lot of criticisms of my own, but it's not so difficult to see Catholicism as a coherent system if you don't approach it with a sledgehammer in hand.

            Catholicism has been developed over a period of almost 2000 years, and my complaint is the opposite of many who argue here on the site. I think the Church explains too much. I started posting on the site expecting to side with the atheists, but when the arguments against God and Christianity are so bad, I find myself defending the Catholics out of fairness.

          • BenS

            It is not difficult at all, if you don't approach Catholicism with the intent of finding something to object to in every verse of the Bible and every sentence of the Catechism.

            In general, I approach everything with the intent of finding something to object to in the sense that I don't just accept any old crap that's offered me as though it was true or likely.

            it's not so difficult to see Catholicism as a coherent system if you don't approach it with a sledgehammer in hand.

            It's easy to accept anything as a coherent system as long as you're prepared to gloss over all the problem areas. Also, coherency does not imply truthfulness. The Mass Effect universe is wonderfully coherent however I don't, for one moment, believe there are salarian doctors out there singing Gilbert and Sullivan patter songs.

            but when the arguments against God and Christianity are so bad

            Then why not console yourself with the soothing thought that one doesn't even need an argument against a god, one merely needs to ask...

            "Got evidence?"

          • BenS

            Also, can't help but notice that you left off the important part of my post. That Jesus apparently did believe in the flood of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and therefore god apparently has no problems with the concept of killing everyone on the planet bar a single family (whether it was true or allegory) and therefore 'Do no evil that good may come' doesn't apply to the Christian god. So, double standards.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you. My reply would have been much less reasonable.

          • Corylus

            Nice to see the end of Psalm 137 getting chucked out.

          • BenS

            It doesn't matter whether it's a regular thing or whether it's a one off command. The questions still remain:

            How can you tell if the command is from your god or not?

            Would you follow a command you 'knew' to be from your god if it told you to do something you thought was wrong?

            I don't think you've answered either of these.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My own experience is that indications gotten in prayer are undramatic and do not require any more than common sense and a conscience.

            >Would you follow a command you 'knew' to be from your god if it told you to do something you thought was wrong?

            This is a meaningless hypothetical situation.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So why "obey"?

            Comply with the command, direction, or request of (a person or a law); submit to the authority of.

            The "indication" you received from your "prayer" was dramatic enough to make you do something you claim you could not have done without the "indication", namely, pluck up the courage to talk to your future missus. I'm wondering had she had blanked you would you have used this awkward anecdote?

            What we are saying here is that you claim the prayer motivated you where common sense and conscience could not. It is your ball game, you can pick up your ball and huff off if you don't like they way the result is panning out, but don't go changing the rules after kick-off.

            This is a meaningless hypothetical situation.

            Obviously it isn't. According to the book, it happened. It is happening all the time, if you accept the premise that gods talk to adherents. So you'd disobey God as and when it suits you?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God could not give me an evil command. If a voice spoke in my head or if
            I had a vision of a guy in robes telling me to do something evil, I'd
            think I was going nuts or seeing the devil.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Again you are missing a point, how would you know that it was evil or not?

            According to the scriptures, God has done or has ordered to be done, what on the face of it to anyone with an once of grey matter, to be somewhat bad. Now, I'm assuming here that you don't believe those things I intimate to that God ordered, to be evil, because of theological teachings and religious interpretation, but the question still remains, how would you know the difference from what is evil and what God asks of you, which whatever it is, according to your belief in God, cannot by definition be evil, whatever the request may be. God doesn't do evil remember? Requesting Abraham to sacrifice Issac as a test wasn't evil, remember?

          • Again you are missing a point, how would you know that it was evil or not?

            Kevin might very well give a different answer, but I would say that there is a concept in Catholicism of "intrinsic evil." Intrinsically evil acts are always wrong, no matter what. Deliberately and directly killing an innocent person is intrinsically evil. It may not be done to save the whole world. Rape is another. If something is intrinsically evil, you may not do it even if you think God is commanding you to do it. If a voice claiming to be God commanded you to do something intrinsically evil, you would know it could not be God.

            I would say (and some will disagree with this—although of course they are wrong!) that if you believe God is telling you to do something, you should apply the same standard as if anyone else were telling you to do it, or you thought of it on your own. There is nothing that God can tell you to do that is otherwise evil that will be rendered neutral or good just because God says to do it.

            So the answer to your question is, "Follow your conscience."

          • Max Driffill

            David N,
            Is rape all that evil according to scripture?

          • Is rape all that evil according to scripture?

            I smell a trap. :)

            What I would say is that the Bible must always be interpreted very carefully. It there is anything in the Bible that deals with rape in such a way that there is even a hint of condoning of rape, it would be a mistake to interpret it that way. People do some very evil things in the Bible and appear to get away with them and even are depicted as heroes.

            This will be heresy to some people here, but I would say the Bible—especially the Old Testament—is not a particularly helpful guide to what is moral and what is not. A great deal of it was not intended to be a guide to morals, and a fair amount of it comes from a primitive warrior culture that we can't approve of today. I think people who try to justify every bad thing in the Bible, and try to justify such things as God commanding slaughter, are misusing the Bible. An all-good being does not order the slaughter of innocents. It is a big mistake to try to come up with reasons why it is okay for God to command murder. Such things have to be read with an understanding of when they were written and what was believed at the time. Extreme care must be taken not to fall into fundamentalism and bibliolatry.

          • Susan

            But why consider it as anything but more stories by humans?

            What does it have to do with an all good god?

            What distinguishes it from other mythology?

          • Max Driffill

            David,
            You spotted my trap pretty well, it must be said.

            Also, I think your stance toward the OT is maybe the most appropriate I've heard.

            Wasn't there an argument among Christians about whether or not to include the OT in the bibilcal Canon? I've heard this. I'm sure someone on this site can speak to the accuracy of this.

          • Since Jesus himself quoted from Hebrew scripture, and since the Gospels spend a lot of time showing Jesus as "fulfilling" scripture, I don't think there was much question that Christianity would continue to use Hebrew scripture.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Kevin might very well give a different answer, but I would say that there is a concept in Catholicism of "intrinsic evil." Intrinsically evil acts are always wrong, no matter what.

            Fair enough, now we are getting somewhere. Having read a few articles on this "intrinsically evil" assertion, it would seem, like most theology, confusion abounds. There is a caveat called "prudential judgement". War is a classic example. War, in the just war tradition, can sometimes be an acceptable means to certain ends. But who gets to decide what is a just war? I read that "anything does not go" in a just war tradition, but this flies in the face of all the "just wars" throughout history and those described in the Old Testament scripture. So I'm not sure that "intrinsically evil", or "objectively evil" if we stop with the semantics, heips this discussion. What God requested of Abraham was "intrinsically evil" if one takes the definition in full as required by Catholicism.

            There appears to be an inexhaustible list of intrinsically evil actions, but this one seems a bit ironic coming from the RCC.

            Catechism (#2409) explicitly prohibits.

            "Even if it does not contradict the provisions of civil law, any form of unjustly taking and keeping the property of others is against the seventh commandment: thus, deliberate retention of goods lent or of objects lost; business fraud; paying unjust wages; forcing up prices by taking advantage of the ignorance or hardship of another. The following are also morally illicit: speculation in which one contrives to manipulate the price of goods artificially in order to gain an advantage to the detriment of others; corruption in which one influences the judgment of those who must make decisions according to law; appropriation and use for private purposes of the common goods of an enterprise; work poorly done; tax evasion; forgery of checks and invoices; excessive expenses and waste."

            Spoiiing!! There goes another one.

            Seems to me that the there is a huge dollop of hypocrisy in an establishment that makes such a rule for others to follow which it doesn't feel the need to follow itself.

            Deliberately and directly killing an innocent person is intrinsically evil. It may not be done to save the whole world.

            Putting the bible aside for a moment, the RCC is responsible for the deliberate and direct murder of untold numbers. Not even to save the whole world.

            Rape is another.

            Ouch!! So how many abusive clerics have been de-frocked, excommunicated and handed over to the secular authorities for proper jurisprudence? How many have been squirreled away to some undisclosed location for a touch of repenting, further "vocational therapy" and allowed the opportunity to re-offend?

            If something is intrinsically evil, you may not do it even if you think God is commanding you to do it. If a voice claiming to be God commanded you to do something intrinsically evil, you would know it could not be God.

            This is where a cognitive dissonance creeps in though. If a person, in all sincerity, believes God is giving the instructions, they could call in a prudential judgment that God wouldn't require an intrinsically evil act to be carried out, so the instruction must be valid. It's a bit of a Catch 22 scenario isn't it? Especially if the person looks to the actions of the church for moral support. Also bare in mind the intellect of the individual that might be involved, not by any stretch of the imagination is the majority of the laity up to the standard of church knowledge that those here display.

            "The “intrinsic evil” versus “prudential judgment” confusion happens most especially when people take particular moral rules, and make conformity to those rules the ULTIMATE END of life."

            The other issue here might be the absolution of the confessional.

            I would say (and some will disagree with this—although of course they are wrong!) that if you believe God is telling you to do something, you should apply the same standard as if anyone else were telling you to do it, or you thought of it on your own. There is nothing that God can tell you to do that is otherwise evil that will be rendered neutral or good just because God says to do it.

            For the believer in God, that is excellent advice. Getting it adopted will be a monumental task though.

            So the answer to your question is, "Follow your conscience."

            Not nearly as good advice as the previous bit, but I know what you are getting at...the Golden Rule might be applicable here.

          • BenS

            My own experience is that indications gotten in prayer are undramatic and do not require any more than common sense and a conscience.

            Right, but other people have different experiences where they think god has told them to do something quite dramatic indeed. Bush, for example, saying that his god indicated he should wage war and all the other examples through history where a god has apparently told people to do things.

            This is a meaningless hypothetical situation.

            It really isn't and you're only saying this because you don't want to answer the question. I, however, want you to. Now please, either answer it or be honest, stop trying to pretend the question is invalid and simply refuse to because you don't like the answer.

            I'll give you the example I gave earlier but, through the vagaries of Disqus, you may not have seen.

            What if it said "Run up and push her to the ground.". How would you determine whether to do it or not? Maybe god has a plan, Gaius. Maybe pushing her to the ground would save her life as a wheel that's come off a truck is going to pass through that area in 6 seconds time. Maybe pushing her to the ground would save her life and THEN you'd get married and live happily ever after. Maybe pushing her to the ground just causes her to crack her head on the kerb and die.

            Would you obey such a command or not? Your god might have a perfectly sensible reason for giving a command that seems to be nasty, it is omniscient, after all. Given that you are not, do you just blindly follow the command or not?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let me repeat, God could not give me an evil command. If a voice spoke in my head or if I had a vision of a guy in robes telling me to do something evil, I'd think I was going nuts or seeing the devil.

          • BenS

            Let me repeat, God could not give me an evil command.

            This is just a bald, unsupported assertion.

            Let ME repeat - and I'll even use those bigger letter things.

            HOW. DO. YOU. KNOW. ?

            Take the example above. Is the command to push someone to the ground evil or not? It might be intended to save her life. You don't know because you're not omniscient, but your god apparently is. So why do you think you know better?

            Again, all you're doing is dodging the question because you don't like the answer. It's getting tiresome.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay, Ben, I'll try to answer the question (again).

            God does not appear to me physically or in dreams or in visions. He does not give me locutions. Mostly what I get are ideas or inspirations.

            But I get all kinds of ideas and inspirations and insights. How do I know which ones to act on?

            The answer is I have to exercise the virtue of prudence in which I take counsel, make a decision, and then act. Counsel means to judge the course of action against standards. Those standards include the moral law and what is possible for me.

            Prudence is required to work at different speeds. Sometimes there is plenty of time to think about something; sometimes one has to act right away.

            Your question about pushing someone to the ground is impossible to answer because it is so hypothetical and you have not specified all the possible circumstances. To play your game, if I suddenly had the impulse which I was certain was from God to push someone to the ground because something really bad was going to happen otherwise, I hopefully would do it and I'd probably think, 'okay God, but if I get arrested it will be your fault.'

            The only actual example of anything like this I've ever heard was from a woman I know who was walking in downtown Chicago and who suddenly heard in her mind the command to stop. She did and a chunk of stone from the building above her big enough to crush her skull landed at her feet. This is what she told me. I wasn't there.

          • epeeist

            But I get all kinds of ideas and inspirations and insights.

            Other people do too, whether they are Muslim, Hindu, or Zorastrian. Now I am sure that they will claim some of these come from their god or gods. Are their inferences as valid as the Catholic who claims his or her ideas come from their particular concept of god?

            How can you tell whether your inference is better justified than that of the atheist who would not accept this source for ideas and inspirations?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why don't you answer your own questions, epeeist? You are perfectly capable of doing so.

            All we see is the effect (the idea, inspiration, or insight). We don't "know" the cause and may attribute it to God or some other diety or our mind or brain or some combination. Every person who is not insane or a sociopath can use prudence to "filter" his or her inspirations and decisions to act.

          • epeeist

            Why don't you answer your own questions, epeeist? You are perfectly capable of doing so.

            Absolutely, but it is you claiming that god has some kind of link into your cortex. All that you are being asked to do is justify that claim.

            All we see is the effect (the idea, inspiration, or insight). We don't "know" the cause and may attribute it to God or some other diety or our mind or brain or some combination.

            Exactly, we do not observe causes, we only infer them. And if we make an inference then if we want claim it is more than a personal opinion then we have to warrant it. Otherwise we take a Lockean view and say we don't know.

            Now given the advances that neuroscience is making and my own views on physicalism I would have to say, "I don't know where I get my ideas and inspirations from, but given the number of entities and auxiliary hypotheses one would have to introduce for them to be inserted by an external, supernatural entity then I would say they are probably produced by my own mind."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is a reasonable inference. Not that it would be difficult for God to act on your mind but that everything you think is a product of your mind.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Good show on BBC Horizon...."The Creative Brain: How Insight Works"

            It is a feeling we all know - the moment when a light goes on in your head. In a sudden flash of inspiration, a new idea is born.

            Today, scientists are using some unusual techniques to try to work out how these moments of creativity - whether big, small or life-changing - come about. They have devised a series of puzzles and brainteasers to draw out our creative behaviour, while the very latest neuroimaging technology means researchers can actually peer inside our brains and witness the creative spark as it happens. What they are discovering could have the power to make every one of us more creative.

            I'm sure you seen it, but for those that haven't and can access BBC iplayer...it's very interesting.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Epeeist,
            I want to invite you to check out New Apologetics, both it's website and Facebook page.

          • BenS

            Okay, Ben, I'll try to answer the question (again).

            There is no 'again' as you haven't yet answered it, you've merely dodged it.

            To play your game, if I suddenly had the impulse which I was certain was from God to push someone to the ground because something really bad was going to happen otherwise, I hopefully would do it and I'd probably think, 'okay God, but if I get arrested it will be your fault.'

            It's not a game, it has serious real-world implications.

            Anyway, that's an interesting response and I'd consider that you finally answering the question. Thank you.

            It seems you will do things that you know are wrong if god commands you (or gives you the impulse to, whatever). The biggest concern is how far up the scale of 'wrong' will you travel if you get the feeling god is compelling you. Currently, we're on light assault but other people have gone right up to murder.

            Additionally, I also find it interesting that your concern was whether you get arrested for obeying your god and shoving that woman to the ground... not that she doesn't come to harm.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You seem to be obsessed with the notion that Christians are going to hurt people for God. This is essentially imaginary.

            A real issue today is people hurting Christians because of their devotion to God. A real question for Christians today is are they going to be willing to stay faithful to the Gospel despite what people and governments want to do to them.

          • BenS

            You seem to be obsessed with the notion that Christians are going to hurt people for God. This is essentially imaginary.

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

            Not quite imaginary. History is littered with people who say 'god told them to do it' - including that prize wally, Bush, who said god told him to declare war. This was absolutely not imaginary, it cost the lives of many.

            http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/07/iraq.usa

            One of the delegates, Nabil Shaath, who was Palestinian foreign ministerat the time, said: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I am driven with a mission from God'. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan'. And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq'. And I did."

            "Mr Bush went on: "And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East'. And, by God, I'm gonna do it."

            Not imaginary at all.

            A real issue today is people hurting Christians because of their devotion to God.

            Where and how? Doesn't happen in the UK, to my knowledge. Maybe you should move here if you're worried. Us secularists will protect you from people persecuting you for your religious beliefs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Wikipedia entry on Christian terrorism is unserious and the Bush quotes are hearsay. However, in both cases, the persons still have the moral obligation to judge their decisions against the moral law using the virtue of prudence.

          • BenS

            Hearsay's good enough for the accounts of Jesus, though. Whatever. If you believe no Christian has ever hurt people because they imagined god has told them to then you're delusional.

            If the person has the moral obligation to judge their decision then they're in even more trouble. If you 'know' it's god and you decide the act is immoral and refuse to do it then you're either implying you know better than god or are more moral than god (a hell of an implication) or you're simply disobedient in which case you're probably going to hell just as if you disobey any of your god's other rules.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ben, I don't deny that Christians have hurt innocent people thinking they were doing God's will.

            I don't think your reasoning in your second paragraph relates to anything real. It has as its basis that God is evil.

          • BenS

            Ben, I don't deny that Christians have hurt innocent people thinking they were doing God's will.

            Then you've changed your tune completely from:

            You seem to be obsessed with the notion that Christians are going to hurt people for God. This is essentially imaginary.

            And as for:

            I don't think your reasoning in your second paragraph relates to anything real. It has as its basis that God is evil.

            It relates directly to real actions that real people take on inclinations they believe are provided to them by the god they think is real.

            It doesn't have as its basis that god is evil, it has as its basis that you can't know the mind of god. As I said, if you 'know' god has told you to do an action and you 'know' god is good then even if the action seems suspect (killing someone) then why not do it? A greater good will be served.

            If you 'know' your god has given you a command, why would you not do it? Because your morality is better than your gods?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not backing away. That was then. This is now.

            Actually, I *can* know the mind of God to the extent that I know the mind of Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, rules out the kind of mental calculus you fear.

          • BenS

            In which case you've changed your tune. Good. Progress.

            I don't think there's anything in the Sermon on the Mount that specifically states that your god will never give you a command - and if there is, it's wrong because you said earlier god told you to go and talk to the woman that then became your wife.

            Given that, you cannot then say that your god will never give a command that appears evil because you are not omniscient like your god and your morality, by definition, is inferior to your god's.

            If you hear a command that you 'know' to be from your god in the same way you 'knew' the one to go and talk to that girl was and that command is something you don't agree with then you're in trouble.

            And you can't just say you'd never get one; that's simply a bald assertion and totally unsupported. Other people do - and they act on them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That scenario doesn't worry me in the least.

          • BenS

            Well, neither did pushing the woman to the ground, your worry there was that you'd be arrested not that she'd get hurt.

            And for that reason, it worries others. If you're wandering around claiming you hear voices from your god and with no credible reason not to do what you're told, you could do anything and justify it with 'god told me to and I figured he'd have a good reason'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I repudiate your comment.

          • BenS

            'Fingers in the ears' is quite a common tack by theists. Don't like what's being said? Just refuse to listen and maybe the nasty atheist will go away.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I repudiate that one, too!

          • BenS

            Yeah, well.... you're a smelly duck!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well, neither did pushing the woman to the ground, your worry there was that you'd be arrested not that she'd get hurt.

            Don't forget also blaming God for getting arrested too, as it was his FAULT for telling Kevin to push the women over in the first place. I'm sure there must be a blasphemy in there somewhere.

            Today, the average Christian martyr ain't what what it used to be.

          • Again, all you're doing is dodging the question because you don't like the answer. It's getting tiresome.

            It seems to me you keep repeating the question because you don't like Kevin's answer. It is really very simple. If you believe God is telling you what to do, and it conflicts with your conscience, then you have to assume it is not God telling you what to do.

            What you seem to want is for a Christian to say, "If God told me to become a suicide bomber, I would have to do it, because God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good, and I must obey him." No right-thinking Christian would say that.

          • BenS

            It is really very simple. If you believe God is telling you what to do, and it conflicts with your conscience, then you have to assume it is not God telling you what to do.

            In which case, we're back to how you know it's your god compelling you to act. You either know it's your god, or you don't. If you don't know it's your god compelling you then it's identical to any other internally generated compulsion.

            If say that you 'know' god was telling you to talk to that woman or apply for that job or whatever and then it poses the question of what if you get the same feeling of 'knowing' it was god compelling you to do something at odds with your conscience.

            Saying 'oh, that would never happen' is a cop out. You cannot know how god thinks or what he would command you to do. At least, not unless you claim to know better than your god.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would drop the word "compel." Nobody is "compelled" to do anything if they are psychologically healthy. A normal person has to test every practical thought against practical reason.

          • BenS

            Well, you can see what I'm saying. What word would you put in its place, then?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know. C.S. Lewis would suggest the verb "to woo" but that's awkward in modern English. Propose might work.

          • primenumbers

            Like the command to sacrifice your child?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It was a test for Abraham and a foretelling of the Sacrifice of Christ.

          • primenumbers

            It was deceitful.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, in the English language deception and deceitful have different connotations. I would use the neutral word deception. But I understand why your prefer deceitful.

          • It was not deceitful in the slightest.

            God commanded, for His purposes.

            Abraham obeyed, in faith.

            As is always the case, God is pleased, and Abraham is blessed.

            Simple.

          • primenumbers

            Rick, you are full of cognitive dissonance.

          • prime:

            I suggest you consider the direct contradictions which inhabit your thinking, as demonstrated earlier today :-)

          • primenumbers

            You didn't demonstrate a contradiction, but you did demonstrate your inability to comprehend. I know some of these subjects can be tricky though. And that comment here, the use of a personal distraction just shows that any neutral reader will see the obvious dissonance in your response to the clear example of your God being deceitful and telling lies.

          • The contradiction is clear, and exists for examination in its full clarity, primenumbers.

            It would help you very much to go back and learn from it.

          • primenumbers

            Again you try to direct readers away from your very poor answers to the claim your God is deceitful and lied.

          • Just go look at the thread, prime. Contradictions are precious means by which we are invited to purge our thinking of errors of assumption.

            Just as anomalies are precious means by which science purges itself of errors of assumption.

            To ignore either one, is to depart the path of truthfulness.

          • primenumbers

            Again, you didn't demonstrate contradiction. What you demonstrated was refusal to understand / comprehend. That you've been replying for the last hour or so on this thread but haven't been able to provide a response to my last in the other thread is of course telling. That you also engage in a meta-discussion to direct away from the obvious flaws in your argument in this thread, where we're discussing the OT story of Abraham and Isaac and how it demonstrates that God was a deceitful liar is also telling.

          • "Again, you didn't demonstrate contradiction."

            I am afraid that is false, prime.

            I demonstrated you to have typed these two assertions, at different times, on the same question.

            You will notice, I trust, that they constitute a direct contradiction.

            If not, then I have done my part for you and wish you all the best.

            The direct contradiction:

            PRIME #1:

            ""They lack a physical reality."

            PRIME #2:

            "they exist in physical reality"

            Good luck, prime.

          • primenumbers

            I gave an explanation for which you've refused to reply to, and that explanation has been up for hours. Enough - you're just wasting people's time. You have no interest in a proper discussion.

          • All the best, prime.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God is not a "deceitful liar" in the story of Abraham and Isaac. There is deception but no evil.

          • primenumbers

            I happy to agree with you that there is deception. However, I think if we phrased the story with a character other than Yahweh doing the deception, I think you'd find it easier to view the deception as evil.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not at all. I'd say it took a profound intellect to think it up.

          • Susan

            Not at all. I'd say it took a profound intellect to think it up.

            What do you mean?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know a lot about stories and as a story the sacrifice of Isaac is a masterpiece, a work of genius.

          • I think it's worthwhile for me to type this out, just to give some idea that it is unfair to reduce the story of Abraham and Isaac to its "plot," assume an omniscient, omnipotent, and all-good God, and then rip apart the story as immoral. It's from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

            The practice of human sacrifice, which was well-known to the ancients and central to the cults of Israel's neighbors, stands as a backdrop to chapter 22. In the framework of his time and experience, Abraham could have considered the command to sacrifice his son entirely legitimate. Otherwise he might have protested God's command with the kind of insistence he exhibited at Sodom and Gomorrah. God's demand must have struck Abraham as harsh and bitter but not as ungodly. It is therefore important to notice that in the beginning of the test the command is issued by Elohim—the generic term for God or gods—and the command is one that other elohim could and did make. But when the sacrifice is about to be performed it is Abraham's God, Adonai, who stays his hand. Elohim might ask him to proceed, but Adonai says "No." He, too, will ask extreme devotion, but it will never again take this form.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Except, apparently in the "E" version, it is Yahweh. All very confusing. As I said earlier, some scholars have suggested Abraham's hand wasn't stayed at all. The stories have been retconned at a later time.

          • However the stories have been retconned, or not retconned (it is an entirely speculative exercise, a circle-jerk of arrogant moderns who cash paychecks pursuing such granfalloons), we have the certain and infallible word of the Catholic Church that the Scriptures as they have been preserved and collected by the Church contain the inspired word of the Creator and Lord of the Universe.

            Take it or leave it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            So you say...unfortunately that Ivory tower is collapsing down

            around your ears like so many religions before it.

            (it is an entirely speculative exercise, a circle-jerk of arrogant moderns who cash paychecks pursuing such granfalloons),

            Well if that isn't the ironies of all ironies if ever I seen it. Have you even the first idea of what your beloved church is built upon?

            Have a word with yourself please. Your are part of the most corrupt institution to face civilization.

            http://listverse.com/2007/08/17/top-10-most-wicked-popes/

            Here's a taster...

            "Rodrigo Borgia, Pope Alexander VI is so famous for his debased reign that his surname has become synonymous with the debased standards of the papacy in his era."

            Benedict XVI and the Pius XII didn't make that list

            ...we have the certain and infallible word of the Catholic Church that the Scriptures as they have been preserved and collected by the Church contain the inspired word of the Creator and Lord of the Universe.

            So you say, but isn't ignorance bliss...I don't buy the snake oil, and furthermore, the evidence is not on your side...so do you know how to whistle Dixie?

            A "Lord of the Universe" ain't that hard to create by the way, my younger brother created one back in the mid 90's, have a listen....

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fi-kC3lJ2LM

            You can believe whatever you like, you are even entitled to an opinion....what you are not entitled to is ownership of the evidence and the facts....you can take that or leave it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for this. First we try to understand a passage of the Bible as ancient literature according to its genre and the mentality of the original author(s). Then it can be compared to everything else in the Bible. For Catholics, it is also compared to and integrated with everything known from Sacred Tradition.

          • A catastrophically false interpretation of the Scripture, since it requires us to ascribe the promise of God to Abraham to devils.

            God deliver the author of this falsehood from his blindness.

          • Don't worry, Rick. They're Jews. They'll go to hell.

          • Whether Jews or no, they will certainly go to Hell if they ascribe the words of God to devils.

          • I don't find any devils in the story, but nevertheless, the authors (or at least the compilers and editiors) were Jews, and you have assured us that Jews go to hell, so what are you worried about? You are wrong, and you are not representing the teachings of the Catholic Church but rather the Church of Rick DeLano. But according to the Church of Rick DeLano, which is the One True Church, Jews and practically everyone else go to hell. So you will have the last laugh.

          • It is the teaching of the Catholic Church, David, that the Scriptures have God for their Author.

            It is the teaching of the unfortunately deluded rabbi in your excerpt above, that lying devils issued the command to Abraham, when instead the Scriptures tell us it was God Who did so.

            The Catholic Church knows it was God who commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, and there is no amount of dissimulative fraud, or even well-intentioned eisegesis, that can change this fact.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick, I don't think you read the commentary carefully enough.

            That God is the author of SS means that what is in SS is exactly what God wanted. That does not mean that what is in SS is totally obvious to a 21st (or any other) century reader.

          • I don;t think *you* have read the comment carefully enough, Kevin :-)

            The commentator asks us to believe that Elohim and Adonai are different beings, and that Elohim commanded contrary to the Will of Adonai, that Abraham offer Isaac in sacrifice.

            This catastrophically botched attempt to soften the edges of Scripture in turn requires us to ascribe the original promise given to Abraham to the same Elohim.

            Do the math.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think the commentator is saying, Abraham did not see the command to sacrifice his son as evil, per se, since from his limited and flawed primitive perspective that was the kind of things pagan "gods" demanded all the time. Abraham's misunderstanding of God did not interfere in his admirable faith in God and the whole episode resulted in a more correct understanding.

            I could be wrong but I imagine Abraham did not see or did not have to see God as the one true God but as a god who took a particular interest in him and his descendants.

          • EDIT: This is intended in response to Kevin below.

            I am afraid you have still failed to recognize the deadly lie that constitutes the basis of the commentator's proposed solution.

            If this is obstinate, then forgive me, I will try once more and let the matter pass.

            Here is the deadly lie:

            The commentator requires that we ascribe the words "Elohim" and "Adonai" to different beings.

            He proposes that "Elohim" commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, *against the Will of Adonai*.

            This is preposterous, on many grounds, but the key is here:

            If this preposterous bit of falsehood were to be admitted, we should immediately find ourselves required to notice that it is "Elohim" from Whom the original promise to Abraham proceeds.

            Under this "reasoning", the original promise to Abraham- the promise of redemption in Christ!- proceeds from a being directly in opposition to the Will of Adonai.

            Its absurdity is manifest.

          • It is the teaching of the Catholic Church, David, that the Scriptures have God for their Author.

            Although scripture may have been divinely inspired, there were human authors and human editors. The Catechism says,

            109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.

            110 In order to discover the sacred authors' intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. "For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression."

            111 But since Sacred Scripture is inspired, there is another and no less important principle of correct interpretation, without which Scripture would remain a dead letter. "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in the light of the same Spirit by whom it was written."

            It is not necessary for Catholics to accept a strictly literal interpretation of the story of Abraham and Isaac, or of anything else in the Bible. It is not a stenographic record. It is not a journalistic account. Leave that kind of thing to fundamentalists, which Catholics have never been.

          • "Although scripture may have been divinely inspired"

            >> No. The teaching of the Catholic Church is that the Scriptures *are* inspired.

            They have God for their Author.

            Not a syllable of what you have posted from the catechism above is in the slightest way opposed to, derogatory of, or in tension with, this dogmatic Truth of the Faith.

          • Not a syllable of what you have posted from the catechism above is in
            the slightest way opposed to, derogatory of, or in tension with, this
            dogmatic Truth of the Faith.

            I completely agree. I didn't quote the Catechism to call into question the teachings of the Church. I quoted it to call into question your skewed interpretation of those teachings.

          • But the difficulty for you here, David- and it is a persistent one, by the way- is that you have never in any slight way demonstrated my interpretation to be skewed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think if this commentary is read very carefully, it is not false or blind or ascribing evil to God.

            Abraham has flawed notions of God and of the moral law. That should not be surprising. God is beginning with Abraham a pedagogy which will culminate with Christ.

          • It is indeed a work of Genius.

            But not merely human genius.

            There is a Genius Who knows us far better than we know ourselves.

            This Genius knows us well enough to teach us that when our eyes are opened, when we become like Gods, knowing good and evil, we open those eyes of godlike knowledge and realize that we are..............

            Naked.

          • Susan

            I know a lot about stories and as a story the sacrifice of Isaac is a masterpiece, a work of genius.

            In what way does it stand out from all the other myths as a work of genius? Many myths are fascinating insights into humans minds and cultures, and this one would make for good chatter at a book club.

            Why a work of genius?

            Also, do you think it was authored by one person or evolved through a passing down and refining process?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic view of the authorship of Sacred Scripture is that there are two authors in every book: God and the human writer. In this case, there could have been multiple writers over time. The human writers brought all their human resources to the task.

            I don't have time to write a literary analysis of this story, but I'd say it is a work of genius because it has so many dimensions, and addresses so many human and divine concerns, and resonates in both the Old and New Testament, and is relevant to us today.

            That would be my tentative thesis statement which would take pages to explain and support.

          • Sage McCarey

            In the movie I asked ZenDruid to post again there is a reference to Abraham. The man questioning the goodness of god, in the concentration camp, says, "When Adonai commanded Abraham to kill his son, he should have stood up to him and said NO. He should have showed god the mercy we can have in our hearts; maybe we could teach him something."

          • There is the quintessential atheist mythology in action, all right.

          • ZenDruid

            Here's some more 'quintessential atheist mythology':

            Jesus got his holy mojo from god, and his human goodness from his mother.

          • That isn't, actually atheist mythology.

            It is instead atheist contempt.

            It is a dreary, fifth-rate carbon copy of the original dark genius Voltaire, who died, by the way, screaming for a priest.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Voltaire, who died, by the way, screaming for a priest.

            Very much disputed.

          • books.google.com/books?id=JrU1AQAAMAAJ

            “Had my principles become slack and needed a firm bond, the man whom I have seen waste away, and whose death agony I have watched, would have furnished a very Gordian knot; and the contrast between the death of a good man, the close of a fine day, with that of Voltaire, is that between a beautiful day and a tempest, between the serenity of the soul of a sage, who merely ceases to live, and the frightful torments of him for whom death is the King of Terrors.”----Letter of Dr. Tronchin, attending physician to Voltaire, to Bonnet, cited in:

            “Thoedore Tronchin, A Sketch”, Frederick C. Shattuck, Boston Medical and Surgical Journal” Vol CLIX, No.1

          • Sage McCarey

            About 15 years ago I dreamed about a friend I had known in another city half way across the country from where I was living. I hadn't seen her or heard anything about her for 20 years. I woke up and I felt strongly that I would see her again soon. Three months later there she was in a store where I was shopping. This was not the answer to a prayer. I have no idea what it is, perhaps some kind of connection between people.

          • Vuyo

            That's unfair Sage. Kevin Aldridge was saying that when he prayed, something happened. He's not saying that nothing happens if you don't pray. No one is going to deny your strong feeling and the ensuing event. Interesting isn't it?

          • Sage McCarey

            Please explain to me what is unfair about this. KA stated his experience. I stated my experience. Did I criticize KA? No I did not. I do not deny his strong feeling and the ensuing event. Interesting that you see unfairness in dialogue, isn't it?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Have you read "Unweaving the Rainbow"? It goes a long way to explaining such phenomena.

            "The book coins an acronymical term, Petwhac (Population of Events That Would Have Appeared Coincidental). This is defined as all those events that may be considered to be a 'coincidence' if studied casually, but are both possible and statistically probable."

            "A way to get an idea of how to use the petwhac is as follows. Say you see a friend from school you have not seen for years when you are on holiday (an unlikely event); before saying it is fate or coincidence, think what is in the petwhac (meeting any friend from the same time period at least, friends of your brothers, sisters or parents, old flames, neighbours, teachers, someone who worked in the local chip-shop... the list is probably endless, and all would seem coincidental). In short: the bigger the petwhac, the stronger case you have to avoid ascribing something to fate or coincidence."

            This wasn't the same as Kevin's example though.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    Hey, I just wanted to give props to whoever referenced Rene Magritte in the heading picture. My favorite artist evah....

    • Rationalist1

      Yes, along with Escher one of my favorite 20th century artists.

      Interestingly critics have often described his works as existing in a tension of what one knows and what one wishes. Somewhat apropos to this discussion.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I have no clue how this OP is supposed to further Catholic/Atheist dialogue.

    • Vuyo

      Haven't you had an atheist ask you why doesn't God just show Himself?
      Also there's already been 100 comments. Dialogue is happening.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Catholics and Atheists can argue about *anything.* You could post the word "The" and get a hundred comments.

        Sorry, Marc, but I find this OP to be largely vague emoting.

        • Rationalist1

          One didn't hit 100 with that superman one and that was up all weekend.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You just proved my point. ;-)

        • Kevin,

          I agree with you. It doesn't seem to me that what Marc Barnes says is in accord with Catholic teaching. We have a number of Catholics trying to interpret what he says in such a way as to make it defensible (for example, "Do you see any contradiction between the statements 'God hides himself'
          and 'God chooses to reveal himself to those who seek him'?") but it all appears to be circling the wagons. There is too much circling of wagons by both (or more accurately, all) sides. Circling the wagons is not helpful when the goal is dialogue.

    • Sage McCarey

      I don't believe the purpose of this site is to actually further dialogue between us. I think the intent is to convert godless atheists to Catholicism. All but two of the OPs have been Catholic apologetics. I have listened to fundamentalist and their ridiculous arguments all my life in the south. I wanted to see what catholics argued. They are smarter in general. But the basis is the same: loving god that we just can't understand, Jesus is the only way to escape eternal punishment after you die. If it weren't for the many sharp atheists who comment here I would have been long gone.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        >"[L]oving god that we just can't understand, Jesus is the only way to escape eternal punishment after you die."

        It looks like something got garbled here. Exactly what do you think the core message of Catholicism is?

        • Sage McCarey

          Hi Kevin, if I'm wrong please let me know. From what I've read here it seems one must believe in an invisible god who is all knowing, one must believe Jesus was god/his son and was raised from death. One must drink the blood and eat the symbolic flesh of Jesus. Jesus came to save us from our fallen state caused by original sin. One must follow the rules set up by the church which they claim came from god. There's more of course but we can start with this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you mean "must believe and do those things" you have listed in order to escape eternal punishment, I'd say that's not the core message of Catholicism. They are also garbled statements about what the Church teaches.

            To cite just one example is your idea, "One must believe in an invisible god who is all knowing to escape eternal punishment." The CC does believe there is only one God, and that he is invisible, and all knowing. and that there is a condition called hell. However, it also teaches that persons who do not believe in God can be saved.

          • "However, it also teaches that persons who do not believe in God can be saved"

            This is completely false.

            It is a dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Faith that salvation apart from faith is impossible.

            This teaching is retained in the current catechism:

            161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore *****without faith no one has ever attained justification*****, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"43

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Lumen Gentium teaches "Nor does Divine Providence deny
            the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life" (no. 16).

          • Since there is not the slightest contradiction between the LG passage, and the catechism passage, it will be seen instead that you have wrongly understood one, or both.

            A. Salvation apart from faith is impossible.

            B. The helps to salvation- that is, to faith- are not withheld from those who do not yet have it.

            Simple.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You said the statement "persons who do not believe in God can be saved" is completely false.

            LG says, God does not "deny the helps necessary for salvation" to those who have "not yet arrived at an
            explicit knowledge of God."

            A person who does not have an explicit knowledge of God does not believe in God. That person is not denied the helps necessary for salvation. That person can be saved. Persons who do not believe in God can be saved.

          • Of course that person can be saved.

            How?

            Exactly the way any other person can be saved.

            How is that?

            Be being justified, and persevering in faith hope and charity to death.

            Can one be justified apart from faith?

            No, one cannot be justified apart from faith.

            There is not a syllable in ay of the magisterial teachings of the catholic Church which suggest an atheist can be saved apart from faith.

            You have drastically misunderstood the passage in question, and the proof of this is that your interpretation directly contradicts defined dogma.

            This conclusively demonstrates it to be wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rick, please read CCC 846-848 and then get back to me.

          • OK I have read CCC 846-848, and can report that it teaches nothing at all contradictory to the CCC 161.

            Do you allege that it does?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Don't change the subject, Rick. *You* are alleging that a person who does not believe in God cannot be saved.

          • No, it is the Catholic Church that dogmatically teaches that, Kevin.

            You have denied it, on the basis of a passage that manifestly does not say what you allege it to say.

            It has been established that justification apart from faith is impossible.

            This is taught in the very catechism from which you quote.

            You are reduced to arguing that the catechism teaches two directly contradictory things.

            I deny this.

            Over to you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Then what does this passage from Lumen Gentium say?

            "Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have
            not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life" (no. 16)?

            It says "persons who do not know God" can be saved.

            The passage from LG 16 does say more than "persons who do not know God can be saved" but it includes that truth.

            For those person to be saved, they need God's necessary help, their ignorance of God cannot be their own fault, and they must try to live a good life with the help of grace.

          • "Then what does this passage from Lumen Gentium say?"

            >> It says exactly what you do not, Kevin.

            If it said:

            ""Nor does Divine Providence deny salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life" (no. 16)

            then you would have established a contradiction between LG 16 and previous dogmatic definitions of the Faith.

            But this is impossible, so we notice immediately that instead it says:

            "Nor does Divine Providence deny ******the helps necessary for salvation***** to those who, without blame on their part, have ****not yet***** arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life" (no. 16)

            The key, of course, is "helps necessary".

            If an atheist were saved in his atheism, he would require no such helps.

            He would, as you falsely allege, already *have* salvation in his atheism.

            Instead, it is seen that the helps necessary for salvation are not withheld; and this is certainly orthodox, since salvation requires a free response on the part of the saved- it is not imposed by God apart from the free cooperation with grace of the saved.

            It is already established that no one is justified apart from faith.

            This is taught in the very catechism from which you quote.

            You are reduced to arguing that the catechism teaches directly contradictory things, and that Lumen Gentium 16 directly contradicts CCC #161.

            I deny this.

            Instead it has been shown that you have drastically misunderstood LG 16.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are creating an artificial conflict or contradiction.

            If you think I am arguing that somehow atheists as atheists have the resources to achieve salvation, you have made a whopping unwarranted assumption.

          • To the contrary, Kevin.

            I have explicitly identified the error in your interpretation of LG 16.

            I have correctly pointed out the dogmatic teaching of the Faith, that no one is justified apart from faith; that is, there are no justified atheists.

            I have defended the orthodox Catholic Faith against your completely ridiculous and novel disfigurement of it.

            Thanks, sincerely, for the opportunity.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Kevin, Rick - as an atheist I find your exchange above most enlightening. It certainly addresses some of my thoughts about the "hidden-ness" of God's will.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think it has more to do with reading comprehension and the ability tto distinguish between same and different.

          • Well, Vicq, it is true that falsehood is continually fighting to gain a foothold in the Church; as a matter of fact this is necessary, as Paul tells us:

            "For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved, may be made manifest among you."

            But the will of God is clear, to those who seek it.

            The exchange with Kevin is quite useful in establishing both Kevin's precise error, and the actual teaching of the Church.

            God forbid that a Catholic website should lie to atheists about what is required for salvation.

          • Excerpt from Explanatory Note on the Meaning of 'Salvation' in Francis' Daily Homily of May 22
            Reflections on Atheists, Christians, and Who Will Be Saved

            What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?

            This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.

            3) The scriptures tell us expressly that God wants everyone to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4); the covenant of peace which God made with Noah after the flood has never been abrogated: on the contrary, the Son of God himself has sealed it with the authority of his self-sacrificing love embracing all people. Pope Francis warns Catholics not to demonize those who are not members of the church, and he specifically defended atheists, saying that building walls against non-Catholics leads to “killing in the name of God.

            4) The great German Jesuit theolgian, Fr. Karl Rahner introduced the idea of “anonymous Christian” into theological reflection. Through this concept, offered to Christians, Rahner said that God desires all people to be saved, and cannot possibly consign all non-Christians to hell. Secondly, Jesus Christ is God’s only means of salvation. This must mean that the non-Christians who end up in heaven must have received the grace of Christ without their realising it. Hence the term – ‘anonymous Christian’.

            What is meant by this thesis of the anonymous Christian is also taught in “Lumen Gentium,” the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II (no.16). According to this document those who have not yet received the gospel and this without any fault of their own are given the possibility of eternal salvation...God ‘in the unknown ways’ of his grace can give the faith without which there is no salvation even to those who have not yet heard the preaching of the gospel.

            Catholics do not adopt the attitude of religious relativism which regards all religions as on the whole equally justifiable, and the confusion and disorder among them as relatively unimportant. God truly and effectively wills all people to be saved. Catholics believe that it is only in Jesus Christ that this salvation is conferred, and through Christianity and the one Church that it must be mediated to all people

            .
            5) . . . .

            6) A non-Christian may reject a Christian’s presentation of the gospel of Christ. That however, does not necessarily mean that the person has truly rejected Christ and God. Rejection of Christianity may not mean the rejection of Christ. For if a given individual rejects the Christianity brought to him through the Church’s preaching, even then we are still never in any position to decide whether this rejection as it exists in the concrete signifies a grave fault or an act of faithfulness to one’s own conscience. We can never say with ultimate certainty whether a non-Christian who has rejected Christianity and who, in spite of a certain encounter with Christianity, does not become a Christian, is still following the temporary path mapped out for his own salvation which is leading him to an encounter with God, or whether he has now entered upon the way of perdition.

            8) The Scriptures teach that God regards the love shown to a neighbor as love shown to Himself. Therefore the loving relationship between a person and his or her neighbor indicates a loving relationship between that person and God. This is not to say that the non-Christian is able to perform these acts of neighborly love without the help of God. Rather these acts of love are in fact evidence of God’s activity in the person.

            9) As Christians, we believe that God is always reaching out to humanity in love. This means that every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin; one can only lose their salvation through serious personal sin of their own account.

          • David, your homily does not constitute magisterial teaching, and contains one explicit heresy, here:

            "No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin; one can only lose their salvation through serious personal sin of their own account."

            This is heresy.

            It directly contradicts a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith:

            Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Letentur coeli,” Sess. 6, July 6, 1439, ex cathedra: “We define also that… the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go straightaway to hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”77

          • I do want to thank you for bringing this heretical sermon to my attention, David.

            I will be forwarding a dubium to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about this.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Oh, brother.

          • Get yourself a good canon lawyer, Kevin. I have a feeling you're next. Of course, anything that requires a trip to Rome can't be all bad. :P

          • Heck, Kevin is not an heretic. Heresy presupposes a sufficient knowledge of the Faith, to obstinately deny some truth necessary for salvation.

            Now, this priest on the other hand.......

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think there will have to be many hearings and many return trips to clear things up!

          • I counter predict.

            The dubium will result in a clear and forthright correction to the heretical statement of the priest, which denies an ex cathedra definition.

            But one thing is for certain.

            The dubium will be prepared and submitted.

            I hired the canon lawyer today.

          • Oh, wait....you guys actually think that a dubium requires a trip to.....

            Rome?????

            Oh my.

          • I do want to thank you for bringing this heretical sermon to my attention, David.

            Always glad to help bring heretics to the attention of the CDF! Is there a master list of all Catholics in the world? If I can just get my hands on it and cross your name off, you could send that to Archbishop Müller.

          • Since you are neither a bishop, nor do you, by your own affirmation, believe what the Catholic Church teaches, I am afraid you have no power to excommunicate me :-)

            A dubium, of course, is not a canonical action directed against a given heretic, but is instead a means by which any Catholic can submit a question concerning doctrine to the Vatican dicastery directly responsible for resolving such questions.

            Thanks, again, for posting that sermon.

            I am in your debt.

          • Sorry. You can't just pull statements from the 15th century and declare them infallible and relevant today. The very least you must do, now that I have provided a credible source clarifying and amplifying the pope's remarks, is to provide a credible contemporary source backing up your interpretations of what is defined dogma and what is not. You rely solely on your own interpretations of the various sources you cite, and that is just not good enough for a forum like this. You need to specifically show that the Church, in the 21st century, teaches infallibly that those who die in a state of original sin (i.e., without baptism) go "straightaway to hell." Such persons would, of course, include all non-Christians and all babies, including aborted babies, who die without baptism.

            The fact is that the Church does not teach that unbaptized babies (including aborted babies) go to hell. It teaches that the Church can't say as a matter of doctrine where they go, but it is reasonable to hope that they are saved. This would not be the case if it were dogma that unbaptized babies went to hell.

            You argue your case very well, but unless you can cite some reasonably credible contemporary authority about what the Church teaches now, the case you argue so tenaciously and so well is simply your interpretation. Show us all some evidence that it is a dogma of the Church that aborted babies and other unbaptized babies go to hell. I will not take your word for it, nor will I accept what Pope Eugene IV wrote over half a millennium ago.

          • "Sorry. You can't just pull statements from the 15th century and declare them infallible and relevant today."

            >> Actually, there is one precise form of statement from the 15th, or 14th, or 13th, or 12th, or 11th, or 10th, or 9th, or 8th, or 7th, or 6th, or 5th, or 4th, or 3rd, or 2nd, or 1st, or 16th, or 17th, or 18th, or 19th, or 20th centuries which I certainly *can* pull out as *being* infallible today.

            Those would be the ex cathedra definitions I already educated you about, see Lumen Gentium 25.

            It is true that I can't pull any 21st century statements out as infallible, since there haven't been any yet.

          • Ignorant Amos

            What's this? What's this? Dissension in the camp?

            Children, children, children....please, what about the neighbours?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Amos, I'm really getting a kick out of watching these two good Catholics whale away at one another, aren't you?? Really drives home those points about the consistency of magisterial authority.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I must (shocking, I know) agree with Rick on this one. People who do not believe in god cannot be saved. You cannot be saved apart from faith - UNLESS you have not been exposed to the gospels and are working from ignorance.

            If I understand the CCC, every atheist in the world is damned eternally. As are about 6.25 billion other people.

            At least we'll burn together when we burn. ;-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Luckily for you and the others, your understanding of the CCC is deficient for the reasons I quoted above and which Rich cannot integrate into his understanding of one doctrinal statement.

          • Ignorant Amos

            One must drink the blood and eat the symbolic flesh of Jesus.

            Not symbolic though...transubstantiation.

            Read this at the peril of your sanity, it is a full on head melt of the highest theological order...

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        I think the intent is to convert godless atheists to Catholicism.

        Yeah, and judging by the success rate so far, I'm glad I didn't buy into the IPO.

  • Susan

    What merit is it to know of God’s existence as a man knows the existence of his right foot? God doesn’t want our observation, nor our pitiful attempts to “prove” his existence — he wants our love.

    This makes no sense. In no way does verifying the existence of those I love interfere with my ability to love them? As a matter of fact, it helps it along considerably.

    • robtish

      Makes no sense to me either. It's hard to imagine wanting to be loved by someone without wanting them to see you.

      • Rationalist1

        It's like the ultimate dead beat dad.

        • Sage McCarey

          Yes R. and Christians are already motherless children so they don't need a dead beat dad! They can try to show that god is love but I don't believe that and haven't since I was five years old. That's when my sister, 18 months younger than I, became ill and almost died. She was in such pain she screamed when anyone had to touch her. She suffered with that disease all her life and died at 67 after suffering months of severe pain. How on earth could I believe god is love? As a child I believed there was a god and I blamed that god for my sister's illness. So I never loved or trusted that god, only feared it. Now I realize there simply is no god and all those people who said stupid things to a little child about god working in mysterious ways, god has a plan we can't understand, yada, yada, yada helped create an atheist!

          • It is terrible indeed to live in a fallen world.

            It is understandable that in many cases of suffering, even the Doctor might be blamed for the suffering he tries to mitigate.

            But we are in a world of death, pain, and suffering.

            Either this was the intention of God, or else it is the consequence of our freely chosen rejection of Him.

            If the former, then there is no God, since God could not have directly willed such things.

            If the latter, then it will be seen that God, having made us truly free, and foreseen all of the suffering and horror that freedom would inevitably bring to be, is nonetheless prepared to bring forth from that evil and suffering an outcome which is infinitely better than would have been the case, had none of that suffering and evil ever happened.

            In the end, all evil and suffering could have been avoided, had God simply chosen not to create free beings.

            He chose to create free beings.

            Therefore suffering and evil are, in the end, not triumphant.

            They, in their own way, just like the devil himself, serve to bring about a greater good.

          • Sage McCarey

            Thank you Rick for your response. I don't believe in a "fallen world". Yes, we are in a world of death, pain and suffering. My sister at 3 and a half did not have a chance to freely choose rejection of a god. A child of 3 and a half is not able to freely choose anything! I know my sister's life and you don't. There was no outcome that is infinitely better than if that suffering never happened. All that evil and suffering could have been avoided if god had chosen not to create free beings? What does that have to do with my sister's suffering? Show me what greater good came about by her suffering!

          • "All that evil and suffering could have been avoided if god had chosen not to create free beings?"

            >> Of course.

            "What does that have to do with my sister's suffering?"

            >> It is the reason that your sister suffered, and the reason that she has entered into a state of existence far more beautiful than what she had known here.

            "Show me what greater good came about by her suffering!"

            Her suffering is ended, Sage.

            That much is absolutely certain, whether one is an atheist, or a Catholic.

            If your sister was baptized, then her happiness at this moment is something beyond imagination.

            Even if she was not baptized, her happiness exceeds anything you have ever experienced.

            Such is, as to the first case, the infallible dogma of the Catholic Church, and as to the second case, the ancient and orthodox theological consensus of Her Doctors.

          • jasmine999

            How convenient that the "bringing forth from evil" is invisible, like the God who is supposedly doing the "bringing forth."

            Re "all evil and suffering could have been avoided, had God simply chosen not to create free beings," what of heaven?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But we are in a world of death, pain, and suffering.

            Either this was the intention of God, or else it is the consequence of our freely chosen rejection of Him.

            If the former, then there is no God, since God could not have directly willed such things.

            Exactly. The problem of evil - one version.

          • Sid_Collins

            I'm sorry your sister had such a difficult life. I agree with your conclusion about how hearing the usual religious explanations for suffering can result in creating an atheist rather than convincing someone of the existence of a loving God. In fact, I think this kind of experience goes a long way toward creating an angry atheist. Not all atheists are angry, but I think moving from naive belief to disillusioned lack of belief can leave a bitter, deprived feeling that would never have been experienced if there hadn't been a perceived broken promise of eternal caring and protection.

            It's my opinion that believers are sometimes right when they accuse atheists of hating a God they don't believe in. But what they are really hating is the experience of being betrayed by those they trusted.

            There is also the issue that religious belief is always sneaked in during the time when a child has no critical thinking skills, and is just soaking up unfiltered emotions and worldviews. Unsurprisingly this creates a lot of unconscious feelings about religious beliefs. They leave a mark even when the intellect has rejected the belief. Sometimes the emotions connected with religion "reconvert" the atheist, which relieves the tension caused by the conflict between unconscious longings for familiar beliefs and the intellectual rejection of those beliefs.

            Believers know quite well that if they waited to introduce religious concepts for objective study when a person was ready to apply his reason to the subject it would result in a huge falling away from the parents' faiths. But the resulting atheists wouldn't be angry.

          • Sage McCarey

            Sid, I don't believe I'm angry now that I have grown up and studied and accepted reality. There was no god that caused my sister's illness. She was unfortunate enough to contract a disease that many people have. We are sealed to the fate of our genes and our inheritance from ancestors in a way that we've only just begun to understand. There is no invisible god involved in this. I love the Buddhist story about the woman who couldn't understand the death of her only son and why this happened to her. The monk told her to talk to all her neighbors about her anger. Every neighbor she talked to told her of their loss of the people they loved. So she returns to the monk with the knowledge that she was not alone and we all experience the loss of loved ones.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am sorry to hear about your sister's (and your) suffering.

    • Sage McCarey

      susan how'd ya get to be so smart?

      • Susan

        how'd ya get to be so smart?

        That's very kind, Sage, but I'm not that smart.
        It's an obvious question, the sort of question a child would ask.
        You'll notice that no one has answered it.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    The opening paragraph of this OP reads,

    "The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said that “just as important
    as the truth, and of the two the even more important one, is the mode
    in which the truth is accepted, and it is of slight help if one gets
    millions to accept the truth if by the very mode of their acceptance
    they are transposed into untruth.”

    Is SK saying the following? "The way people receive a truth is more important than that truth itself."

    I don't see how truth can transport you into falsehood.

  • robtish

    "Once the green bird is seen, it is known. No further effort is required." This isn't true even of birds. If you see the bird you may know of its existence, but you do not know the bird. Further effort is required for that.

    In fact, seeing the bird does not end the effort.Rather, it motivates the effort.

    The analogy of the author's father fails as well. If the author held his father-beliefs about some man whom he'd never met, never seen, never heard, never touched, explaining the man had simply chosen to be "hidden" forever, we'd be inclined to view the author as in the sad grip of wish fulfillment, not in possession of wisdom.

    • Lionel Nunez

      It seems you're purposefully extending the metaphor beyond what it clearly seeks to convey to avoid legitimately considering the argument; you realize, as with all metaphors, that it's not intended to be taken as comparing two things as if they were equal in every respect?

      • robtish

        Actually, I'm pointing out that the metaphors don't merely fail to support his thesis, but actually make a case for the opposite.

  • 42Oolon

    You have made an argument for why "love" requires an element of uncertainty with respect to whether the love is reciprocal. I think this is not a strong argument, but it goes nowhere to explaining why in the case of God-love, there needs to be uncertainty as to whether the object of the love exists at all.

    We may uncertain that the "father" in the analogy below loves us, but not as to whether or not he exists!

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think Barnes' argument is that the "un-obviousness" of God is necessary for us to respond to God the way God wants.

      • 42Oolon

        It just wasn't necessary in the Levant 2000 years ago, to doubting Thomas, to St Paul on the road to Damascus, and to every saint with a vision of Christ...

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I'm not agreeing with him, just trying to understand him!

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi 42Oolon,
      i think you're right, perhaps i didn't not explain it well enough. searching for God and finding him is accompanied with an awareness of that God has loved the searcher all along. one discovers God as a loving and caring person. that awarenss builds trust, confidence and love. if you met a woman you were kind of attracted to perhaps you worked with her, but she didn't seem to pay too much attention to you until one day she pulled you aside and told you she had a feelings for you and perhaps wanted to go get coffee or something to that effect, that event would cause you're feelings for her to grow. Much of the "love of God" is rooted in the growing awareness of how much God loves you and has always loved you.

      • 42Oolon

        "one discovers God as a loving and caring person". I guess the point of this post is that "discovering" the "person" of god is believing it, without the kind of discovery we require for all other kinds of love, namely that there is some observation of a distinct entity which is the subject of the love.

  • DebraBrunsberg

    God does show Himself, just not to everyone. Just because you haven't seen Him, doesn't mean that I haven't or that He does not exist. Once He reveals Himself, there is no going back. You can't unknow Him. So, those who walk away from the teachings of Christ, never knew Him. It is sad because He is constantly calling every person, but most cannot and will not hear Him.
    Actually, I find it pretty ridiculous that any person could look at every thing that exists in this world, in this universe, and think it was all an accident. How silly.

    • Sage McCarey

      Hi Debra, How silly am I! I look at every thing that exists in this world and this universe and I don't know how it came about. I don't know if it was an accident or by design. I am awed by the beauty and the hugeness and I say I don't know! Why can you not say "I don't know"? Why would god choose not to show itself to everyone? Tell me how it revealed itself to you please.

      • DebraBrunsberg

        Each persons experience with God is as unique as is each person themselves. What God brought to me may not come to anyone else or in the same manner. I can tell you that at the age of 51, I didn't believe in God or the Catholic Church. Well, lets say until I was age 51 and two months. Then, God began by letting me witness miracles and be aware of His Spirit within me. Then I saw Him. He spoke to me on more than one occasion. I saw the Blessed Mother, I saw many Saints and hundreds of souls in purgatory, one at at time. Then, he started to change me from the inside out. My thoughts, my beliefs, all changed as if everything was now through His eyes. He gave me the gifts of knowledge and understanding and of recognizing spirits. He brought me to the exact Catholic Church He wanted me in and the exact priest He wanted me to listen to. I was confirmed at the age of 52. That was six years ago and I have been blessed beyond all telling with experiencing His great love. These have been the hardest years of my life. Knowing God does not make one a saint, it makes one painfully aware of how fallen and unholy they are. God however will bring peace and joy into even the worst things in life. God is real. He is constantly with each one of us, calling us by name, every moment. Most of us are blind and deaf and closed to Him. Look at this world, it gets more closed off from God every day. People make a choice to gamble on just about everything in life, except that God might be real. People prefer sin and darkness to holiness and light. It has always been so. I can't even explain something that there is no refence for in most people's lives. I am sorry, to God, that I had to see to believe. I pray ever day that the Lord will come to everyone as He did with me. He is the greatest love of my life. I regret every year I lived without Him in it or I should say, without my knowing Him in it.

        • jasmine999

          You "saw" God. God let you "witness miracles and be aware of His Spirit" within you. God "spoke" to you "on more than one occasion." Such miracles did not destroy your free will.

          Problem is that the preservation of your free will is the main argument the author of this blog uses to explain both the problem of evil, and the problem of an invisible God. It goes something like this: God wants lovers, not slaves. God's appearance to an individual will destroy that individual's free will, creating a slave, rather than a lover. This is why God won't ameliorate our suffering, or appear to us: that free will is PRECIOUS!

          Given that God is omniscient, omnipotent, AND omnibenevolent, and given that he is capable of appearing and speaking to you without compromising your free will, why didn't he appear to the writer of this blog? Did God go to all this trouble with you, as he knew that you would witness on a site like this? Why, then, didn't he appear to the writer of this blog?

          If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, why does he need anyone's witness to prove his existence?

          • DebraBrunsberg

            No, unfortunately, the free will is still there. Therein lies the problem. I would prefer the Lord remove my free will, allow me to submit totally to HIS will, not mine.
            I would prefer the Lord remove my faults, my lack of charity, my sinful nature, my judgementalness, my murmurring, my lack of patience, all the things that make me such an imperfect specimen. But, He doesn't. He loves me exactly the way I am and if I love Him, I will work on being a more loving person, a more charitable person, more in His image.
            God doesn't need my witness. He doesn't need a single thing from any one of us. We are truly nothing. We can give Him nothing because He has created everything. He wants to share His love. I would be His slave. I would die for Jesus the Christ because He is everything. Oh my, you have no idea what one second united with Him is like. There isn't a single thing on earth or a single person I would not give up to ensure an eternity with the Lover of my Soul.
            God is a complete mystery. Why he brings one thing to one person and something else to another, 1 Corinthians 1:25, For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger then men.
            If anyone can say that they know God, then they are a liar. He is beyond our comprehension and the little gifts and kisses he sends our are way are to open our hearts to Him so he can come in and then we have to make a choice to allow Him to stay and follow Him or turn and walk away. I had that choice, then I could not even imagine doing that. That said, that is why every day is a struggle, because my life was a lot easier before I knew God. You think life is hard? Try being Catholic in a world that can no longer undertands natural or moral law and who believes there is not good or evil, all is relative. Try having every friend and most of your family turn and walk away because they don't want to understand. They are afraid it might rub off. I was that world. Now, I only see how dark and pathetic it is and that is sad. To know the Truth, but with no power to bring others to it. Only God can bring someone to conversion and only if they let him in.
            I have asked God for six years, why me? What do you want? How can I serve you? How do I thank you? I am always one step from moving backwards. No, I am not a slave. Being a slave would be easy and I would gladlly accept that position with the Lord. If I am a witness it is a pertty poor one so far. I highly doubt my little bit of sharing here will have any effect on anyone. I think you should pose your questions to God. Have a little faith in Him, it doesn't take much, just sincerity. He may answer you. ♥

          • BenS

            Oh my, you have no idea what one second united with Him is like.

            It's beginning to sound like bug-eyed insanity....

            There isn't a single thing on earth or a single person I would not give up to ensure an eternity with the Lover of my Soul.

            And this is exactly the kind of thought process that leads to people flying aircraft into buildings.

          • DebraBrunsberg

            No, That is what prompts people to want to give of themselves to others. It is what guides one to want to follow Christ in loving each person, who was created in His image. Your response is typical of those of this age. That is what makes it so sad to see. Every person has knowledge of Christ and every person chooses for himself to pursue that or deny it. That decision here, will determine all of eternity. You may not believe in the soul anymore than you believe in God, but that does not mean it and He, do not exist. God is supernatural, He created everything. If He took His eye off you for one second, you would cease to exist. You wil die as will we all. Those who know God, have no fear of that.
            God does not ask people to do any act of violence out of love for Him. Those who follow the enemy of God do those things. Don't mistake them to be the same.
            Have a blessed day.

          • BenS

            No, That is what prompts people to want to give of themselves to others.

            So there is no such thing as religious suicide bombers? I think you'd better tell that to... well, the religious suicide bombers.

            Every person has knowledge of Christ and every person chooses for himself to pursue that or deny it.

            Nope. There are plenty of people who have never heard of Christ.

            God is supernatural, He created everything. If He took His eye off you for one second, you would cease
            to exist.

            This is just blather. Fails the find/replace test. Could equally apply to Batman.

            You wil die as will we all. Those who know God, have no fear of that.

            I don't fear death. Looks like knowing god isn't that special.

            God does not ask people to do any act of violence out of love for Him.

            The bible is littered with examples of your god commanding people to do horrific things. Maybe you should try reading it.

          • DebraBrunsberg

            I am not talking about Islam. Islam is not a religion of peace or of God. It came through an enemy of Christ. Your confusing the two tells me that you should maybe read up on Christianity and of Islam. Islam does not believe in Christ as the son of God, Christians follow Christ as He is the son of God.
            Those who have never heard of Christ still have the ability to follow Him. Those who have heard of him, like yourself, and choose to ignore or deny him are the ones I am talking about.
            I have read my bible. You have not. If you had, you most likely wouldn't understand a single word. You would place your personal, modern, athiestic view upon the words and they would reveal nothing to you.
            You are a walking soundbite with no depth or knowledge. One cannot discuss a topic with someone who has no frame of reference and is not interested in being educated.
            I will pray for you Ben. ☺

          • From Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Proclaimed by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965):

            The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

            Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think this famous statement negates the claim that "Islam is not a religion of peace."

            The Council Fathers made the most charitable statement possible about Islam. Everything they said is true. What they did not say could be volumes.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hmmmm! Stones and glass houses much?

          • BenS

            You're making loads of really bone assertions with absolutely no justification for them.

            Islam is not a religion of peace or of God.

            To me, neither is Catholicism.

            I have read my bible. You have not. If you had, you most likely wouldn't understand a single word.

            I haven't read your bible, no, but I've read my own copies. I have a library which contains about a dozen or so along with numerous associated reference works and I've read them all. I still don't know anywhere near as much of the contents or the history of as it others like, say, Amos, but I know enough.

            You would place your personal, modern, athiestic view upon the words and they would reveal nothing to you.

            As opposed to revealing the hidden meaning with god glasses? Right, because I find that a very convincing way of determining what's true. In fact, you can tell 'god glasses' is a shit method because of the countless number of religions that use it that all differ. For reference, Muslims think the same way and would consider you placing your person, archaic, Christian view on the Quran equally lacking in revelation.

            You are a walking soundbite with no depth or knowledge. One cannot discuss a topic with someone who has no frame of reference and is not interested in being educated.

            And onto the insults and personal slurs. Very Christian of you.

            I will pray for you Ben

            Given that prayer does nothing for the party you're praying for and it only serves to make you feel better then this is a pretty selfish thing to do. By all means, pray away.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hey Ben, I was having an argument with two Christians on Saturday night in a wee pub in Spain.

            Not Catholics may I say first. Both in their 60's.

            The first admitted he was a sectarian Christian bigot, had not read the bible, didn't believe that there is anything after we die and got his world view from his father who recently passed away at the age of 92. His father, he said, was faultless.

            The second, had tried to read the bible, but couldn't make any sense of the writing. He said that the thought of the afterlife gave him comfort....he too was a sectarian Christian bigot.

            Last winter I witnessed a parade for "The Feast of the Immaculate Conception", later in a different bar, again in Spain, I got into a discussion on what the immaculate conception was. Not a single person in the bar believed my explanation until the barkeep produced an ipad and goggled it. Humble pie all round it was.

            My point is, most people haven't the foggiest idea of the detail and history of their religion. There is a portmanteau that describes such people..."sheeple"... "a term in which people are likened to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research".

          • BenS

            Hey Ben, I was having an argument with two Christians on Saturday night in a wee pub in Spain.

            Dear god, they actually let you in the country? Don't they know who you are? :p

            My point is, most people haven't the foggiest idea of the detail and history of their religion.

            This is, unfortunately, all too true. Even ones who are fairly clued in don't get it all - one of the mods here, I think, said the Church had never condoned slavery at all, but a quick google had him changing his opinion on that.

            To be fair, though, it's an incredible amount of information to take in - especially when it's mostly contradictory, contested by different sects, subject to review and interpretation with some bits being canon and others not, some bits being literal, others not... it's a mess.

            It truly amazes me the depth of knowledge you have on the subject, especially some of your whopping posts on RDFRS. Seeing you teach some of the theists about the history and content of their own religion is awe inspiring in a faintly worrying way. Kind of like watching a fat girl roll down a hill.

            I'm sure glad atheism is much simpler. I'd hate to have to try and reconcile adam and eve with evolution and still keep a) my sanity, b) my dignity and c) a straight face.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Too much free time on my hands Max.

            I'm reading a brilliant book at the minute, "Hitler's Pope: The Secret Life of Pius XII", by John Cornwell.

            The authors intention was to dispel the controversy surrounding the assertion that the Holy See was complicit with the rise of Hitler. He got access to the Vatican archives. He soon changed his mind.

            John Cornwell was born in East Ham, London, the son of Sidney Arthur Cornwell and Kathleen Egan Cornwell.

            Raised as a Roman Catholic, Cornwell entered the junior seminary, Cotton College, in 1953 intending to become a priest. He later wrote a memoir on his five years at Cotton. He continued to the senior seminary, Oscott College, Sutton Coldfield, in 1958.

            After leaving the seminary, in the 1960s Cornwell studied at Oxford and Cambridge, graduating in 1964 in English Language and Literature. While studying at Christ's College, Cambridge as a post-graduate student, he abandoned Catholicism and became an agnostic. He married a Catholic woman, however, who brought up their children as Catholics, and eventually, twenty years after leaving the Catholic faith, he returned to it.

            So hardly biased.

          • Sage McCarey

            Please Debra tell us more. We are listening....

          • BenS

            We're listening, but we don't understand. We don't have our 'god earphones' in.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Did God make his enemy?

            Did God make evil things or actions?

            Did God make Hell?

            What is your definition of what Hell is?

            You wil die as will we all. Those who know God, have no fear of that.

            Those that believe in God fear what is in store for them after death...that's the big problem.

          • Max Driffill

            Debra:
            God does not ask people to do any act of violence out of love for Him.

            God commanded Moses to heap a load of slaughter throughout the Middle-East. Here is a particularly classy passage from Numbers.

            "31:17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.31:18 But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."

            That seems like an act of violence out of love for him. Murder and rape.

          • DebraBrunsberg

            You just prove the point that you have no knowledge of Christianity. The Bible is not a pick and pull out to prove ones point. You might want to actually read the entire thing, study Christianity and then find out how the Old Testament is a precursor to the New Testament and what it all means. Your response, pulling out a statement from 5000 years ago, only proves your ignorance, nothing else.
            I used to do the same thing to people when I was a pagan. ☺

          • BenS

            Wait, so you say god doesn't command acts of violence, Max provides an example of god commanding an act of violence from your own holy book... and that makes him ignorant?

            Explain this logic. If you can.

          • epeeist

            The Bible is not a pick and pull out to prove ones point.

            Well exactly, which is why those who it use to claim that homosexuality is an abomination (well done SCOTUS by the way) should also accept that they have to abide by the proscriptions on all the other abominations, such as women wearing anything that appertains to a man, and implement the punishments for them.

          • Max Driffill

            Debra,

            The context of that passage does Christianity no favors if that is the god it is claiming is their god. The god of the OT advises, participates in, demands one campaign of genocide and lebensruam after another. There is no call by God his people and his champions to show restraint even to infants (who are put to the edge of the sword as surely as any combatants).

            God commands the rape and sexual enslavement of virgin women. It was also permitted for Israelite soldiers to take a pretty woman from a conquered town as an extra wife. God's mercy is hard to be here. She was permitted to mourn her murdered family for 30 days, and if the soldier was dissatisfied with her he could dump her, but where ever she chose to be dumped. Quite the champion of family values this god is wouldn't you say?

            I am not cherry picking. That I leave to Christians. I am pointing out passages that most Christians tend to ignore, or gloss over.

          • Sage McCarey

            Debra, please continue commenting on this blog and all the others. We need to hear your testimony.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sometimes God just got about the smoteing by himself.

            Burning the incorrect incense incensed God.

            "Numbers 16:35 And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense."

            Not content, what did God do next?

            After God killed Korah, his companions, their families, and 250 incense burners, the people complained saying, "ye have killed the people of the Lord." So God, who doesn't take kindly to criticism, sends a plague on the people. And "they that died in the plague were 14,700."

            A bit of a one for his incense...it happened again in Leviticus...

            10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.

            10:2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

          • BenS

            You can't beat the flood for outright devastation. 99.99% of the human population. No, wait, of all living things on the planet. That's good going.

            You know what? I reckon if this god could have figured out a way to have dolphins rape all the drowning people, it'd probably have gone with it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Aye, Old Testament God was a peice of work alright...

            God's Tally

            2,417,889 + ? people killed by God and his followers under his orders PLUS an unknown amount which probably number into the millions, including the whole world at the time of Noah, and over 60 whole cities!

            Satan's Tally

            Satan killed Job's children after God gave him permission to. So that'll be 10 then.

          • BenS

            Yep, that sprang to my mind as well.

            http://dwindlinginunbelief.blogspot.co.uk/2006/08/who-has-killed-more-satan-or-god.html

            But he loves us very, very much...

          • Max Driffill

            Unless of course there are iron chariots present. The god of the OT has no answer for that.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hee! Hee!...Judges 1:19...how could a bronze age god expect to challenge iron age technology.

            Don't bring a knife to a gunfight I say....

          • Don't notice too many of those plains people around......

            Holy Lepanto, Batman!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Don't notice too many of those plains people around......

            That's because you ain't looking too hard Rick.

            Holy Lepanto, Batman!

            "Holy hole in the donut, Batman."

            or maybe on this occasion...

            Holy Roman Empire, Batman!(actual quote)

          • Yes, God is quite serious about how He is to be worshipped.

            Good thing Christ has come and reconciled us to Him.

            A season of grace.

            Until the judgement, which will make all of these earlier types and shadows seem pathetically insignificant by comparison.

          • Yes, God is quite serious about how He is to be worshipped.

            Exactly how serious do you think God is? Perhaps 95 on a scale from 1 to 100?

            I always enjoy reading statements about God. I once read someone who said, "I'm not giving you my opinion. I'm giving you God's opinion."

          • God has given us His opinion.

            It can be found in Sacred Scripture, directly as He has Authored it.

            It can be correctly interpreted in the acts of the ordinary and supreme magisterium of the Holy Catholic Church.

          • That's a mild spring day to what God has in store for His enemies at the judgement.

            Let us never forget that God intends to subject His enemies to an eternal fate horrifying beyond any possible imagination.

            This is why Christ solemnly warns us:

            "And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. [5] But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him."

            Good advice.

          • Max Driffill

            Here is the thing Rick.
            I am betting my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is vastly better than Christ's. One thing the bible never mentions, is Jesus' ground game, this leads me to believe he didn't have one. If his ground game is terrible, and we have every reason to believe it is, no one was concentrating on ground fighting until Royce Gracie won a few UFCs with Jiu Jitsu. Jesus has nothing for my De La Riva Guard. Its just that simple really.

            I can predict it now. I will go ahead and pull guard, De La Riva to overhead sweep, mount, to arm bar. Jesus probably won't tap, so I will transition to back, RNC baby! Then I sign my name in the book of life, point at the crowd, make a heart sign in the air and walk through the pearly gates.
            Just another night on the mats.

          • epeeist

            I can predict it now. I will go ahead and pull guard, De La Riva to overhead sweep, mount, to arm bar.

            Winnah! Especially if you wear some iron gloves or boots

          • Doug Shaver

            And this is exactly the kind of thought process that leads to people flying aircraft into buildings.

            No, That is what prompts people to want to give of themselves to others.

            It prompts some people to do what you have done. It prompts other people to do other things.

          • Max Driffill

            Perhaps the saddest thing I have read on this site so far is this:

            There isn't a single thing on earth or a single person I would not give up to ensure an eternity with the Lover of my Soul.

            How terrible.

          • Unless of course God exists, in which case it is utterly terrible to prefer any created thing at all to Him.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,
            If this is a demand of a god, I would say that is a god not worth worshiping, or respecting.

          • This does not seem to make any sense at all to me, Max.

            We ought to desire what is good, and we ought to desire the supreme Good more than any created or inferior good.

            I cannot imagine anything wrong, evil, or reprehensible about this.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            This does not seem to make any sense at all to me, Max. We ought to desire what is good, and we ought to desire the supreme Good more than any created or inferior good.

            Any god that would demand one love it above all other things including one's children and family and friends is not a good being. When we encounter such personalities in the real world, we tend to avoid them, because they often turn out to be narcissists at best, and sociopathic narcissists at worst. Abuse is sure to follow.

            Even if a god exists there is no indication it is supremely good, or that its motives are above reproach. Only its actions can demonstrate this. Zeus, if he existed, might be good for a few stories, but he is hardly a figure worthy of respect, worship or obedience. The god found in Christian mythology, in half its moods is no better, and sometimes much worse.

            Being supremely powerful does not make one good, or moral, or right.

            I cannot imagine anything wrong, evil, or reprehensible about this

            Think about the torture of Abraham being told to kill his son to demonstrate his love and obedience to God. This is a monstrous act of sadism. In what way is this kind of a relationship good? It mimics every power mad, insecure abusive spouse in the history of ever.

    • Fr.Sean

      Excellent point Debra! i would disagree with you on one point however. i suspect many atheists are here because they are searching, they would want us to give them some empirical proof so they can believe. but all we can do is point the way, they have to make the choice to walk in it. and i would modify your last statement that "some" will not hear him, i think most eventually will! but i have to say your first paragraph is something i've felt but found it difficult to articulate. Excellent Job!

      • Ignorant Amos

        i suspect many atheists are here because they are searching, they would want us to give them some empirical proof so they can believe.

        Don't kid yourself there Sean. I can't speak for others, although I'm fairly confident knowing a number of the Atheists here a number of yeas, that they are not searching for that for which they've already decided doesn't exist, but as far as it goes, I'm here to rubber neck at the train wreck.

        Its that very ignorance that the believer holds in that the Atheist was never a believer before the time they became Atheists. It is through lack of empirical evidence among a lot of other things that the majority of Atheist found their themselves Atheist. A number of just such folk here were once Catholics.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Ignorant Amos,
          i think you make a good point, certainly there may be some atheists here who would acknowledge that if they were wrong they would want to know it. but if you came to an internal knowledge that God existed, that you didn't have any doubt about it. you might see your statement in a slightly different light? From a Christian perspective we all have a desire to be fulfilled and we have a desire to be in union with God, but most of the time we don't realize that is what we desire. so i suppose if that perspective was in fact accurate than there would be a small part of you that would want one of us to give you empirical proof?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hello there...

            i think you make a good point, certainly there may be some atheists here who would acknowledge that if they were wrong they would want to know it...

            Perhaps, but there is nothing in Christianity, let alone Catholicism, that will sway the well versed ones I recognize on here. No one is here to proselytize or be proselytized I'm afraid.

            ...but if you came to an internal knowledge that God existed, that you didn't have any doubt about it. you might see your statement in a slightly different light?

            No it wouldn't unfortunately. I'm Igtheist...until there is a workable definition of the god concept that we can all agree on, the term "god" is meaningless.

            There are a near infinite number of alternatives to any god hypothesis I've seen that would need to be explored and disproved before gods need be posited.

            From a Christian perspective we all have a desire to be fulfilled and we have a desire to be in union with God, but most of the time we don't realize that is what we desire. so i suppose if that perspective was in fact accurate than there would be a small part of you that would want one of us to give you empirical proof?

            You make a presumption that first, I'm not fulfilled, and second, that the insidious concept that is the Abrahamic god would leave me fulfilled if I wasn't.

            BTW, I'd be interested in seeing what it is you claim is empirical proof of your God...just for the sake of research.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,
            When someone wants to investigate a various topic, issue or truth there are several ways to go about the investigation.  One is to look at the doubts or look at the reasons "why not".  A second way to to reverse one's evaluation to see if a particular philosophy or truth is true.  If in fact there is a God and the incarnation is a truth than it would seem reasonable to investigate the issue from the faith perspective.  If there is a God than the only "versed one's" can only maintain an objective perspective if in fact they've investigated the issue from both perspectives.  To do so implies, that one would need to do what others have done that have brought about an effect.  some have claimed that when they've read the scriptures, read other writings about the faith and prayed for the gift of faith that this has brought about a certain affect.  Thus if one's goal is to maintain an intelligent objective evaluation about a potential truth they need to investigate all sides of the issue.  if some have done something that has brought about a certain affect than the only way to maintain one's objectivity is to do the same thing to see if it also bring about a similar affect?  

          • Ignorant Amos

            I assume you applied that criteria to every other worldview and religion?

            What was it about every other religion that you've looked into that you found lacking and untenable with your rationality?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,
            I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. i was away for my day off. I do understand your question. if in fact there are so many religions, why shouldn't one apply the same openness to all religions, or rather how would one know that there particular religion is correct and everyone elses is wrong? Furthemore, if there are so many religions wouldn't seem reasonable that they're all wrong?

            I suppose that was a question in my mind as well, (however i had already had faith before i thought of it so i can't say i can totally understand how you may see it). i rememeber reading that the Catholic Faith teaches that not all other faiths's are "wrong" in the sense that they are totally human creations. If we start with the perspective that (assuming God exists for the sake of argument) God sowed the question of his existence within our hearts and thus it's a naturally human desire to "Know" God or at least to learn things about him, then we might see various faith's cooperating to some extent with the Holy Spirit. when Christian missionaries went out east they discovered that much of buddhism is very similar to Christianity. Therefore some believed that they had the Holy spirit but they just didn't have the fullness of revelation until the missionaries instructed them. Muslims believe in one God. Jews believe in the Hebrew Scriptures, naturally other Christians believe in the Incarnation. Thus if Jesus really is the son of God, what does that reveal about life, about existence, and about eternity. I would reflect upon the Gospels, perhaps read Mere Christianity and a few other books from an apologetic perspective. If you're open and honest in your evaluation, and you're objective i think you may discover something about who Jesus is and what he should mean for your life. Also pray for God to reveal himself to you. I think if you take a basic view of each of the primary abrahamic faith's, you investigate them and pray for understanding and guidance, I'm sure you'll have your prayers answered. I will pray for you too.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm sorry, but I can't let this pass. In what possible way is Buddhism "very similar to" Christianity?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            Buddhism's main "faith teaching" is what is called the "eight fold path to enlightenment". it basically has to do with the idea that one needs to overcome slavery to the body and in a sense die to self to live for others. and to be aware of the "spirit" if you will. this basic philosophy and understanding parallels Christianity rather well, and thus many of the missionaries concluded that the Holy Spirit was active within the lives of the people, but they still needed the fullness of revelation. thus that's where we get the term "revelational theology" which is a term that points out others as well have had the "spirit" work within their communities.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Are you actually aware of what the Noble Eight-fold path says?

            1. * Samma-Ditthi — Complete or Perfect Vision, also translated as right view or understanding. Vision of the nature of reality and the path of transformation.

            2. Samma-Sankappa — Perfected Emotion or Aspiration, also translated as right thought or attitude. Liberating emotional intelligence in your life and acting from love and compassion. An informed heart and feeling mind that are free to practice letting go.

            3. Samma-Vaca — Perfected or whole Speech. Also called right speech. Clear, truthful, uplifting and non-harmful communication.

            4. Samma-Kammanta — Integral Action. Also called right action. An ethical foundation for life based on the principle of non-exploitation of oneself and others. The five precepts.

            5. Samma-Ajiva — Proper Livelihood. Also called right livelihood. This is a livelihood based on correct action the ethical principal of non-exploitation. The basis of an Ideal society.

            6. Samma-Vayama — Complete or Full Effort, Energy or Vitality. Also called right effort or diligence. Consciously directing our life energy to the transformative path of creative and healing action that fosters wholeness. Conscious evolution.

            7. Samma-Sati — Complete or Thorough Awareness. Also called "right mindfulness". Developing awareness, "if you hold yourself dear watch yourself well". Levels of Awareness and mindfulness - of things, oneself, feelings, thought, people and Reality.

            8. Samma-Samadhi — Full, Integral or Holistic Samadhi. This is often translated as concentration, meditation, absorption or one-pointedness of mind. None of these translations is adequate. Samadhi literally means to be fixed, absorbed in or established at one point, thus the first level of meaning is concentration when the mind is fixed on a single object. The second level of meaning goes further and represents the establishment, not just of the mind, but also of the whole being in various levels or modes of consciousness and awareness. This is Samadhi in the sense of enlightenment or Buddhahood.

            taken from here: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/8foldpath.htm (in case you want to read further).

            Nothing in the Path has anything to do with Christian principles or tenets. The entire point is to end suffering, not use it, to end attachment to this world, not embrace it as the steps to Heaven. There is no Heaven or Afterlife in pure Buddhism. Just oblivion. There is no God; no Redeemer; no Trinity; no...

            The few missionaries who dealt with Buddhism grossly misunderstood it, and tried to project their own faith onto it.

            It has NOTHING in common with Christianity.

            I know. I'm a Buddhist.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            Thanks for the summary. when i was in the seminary i took a "eastern philosophy" class so we learned a bit of eastern though. i'm aware that buddhism can be summarized as follow. all suffering is caused by desire. overcome desire or rid oneself of desire (unruly desire) and one rids themselves of suffering. once free of suffering one becomes happy naturally. but much of buddhism does revolved around overcoming self, not being a slave of "self", if you want an example i would suggest Saddartha by herman Hess, which is just a story but it kind of brings a lot of their thought together. Buddhism is similar to Christianity in many respects in terms of overcoming self, being aware and attendtive to "the spirit" (can't remember the word) as i said before, they did not have the "fullness" of revelation so their ideology was not yet entirely aware of eternity. yet they did have some notions of eternity in nature etc. buddhism is similar to some aspects of Christianity in the sense that the foundation has been established, but the building still needs to be completed.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Hi Solange,Thanks for the summary. when i was in the seminary i took a "eastern philosophy" class so we learned a bit of eastern though.

            And I'm actually a Buddhist. You took a single class in seminary. I'd suggest that trying to instruct me in Buddhism would be rather like me trying to explain basic Christian doctrine to you. Offensive.

            i'm aware that buddhism can be summarized as follow. all suffering is caused by desire. overcome desire or rid oneself of desire (unruly desire) and one rids themselves of suffering. once free of suffering one becomes happy naturally. but much of buddhism does revolved around overcoming self, not being a slave of "self", if you want an example i would suggest Saddartha by herman Hess, which is just a story but it kind of brings a lot of their thought together.

            Are you seriously trying to suggest Siddhartha - a novel by a German author - as saying anything real about Buddhism?

            And I'm afraid you've rather misunderstood both the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Detachment is the Buddhist theme here - where does have a correspondence in Christianity.

            Buddhism is similar to Christianity in many respects in terms of overcoming self,

            You're going to have to explain that further. So far as I can see, they have nothing in common here.

            being aware and attendtive to "the spirit" (can't remember the word) as i said before,

            False. If you're trying to offer some sort of idea of Dharmakaya as an equivalent to god, they are utterly different concepts.

            they did not have the "fullness" of revelation so their ideology was not yet entirely aware of eternity. yet they did have some notions of eternity in nature etc.

            But Christianity doesn't talk about eternity in nature. Once again, Buddhist thought (whichever vehicle you're talking about) emphasizes eternal recurrence.

            buddhism is similar to some aspects of Christianity in the sense that the foundation has been established, but the building still needs to be completed.

            I'm sorry, that doesn't even make sense. Could you expland?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            I didn't know you were a Buddhist, i apologize if i offended you. Perhaps this analogy hits a little too close to home and thus we cold just drop the topic but i do remember studying a "revelation theology" which does in fact draw similar lines between the two faiths. we very well may have to disagree but i think there's a similarity in the sense that overcoming a life enslaved to the flesh leads to a more fulfilled life. and also that there is a need to be attentive to something of a spiritual realm. In the USA it's kind of a fashionable thing to consider oneself a Buddhist but it doesn't seem to move beyond meditation. Thomas Merton wrote a book called Contemplative prayer. he had his intro written by a Buddhist Monk named Thich Nhat Hanh whom he had befriended and who recognized many of the similarities between the two faiths. Awareness by Anthony De Mello also incorporated a lot of Buddhist thought into his book which i found to be a very helpful book to assist others dealing with various issues.

            In Christianity part of one's spiritual growth is to clear out or to make room for God in one's life or heart. Buddhism also incorporates a bit of a "clearing out" for something spiritual. Thus it is certainly possible that if Jesus was the Incarnation then the same spirit present in his life and in his community could have been present with Buddhists communities. I hope i didn't offend you by drawing parallels and if it does I think it would be better just to drop the topic.

          • Ignorant Amos

            In that you answered me in such a likable and concise manner, I'm going to say you're a gentleman. I'll add the "I don't really know ya" caveat.

            I am out on the rip in a moment...so I'll not be replying in a 'compos mentis' manner until a bit later. What I will ask is why are you a Roman Catholic? How you became such? Under what societal confines you became the religious person you are? I'll understand if any of those questions are too personal to answer for whatever reason.

          • BenS

            In that you answered me in such a likable and concise manner, I'm going to say you're a gentleman.

            Fr.Sean seems to be easily the most decent person on here. I've said in a previous post that it's a shame he's a Catholic. If he wasn't hampered by all the immoral teachings of the Church, he'd be a saint...

          • Fr.Sean

            Thank you Ben! By the way, i too (not entirely sure if this is what you mean) used to think of God as an angry old man with a whip. Experience has shown me that he's nothing like that, but i would agree, if that's what he was like, being a priest would be a near impossibility! Thanks for your compliment!

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            That is a good question and trying to summarize one's spiritual/faith journey in a few lines is a bit of a task but i'll try. First let me start with this idea. discussing topics with atheists and with people of faith has made me realize (assuming God exists) that most people of faith come to faith via an "awe ha" moment where they learn about something or study the faith and come to his point where they think something like; "this is just too amazing, God has to exist" or something to that effect. two examples would be Lewis where when he was attempting to prove God does not exist he couldn't come up with a rational explanation to the natural law. he couldn't figure out why when he did good, was unselfish or kind he felt good, why when he was selfish or unkind he felt bad? where did that idea come from? it didn't mesh with evolution thus it made a bit of a "turn" in his thinking to think perhaps God does exist. Libresco came to an "awe ha" moment via a similar route. she too concluded that the natural law was something beyond us, we aspire to, when she happened upon the idea that it was a person, or entity she had her awe ha moment and began to look at the faith from a positive perspective. pondering these things made me realize something (of course i'm abbreviating) most people of faith come to a point where they realize God is real, a little subtle change in their minds leads to a change in the way they view God, their lives and existence.

            Realizing this gave me a deeper understanding of atheism. i used to think atheists were either people who were mad at God, were treated unfairly by other people of faith or simply didn't want to deal with the faith topic. one day i realized after reading an article in a newspaper that most atheists are atheists because they don't see it, they don't believe God exists and think people of faith are all just following myths, or traditional ideologies that evolved because people apply intention to things they don't understand such as storms and earthquakes. God is nothing more than an invisible agent of the unexplainable thus now that we know a great deal more we no longer need the "God" hypothesis. thus i think (although i may be wrong) that many atheists have a part of them that want to believe God exists and would like us to give them some empirical proof.

            Anyway, after pondering a little about this "awe ha" moment phenomenon i thought about my own life and realized that the faith topic didn't always make sense to me. i went to Catholic School and had Catholic parents. Going to church and praying when i was young, i did believe in God, but when i got into my teen years, like all teens i started to question everything about what my parents believed. i could remember thinking one day, "is all this stuff really true, or real, i mean how do we know? i remembered being a little familiar with scripture and just wondering, how do we know? some time later, probably around 14 or so i was reading an excerpt from a book about padre pio. i had read that he healed someone of something and then he has also knew something about someone who was coming to confession and i thought, "how could he know that? God has to exist, because padre pio has to have some divine knowledge and ability to have been able to do those things." (not trying to get into a discussion about how true the book was just pointing out what (assuming God exists) God used to get me to an awe ha moment.) Thus i believe most atheists were somewhat in line with the way i thought back then.

            Thus, i continued to have a somewhat nominal prayer life and went to church. i started drinking with friends on the weekend in 8th grade. one of my friends some time around my senior year were perhaps the most rebellious. he occasionally used cocaine, smoked pot on a daily basis, was quite affectionate with women, got in a lot of fights etc. at one point he stopped most of the drugs but still drank a lot. only now, he started talking about God. every time he drank it was like it loosened him up to talk about what had been on his mind was God Jesus etc. he quit drinking, and completely changed his life. (most of my friends spoke of him as if he had died, which i found a little funny) we remained friends and would occasionally talk about faith etc. he was not raised in a family where the faith was encouraged but he began to become aware of something. he felt God was sending him little signs etc. and when he responded to them he began to get evidence these were not simply coincidences. eventually he went on to become part of a christian church and committed his life to the Lord. thus he began to challenge me about my Catholic faith. i was convinced about Jesus, but he raised questions which i went and looked for answers. To summarize what i learned, all Christians were basically of the same type, Catholic or Orthodox until the sixteenth century. If Luther and the reformers were right about the reformation, why don't they agree on everything? how could they be right when they don't agree? i came to see the Church had never changed any of her teachings handed down in councils and thus had evidence that she was the true church, however she had had many corrupt popes as well as many corrupt bishops yet not one of them succeeded in creating some clearly negative or flawed teaching.

            Nevertheless, my friend inspired me to be more involved in my faith and i could clearly see the change that had taken place, he was certainly excited about his faith, and it has a profound effect upon his life.

            when i was about 21 or so i went on a retreat because my dad, who went every year asked me to go with him. i wanted to learn more about my faith and perhaps grow so i went. on the first evening someone was going to give a talk in the chapel. i had gone down a little early to pray in the Church, when i walked in the church was rather empty. all of the sudden i felt like something opened up at the top of my head and poured something down within me. i felt like hyper aware of everything, i felt a profound feeling of love and peace, i felt God, i stood there dumbfounded and motionless for some time. it was the first time i really felt how real God was. that same feeling has occurred about 7 other times and it wasn't until about a year ago i realized that every time it happened (except for once) it was in front of the blessed Sacrament. Realizing how real, personal and loving God was forever changed the way i viewed life, and the people around me.
            assuming my knowledge of God is correct has led me to see that atheists need to be met where they are and that if we (people of faith) can give you consistent answers to why we believe what we do in a respectful manner than chances are good that although we may not be able to give you empirical proof of God's existence something we may say and the way we treat you (along with prayer) may lead you to an awe ha moment. i suppose that is why i'm catholic and why i'm on this website. thanks for taking the time to read this post!

          • Ignorant Amos

            First let me start with this idea. discussing topics with atheists and with people of faith has made me realize (assuming God exists) that most people of faith come to faith via an "awe ha" moment where they learn about something or study the faith and come to his point where they think something like; "this is just too amazing, God has to exist" or something to that effect.

            This may, or may not, be the case. It also applies in the other direction. For two reasons. Learning the vast scale and time of the cosmos seems to me to be a bit grandiose for a being that is allegedly fixated with one particular species, on one orbiting rock, in the universal back of beyond and in a time frame of mere moments ago in the grand scale of things.

            Then when I dug deep into the history of this particular religion I discovered all sorts of insurmountable issues that I just can't square the circle with.

            two examples would be Lewis where when he was attempting to prove God does not exist he couldn't come up with a rational explanation to the natural law. he couldn't figure out why when he did good, was unselfish or kind he felt good, why when he was selfish or unkind he felt bad? where did that idea come from? it didn't mesh with evolution thus it made a bit of a "turn" in his thinking to think perhaps God does exist.

            I'm not impressed by conversion stories. You do know Lewis converted from Church of Ireland, my own particular flavour of Christianity, to Atheism, then to Church of England, a variation of the C of I? All that theological debating with Tolkien wasn't enough to get Lewis to Catholicism. As an apologist some of his thoughts are criticised. Lewis's trilemma of "Mad, Bad, or God" seems to be of particular embarrassment to scholarship.

            Libresco came to an "awe ha" moment via a similar route. she too concluded that the natural law was something beyond us, we aspire to, when she happened upon the idea that it was a person, or entity she had her awe ha moment and began to look at the faith from a positive perspective.

            I have to admit that I hadn't a clue who this person is, I'm still not sure the relevance of you citing her. From what I've just read, she herself is breaking that "natural law" according to Catholicism. Doesn't bode really does it?

            pondering these things made me realize something (of course i'm abbreviating) most people of faith come to a point where they realize God is real, a little subtle change in their minds leads to a change in the way they view God, their lives and existence.

            Pondering seems to do the opposite for many though. When folk give their religion any in depth thought from an evidence perspective, which is rare I'll grant, many through that religion away. Remember, most have not read their scripture. Those that have, fail to understand it. Those that claim understanding, make the many various interpretation. There is good reason why the church held on to the scriptures for so long before it was made available to the laity. One got their scriptures from the pulpit. The pulpit is not in the business of pointing out the problems with scripture, and those in the pews are not that interested in finding out for themselves.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,

            I try to summarize your critiques then simply respond;

            "orbiting rock, in the universal back of beyond and in a time frame of mere moments ago in the grand scale of things.

            Then when I dug deep into the history of this particular religion I discovered all sorts of insurmountable issues that I just can't square the circle with.

            Again when evaluating a topic there are two ways to look at the issue, one positive and the other negative. when you mention about the universe i tend to think it's grandiose size and magnificant structrure does point to a creator. John Lennox quoted a cosmologist as saying for life to be possible on another planet similar to our own (beyond just bacteria and such) there is something like on in a 30 million or billion chances that things could be so perfect, and that's just in our universe without getting into all of the astronomical chances that our stars and planets would be able to form in the first place. Because our world is so "perfectly" fine tuned so support life i believe does point to a creator.

            with respect to Catholicism i do not find any insurmountable issues but i do find probelms with how certain bishops, priests or popes have indeed acted in an immoral way. still the Churches teachings seem to be coherent and sound.

            With respect to Lewis and Libresco, i was merely attempting to show how two atheists after investigating the topic fully ended up converting. thus they are an example that someone steeped in science, "reason and logic" were led to the faith. Librisco was an atheist blogger. she had her own atheist website but ended up converting after investigating various aspects of morality. http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/06/22/prominent-atheist-blogger-converts-to-catholicism

            Finally, there are various ways to look at scripture. one i'll point out is called (i'm sure you've heard of it) the historical/ critical method, which looks at the Scriptures in a critical (in the sense of trying to understand specifically what occured and how the text was formed) way. the other way to look at scripture is through prayer and reflection. most people that use both methods move towards and understanding of seeing how God worked in the lives of people in biblical times to gain a better understanding of how God may be working in their lives right now. Furthermore the reason the scriptures weren't avilable to everybody was because every bible was made from scribes copying former manuscripts. it would be vary expensive to buy a copy of the bible in ancient times since the paper, or parchment was hard to come by as well as the ink. not to mention all of the time it took for one to copy the entire text. bibles were always available for the laity to look at but only in the church as it was seen as an expensive and valuable item until of course the developed the printing press.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Realizing this gave me a deeper understanding of atheism. i used to think atheists were either people who were mad at God, were treated unfairly by other people of faith or simply didn't want to deal with the faith topic. one day i realized after reading an article in a newspaper that most atheists are atheists because they don't see it, they don't believe God exists and think people of faith are all just following myths, or traditional ideologies that evolved because people apply intention to things they don't understand such as storms and earthquakes. God is nothing more than an invisible agent of the unexplainable thus now that we know a great deal more we no longer need the "God" hypothesis. thus i think (although i may be wrong) that many atheists have a part of them that want to believe God exists and would like us to give them some empirical proof.

            Most Atheists don't give the subject much consideration. You don't give any of the worlds other religions much consideration I bet. To that end, you are Atheist about all other gods bar the one you favour. Let me write your comment a different way...

            "... after reading an article in a newspaper that most Christians are Christians because they don't see it, they don't believe Ganesha exists and think people of the Hindu faith are all just following myths, or traditional ideologies that evolved because people apply intention to things they don't understand such as storms and earthquakes. Ganesha is nothing more than an invisible agent of the unexplainable thus now that we know a great deal more we no longer need the "Ganesha" hypothesis. thus i think (although i may be wrong) that many Christians have a part of them that want to believe Ganesha exists and would like us to give them some empirical proof."

            How does that gel?

            You seem to be getting hung up on the one version of god here...a common problem with the theist mind. The Atheist just doesn't favour one above the rest of the supernatural mythology.

            Anyway, after pondering a little about this "awe ha" moment phenomenon i thought about my own life and realized that the faith topic didn't always make sense to me. i went to Catholic School and had Catholic parents. Going to church and praying when i was young, i did believe in God, but when i got into my teen years, like all teens i started to question everything about what my parents believed.

            You had indoctrination from early on from the predisposition of your parents beliefs. Had you been born Innuit, Tupi or Melanesian, I'm sure things would have been much different.

            i could remember thinking one day, "is all this stuff really true, or real, i mean how do we know? i remembered being a little familiar with scripture and just wondering, how do we know?

            some time later, probably around 14 or so i was reading an excerpt from a book about padre pio. i had read that he healed someone of something and then he has also knew something about someone who was coming to confession and i thought, "how could he know that? God has to exist, because padre pio has to have some divine knowledge and ability to have been able to do those things." (not trying to get into a discussion about how true the book was just pointing out what (assuming God exists) God used to get me to an awe ha moment.)

            That is about as weak an argument for belief as I've heard.

            Thus i believe most atheists were somewhat in line with the way i thought back then.

            No, they really are not...you need some work on how you think Atheist think.

            Thus, i continued to have a somewhat nominal prayer life and went to church. ... he was not raised in a family where the faith was encouraged but he began to become aware of something. he felt God was sending him little signs etc. and when he responded to them he began to get evidence these were not simply coincidences.

            Incredulity again. Coincidences are far more prevalent than your friend appears to realize. Call it synchronicity.

            "It is no great wonder if in long process of time, while fortune takes her course hither and thither, numerous coincidences should spontaneously occur." (Plutarch)

            To summarize what i learned, all Christians were basically of the same type, Catholic or Orthodox until the sixteenth century.

            That is just not the case though Sean.

            If Luther and the reformers were right about the reformation, why don't they agree on everything?

            Bingo!! That is an excellent question. But the important question is why did Luther nailed his treatise to the church door?

            "He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money."

            Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum was in direct opposition to Pope Leo X and his corruption.

            "In 1517, Pope Leo X offered indulgences for those who gave alms to rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The aggressive marketing practices of Johann Tetzel in promoting this cause provoked Martin Luther to write his Ninety-Five Theses, condemning what he saw as the purchase and sale of salvation."

            how could they be right when they don't agree?

            They can't. But for every snake oil salesman looking an easy way to make a buck its simple enough, start your own Christian cult and jump on the band wagon.

            How can Catholicism be right when it didn't agree with contemporary Christian sects of the early 4th century?

            How can Catholicism be right when it didn't agree with all the Christian sects before the early 4th century?

            i came to see the Church had never changed any of her teachings handed down in councils and thus had evidence that she was the true church,...

            You actually believe that Sean? Doctrine and dogma has been created and revised since the first council in 325 when the Christianity that won the day got a leg up. Other Christianities also still available.

            ...however she had had many corrupt popes as well as many corrupt bishops yet not one of them succeeded in creating some clearly negative or flawed teaching.

            The Papal infallibility doctrine that was defined dogmatically in the First Vatican Council of 1869–1870 and nearly brought the church to its knees.

            It's not for me to tell you how to believe, but be careful what you believe.

            when i was about 21 or so i went on a retreat because my dad, who went every year asked me to go with him. i wanted to learn more about my faith and perhaps grow so i went. on the first evening someone was going to give a talk in the chapel. i had gone down a little early to pray in the Church, when i walked in the church was rather empty. all of the sudden i felt like something opened up at the top of my head and poured something down within me. i felt like hyper aware of everything, i felt a profound feeling of love and peace, i felt God, i stood there dumbfounded and motionless for some time. it was the first time i really felt how real God was. that same feeling has occurred about 7 other times and it wasn't until about a year ago i realized that every time it happened (except for once) it was in front of the blessed Sacrament. Realizing how real, personal and loving God was forever changed the way i viewed life, and the people around me.

            Scientists are able to explain this phenomena.

            "University of Missouri researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences. Based on a previously published study that indicated spiritual transcendence is associated with decreased right parietal lobe functioning, MU researchers replicated their findings. In addition, the researchers determined that other aspects of spiritual functioning are related to increased activity in the frontal lobe."

            But even if it was a god experience, you are still faced with the problem of explaining all similar god experiences of those in other religions. Even non-believers have what they would call spiritual experiences, it doesn't advance your God hypothesis.

            assuming my knowledge of God is correct has led me to see that atheists need to be met where they are and that if we (people of faith) can give you consistent answers to why we believe what we do in a respectful manner than chances are good that although we may not be able to give you empirical proof of God's existence something we may say and the way we treat you (along with prayer) may lead you to an awe ha moment.

            Not for me unfortunately. I'm an empirical proof kind of person in any case, the Judeo Christian religion is anything but consistent. You are definitely respectful though, I grant you that. Unusual among proselytizers I've experienced.

            i suppose that is why i'm catholic and why i'm on this website. thanks for taking the time to read this post!

            It's been a blast...thanks for sharing and I trust I've not been over bombastic in return.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,
            Perhaps i should have been a little more clear in my intro to the last post. i was not attempting to give a full description of why one should be Catholic. i was merely attempting to answer your question so much of it was subjective. i was merely attempting to summarize how i came to believe as i do in the Catholic Church, but i'm sure there could be a much better description of or proof of the Catholic faith.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Apologies right back at ya...I've been offline a couple of days myself.

            I suppose that was a question in my mind as well, (however i had already had faith before i thought of it so i can't say i can totally understand how you may see it).

            Most of us did. We inherited the predisposition of our parents beliefs before escaping whichever particular millstone that might happened to have been.

            i rememeber reading that the Catholic Faith teaches that not all other faiths's are "wrong" in the sense that they are totally human creations. If we start with the perspective that (assuming God exists for the sake of argument) God sowed the question of his existence within our hearts and thus it's a naturally human desire to "Know" God or at least to learn things about him, then we might see various faith's cooperating to some extent with the Holy Spirit.

            Yes, and my question remains (assuming God exists for the sake of argument), why is there so much diversity? Furthermore, given that all faiths are not wrong, how can you be so sure you've backed the right horse.

            I would reflect upon the Gospels, perhaps read Mere Christianity and a few other books from an apologetic perspective.

            I have reflected on the gospels and their anonymity, contradictions, interpolations, forgery, non-contemporaneous witness, inventions, exaggerations, lack of citation, historical inaccuracies and later alterations. But given you've attended seminary, you are well aware of these issues.

            If you're open and honest in your evaluation, and you're objective i think you may discover something about who Jesus is and what he should mean for your life.

            At best, Jesus was a person, or number of persons, whom a religion was constructed around. Historical or myth, it doesn' and didn't matter to the success of that religion. That the religion got completely out of control and continues to do so, only imbues me with the fact that the religion is no more worthy of consideration than all those other belief systems that you are also sceptical about.

            Also pray for God to reveal himself to you.

            That is like me asking you to pray to Ganesha to reveal himself to you. It's a wee bit of a stretch, given that I no more believe in the capital 'G' god than you believe in the four armed, elephant headed Ganesha. With over a billion followers of that ancient religion that has its origins pre-dating the Hebrews and their God, how could it be so wrong, right?

            I think if you take a basic view of each of the primary abrahamic faith's, you investigate them and pray for understanding and guidance, I'm sure you'll have your prayers answered. I will pray for you too.

            Sorry Padre, I've bigger fish to fry....and it's nice enough of you to offer, but no thanks.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ignorant Amos,
            Thanks for taking the time for all of your detailed responses. you raise a lot of good questions and so that we don't end up writing a book i figured i would attempt to summarize a bit. Last week i was up at Lake Chautauqua in south western New York on a fishing trip. in the evening we were sleeping in a trailer cabin that we rented for the evening. sometime in the course of the evening the bed started shaking. i wasn't quite sure what was going on but figured since it was a cabin on that was actually a mobile home i figured one of the guys had gotten up and was walking around or something. Later, in the morning i mentioned that i thought the cabin shook quite a bit for someone just walking around. we found out that none of us got up during the night yet all of us remembered the cabin shaking. Naturally we were all a little puzzled because we didn't know what it was. later when i went to a local gas store i mentioned it to the woman behind the counter who said chautauqua lake was on a fault line and thus at times there are tremors. thus the mystery was solved we understood the source of the phenomenon. i suppose in a sense the notion of God is similar. Many people believe things couldn't have come about by pure mathematical chance and we look at nature, the goodness of humanity, the desire or compulsion to do good and believe there is a source for all of these things. I know the atheistic response is to simply say the idea of God really boils down to attributing intention to an invisible agent, but i don't think that's an adequate explanation. when one thinks about the possibility of a God it would seem reasonable that that God would reveal some things to us about himself/herself and about the role of man in relation to God. In antiquity many religons positited almost an athropromorphic idea of what these "God's" were like. Hinduism seems to be a carry over from those ancient religions. the three most prominent religions of Judiasm, Islam, and Christianity all seem to highlight a God who is good, loving, omnipotent and yet still greater than our finite minds can fathom. i feel that Islam still posits a faith that has too many contradictions with the natural law or the goodness of humanity. Judaism almost seems to establish a foundation for the incarnation, which seem vary reasonable. one would have to know something of revelation before God could take on a human form, furthermore by the fact that Judaism rejected Jesus as a whole seems to make him more avilable for any nation or people to be able to be open to him. if the incarnation had occurred in Scotland or France there's a pretty good chance that people in England, Ireland or Germany may just see it as a national "religion" and thus reject what he was about. but because he was almost independent of any nation or people than anybody and everybody would be free to evaluate who Jesus truly is. With respect to Catholicism we might be putting the cart before the horse at this point. if at a point you conclude that perhaps Jesus truly was the Son of God then we can discuss which denomination appear to reflect his message most accurately.
            Furthemore, perhaps an event I had read about my most accurately convey a point about why I believe Jesus is who he says he is. Cardinal Dolan tells a story of when he was Fr.Dolan of how he had prepared a young couple for marriage. he says that the young woman was catholic and the young man was not raised in any particular faith. however the young man expressed interest in the faith, so Fr.Dolan recommended a few books which the young man read in a brief period of time. when he came back for the next meeting Fr.Dolan asked him if he was interested in converting. the young man said he really liked all of the theology, he enjoyed reading about the faith, but there was still one problem, he just didn't believe. Fr.Dolan remembered faith was a gift so he told the young man to go home and pray for the gift. he did so and at there next meeting he said he believed it all and was interested in converting.

            as we are talking about these issues I can testify to the fact that i too evaluated various aspects of the faith, but once God in a sense reveals himself to you and you know him as a person than the possible idea of Jesus simply being a mythological person becomes a bit of an impossibility. i know some have said that you can measure "religious experiences" as being simply chemical reactions in the brain and such but only people still on the other side of the fence would be able to posit that. those of us on this side of the fence would just recognize that perhaps spiritual experiences do perhaps leave a chemical effect in the brain that can be measured, but the spiritual experience or understanding God in a personal way is as clear as the computer sitting in front of you.

            That perhaps is why i feel it's important to not attempt to look at every Christian religion to see which one seems most accurate, but start with who Jesus is. as i said i don't feel every other Christian faith is "wrong" they too have truth and i recognize them as authentic Christians.

      • Doug Shaver

        but all we can do is point the way, they have to make the choice to walk in it.

        And I just might make that choice, if you can give me some better reason than your personal assurance that the path will take me where you say it will take me.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Doug,
          That's a good question. I first think it's important to recognize what amount of certainity we have when we make a choice about anything in life. usually it's a little better than 50/50 while recognizing that not making a choice is also a choice. i guess you could say we're pondering two points of knowledge, faith and reason. we all make decisions based on a combination of both. if you were to set my "personal assurance" aside i would point to two pieces of evidence. 1. follow any natural indication of God's existence, while not allowing yourself to be distracted by issues that take you off the subject you're studying. if they're only distractions from the evidence ask whether they're credible distractions. 2. millions of people claim a similar experience when they have followed a similar line of reasoning. it isn't likely that millions have discovered a similar experience all the while they are decieved or are attempting to decieve? if you have any questions i would be happy to try to answer them for you, but one thing i can assure you of with certainity is that i do not have all the answers!

          • Doug Shaver

            I first think it's important to recognize what amount of certainity we have when we make a choice about anything in life.

            I try to do that. I'm OK with Bayesian reasoning.

            i guess you could say we're pondering two points of knowledge, faith and reason. we all make decisions based on a combination of both.

            That would depend on how you're defining faith. I've talked with enough Christians to know not to assume that we're talking about the same thing when the subject of faith comes up.

            If you mean that we all believe things we cannot prove, and that we routinely act on those unprovable beliefs, then you're obviously correct. But I do not distinguish all beliefs of that sort from knowledge. In my epistemology, a justifiable claim to knowledge does not entail the kind of absolute certainty we get from a mathematical proof. If I know something, then I feel certain that it is true, but in that context, by "certainty" I do not mean the elimination of any possibility that I could be mistaken.

            i would point to two pieces of evidence. 1. follow any natural indication of God's existence, while not allowing yourself to be distracted by issues that take you off the subject you're studying.

            I recently earned a second bachelor's degree while holding down a full-time job and giving my wife the attention she deserves. I think I know how to study properly amid distractions.

            2. millions of people claim a similar experience when they have followed a similar line of reasoning. it isn't likely that millions have discovered a similar experience all the while they are decieved or are attempting to decieve?

            As for attempting to deceive, I'm not the sort of atheist who thinks that is what religion is all about. It could be how some particular religions got started, but that topic is not relevant to the present discussion.

            As for millions of people being deceived . . . I'm an old man. I have myself been deceived many times about many things, and I have seen no reason to suspect that my experiences in that regard are in any way unusual. I made those mistakes for the simple reason of my human nature, and because it is just human nature, it affects us all. So, is it likely that millions of people -- billions, even -- could be deceived about God? I don't know a single reason why not.

            if you have any questions i would be happy to try to answer them for you, but one thing i can assure you of with certainity is that i do not have all the answers!

            That's OK. I'm not looking for all the answers. I also don't have any problem saying "I don't know" or hearing other people say it.

          • Fr.Sean

            i guess you could say we're pondering two points of knowledge, faith and reason. we all make decisions based on a combination of both.

            Tha t would depend on how you're defining faith. I've talked with enough Christians to know not to assume that we're talking about the same thing when the subject of faith comes up.

            you're right, i'm referring to faith in a general way. but i don't think that makes it less important. if one makes decisons on the idea that God exists without having knowledge that God exists you could say that they are making decisions that aren't supported by empirical evidence. but if one makes decisions based on the idea that God does not exist without having empirical evidence that God does not exist than they are also making a similar decision with reference to faith in a general way.

            In my epistemology, a justifiable claim to knowledge does not entail the kind of absolute certainty we get from a mathematical proof. If I know something, then I feel certain that it is true, but in that context, by "certainty" I do not mean the elimination of any possibility that I could be mistaken.

            just so i understand where you're coming from; would you consider yourself more of an atheist or agnostic? Naturally we all have varied amounts of certainity but we still have to make decisions in life. if i am too uncertain about making a decision on a certain subject i think it's natural to investigate the subject further to become more certain about the evidence or my knowledge of the subject? if one was a theist, but had no personal knowledge or experience of anything metaphysical, it may be natural to investigate a more atheistic philosophy. likewise, if one were an atheist, but still had uncertainity about God's existence it may be natural to investigate why people believe in God or what their apparent relationship with "God" does for their life, from a theistic perspective? would that not be fair to say?
            i would point to two pieces of evidence. 1. follow any natural indication of God's existence, while not allowing yourself to be distracted by issues that take you off the subject you're studying.

            I recently earned a second bachelor's degree while holding down a full-time job and giving my wife the attention she deserves. I think I know how to study properly amid distractions.

            I apologize, i didn't mean to sound pedantic. it just appears at least from my perspective that every skeptical rebuttal of evidence for God's existence isn't an actual rebuttal but more of a method of changing the subject. in my opinion the one argument that seems to have some weight to it is how can a omnipotent and all loving God allow really bad things to happen to good people.
            2. millions of peopl e claim a similar experience when they have followed a similar line of reasoning. it isn't likely that millions have discovered a similar experience all the while they are decieved or are attempting to decieve?

            As for millions of people being deceived . . . I'm an old man. I have myself been deceived many times about many things, and I have seen no reason to suspect that my experiences in that regard are in any way unusual. I made those mistakes for the simple reason of my human nature, and because it is just human nature, it affects us all. So, is it likely that millions of people -- billions, even -- could be deceived about God? I don't know a single reason why not.

            well, i think it's natural for human's to be decieved. but when the majority of the population over time all seem to have an innate concept of "God", the after life, the natural law, and a mirad of other things that aren't able to prove empiracally than i'm not sure it seems reasonable to assume that all of them are decieved? deception often occures with groups of people but it usually only lasts for a limited amout of time among a smaller group of people. when the majority of the world seems to have certain innate instincts of something metaphysical i'm not sure it's entirely logical to assume it all falls under the "invisiable agent" theory and thus they are almost all decieved?
            if you have any questions i would be happy to try to answer them for you, but one thing i can assure you of with certainity is that i do not have all the answers!

            That's OK. I'm not looking for all the answers . I also don't have any problem saying "I don't know" or hearing other people say it.

            thanks Doug, i do enjoy the discussion, and i hope you do as well.

          • Doug Shaver

            if one makes decisons on the idea that God exists without having knowledge that God exists you could say that they are making decisions that aren't supported by empirical evidence. but if one makes decisions based on the idea that God does not exist without having empirical evidence that God does not exist than they are also making a similar decision with reference to faith in a general way.

            For me, the only useful concept of faith would treat it as an assumption. If you think you have good reason to believe God exists, then God's existence is not an assumption for you, and so in that strict sense, the decisions you make in reliance on that belief are not acts of faith. A similar argument would demonstrate that I am not acting on faith when I make decisions based on my belief that God is probably not real.

            Having said, that, I think the issue of a proper definition of faith is tangential to the epistemological issues surrounding religious belief. It's an interesting tangent, to be sure. I think semantic questions are vital. But they are distinct from epistemological questions.

            just so i understand where you're coming from; would you consider yourself more of an atheist or agnostic?

            In terms of common usage, my thinking is more consistent with atheism than agnosticism. I hold no belief that any god exists, and that makes me an atheist by the definition I regard as most useful. I also believe, though, that the proposition "There is no god" is probably true, and that makes me an atheist according to common usage. (It also entails that I do not believe the proposition "There is a god" is true.)

            I think my belief about God is justified, of course, but I don't think it is justified in the way, and to the degree, that are necessary if I am to claim that I know there is no god. According to my lexicon, which says an agnostic is one who does not know, that makes me an agnostic. However, this is apparently at odds with common usage, which seems to characterize agnosticism more in terms of indecision than lack of knowledge. I think there are cultural reasons for this confusion, which I think are as understandable as they are, in my view, regrettable.

            Naturally we all have varied amounts of certainity but we still have to make decisions in life. if i am too uncertain about making a decision on a certain subject i think it's natural to investigate the subject further to become more certain about the evidence or my knowledge of the subject?

            The reduction of uncertainty requires an investment of time and, usually, other resources. The wisdom of making that investment depends on many things, including the foreseeable consequences of making the wrong decision. If I believed that California's coastal highway was the shortest route from my home to San Francisco, I would be mistaken, but the consequence of that mistake would be only that it would take me longer to drive to San Francisco than if I took Interstate 5. On the other hand, if I wanted to enjoy some scenery along the way, it would be a mistake for me to believe Interstate 5 was the best route to take.

            As for my belief about God, a discussion of consequences would get us into Pascal's wager. For the moment, enough said. There is another thread on this site about that, and I have made a few posts to it already.

            if one was a theist, but had no personal knowledge or experience of anything metaphysical, it may be natural to investigate a more atheistic philosophy. likewise, if one were an atheist, but still had uncertainity about God's existence it may be natural to investigate why people believe in God or what their apparent relationship with "God" does for their life, from a theistic perspective? would that not be fair to say?

            I think it would be both fair and prudential.

            Apologists have sometimes asked me, "If you think religion is such a mistake, why do you spend so much time in our forums?" The primary answer is that, just like Christians, I have a worldview that I would like to propagate because I really think the world would be a better place if more people accepted it. And no, I don't mean atheism per se. A worldview is not a belief but a system of related beliefs. What I call a worldview is approximately what Kuhn called a paradigm, and I think the world needs another paradigm shift. I am not interested in promoting atheism as much as I am in promoting the kind of thinking that made me an atheist. I don't assume that everyone who accepts my paradigm will necessarily become an atheist. Nearly everyone I know who does accept it is an atheist, but not quite all of them. (And I guess I ought to note that in calling it "my paradigm," I intend no implication that I originated it. It had its origins in what western historians like to call the Enlightenment.)

            But I try not to just preach. I feel obliged to be as receptive to challenges to my worldview as I ask my adversaries to be to theirs. I feel committed to the notion that no human being, myself not excluded, is infallible about anything. We cannot be infallible, because there is no way that nature could have endowed any of us with perfect cognitive faculties. Our fallibility does not justify the radical (and, in my judgment, incoherent) skepticism of the postmodernists. There is much that we can believe with enough confidence to stake our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor on it. But the price of this confidence is eternal vigilance against the temptation to think we have arrived at some epistemological promised land where we can dispense once and for all with the notion that we just might be mistaken.

            With that in mind, as I seek to show Christians the error of their ways, I try with all the good faith I can summon to let them show me the error of my ways.

            I apologize, i didn't mean to sound pedantic. it just appears at least from my perspective that every skeptical rebuttal of evidence for God's existence isn't an actual rebuttal but more of a method of changing the subject.

            If I seemed too touchy, I'm the one owing an apology. In my years of engaging apologists on the Web, this is the first forum I have found where the Christians were not either exclusively or overwhelmingly Protestant evangelicals. They are distressingly prone to equating unbelief with ignorance.

            The skeptical community does have its share of advocates who cannot defend their beliefs any better than the worst apologist for Christian fundamentalism. The world would not be a better place if more people thought the way they think. The present problem with the world is that too many people already think that way.

            well, i think it's natural for human's to be decieved. but when the majority of the population over time all seem to have an innate concept of "God", the after life, the natural law, and a mirad of other things that aren't able to prove empiracally than i'm not sure it seems reasonable to assume that all of them are decieved?

            I hope I'm not just assuming it. If I think that those beliefs are mistaken, then I must infer that those whole hold them are deceived. To make the prevalence of the beliefs evidence for their truth, you need a demonstration that the beliefs are of such a nature that it is improbable they would be so widespread if they were false. Given such a demonstration, I would have to reassess any justification I have to thinking that the beliefs are mistaken.

            i do enjoy the discussion, and i hope you do as well.

            I'm having a great time. Thank you very much.

          • Fr.Sean

            For me, the only useful concept of faith would treat it as an assumption. If you think you have good reason to believe God exists, then God's existence is not an assumption for you, and so in that strict sense, the decisions you make in reliance on that belief are not acts of faith. A similar argument would demonstrate that I am not acting on faith when I m ake deci sions based on my belief that God is probably not real.

            Hmm, well, i kind of agree, but we could be splitting hairs i suppose. My faith is built on what i've read from past (and what i believe to be) historical events, as well as decisions according to my faith and understanding, and finally on experiences i have had. Thus my faith in God is based on (what i believe to be) Historical events, + making decisoins according to my faith + experiences. Now, when i have to make a decision now you could say i have faith that the same God who came through for me in the past will come through for me in the present. you could make a similar analogy with a friend, although you would have empirical evidence that your friend exists. thus you may trust him or her with a task or assistance. they may have come through for you and therefore your confidence that they are a trustworthy individual may have increased. Conversely, you may have made decisions based on your belief that God does not exist and you may have found those decisions were the right decision and thus life without belief in God may have been a good thing for you. Therefore your confidence that God does not exist may have become stronger.

            Having said, that, I think the issue of a proper definition of faith is tangential to the epistemological issues surrounding religious belief. It's an interesting tangent, to be sure. I think semantic questions are vital. But they are distinct from epistemological questions.

            i would agree, but it is also important to recognize faith has different connotations that should be recognized.

            I think my belief about God is justified, of course, but I don't think it is justified in the way, and to the degree, that are necessary if I am to claim that I know there is no god. According to my lexicon, which says an agnostic is one who does no t know, that makes me an agnostic. However, this is apparently at odds with common usage, which seems to characterize agnosticism more in terms of indecision than lack of knowledge. I think there are cultural reasons for this confusion, which I think are as understandable as they are, in my view, regrettable.

            that seems to make sense. i think perhaps the biggest difference could be that an atheist is more inclined to adhere to atheistic explanations for evidence for God's existence while an agnostic is more "agnostic" about both the theist and atheist's explanations for evidence for God's existence. in both cases there is a lack in belief in God.
            Naturally we all have varied amounts of certainity but we still have to make decisions in life. if i am too uncertain about making a decision on a certain subject i think it's natural to investigate the subject further to become more certain about the evidence or my knowledge of the subject?

            The reduction of uncertainty requires an investment of time and, usually, other resources. The wisdom of making that investment depends on many things, including the foreseeable consequences of making the wrong decision. If I believed that California's coastal highway was the shortest route from my home to San Francisco, I would be mistaken, but the consequence of that mistake would be only that it would take me longer to drive to San Francisco than if I took Interstate 5. On the other hand, if I wanted to enjoy some scenery along the way, it would be a mistake for me to believe Interstate 5 was the best route to take.

            As for my belief about God, a discussion of consequences would get us into Pascal's wager. For t he momen t, enough said. There is another thread on this site about that, and I have made a few posts to it already.

            okay, that seems to make sense, no use trying to cover too many topics
            if one was a theist, but had no personal knowledge or experience of anything metaphysical, it may be natural to investigate a more atheistic philosophy. likewise, if one were an atheist, but still had uncertainity about God's existence it may be natural to investigate why people believe in God or what their apparent relationship with "God" does for their life, from a theistic perspective? would that not be fair to say?
            I th ink it w ould be both fair and prudential.

            Apologists have sometimes asked me, "If you think religion is such a mistake, why do you spend so much time in our forums?" The primary answer is that, just like Christians, I have a worldview that I would like to propagate because I really think the world would be a better place if more people accepted it. And no, I don't mean atheism per se. A worldview is not a belief but a system of related beliefs. What I call a worldview is approximately what Kuhn called a paradigm, and I think the world needs another paradigm shift. I am not interested in promoting atheism as much as I am in promoting the kind of thinking that made me an atheist. I don't assume that everyone who accepts my paradigm will necessarily become an atheist. Nearly everyon e I know who does accept it is an atheist, but not quite all of them. (And I guess I ought to note that in calling it "my paradigm," I intend no implication that I originated it. It had its origins in what western historians like to call the Enlightenment.)

            okay, i would like to read it if you can past a site for it.

            But I try not to just preach. I feel obliged to be as receptive to challenges to my worldview as I ask my adversaries to be to theirs. I feel committed to the notion that no human being, myself not excluded, is infallible about anything. We cannot be infallible, because there is no way that nature could have endowed any of us with perfect cognitive faculties. Our fallibility does not justify the radical (and, in my judgment, incoherent) skepticism of the postmodernists. There is much that we can believe with eno ugh conf idence to stake our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor on it. But the price of this confidence is eternal vigilance against the temptation to think we have arrived at some epistemological promised land where we can dispense once and for all with the notion that we just might be mistaken.

            I agree, thinking we've reached some epistemological promise land or we have all of the answers already doesn't leave us open to learn.

            With that in mind, as I seek to show Christians the error of their ways, I try with all the good faith I can summon to let them show me the error of my ways.

            i agree and often think humility is a forgotten virtue. i know many Christians (including myself) do have flaws in how we approach others.

            I apologize, i didn't mean to sound pedantic. it just appears at least from my perspective that eve ry skeptical rebuttal of evidence for God's existence isn't an actual rebuttal but more of a method of changing the subject.
            If I seemed too touchy, I'm the one owing an apology. In my years of engaging apologists on the Web, this is the first forum I have found where the Christians were not either exclusively or overwhelmingly Protestant evangelicals. They are distressingly prone to equating unbelief with ignorance.
            The skeptical community does have its share of advocates who cannot defend their beliefs any better than the worst apologist for Ch ristian fundamentalism. The world would not be a better place if more people thought the way they think. The present problem with the world is that too many people already think that way.

            many of my books are written by protestant authors and i recognize their faith as fellow believers, i'm starting to think fundamentalists are the most fertile ground for atheists. i've read a fair amount of skeptical material and often find that the author was either a fundamentalist in the past or the skeptic is arguing against Christians who have a fundamentalist approach to the bible. i recognize the Catholic Church has her flaws as well, but we don't simply equate doubt to being bad, and we don't believe the Bible was a court stenographer's account of history. the bible teaches faith, not necessarily science or history, although it may referr to historical events. doubt can be a good thing, in the long run it can strengthen faith.
            well, i think it's natural for human's to be decieved. but when the majority of the population over time all seem to have an innate concept of "God", the after life, the natural law, and a mirad of other things that aren't able to prove empiracally than i'm not sure it seems reasonable to assume that all of them are decieved?

            I hope I'm not just assuming it. If I think that those beliefs are mistaken, then I must infer that those whole hold them are deceived. To make the prevalence of the beliefs evidence for their truth, you need a demonstration that the beliefs are of such a nature that it is improbable they would be so widespread if they were false. Given such a demonstration, I would have to reassess any justification I have to thinking that the beliefs are mistaken.

            Well, i think there could be two questions kind of intertwined. the first has to do with the point i was making that being decieved is a natural part of human nature. we can all be decieved from time to time. but the nature of being decieved usually revolves around a select group of people during a short (in terms of history) period of time. there are some examples one can point to that show people by and large have been decieved for example an earth centered universe. but again, people had good reasons to believe we lived in an earth centered universe until gallalio. the nature of belief, the soul, God, the after life, etc. is something that has been embuned within humanity from the beginning. in other words, if i was to take belief "A" and say that for almost all time when history was being recorded until our own day somewhere around 90% of humans believed a certain thing and continue to do so. is it more likely that the 90% are wrong when it isn't a small group of people over a short period of time, or is it more likely that they would be right? the second aspect would be evidence that they were right. human testimony would perhaps be a good start. Personal experience and witness accounts of how peoples lives were changed and improved, out of body experiences where people have witnessed things and i suppose Miracles. I know and have read many skeptical rebuttal's to personal experience a witess accounts, but i think it may be better to deferr to the one who witnessed or experienced such an event than it is to trust someones instincts on why they "think" they have witnessed such an event. in other words, if i was a police officer attempting to determine what happened in a car accident i would rather hear from the actually witness than i would from an interpretation of the witnesses's testimony.

            i do enjoy the discussion, and i hope you do as well.
            my brother lived in San Diego by the way, california really is a beautiful state. we went up to Muir woods one day and was awed by all of the redwoods, but was dissappointed to find out the taller one's are further up north. the sequia's were also amazing. i know everything's relative but it was truely amazing to see something could grow that big and be that old. i hope you enjoy the rest of your sunday afternoon!

            I'm having a great time. Thank you very much.

    • Ignorant Amos

      Actually, I find it pretty ridiculous that any person could look at every thing that exists in this world, in this universe, and think it was all an accident. How silly.

      Or just your personal incredulity?

      Define "accident"? I think you might be a tad lost there.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Debra, when you are discussing religion with atheists, it has to be done on the basis of what the two parties share in common. I think the only common ground here is reason, so you have to employ arguments and evidence that are reasonable.

    • Doug Shaver

      So, those who walk away from the teachings of Christ, never knew Him.

      I used to be a Christian, but I never walked away from Christ. I walked away from people who told me about someone they called Christ.

  • Not James Deen

    I love that the OP has a pro-barebacking site. http://youtu.be/j8ZF_R_j0OY

  • severalspeciesof

    And once more what is being exposed in these OP's (IMO) is that there is: first the assumption that there is a god (and implicitly a particular god), then the post hoc explanations when this particular god doesn't fit observations...

  • Roger Hane

    I get tired of all this rhapsodizing about love, as if it's a force of nature or a sentient being. Maybe it's just oxytocin.

    • Max Driffill

      Not for God Roger,
      Its unclear that he could possibly have neurotransmitters at all.

  • Jasmine

    Actually the only reason you needed was that God is infinite and for God to show himself in this dimension or any other is a LIMITATION. He cannot be contained in a physical body of any size. If He did He would cease to be what makes God function as God. In fact God did this once 2,013 years ago in Jesus. When he came here he proved he was God by the virtue of his spirit, actions, humility and love-sacrifice not by simply showing himself. In turn, this made him worthy of our love, which is what he wanted. Love by free-will.

    • It's hard to follow this comment because you seems to be saying that if God did what God did then he would cease to be what makes God function as God even though he did it already. Can you clarify?

    • Windwalker

      Great answer Jaz!

  • Abu Hassan Al Hashimi

    A mask is asking
    why I cannot see the face of the actor
    That is funny
    because the only way to see him
    is to take you off his face

  • jesse

    If he has chosen to hide how do we know his name. why did he send his son to save us. why do we have the Bible..why do churches teach us his word. how do we know God's plans. And most of all we even know where he comes from the heavens or sky .. hidden hmmm might want to do this thing called reading the Bible. if you don't understand it that's because you are reading to fast. The word of God is meant to be heard by every ear. It was not meant to be heard by a select few.God chose all of humanity to hear his word.

    it's your choice if you want to seek his kingdom and Know his word that is filled with uncompromising truth,Joy,grace,peace,understanding,health,hope,knowedge,wisdom and God's promises of forgiveness and restoration and much much more. If you diligently seek him God will give you the desires of your heart.

  • Don_in_Odessa

    God does not hide. It is the limit of our perceptive abilities, in all our senses, that require an observable limit to his boundaries, that prevents us from observing Him directly. To see Him is to define Him and that places a limit on Him. God is not only all that we can perceive in thought or fact,He is more than we can even conceive of.

    We can only begin to know Him in our present form and abilities. He reveals Himself to those that choose to believe, not those that make demands of Him.

  • De Antonio

    Really? if God's exist, this article wont even have to be written.
    For what's there is obvious and dont need to be convinced further, sorry but i gave up on my faith, it's doing nothing in my life.

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  • screw the critics

    This is an excuse for an article, if god is powerful enough to create the universe and he wants us humans to believe in him he can make any evidence appear before our eyes with no effort. That's like your parents leaving a child at birth to leave him/her wondering for the rest of their life.

    This article is not logical and not rational, the basic ability to critically think would make you understand this.

    • Windwalker

      Arent the stars-oceans-change of seasons-life itself God showing Himself? Or are you simply a hardcore atheist?

  • It is difficult to love someone if you're not sure they exist. Regardless, God does not appear to have a problem with revealing himself in the Bible. I'm always surprised when Christians take this tack of arguing for divine hiddenness and its merits, given that. While it's true knowing God exists for sure would not make everyone love him, it would sure help.

  • Bill Cipher

    Light and Darkness don't mix.

  • Windwalker

    God IS Love. Its that simple. He doesnt "love" with a certain magnitude rather He is the actual Love we experience in life whomever it may be with. Two people in Love experience God (Love)- unlike most people who drag themselves to church on sundays. People who have a loving heart whom meditate upon Love are closer to God then the Pope is! In the deepest silence of meditation you will experience Love. Let Christ and the Himalayan yogis be your examples.

  • Joe2aT

    Hiding oneself the way God does can be presented as a virtue of some sort at first but the thrall eventually wears out. Think of a child whose father hides himself from him for years saying, "I want to test his faith in me. I want him to know I love him but I want him to find out for himself." So the father never writes, never sends money to support the child, never calls, never makes contact of any kind. The only sign he even exists is a portrait on the wall that says "Dad". How is the child supposed to react to all this? Is this really the best form a parenting a parent can devise? Is this really the best form a parenting a God can devise? In America such a dad would be labeled a deadbeat and possibly imprisoned for child abuse.

  • michael

    This article puts the cart before the horse. To love a parent you must be convinced the parent exists first, not the other way around. and through The Beatific Vision, we would be able to know of God's love through observation.