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An Open Letter to Atheists

Open Letter

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today's post comes from our friends at New Apologetics, a movement sharing a similar mission to Strange Notions. They use new media to dialogue about life's biggest questions, and have generated some great conversations on their Facebook page, which currently has over 65,000 followers. The authors of this article have offered to defend it and engage any questions or criticisms in the comment boxes below. So comment away!


 

As Catholic apologists, we want to do something that our name would suggest we do far more often:

We’d like to apologize.

By that we mean exactly what you would think; we want to say that we’re sorry. We understand that you might be suspicious right now, that you may be thinking that this is another “tactic” for drawing you in. It isn’t. In fact, having tactics is one of the things we’re sorry for.

You see, historically, we haven’t really known what to do with atheists. We felt helpless, and we wanted to do something. So we did something. You pointed out the ugliness in the way we held our beliefs, but we couldn’t see it because we were afraid.

We were afraid of losing ground to you, afraid (even within ourselves) that if we heard you, we would lose our own hope. It wasn’t all bad; there was something within us (under all of the unsound arguments) that we knew and recognized as true, good and beautiful, but we weren’t able to communicate it, and we thought your objections threatened it.

So, now we are going to come clean. And we are now going to come to your defense as human beings without asking anything of you in return.

To Tell You the Truth

 
We’ll just come right out and say it: Modern atheist rhetoric definitively smashes typical theist justifications about there being some divine purpose behind human tragedy. It doesn’t matter if the theist gets the technical win because of a slick argument. Debates on this topic invariably position the atheist in the manifestly righteous defense of the dignity of human persons and the right of innocence to go unmolested, while the well-intentioned, but humanistically impaired (and reaching) theist is left trying to sell a deity with inexplicable innocent blood on his “all-good” and all-powerful hands.

God can take care of himself; he doesn’t need our defense like that. Neither do we need to defend ourselves from looking foolish or from seeing what you see as clearly as you see it.

In response to your questions, a simple “I don’t know, but I believe that he’s good” would have been enough. It’s okay to look stupid if we believe he is defending us.

Time to tell the truth and shame the devil: We don’t really believe in God as much as we say. If we did, we would have had confidence enough to admit we were stumped. We would have remained silent out of respect for God, you, and ourselves: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9: 24).

We pray to have faith enough to see things from your perspective and still know we are safe.

Christian Apologists vs. Home Depot

 
We once saw a window screen with a sticker reading as follows:

“Warning: Screen will not prevent child from falling out of window.”

If one changes the word “screen” to “God”, then all thinking people who believe in God have a really keen problem. It seems that a pane of glass counts in protecting a child from tragedy, but omnipotence and infinite love do not. All the writings of Christian philosophers piled in a great heap before us do little to take the edge off the meditation introduced by this little sticker. There is no applicable knowledge on the part of the child, no informed consent, the horrendous fact that it’s a real child, an apparent infinity of opportunities for God (all-powerful and all-knowing) to intervene, and yet there is no intervention. Any attempt at explanation which says tragedy of this sort is for a ‘greater good’ is absolutely out of touch with reality.

As Catholics, we do believe that there is a reason for God to not prevent evil, and are assured that he never fails to bring a greater good out of every evil. However, this recognition has nothing to do with God “permitting” evil in the sense of “approving of innocent suffering for some higher purpose”.

We have often used those P-words (permits and purpose) to mean God does not oppose evil perfectly, and we were wrong.

All talk of God permitting the tragic suffering of children as a means to an end or as the intentional ‘shadow’ component in a masterful cosmic painting is such that it cries to heaven for vengeance, but it was the best we knew how to say.

The view of the Catholic Church is not the view of the apologists in this regard, and we were wrong to let you think it was.

“God is infinitely good and all his works are good… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

Wisdom. Arise. Let us be attentive: The conqueror of evil is not also its architect. And infinite goodness admits of no degree of compromise with evil.

These are not sophisticated, subtle, or hard to grasp theological nuances; they are the basic recollection of that easy and obvious standard of justice which we human beings (made in God’s image) intuitively upheld and radiated as children – before we got intimidated and started making excuses for God we had no right to make.

We believers, in ascribing a divine purpose to things like cancer and freak accidents (thus making God the “architect of evil”) did not intend harm (or blasphemy), but we are deathly afraid of what happens when we let the “other guy” be right.

This is a problem, and you atheists have been right to be offended and worried about us.

A Revival of Purity of Heart

 

“Purity of heart is what enables us to see.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth)

To have a pure heart is to love what is good and hate what is evil. On the atheist view, people of goodwill can easily hate what is hateful (i.e. childhood cancer), and love what is good (i.e. children). To do so is to attain purity of heart to a large degree. It easy to do, and (let’s be honest) it also happens to be a huge relief. Nowadays, there are a lot of people who care more about suffering people than they care about being cast into hell by a cosmic tyrant, and that’s a heroically good stance.

A revival of “purity of heart” is coming upon our culture without much trying, and this is the biggest reason why people are leaving churches in droves.

And we need not be afraid to see with such purity of heart because God guarantees the outcome: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8).

What we need to learn from you is to see is that good is good and bad is bad, lest our hearts remain impure.

A Moratorium on Inhumanity and Blasphemy

 

“And aren’t we—the lovers of the Word, the people who sing of the Good, we believers—aren’t we the ones who are most sensitive and most upset by our observation and experience of evil?” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience November 15, 1972)

Not really. Did we forget something important?

“The Lord says to his disciples: ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch’ …while it refers specifically to Gethsemane, it also points ahead to the later history of Christianity.  Across the centuries, it is the drowsiness of the disciples that opens up possibilities for the power of the Evil One. Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by…  all the injustice and suffering ravaging the earth. In its state of numbness, the soul prefers not to see all this; it is easily persuaded that things cannot be so bad..." (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth)

But it really is that bad, and you were trying to tell us all along.

Our offering has been unacceptable to you for one reason: Because it truly has been unacceptable.

We asked you to believe in a God who took away your hope of simply loving what is good and hating what is bad. And we condemned you for not selling out like we did.

We wanted our offering to be enough. It wasn’t.  And we wouldn’t listen because we thought it was only our right to have the offering.

It is why Cain killed Abel. And Cain’s punishment is the same as that of the apologists:

“If you till the ground, it shall no longer give you its produce. You shall become a constant wanderer on the earth.” (Genesis 4:12)

And this is the cure:

“Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5)

While we fell asleep, you atheists who are most sensitive and most upset by your observation and experience of evil have remained with the Lord in his agony. And we’re not asking you to believe us about that. Instead, we confess that we need to learn from you.

“Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.” (1 Cor 4:5)

 
 
(Image credit: Health Coalition)

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  • TheodoreSeeber

    What do we do when the atheist idea of good is an objective evil? What I keep running into isn't that atheists reject good because of evil, but rather they reject the notion of evil entirely. War, Theft, Greed, Fraud, Abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality are all considered good because under relativism *THERE IS NO EVIL*. I am far more upset at the evil that men do, than at the evil God brings good out of. I can't change God's mind. I *can* hopefully prick the consciences of the evil men around me.

    • Mikegalanx

      Actually,most atheists consider War,Theft, Greed,and Fraud to be Evil- though I share the Catholic Church's belief that some wars are just.

      Abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, - some atheists believe some combination of these are Evil. Ayn Rand,for instance, believed in abortion and contraception,but thought homosexuality was morally wrong, though of course she believed there shouldn't be any laws against it.

      Many, probably most, atheists are not moral relativists- they believe in moral standards that apply to all human beings; they just don't believe these are embedded in the fabric of the Universe or originate from God.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Without Natural Law, without that embedded foundation from God, there is no logical or rational reason to have any position other than moral relativism.

        • robtish

          Please explain your reasoning behind that conclusion.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            My reasoning is that morality without God is like physics without objective experimentation- you're pulling stuff out of your own feelings, completely subjectively. It is relativistic by design. There's NOTHING you can point to, for instance, that claims that murder is wrong.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            "There's NOTHING you can point to, for instance, that claims that murder is wrong."

            Now you're being as irrational as all these atheists you claim to be speaking to. One could easily do an objective study into the effects of murder on society and determine that it has negative consequences which are independent of any one person's feelings.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Such a study would be biased by the feelings and emotions of the researcher (Confirmation bias), and is essentially worthless.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            I don't even...

          • robtish

            Just like your study and experimentation of the world's religions?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            EXACTLY. Only Catholicism admits that mankind needs something outside of himself to fight the bias.

          • robtish

            Theodore, earlier you told me that your belief in God is not subjective because you "did experiments in my own life to see which religion worked and which one did not."

            Now, however, you're telling me that your experiments were "worthless" (your word), just like an atheist's attempt to study morality objectively.

            So which is it? Are your experiments objective support for your belief in God, as you said earlier, or are they "worthless," as you're saying now?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The experiments themselves are not objective support for my belief in God. They are objective support for my belief in my own inability to know God. Only ONE religion claims that it is impossible to know God by reason alone, but that belief in God is still reasonable.

          • Jeff W.

            Logical nonsense. You can't reasonably believe in something you can't, by your own admission, possibly KNOW. The bible is a book of logical fallacies, and you know it. This is the reason for apologetics. Your "job" is to explain away the errors in a book of fables. The biggest being Jesus as the supposed son of a god.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I cannot, as an individual, know. And I don't put my faith in the Bible. I put my faith in the authority of Jesus Christ and the Church, who in turn, explains the Bible. Every one of your errors is a fundamentalist error in interpretation, and you are no different than the fundamentalist Christians.

          • Jeff W.

            Okay, let us take one error at a time. Can your god lie? Can he break a promise?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Neither- but he can appear to due to OUR errors and our inability to understand, translate, or even put down the original correctly.

          • Jeff W.

            How do you know he can't do either?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Experience.

          • Jeff W.

            Your experience does nothing. To prove this, what would an evil god say about whether he was good or evil? What would a good god say? Both would say they were GOOD. You, as a human, have as much ability as a gnat in a tornado of telling which is lying, and which isn't. You don't even have a way of proving to even yourself if the beings exist, and not just your own delusion.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Not my personal experience. The collective experience of the Church over the last 2000 years.

            But that's exactly what Protestants want to deny with their "Bible only" God that creates atheists.

          • Jeff W.

            Experience doesn't mean a thing, since people can lie, be wrong, be deluded, etc. Try another proof.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            If experience doesn't mean a thing, then there is no such thing as data or evidence, let alone proof- of even you being real.

          • Jeff W.

            Experiences only have value to the persons having them, and no one else. This is why science uses repeatable experiments to produce factual information. Just your experience means nothing if it cannot be repeatable. Which is why RENE DESCARTES (1595-1650). "I am thinking therefore I exist." was stated. The only thing provable to myself IS myself. Everything else is trust-based in what can be repeatable, demonstrable, and / or verified. Why? Let me quote someone you know real well, "I am a human being who is fallible and contradictory". If I stated I have a car to sell you, you don't just hand over the money, you want to verify and observe the car. YOU are selling "god", and I want to observe and verify what you are selling. Just as with all religions, yours can ONLY be verified by either believing YOUR experiences, or dying. I don't work that way. There is no "believe and he will reveal himself", for that is self-delusion, since I can do so with ANY belief, even completely impossible ones.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I cannot prove that Descartes could think, therefore I cannot prove that Descartes existed. Descartes was an idiot, and so are you for bringing him up.

          • Boris G

            Theodore...I have to agree with NA and reiterate that your answers do not represent authentic Catholic teaching nor are you being rational in your responses. See as follows...

            you wrote: ' Because human beings are, at their core, irrational.'

            Where in the Catechism does it teach this?
            Rather,is it not true that Christian tradition has always held that man is 'a rational soul' made in the image and likeness of God?
            Is it not *because* of our being rational that evils exist?

            Ironically you are proving just how necessary the apology to Atheists really is.You appear to not be listening or rather I fear that something diabolical is making it hard for you to believe just how good God really is.
            Think on this and pray hard.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Original sin destroys rationality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is not a Catholic doctrine. Original sin darkens the intellect, making it harder to know the truth. It does not destroy rationality.

          • David Nickol

            Original sin darkens the intellect, making it harder to know the truth.

            Is it allegedly the case that original sin itself "darkens the intellect," and if so, how? Or is it the case the God decided to darken the intellect of humans because they committed sin?

            And where does the belief come from that original sin darkens the intellect? What is God's reaction to Adam and Eve's eating the forbidden fruit?

            Then the LORD God said: "See! The man has become like one of us, knowing what is good and what is bad! Therefore, he must not be allowed to put out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life also, and thus eat of it and live forever."

            It would seem that contrary to darkening the intellect, eating the forbidden fruit enhanced it. Adam and Eve, before they ate the fruit, didn't know good and bad. But after they eat it, God says they have "become like one of us"!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You always require me to put on my thinking cap, David!

            I think Catholics "read" Genesis 3 in light of the Catholic faith and so in the light of the doctrines of original holiness and justice and original sin, rather than deriving her doctrines from Genesis.

            The "In brief" point 418 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the domination of death; and inclined to sin (This inclination is called “concupiscence.”)."

            The Catechism doesn't explain how this darkening of the intellect comes about but I'd guess it is some kind of natural consequence of losing original holiness and justice and actual sins.

          • Matthew

            Two cents (not a Catholic, to say the very least, so forgive all the toes I'm about to step on):

            'Original sin destroys[ed] rationality.' First, we must look at what we consider rationality. If you're suggesting that eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was the defining characteristic of rationality or not, then it could be argued either way. As I see rationality as something more... broad-spectrum, involving (literally) a sequence of thoughts considered by an individual or group to be a correct decision for whatever means and end will be needed and result respectively, then eating from the tree was rational, to Adam and Eve in that time; they allowed themselves to be persuaded to eat of it, and they ate. However ---

            Logically we have to look at WHY that stands to its own scrutiny. How could they be persuaded, for example? Easily enough; if they'd not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (yet), and had none of its 'fruits' (dual meaning intended), then, prior to eating from the tree, they HAD NO KNOWLEDGE of good OR evil; they were the most gullible people in all of existence ever, being led by the whim of God as he led them along, blah blah. As the adage goes, the rest, then, is "history".

            How does a situation like that present itself, being persuaded in a situation of God being all the things that are believed of "Him" (all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, whatever else people throw in)? It becomes a matter of choice, a term arguably congruous with rationale in this instance, as I defined it above - the consideration of any situation is a choice between alternatives, rational or not being almost a subcategory to simply "considering" (as most cases are) all possibilities. If it is a matter of choice, the question is (skipping a bit): Why could they choose to eat of it, causing detriment to themselves?
            -If God gave choice, it must either be good or bad.
            -If God is all-good, giving choice to Adam and Eve was good.
            -Also, if God is good, "He" knew that creating humans with knowledge of good and evil was (at least potentially) bad, given whatever else humans are/were capable of.
            -If in a potentially infinite amount of time, choice is capable, a fallible being (such as a human) will make a wrong choice.
            -Since in the Garden of Eden (as the story of Genesis goes) Adam and Eve would live forever (the Tree of Life was available to be eaten from), they potentially had an infinite amount of time in the garden.
            -Adam and Eve would eventually and invariably do what they should not/choose incorrectly/disobey God/eat of the tree (still all equitable, as per the story's suggestion).
            All that to say that, with the given information, my thoughts have seemingly found no alternative to what happened within the story's structure.

            Beside that, all this intellect-darkening stuff.... I think we're coming to newer terminology that tries to abbreviate (unlike me here apparently) what is meant. Darkened intellect, from a perspective of Christianity I propose, is a difficulty to do what is "Good" versus what is "Evil", strictly from the premise that humanity in that one moment - if the story IS true, mind you - learned of Evil things as well as Good things. For example, it is as if, before eating of the tree, Adam and Eve never even considered what killing was, let alone killing another human being. Looking prior to the moment, I suggest again, that all humanity had to go by were God and angels (Satan being considered a fallen angel by most, and from that he'd presented himself in the form of an asp, as the story follows).

            Sorry it's so long-winded... but really, guys... it's supposed to be an OPEN letter - name-calling and trying to 'prove' anything by belittling each other gets us no where - I, for one, believe that any set of values a person has is belief- and therefore faith-based; if one side was to be completely undeniable, we wouldn't have had these discussions for thousands of years. We're not necessarily breaking ground as far as proving anything, and finding truth should be a friendly endeavor.

            Sorry my two cents seems more like two REALLY unlucky pennies worth by length alone.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            What do you think "Darkens the intellect" means?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It means darkens, not blinds, not destroys.

            Why do you think JPII wrote an encyclical called "Fides et Ratio" rather than "Faith, Yes; Reason, no"?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Faith and reason go together yes. But Original sin destroys both, it cannot help but to destroy both.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            You lost your argument and the high ground when you called him an idiot. Name calling is an admission that your argument has no merit.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, Descartes was an idiot. I see no harm in pointing out the idiocy that one cannot prove that one can think.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            You said "Descartes was an idiot, and SO ARE YOU for bringing him up (meaning Jeff W.) That is what I was referring to what I said you lost your argument when you called him an idiot. As for Descartes, what are your credentials to call someone known as the 'Father of Modern Philosophy' (and a brilliant mathematician to boot) an idiot? You are just some guy on the internet who is afraid of the dark who will use any apologetic necessary to convince himself his irrational superstitious beliefs are true. Original sin (which is a myth) does not destroy rationality as you asserted. Fear, ignorance and indoctrination destroy rationality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Andrew, you are right that original sin does not destroy rationality, but beware of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

            Ignorance, gullibility, weakness, and a tendency to selfishness are some qualities that the Church says are consequences of original sin. You say the Original Sin of Adam and Eve is a myth, but the condition of original sin we are all born into seems very obvious to me.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Well, it's NOT obvious to me or a lot of other people, and as a result it is not all that obvious. There is no reason to believe in original sin, or sin for that matter. We as a society determine what is right or wrong, and acceptable or unacceptable. The concept of sin was designed by men to control the actions of other men.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What I mean, Andrew, is that whatever we call it, ignorance, gullibility, weakness, and a tendency to selfishness are the human condition. That condition or state of being is part of what the Catholic Church means by original sin.

            In addition, each human being is to some extent in a wrong relationship with himself or herself, other persons, and the physical world. That condition is what the Catholic Church calls "loss of original justice."

            While the terms are debatable, I think the conditions are pretty non-controversial--at least that is my experience in life.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Descartes was neither. I reject his philosophy entirely.

          • mdhome

            I reject TheodoreSeeber entirely.

          • Jeff W.

            Back to idiot insults. What no real arguments? As far as Descartes, you understand my point, which is you cannot prove Descartes existed, therefore you cannot prove he experienced a god. You now understand why YOUR experiences are worthless to me. Try another proof.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And now you understand why YOUR experiences are worthless to me, and why I say discussing anything with atheists is not a fruitful pursuit. Their minds are shut.

          • Jeff W.

            Coming from someone who admits he is irrational, more meaningless drivel. I don't experience gods, and I don't try to use supposed experiences to convince others of any god's existence. I am reasonable, and know such endeavors are pointless. You however have done nothing but that very pointless, and irrational pursuit since I first responded to you. Try a proof of logic, or reason, if you can manage it.

          • Jassem Liday

            God can lie, but He wont do it. God can break a promise, but He wont do it either. In other words, if you read the Bible, and you didn't experience the promise you looked for, then you cant call it a "lie" nor a "break in promise" because I know, as a Christian, God had a different or change in plans for you for a far more better future for you.

            by the way , sorry for the wrong grammar. please, just try to understand my words carefully cause I'm not that good in speaking english language straight.

          • Jeff W.

            And you know any of this how? How would you know if your god did lie? Do you know more than your god? If so, then he isn't a god, and if not, you could not know any statement by this god as a truth or lie.
            First, a lie is a lie. If you tell someone to hit your child in the face, then stop them as they are attempting it, your initial command was untrue. If it weren't, why stop them?
            Second, if a change in plans removes the answer to my promise, then it is a broken promise. That is what it means. It means unfulfilled. If your god couldn't tell that a promise today meant a less than "better" future, thus making it necessary tomorrow to disregard the "promise", then why call him a god? I make the same type of promises to my wife everyday! Yet even I know that I broke the promises, for bad or good, they are still broken.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            You say, "I don't put my faith in the Bible. I put my faith in the authority of Jesus Christ." That is a circular argument, because the only reason you know of Jesus in the first place is the Bible, therefore you must first accept the Bible to believe in Jesus. It's the old "god is real because the Bible says so, and the Bible is true because god says so" merry go round, and around and around it goes...

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Nope. Even the Bible says that there's a lot more to know of Christ than can be written in any one book.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Yes, and the Gospel of John says he performed so many miracles that they can't all be listed. So what? Statements like that are without value. You accept things at face value without even knowing who wrote them (the Gospels were anonymous, and the names were not assigned to them until the second century). That makes no sense. You are just looking for SOMETHING to believe, and you chose this.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Gospels are not anonymous. The Church has the full records, you just refuse to look.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            I have not "refused to look," as a matter of fact I am the inquisitive sort and have done much research on the subject. You claim "the Church has the full records" which prove "the Gospels are not anonymous." Perhaps you would be kind enough to direct me to the material I missed? (hopefully you are going to refer me to something creditable, and not the writings of Eusebius!)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Eusebius is more credible than Descartes.

          • robtish

            Theodore, I think you're contradicting yourself all over the place. I wish you well.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I am contradicting myself, because I am a human being who is fallible and contradictory, and so are you.

          • bamcintyre

            Boy, this whole thing has your tidy whities in a twist. No other religion has any value? You are exactly the kind of religious twit that offends atheists the most.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Good. Atheists deserve to be offended, because they are offensive themselves.

          • Kyle O’Donnell

            how are we offensive?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            By insisting that we all deny the evidence that is in front of our own eyes.

          • Kyle O’Donnell

            I think you may need to just have a drink and relax. Is the existence of us atheists who probably don't interact with you at all on a daily basis really stressing you out?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            When it leads to a genocide of 55 million, yes.

          • Kyle O’Donnell

            Dude, WTH are you talking about?

          • Kyle O’Donnell

            Last time I checked, Christianity has killed more "in the name of God" than atheists.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The combination of abortion and euthanasia that has killed of 1/3rd of Americans since 1973.

            That was my first inclination that secularization and atheism, could never be described as good. And that the Constitution itself was potentially an error; that the Declaration of Independence described a much better, more moral government than the Constitution.

            But that's a government with a strong, common morality, a strong common culture, a strong common church. All the things that secularism seeks to destroy.

          • Sean Clark

            Only Catholicism? Sheesh.
            Now you're just being a fanatic. Judaism for example has a far more developed stance on your idea than the Roman Catholic Corporation.

          • robtish

            Theodore, let me ask three questions:

            1. Isn't your decision to believe in God subjective, a choice you made yourself using your own mind -- and not just your belief in a god, but also which god, and which denomination (if any) to align yourself with)?

            2. Do you think there is any rhyme or reason to the morality God has given us, or is it all just arbitrary and capricious?

            3. Why can't human experience be the objective reality we "point to" in order to explore morality?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            1. No. I did experiments in my own life to see which religion worked and which one did not. Catholicism alone combined reason and faith sufficiently. Buddhism came in a close second. Generic American Christianity was less rational than paganism.

            2. There is absolutely rock solid universal morality that God has given us- it is the irrationality of human beings that makes it seem arbitrary and capricious.

            3. Because human beings are, at their core, irrational. Our experience can contain clues about reality, but we are finite beings and reality is infinite.

          • robtish

            1. Exactly. You have used your own mind to decide what is true based on your experience. Just as atheists do.

            2. If the morality God has provided us is absolutely rock solid and not based on His capricious whims -- if it is rational -- then the opens the possibility that atheists can reason their way to discovering and accepting that moral code.

            3. If human beings (including you) are at their core irrational, then the experimentation and reasoning you describe in your point 1 are unreliable and subjective.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Exactly, on all three counts.

            Only Catholicism admits that human beings aren't perfect. In fact, only Catholicism INSISTS that human beings aren't perfect.

          • Peter Piper

            Actually, I also INSIST that human beings aren't perfect, despite not being Catholicism (or even a Catholic).

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Then in that case, you need God to tell you what is good and evil, just like everybody else.

          • Peter Piper

            Nope, that doesn't follow. What follows is that I will sometimes make incorrect moral judgments, just like everybody else, and just like you.

          • robtish

            How will you know it is the voice of God, the Devil, internalized peer pressure, or a mental disorder? It's up for you to decide based on your experience and imperfect reason, making it just as subjective as any decision from an atheist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Ok, so objectivity is utterly impossible. I get it. You are a moral relativist and there is no rationality.

          • robtish

            I didn't say that at all. I'm actually not a moral relativist. I believe in objective morality, but I have limited confidence in my ability to know exactly what it is, so I'm left to fumble toward what I hope is the truth -- which is all any of us can do, whether we have chosen with our imperfect and limited minds to accept Christianity (because that is a choice, right? -- that's the whole point), or to accept some other religion, or to accept none at all.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It was not a choice for me. I was forced into it. Every experiment I tried to disprove Catholicism, failed. I finally gave up.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Why don't you tell us what sort of experiments you were doing, so that we can try them too?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Sin

          • Jeff W.

            Lack of ability to disprove doesn't equate to non-dis-provability. For many years, due to lack of technology, the sun orbited the earth, as they believed in their theories. Now we know the earth orbits the sun, as the facts show.

          • Jeff W.

            Actually everyone is a moral subjective agent, and that is easily proven.

          • Is it your position that God could decide that the suffering of the innocent is objectively good, and it would thereby be objectively good. Have we misunderstood you?

            Even if that is not your stance, your view (from the preceding statements) is diametrically opposed to the teaching of the Church.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is my position that all suffering of the innocent is based on human sin, in one way or another.

            Put your city on a volcano, and eventually innocent humans will suffer and die. Is that God's fault?

          • HardAppleCider

            Good and evil "are" subjective, but since we humans have common values we get to decide as a group what we want and don't want. We don't need objective morality for people to get along and to maximize human happiness.

            The laws of modern society tend to be based on "secular" reasoning with these kinds of goals: we want to live in a society that is good (subjectively) for people to live in, i.e. a society that they "want" to live in, because it's taking care of their needs. If the law of the land was based on biblical "objective" morality it would still be mandatory to kill blasphemers, as the Bible flat out commands many many times.

          • Phoenix

            excuse me... which part of the Bible commands killing blasphemers?

            just curious...

          • Andre Boillot

            Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and tell all those who heard him to lay their hands on his head. Then let the entire community stone him to death. Say to the people of Israel: Those who blaspheme God will suffer the consequences of their guilt and be punished. Anyone who blasphemes the LORD's name must be stoned to death by the whole community of Israel. Any Israelite or foreigner among you who blasphemes the LORD's name will surely die. (Leviticus 24:10-16 NLT)

          • robtish

            When you say "Exactly, on all three counts," you are saying that your morality is as subjective as that of any atheists. Because your decision to accept is based on your own process of mental reasoning that is no more objective than that of an atheist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No, what I am saying is that my internal morality is subjective, thus I need an outside source to inform me of what morality is. Just like atheists do.

          • robtish

            And because there are many competing "outside sources," you must decide for yourself which to choose. This decision, of course, is based on you personal judgment, making it no more objective than the moral decisions of an atheist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There are no competing outside sources. One is clearly superior.

          • robtish

            "There are no competing outside sources. One is clearly superior."

            You say that based on your personal judgment, making it no more objective than the moral decisions of an atheist.

            See? There's no way out. Every conclusion you've come to, everything you present to me as true, is something you've accepted based on your own experience and reasoning. There's no escaping that level of subjectivity.

            (Let me also point out that your second sentence contradicts the first, as your declaration of the superiority of one implies the existence of the others.)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "You say that based on your personal judgment"

            No, in fact I don't. I base that on 2000 years worth of millions of theologians work, which is far more objective than either my personal judgement or the judgement of any atheist.

          • robtish

            First, widespread agreement among a select group of people is evidence of consensus (among those people) but not evidence of objective truth.

            Second, it's possible for everyone to be wrong about something. Even there existed universal agreement on these theological issues (and there is not!) that still wouldn't make it true.

            Finally, there are many different philosophical and theological schools of thought. Your decision to agree with one group rather than another is based on your own experience and imperfect reason, making it just as subjective as any decision from an atheist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "First, widespread agreement among a select group of people is evidence of consensus (among those people) but not evidence of objective truth."

            In that case, evidence of objective truth is impossible in your philosophy, and you've just proven my point that atheists are moral relativists.

          • Cossard

            He didn't say that there was no such thing as objective truth, he said that a bunch of people agreeing on a thing is not evidence that it's objective truth. Do try to keep up.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I do keep up with people like you who want to sin.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Define "sin." Not in general terms, but specifically.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Attempting to do what is taboo and forbidden without bothering to find out why it is taboo and forbidden.

          • Dave H

            First, widespread agreement among a select group of people is evidence of consensus (among those people) but not evidence of objective truth."

            Hey, if we were debating Anthropomorphic Global Warming, we might finally agree on something. :)

          • Cossard

            You're talking here about ... who? It can't be Hindu theologians, 'cos they've been active for longer than that, can't be Jewish theologians, ditto, can't be Muslim theologians, they've only had about 1400 years, and it can't be Christian theologians 'cos there aren't millions of them. Either way, I would suggest that the fact that a bunch of theologians studying a religion is no guarantee of its truth.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There have been millions of Catholic theologians. Theology is the greatest of all the sciences, I'm not surprised that it is above you.

          • Phoenix

            excuse me... if there is no escaping subjectivity, then why still argue? arguing is pointless if our bases and evidence are all subjective, correct?

            just curious...

          • What is the "clearly superior" source? Why is there disagreement about that? How have you come to know with such clarity? What is the obstacle to others sharing that clarity (especially when they have you to inform them)?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clearly the superior source. All disagreement to that is irrational.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Maybe "clearly" to YOU. People of every religion say that exact same thing!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Have you bothered to even read the evidence?

          • Andrew Bufalo

            What evidence? I have read the Bible, Quran, Vedas and Book of Mormon if that is what you mean. They all claim to be true, from god and infallible (well the Vedas don't exactly, but you get the point). I grew up a Catholic and am quite familiar with the Catechism. There is no evidence in ANY of those things - only opinion, conjecture, rationalization and absurdity. You clearly don't know what "evidence" means. What you believe is simply what you have chosen to believe. That doesn't make it true.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No, that is not what I mean. I mean, have you read the full archives of the Vatican?

          • Geena Safire

            No, that is not what I mean. I mean, have you read the full archives of the Vatican?

            Not even the Pope has read the full archives of the Vatican.

            This fallacy is known as The Courtier's Reply.

            It's based on the story of the emperor whose courtiers made him ever increasingly gossamer, feather-light, translucent robes, and lavishly and loudly praised the emperor and his fashion sense ever so much.

            The other people in the capital were ever less impressed with this sartorial obsession and the sycophant courtiers, but were too afraid to to say anything.

            One day, when the emperor was walking by in his latest treasure, the ultimate in ethereal attire, a boy too young to know better said, "The emperor has no clothes!"

            The courtiers reassured the emperor and dismissed the boy's outburst as of no consequence since, of course, he had no training in tailoring, haute couture, fashion design, nor of the vast history of attire throughout the empire.

            -----

            Theodore, the Catholic Church has had 2,000 years to work on its sales pitch and its inner structure. So it's not surprising that, once you step inside, it's like being in a great open world action-adventure video game, like being in an intricately-designed alternate universe like the Lord of the Rings saga.

            I wish you all the best in your spiritual journey, Theodore. It's not my intention to cast aspersions on the value you receive from your association with the church. I understand that it is deeply and intensely true for you.

            But just because the story structure appears, from the inside, to be consistent and deep and thorough doesn't mean it's true.

            It's a Courtier's Reply fallacy to claim that it is invalid for a person to reach a decision not to accept the claims of the Catholic church without being a theologian.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is the only truth left. I've disposed of all the others.

          • Geena Safire

            You wrote, in your prior comment, "have you read the full archives of the Vatican?"

            On this contention -- that one cannot validly dismiss Catholicism without having read the "full archives of the Vatican," then...

            ...did you read the entire Jewish Talmud which is over 6,200 pages long, (not to mention all the respected commentaries on it, which fill libraries), before you "disposed" of Judaism?

            ...did you read the entire Vedas, about 1800 pages, the Mahabarata, about 1.8 million words, and the seven books (kāṇḍas) and 500 cantos (sargas) of the Ramayana, (not to mention the countless commentaries on them), before you "disposed" of Hinduism?

            ...did you read the entire Avesta, Gathas, Yasna, Vendidad, Visperad, Yashts, Khordeh Avesta, Ab-Zohr and the
            Ahuna Vairya Invocation
            before you "disposed" of Zoroastrianism?

            And these are just the three very widespread religious traditions that predate Catholicism -- and deeply influenced its thinking.. I could go on, Theodore, but I think you get my point.

            It is unreasonable to claim that a person must read the "full archives of the Vatican" before validly choosing to disbelieve in the Catholic faith.

            We all understand that you believe Catholicism is the truth, the ultimate truth, the only valid truth. But you're just a mere human being like the rest of us, and have come to your conclusions in the same way the rest of us have.

            When you are having a dialogue with other people who do not hold your beliefs -- even if you are deeply convicted that they are true -- it is generally more effective if you speak as the frail, fallible, imperfect human that you are rather than pontificating as if you were God or even just the pope.

            Speaking of whom, may I recommend to you the words of your own Pope Francis who, as I understand, you are required to obey: "The view of the church’s teaching as a monolith to defend without nuance or different understandings is wrong."

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Have YOU read the full archives of the Vatican?

          • What does it mean to not be perfect on your use of the term?

            You wrote: Only Catholicism admits that human beings aren't perfect.

            We reply: What do you mean?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Atheism and secularism is based on the idea that secular morality is superior because "we say so", because they claim that it is. That is not compatible with the reality that human beings are imperfect, and are not capable of getting better on their own.

          • Paul Boillot

            "Atheism and secularism is based on the idea that secular morality is superior because "we say so", because they claim that it is. "

            My atheism and secularism (two very different things, btw, the second of which has been shown to be the only compatible system with religious pluralism) are not based on the idea that my morality is superior because I say so.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I deny religious pluralism as a system. And if your form of atheism and secularism is not "superior because I say so" then why is it superior?

          • Paul Boillot

            Hold on.

            Like I said earlier, atheism and secularism are two very different concepts, and mashing them together is the act of an undisciplined mind. Now we're going to debate those two in conjunction with the merits of pluralism? Phew.

            I'll just tackle the ideas of pluralism/secularism for now, if you rephrase your complaints about my atheism later, I'll deal with them then: a time for everything, my friend.

            --

            You deny religious pluralism as a system; how do you mean? You deny that it exists, or that you reject political systems which are religiously pluralistic? Why aren't you a citizen of the Vatican then? How should a good system of governance handle different faiths? Without secularism as a fundamental part of the political system, there are no protections for any creed, including your own.

            That alone should be a reason that secularism is superior to non-secularism.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I deny that pluralism is rational, and political systems should not be pluralistic. I would prefer the entire world be a part of the Vatican.

            I consider secular systems to be freemasonic and a direct enemy to good, and thus inferior.

            A creed based on truth doesn't need protections in law. Law should be subject to truth; and secularism directly attacks the truth.

          • Andre Boillot

            Ted,

            "I would prefer the entire world be a part of the Vatican."

            And yet you slander all of Islam as seeking: "total political control over the world"...

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Actually, I slander Islam for believing in a God that is beyond all human reason (and therefore, can order anybody to do anything, and doesn't even have to obey the laws of physics and have the sun come up tomorrow).

            But the point is this- atheism isn't compatible with either.

          • Cossard

            So very different from the Christian God ... oh, wait. That would be the God whom the Athanasian creed describes as "The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible", who is not averse to giving orders ranging from the merely bizarre to the outright genocidal, and who told the Sun to stand still over the valley of Aijalon.

            Really, you're going to knock Islam because *their* God can perform miracles?

          • Andrew Bufalo

            With a comment like that, I must conclude you have no idea what it says in the Bible!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Bible is not a book of facts, and the Bible is not my God. Is the Bible your God?

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Bravo!

          • Paul Boillot

            "I consider secular systems to be freemasonic and a direct enemy to good, and thus inferior."

            Look Ted, I'm an outspoken atheist with deep convictions, and I can appreciate the depth of yours.

            I can even respect your commitment, to a certain degree.

            However, as a self proclaimed devout Catholic, maybe...maybe one-world-religious-government: not so much. Don't take my word for it.

            "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Caesar needs to be rendered to God. It is the only way there can be peace.

          • Paul Boillot

            You seem to believe that there will be peace on this planet when there is a global Catholic culture, encompassing all aspects of life: political and personal.

            It seems to me, from my analysis of your religion, that Catholicism, even explicitly through the word of Jesus in the Bible, rejects the assumption that peace will ever be found on 'this' Earth.

            There will be no peace, and even your Church understands that she will always have to coexist with other creeds.

            The only way for coexistence is enforced respect through political secularism.

            All that other mason-mumbo-jumbo you're spouting is gibberish to me.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Coexistence itself is not a worthwhile goal.

          • Simon Muir

            atheist morality is not superior because ''we say so'''.....it's because we don't whip rape victims .... cover up the rape of small children or make rules to outlaw gay people........and any book containing instructions on how to buy ,sell and keep slaves is not very moral

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Except atheists have done all of that.

          • josh

            Atheism is 'based' on the lack of belief in gods or in religious claims generally. Secularism is based on the idea that people of differing religious beliefs can live peacefully together by leaving purely religious considerations outside of the broader communal life.

            "That is not compatible with the reality that human beings are imperfect, and are not capable of getting better on their own."

            Declining rates of violence and increasing life expectancy beg to differ, not to mention the growth of knowledge and technology as goods in their own right. But none of this assumes human beings are perfectible; in fact, only some religions start with the silly claim that there is such a thing as a 'perfect human'.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Life expectancy is not a measure of happiness, nor is a lack of violence (though, when you include abortion in violence, as it should be, rates of violence are INCREASING, not decreasing).

          • Andrew Bufalo

            All atheism means, by definition, is a non-belief in deities due to lack of evidence. Nothing more. On the other hand you think YOUR morality is superior simply because "the Bible says so"... and you blindly follow it. P.S. - just because you can't "get better on your own" does not mean others can't.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            My morality is superior because my morality is superior. Atheism is garbage, and worthless.

          • HardAppleCider

            You're almost right. Secularism and atheism is superior because it makes for better societies, societies where it's not OK for people to kill each-other for stupid reasons.

            Did you notice that as soon as society started shunning Biblical law that Scientific progression started booming? Religious leaders fought fiercely against the idea that the world is round, that rainbows are the product of refracted light through raindrops and not a reminder of God's promise to never flood the world again, and even the idea of bacteria and micro-organisms were fought against.

            That's why secularism and atheism are better, because they don't lead to people bawling over the discovery of truth, and other stupid things; and they do a much better job of making societies that people want to live in.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Secularism and atheism promote abortion, which is directly people killing each other for stupid reasons, so no.

          • HardAppleCider

            You're wrong. I was raised Baptist and one of the things they drill into you from very early on is that people are not only imperfect, but that we are impure and born into sin.

            I converted to Catholicism at about age 9, and am now an atheist, but I remember clearly the different backgrounds.

          • How do you decide that God is the good one and the devil is the evil one?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don't. Only Catholicism has the 2000 years worth of study necessary to make that determination.

          • "How do you decide that God is the good one and the devil is the evil one?"

            That's like asking, "how do you decide the triangle has three sides and the square has four?"

            God is, by definition, pure goodness. That's what Christians mean when they say God.

            Now, you personally can choose to re-define the word God however you like, or assign a different label to pure goodness, but that would only confuse the discussion.

          • robtish

            Brandon, I think Brian may be getting at a different point: How does Theodore know that the being he has accepted as God is actually God? Which is a fair question -- it's not unheard of for theists to accuse other theists of following false gods or of having been fooled by Satan.

          • Andrew Bufalo

            Where is the devil's book? Where is his rebuttal? God is, BY GOD'S OWN definition, good. He is not being assessed by an objective third party. There are always two sides to every story (even though in this case neither party actually exists).

          • Your position is not Catholic.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Why? Where does it say in the Catechism that evil is subjective?

          • mdhome

            Theodore, you are right about being irrational, why do you insist on writing gobbledegook?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I am the only sane person in the discussion.

          • On the Catholic view, good and evil ultimately reduce to subjective desirability/undesirability. This is important to know. Press the matter if you like.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Let us take an example. Where in the Catechism does it say that abortion is a subjective evil?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            So morality is subjective?

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            Reason alone is enough to say that murder is wrong. I don't need to drag God down in order to say that.

            For a godly man you claim to be, you have little respect for your God. You don't bring up your mother's name in an argument that can demean her.

            Here is a good example:

            Aristotle (I respect this man so I will do no harm to sully his name), on the subject of natural law points to reason as man's tool of participation. Reason, if you know what it is, is inherent in every human being (although some human beings may be rendered unable to use it due to physical/mental condition). It is subjective in so far as it is in an individual. However, reason (just like truth) is founded on correspondence between internal (my mind) and external (the world) realities and is therefore objective. Can you still follow? Therefore, "I" using my reason can come to the conclusion that murder is wrong and another "rational being" somewhere or in a different time will arrive at the same conclusion using his reason because "reason" is not something that only exist inside my head. It perceives the natural law/truth which is out there.

            By the way, God is not a subject or question of morality or reason. Therefore, not every rational being will readily come to a conclusion that He is existing. However, I can use my "reason" to come to that conclusion. Nonetheless, I believe you are familiar with the history of revelation? If reason alone is enough to know God, why do you think God has to show himself (first as a burning bush) to Moses? or to Abraham the father of faith?

            You get where I am trying to take you? You don't need to believe in God to use your reason and thus to have a moral standard.

            Therefore, you calling atheist "illogical" or "unreasonable" and amoral or moral relativists is a testament of you not using your "logic" and "reason" well enough. There are, unfortunately, member of the church who ascribe to abortion or other. This is not some kind of sickness that only attacks atheist.

            Don't get me wrong, I am a Catholic but the way you talk to these people is far from being Catholic. I hate to say this but you are one of the apologists who disgrace the Church.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Reason alone is enough to say that murder is wrong"

            Then you must not support Euthanasia, War, the Death Penalty, or Abortion, for these are all murder.

            That is why I say atheists are without reason.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            Precisely the reason why you cannot/should not use religion as the sole basis for condemning this acts.

            However, remember also that we have philosophical differences in terms of other words which are related to the word "murder". The reason why some people support Euthanasia, some instances of War, Death Penalty and abortion is because for them these are not necessarily one and equal with the word "murder". Some see euthanasia as an act of kindness (helping someone who is suffering), war as the last resort/only way to resolution of an issue, death penalty as part of strong legal system and abortion as a power of choice when to have a baby or not. Don't get me wrong my friend, I believe that these are murders of different kinds and levels. But then again, we only have an agreement about the word "murder" and not on its other forms and levels. I don't think that the people here (atheist or not) are not advocating "murder" (at least that is what I want to believe; I cannot be the judge to their intentions but so long as they are sane and have any sense of morality they will not do so).

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And thus, we have moral relativism. We need a bedrock morality- one that can't be twisted in that way.

          • bamcintyre

            Morality existed before religion, and will exist long after. It is not "owned" by the church or God.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Really? I don't see it. I don't see pagan cultures as being moral.

          • David Yaseen

            If god were objective, we wouldn't be having this lovely conversation.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            God is objective, and atheists are insane.

          • HardAppleCider

            Not objectively wrong, no, but we are people and we want to live in a society that helps us in a variety of ways. Subjectively killing somebody that wants to be alive is the worse thing that you can do to them as you take everything they have and can possibly have away. You don't need a lot of empathy to realize that you don't want to live in a society where that's an OK thing for people to do to each-other.

            You don't need moral objectivity for good societies with happy people. You just need people to find value in society for the ways it improves their lives. When the goal is to make life better for people the guidelines for morality naturally follow via logic and empathy.

          • HardAppleCider

            For that matter, I fear the person that bases his morality on the Bible. There's some horrible stuff in that book. God himself orders people to do horrible things.

            Joseph Kony is a good example of somebody that gets his morality from the Bible without cherry picking. He thinks he's akin to Moses. He obviously hasn't read the story of Moses, because Moses was a lot worse.

            If you care to read the Bible yourself you'll find that extremism tends to have solid Biblical support.

            While it's true a person that thinks morality is subjective "can" end up doing some terrible things, it's a lot easier to get people to go along with what you're doing and join you if you've got a "holy book" backing you up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wrote:
            Joseph Kony is a good example of somebody that gets his morality from the Bible without cherry picking.

            JK cherry picked his morality from anywhere he liked.

            If you read the whole Bible, it should be clear you need a method for interpreting individual passages.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And yet, without God, we continually get people who are for abortion, which is *directly* killing a human being that wants to be alive.

          • Matthew

            I believe similarly, but phrase my argument differently:
            Without some standard for absolution, what is considered morally good or bad is potentially culture-based, and therefore isn't determinable. An example would be to say that killing another human being is wrong. Culturally, currently, we can accept that. But in a culture where cannibalism or human sacrifice is deemed legitimate, the only people that think killing a human being is wrong are the people that don't want the chosen sacrifice/"food" to be sacrificed/eaten. Perhaps all people feel that way at least part of the time; but if relativism proved true yet again in these instances, people would eventually give way to OPPOSING the sacrifice (killing of a human being), whether for selfish or altruistic reasons on behalf of the one being sacrificed/eaten.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I hope so, because right now, America is sacrificing several hundred people a year to the altar of material success.

          • Matthew

            The point is that morality is indeterminable if it's potentially cultural - for you to think 'sacrificing several hundred people a year to the altar of material success' is wrong means NOTHING in the context of relativism. We can't have a set of values worth following unless it is one that cannot change based on the perspective of those non-objective (subjective) viewers (as phrased above in a way that is more logic-friend-friendly and less straight-to-the-point). My example pointed to the idea that relativity undermines its goal in its capacity for change. A better example of how it COULD work: people could start to see self-mutilation as the more correct idea; it can be a form of responsibility, a means of punishing oneself with outward evidence to the world that you ARE punished for your understood misdeeds (however THOSE are then determined).... If we start to think self-mutilation is right, though, what should/could be said of the past self-mutilators? What if we, after accepting it as right for some time, find it to be wrong again? We can flip-flop whatever way, whatever's convenient, as long as our subjective nature allows us to try to determine moral correctness; subjectivity, though ideal by definition/how the subjective mind views it, is altogether a means of selfish impression upon life - it might provide some altruism, but only through a selfish, present-time-motivated construction of worldviews that are only ever temporary.

          • MNb

            I'd like to know how you imagine objective experiments on ethics. If you can't you present a false analogy.

            "There's NOTHING you can point to, for instance, that claims that murder is wrong."
            That's a non-sequitur and you using capitals indicates that you actually know it. Utilitarians don't have any problem with defending that murder is wrong.
            Christians though with their supposedly objective moral standard derived from their favourite Holy Book, if consistent, end up defending genocide, like WL Craig has done. It goes like this: God is good, what he orders is good, we can read that in the Bible, so when God whispers in my ears to go on a killing spree that is also objectively good.
            I won't deny relativistic ethical systems have their problems - supposedly objective standards based on Holy Books have bigger ones.
            Unless you become a pastafarian, which I somehow doubt. If my doubt is correct then your argument is shallow.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Utilitarians don't have any problem with defending that murder is wrong."

            Then why aren't Utilitarians pro-life?

          • David Nickol

            Then why aren't Utilitarians pro-life?

            There is no single utilitarian position on abortion, so your question doesn't exactly make sense. Some people who consider themselves utilitarian would approve of abortion, and others would disapprove.

            Also, your question assumes that everyone would agree that abortion is murder. I think in reality very few people would agree, and in fact many who are pro-life clearly don't believe abortion is murder. Murder is never permissible, so if abortion were murder, no "pro-lifer" would allow abortion in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. To maintain that abortion is murder, and then to permit it in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother is to say that most murders are impermissible, but some are permissible.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Also, your question assumes that everyone would agree that abortion is murder. "

            Anybody intelligent enough to have the discussion will admit that abortion is murder. Claiming that it isn't, proves to me you haven't thought about it.

            And yes, I refuse to discriminate against children because their parents committed crimes. Life of the mother is different because the mother also has a right to life- but that is a chance to experiment with in vitro adoption.

          • robtish

            Then why is the Biblical penalty for killing a fetus so much lighter than the one for killing a person who's been born?

          • David Nickol

            Then why is the Biblical penalty for killing a fetus so much lighter than the one for killing a person who's been born?

            Because . . .

            An unborn fetus in Jewish law is not considered a person (Heb. nefesh, lit. “soul”) until it has been born. The fetus is regarded as a part of the mother’s body and not a separate being until it begins to egress from the womb during parturition (childbirth). In fact, until forty days after conception, the fertilized egg is considered as “mere fluid.” These facts form the basis for the Jewish legal view on abortion. . . . .

            Orthodox Judaism will permit abortion only for the most serious of reasons, but the life of the mother always outweighs the life of her unborn child, and if an abortion is needed to save a mother's life, it is not merely permitted, it is considered by some to be mandatory. Probably about 99% of abortions performed in the United States would be considered impermissible by Orthodox Jews, since less than 1% of abortions involve rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. But abortion is not murder in the Jewish tradition.

            Abortion has also never been considered murder in our legal tradition, going back hundreds of years.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Who cares about the Bible? I'm talking reality, not cherry picking verses out of context.

          • robtish

            Two points, Theodore: First, on a website created specifically to foster dialog between atheists and Catholics, the Bible is quite relevant.

            Second, the "out of context" charge is used so often as an escape from real debate that I don't take it seriously unless the person also elucidate the context I'm allegedly ignoring and shows how it obviates my point.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The out of context charge is what is used to separate Catholics from Biblical fundamentalists, who always take verses out of context to prove silly things like creationism. Are you a creationist?

          • robtish

            I am not a creationist. But I repeat: Your charge about taking verses out of context carries no weight unless you elucidate the context I'm allegedly ignoring and shows how it obviates my point.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The context you are ignoring is the full 2000 year teaching of the Catholic Church, including the scientific method which Catholics invented, and the fact that the Bible's truth is about faith, not material science. Are you really so ignorant that you think the Bible contains material truth, rather than stories about belief and faith?

          • robtish

            It's hard to see how a list of Old Testament laws do not reflect a God-given moral guide and instead are merely stories about belief and faith. I wonder if you would say the same about the 10 Commandments are not really a guide to our action.

            But i won't ask, because now that you've descended into personal insults, I see no reason to continue.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The beginning of life has nothing to do with moral guides, and everything to do with how genetic strands combine to create a new individual of the species..

            Yes, the 10 Commandments are a guide to our action, but that has nothing to do with whether or not abortion is murder. Plenty of people who think Moses was full of hooey reject murder, you don't need the 10 commandments to reject murder, or to see that the lies about a fetus being "a clump of cells" is nothing more than rank bigotry against a developing child that can't defend itself.

            There are higher laws than what is in a 2000 year old book "inspired" by the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is not the end-all-be-all of knowledge that Biblical Atheists or Christian Fundamentalists make it out to be.

            And while Scripture is a part of Apostolic Tradition, it isn't all of it, no matter what the Protestants claim.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Ok, I failed to respond to both points earlier, and this likely won't make it through the moderation anyway:
            First, I strongly doubt that the purpose of this website is possible. The atheist version of truth is incompatible with Catholicism in the extreme, and I fail to see how American Biblical Fundamentalist prooftexting (a theological method considered a heresy by Catholicism and that has no standing in Atheism whatsoever) is useful in this context at all. Let's stick with science.

            Second, prooftexting is what separates third and fourth generation Protestants from Catholics to begin with- the context of the Bible is the Catholic Church, and the verses mean what the Pope says they mean and nothing else. It's the Pope's job to interpret scripture, not yours, not mine, and certainly not Reverened Jimbob Billy Nutting from the Church of Four Square Meals and a Sandwich.

          • David Nickol

            Anybody intelligent enough to have the discussion will admit that abortion is murder. Claiming that it isn't, proves to me you haven't thought about it.

            Nonsense.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Because you believe that statement is nonsense is proof that you are not intelligent enough to understand it.

          • David Nickol

            Because you believe that statement is nonsense is proof that you are not intelligent enough to understand it.

            If you want to believe that the reason people disagree with you on this or any subject is that you are intelligent and they are not, then you go right ahead and believe that!

        • You wrote: Without Natural Law, without that embedded foundation from God, there is no logical or rational reason to have any position other than moral relativism.

          We reply: Why do you say so? We are familiar with the normal arguments, but think them to be unsound.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I say so because without an axiomatic foundation, a logical system cannot exist.

            God is the axiomatic foundation for objective good and evil. Human beings are not objective, and cannot be the foundation for an objective morality.

          • Paul Boillot

            If there is no God(gods) then there is no logical foundation.
            If there is no logical foundation, then there is no morality.
            If there is no morality then there is no logical or rational reason to have any position other than moral relativism.

            But...

            If there is no logical foundation then there is no logical reason for me to logically choose moral relativism.

            Therefore.

            If there is no god there is no reason for me to be a moral relativist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Or anything else, exactly right.

            There is no purpose to human striving if there is no God, no reason, no rationality.

          • Paul Boillot

            Right right, I understand your argument.

            You do not.

            You can't simultaneously claim that atheists have a logical imperative to be moral relativists AND that they don't have logic.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm saying that they don't have a logical imperative at all, which leaves *only* moral relativism as a possibility.

          • Paul Boillot

            Without *any* imperative, there are all possibilities.

            If I choose I can live my life as a moral objectivist.

            You're not making any sense.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            How can you be a moral objectivist without an objective morality?

          • Paul Boillot

            I can be a moral objectivist by believing that what is right or wrong to do doesn't depend on me.

            If there is no God(gods), and therefore no logic, then there is no reason to stop me from believing anything I like, even if what I believe isn't logical...because there is no logic.

            There's nothing you can do to stop me believing in objective moral truth if you can't leverage logic to argue with me.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is you who can't leverage logic to argue with me. I have theology in addition to logic.

          • Paul Boillot

            Ted, try to follow me now, I'm going to break this thing down as clearly as I can. I apologize if I don't succeed, I'm having a hard time putting myself in your shoes.

            We started with the assumption that atheists are illogical, an assumption that I disagree with, but for the sake of argument....

            1) Atheists are illogical and have no natural law.
            2) Without natural law, you must logically be a moral relativist.
            Therefore:
            3) Atheists are moral relativists.

            ---

            But if you're trying to paint all atheists as illogical, forgive my self-reference:

            You can't simultaneously claim that atheists have a logical imperative to be moral relativists AND that they don't have logic.

            If they don't have logic then they don't need to explain their moral objectivism to you. They can just be moral objectivitists over the sound of your hue and cry of "it doesn't make sense to me!"

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Choose. Either accept God, and therefore an objective morality, or don't accept God, and embrace moral relativism. There is no halfway.

          • You wrote:
            I say so because without an axiomatic foundation, a logical system cannot exist.

            We reply:
            That much is certain.

            You wrote:
            God is the axiomatic foundation for objective good and evil.

            We reply:
            We agree, but the denial of God's existence does not entail that another axiomatic foundation cannot be employed. There are other competing "axiomatic foundations".

            You wrote:
            Human beings are not objective, and cannot be the foundation for an objective morality.

            We reply:
            Human wellness or unwellness following from the very nature of specific human actions can serve as a suitable criterion for an "objective" morality. The content of this moral system would differ slightly from ours as theists, but there would not be anything inherently non-objective about it.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No other foundation can compete with God. All other foundations come from human emotions, and are thus not suitable criterion for an objective morality.

          • Why does God create, for his good or for ours?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            God creates because it is his nature to create; same reason any genius does.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Dude. Have you not heard of the "laws of thought?"

            Do you not know any philosophy within the last 400 years? An axiomatic system needs to be based on axioms. Roots of justification.

            Not existential claims such as God.

            The laws of thought serve. They are the definition of what is true and the basis for all development upon them.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Philosophy from the last 400 years= attempts to turn wrong into right.

            If God does not exist, neither do souls, and neither does thought. Without God, thought is just a biochemical reaction predetermined by quantum mechanics.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Yup. It is.

            What's your point?

            Your disappointment with what is real isn't my problem, or reality's problem.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Thus, atheists can't claim to be able to think, because under the philosophy of atheism, thought cannot exist.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Incorrect. As you said yourself, thought is what a physical process does. And that physical process exists. Therefor thought exists.

            You're a weird one. This stuff isn't like... hard.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Thought requires use of the soul. If the soul doesn't exist, thought doesn't exist- it's just a bunch of chemicals interacting. This isn't rocket science. It is basic truth.

            There is no humanity in atheism.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Well, your assertion that thought requires a soul seems absolutely without merit, and little more than your own opinion. Thought to me seems to require little more than something that is capable of making models, holding concepts, memory, and the like.

            Which brains seem quite well at doing.

            Brains think just fine. No soul needed.

            And if by "basic truth" you mean "my own opinion", well, good for you!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            A computer can think by your standards. I am not impressed, with either your logic or your redefinition of reality.

          • Jerome Haltom

            My goodness! You're right! If you look at a brain, and you look at what it does, and how it works, and how it gives rise to thinking beings.... the inevitable conclusion is that if we could duplicate that, build a system as complex, capable of the same functions, then we'd have a thinking system!

            Astonishment! Surprise!

            And also, true. Thanks for figuring it out on your own. :)

            You keep saying that what I'm saying leads to some conclusion....... and leaving it there. As if you really don't like the conclusion.

            Get over it. Your displeasure at reality doesn't change it.

            The difference here between us is I'm just pointing to things in reality. Things trivial to go look at. And saying, Hey, look at these things! Where as you're saying something like "Hey, I really want stuff to operate a certain way. The idea of computers thinking or something is frightening. It goes against everything I've been taught. Therefor it can't be true."

            One of these approaches tends to win out in the end. Care to guess which one?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm not the one who doesn't like the conclusion- YOU are the one who insists that you are able to think.

            Atheism philosophically leads to a lack of free will, a lack of free thought. A lack of freedom, masquerading as freedom. A world of illusion. Anti-Gnosticism, anti-Knowledge. And the ignorance of the combined experience of 2 million years of human history.

            I'm perfectly fine with the logical conclusion of atheism- because it proves to me the whole system is false. It is YOU who has a problem with it, because you insist that despite this huge glaring contradiction, it must still be true.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Heh. But if they'res nothing in the logical conclusion which is CONTRADICTORY, then it's not proven false, sorry to say. And there isn't. Nothing.

            Free will? We don't have it. Knowledge, if narrowly defined as justified true belief, we do have. That's the conclusion. It's not contradictory.

            You just WANT free will. You WANT your definition of knowledge. Sorry about that! I just want to understand how reality works.

            A long history of people thinking they are independent agents with causative freedom isn't evidence that they ARE independent agents with causative freedom. It's just evidence that they believe they are. :)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Good, just so you know you don't have free will and thus cannot be an independent agent with causative freedom, and thus, any thinking you do is predestined and gives you no credit at all.

          • Zachary_Bos

            Agreed. (In the technical sense that "free will" isn't independent of prior causes; that agent systems can interactive with their naturalist environment in complex and cognitively rich ways even if that interaction isn't technically "independent"; that neither "causative freedom" nor "nonpredestined thinking" seems to be required to account for the experiences of human beings.)

          • Jerome Haltom

            Cool. We agree then on two of those. No free will. Ultimately deterministic.

            The third is a bit weird to add in there. Why would free will be required for "credit"? Actually, not sure what credit means to you...

            But if I encountered a computer, that was capable of monitoring reality, building a model, and making predictions upon that model, I'd certainly pay attention and evaluate those predictions! They are after all still capable of being accurate!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            They are only as capable of being accurate as the model is accurate. Given the errors in input to the human brain, accuracy is impossible, and thus, knowledge is impossible.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Nope. Because accuracy is not a boolean. Partial accuracy is possible, and if correct, counts as knowledge.

            Knowledge, as defined by philosophers, being justified true belief. If the proposition is believed to be true, justified, and actually true, then it is knowledge, according to that definition of knowledge. And, it's the one I'm concerned with.

            Certain knowledge might be impossible, however. But nothing in the definition of knowledge requires certainty.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Without a soul, you can't even have uncertain knowledge. All you have is biochemical processes and the illusion of knowledge.

          • Zachary_Bos

            "All you have is biochemical processes and the illusion of knowledge."
            True enough! But then, one makes do. It is a wisdom to reconcile oneself to the limitations of one's circumstances.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Unfortunately, that's not a logical conclusion. Knowledge, as defined by philosophers simply requires it to be justified, believed, and actually the case. All of which remain possible without a soul.

            Biochemical processes are capable of producing the two subjective processes required. And the existence of a reality fulfills the third.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Logic is not possible with biochemical processes alone, and subjective processes are only illusion.

            There is no way, in a philosophy without God, to know that reality exists.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Logic is perfectly possible with biochemical processes.

            The computer I'm typing this to you from does logic. You clearly mean something else.

            And again, knowledge is defined as "justified true belief". Only those three things are required for something to qualify as "knowledge."

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes I do. I don't mean mere boolean logic, that's easy. I mean justified true belief- all three. A computer does not BELIEVE. Neither does an atheist. And justification is impossible for a computer. All you have left is the boolean- true or false.

          • Jerome Haltom

            A machine however can believe, unless, again, you are operating with some special definition of belief. Please clarify your definition, then.

            belief: "an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists."

            A model which predicts an outcome is a belief that the outcome will occur to whatever degree the model predicts.

            Also, ... this boolean true/false thing. You don't know much about computers, do you? Probabilistic models? Bayesian analysis?

          • Jerome Haltom

            And, I'm sorry, this is simply an appeal to circularity. Logic is an axiom of thought (again, as I mentioned earlier, referred to as the "laws of thought").

            You don't have to justify logic itself. That's why it's called an "axiom."

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, exactly- there is no difference between axioms and religious belief.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Not really. You see, my axioms refer to those base properties of my mind which I cannot even phrase as a denial.

            "The law of identity is false." for instance assumes the law of identity merely to state it. The law of identity is required to even utter a word.

            "God does not exist." however isn't contradicting itself. First, obviously, it's referring to an extent entity outside of the language itself: so at minimum, if it's self defeating, it would be so as a circular proposition, not as a directly self-contradictory statement.

            Beyond that, "God exists" cannot be a base proposition. It contains the concept "God", and the concept "exists." That means it always relies itself on the law of identity. It relies on the law of non-contradiction, as existence is defined as contradictory to non-existence, and the law of the excluded middle: God either exists or not.

            A statement about God itself relies on the laws of thought. Therefor, the laws of thought are really the axioms.

            Also, the fourth: I exist as a thinking entity. I cannot deny this, either. Try it "I do not exist as a thinking entity." The moment you utter the statement, it contradicts itself, as that which is doing the uttering by definition is a thinking entity.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Odd that your entire diatribe proved your thinking a slave to the axioms and assumptions that you start with- no different than an ancient Greek with his myths (in fact, your law of identity is a myth of an ancient Greek).

            "God does not exist" is self contradictory because without God, you wouldn't even have the law of identity. God is the ultimate axiom- the ultimate law of thought.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Ahh, the classic confusion between justification and explanation.

            You don't get to offer an explanation to explain why you can justify things, without justifying your acceptance of the explanation itself.

            1) I can think.
            2) God is the cause of me thinking.
            3) I believe God is the cause of me thinking, because !?!?!?

            You see? You've left off the reason you accept the third as a true proposition. To accept the thing, you have to rely on the first: thinking itself. You can't believe God caused you to think, without first accepting that you can think.

            Instead, what you could do, is accept as an axiom, that you can think, and what the various conditions are thereof.

            1) I can think.
            2) It is proposed that God exists, and is responsible for my thinking.
            3) I justify my acceptance of 2) by an appeal to something else that isn't 1) or 2). For instance, evidence of God's existence, and his hand in creation.

            The (3) above could totally work. Unfortunately, you don't have any. =(

            Instead, what we have is plenty of physical evidence that brains are minds, and that brains are in skulls, and that brains evolved.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You have it totally backwards.

            1) God thinks.
            2) God's thinking creates everything in the world.
            3) My soul is in the world.
            4) My soul allows me to think.

            Is my original proposition.

            Atheistic Materialism removes 1, 2, and 3. Thus, the nihilism inherent in atheistic materialism removes the ability to think.

          • Jerome Haltom

            That's the most idiotic thing I've ever heard. Especially since I just explained it.

            You can't say "God does not exist", without FIRST assuming the law of identity, dumby. How do you justify the use of the word "God" without distinct concepts?

            God *IS* a distinct concept, thus you have to FIRST assume the law of identity to even reference it.

        • Jerome Haltom

          This is trivial.

          I define "Good" as those actions which lead towards human well-being.

          I define "Evil" as those actions which lead away from human well-being.

          Some actions, in this sense, are objectively good, and objectively bad.

          Easy 'nuff.

          So, like, since murder makes everybody worse off: it's bad. See? Easy.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Human well being is not an objective term.

          • Jerome Haltom

            So? Hasn't stopped psychology or medicine from making objective claims.

            It's true that drinking battery acid will kill you. Objective claim. Whether you care to live? Subjective.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Medicine has evidence. Psychology does not.

          • Jerome Haltom

            ... well, first, that's clearly wrong. Psychology is a subset of medicine. Either way, let's just run with it. Medicine.

            1) Deciding that you want to live a pleasant life: subjective.
            2) Deciding what constitutes a pleasant life: subjective.
            3) Drinking battery acid will kill you: objective.
            If you want to fulfill 1) and 2), avoid doing 3).

            1) Deciding that you want to live a pleasant life: subjective
            2) Deciding what constitutes a pleasant life: subjective
            3) Stealing from people reduces their trust in you, ultimately resulting in a less pleasant life: objective.

            If you want to fulfill 1) and 2), avoid 3)!

            Morals. Objective. Easy.

            Exactly the same thing as everything else in science that makes prescriptive statements.

          • Guest

            Ya'll religious people complicate things immensely, that's for sure.

          • Jerome Haltom

            Ya'll religious people complicate things immensely, that's for sure. Weird requirements for what morals Really Gotta Be, that are just irrelevant.

    • Andre Boillot

      Theodore,

      "What I keep running into isn't that atheists reject good because of evil, but rather they reject the notion of evil entirely. War, Theft, Greed, Fraud, Abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality are all considered good because under relativism *THERE IS NO EVIL*"

      I won't waste any time in rebutting your claims on atheism + relativism. I will however point out that the corollary of *there is no evil* is not *there is good*.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I'm just saying that almost every atheist I've ever communicated with, in any form, is against the notion of a higher authority because they want to propagate an idea that their notion of a higher authority has deemed to be evil.

        I would agree- the corollary of there is no evil is that there is also no good, but I don't expect human beings to be that rational.

        • Andre Boillot

          Theodore,

          "I'm just saying that almost every atheist I've ever communicated with, in any form, is against the notion of a higher authority because they want to propagate an idea that their notion of a higher authority has deemed to be evil."

          I find it hard to believe that most of the atheists you've come across are arguing against the notion of god in an attempt to propagate the idea that war, theft, greed, and fraud are 'good'.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Some of them are arguing that abortion is good. Some argue that war (particularly war against religion) is good. Some argue that capitalism (greed and fraud) is good (Ayn Rand?). Some argue that euthanasia is good.

            Everybody has different ideas of what is good. That's what Moral Relativism is all about.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            I should point out at this stage that your approach here is quite ironically in contrast to the spirit of the OP.

            "Some of them are arguing that abortion is good."

            I don't know many atheists that argue that abortion is good - most would prefer contraception - but that there are cases where it may be necessary or preferable to the alternative.

            "Some argue that war (particularly war against religion) is good."

            I see, here we're apparently equating propaganda campaigns with armed conflict. I think most observers would realize this is not an apt comparison.

            "Some argue that capitalism (greed and fraud) is good (Ayn Rand?)."

            I doubt very much that Rand would have argued that fraud was good, or that it was necessary, conducive to, or resulting from capitalism. In fact, I believe one could argue that pure capitalism has effective market-based incentives against fraud.

            "Some argue that euthanasia is good."

            Again, I don't know of many atheists who would advocate for euthanasia as a 'good' (certainly not the forced/coerced sort that I'll assume you're hinting at). I would venture that many atheists see nothing wrong with somebody of sound mind choosing to end their own life, or be assisted in doing so, especially in cases where their quality of life was going to be lower than they felt they could bear.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "I should point out at this stage that your approach here is quite ironically in contrast to the spirit of the OP."

            YES, it is, which is why I asked the question to begin with.

            "I don't know many atheists that argue that abortion is good - most would prefer contraception - but that there are cases where it may be necessary or preferable to the alternative."

            Morally, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia are just different symptoms of the same problem: eugenics.

            "I see, here we're apparently equating propaganda campaigns with armed conflict. I think most observers would realize this is not an apt comparison."

            Really? How many atheists opposed retaliation against Islam for 9-11?

            "I doubt very much that Rand would have argued that fraud was good, or that it was necessary, conducive to, or resulting from capitalism."

            And yet in Atlas Shrugged, John Galt worked by fraud (keeping skills and knowledge to himself rather than teaching others).

            " In fact, I believe one could argue that pure capitalism has effective market-based incentives against fraud."

            Without fraud, there is no competitive advantage. Without competitive advantage, there's no reason to develop a market in the first place.

            "Again, I don't know of many atheists who would advocate for euthanasia as a 'good' (certainly not the forced/coerced sort that I'll assume you're hinting at)."

            I'm not limiting my opposition of euthanasia to "forced/coerced". I'm also including fraudulent euthanasia, and fear-based euthanasia.

            "I would venture that many atheists see nothing wrong with somebody of sound mind choosing to end their own life, or be assisted in doing so, especially in cases where their quality of life was going to be lower than they felt they could bear."

            The problem with that statement is that somebody choosing to end their own life is positive proof that they are not of sound mind.

          • robtish

            I'd like to point out that "keeping skills and knowledge to himself rather than teaching others" fits no widely-accepted definition of fraud.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It creates an imperfect communication in the transaction, and thus creates an imbalance of power in the contract.

          • robtish

            "It creates an imperfect communication in the transaction, and thus creates an imbalance of power in the contract."

            I don't see how that follows, and even if it did, it's still not fraud. It's certainly not fraud when I hire an electrician to wire my house, and he does so without teaching me how to do it.

            This is getting far afield, though, so I'll leave this be, as well.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            To have a perfect transaction and have the free market work, both sides of the contract need perfect information into the work done.

            It is one thing to hire an electrician because you don't have the *time* to learn his skills. It is quite another thing for the electrician to *hide* what he is doing from your sight.

          • Paul Boillot

            If you wanted to make the point that Rand thought "fraud" permissible, then you should've chosen a better proof-of-concept than John Galt.

            Like Rand herself.

            Though you would still be objectively wrong, you'd be less wrong.

            The fact that you chose the fictional character of Galt to make your case indicates to me that you:
            A) have an imperfect memory/understanding of the subject matter
            or
            B) are name-dropping pop lit references and re-wiring word meanings to legitimize wild analogies and stretching logic past it's breaking point.

            "Fraud" is a specific word which is taken to mean:
            [blockquote]
            A false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury.
            [/blockquote]
            (http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fraud)

            (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Galt)
            John Galt is under no legal obligation not to hide his talents and knowledge from those who have not paid for them; you're not guilty of 'fraud' if you simply strike and refuse to work.

            Further, the active damage he is doing to the his contemporaneous system is done to dismantle a system of oppression and force, one in which there is no legal contract possible due to coercion and duress. Therefore his clandestine operations are also not 'fraud.'

            In the system he does eventually set up, total honesty and transparency is de rigeuer.

            There are other characters in Rand's books who do operate in a way that is potentially fraudulent, but I would argue that the book makes the point that in a rigged game you must refuse to play by the 'rules'. In any case, you have comprehensively mis-applied the word 'fraud' to Galt.

            As I mentioned above, you could've brought up Rand's personal life. You could've accused her of some kind of 'fraud' for telling others that "mooching" was objectively evil while herself collecting social security and medicare.

            (http://www.alternet.org/story/149721/ayn_rand_railed_against_government_benefits,_but_grabbed_social_security_and_medicare_when_she_needed_them)

            You could've brought that up...but you'd still be wrong.

            [blockquote]
            It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the “right” to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.
            [/blockquote]

          • TheodoreSeeber

            " or by concealment of what should have been disclosed"

            is the part of the definition I'm talking about.

            "John Galt is under no legal obligation not to hide his talents and knowledge from those who have not paid for them"

            Legal is not equal to moral. And thus is worthless.

          • Paul Boillot

            Okay, let's try this again.

            He's under no legal OR MORAL obligation.

            The books and the woman who wrote them clearly and without question decry fraud.

            You're completely off.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Capitalism is not possible without fraud.

          • Paul Boillot

            I'm sure that this line of conversation feels like I'm challenging your beliefs about Rand and capitalism on some level, and please believe me when I say that I'm not. I have no doubt that you honestly and deeply hold the convictions you're stating here.

            You just don't know what you're talking about.

            You either don't understand the novel you referenced, or the meaning of 'fraud'...or maybe both.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You aren't even coming close to challenging my beliefs on Capitalism. There is no way to have a free market is the problem, and I have a very different definition of fraud than you do apparently.

          • Paul Boillot

            No, no, you have a different definition of 'fraud' than *everyone else*.

            As to your beliefs on capitalism, I understand your beliefs. You think it's evil, and to some extent I applaud your (I assume) definition of a morally good exchange economy as one where everyone gets what they need from those who can provide.

            "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

            I just came up with that now, on my own. I think it fairly describes what I believe to be your stance, I may be wrong.

            In any case, it's a noble point of view, in its own way, viewed in its own light.

            But if we're going to value legally binding exchanges between two parties (a moral good, no?), it's imperative that one not be able to coerce the other by force.

            In the world Rand creates in her novels, the government, on the whole, has decayed into a system where political weight is used to alter the balance of market exchanges to the point of total disparity.

            Stating a character advocates withdrawing from that corrupt system opposed to propping it up with the fruit of their labor is 'fraudulent' meets the definition of no one but yourself.

            Furthermore, in the system that Galt eventually does set up, radical honesty and transparency of the kind you think capitalism is antithetical to (and thus fundamentally fraudulent) is the norm.

            In closing, let me reiterate that I don't doubt the sincerity of your convictions, or the good intentions behind them, but your understanding of the subject matter is...

          • TheodoreSeeber

            ""From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

            I just came up with that now, on my own. I think it fairly describes what I believe to be your stance, I may be wrong."

            No, you're correct- but like Marx, you didn't just come up with it. You stole it from Acts 4:32-37.

            The problem is that it doesn't work for any population of more than 10,000 human beings. But then again, neither does capitalism.

            All contracts are coerced by force. The only real question is who is doing the forcing and why. Political or being able to bribe lawyers and judges, or simply lying, doesn't matter. It's all the same.

          • Paul Boillot

            Right, so I "stole" from Marx, who "stole" from the book of Acts which was the first ever instance, recorded or otherwise, of a human cooperative society. I'm sure your historical/etymological analyses leave nothing to be desired on this score.

            So, if capitalism AND the cooperative system you describe fail...then what is your point again?

            "All contracts are coerced by force." - And now we've gone off the deep end.

            -Boillot Out

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Ultimately? That attempts to resist tribalism, in general, fail. Human beings are meant to be monocultural.

          • Paul Boillot

            Your point is well illustrated by the fact that 50 thousand years ago humans had a rich, global multicultural exchange where prominent and wealthy societies were capable of pooling their resources, black white brown and yellow all, and sending spacecraft out of our solar system.

            The slow march of days upon weeks upon millennia has eventually ground us down to a few connected enclaves, while the rest of the world has arrived at tribal barter systems with cows and goats for dowries.

            Er...wait, I may have that backwards.

            Oh...shoot, didn't I already say

            -Boillot Out

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don't see wasting resources on exploring planets that we can't utilize as being proof of civilization.

          • Paul Boillot

            Why are you adding a new nebulous term to our discussion, "civilization?"

            You said that resisting tribalism fails and that we're meant to be monocultural.

            If you were right, one we would need to find, in the record of history, "in general," a trend from non tribalism and multiculturalism to their opposites; we don't, and you're not.

            Stop conflating terms and concepts, adding new ideas when you get flummoxed, and just admit that you have no idea what you're saying.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Following several separate threads has a tendency to do that. Also, considering the conversation to be ultimately futile also will do that.

            I am not a worshiper of what modern philosophers call "Progress". In fact, I think progressivism in general is a mistake. Technology does not make people happy. And it certainly hasn't made them more moral, quite the reverse.

            Multiculturalism only succeeds by force and destruction of more distributed cultures.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Off the deep end to you maybe, because you're beholden to greed.

          • Cossard

            So it's like the fraud perpetrated by Colonel Sanders when he kept his fried-chicken recipe a secret?

            Really, you are funny. Someone who tries to criticize Ayn Rand and fails is like someone shooting at a barn door and missing.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "So it's like the fraud perpetrated by Colonel Sanders when he kept his fried-chicken recipe a secret?"

            Yes, and he made millions off of that fraud.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            You seem to need a refresher course on the meanings of 'eugenics' and 'fraud'. I'll leave you to consult a dictionary of your choosing.

            "How many atheists opposed retaliation against Islam for 9-11?"

            I, for one, was (and am) totally against the idea of military action against Islam, and I would oppose any efforts to invade Islam. I hold out hope that, after his most recent round of talks with Islam, Secretary Kerry will find a peaceful solution between the US and Islam.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm not interested in modern definitions that conveniently avoid the real topic- fraud is hiding information and eugenics is the wish that unprofitable people die or are never born.

            On Islam- so you're willing to live under Shariah law? That's the only peaceful situation the other side will offer.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            "I'm not interested in modern definitions that conveniently avoid the real topic"

            On the other hand, I would be very interested to know where you get your "real" definitions from.

            "On Islam- so you're willing to live under Shariah law? That's the only peaceful situation the other side will offer."

            Wait, as an atheist, I have only two choices? Either accept Shariah law (again, i don't eve...), or retaliate against all of Islam for 9-11? Let's leave aside (or not, Brandon?) your insinuation that all Muslims are of one mind on this issue. Your initial point was that you thought atheists rejected god in order to advance the idea that things like war were good - which is what I see you doing here, though in your case you're relying on god to make your case.

            I don't know what else to say to you. Good luck with life, I guess.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "On the other hand, I would be very interested to know where you get your "real" definitions from."

            The Theology of the Body in Catholicism.

            "Wait, as an atheist, I have only two choices? Either accept Shariah law (again, i don't eve...), or retaliate against all of Islam for 9-11?"

            Islam, unlike Muslims, is a political system that has one objective- total political control over the world. There are competing sects within that, and at present, we're just outside collateral damage. But to ignore the threat entirely is the same mistake that caused the crusades.

            I think the problem you're having is that I'm not assuming that you are rational- in fact, I'm not assuming that I am rational.

          • Jeff W.

            You are if you state that anyone, including yourself, should believe what that catholic church, or bible, states is truth.
            Jesus isn't the messiah, or son of god, therefore any church claiming he is isn't rational, and must be discarded.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Only if you want to deny 2000 years worth of evidence to the contrary. But that's what atheists do- deny evidence.

          • Jeff W.

            Provide even the smallest amount of evidence that the bible is fact, and Jesus is the son of god.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Bible isn't fact, but Jesus is the Son of God. I don't use the Bible to prove my religion. The Church, not the Bible, is the Pillar and Support of Truth- even by the Bible.

          • Jeff W.

            If Jesus were the son of a god, then he would know how many stars were in the "heavens", and how many grains of sand on the beach. Yet he didn't, so he isn't the son of your god. Facts are facts.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            What makes you think he didn't? Or better yet, what makes you think that even if he was the Son of God, he knew himself to be the Son of God?

            Jesus wrote nothing. At best, we have 2nd and 3rd hand evidence based on people who knew him in the Bible. But there have been events since that prove the idea.

          • Jeff W.

            Events do NOT prove cause, only that they happened. YOU are still not showing any evidence, or even reason, that any being is a god, or son of god.
            Since you are not a witness to ANY events telling who Jesus was, if he even existed, why should anyone care what christians believe, nor what anyone says about a god, and what this supposed god wants?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Ah, so cause and event is not linked for you. Good enough, and I'm done, since that's a sign or irrationality.

          • Jeff W.

            Not being able to read leads to irrationality, as most here have accused you of. They're correct. Stay delusional.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is this argument about Jesus not knowing the number of stars or grains of sand? I've read the Gospels many times but I don't remember any mention of the numbering of stars or sand. Are you thinking of Abraham?

          • Jeff W.

            That is precisely the issue. As he stated above, his god doesn't break promises, which destroys the ability for the biblical Jesus stories to be true. Here is what the problem is: Promise - you will have X number of descendants. Jesus' time period - number of descendants (x - billions). Jesus' "promise" - Some here won't die before I return to end the world, and start a new one. See the problem? Can't end the world, start a new one with no birth or death, when will the number of Abraham's "seed" equal even a tenth of the sand or stars? Never, if the world ended at the time of the Jesus stories.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Re. Abraham

            >"Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them . . . So shall your descendants be" (Gn 15:5).

            "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore" (Gn 22:17).

            You are giving this promise a literalistic reading when it is a figure of speech meaning, "You will have more descendants than you can count.

          • Jeff W.

            So now a god uses figures of speech as promises? Still doesn't help, since that implies they couldn't count Abraham's descendants. The Jews say they did keep records, so more than who's ability to count? Illiterate Abraham? Not much of a promise. Would only make sense if a made up story, since us humans use figures of speech. There would be no honesty in using such a blatant dod as a promise.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic view of the Sacred Scriptures is that each book has two authors: The human writer and God. Of course the human writer will use human speech. So will God have to, since we otherwise could not understand it.

            God's promise to Abraham was that his descendants would be countless, and that is empirically verifiable: all the Jews and, through Christ, all Christians.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Re. Christ:

            "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Mt. 16:28).

            Three of those Christ spoke these words to shortly witnessed his Transfiguration on the mountain, which was a manifestation of his coming in his kingdom.

          • Jeff W.

            No, try again. With reference to Matthew 16:28, at the time of the transfiguration Jesus was not yet “in” his kingdom. Let us quote a christian perspective:

            https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1392-jesus-foretells-the-coming-kingdom

            (2) The disciples did not express their convictions (nor preach them) that the kingdom had arrived. In fact, they were still anticipating the kingdom at the time of the Savior’s ascension (Acts 1:6).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Kingdom of God is Jesus Christ so wherever he is the kingdom is. Immediately after he said those things is the Transfiguration.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            You are a funny one my friend. You and Theodore should be friends. Let me rephrase what you said to him:

            "Not being able to read leads to irrationality"

            Somehow you prove this one to be true:

            "Not being able to comprehend (read from context and within context) leads to irrationality"

            You two are suffering from the same.

          • Jeff W.

            Instead of rephrasing, how about a quote, since I don't see how we are the same. If I claimed to be a church member, and trust what they say, as well as quoting what the holy text says about "more to know than what is written herein", but I state I don'e place my faith in the holy text I just quoted, I would be a moron to do so. I don't, so please inform me how are we the same? Quotes please.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            This is how my friend:
            Theodore does not read the comments or rebuttals to his arguments and thus argues further only to make an idiot of himself. He is now a very irrational man.

            You, Jeff, take things from the Bible out of their context (e.g., your injustice to the story of Abraham's faith and God's test). You used them in your arguments without enough "comprehension"/understanding thus your arguments are irrational and invalid. Don't you think you are reading way way beyond? Well actually you are overextending the argument to other issues (lie) and isn't that a logical fallacy?

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            Hold it there...I don't support the stance of the man, Theodore, but your argument just went downright illogical. Did you ask Jesus how many stars were in "heavens" and grains of sand on the beach? Could it be that you did not and will not even get an answer because Jesus is not interested in those? Your way of reasoning is very flawed my friend. Let me tell you something about what he said about Himself "my Kingdom is not of this world". So if He is not even claiming this world as His kingdom, do you even think he'd be interested in the sands here?

          • Jeff W.

            Wow, since you are missing that point completely, I would do you a great service by restating it.
            If I promised you ten million pesos, then after three million pesos, I as a god, sent my son, who would have been in "heaven", thus knew what you were promised, yet he promises to return, closing all banks due to their being unnecessary, would that not be breaking a promise? Yes.
            If I didn't know the future, or have control, then it could still be a broken promise, but not out of my negligence. This would be, since Jesus was set up to be a supposed messiah since before the start of the world, according to the bible.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            I'm not sure about the metaphor. Did God do something like that? Can you put that more in context of the Bible? Cause I don't get anything like that from reading that book. Let us be clear on something here: The one speaking and making promises is a God (if you cannot stomach that, then don't read the book; at least think of it this way--he is a God in the book. Okay? Can you follow? That only means the definition of a God applies to Him as infinitely powerful, good and intelligence Himself). If He says that your strength is just my weakness (that means your strength will never be close to His') and says the same about your intelligence [but here when he said that it is just his weakness note that he is using an imagery, a figure of speech. Read along.]. How can you be the judge to whatever he is saying? Did he lie? As far as He is concerned, No.

            this is the real essence of that story. God wants to know if Abraham is faithful enough (you might want to ask: want to know? Isn't He all-knowing? Yes he is, but let us put that in context. God respects our freedom and yes he does know that Abraham will have chosen to follow nonetheless. However, let me ask you this: How will Abraham ever know that he has THAT MUCH FAITH in him in this God if this God did not TEST him?) You starting to get my drift? God is doing it precisely because He knows us to be limited. You ask why didn't just God let Abraham kill his son. Let me tell you this, this story is not about God's power to resurrect the dead. It is more than that. It is about Faith. It is God's way of showing us that it exist and God will not really allow us to do unnecessary evil if we have it. You see how He provided him with a beast to sacrifice instead? Yes, my friend that is the story. You misunderstood it. Let me ask you one final question: Have you read the whole and entirety of the Bible? If not then don't ever dare to use its contents in your arguments. If you did, then read it again cause you did not understand one bit.

            This is how you use a metaphor:

            The contents of the Bible is an EQUATION. You cannot simply take out the terms/variables/numbers in it as a separate entity whenever and however you please. That goes for every promise God made in the Bible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not going to defend TS, but could you tell me what you mean by doubting "that the bible is fact"? I've never heard a statement make like that before. The bible is fact? The bible is not fact?

          • Jeff W.

            Numbers - God is not a man, that he should lie;
            1 Kings - that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him;

            If I am given a diamond, and I want to test the limits of its ability to NOT shatter, I would hit it against, or with, an object really hard. I myself know that I don't want it to break, but to others, what do they believe I am doing? What is a lie? To "state" something that isn't true. In words, I am projecting that I DO want the diamond to break, but it isn't true. In the above verse, this god could have said "would you do X", and the honesty of Abraham's answer would be known. Yet, he states "do X", which is literally verbal short-hand for "I want you to do X". Did he really want Isaac dead? Not according to what is written. See, as a god, he could have let Abraham complete the act, raised Isaac, and cleared his memory of dying, thus retaining his integrity of "no lies", as well as testing Abraham. Instead, he stopped Abraham from doing anything more than tying Isaac down. So stating "kill Isaac", then stopping him, makes the command "kill" a lie.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jeff, I try to answer your objection but I'm not clear yet on what it is. Is it that there are contradictions in the Bible, for example, "God does not lie" vs. "God deceives Abraham"?

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            Do you know the word "test" and can you understand what it means?

            If I say I am "testing you" will that necessarily mean that what I will be doing is a lie? You are reading out of context and generalizing out of context. Isn't that a bit too stupid? Just asking. If at the level of logic you fail how can we even talk about something beyond "natural" or observable by the senses?

          • Jeff W.

            I'm not sure how you misunderstanding what test means equates to talking about what we observe with our senses. Maybe you should restate that with some clarity, or just drop it. Here are the definitions of TEST:

            1b - (dealing with theories and how to prove them true or false) (ignored)

            1c : (describes rites of passage type tests) (ignored)

            2a : a means of testing: as (1) : a procedure, reaction, or reagent used to identify or characterize a substance or constituent (2) : something (as a series of questions or exercises) for measuring the skill, knowledge, intelligence, capacities, or aptitudes of an individual or group

            Using 2a-(2) as a definition, if he had allowed the sacrifice, knowing he would resurrect Isaac, then NO it wouldn't be a lie to say "I want you to kill Isaac". That is not what happened, because he stopped the final action of the test; therefore, as Abraham, this is what you would understand god wanted: (one sec prior to sacrifice rite) your god wants Isaac dead. (one sec post sacrifice rite) your god does NOT want Isaac dead.

            Definition of LIE - 1: to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive or 2: to create a false or misleading impression.

            It is a lie to state what is not true, or to deceive someone by allowing, or causing, them to believe a false idea as fact. God allowed, or caused, Abraham to believe he DID want Isaac killed, but the fact the angel stopped him before the sacrifice was completed testifies to the opposite. That is defined as a lie.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            "It is a lie to state what is not true, or to deceive someone by allowing, or causing, them to believe a false idea as fact. God allowed, or caused, Abraham to believe he DID want Isaac killed, but the fact the angel stopped him before the sacrifice was completed testifies to the opposite. That is defined as a lie."

            believe me, there is no need to give me a definition of the two. Let me tell you this: God will never want anyone "dead". You know why? Because by our nature as finite being our bodies die. So why would God bother with that?

            Regarding your issue about "lie", look at my reply to your other comment above.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Jeff, it's kind of hard to have a dialogue with someone who baldly asserts with no evidence that another's beliefs are irrational and must be abandoned.

          • robtish

            It's even harder when that person says that he himself is irrational but has still managed to objectively determine what is rational.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm nor defending Theo. I'm surprised that some many here have been so patient with him.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I see no patience, only more attacks.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            That's not what I claimed. I claimed that nobody can be rational without God- without grace.

            Including myself.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            Ow stop it Theodore. That is a preposterous proposition. We are made rational. I you are familiar with "original sin" and you should be then you should know that the irrational actions/decisions/belief we have is because of it not because someone does not have God or grace (God gives grace precisely to help us limit the number of times we will do something irrational). You get me?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            are we not made with Original Sin?

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            We were not made with original sin. Rather, we inherited it from our ancestors. You may be confused, aren't they one and the same statement. No. Saying we were made with it means it is in our nature, it is in the nature of our ancestors. We were not originally with original sin. You get my drift? I know there is a very thin line between the two and it is understandable if you may think they are. But they are not. Saying you were made with Original sin is tantamount to saying that someone was born with gold (as wealth), literally, maybe around his/her neck. But we know that everyone was born with nothing. We were all naked. However, we can inherit gold and other wealth.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Original sin is not an inheritance we can reject. Without the miracle of grace, it is instead as much a part of our nature as eating and drinking (in my case, quite literally: not only am I a glutton, I'm a food hoarder. We recently had to replace the central heater in the house. The new one took up more room, and we needed to clean out and move the pantry. I found packages in there, unopened, that expired in 2006).

          • Cossard

            "Morally, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia are just different symptoms of the same problem: eugenics."

            That's a very strange claim. You think people use condoms (for example) because they've decided they are genetically unworthy to have their genes perpetuated in the gene pool?

            "The problem with that statement is that somebody choosing to end their own life is positive proof that they are not of sound mind."

            And that they're not true Scotsmen.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "You think people use condoms (for example) because they've decided they are genetically unworthy to have their genes perpetuated in the gene pool?"

            Yes. Genetically and economically- since the central lie of eugenics is that poverty is transmitted genetically.

            Suicide is always evidence of mental illness.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            "Suicide is always evidence of mental illness."

            I think I can speak for an increasing number of us when I ask you to please refrain from unsubstantiated nonsense like this.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            So, suicide is sane? Good, go do it.

          • Andre Boillot

            Very Christian of you.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You are the one saying that suicide is sane and better than life.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            Please show me where I said suicide was better than life. I'll wait.

            Nothing? Ok.

            What I did say was that the below statement was nonsense (emphasis mine):

            Suicide is always evidence of mental illness

            I'm curious as to how you would support this statement. What mental health authorities hold this position?

            I would have thought this would go without saying, but there are many cases where people rationally decide that ending their lives on their own terms is preferable to the alternative. For example, those diagnosed with terminal illnesses who do not wish to endure painful and/or costly treatments which would only briefly extend their lives.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rational_suicide

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "I think I can speak for an increasing number of us when I ask you to please refrain from unsubstantiated nonsense like this."

            If suicide is not insane, then it's clearly *better* than what I would deem as sanity.

            You fight. You fight PAST death. That's sane.

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            "If suicide is not insane"

            For the record, I've never said that suicide was always sane, or that a great many suicides aren't linked to mental illnesses of some sort. I'm objecting to your (still unsubstantiated) claim that "suicide is always evidence of mental illness".

            "what I would deem as sanity"

            We are perhaps on shaky ground here. What definition of sanity do you hold that prefers pointless suffering at great cost to one choosing to end their suffering?

            "You fight PAST death. That's sane."

            I don't understand what this means.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I know you don't understand what it means. Atheism makes it impossible to understand a whole class of phenomena that nonetheless, exist.

            For the rest, see:

            http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=100295

          • Zachary_Bos

            "Atheism makes it impossible to understand a whole class of phenomena that nonetheless, exist."
            You'll have to connect the dots for us; I don't see how the article you cite supports this assertion.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Had nothing to do with that article. Had to do with the statement that Andre doesn't understand the concept of continuing the good fight from life into death. Of actually finishing the race, instead of giving up.

            I understand that is a concept that atheism makes it impossible to understand.

          • Zachary_Bos

            Thank you for the clarification.

            "Of actually finishing the race, instead of giving up."
            I'm an atheist. I have no trouble understanding how or why someone would be committed to this idea of life. (Nor, for that matter, why and how someone might reject it.)

            There's no epistemic impossibility here that I can see.

          • Andre Boillot

            "Of actually finishing the race, instead of giving up.

            I understand that is a concept that atheism makes it impossible to understand."

            I could easily imagine that for the atheist - who believes that this life is all there is - the desire to fight death would be that much more intense. The theist - who believes in an afterlife - might easily resign themselves to the notion that it was their time to die, and give up fighting (though, obv depending on their particular faith, may or may not take steps to hasten their departure).

          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            "I know you don't understand what it means. Atheism makes it impossible to understand a whole class of phenomena that nonetheless, exist."

            I just had myself put under hypnosis, with instructions to be reverted to my past, Catholic, self. I then re-read your comments and still didn't understand. Maybe my disposition towards the spiritual isn't the issue.

            "For the rest, see:

            http://ajp.psychiatryonline.or..."

            Again, this link doesn't support your claim. You should try some re-reading of your own.

          • Andre Boillot

            Also, any time you want to cite a mental health authority that holds "suicide is always evidence of mental illness", I'm all ears.

          • TheodoreSeeber
          • Andre Boillot

            Theodore,

            Even assuming that this editorial is representative of the APA (let alone the medical community at large), it's still not supporting your claim.

            "About 10% of those who commit or attempt suicide have no identifiable psychiatric illness."

            I don't know what to tell you, other than 90% < 100%.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And if you had continued to read the rest of the article, which eventually became a separate diagnosis in the DSM, they were arguing for it being a positive mental illness in and of itself.

            But since you don't believe in the will to survive, or my definition of sanity, that's moot anyway.

          • Andre Boillot

            "they were arguing for it being a positive mental illness in and of itself"

            I'm not seeing this conclusion, could you supply me with a quote?

          • You wrote: Some of them are arguing that abortion is good. Some argue that war (particularly war against religion) is good. Some argue that capitalism (greed and fraud) is good (Ayn Rand?). Some argue that euthanasia is good.

            We reply: None of them argue that these are goods in an unqualified sense. At best, they argue one or more of them to be "the best thing going" or the only reasonable option given the circumstances. [Contrary to what you wrote, Ayn Rand would condemn fraud very severely.]

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Ayn Rand claimed to condemn fraud, but her entire premise was built on the idea that the fraudulent had a right to be fraudulent.

            And it doesn't matter if their support of the evil is qualified or unqualified- it is still a support of evil. I didn't vote for Romney or Obama because I saw it as the choice between the lesser of two evils, I don't buy "lesser of two evils" arguments.

        • Peter Piper

          Maybe you have been communicating with the wrong atheists. Your description does not fit me, and I would be surprised if it fit many of the atheists here. So surprise me, atheists! If you are `against the notion of a higher authority because [you] want to propagate an idea that their notion of a higher authority has deemed to be evil,' please leave a short comment saying so.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            They're not going to admit it. You need to drill down to find out what they think the Church is doing wrong.

          • Peter Piper

            You've made me feel slightly uncomfortable here, and I apologise that it will take me a minute to explain why. Your most recent comment suggests that when you interact with atheist who disagree with you about moral matters, you judge that those atheists reject religion because they reckon that God agrees with you against them in these moral questions, rather than for other more innocuous reasons.

            I'm worried that you will judge me in just the same way, even though such a judgment would be a complete misapprehension. Do you see that you are giving the impression that you tend to leap to judgment in this way, and that this might be a problem?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            What is a more innocuous reason for denying 2 million years of human history and experience with the divine?

            It is a problem, I'll admit it. The problem is with a culture that is attempting to live with a pluralistic, relativistic definition of right and wrong.

          • Peter Piper

            In response to your challenge, I'll mention a reason which is clearly not a great reason (so you can see that I have no interest in defending it) but it is utterly innocuous: having been brought up by atheist parents, in a largely atheist country, and having always just found atheism normal.

            No doubt your second paragraph was a rhetorical flourish, and you understand what I was really trying to get at in my last sentence.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Given the ability to research history and other cultures available today, it isn't even an innocuous reason.

          • Peter Piper

            It is absurd to suggest, as you do here, that awareness that people believed something for a long time makes one morally culpable if one does not also believe it.

            In any case, do you at least accept that this reason is not the same as the reason you earlier suggested was universal?

        • robtish

          There is *huge* difference between saying some atheists admire things you consider evil, and saying that they are atheists *because* they want to promote an idea that their conception of god has deemed evil.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, there is. But I cannot fit a million individual psychoanalysis sessions into a single combox response.

            Nor would it be ethical to do so.

            Having said that, it always comes down to ONE thing- that God has asked for a sacrifice that the individual is not willing to sacrifice, and so they turn away.

          • robtish

            Please demonstrate that atheists "always" turn away from God because they don't want to give up something that God has deemed evil. I don't know how you will demonstrate this for every atheist in existence, but I look forward to your attempt.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm not going to attempt that, because that's not what I said. I said that every atheist I've ever discussed anything with, the conversation has eventually broken down to some suffering God has asked for that they don't want to give.

          • robtish

            You seem to have just reiterated what I described you as having said. Apparently I'm not following you, so I'll leave it be.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Number of atheists I've discussed things with < Number of Atheists in the world. Number of atheists you know < Number of atheists in the world.

            I'm claiming every atheist I've ever conversed with, eventually tries to defend an objective evil.

          • robtish

            Actually, no. Though perhaps they've tried to defend something that you have decided is evil.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I do not decide what is evil. I leave that to God.

          • robtish

            We live in a world with many, many competing claims about God has declared to be evil. You have to decide for yourself which one (if any) is true. By making that decision, you are deciding what is evil.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There's only one that is compatible with reason. But I didn't invent it. I had to conform to it.

          • robtish

            But it was your own mind (which you have told us is as irrational and imperfect as any human mind) that made this decision, based on your own experience and imperfect reason. This is just as subjective as any moral conclusion drawn by an atheist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And thus, I had to conform to reality. Atheists have yet to do so.

    • robtish

      Theodore, can you link us to these atheists who war, theft, greed, and fraud are good? I'd like to see them for myself.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Why link? Do you not read the newspapers? Wall Street and Washington DC are full of such folks who think that those things are good.

        • robtish

          Then it should be easy for you to link me to atheist thinkers who hold such beliefs.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There are atheists that hold all sides of any political discussion. I don't understand why you doubt this:

            http://atheism.about.com/od/aboutatheism/p/AtheistPolitica.htm

          • robtish

            Ah, so what you are saying is merely that atheists are people, just like Christians, just like the general population, with a variety of views, and that there are atheists out there who opposed war, greed, theft, and fraud, and that your first post painted atheists with far too broad a brush.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm saying that the variety of views is the problem and is the reason why atheism is irrational.

          • robtish

            That would only be true if atheism were intended as a complete philosophical school of thought devoted to solving moral problems. But it's not. It's merely a belief that there is insufficient evidence not to believe in God.

            Put it another way: Many people don't believe in Santa Claus, and these people have a variety of views on social issues. That doesn't mean that disbelief in Santa Claus is irrational.

            (And no, I'm not equating God and Santa Claus; I'm merely critiquing your notion that disbelief in something is necessarily irrational if the disbelievers disagree on a number of other issues.).

            And of course I'd like to point out the many Christians disagree on issues like war.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The belief that there is insufficient evidence for God is in and of itself irrational.

            I am Catholic. I am not generic American Christian, which is a belief system that is far more irrational than atheism, and in fact, has a tendency to produce atheists.

          • robtish

            So you're backing off from saying, "the variety of views is the problem and is the reason why atheism is irrational," and instead saying that "belief that there is insufficient evidence for God is in and of itself irrational."

          • TheodoreSeeber

            One points to the other, they are not inseparable.

    • Theodore, I think you might benefit from doing some good faith research into the best arguments for secular morality are, and returning with your rebuttals. Because your statements here really do come off as quite superficial reactions to false impressions of what most atheists believe and think about morality. I am afraid you seem to be propagating negative stereotypes about non believers which I find offensive.

      A great place to start would be a YouTube user by the name of Knownnomore. Have a look at his piece on debating theist on morality, it is an hour but worth it.

      Sam Harris talks on his book the Moral Landscape will give you an idea of probably the way most of us approach morality without this supposed access to gods objective moral truths.

      Also check out Matt Dillahunty's talks on the Superiority of Secular Morality. Google it.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I will look into those, thank you. I suspect they'll all come out with the same problem though- personal emotion masquerading as truth.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I have listened to Matt Dillahunty and it comes down to a childish "I want to be the authority instead of religion or God". I see no reason to accept him as an authority at all.

        Now going to find Knownomore. Forgive me if I skip buying a book from Sam Harris, I see no reason to support con artists.

        • I am not suggesting you take anything on authority, and if you are all familiar with Matt you know darn well he would never support himself as a moral authority. The forms of secular morality I am talking about takes human well-being as axiomatic. Theistic morality usually takes divine authority as axiomatic.

          I would suggest that on both ends we can't be sure if our axioms are objectively true. Both accept human sense and induction can't be perfectly justified, but we have nothing else to draw upon. Neither of us just go on instinct or faith. Theists try to figure out what god wants us to do. I try to figure out what best supports well-being. We can both be mistaken about what these are, but neither are being purely arbitrary.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The talk I saw on YouTube he was putting himself forth as a superior moral authority.

            Human well being? What's the definition of THAT and on what authority is it based? It's completely arbitrary from what i've seen- you can even support murder of the unborn with human well being.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        And Knownomore wants to base his arguments on Plato. Sorry, nothing new there, arguments I've long since rejected as being irrational.

    • R Bonwell parker

      It sounds like you've fallen for the trap that the article above says Catholics have been guilty of falling for. It's a lot easier to dismiss atheists by convincing yourself that atheists think things like war, theft, etc. are "good."

      Your error is that you continue to view atheist thought with the same absolutist lens with which you view the world. Very few atheists are 100% relativist as you refer to, but even those who agree with that concept of "there is no absolute evil" are not therefore saying all of those things are good. Suggesting that they do is being disingenuous.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I am accepting their arguments on face value. They tell me that they believe this or that objective evil is good. Are you claiming that they are lying?

        • R Bonwell parker

          I'm claiming that either you're misconstruing their words or miscategorizing them. The meaning that you've attributed to their words are in direct conflict with what an atheist or relativist thinks.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It's hard to miscategorize "Euthanasia is good and should be legal". It is hard to miscategorize "Abortion is good and should be legal". It is hard to miscategorize "Religion is evil and we should go to war to eliminate it". But nice try.

    • You wrote: What do we do when the atheist idea of good is an objective evil?

      We reply: Let's begin to undo the knot by establishing some basic definitions:

      1) Goodness = subjective desirability
      2) Evil = subjective undesirability

      On these simple definitions (which are Catholic), all objective moral questions can be answered. There is *no* instance in which a human being desires something evil for its own sake. The thing desired is always a good, and the evil is *tolerated* as part of the act of seeking the good.

      You wrote:
      What I keep running into isn't that atheists reject good because of evil, but rather they reject the notion of evil entirely.

      We reply:
      It is not the case that an atheist rejects the notion of evil as a Catholic would understand the term "evil". Evaluative judgments are inescapable. Some things are subjectively desirable and some are not. An atheist may reject certain metaphysical premises which give rise to your/our set of evaluative conclusions. However, in doing so, they are not rejecting the notion of evil, but only differ about *what* constitutes evil on our metaphysical assumptions.

      You wrote:
      War, Theft, Greed, Fraud, Abortion, euthanasia, and homosexuality are all considered good because under relativism *THERE IS NO EVIL*.

      We reply:
      The values sought here are all goods (we'll spare you the list of goods unless you need it). The evils (deprivations) concomitant with the attempted acquisition of these goods are *not* sought, but endured. If the goods could be obtained without the attendant deprivations, then that would be "better". It would be "best" to have no deprivation of any good at all. The ultimate party, as it were.

      You wrote:
      I am far more upset at the evil that men do, than at the evil God brings good out of.

      We reply:
      God brings good out of every evil (including moral evil). If he did not, then we sinners would be permanently diminished with no possibility of being made well.

      You wrote:
      I can't change God's mind. I *can* hopefully prick the consciences of the evil men around me.

      We reply:
      Why is God against sin? Do you know? Why are you against sin?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        ok, so we disagree on the premise.

        "1) Goodness = subjective desirability2) Evil = subjective undesirability"

        I deny that goodness and evil are subjective at all. Human beings are subjective. Reality isn't. The existence of God is not subjective.

        Can you show me where in Catholic teaching it says that evil and good are subjective, and thus, worthless for judgement?

        I am a finite being, and I am subjective. God is not subjective. God is against sin because good has to be against sin.

        • dgr8one

          is conscience objective or subjective?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Informed conscience is objective, malformed conscience is subjective.

          • dgr8one

            could it be that the state of being informed or malformed is just a matter of alignment?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is a matter of being able to suspend pride.

          • dgr8one

            suspend pride to what end?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            To actually accepting reality instead of making it up as you go along.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            to remove personal bias and accept reality.

          • dgr8one

            and this reality is objective morality?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes,

          • dgr8one

            Following our discussion then, all these "suspending pride", "removing personal bias", and "accepting reality" constitute a process of *forming one's conscience* towards this "objective morality" you speak of.

            From the above, formation then is a process of *aligning* with this objective morality. The end result would either be: an informed conscience if successful, or, if not successful, a malformed conscience.

            Our discussion shed light to the truth that -- at the core -- conscience is subjective. It is a personal barometer.

        • The following extended quote from the Catechism is to be held in conjunction with our other answers to your objection. The point is that God wills our happiness, and happiness is always the harmony between subjective desire and reality. In order to attain this harmony, certain objectively well-ordered moral choices must be made. But the whole point of morality is that we individual *subjects*, created for our own sake, become perfectly happy though the harmony which obtains through right relational/moral order.

          "II. THE DESIRE FOR HAPPINESS

          1718 The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin: God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it:

          We all want to live happily; in the whole human race there is no one who does not assent to this proposition, even before it is fully articulated.

          How is it, then, that I seek you, Lord? Since in seeking you, my God, I seek a happy life, let me seek you so that my soul may live, for my body draws life from my soul and my soul draws life from you.

          God alone satisfies.

          1719 The Beatitudes reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts: God calls us to his own beatitude. This vocation is addressed to each individual personally, but also to the Church as a whole, the new people made up of those who have accepted the promise and live from it in faith.

          ...Beatitude makes us "partakers of the divine nature" and of eternal life.21 With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ22 and into the joy of the Trinitarian life.

          1722 Such beatitude surpasses the understanding and powers of man. It comes from an entirely free gift of God: whence it is called supernatural, as is the grace that disposes man to enter into the divine joy...

          1723 The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love"

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is God's happiness that is important, not ours. Ours is a byproduct of living in God.

            None of those paragraphs mention the word "subjective" in the way you seem to use it to support moral relativism.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I thought I replied to this, but in basic, I do not accept your definitions and I don't believe the Church does either. If good and evil are subjective, then the Church is worthless and we should all become atheists.

        • Guest

          Catechism of the Catholic Church 1780: The dignity of the human person implies and requires uprightness of moral conscience. Conscience includes the perception of the principles of morality (synderesis); their application in the given circumstances by practical discernment of reasons and goods; and finally judgment about concrete acts yet to be performed or already performed. The truth about the moral good, stated in the law of reason, is recognized practically and concretely by the prudent judgment of conscience. We call that man prudent who chooses in conformity with this judgment.

          Conscience is subjective. Therefore, these simple definitions are Catholic:
          1) Goodness = subjective desirability
          2) Evil = subjective undesirability

          Q.E.D.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Conscience in Catholic terms is not subjective.

          • Our point concerns something more basic than the evaluation of moral actions. It is a metaphysical point rather than a moral one. Let us know if you cannot easily find the fuller answer we offered in response to Theodore's questions, and we will direct you to it.

        • Please see our response which includes a set of substantiating quotes.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I saw that response. Suspiciously missing was the use of the word "subjective".

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Even through I was an atheist for a long time, I had a lot of prejudices about them (probably based on assuming all atheists thought the way I did). I've learned that atheists have no common ideology except lack of belief in God or the belief that there is not sufficient evidence for God.

      However, it is clear that many atheists do believe in objective morality, otherwise they would not say that if God exists like we say he is he must be evil.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        They say that abortion and euthanasia are good. If they believe in an objective morality, then it is one that is utterly foreign to me and completely unrecognizable.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Your "they" is an too broad a generalization. Some atheists think abortion is moral (there are terribly wrong) but some putative Christians and whole denominations have similar views (lamentably).

          I'm saying many atheists must believe in objective morality because they think things really are good and evil.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I see atheism as just another sect of Protestantism. Calvinists claim they think things really are good and evil too, but when it comes down to it, it's all in their personal biases and interpretations.

    • Tjaart Blignaut

      Atheists do believe in objective morality because harm can be measured objectively. For corner cases we have moral philosophy. Despite claiming divine morality, we still need jurisprudence and philosophy things to determine what is just. In that sense secular morality has not only proven itself workable, it has done the majority of heavy lifting when it comes to answering questions of justice and moral good.

      The way we engage the topic is by systematically searching for harm and reducing it. Homosexuality is not harmful. War definitely is. Even though this is obvious to any human being sometimes we must make the terrible decision of inflicting less harm to prevent more. For instance it might be a better idea to go to war to prevent an ongoing genocide than it may be to just let it go because war is harmful.

      As far as evil is concerned, it is not a useful concept. We can judge actions as evil, but to just do that would be a mistake. We must determine the cause of evil actions and work to eliminate those causes, instead of just labeling it evil and condemning it, something that never works.

      People used to think that the manifestations of diseases were incarnations of evil. We have determined that viruses and bacteria are to blame. People still think that evil people commit evils because of some absolute evil in their souls, but psychology is teaching us about the nature of psychopaths, and maybe someday we will be able to treat it like we treat influenza now.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        "In that sense secular morality has not only proven itself workable, it has done the majority of heavy lifting when it comes to answering questions of justice and moral good."

        Except it hasn't.

        "Homosexuality is not harmful."

        The Center for Disease Control disagrees, as being a man having sex with another man raises the sexually transmitted disease incidence 47%. Given the fact that the obvious purpose in life is procreation, from the smallest virus to the great blue whale, and homosexuality denies procreation, homosexuality is harmful. Homosexuals want their behavior to be harmless, but objectively it's not.

        The viruses and bacteria are not to blame. Human behavior is to blame. And psychology is just justifying that evil behavior and creates more harm than good.

        • Tjaart Blignaut

          "The Center for Disease Control disagrees, as being a man having sex with another man raises the sexually transmitted disease incidence 47%"

          Assuming that is true, how does it apply to lesbians? Furthermore, how does it apply to homosexual men engaging in monogamous and/or safe sex?

          "Given the fact that the obvious purpose in life is procreation"

          That is a fallacy of assertion. Not only that, the notion that life has some overarching purpose is morally reprehensible because it denies individual choice and happiness and promotes statutory requirements on behaviour.

          "The viruses and bacteria are not to blame"

          So if there were no viruses or bacteria, there would still be aids and influenza because it is caused by human behaviour? Your argument makes no sense.

          "psychology is just justifying that evil behavior and creates more harm than good."

          Oh yes like it justified epilepsy instead of treating it as demonic possession, and saved millions of lives as a result. Or maybe schzophrenia, or depression, or any other ailments. We get to treat the mental conditions that were once considered to be "evil" and cure people, that makes your argument look even worse.

          It is no surprise at all that having only read one book on morality, and a poor one at that, you don't understand anything about liberalism or moral philosophy. When I think of evil, your kind of ignorance and arrogant certitude comes to mind.

          • Horatio

            I don't for a moment condone what this man says, but basically telling someone "you're wrong, religion is bad because: war, and also the Bible is stupid" is uneffective as argument, hopelessly generalized, and is the stuff of adolescence.

            You are right to that we should never look for moral instruction in brute nature, but I think you are wrong to include depression in your illustration. As someone who has managed patients with clinical depression as a physician, I can absolutely tell you that poor life choices have more to do with their problems than organic brain dysfunction, which plays a secondary role; we call it Axis II.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            It doesn't seem like you really read my comment. In no place to do I call the bible stupid. I just said it is a bad moral philosophy book.

            "religion is bad because: war"
            I never said that, or intended that.

            Where do I generalise? Is it adolescent to say that a cookbook is a bad guide to quantum physics? The fact is that most of the deeper thoughts of moral philosophy are absent in the bible. Catholics even admit this by adding on tons of other dogmas. The poster is a fine example of someone who tries to derive morals from scripture. I am in no way implying that all catholics or all christians do this either. Read carefully, my points are sincere and without malicious intent. I wonder if your reply is, considering that you infer malice on my part so easily.

            I don't want to digress into a different debate but how do you know depression does not cause poor life choices, as opposed to your point of view that poor life choices cause depression? Even if you are right, my other examples can stand on their own.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Assuming that is true, how does it apply to lesbians? "

            Lesbians are just as delusional as gays, and even more psychologically damaging to each other.

            "Furthermore, how does it apply to homosexual men engaging in monogamous and/or safe sex?"

            There is no such thing as safe sex.

            "That is a fallacy of assertion. Not only that, the notion that life has some overarching purpose is morally reprehensible because it denies individual choice and happiness and promotes statutory requirements on behaviour."

            Individual choice promotes misery, not happiness, and the problem with homosexuallity isn't "statutory requirements on behavior" it is delusional thinking.

    • Cossard

      Do you consider lying to be evil? If so, maybe you should do it less often.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I don't lie. Atheists lie.

    • bamcintyre

      There is no equivilency between atheism and relativism except in your mind. Even Pope Francis has said good works are enough to get into heaven, not a requirement to 'believe' in god.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        No, actually, he didn't. That's a New York Times lie.

    • Kyle O’Donnell

      WAT

    • linford86

      As someone who: 1. Is writing a master's thesis on the history of atheism; 2. Runs a local atheist group; 3. Has publicly debated theologians; 4. Has spent almost all of his time over the past 3 years with atheism, secularism, Freethought, etc, constantly on his mind, I can tell you the following:

      I know of very few atheists who believe in relativism. Most atheists -- living today or throughout history -- believed in objective moral standards and have developed sophisticated metaethical views to support this idea. For example, see Richard Boyd's "How To Be A Moral Realist" or any of a large number of Neo-Kantian ethics.

      Furthermore, relativism is not the same thing as moral nihilism. That is, the view that there is no good or bad (moral nihilism) is not the same thing as moral relativism (the view that there are things which are good or bad, but these depend in some way on the person or on the culture).

      What you've stated is a straw position commonly given by theists and attributed to atheists. It really does upset me that -- so often -- theists won't take the time to actually find out what atheists think.

      • linford86

        As a side note, the reason that most atheists don't think that abortion, euthanasia, or homosexuality are wrong is not because they think that nothing could ever be wrong. Rather, it is because many atheists believe that these things cause no harm or suffering and hold the belief that something could only be wrong if, all other things being equal, it caused harm/suffering. Now, you might disagree with them on that count, but that's different from them saying that they don't believe in morality altogether.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Near as I can tell, atheists can't think. Searching for thought there, is not possible.

        • linford86

          For someone who can't think, I've strung together quite a few sentences. I would've thought that my inability to think would have impaired my ability to understand what you are saying or to provide any sort of response.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            A computer program can string together sentences; that is not proof of thought.

        • Zachary_Bos

          "Near as I can tell, atheists can't think."
          I'd hoped there would be no traffic in simple prejudices here.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Atheism is a simple prejudice, refuting it requires simple prejudices.

          • Zachary_Bos

            "Atheism is a simple prejudice..."
            Depending on the atheist, it may be simple or complex, prejudicial or intellectually sound. Why discount the full range of possibilities?

            "... refuting it requires simple prejudices."
            If my atheism could be refuted with a bumper-stick slogan, I sure wonder what I did all the studying and reflection for.

    • Amiter

      *Looks at article*
      Oh okay seems reasonable.

      *Looks at Disqus Comments Section*
      *Sees Theodore's comment*
      Well I'm going to spend a million years reading this. Huh.

      *Reads a few comments*

      Yeah, no, screw this. A lot of you seem far too uptight (even if unintended) to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if some of you eagerly anticipated the opposing side's argument.

      Personally, I'm Catholic and think of everybody getting uptight on either side is absolutely ridiculous. Then again, that's just me being super laid-back.

      We've all blabbered about morality and stuff, so here's another question that I find worth dwelling (and is even somewhat relevant to the original comment):

      If guaranteeing everyone's happiness meant becoming the "most terrible person alive", would you? If so, how would you do it?
      ^ And all that you think would be a part of that package.

      • I will take that on, because it is easy. The best way to guarantee no suffering in the world is to end all life on the planet, because you cannot have happiness without suffering.

        That is the easy answer that if you take atheism to its logical conclusion, you are left with. Without the spiritual, death by coca in overdose is the most expedient way to stay happy.

        Ted Seeber

        • Amiter

          How Yin/Yang-y, with a touch of death to make it spicy.

          I've been contemplating the question for a while, taking into consideration that very phrase, "You cannot have happiness without suffering."

          Thing being, global death for humans is a no-no for most people these days, and doing so doesn't quite bring happiness... Because they're dead (unless heaven's a good deal here, in which case, have fun!). Plus, if people think killing everyone (<- in the ultimate sense) is a good thing, it's very likely that they're either dead or in another fairly depressing-looking situation. (Eh, whatever one'd call depressing. You get it, though, right?)

          As a person with an "alright" set of morals, if I ended up causing something like the Holocaust, then the suffering would happen there: both in my own consciousness and among the people I slaughter.
          Once I set the plan for being a "bad" person, I thought of how that'd end up making people happy.
          Then, I looked at World War 2. For a brief moment, *almost* the entire world banded together against Adolf Hitler. I figure that killing a bunch of people would gather such hate that they'd do the same.

          There's one problem though: beliefs.
          Not just religion, no. Despite many religions getting a bad rap throughout history and in the past, we have shown to be able to sit down together and just be *chill*.
          What I'm talking about is beliefs in governmental systems and economic systems: Republic vs Democracy, Capitalism vs Communism, etc.
          This is what caused such a lovely alliance during WW2 to fall apart quite badly between the USSR and the USA: One the former was Communist, while the latter was Capitalist.
          And so, I'd have to do something *more*. Something *big* that would cause a long-lasting friendship throughout the entire world.

          And no, I will not kill everyone because that'd ruin the purpose of my goal.

          And of that part of the plan itself, I still haven't figured it out yet. Hey, it's just mentally practicing philosophy, I'll get there eventually :P

          Theoretically speaking, should I have attained such a goal then some degree of world peace would occur. Myself, along with all my victims and those who helped me carry it out, shall shoulder the weight and bear the major sufferings of the world. Call it casting oneself into hell.

          Of course, there will still be trivial things among everyone else's lives, such that I don't exactly consider too bad. Perhaps some may be a bit extreme, but in the end it'd be hard to make one's life about as bad as my own as well as my brethren's.

          My plan is not perfect in the slightest and few things are fleshed out in my head. But hey, there's a way around everything.

          If you shot an arrow across the globe, it'd be bound to hit something eventually. But in that case, you could very simply pick up the arrow and shoot it again. When it hits another object, keep going. The arrow can always move forward.

  • Peter Piper

    This is beautifully written but, as an atheist, I don't get the sense that it was really aimed at me. It comes across as a carefully constructed and subtle attack on the type of apologetics which clutches at straws in an attempt to justify God. I'm pleased, of course, that there are Catholics who share my contempt for this sort of apologetics, and I wish them all the best in their efforts to persuade others not to engage in it. But it will be a long battle. There have been theists opposing such shoddy apologetics since ancient times: take a look at Job, especially this bit.

    What I am more interested in is why, if they do not allow themselves the consolation of such justifications, the folk at New Apologetics see a value in preserving the belief that there is a good God all of whose works are infinitely good.

    • robtish

      I have to agree Peter. It felt like only the first half of an essay -- where they confess an error but do not explain what they plan to do instead.

      • The purpose of the article is to voice the recognition that serious mistakes have been made broadly by Christian apologists. These mistakes need not have happened. They were not merely errors of technical reason, but departures from love.

        Because these *sins* did occur, may people have been hurt. Most of the atheism of our time is directly the result of these wrongs.

        The atheists are voicing objections to a distorted image of God that *should* be rejected. Our position as Catholics subsumes that of the atheists in terms of there being genuine solidarity in having nothing to do with the *idols* they forcefully reject. We, as Catholics, are motivated by the same sense of justice that drives the protest of the atheists. There is no intrinsic division.

        • Tjaart Blignaut

          There is no rational theism. There may be more rational incarnations of it, i.e. open theism, but the same rules refute all gods and all divine knowledge. Since relinquishing my faith, I have read countless apologetics arguments and have found none that stand the tests of rational thinking.

          The article is praise worthy for its sincerity but it is essentially a cop out.

          Another complaint I have is specifically relating to catholicism. Catholicism is not just a restrictive version of christian faith, but one that clearly holds its roots in holding power over people, gaining wealth and influencing monarchs and politicians. Protestantism was a clear step forward, so it boggles the mind that you insist on rationality but carry scepters, wear fancy hats, give flowers to statues, and pretend to drink blood and eat flesh.

          It must be said that catholic intellectuals are still outspoken, while their protestant counterparts have distanced themselves somewhat from religion, and chosen to hold belief as something personal. This gives the impression that modern christians are irrational loudmouthed politically driven nitwits who don't even know their own religious texts well.

          It all just seems pretty silly.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Tjaart, your comment makes the astounding claim that there is no rational theism. One of your subordinate points is that Catholicism is power hungry. The examples us offer have nothing to do with being power hungry.

            A rational argument makes a claim and then provides evidence in support of it. It doesn't make bald assertion after assertion. The evidence should have a clear connection to the claim. Otherwise, the argument can "seem pretty silly."

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            You almost completely misread my comment. I did not claim that catholicism is power hungry, merely that it was! Luckily it has been politically beheaded during the various reformations.

            Let me clarify: I have not found any rational theism. My anecdote of experience in trying to find it stands in support of that. It is my personal position which I am willing to defend, but the only way to mount a whole defense would be to refute every single apologetic angle.

            It is silly to carry scepters and live in palaces of marble and gold with a tortured bleeding dude on the walls and wear funny hats. Somehow this pleases an almighty deity.That is not rational nor is there any evidence of it being remotely rational, so if you are indeed a catholic then I can only assume that you like stupid rituals or that you are a hypocrite, who expects defense of every rational position and exceptions for your own irrational ones.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I *am* a Catholic and I am happy to carry on a respectful conversation with anyone, but your comments here are bordering on or have crossed the line into abuse.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            Maybe it is my hugenot blood heating up. :)

            I am sorry you found my comment abusive. I just gave my honest opinion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is silly to carry scepters and live in palaces of marble and gold with a tortured bleeding dude on the walls and wear funny hats.

            Somehow this pleases an almighty deity.

            That is not rational nor is there any evidence of it being remotely rational, so if you are indeed a catholic then I can only assume that you like stupid rituals or that you are a
            hypocrite, who expects defense of every rational position and exceptions for your own irrational ones.

            Why don't you pick one thing you think is irrational about the OP (or about Catholicism relevant to the OP) and explain why you find it irrational or hypocritical? I'll be happy to try to respond.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            The paragraph you quote of mine is mostly pointing out your hypocrisy with regards to proving a claim. Catholicism is not just irrational by the standards of rational atheism, but also by standards of christianity. Not one place in the bible commands that a pope shall be appointed to hold authority over all christians. That is however, beside my central point. You could have that conversation with a protestant.

            On the one hand you demand evidence that there is no rational theism, a negative that would not have complete evidence without investigating every single variation of theism to your satisfaction, when in actual fact the belief in a deity is inherently irrational and not based on factual evidence. If no theist is able to satisfy the burden of proof proving that their chosen deity exists, then theism is irrational. I don't need to investigate each instance of theism in order to validate that assertion, because the same rules apply to all variations of it.

            You have no evidence, yet you demand evidence. That is irrational. It is also hypocritical.

            I would ask you about specific catholic dogma, but I have seen plenty of the horrendous torrents of special pleading and excuses for why it is so archaic.

            All I have ever wanted from theists is to admit that their belief is not rational, and for them to make peace with that. When you say "My belief in god is rational" I will raise an eyebrow, because I value rationalism. You are poisoning the concept by claiming you adhere to it when you don't. Then alien abductees follow the same set of rationalisations you do and claim rationality, so do homeopaths, and anti-vaccers. The term rational then has no meaning, and those that truly apply its principals must constantly contend with those that think they are rational, because they think logic is somehow flexible, and opinions and beliefs and facts are generously interchangeable.

            Basically, by calling your unsubstantiated beliefs rational you stab rationality in the heart, and bolster the anti-intellectual movement that seeks to legitimise its own myths and beliefs above progress and logic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Tjaart,

            My delay in responding is because I've been away.

            I invited you to pick one thing you think is irrational about Catholicism or the OP. Instead of doing that, you launched into an insulting broadside against my rationality and/or sincerity.

            Again, if you'd like to identify one thing I'll be happy to try to respond.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            I never questioned your sincerity, nor was it my intention to insult you. I honestly do not see more evidence for theism than I do for homeopathy. If that offends you, you are welcome to prove me wrong. As I stated in the previous comment, without meeting the burden of proof belief in god is not rational. I reiterated that in my comment a few times. If you want to comment on something, that would be it.

            Why do you call your theism rational if you are unable to satisfy the burden of proof that your god exists?

            Please also keep in mind that if being offended is a valid problem, that I am offended when people call their unjustifiable beliefs rational.

          • GreatSilence

            You are now defining yourself into victory, Tjaart. Most of us believers believe that we have rationally come to our beliefs. We would argue that we have satisfied the burden of proof, assuming that it rests on us. We would argue that atheism is irrational. The best you can say is that theism does not meet YOUR view of what it would take to meet the burden of proof. The evidence that Catholics in particular use to show that we are in fact rational in our belief can be found all over this site. That may not convince you, but that does not mean that our claims and beliefs are irrational.

            I know that claiming victory is a fun internet activity, both "sides" do it, but it is not, you know .....rational.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            If our definitions of rationality are not in agreement, then nobody wins. If I was after victory, I would not interact with theists, because I know that the ones who are open to changing their minds don't hang around on apologetic websites. This has been my experience in general, so forgive me if this does not apply to you. I did not expect an "okay you are right, I am an atheist now!" nor do I get the pleasure of thinking "Wow I really stuck it to that theist" because arguments can't penetrate blind faith.

            "We would argue that we have satisfied the burden of proof"
            Give me your best example of proof. The proofs that I have read, and I have read quite a few, are stuffed with massive logical errors. Can we agree that without logical consistency, that an argument is irrational?

            "We would argue that atheism is irrational."

            On what basis?

          • GreatSilence

            Hi Tjaart, I have to step out for a lunch date, so short version on the proof for now, if you forgive me : a sort of composite / cumulative argument dealing with "something from nothing / abiogenesis / human consciousness topped off with the argument for the resurrection of Jesus, and you have me convinced. That is enough rational argument for me. We must all face doubts, whatever position we take on this (yes, even with atheism) there is doubt. This question is not settled by a long shot.

            My / our argument that atheism is irrational would largely be based on the flip side of the coin that we find Catholicism to be rational. Rejecting it from our point of view is irrational.

            I can see how you hold your views to be rational, and a very cogent argument can be made for atheism. I know because I was one, and I still find some of those arguments very compelling.

            The fact is however that neither side has the luxury of holding the only rationally defensible position. That is an oversimplification.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            Okay. Just posting this here so you can reply to me.

          • GreatSilence

            Well, I was hoping that the short version as above would already show you that neither side can, with any real conviction, claim the rational high ground. Each side can mount a really cogent, rational attack on the other position. That is what these internet debates are all about.

            We can each raise all sorts of arguments supporting our positions, as people do here on SN every day, and all that does is to show that both positions (and their nuances) can be rationally defended. Nothing really new gets said, its just a rehash of old hags in new dresses.

            We must each sit down and weigh the evidence, the arguments and the various approaches. From those facts, fantasies and fallacies we construct as close to "the truth" as we can understand or feel comfortable with. Or we ignore it, which is another form of answer. We can arrive at any of the main options - theism / atheism / agnosticism using perfectly rational avenues. But to claim, as you have done, that Catholicism is not rational is just over the top.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            I'm not sure what you are trying to say. Are you saying that you don't want to put forward an argument? Of course it is up to you!

            "But to claim, as you have done, that Catholicism is not rational is just over the top."

            I don't think so. I am of course open to being corrected. I don't see rationality is something subjective. If you feel that way about it, then yes we can all decide what rationality is and then feel content that we are all rational regardless of what is true.

          • GreatSilence

            I have briefly explained my own personal favorite argument in my "short version" effort earlier. But that is hopefully not what we are busy with here. There is not a single argument for Catholicism that I can present to you here that is not more eloquently presented elsewhere here on SN. My objection is to you stating that Catholicism / Christianity is not rational. In doing that you are over-stating your facts.

            If calling "the other side" irrational makes you feel better then by all means go ahead. Your position is however not feasible at all. And don't take it from me, have a look at something like Neil Turok's "The Universe Within". We must either, for now, accept that we have all established our positions rationally, or if you wish, that rationality in an objective sense is simply not knowable at this stage, in either event to call the other side irrational is unfounded.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            The simple rule for a rational argument is that it must be logically sound. All arguments for the existence of deities I have encountered have been riddled with fallacies and logical inconsistencies. Based on that I am making the conclusion that no argument for the existence of any deities is rational, because my definition of rationality requires that arguments be logically sound.

            All the arguments you mention have been refuted elsewhere, and since you don't want to take part in an argument at all I cannot demonstrate to you that your arguments are irrational by nature.

            Your reaction to my position that all theistic arguments are irrational makes no attempt to disprove my position, just a bit of a whine that I don't consider all arguments equal.

            "There is not a single argument for Catholicism that I can present to you here that is not more eloquently presented elsewhere here on SN."

            I have already been picking out the fallacies in the 20 Reasons post on this very website. The arguments are poorly constructed if I wanted to be kind about it. I hope those are not the best arguments! Why are you shifting the responsibility to some third party?

            "And don't take it from me, have a look at something like Neil Turok's "The Universe Within""

            If I had to read every book theists recommend I would never finish reading in three lifetimes. Put the argument forward and we can discuss it. You are just shifting the responsibility to some third party again. In the least you can quote the argument or paraphrase it.

            "We must either, for now, accept that we have all established our positions rationally, or if you wish, that rationality in an objective sense is simply not knowable at this stage, in either event to call the other side irrational is unfounded."

            Gobbledeygook! And a false dilemna. The third option is that one of us has a rationally defensible position.

            "rationality in an objective sense is simply not knowable"

            It is objectively knowable. If your arguments are fallacious, they are irrational.

            I highly doubt that you can put forward a good argument in defense of theism. If I am wrong, lay it down and we can discuss it. If you don't wish to discuss it with me, you can see detailed refutations of each of your arguments on numerous websites, explaining in a step by step manner why each is wrong.

          • Andre

            We are talking at cross purposes here. Another argument for or against Catholicism will be as tedious as it would be futile. You say yourself that you have replied to all of the arguments on this site. My objection was, and remains, that you cannot say that Catholicism is irrational, and you have not even begun to show the foundation for such a sweeping statement. What you have shown, repeatedly, is that you find it to be irrational and unconvincing. That is of course fair enough, but you are expanding your own personal view to a universal truth. You have not even begun to deal with my summarized argument as to why I am a Catholic.

            Taking a cumulative approach to some of the cosmological arguments (see Spitzer etc), adding the standard arguments surrounding abiogenesis, adding arguments dealing with human consciousness and you have a very rational basis for accepting as your worldview that theism is established. Now add the argument for the resurrection (see eg Wright, or McGrew) and you have established a very rational basis to move from theism to Christianity. Then, from the Christian options I can rationally defend why Catholicism is the most valid option. Every step of the way is rationally established.

            I referred you to a book like Turok's to show you how established scientists, even atheist / agnostic ones, are rejecting this whole nonsense of dismissing theism as irrational. I was hoping that someone like Turok, or the wide range of scientists that he quotes to support his argument, would have been more convincing than my own argument. You simply dismiss the whole submission, and continue to insist on an argument that would convince you, which misses the entire point of my objection.

            It may not convince you, but that does not make it irrational. Internet religious warriors love doing that though - if a proposition does not agree with their worldview it gets painted with the irrationality brush, and that then gets dismissed. It is a sign of insecurity. It may be comforting, but it is simply not true. Or rational.

            In other words : I am specifically asking you to concede the simple point that you have overstated your position when you submitted that Catholicism / Christianity is irrational.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            The notification in my e-mail showed your name to be Andre. Weird! :)

            "Another argument for or against Catholicism will be as tedious as it would be futile. "

            I agree! ;)

            " I am specifically asking you to concede the simple point that you have overstated your position when you submitted that Catholicism / Christianity is irrational."

            I can't concede a point without a valid supporting argument. Your point of argument is basically that there is information out there that proves theism to be rational. My position is that I have NEVER found any argument for the existence of god that does not rely on logically flawed thinking, therefore it is irrational. That does not mean rational arguments do not exist, merely that I have not found any.

            "Turok's to show you how established scientists, even atheist / agnostic ones, are rejecting this whole nonsense of dismissing theism as irrational"

            That is an argument from authority, I won't simply accept that some scientists think theism is okay and therefore so must I. I could have equally told you that lots of veterinarians reject communism. It has no relation. I could also bring up the scientists who hold that theism is irrational. No matter what they think, it does not change anything. If Turok's argument is solid, then you should have no trouble quoting it from a website or summarising it. You cannot realistically expect me to read an entire book just so I can come to the conclusion that theism is rational. What's in it for me?

            Many theists I know are willing to concede that their beliefs are not rational. I don't see why religious faith, which is inherently irrational, is considered to be a bad thing by you.

            "It may not convince you, but that does not make it irrational. Internet religious warriors love doing that though - if a proposition does not agree with their worldview it gets painted with the irrationality brush, and that then gets dismissed. It is a sign of insecurity. It may be comforting, but it is simply not true. Or rational."

            Please stop playing internet psycho-analyst as to my intentions for my claim. My intentions are sincere and based on research, and you are not prive to my inner thoughts and motivations.

            Furthermore that is not an argument, it is a poor ad hominem and exceptionally condescending.

            I see your strategy, because once I admit theism is rational, you have essentially leveled out our points of view. I cannot realistically have an argument with someone if I thought their position was rational. "We're both right, let's argue!" Nope. Sorry. One of us is right, and the other is wrong. You already said that you think atheism is irrational. What kind of idiot do you think I am to concede that theism is rational.

            I think for both our sake we should end this conversation. If you commit fallacies simply in discussing the prospect of argumentation and want your opponent to concede without any argument taking place I cannot envision a productive argument ensuing.

          • Great Silence

            OK, we can end the conversation. Just please be more careful with what you call irrational.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            "You have not even begun to deal with my summarized argument as to why I am a Catholic."

            I missed that part. Let me give my summary rebuttal:

            "something from nothing"
            Strawman
            "abiogenesis"
            Argument from ignorance
            "human consciousness"
            False equivocation
            "the resurrection of Jesus,"

            No evidence

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In his book "New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of contemporary physics and philosophy," Robert Spitzer presents a series of purely rational arguments for the existence of God, some of which use evidence from contemporary physics and others which are deductive metaphysical arguments.

            You may conclude that these arguments fail to convince you, but that does not make them irrational.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            If the arguments rely on a series of logical fallacies, can I then conclude that they are irrational?

          • GreatSilence

            That's one of the problems. You would have to hold them to be "logical fallacies". Someone like Spitzer would disagree with you. Then what? Back to square one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think so.

          • GreatSilence

            Spitzer's book is a good example of establishing rationality, if not proof. So would be something like The Blackwell's Guide to Natural Theology, and many others. To strive for rationality gets you to a place you can be comfortable with, but it is not going to establish The Truth. Unless you want it to be. The best we can hope for, I believe, is to get as close to the truth as we can get. And that of course is where faith comes in.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. The goal of apologetics (for any position) is to remove obstacles.

            When you say, "where faith comes in" what do you mean by faith?

          • GreatSilence

            "Faith" as we know it, as St. Paul uses it. As the last bridge to cover those gaps where standard intellect fails us, but only once reason has taken us just about all the way. Faith, following on a rationally established bridgehead. Faith where we understand that we cannot "prove" everything, and that for some of those last few steps we will just have to step into the remaining darkness. To trust that the last step of the stairwell is actually there.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. An assent of the whole person to what he or she thinks (based on sufficient evidence or experience) God has revealed.

            CCC 1814: Faith is the theological virtue by which we believe in God and believe all that he has said and revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because he is truth itself. By faith “man freely commits his entire self to God.” For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God’s will. “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living faith “work[s] through charity.”

          • GreatSilence

            I have to run. Some important cricket to watch. My team needs me. It's in any event a sport that you heathens wouldn't understand. Not enough faith :)

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I agree- and that's why I wish the *article authors* rather than random atheists, would answer my question above.

      I know the objections atheists raise to my insinuation that atheism is morally irrational. I want to know why the article's authors seem to think that atheism is more rational than Catholicism.

      More rational than generic American Christianity and what passes for "God is just like me" theism these days is an awfully low bar to set.

      • Peter Piper

        I want to know why the article's authors seem to think that atheism is more rational than Catholicism.

        They don't think that. Read the article again, paying special attention to sentences like this one:

        The view of the Catholic Church is not the view of the apologists in this regard, and we were wrong to let you think it was.

      • I think theist morality is inherently irrational it uses flawed human epistemology to try and figure out what a hiding god thinks about condoms while accepting that this god it perfectly good and that it is morally necessary to not intervene and prevent people from raping children to death.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          And I think that your statement is so irrational that it denies the ability for me to consider secular morality as a coherent system at all.

          • Could you point out where you think I went wrong, or do you think bald assertions further a constructive debate?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It denies the possibility of a good child of rape.

          • Andre Boillot

            Go home, you're drunk.

          • robtish

            How could Brian's example of raping a child to death lead to ANY SORT of child of rape? A child who has been raped to death cannot create a child.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I was talking about his comparison of condoms to rape- but in both cases, he's failed to consider good coming out of evil.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Which just gives me good reason to not even bother with so-called secular morality at all, because it denies the value of the child of rape.

        • This is a reasonable conclusion considering the information you presently have.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Hating the children of rape is a reasonable conclusion?

            I don't find that reasonable *at all*.

      • Hey Theodore - Why do you call the atheists responding to your comments "random"? Let's not forget that there are real flesh-and-blood human beings behind these words with real questions to ask and contributions to make. Maybe they would appear less random if you were commenting a little less. Also, please keep in mind that the article is about the problem of evil, not moral relativism, Islam, capitalism, euthanasia, or other topics you've sounded off about. Charitable disagreement is encouraged here, but please try and stay on-topic!

        • TheodoreSeeber

          When the author did respond, it turns out it is about moral relativism:
          "We reply: Let's begin to undo the knot by establishing some basic definitions:

          1) Goodness = subjective desirability
          2) Evil = subjective undesirability"

          That's moral relativism in a nutshell.

          • Please see our response above.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            My objection is to the use of the word subjective. Desirability is subjective- well being isn't.

      • You wrote:
        I want to know why the article's authors seem to think that atheism is more rational than Catholicism.

        We reply:
        We don't think that atheism is more rational than Catholicism. However, we do conclude with certainty that atheism is more rational than certain distortions and caricatures of Catholicism that are in the minds of many Catholics and non-Catholic Christians. Catholicism, when correctly understood, is the most beautiful and rational worldview that can possibly be conceived. However, some tiny alterations can easily turn it into in incomparably ugly worldview.

        The atheists we've encountered so far are, in every instance, responding to a misunderstanding of Catholicism and not to what the Church truly proposes for our belief.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          And thus, since the atheists are NOT dealing with the reality of what Catholicism is, are they not less rational?

    • Horatio

      "why, if they do not allow themselves the consolation of such justifications, [do] the folk at New Apologetics see a value in preserving the belief that there is a good God [?]"

      The immediate experience of tragedy and despair does suggest against an all-good God. But there's more to life than these. To the believer, there are moments when an all-good God seems entirely probable, even imminent.

      "I have to agree Peter. It felt like only the first half of an essay -- where they confess an error but do not explain what they plan to do instead."

      Don't "they" (is it really more than one person?) suggest that the answer is an honest: "I don't know" ?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Which is why I suspect them of being a bunch of Agnostics masquerading as Catholics.

        • Horatio

          That is just absurd. They unequivocally affirm their belief in a god --even an all-good, all-loving God-- in the article.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No, actually, that is the one thing they specifically *fail* to do. What they do is unequivocally affirm their belief that suffering is evil.

      • You wrote:
        Don't "they" (is it really more than one person?) suggest that the answer is an honest: "I don't know"?

        We reply:
        The answer is an honest "I don't know" on the condition that one does not know the answer. However, we happen to know, and we're going to tell you if you want to hear us out.

        • Horatio

          Certainly, I'd like to know. I feel that the article hints at an answer without spelling it out explicitly. I am skeptical that any answer to this Question of Questions will be any more satisfying than "I don't know," but I'm open to the possibility that there is an intelligible answer.

    • You wrote:
      What I am more interested in is why, if they do not allow themselves the consolation of such justifications, the folk at New Apologetics see a value in preserving the belief that there is a good God all of whose works are infinitely good.

      We reply:
      The act of decisively rejecting unsound arguments for God does not leave us without sound arguments, and the refusal to entertain manifestly immoral theodicies does not leave us without insight into the "why" of suffering.

      We believe because we have the grace to believe, but we definitely affirm the following teaching of the Church:

      "'...God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.' Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God's revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created 'in the image of God'." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 36)

      • Peter Piper

        Thanks. Since you provided a link to where these sound arguments can be found elsewhere, I'll respond there after I have read them.

  • I love this! Online I have a lot of Catholic friends, but where I live most of my friends are not Catholic, and some of my best are atheists. They know I'm Catholic, and sometimes we talk about our beliefs, but mostly we talk about raising our kids and tending our families -- and we have much in common. We build relationships.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      So when the atheist decides you've had too many kids and wants to force you to have an abortion or use contraception, what do you do?

      • robtish

        I don't want to speak for Stacy, but perhaps she's never had an atheist friend who tried to *force* her to have an abortion or use contraception.

        • Not once, ever. Thanks Rob.

          • MattyTheD

            Rob & Stacy, you're heard of forced abortions and contraception in China, right? Billions per year. Or was your point that you, yourself, and only you, have not suffered that particular evil, and therefore it doesn't exit, and therefore Theodore's point is completely absurd?

          • Andre Boillot

            Matty,

            If you are under the impression that China's reproduction policies (both internal and re: Tibet) are primarily rooted in atheism, one might wonder how familiar you are with China's history, both religious and political.

          • MattyTheD

            Yes, Andre, I'm absolutely under that impression. Or, I'm under the impression that communism, and Chinese communism in this case, is distinctly atheistic and anti-theistic. Both as a philosophical underpinning of Maoist-Marxism, and as a public policy (i.e. legal suppression of religion). I see a very direct line between state-enforced anti-theism and widespread, forced abortion. But if you're aware of a more powerful philosophical underpinning for the massive abortion -- other than the obvious staring us all in the face -- I'm happy to be corrected.

          • Andre Boillot

            Your assessment doesn't match up to the actual history.

            "

            History and background[edit]

            During the period of Chairman Mao's leadership in the People's Republic of China, while the crude birth rate fell from 37 to 20 per thousand,[17] infant mortality declined from 227/1000 births in 1949 to 53/1000 in 1981, and life expectancy dramatically increased from around 35 years in 1949 to 66 years in 1976.[17][18] Until the 1960s, the government encouraged families to have as many children as possible[19] because of Mao's belief that population growth empowered the country, preventing the emergence of family planning programs earlier in China's development.[20] The population grew from around 540 million in 1949 to 940 million in 1976.[21] Beginning in 1970, citizens were encouraged to marry at later ages and have only two children. Although the fertility rate began to decline significantly, future population growth proved overwhelming and the one child policy was announced by Chinese leaders. The one child policy had been planned as early as 1977, although it was not mandated nationwide until 1979.[22][23][24]

            In order to address overpopulation, the one-child policy was introduced to promote one-child families and forbids couples from having more than one child in urban areas. Parents with multiple children are not given the same benefits as parents of one child. In most cases, wealthy families pay a fee to the government in order to have two or more children."

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy

            It seems clear that, domestically, this was an over-population issue. In the case of Tibet, we're talking about brutal political suppression tactics in reaction to Tibet's attempts to gain independence.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights_in_Tibet#Repercussions_of_2008_unrest

          • MattyTheD

            Thank you, Andre! But I think that the info you cite almost *exactly* supports Theodore's argument (and mine). Let me try to explain briefly. The information you cite explains that communism treated family questions -- ie. the lives of children -- as utilitarian and relativist. If it serves the state & economy to have children, then have children. BUT, if it serves the state to kill your children, then kill your children or use contraception, mandatory. This is *exactly* the sort of utilitarian and relativistic morality that theists have *long* said will emerge, and has emerged, from anti-theism. That's exactly what Theodore is talking about. Christianity has taken a diametrically opposed approach. It's based more in the inherent dignity of humanity as having been created in the image of God. Sure, it's a difficult standard, but it's a standard that has been a fairly good bullwark against genocide, especially anti-theist genocide.

          • Andre Boillot

            Matty,

            Forgive me, but you claimed that China's child policies were primarily rooted in atheism. That they made 180* changes in their child policies, while not abandoning this supposed emphasis on anti-theism/atheism, seems to indicate that the atheism was incidental, and that the factors I gave were the primary drivers.

            It also doesn't help that you're using terms like atheism, communism, utilitarian, and relativist as if they're all explicitly related and/or interchangeable. The venn-diagram of totalitarian regimes which de-emphasize the individual is not located entirely within the sphere of atheistic regimes, nor does one find that regimes which emphasize the individual falling exclusively within the sphere of religious regimes.

            There's nothing about atheism that necessarily leads to utilitarianism, communism, or relativism - nor does religion necessarily preclude any of those (certainly not the first two).

            "This is *exactly* the sort of utilitarian and relativistic morality that theists have *long* said will emerge, and has emerged, from anti-theism."

            Given how often I've heard religious folk here in the US make the simplistic conflation of atheism with communism, I'm not surprised with, or impressed by, this prediction or the conclusions drawn.

          • MattyTheD

            I appreciate your thoughtful tone, but I respectfully disagree. I'll focus on the crux of it. "There's nothing about atheism that necessarily leads to utilitarianism,
            communism, or relativism - nor does religion necessarily preclude any of
            those (certainly not the first two)." You sure seem to have stacked the deck with a double-standard there. Atheism has to "necessarily" lead to those bad things. And theism has to "preclude" them. Why the vastly double-standard? Wouldn't it be more honest to apply the same standard to both? Something like this: do atheism/anti-theism *tend to* lead to utilitarianism, communism, or reletavism (more so than theism)? I would say, absolutely! Or let's try it this way: does theism (I'll stick with Christianity, because it's what I know) *tend to* oppose or resist utilitarianism, communism, or reletavism, and more so than atheism? Again, absolutely! I would say "yes" on all counts. The trends are overwhelming, and the consequences have been in the hundreds of millions of dead. And don't be so dismissive about the role atheist assumptions played in the creation of communism. The link is huge and undeniable. Certainly worthy of careful reflection by anyone honestly concerned about morality.

          • Andre Boillot

            Matty,

            You wonder why:

            "[I] sure seem to have stacked the deck with a double-standard there. Atheism has to "necessarily" lead to those bad things. And theism has to "preclude" them. Why the vastly double-standard?"

            I should think it's not a double-standard when I'm responding to gross oversimplifications such as:

            This is *exactly* the sort of utilitarian and relativistic morality that theists have *long* said will emerge, and has emerged, from anti-theism.

            "Wouldn't it be more honest to apply the same standard to both? Something like this: do atheism/anti-theism *tend to* lead to utilitarianism, communism, or reletavism (more so than theism)? I would say, absolutely!"

            By all means, demonstrate the causality. I'm all ears.

            "And don't be so dismissive about the role atheist assumptions played in the creation of communism. The link is huge and undeniable."

          • MattyTheD

            Andre, respectfully, I see a lot of words in your last post, but I don't
            see any arguments. Are you honestly suggesting (I think?) that atheism does not tend
            to lead to those things (utilitarianism, communism, relativism) more so
            than theism does? Are you honestly asking me to demonstrate the connection? Okay, here goes. I'll use "relativism", but the argument
            could be applied to all three. Step 1) Human beings often find that it
            is in their self-interest to evaluate moral question by relativistic
            standards rather than unalterable, objective standards. Why? Because that's how people think they can get what they want more quickly. Step 2) Christianity says "don't do that, it is a violation
            of God's law". Step 3) Atheism has no definitive position on moral
            relativism, pro-or-con. [Though the most prominent Western anti-theists
            (like Neitzche, Sarte, Dawkins) have argued that since God does not
            exist, absolute moral standards are an illusion]. In any event, atheism -- unlike Christianity -- does not provide an organized resistance to, and critic of, relativism. Step 4) In the
            aggregate, the belief system that rejects relativism (Christianity) is more of a force against it than are those beliefs (like atheism) that have no particular position, pro or con. To me, it's a little like you're saying, "prove to me that religious people believe religious things more often than non-religious people".

          • Andre Boillot

            Matty,

            "Andre, respectfully, I see a lot of words in your last post, but I don'tsee any arguments."

            Respectfully, I didn't see any serious refutation of my previous arguments to your claim that atheism was the root cause of China's reproductive policies. I did my best to answer your question re: what you viewed as a double-standard, and challenged you to demonstrate the casual relationship between atheism and utilitarianism, communism, or relativism.

            Your conclusion:

            Step 4) In the aggregate, the belief system that rejects relativism (Christianity) is more of a force against it than are those beliefs (like atheism) that have no particular position, pro or con.

            Look, even if your entire argument is given the benefit of the doubt (I'm generous like that), you're merely stating (not demonstrated) that Christianity resists utilitarianism, communism (odd given the attributions elsewhere in this thread re: the source of some of Marx's ideas), and relativism. At no point do you manage to demonstrate correlation, let alone causation, between atheism and the same, and you're left with the (wink to Dave) flaccid statement that atheism has no particular position on these matters.

            My parting thought would be that anyone honestly concerned about history would do well to carefully reflect on the histories of the countries one is using to prop up this argument that atheism causes utilitarianism, communism, and relativism.

          • MattyTheD

            Andre, I'm honestly perplexed. Because you seem to be demanding proof for arguments that are practically true by definition. Are you saying that atheism provides an *opposition* to moral relativism and utilitarianism like Christianity does? If so, I think most atheistic and theistic philosophers would disagree with you. Are you denying that communism -- whether Soviet, Chinese, Cambodian, or Cuban or Marxist theoretical -- was (and is) avowedly atheistic? Basically I'm saying that theists and atheists have radically different beliefs about the nature and cause of morality, and you're saying "prove it". How can I prove what is true by definition?

          • Are you saying that atheism provides an *opposition* to moral relativism and utilitarianism like Christianity does? If so, I think most atheistic and theistic philosophers would disagree with you.

            I don't think that they would disagree.

            "Atheism" is as useful description as "Christian" for philosophy. It doesn't tell you much about what the philosopher actually thinks. There are Christian philosophers who advocate utilitarianism, communism and relativism. There are atheist philosophers who oppose utilitarianism, communism and relativism.

            Seems that what you claim is true by definition is actually false by demonstration.

          • Andre Boillot

            Matty,

            "Are you saying that atheism provides an *opposition* to moral relativism and utilitarianism like Christianity does?"

            Maybe I'm failing you with regards to communicating my point. My main point is (and has been this entire time) that atheism wasn't the root cause of China's reproductive policies (as you claim it is). Secondary to that point was that atheism is not casual with regards to communism, utilitarianism, and relativism.

            That you believe Christianity provides opposition to these concepts does nothing to show that atheism causes the same. Atheism is neutral on matters apart from the existence of god(s). You seem to be making the mistake of equating atheism's lack of preventing communism, etc., with causing them. To me, this is like saying that the lack of a safety mechanism on a gun is what causes a murder.

            Hope this clears things up.

          • Dave H

            "The venn-diagram of totalitarian regimes which de-emphasize the individual is not located entirely within the sphere of atheistic regimes, nor does one find that regimes which emphasize the individual falling exclusively within the sphere of religious regimes."

            This flaccid statement was meant to bolster your argument? :)

          • Andre Boillot

            This was meant to be a virile quip? Pots, kettles, and such.

          • Dave H

            Nope, just pointing out that you accidentally helped the other side's argument.

          • Actually, his venn diagram statement is all his argument needs. He shows that, although some atheist communists have done terrible things, not all atheists are communists.

            Therefore, whenever some jerk shows up and points out "You're an atheist. Atheists in China suppress free speech, enforce infanticide (etc.)!" all he needs to say in response is "I'm not that kind of atheist. You and I are actually on the same side. We're both opposed to that kind of atheist."

          • Dave H

            Cool your jets, Paul. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn't make them a jerk.

            "Actually, his venn diagram statement is all his argument needs. He shows that, although some atheist communists have done terrible things, not all atheists are communists"

            Correct, he says the diagram of those regimes "is not located entirely within the sphere of atheistic regimes"

            Is your side actually content with this level of noncorrelation? :)

          • Andre Boillot

            Dave,

            In response to Matty's rather broad ranging claims about atheism and causality, I opted against attempting to condense the histories of China, Russia, Germany, et al. into a combox post, and instead (apparently foolishly) thought that my venn-example would be sufficient to refute the idea that atheism leads to dehumanizing regimes.

            "Is your side actually content with this level of noncorrelation?"

            How high to you think Matty set the bar with his claims? I really didn't think much else needed to be said.

          • Dave H

            Well, not to beat a dead horse here, but your venn-diagram statement doesn't actually refute what you want it to refute.

            I'm almost starting to wonder if we're talking about different words here? I mean, when I read, "...is not located entirely within the sphere", I take it to mean, "there's not a complete overlap, but it's close." If that's the intended meaning then, certainly, that's in support of our argument, not yours.

            Sigh. I must be missing something.

            Anyway, if it's any consolation, I don't think modern-day Atheists in the West are built of the same stuff as the Mao-bots. The inhumanity that reigns there does so in the absence of the humanizing effect that an ambient Christian culture (or any culture that defends individual dignity) provides.

            If Christianity is pushed out of influence in the U.S., I'll give us one generation, tops, before similar atrocities start to appear here. But I got news for ya - (and my Atheist friends try to pretend what I'm about to say isn't likely, but then they admit it probably is) - If Atheism takes over here, it won't be the thoughtful, peace-loving, civilized Atheists (like the ones found on this website) calling the shots. Instead, picture the most brazen, distasteful, power-hungry politicians who currently use "God", or anything else convenient, to further their ambitious power grabs. THOSE are the guys that will be running the show. Except now their only restraint will be their own crude, self-serving notions of godlessness. Watch out baby! The hipsters on this website will be converting to Christianity just to dissociate.

          • Andre Boillot

            Dave,

            I take it to mean, "there's not a complete overlap, but it's close."

            I see that my unwillingness to make sweeping, unsubstantiated claims has led to some confusion. I was not arguing for heavy correlation in either case.

          • Dave H

            Or maybe I just don't understand basic English. :)

            Anyway, we've battered this thread to bits. I'm going to bed.

          • Is your side actually content with this level of noncorrelation?

            To quote Tolkien's Treebeard, I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side. So, if I change your question a bit:

            Should the atheists actually be content with this level of noncorrelation?

            I don't know if they should or not. Something like 90% of Catholics use contraception. Does that mean that Catholicism leads to use of contraceptives?

            Should Catholics be content with that level of correlation?

          • Dave H

            Listen Treebeard, I hope you were not serious about the Catholic-contraception comparison.

            You must know, I'm sure, that the implied discussion goes beyond correlation and into causation. The question at stake is "Do Atheistic regimes tend toward [insert inhuman atrocity, e.g. forced abortion, etc...]" If there were no correlation, then the answer would be no. Obvious, right? OK, but there is a correlation, apparently a major one, addressed by this hypothetical venn diagram (offered up by an atheist). Now, if there were significant and pervasive elements common to Atheistic regimes that made us think they value individual rights over collectives, then this correlation would remain just a coincidence. But I haven't seen this.

            Your Catholic-Contraception statement is meant to score points, I guess, but it's pretty silly. There is a high correlation between contraceptive use and western culture, of which Catholicism is a part. But Catholicism ardently opposes contraception. So it would be outright bizarre for someone to conclude that Catholicism causes, or is even indifferent to, contraception.

            Unless you think they're using reverse psychology?! :) I've heard stranger theories coming from posters here.

          • Mixing up correlation and causation was your mistake, not mine. I pointed to Catholics and contraception as an instructive example of what you should avoid doing in the future.

            But now you are thinking more deeply about the problem, and for that I'm grateful.

            First, you'll note that the correlation is not perfect, so it would be wrong to say that atheism necessarily leads to communism, utilitarianism and humanism. I think we agree here.

            But you claim that maybe atheism tends toward communism, etc. So the next question is: how strong is the correlation, is it cross-cultural and is it unique? In other words, it doesn't matter if 90% of Chinese atheists are communist, if 90% of Chinese overall are communist.

            The best place to answer the question, then, is in the west. I'd prefer looking at the United Kingdom. It seems like a good example of a secular culture.

            How many people in the UK identify as communists?
            How many people in the UK identify as atheists?
            How many people in the UK identify as theists?
            How many atheists/theists in the UK identify as communists?
            How many communists in the UK identify as atheists/theists?

            I suspect that most of these questions can be answered with publicly available data. But maybe I'm mistaken.

            In any case, I'll make two predictions:
            More communists in the UK are Christian than atheist (I bet it's about 60/40).
            Most atheists in the UK are not communists.

            In other words, I don't buy your correlation with communism. Utilitarianism? Maybe there's a stronger case to be made there, but the data is probably not so easily available.

            Asking questions is better than accusing people. As you can now see, the conversations are far more interesting!

            Sincerely,
            Your dear friend, if not ally,

            Treebeard

          • Dave H

            A. You must not have read my posts very clearly, or else you are confused. I didn't mix those words up.

            B. I like how we start our posts off by insinuating the other person is confused. :)

            C. You should change your Disqus name to Treebeard.

          • I choose C! ;)

            (seriously, I'm a bit tempted now)

          • Dave H

            Yes!! :)

          • Andre Boillot

            Dave,

            "Or maybe I just don't understand basic English. :)"

            I'm beginning to worry this might be the case.

            "OK, but there is a correlation, apparently a major one, addressed by this hypothetical venn diagram (offered up by an atheist)."

            First, I like that you've jumped to the conclusion that I'm an atheist, or that this would have any bearing on the matter. Second, here's what I said with more context:

            It also doesn't help that you're using
            terms like atheism, communism, utilitarian, and relativist as if they're all explicitly related and/or interchangeable. The venn-diagram of totalitarian regimes which de-emphasize the individual is not located entirely within the sphere of atheistic regimes, nor does one find that regimes which emphasize the individual falling exclusively within the sphere of religious regimes.

            Maybe it's not apparent, but I'm trying to point out to Matty that he's wrong to lump all these concepts together as if they're intrinsically related or interchangeable.

            This statement: "The venn-diagram of totalitarian regimes which de-emphasize the individual is not located entirely within the sphere of atheistic regimes", merely says that the correlation is not 1. It contains no other qualifications. That you are reading into this statement that I imply the correlation is close to 1 is your own fabrication - one that I've already denied previously.

            Serves me right for opting against being brief, and just telling Matty that those words don't mean the same thing, and aren't related. No more venn-diagram-analogies.

          • Dave H

            Goodness, Andre. Get rid of the word "entirely". There. Fixed. You're welcome.

          • Andre Boillot

            Dave,

            "Goodness, Andre. Get rid of the word "entirely". There. Fixed. You're welcome."

            I'm losing faith in you (and further regret my choice to verbally explain a visual concept - a decision which any of my long-suffering friends could have easily predicted would end in calamity).

            Removing "entirely" from:

            The venn-diagram of totalitarian regimes which de-emphasize the individual is not located entirely within the sphere of atheistic regimes

            leaves us with a statement which says that there is no overlap between regimes which de-emphasize the individual and atheistic regimes. I don't believe that's a true statement. So, not "fixed", but thank you anyways.

          • Dave H

            Sorry, here, let me spell it out: Get rid of the word "entirely" and replace it with something like "significantly".

            Or better yet, don't use weak phrases like "not entirely". It sounds like you're saying "almost entirely" without meaning (at least technically speaking) much of anything at all.

            ...which brings us back to the "flaccid" comment that started us off.

          • Andre Boillot

            Dave,

            "Get rid of the word "entirely" and replace it with something like "significantly"."

            Tell you what, here's my login and password, type my posts for me...

            I think I'll pass on phrasing it in the manner you suggest, as I don't have the supporting evidence to do so.

            "Or better yet, don't use weak phrases like "not entirely"."

            I get it, attempts to be accurate and to avoid making grand, unsubstantiated, over-simplistic claims online come off as weak and flaccid to you. Duly noted.

            "It sounds like you're saying "almost entirely" without meaning (at least technically speaking) much of anything at all."

            To you, evidently. I'm not sure you're my target audience though. Even if it meant as little as you thought it did, I felt it sufficient to deal with issue of Matty's misuse of terms.

            "...which brings us back to the "flaccid" comment that started us off."

            Which, after all this 'back-and-forth', I can assure you isn't a problem for me at the moment.

            No, but seriously guys, I've learned my lesson. Venn diagrams? Never again.

          • Dave H

            Andre, I apologize. I have been snarky in this thread. Not too charitable. Sorry.

          • Andre Boillot

            No worries at all. Who doesn't get a little over-aroused from time-to-time?

          • robtish

            By focusing on *state*-endorced atheism, you are focusing specifically on atheism with an authoritarian/totalitarian bent, which is not necessarily characteristic of or inherent to atheism.

            On the other hand, religious governments and theist leaders have in fact committed terrible atrocities, either in spite of or because of their religion. Any differences in scale may just be due to level technology available at that time and place.
            http://www.religioustolerance.org/god_cana0.htm

          • MattyTheD

            Rob, re: "state & authoritarian". Great point. That's why I try to distinguish between an atheist individual and an anti-theist social system (whether governmental or hyper-secular). But I think it's worth pointing out that many post-Soviets argue that the horrors of Soviet tyranny were possible *because* of the widespread atheistic assumptions of the ruling class. To paraphrase Solshenitzin (roughly) "we did what we did because we forgot about God." IE, they rejected the notion that our lives have a transcendent moral arbiter of supreme importance. If one wants to kill and torture to advance one's political/economic interests, atheist assumptions certainly makes that easier. I don't say that to be offensive, but to state something that is obvious and undeniable and backed by the evidence of hundreds of millions dead. As for the technology argument, it's only marginally relevant. Most of what that site is calling "religious wars" were tribal, economic, state, etc, and had nothing to do with, say, disputes over the doctrine of grace. As for the wars that were specifically and explicitly "Christian," it's interesting to me that A) how often they were actually political and B) how much more restrained they were compared the 20th century's anti-theist cataclysms. Again, I don't mean to engage in a game of "scoreboard", I only intend to raise obvious realities that all people of good will ought to take very seriously, especially anti-theists.

          • robtish

            "Most of what that site is calling "religious wars" were tribal, economic, state, etc, and had nothing to do with, say, disputes over the doctrine of grace."

            Careful, though, because that's not the point! The point is whether atheist governments are prone to atrocity in a way that religiously influenced regimes are not. At least, that's what I think the discussion is about. And that list, with its atheist atrocities, religiously-motivated atrocities, and atrocities committed not for religious reasons but by religious leaders -- that list indicates that neither theism nor atheism has a corner on the atrocity market.

            Is it true that atheism may give some people philosophical justification for genocide against its opponents? Sure. And is it true that theism may also give some people philosophical justification for genocide against its opponents? Well, yes to that, too.

            "As for the technology argument, it's only marginally relevant." Please explain. It's hard to imagine the Holocaust (in its sheer scale, at least) without modern industrialization..

          • MattyTheD

            Rob, "The point is whether atheist governments are prone to atrocity in a way that religiously influenced regimes are not." Hmm... I notice a hint of moral obfuscation in that phrasing. Shouldn't the question be "are atheist governments MORE prone to atrocities than theistic?" (Or, or "substantially more prone"? Or "more prone, in any way that affects people's lives"). See, when the question is phrased that way, I believe the evidence is overwhelming. Something quite striking happened in Eurasia when its ruling classes rejected Christianity as the dominant unifying principle. The people, and governments, began to turn against others on a murderous scale that world simply hadn't seen before. I mean we're talking a jump from thousands to hundreds of millions. "Technology" does not explain that. Are you honestly suggesting that the inquisition -- which killed about a thousand, I think -- would have killed 6 million if they'd only had Hitler's trains? Mightn't it rather be that Christianity had -- in it's founding documents -- a prohibition against torture, and began to -- through it's own value system -- oppose the worst practices in Christendom? Are you suggesting that the anti-theist Khmer Rouge killed a million because they suddenly had better killing technology? Does "techonology" explain why China has forced abortions in the millions? Does "technology" explain why Stalin and Mao could each starve millions? The technology argument is an utter red herring. But do you know what *does* explain all those things, and explain it very coherently? That the power structure in each of those cases rejected the notion of a transcendent moral lawgiver. The results were *exactly* what Christian thinkers expected.

          • robtish

            I accept your rephrasing, and point out that I haven't used the Inquisition in my evidence, but instead provided you with an array of genocides perpetrated by theists.

          • MattyTheD

            Rob, "an array of genocides perpetrated by theists." Again, that demonstrates the reality of individuals who do evil. Theists aren't exactly denying that notion, since they're the ones who created that notion. What I haven't seen -- but I think your position needs, morally speaking -- is a refutation of the following: anti-theistic worldviews seem to have sparked an explosion of human brutality and violence orders of magnitude larger than the world had ever seen. And continues to do so in countries like China and North Korea. Again, not to play "scoreboard of deaths" but to ask, honestly, if anti-theism (as distinct from atheism) might be the most destructive philosophy in world history. I think it's a fair question.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            You keep repeating your false cause fallacy despite numerous corrections and then claim there is no refutation. Not only that but you grossly underestimate the brutality of religious conflict and genocide. Oh and in those cases there is a solid causal link. In other words religion was the actual cause of the tragedies, and not just some random causal link inferred by someone.

          • Andre Boillot

            Matty,

            "If one wants to kill and torture to advance one's political/economic interests, atheist assumptions certainly makes that easier. I don't say that to be offensive, but to state something that is obvious and undeniable and backed by the evidence of hundreds of millions dead."

            I like how the hundreds of millions that died in the 20th century is obvious undeniable proof that atheism makes killing easier, but the atrocities committed by religious regimes are all rationalized as political and having nothing to do with religion per se. Such selective nuance you have.

            "As for the technology argument, it's only marginally relevant."

            Really? Yes, let's not do the thought experiment of combining Middle-age thinking in the context of modern military technology and much larger populations.

          • robtish

            Some Christians want me imprisoned for being gay. I don't tar all Christians with that brush. Some Christians in other countries think I should be executed for being gay. I don't tar all Christians with that brush. I understand that just because one member of a group holds a view, it doesn't mean that all member of that group do.

            The atheists I know don't approve of mandatory abortions or birth control, so those policies are no necessary part of atheism. It ludicrous to say that they are. Meanwhile, Theodore made a quite specific comment about Stacy's relationships with her atheist friends, and if that comment is balderdash, then it's appropriate to call it balderdash.

          • MattyTheD

            I hear you, Rob. But, much to my surprise, I actually think Theodore is correct here. When political/social systems have emerged from the assumptions of atheism (e.g. China), it has, resulted in forced abortions and contraception, on a mind-bogglingly massive scale. When politica/social systems have emerged from the assumptions of Christianity, I don't see systemic coercion approaching anything close to that (I'm keeping in mind that the inquisition killed, I think, several hundreds, whereas *State*-enforced-atheism has killed hundreds of millions). I know it's a crass argument. It's just a crass argument that I've never found refuted.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Homosexuality is just another form of eugenics.

          • Tjaart Blignaut

            Maybe you should consider the fact that Chinese politics and Atheism are different things? China is not humanistic, as most western atheists are, and besides, why would you engage in such a poor generalisation.

            Most of us cannot, and do not want to condone or defend Chinese policy. Get of your self righteous judgmental high horse please.

      • Horatio

        "So when the atheist decides you've had too many kids and wants to force you to have an abortion or use contraception, what do you do?"

        Because this happens all the time.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Does to me, and I only have one. One special needs child. Whom I've been told, despite his being far less disabled than others, that I should euthanize.

          • robtish

            What a terrible thing to be told, and what a terrible person to say that to you. To be clear, though,how did they try to "force" (your word) this action on you?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The attack came during a debate on Obamacare, with the insinuation that people such as my son, should not be allowed to have health insurance (since of course, his Cerebral Palsy and Spina Bifida, both starting in the womb, are the ultimate pre-existing condition). Same person was perfectly fine with Obamacare funding abortion to get rid of the surplus population.

            Eugenics and pro-choice are inseparable.

          • robtish

            Again, what a terrible person. But in what way did this "insinuation" try to *force* you to do something?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It seemed to be his opinion that people like my son should be arrested and euthanized to reduce health care costs on the country. After all, I must admit that from a materialistic standpoint, he'll likely be a loss to the human race, costing far more to keep alive than he produces.

          • Horatio

            This is purely anecdotal. Virtually nobody had has that experience!

            What is your solution, then? Shut out atheists from your social life?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yep. And the only reason I'm engaging here is because of a question with this attempt to engage atheists, which despite Pope Francis' heroic tries, I consider to be ultimately doomed to failure. I've abandoned this website over this issue before, and at the end of this conversation, will do so again.

          • Horatio

            Your viewpoint is decidedly un-Christian. Clearly Christ didn't shut out his philosophical opponents: a fact which makes your very strong stance in this comment tree seem farcically inconsistent.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I'm not Christ, and never will be. And I find the American version of Christianity to be particularly weak and easily open to attack and persecution.

          • Horatio

            "I'm not Christ, and never will be."

            I will take this as an admission that you are therefore in error.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Yes, of course. Just a bit less in error than the atheists, but not by much.

            I confess to not understanding how one can claim to be Catholic and American at the same time. Freedom and Liberty, defined in the American way as "Do anything I like no matter who it hurts" is so antithetical to the religion as to be incompatible with it. New Atheism is an outgrowth of that Protestant/Freemasonic secularism.

            To misquote Christ from Sunday's Gospel- there is a great gulf between the Rich Man and Lazarus, and none can transverse it.

          • Horatio

            "Yes, of course."

            Ok, then. Case closed, as far as the actual thrust of this comment stem is concerned.

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            My friend, after you accused the author/s of the above article that they are pretending to be Catholics you then say that "I'm not Christ, and never will be". I agree with Horatio that this is an admission "of your remoteness from Christ". Have you forgotten what the Lord said?

            "Be perfect for your Father in heaven is perfect" and
            "Come, follow me"

            To be Catholic is to follow Christ and be like Christ. I know this will be very hard to digest and may even sound blasphemous but Christ wants us, wants YOU, to be another Christ to the people around you.

            You seemed to have misunderstood why Christ offered Himself on the cross. It is not just for the entirety of the human race or a simple mass salvation. He did it for every soul (theist or atheist). Did you know that the first person who went to heaven with Jesus was a sinner?

            Why do you condemn yourself and others my friend? I thought you are "no Christ" yet you try to put your words in His mouth.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Christ wants it. That doesn't mean I've achieved it.

          • MattyTheD

            "Doomed to failure"? Theodore, I enjoy your brash stridency, but Horatio might be right on this one. I can't see how any Christian can justify "shutting atheists out" of their life. Not to get legalistic, but doesn't that contradict Jesus' two great commandments?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Sometimes, the best love one can show for one's neighbor is to leave them alone.

          • MattyTheD

            You crack me up, Theodore. Okay, yes, "Sometimes, the best love one can show for one's neighbor is to leave them alone." But it seems to me that's a far cry from "shutting atheists out of your life". I sense you're partly jesting, so I won't press the point. But I'll just note that I've seen more than a few atheists intrigued by, and open to, Christianity, once they've seen it presented with integrity and intelligence. I don't think these conversations are "doomed" at all. Unless they're treated as a war. *That* is doomed, because that's not Christianity.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No jest intended. The best love I can show for atheists and other liberals that want people like me dead, is to make sure there's a wide no-man's land between them and my family.

            I see Catholicism as on the defensive for most of my lifetime, and the situation getting worse. I fully expect to see atheists and masons joining forces in an attempt to exterminate us. They're already doing so with their population control programs being forced into the public schools in the United States.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It is not I who started the war. The best way to protect my family is to build a wide barrier between them and the eugenicists. And that is showing love for those who have deemed themselves my enemy.

        • MattyTheD

          China. Billions. In other words, yes, all the time.

          • Horatio

            This is just blatantly out of context. The original poster was clearly commenting on her relationships with atheists in the West.

          • MattyTheD

            Horatio, Would you prefer that we only address evidence that supports you? Or would you prefer that we address all evidence?

          • Horatio

            I would prefer you attack positions in their proper context instead of building strawmen. Nobody here is defending China's One Child Policy (I hope).

          • MattyTheD

            Horatio, fair enough, let me try again... Based on the largest nation in the history of the world, Theodore's objection is not as tangential as it might first seem. Humanity's experience with anti-theistic morality -- at least the state-sponsored forms like in China and N. Korea -- raises important questions about abortion, forced contraception, forced sterilization, eugenics and euthanasia. I most certainly do not intend that as a judgment on *atheists*. But it is certainly relevant to the larger discussion about The Problem of Evil, which is, I think, the topic of the main blog post.

      • i'm sure that happens all the time with Stacy and her friends.

        My atheist friends on the other hand are always trying to get me to burn bibles. "Hey, want to use this old scrap of paper to start your BBQ fire?" "Wait, this is a page from the Holy Scriptures. Nice try, atheist!" "Drats!"

        One good thing to come from your trolling (besides the pure entertainment value, of course), has been New Apologetics responses to you. It has helped me to trust that they are actually interested in the truth, and not winning arguments.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          What truth? They claim that evil and good are subjective and that there is no truth.

          • New Apologetics claims that there is no truth?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "We reply: Let's begin to undo the knot by establishing some basic definitions:

            1) Goodness = subjective desirability
            2) Evil = subjective undesirability"

            Those basic definitions are incompatible with there being a moral truth we can access. Everything is subjective.

          • They only said that to trick you into quoting Ayn Rand.

            It worked.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I mentioned Ayn Rand LONG before New Apologetics claimed this was Catholic Teaching. I'm still waiting for them to come back and show me these definitions in the Catechism.

          • If you are waiting for New Apologetics to come back and show that Ayn Rand is part of Catholic teaching, you'll be waiting a very long time.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don't need Ayn Rand. The actual claim was that the definition of evil and good is subjective. I'm waiting for them to show me that definition in the catechism.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And now they've switched to some idea that an informed conscience, formed to be objective and suppress free will and original sin, is actually subjective.

          • See above. Note that this teaching has nothing to do with moral relativism:

            An objectively morally good act is one which is consistent with our authentic subjective well-being.

            An objectively morally evil act is one which is not consistent with our authentic subjective well-being.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Our well being is objective, not subjective. Human beings are physical beings that obey the laws of physics, not subjective beings that exist at a whim.

          • Now I have something you can apologize for!

            You can apologize for your incorrect use of an equals sign! ;)

          • disqus_9r6jzPyhrh

            For a being that is supposed to be rational, you are one confused human being my friend.

            Did you know that (allow me to summon the name of a doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, to remind you of something) we can reach objective morality by reason alone? I am a theist but I don't see any reason why an atheist cannot reach the same when it's just how we call ourselves that differs. They are rational beings just like us.

            Did you know that Aristotle was not Catholic? Was he? And did you know that our friend Aquinas referred to him and used his philosophy in further defining what is good and evil? Reason my friend is the key to morality.

            However, my saying so does not necessarily remove the honor due to God. Yes, reason came from God and remember that He gave us freedom over it. It is then hard to blame people if they so choose not to believe in a God. I'd say God took the risk in giving us both reason and freedom. But then again, my reason tells me it cannot be otherwise.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Denial of evidence denies reason.

          • She's not too far off, actually.

          • She claims to adopt Aristotle's virtue ethics, so from that point of view she can't be that far off. But, and maybe I assume incorrectly, you don't make a virtue out of selfishness. If you do, I must say you have an interesting fantasy about the magisterium. Either that, or I haven't met the Objectivist Catholics yet. I imagine they won't get along well with the Charismatic Catholics.

          • See above.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I still don't see the word "subjective" in any of your quotes. Good and evil, morality, can't be subjective and be compatible with Christianity.

          • We really meant it.

          • If you think that good and evil are actually only:

            1) Goodness = subjective desirability
            2) Evil = subjective undesirability

            Then either you are wrong or you use he word "subjective" very differently than I do.

            I think that the good coincides with my desire, but my desire is not subjective. I cannot choose or change what I desire. What I desire can be determined objectively, even scientifically. It's part of my biology.

            Now maybe you are claiming that I can choose my desires, or that the good is whatever I want it to be? If that's what you are saying then you are wrong. If that's what the Catholic Church teaches then the Catholic Church is also wrong. But I'd like you to provide a source for such a claim.

          • "If it is sought for itself, it is or it is estimated by us to be a good, and therefore desirable on its own account. When we take some step to obtain it, it is the end of our action. The series of means and ends either stretches out indefinitely, or it must terminate in some desired object or objects which are ends in themselves... Now in all these locutions the word conveys directly or indirectly the idea of desirability. The merely useful is desired for the end towards which it is employed; the end is desired on its own account. The latter is conceived as possessing some character, quality, power, which renders it an object of desire."
            (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06636b.htm)

            "Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals; whence arises, among humans beings at least, the sufferings in which life abounds. Thus evil, from the point of view of human welfare, is what ought not to exist."(http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05649a.htm)

            "All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved." (CCC, 1766)

            "Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it." (CCC, 1765)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don't see the word subjective in any of those quotes, do you? Good and evil are not subjective. They are objective.

          • I would say here that the good is relative (It may change somewhat from person to person). Apparently it requires estimation. But I actually need to agree with Theodore on this one. Nothing there at least saying it's subjective.

            Morality for Aristotle (and Aquinas I think) is objective and relative.

            Now maybe you are using "subjective" in a different way than I did above: "determined by the subject"?

            If you are using it more to mean "discovered by the subject", well, multiplication tables are then subjective. Or if you mean "estimated by us" then the world population is subjective.

      • I cannot even fathom my friends doing such a thing. Even the ones online that I have, the ones I've debated the issues with fiercely, on a personal level, we're both just moms trying to raise our kids.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          You are lucky to have such friends. I don't. I have no atheists I can respect, nor even feminists I can respect. To me, pro-choice is pro-eugenics, and an enemy to my family and my ability to raise my child.

  • Firstly, I do not think this sort of apology is necessary, but it is a kind impulse and accepted by me, at least.

    I think this a fair admission and the beginning of reason. What I hear the apologists to be saying is that they do not understand god's moral plan, or how he can be as good or as powerful as they have been led to believe, given the desperate unnecessary suffering we constantly see.

    This admission means they either accept the Catholic god does not exist, or that they are largely ignorant as to how god's morality works.

    I think this also means they need to take a step back on any moral arguments too.

    • You wrote:
      Firstly, I do not think this sort of apology is necessary, but it is a kind impulse and accepted by me, at least.

      We reply:
      As you continue to question us, you may see the necessity of the apology more clearly.

      You wrote:
      I think this a fair admission and the beginning of reason. What I hear the apologists to be saying is that they do not understand god's moral plan, or how he can be as good or as powerful as they have been led to believe, given the desperate unnecessary suffering we constantly see.

      We reply:
      Our position is that atheists are *right* to reject any proposed deity who either causes or approves of evil as a means to some good end. We are using the term "evil", maximally broadly to cover any deprivation of a due good. [Ask about this if it is not clear.] Most discussion of God's relationship to the world makes the mistake of attributing to God that "means to an end" concession. We reject all such models. In this article, we do not specify the answer to the question of why we suffer, but we do have a coherent answer to the question. The only viable theodicy is one which harmonizes all the classically-conceived omni-attributes of God with a *perfect* opposition to every evil. So, God is omnipotent, is perfectly opposed to every evil, and yet evil continues to exist. It seems prima facie impossible, but it is not.

      You wrote:
      This admission means they either accept the Catholic god does not exist, or that they are largely ignorant as to how god's morality works.

      We reply:
      Neither of those propositions is entailed by our position. We accept every truth proposed for our belief by the Church.

      You wrote:
      I think this also means they need to take a step back on any moral arguments too.

      We reply:
      We do believe the "moral argument" to be unsound. However, there may be a worthy variant you have in mind that we have not previously evaluated.

      • Peter Piper

        l In this article, we do not specify the answer to the question of why we suffer, but we do have a coherent answer to the question.

        Please tell us where we can find this coherent answer.

        • It is lengthy, and where to begin depends very much on your questions. We will expound on the answer here to the degree you are interested. A large percentage of it is already expressed on our website and facebook page.

          • robtish

            Then could you start by providing links, please?

          • See above.

          • Peter Piper

            Like robtish, I was hoping for a more specific link. The question to which I would like to know your answer is `why do we suffer?'

          • TheodoreSeeber

            We suffer so good can exist.

          • Start here: http://newapologetics.com/the-theodicy-of-divine-chastity

            This article is just the beginning of the explanation, so please ask questions.

          • Peter Piper

            Would you prefer me to respond here or on Facebook?

          • Here is fine.

          • Peter Piper

            Whilst I was waiting for you to specify, Paul Rimmer said a lot of what I might have said here. So I'll watch that conversation to see how it develops, and maybe add my two cents there if you guys don't cover all the bases between you.

      • Well I think that is fair. I commend your approach. Apology accepted. I'll be interested to know your reasons to believe but I will check your site and leave that discussion for another place.

        • Our position will be confusing at first, but if you continue to ask questions, it will be very clear.

          You wrote: Please explain which of the following is a misrepresentation.

          We reply: There will probably need to be several rounds of these clarifications as the answers will be different than what you've heard.

          You wrote:
          Some serious suffering occurs to humans

          We reply:
          It sure does.

          You wrote:
          Some if this suffering seems gratuitous, we can see no reason not to prevent it, if we could. E.g. Children being hit by lightning.

          We reply:
          All of it is gratuitous.

          You wrote:
          God does not want us to suffer gratuitously

          We reply:
          That is so.

          You wrote:
          God can prevent us from suffering gratuitously

          We reply:
          That is so.

          You wrote:
          God does not intervene to prevent us from suffering anymore

          We reply:
          We deny this.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        If evil is subjective, how can an objective God oppose it?

        • Consider that the purpose of creation is specified in the Catechism. We were created so that God may bestow his benefits upon us:

          "This one, true God, of his own goodness and 'almighty power', not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel 'and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal. . .'" (CCC, 293)

          God loves us and wants what is consistent with us being fully alive:

          "the glory of God is man fully alive" (CCC, 294)

          And, according to the Church, the human condition was established in accord with the will of God that we be fully alive:

          "By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man's life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die." (CCC, 376)

          The essence of God's will for us is that there to be no disharmony between human desire and reality:

          "The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called 'original justice'" (CCC, 400)

          Given the above teachings, it follows that suffering, death, disunity and division are deviations from the state of subjective happiness (viz., perfect harmony and fullness of life) God has intended for us, and God opposes these departures from our well-being because his will is that we:

          1) Receive the benefits he bestows on us (CCC, 293)

          2) Be fully alive (CCC, 294)

          3) Remain in union with God such that we neither suffer nor die (CCC, 376)

          4) Be confirmed in every dimension of human life (CCC, 376)

          5) Experience undiminished harmony in every aspect of our existence. (CCC, 400)

          So, in other words, sin offends God because it makes us suffer. Because of sin, we experience less than the perfect joy God intends for us, and this is a violation of his will.

          Concerning the effects of the first human sin, the Church teaches:

          “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination (Cf. Gen 3:7-16). Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man (Cf. Gen 3:17, 19). Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will 'return to the ground,' (Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17) for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history” (Cf. Rom 5:12) (CCC 400).

          And death is the essence of what God is against when we say that God is against "immoral" actions:

          "Sin offends God, that is, it saddens him greatly, but only in so far as it brings death to man whom he loves; it wounds his love." (Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            But if sin itself is subjective- if right and wrong, good and evil can't be determined objectively- then how can anything be immoral?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think your confusion is in the term "subjective." Good is objective because it conforms to what is good for human beings and evil is objective because it violates what is good for human beings.

            However, human beings are subjects, not objects, so we as subjects perform good acts and enjoy goods and we perform evil acts and experience suffering.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            So therefore, it is humans who are subjective, NOT morality and not reality- which is what I've been saying all along.

      • Susan

        We are using the term "evil", maximally broadly to cover any deprivation of a due good. [Ask about this if it is not clear.]

        It's not clear. Please explain.

        So, God is omnipotent, is perfectly opposed to every evil, and yet evil continues to exist. It seems prima facie impossible, but it is not.

        Please explain.

        • Fr.Sean

          Susan,
          I do not want to answer for New Apologetic's, but i would just like to say i'm glad you're back. i missed some of our discussions and enjoyed talking with you.

          With respect to the question i think they should answer but to my knowledge the Church teaches evil is not really a "thing" but is a lack of something good.

          Moreover, we believe God is good and omnipotent but he/she wants us to choose him/her and to Choose to do good. in order to Choose to do good one has the option to choose to not do good.

          I'm sure you've heard the statement; "everything happens for a reason". i do not believe that is true and God does not allow evil so he/she can bring out a good but God can bring good out of an unfortunate event.

  • New Apologetics,

    Could you please provide us with a name, in order to comply with forum rules? ;)

    I don't understand the apology, but I'm not the target audience. It looks like lots of atheists understood your apology. It's been enjoyable to read their comments and your responses.

    I hope to see more articles from you in the future!

    Paul

    • Steven Carr

      'I don't understand the apology....'

      I don't understand the apology either.

      But all they have to do is produce a god and no apologies would be necessary.

      Even a demon would do. Or an angel.

      Just something ,for once.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Steven, I hope you will stick around this post and engage with the New Apologetics and bring your best objections to bear. Nothing much happened today because the site was up and down all day.

        • Steven Carr

          I don't need to have any objections. It is not about me.

          After 2000 years, the world is still waiting for Christians to produce some of these demons or angels they claim exist.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you mean by "produce" an an angel or demon? You mean like in Dr. Faustus?

          • Steven Carr

            I mean like in the Bible.

            For some reason, Jesus was always running across demons.

            But nowadays there seems to be a great shortage.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are many exorcists who would disagree that demons don't exist.

          • Steven Carr

            And there are gazillions of scientists who know that every single time they do an experiment, not one supernatural being will interfere with the laws of physics.

            People can live entire lives and write textbooks knowing fine well that no demons exist.

            Catholics who claim to be exorcists simply reinforce the stereotype that being a Christian means abandoning reality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            SC, If God, an angel, or a devil interfered with a law of physics, a scientist would never know, since that interference would register in the phenomenon being observed as a natural event.

            It's perfectly possible to believe in God, angels, and demons, and be a scientist. I personally know many. That does not make them right, but it does work against your claim.

            If there is a stereotype that being a Christian means abandoning reality, maybe the problem is in the stereotype.

          • We've not experienced a shortage.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Why does this demand remind me of last Sunday's Gospel?

    • You wrote: I don't understand the apology, but I'm not the target audience.

      We reply: This is ironic because you actually are the target audience. Some of what we've read of your writing on this forum inspired us to write this article. This is not an exaggeration.

      You wrote:
      It looks like lots of atheists understood your apology. It's been enjoyable to read their comments and your responses.

      We reply:
      It may be the case that you don't understand the apology because what we are saying appears to you to be logically impossible. Consider the following statements of yours and our initial responses:

      You wrote:
      "If childhood cancer is God's punishment for Adam's sin then I'd rather go to hell than serve such a God. I suppose that might be more a pastoral problem than a philosophical problem."

      We reply:
      We agree with your first sentence. You are right to reject such a deity. It is neither a pastoral nor philosophical problem. It is a right and just stance.

      You wrote:
      "My worship is indeed contingent on God's moral character. I won't worship a being, no matter how powerful or how much he proclaims himself to be good, if I cannot morally conscience his actions."

      We reply:
      We agree. There is nothing wrong with your standard of deity-rejection.

      You wrote:
      "If God can stop evil but doesn't he's not worth my worship (or my friendship) because he's not moral enough."

      We reply:
      We agree. Any deity who holds back in opposing evil is unworthy of you or us. And "evil" includes every instance of innocent suffering.

      You wrote:
      "If God wants to stop evil but can't then he's not worth my worship because he's not powerful enough, but I'll happily be his friend and work with him to make the world a better place."

      We reply:
      We agree. Any God worthy of worship must be omnipotent.

      You wrote:
      "Because either he is morally deficient, in which case I say non serviam, or he's not powerful enough to have made the world better, in which case I'll be happy to serve him and work with him so we can do what we can to improve things together. Like a father and son."

      We reply:
      We agree with the implications of those options. There is a third option, though, and you have not heard about it yet.

      You wrote:
      "Whether God exists or not, I should devote my time to living a better life than I'm living now."

      We reply:
      Yes. Same with us.

      You wrote:
      "There are ways to do good in a world without cancer. There would be ways to do good in a world without suffering."

      We reply:
      This is *exactly* right. We go so far as to say that *all* suffering is gratuitous in its essence given the omnipotence of God.

      You wrote:
      Evil doesn't disprove God's existence, but it does provide a strong argument against worshiping him. The argument has convinced me.

      We reply:
      If it were the case that God is as you suspect he would have to be (given the state of the world), then we would not worship either.

      So, the reason why the apology is for you is that you have been led to believe that God, if he exists, is not truly just. The alternate implication is that if God exists and *is* truly just, then your standard of justice is wrong.

      But, regardless of what you've been told so far, your standard is *not* wrong. God is as good as you would require and infinitely more so.

      You wrote:
      "I can conceive of a God that is morally perfect and far more powerful and knowledgable than I am, although not powerful enough or knowledgable enough to put a stop to human suffering. I would deeply desire to have a relationship with this God and to serve him."

      We reply:
      God meets your standard of justice and is still omnipotent and omniscient though the world is full of gratuitous horrendous evil. We promise that you will see the coherence for yourself if you persevere in questioning us. Yes, this theodicy covers all natural evil too. The explanation leaves nothing hanging, and requires no "bullet-biting". God sees evil as you see it, and the non-prevention of evil has nothing to do with there being a purpose in the evil or with a lack of power on God's part to stop it.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        I notice you still haven't complied with forum rules that we use real names here.

        • At New Apologetics, our contributors are usually anonymized. We want the focus to be on the merit of the ideas themselves and not on the people who teach those ideas.

          We've found that in philosophy, there is a tendency for flawed arguments to receive undue respect because of the professional reputation of the person who advocates them.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            In that case, then, maybe Strange Notions isn't the best place for this discussion, given the forum rule that responses NOT be anonymous?

            Also, may I suggest that by putting distance between yourself and the people you are replying to, you are building the very barriers that create the misunderstandings in the first place?

          • robtish

            I have to agree with Theodore. The anonymous plural "we" you use in your comments is a bit...Borg-like.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha!

            But in fairness, plenty of posters are still not using their real (or full) names.

      • Wow. You must have read carefully through the comments on this site. Thanks for including some of mine among them. I'm happy to keep questioning. Give me some time to read through and carefully consider your responses. I don't think I'll reply to most of them all at once, because there too many of them. Instead, let's go through this one question at a time (we can do it here or elsewhere if you prefer).

        You mentioned a "third way" out of the Epicurus paradox. I'd be interested to hear it. So we'll start there if that's alright with you. And we'll look at only natural evil (hurricanes and cancer and the like).

        Q1: Could God reduce the amount of natural evil in the world?

        • That was pretty amazing!

        • You wrote:
          I'm happy to keep questioning. Give me some time to read through and carefully consider your responses. I don't think I'll reply to most of them all at once, because there too many of them. Instead, let's go through this one question at a time (we can do it here or elsewhere if you prefer).

          We reply:
          Let's stay here as it is likely that our dialogue will be very helpful to the readers on this site who are interested in theodicy. Ultimately, it would be good to have an extended discussion on our facebook page if you are willing.

          You wrote:
          You mentioned a "third way" out of the Epicurus paradox. I'd be interested to hear it. So we'll start there if that's alright with you. And we'll look at only natural evil (hurricanes and cancer and the like).

          We reply:
          So, here is the beginning of the explanation:

          http://newapologetics.com/the-theodicy-of-divine-chastity

          It is only the start, and we expect to have a lot of explaining to do.

          You wrote:
          Q1: Could God reduce the amount of natural evil in the world?

          We reply:
          Yes (in terms of power), but he's not morally free to do so. Read the article, and we'll expand on it as you lead with your questions. [You may enjoy the other articles on our site as well. They will confirm your intuitions about justice.]

          • ColdStanding

            Having trashed; thrown under the bus; given the bum's rush to Old_Apologetics as being hopeless, you, under the auspices of New_Apologetics full of promises of New_Ness, now, barely two steps in, avail yourselves of all the resources you just threw out? As if this were a situation of New_Atheists simply lacking the best explanation? As if, could only just hear really hear the apologetic answers, (spoken ever so earnestly in the third person, no less) they will be converted (oops! bad word)...(how do they say it these days? Oh!)... enter more deeply into dialog?

            Hey, I'd wish you good luck and pray for you, but I'm still laying in a pool of blood from you having stabbed me and just about every other Catholic in the back. It's a little hard to get the hands into the prayer position. Thanks for that.

            Perhaps I'm just not used to New_Justice, yet.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What are the "resources" you say NA has thrown out and then picks back up in the its third step (although you haven't said what you mean by the first two steps)?

            Do you mean that NA supports its arguments from the CCC, popes, council documents, saints, and so on? For example, here: http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

          • ColdStanding

            Can you really say I've not already answered you question?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            CS, You really seem to be into paradox or obscurity. No. You have not answered my question.

            I gather you are a Catholic. Why do you sneer at a word like "dialogue" when that is one of the principles of ecumenism and inter-religious relations (which should include non-religious positions like atheism) which the Magisterium of the Church proposes?

          • ColdStanding

            You are addicted to explanation. The response to an explanation is not more explanation, but reflection.
            There may be salvation outside of the O. H. C. & A. C.,
            but that remains only a theoretical possibility, we have no evidence that it actually does happen, so prudence suggests the proven Way. Given the stakes, any suggestion that one may be saved without conversion, repentance and the sacraments is foolhardy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There you go again. What is OHC & AC?

            I've never seen anything that NA (that stands for New Apologetics) argues that there is salvation outside the Church in the way the Church understands.

            Are you just attacking what the Magisterium says about ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue?

          • One. Holy. Catholic. and Apostolic. Church. :D

          • Kevin Aldrich

            T.Y.V.M. Thank you very much!

          • LOL

            I.E.C.B.W.I.A.W.S.A.L.O.L.
            (if everything could be written in acronyms we'd save a lot of letters)

          • ColdStanding

            When does dialogue end? Look to your senses. See what is before you. It doesn't. It is tactical diversion; stalling; attempting to form a defense for pleading ignorance before the Judgement Seat.

            Enough dialogue.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You mean fifty years is way too much time compared to a 1000 years with the east or 500 with Protestantism?

          • ColdStanding

            If you/one were to force me to trade away, give up, or abandon much of what gave beauty and just ornament to my duty to worship the Blessed Undivided Trinity - and let there be no mistaking it for I have been so forced - it had better be for, to borrow from poker, an "all in". Ecumenism, better the Spirit of Ecumenism, has been at best half measures. Better to bet the farm on disabusing our separated brethren of any notion of legitimacy in their claims. Atheist hide behind the skirts of the Protestant claims.

            Ecumenism, mindful that I speak here of the specific policy that developed in the post-council period, has been a net loss. It is a failed policy.

          • Andre Boillot

            To be fair, Protestant skirts usually come in a camouflage print, making them very good hiding places indeed.

          • ColdStanding

            From the likes of me, but it is not me you are hiding from, inclined as you might be to avoid my kind.

            With Him, the utility is rather less.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't see how you are talking about ecumenism, but if you said "the (bogus) spirit of Vatican II" or the (stealth) protestantization of the Catholic Church after Vatican II I'd readily agree with you. I think the "spirit of Vatican II is finally giving way to what the council actually said.

            Ecumenism properly only takes place between people of standing in the various bodies. On the individual level it is done on the basis of friendship and mutual interests.

            This is only speculation on my part, but it may be that Protestantism will end the way the Soviet Union did, by sheer exhaustion of all its resources.

          • ColdStanding

            Standing? What standing? They have none. They are dealing in stolen goods.

          • I read the article. Your response doesn't seem all that different from Leibniz's theodicy. This is the best world God could have made. God's always doing his best. Now, granted, the language is unique. God's chaste, meaning he's completely self-giving. If God got rid of human suffering immediately, apparently he'd be less self-giving than he is.

            Getting rid of childhood leukaemia right now would somehow involve a violation of God's chastity. I think Candide is an entertaining and appropriate response.

            Your answer to Epicurus's paradox seems to be that if God were to reduce human suffering at this time, God would be less good than he is. I don't see how this is very different from saying that God's not powerful enough to get rid of childhood leukaemia.

            If I misunderstood your article, please correct me.

          • Hi Paul,

            Please excuse our delayed response. Our excuse goes something like this:

            “from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard. Because of it I started out, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, and came to make you understand what shall happen to your people in the last days; for there is yet a vision concerning those days.” (Dan 10, 12-14)

            You wrote:
            If I misunderstood your article, please correct me.

            We reply:
            You have misunderstood it, and the correction is a matter of just a few "tweaks" here and there. We'll have the response to you within an hour or two.

          • Hi Paul,

            Please excuse our delayed response. Our excuse goes something like this:

            “from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard. Because of it I started out, but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me. I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia, and came to make you understand what shall happen to your people in the last days; for there is yet a vision concerning those days.” (Dan 10, 12-14)

            You wrote:
            If I misunderstood your article, please correct me.

            We reply:
            You have misunderstood it, and the correction is a matter of just a few "tweaks" here and there. We'll have the response to you tonight.

          • While you guys ward off the Prince of Persia, I have to deal with a couple (justifiably) unsatisfied referees about a submitted paper. I won't have the opportunity to respond to your comments until the end of the week, so take your time. There's no rush.

          • We are going to resume the discussion with a new post so that it is not stuck in the middle. We'll copy and past what you've written, and (may or may not) make tiny changes to alter the meaning of your words to suit our purposes...

          • Sounds so sinister! :D

            If you do make tiny changes, please indicate clearly where you make them, or refrain from attributing the words to me. Keeping with good patristic tradition, you could attribute the changed version to Pseudo-Rimmer.

          • I once knew a comment moderator who edited the content of every vulgar comment to say things like, "Oh, what a delightful website this is!" or "I just LOVE what you say and totally agree!"

          • I don't find anything wrong with that. And it's hilarious.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I've been reading the comments today and waiting eagerly to hear more from New Apologetics.

    I haven't responded to anything Theodore Seeber has written. I think he's irrational.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      That's OK Kevin- because by definition, all atheists are irrational to me and nothing you can say will change that.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        That is a nonsense statement. To not believe in something because you don't think there is sufficient evidence for it's existence is perfectly rational, even if that thing you don't believe does exist.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          No, that is a nonsense statement, because it is impossible for human beings to have evidence of that type *for anything*.

  • ColdStanding

    OK, I get it. So long, and thanks for the fish.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      What does this comment mean?

      • ColdStanding

        Why don't you ask New Apologetics to explain it to you?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I have absolutely no idea what you mean except you seem to be criticizing the post yet are unwilling to say why.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          So I looked it up and it appears to mean you have a smug superiority.

          Why don't you tell NA what is wrong with it to OP? That would provide a constructive service.

          • Andre Boillot

            Kevin,

            "So I looked it up and it appears to mean you have a smug superiority."

            Actually, it's just a humorous way to say "Goodbye".

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/So_Long,_and_Thanks_for_All_the_Fish

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You're right. I was imprecise. The phrase means good-bye but the comment as a whole is what I thought conveyed smug superiority.

          • ColdStanding

            Like I said, please refer all inquiries to New_Apologetics. I'm no longer employed in providing constructive services.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Whatever, dude.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I'm voting up for best response yet. See God's Last Message from the same book.

  • Paul Boillot

    I came to this particular post via a comment-link to some of the discussions below about philosophy, politics, and literature.

    After all the responses I made so far, I finally got up here to read the OP.

    Posts like that remind me of our shared humanity; the humility of it cuts through the self righteousness, both my own and that I often ascribe to the religious people I know online and off.

    Reading the OP was a welcome change of pace.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Now your responses to me make sense.

  • lehnne

    with an infrastructure as robust as the post-modern era all sorts of novel beliefs or unbelief's are possible because there is no downside when there is no impact on lifestyle, convenience and ammentities

  • Chip Williams

    This was a really good read. I will always be 'Anti-Theist' but there is some huge moral ground covered here. Purity of heart, over legality. No matter what way you try and look at God, it is responsible for all life, and all death. But that is a far cry from an anthropomorphic God that will help some random Christian find his keys while innocent children starve. I wish that Jesus would come tell you all himself that man manipulated the bible. And that love for everyone is the answer. SMGDH. Apology Accepted.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > "No matter what way you try and look at God, it is responsible for all life . . .."

      Catholics must totally agree with that.

      > "No matter what way you try and look at God, it is responsible for all . . . death."

      Catholics must totally repudiate that, except for the death Christ freely accepted.

      • Chip Williams

        well I would say responsible is a different meaning than caused. God is responsible for all death because he created the universe in which death can even exist. No matter what, it all, goes back to God. But god didn't physically do the killing.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If you stick around and listen to what NA says--I've been reading up on it for a few weeks--the argument is that God is perfectly opposed to every suffering, and that includes death.

          I know it sounds counter-intuitive.

          • Chip Williams

            I could dig that. His opposition doesn't preclude it from existing in his universe, however. In my paradigm, god is opposed to every suffering, and that is why I oppose the church.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What Church are you thinking of that is "for" suffering and death?

          • Chip Williams

            I didn't say any church is for suffering. I implied that they cause and/or promote principles which cause suffering in its many forms.

          • Chip Williams

            like this, smoking a cigarette doesn't mean you are FOR cancer. However no one can deny that smoking that cigarette could be a cause for said cancer.

          • Chip Williams

            And if you have to ask how religion has caused suffering, then you may have missed something.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Chip, your claim is that "religion causes suffering and therefore it should be rejected."

            I think you are locating the problem in the wrong place.

            *Everything* we experience causes suffering. For example, the most beautiful music can cause suffering. Its beauty is fleeting. It points to something incredibly valuable we want but cannot lay hold of. We cannot compose such beauty ourselves. We cannot perform such beauty ourselves. Those who can perform or compose the greatest music are not satisfied.

            Should we also reject music?

          • Paul Boillot

            Cheetos.

            Cheetos do not cause suffering, only joy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Even the Cheetos bag become empty, leaving you only orange fingers.

          • Paul Boillot

            Licking the cheese fingers is the best part!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What a Pollyanna! ;)

          • Paul Boillot

            If they'd had cheetos at the turn of the century, no one would've starved during the great depression.

            But seriously -- when I reach the bottom of a bag -- the emptiness of my soul is nigh unfathomable....a void and a nothingness the un-size of 3.25 ounces.

          • Chip Williams

            Everything we experience does not cause suffering Kevin. Although I want to take a second and applaud your constructive discussion. Those who compose the greatest music may never be satisfied, but not being satisfied is not suffering. I myself compose music and experience that feeling exactly. However I can clearly separate that feeling from anguish or suffering stemming from the division of a woman I love from me based on Religious differences.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks, Chip.

            Of course there are degrees of suffering, but I think it is right to include every deprivation of a due good, including ones some people consider trivial or ignorable.

            If I understand it correctly, in the state of original justice, there was to have been no obstacle between desire and fulfillment.

          • Chip Williams

            Well now it becomes obvious that we were using a different definition of suffering from the get. Which does a great deal to show us where language fails to be an adequate tool to understand these arguments. I see your way of viewing suffering, and it does make sense in that way. However my view of suffering is different, one which I would have to reflect on to come up with an elegant explanation. I can point to many many cases were religion has caused suffering, the way I'm defining it. And I'm sure you'd have no problem finding some either.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Religion "requires" suffering? Absolutely!

            Here is one. My Catholic faith tells me I should act for the true good of the other and not to be selfish whenever there is a conflict between charity and selfishness.

            This causes me to suffer either way. Either I am selfish and suffer the natural consequences of selfishness and guilt over not acting for the true good of another, or, I suffer by being generous and acting for the true good of the other and not get what my selfishness attracted me to.

            Or, my religion and any notion of human decency tell me to do the right thing even if I am afraid or it will cause me pain (the virtue of fortitude). Thus to be courageous or tough in service of right action, I have to suffer.

          • Chip Williams

            Agreed. I will suffer willingly for the good of others. Absolutely.

          • Boris G

            you wrote: '...there are a myriad of ways religious principles cause suffering that I could go on forever. But the easiest way to see it is by the division it creates, between people, between nations, between entire segments of people that somehow feel entitled to judge one another based on what their opinion of 'Truth' Is.'

            I agree with you Chip.The divisions between peoples and nations is one of the great evils and a real scandal for us Christians in particular.Christianity is so fractured as to be hardly recognisable by an outsider.
            It may interest you to know that the Catholic Church does not believe that the truth belongs solely to any one religion.In fact it holds that there are elements of truth in every religion.
            It is sad and ironic that claims to 'truth', which by definition is one and not many, has led to so much division.
            Any sole claim to truth is absurd and counter-productive to say the least.
            Jesus himself prayed to the Father - 'that they may ALL be one.'

          • Boris G

            Judging by some of the above comments...I think you already have. ;-}

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak" (Mt 16:41).

          • Valkr

            How preposterously selfish to first think of "suffering" as your own discomfort at charity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How preposterously selfish to first think of "suffering" as your own discomfort at charity.

            Yes, the desire to and impossibility of escaping every suffering and fulfilling every desire is "before" and "behind" every human thought, word, and deed.

          • Boris G

            Looks like I may have missed something.So what principles have been promoted that have caused suffering?And who are they?

          • Chip Williams

            Everything we experience does not cause suffering Kevin. Although I want to take a second and applaud your constructive discussion. Those who compose the greatest music may never be satisfied, but not being satisfied is not suffering. I myself compose music and experience that feeling exactly. However I can clearly separate that feeling from anguish or suffering stemming from the division of a woman I love from me based on Religious differences.

            Boris, there are a myriad of ways religious principles cause suffering that I could go on forever. But the easiest way to see it is by the division it creates, between people, between nations, between entire segments of people that somehow feel entitled to judge one another based on what their opinion of 'Truth' Is.

          • ColdStanding

            It isn't our opinion. It isn't opinion.

          • Chip Williams

            Exactly cold. There is the problem. You perceive it as the ultimate truth. So do muslims, so do jews, so does everyone is their own paradigm. See the problem yet?

          • ColdStanding

            It's only a problem if you are determined to have it your way or no way at all.

          • Chip Williams

            isn't that what a great a deal of the religious are determined to do? I subscribe to the idea people can have it their way, not mine.

          • ColdStanding

            I don't claim to speak for adherents of every impulse to give worship to God, aka: piety.* It is a false proposition to suggest that because there is a multiplicity of claims, none of them can be true. It is just rather difficult to find the right one. Difficult, but not even remotely impossible.

            By what authority do you grant/permit people to "have it their way"? You didn't make the universe. You are out of line to suggest such a thing.

            * In Catholic land a "religious" is a consecrated man or woman; someone that has taken the sacrament of holy orders, that may or may not be a priest.

          • Chip Williams

            I said i subscribe to the idea. Not that i permit them. Come on bro. That was uncalled for. I also did not say there wasn't a true "Truth' or that a multiplicity of claims means there is no one truth. All I said was that everyone believing themselves to be right and to be of the ultimate truth is the root cause of a massive amount of division in this world.

          • ColdStanding

            I do not believe myself to be right. I believe myself to be wrong, which I why I have made recourse to the deposit of Truth to supply my want of rectitude.

            Please explain to me how you differentiate scribe from permit. There is difference in meaning, to be sure, but they are hardly unrelated.

          • Chip Williams

            Permit implies I have the power to deny. Subscribe implies that anyone can choose to or not to subscribe as well.

            It is good that you don't believe yourself to be right. However the same problem occurs in reference to your source of 'Truth'. A muslim believes his source of 'Truth' to be the Ultimate 'Truth', and you believe the same in regards to your source of 'Truth'.

          • ColdStanding

            His coin is debased.

            Where does one or with whom file his "subscription"? With whom did you file your subscription? What were the terms? Do you get something quarterly? Fan mag sort of thing?

          • Chip Williams

            Yourself, Cold. you file the beliefs you subscribe to with yourself. Your Soul. Your heart. Your God.

          • Chip Williams

            That's a great example you're setting. Attacking a man that is having a rational discussion with you. An ad hominem attack is one that is aimed at making my words sound silly. Subscribe, the way I was using it has nothing to do with magazines. You and everyone reading this knows that.

          • ColdStanding

            Subscription is an act. It is an act of registration. Registration is a file. Files are kept somewhere.

            I'm just exploring the degree to which you avail yourself of subscription as a means of explaining the abstract subject we are discussing.

            If you take offense, it is only because you are eager to.

          • Chip Williams

            I'm taking offense because your using obviously condescending language. I do my best to have these discussions from a place of Love, instead of malice.

          • ColdStanding

            I hold that without accuracy in definitions, conversation about anything important is difficult. This is a difficult thing we do here, and serious. I act accordingly. It is not malice that my words convey.

          • Chip Williams

            agreed. As you'll see my use of subscribe fits precisely within it's definition.

          • ColdStanding

            Why would you make an act of subscription to what you believe yourself to have authored?

            I hold that your native use of subscription is not a self-subscription. It would be counter-intuitive to formulate it that way. Accepting my premise that your act of subscription is to something external, be it in the outscape or inscape, what or who you make the act to becomes something of paramount importance.

          • Chip Williams

            Dude! One of the definitions of Subscribe is to express agreement with a point of view! Nothing to do with anyone or anything to subscribe to!

          • ColdStanding

            The purpose of my insistence upon exploring subscribe relates to accounts of the action of the will expressing assent through acts. It means more than you are allowing. It means more than the dictionary definition. I'm a little bit like a dog on a bone by disposition, but my insistence in this case is learned not nature.

          • Chip Williams

            Subscribe - express or feel agreement with (an idea or proposal).

          • Chip Williams

            That definition of subscribe is true. However there is another one. Subscribe - 1.(what you said) 2.express or feel agreement with (an idea or proposal).

          • ColdStanding

            Accepted. Do you file with some order and purpose or higgledy piggledy?

          • Chip Williams

            lol. It's that easy for you to go that direction? I pray you can find some more patience, and grace, in dealing with these conversations.

          • Chip Williams

            Granted I should have stated the difference. Religious people don't believe themselves to be right, they believe their source is right. Which is an interesting topic in and of itself. My bad for the in-accuracy.

          • robtish

            "Religious people don't believe themselves to be right, they believe their source is right."

            You've just hit on an issue that drive me nuts, a distinction without a difference. Religious people DO believe themselves to be right: they believe themselves to be right in believing their source is right.

          • ColdStanding

            Belief is the root of knowledge. Why do you complain that people believe? It is a necessary thing.

          • robtish

            Coldstanding: You have mischaracterized my statement. I did not complain about people believing. I complained about people who say they do not believe themselves to be right, when clearly they do.

          • ColdStanding

            So which is it? It's OK to believe under what circumstances? What makes the grade, in your system, and what doesn't?

            I for a long time believed I was right, to the degree that the judgments I made about moral issues were of sufficient caliber to pass muster. Then I realized that this was not the case and sought to rectify the situation. Now, through supply of truth external to and not from my own effort, I hold that my understanding of the situation I find myself in is supplied with greater clarity and a great improvement upon my former situation.

            I here by attest that this is, to the best of my ability, a fair account, brief but sufficient, of my encounter with a truth greater than myself that I came to through believing.

          • Chip Williams

            Cold, with all due respect. I know how hard it is to see these things without being outside of yourself. But you do believe you are right. Because you believe your right about your book being right. I know God/Jesus hasn't manifested himself physically to you, so It must be that you believe the Bible to be faithfully representative of the 'Truth'. What if the bible was manipulated by man? Can you prove it hasn't been without citing a verse from the Bible? Where's the 'Truth' In that?

          • ColdStanding

            I believe that I have been righted, in the sense that a capsized ship turned right side up again is now right again. So yes, I am now right.

            And no, it is not because I have read and re-read the bible that I believe. I heard the Word of God speak to me. This is called a Gift of the Holy Spirit. So, I believe not because of what I think, though that is there, I believe because I prayed for and was granted belief.

            So, your account and my account of why I believe are markedly different. I have more content, a richer definition and account of the actions of belief and faith.

            As to the Bible, that was organized by people filled with the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that guided the choice of the scriptures in the Bible, which is why it is a valuable source for our faith. Valuable, but not only one.

          • Chip Williams

            Thats beautiful Cold. And I believe that you are doing good in the world and I respect your journey and your beliefs. I'm going to politely bow out of the conversation because I feel you are one of the good ones. If i may I'd like to make two last suggestions. 1: Help your Christian brothers and sisters reach a level of understanding similar to yours to put an end to bigotry and hate and misunderstanding. 2: Remember that anyone believing they are privy to the "Truth" is a cause for division, so while you may be right, temper that mentality with respect for the divisiveness of that language in light of the greater goal of peace. Jesus even teaches us to pray in private.

            At the end of the day, God Bless you. Keep keeping it real.

          • robtish

            I can't make a connection between what I said and what you replied. I took objection to the sentiment (not even stated by you): "Religious people don't believe themselves to be right, they believe their source is right," because such a statement is self-contradictory, as I described: Religious people DO believe themselves to be right: they believe themselves to be right in believing their source is right.

            I do not object to people believing things per se, and I don't know where you got that notion. I do object to the sort contradiction expressed above.

          • Chip Williams

            I agree rob. It's an interesting concept. And a baffling one

          • Our source is right, and we are right, and you are right about what motivates you to believe what you do. This is not relativism, but is entailed if Catholicism is true.

          • Right.

          • ColdStanding

            Would you say you are all right or all wrong?

          • Chip Williams

            I would say the concept of right and wrong is opposed to the concept of acceptance. I accept you, and your opinion. I accept that I may be right or wrong. I accept that I cannot know the ultimate or any ultimate "Truth"

          • ColdStanding

            No, Chip, you have received my opinion, but you do not accept it. One thing is a granting of courtesy, the other is the granting of accent.

            You can not know the full extent of Truth (which is already ultimate, so that adjective is redundant), but you can know enough of Truth to make significant changes for the better in your life. Truth is not a concept, it is a person: Jesus Christ. He doesn't bring truth, He is Truth. He doesn't bring salvation, He is salvation.

          • Chip Williams

            I do accept your opinion. Actually the way i'm using it fits within it's definition. Just remember words have more than one definition. And truth, if you look up the definition, has nothing to with Jesus Christ. So while you hold that one has to have accurate definitions of words to have a reasonable discussion, you get to make up your own definitions. Like, Truth is Jesus Christ. I accept to, submit to, tolerate, acknowledge your point of view and opinion. I even agree that It could be the ultimate truth, even though neither of us can prove so.

          • ColdStanding

            I didn't formulate/make up the statement: Jesus Chirst is Truth, that was the Holy Spirit giving the gift of knowledge to St. Peter.

          • Chip Williams

            What I suppose I really mean is that your using biblical definitions. Which are different from secular definitions. In your paradigm, Truth = Jesus. In mine Truth = the secular definition of truth. Regardless, it was good discussing all this with you. Bless.

          • If I may jump in, I don't know what a great deal of religious people are up to, so I'm with you there. But I do know that since its founding the Catholic Church has subscribed to the principle expressed by Irenaeus (I think), The glory of God is a person fully alive. If you insist that a person fully alive is a person able to make choices according to his or her personal inclinations, without fear of contradiction, then we need to take a step back and discuss first principles. In the Christian view, people are made (you can say "People come into being" if you don't like the ontological implications) for particular ends and not for other ends. If you agree, then we have to consider what ends we can put in one or the other of these two categories.

            But there's a meta-principle, about human freedom, that also needs to be added to the mix. The Church has long taught that what we now call conscience is a fundamental quality of every human being, and it is not a fulfillment of Christian principles to do violence to a person's conscience, even in pursuit of manifestly good ends.

            So let's agree that some religious people are on the wrong track, and try to figure out which, if any of them, aren't.

            Peace

          • Consider that you may have already "decided" on this course without knowing it quite yet. When we reject a piece of the truth, it is inevitable that we become what we hate. Others see it before we do.

          • ColdStanding

            For some reason you seem surprised that I have rebuffed you invitation to your circular firing squad party. But, when you think about it, if you can think about it, you really need not be surprised.

          • ColdStanding

            I think this about sums up the use of apologizing (in the sense with which you open your OP) to the New_Atheists. Taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on Thomas Cajetan:

            He also represented the pope at the Diet ofFrankfort (1519), and took an active part in the election of Charles V (1519), thereby winning that emperor's friendship and gratitude. While executing these missions, the more serious duty of meeting Luther, then started on his career of rebellion, was assigned to him. Cajetan's theological learning and humane disposition seemed to fit him for the task of successfully treating with the proud and obstinate monk, and Protestants have admitted that in all his relations with the latter Cajetan exhibited a spirit of moderation, that did honour to his lofty character. But neither pleading, learning, nor conciliatory words availed to secure the desired submission. Luther parleyed and temporized as he had done with the Holy See itself, and finally showed the insincerity of his earlier protestations by spurning the pope and his representative alike. Some have blamed Cajetan for his failure to aver tLuther's defection, but others like Hefele and Hergenröther exonerate him.

          • Let me jump in here if I may. I can’t say I know for certain what paradigm applies to each religion. I do know that no one paradigm applies to all religions. But as far as truth vs opinion about faith, there is a fair amount of common ground, even between believers and nonbelievers of goodwill. For example, the Catholic Church has long subscribed to the principle expressed by Irenaeus (I think), the glory of God is a person fully alive.
            I don't believe any clear-headed person would say that a person is fully alive only when free to make essentially arbitrary choices according to his or her personal inclinations, without fear of contradiction. In the Christian view, people are made (you can say, “People come into existence” if you want to avoid undue ontological implications), for particular ends and not for other ends, and
            this is a fact about what it is to be a person. We could probably agree about some of the ends for which people are
            made, and others for which they are not. I think we would then have come a long way towards the idea that you can “tell people what to do.”

            But there is another fundamental principle that must be added to the mix. The Church also has long taught that we
            cannot do violence to what is now called conscience in the pursuit even of manifestly good ends. This principle,
            too, is anchored in the idea of what it is to be a person.

            So, rather than trying to figure out what religious people are up to, let’s try to figure out which of them seem to be on the right track.

            Peace.

          • We support this message.

            If Catholicism is true, then whatever is the attractive essence of any given worldview is the *true* part of that worldview. This is because Catholicism teaches that the highest truth and the highest good are identical.

            If one rejects the piece of the truth that is being held by one's imagined inferior/enemy, then one implicitly rejects God and the truth that they themselves are supposedly holding sacred.

            All of the attractive and obviously good points you are making are actually part of Catholic teaching. All of the ugly and evil things you criticize are not part of Catholic teaching, but are distortions of it. Test us on this.

          • You wrote:
            "But the easiest way to see it is by the division it creates, between people, between nations, between entire segments of people that somehow feel entitled to judge one another based on what their opinion of 'Truth' Is."

            We reply:
            You are right about this. However, this is a function of *people* needing to contrast themselves with imagined inferiors. It happens whether they are religious or not. The difference is in what it looks like, but it is the same essential thing.

            You wrote: "Everything we experience does not cause suffering Kevin. Although I want to take a second and applaud your constructive discussion."

            We reply: It is not that "everything we experience causes suffering", but that even our joys are an occasion of anguish in knowing that we are in the same world as those who suffer tragically. Awareness of the contrast is a horror. Most people are unaware of it, and that obliviousness is a different kind of horror. Both states fall under the category of "suffering".

            Consider the dreadful contrast made present when a religious person says something like "God helped me find my lost keys" while an earthquake on the other side of the world devastates a whole nation. Alternatively, consider how it feels to not have God be there to help you find your keys, but you still have the earthquake. Same point: Choose one horror or the other.

            The following is from the Q&A section of our website: http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

            We cite it now only to guard against potential misinterpretation of our preceding statement on the keys vs. earthquake question about divine providence.

            "In human experience, there are often coincidences that suggest that some kind of divine providence is at work. It sometimes seems that the smallest needs of people are given attention by God, and man has evidence of his maximal importance. In contrast, there are experiences of tragic suffering that suggest that man is totally unimportant and that there is no providence at all. This juxtaposition of apparent providential care and senseless tragedy is stark and scandalous. It seems that God helps a person with small problems in answer to prayer, while an earthquake on the other side of the world brings devastation to an entire nation. To attempt to make sense of this disparity, some have said that all things are God’s will, and that the events that seem like horrible violations of man’s dignity are really sent by God to bring about a good beyond human comprehension. Alternatively, others say that man is without help in the universe, and what appears to be divine providence is merely a psychological illusion. On this view, the coincidences that seem to imply supernatural intervention are really just a matter of man’s interpretation of reality according to wishful thinking. Neither of these opposing views is correct.

            God exists, and wills man’s good, but because of the disorder that has been caused by sin, the world is no longer operating in obedience to God’s perfect will according to the original order of creation. As sin is against God’s will, so it is that the far-reaching effects of sin are also against God’s will. These effects of sin are universally broad, and they affect everyone negatively in different ways. Because they are incompatible with the providence that man expects from God, these amplified consequences of sin cause the world to seem as if God does not exist. Man suffers because he has the experience of finding himself in a world that has no concern for him. However, in the midst of this apparent non-existence of divine providence are instances of answered prayer and the visible providence of God in those situations where the effects of sin have not totally overwhelmed the proper order of things. Both senseless disaster and solicitous providential care are happening at the same time."

            You wrote:
            Those who compose the greatest music may never be satisfied, but not being satisfied is not suffering. I myself compose music and experience that feeling exactly. However I can clearly separate that feeling from anguish or suffering stemming from the division of a woman I love from me based on Religious differences.

            We reply:
            Both happened in the same world as the firebombing of Dresden.

          • The sufferings you have in mind are not because of the teachings of the Church. In every case (without exception), they are caused by one or both of the following:

            1) Disobedience to the teaching of the Church
            2) Obedience to some specious construal of Church teaching

          • Chip Williams

            This is an excellent attempt to deflect the blame. I would go into why but I don't have the time to give it, unfortunately. Thanks for your constructive discussion though, NA.

          • Paul Boillot

            I remember being taught as a child to accept suffering with a grateful heart, as it would purify my soul.

            I remember being taught that to fail to do so was selfish, and a sin, and that even if I didn't care about purifying my soul I should offer up my suffering for the souls in purgatory and to more perfectly join myself to Christ's suffering.

          • ColdStanding

            Excellent advice.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd say, Christ redeemed the world through innocently embracing and enduring to the end the unjust suffering heaped upon him. The baptized, through grace, can participate in this redemption by offering up their own suffering. With the help of grace, suffering can also help purify a person and help him or her grow in virtue. These are ways God can bring a greater good out of evil, but the suffering is not good in itself.

            So most of what you remember is correct, but I doubt that to fail to offer up your suffering would be a sin, unless you did so out of a rejection of God or of grace.

          • Paul Boillot

            Fair enough, there are ways of embracing suffering...while being opposed to it fundamentally?

            It's a fine distinction, perhaps, and one which has maybe not been well articulated to the world at large, or most Catholics for that matter.

          • Andre Boillot

            Just like slavery is bad, but if you find yourself a slave, be the best slave you can so that some good comes out of it.

          • Randy Gritter

            Even go so far as to thank God for giving you this burden so you can unite yourself with Christ and participate in your salvation and the salvation of others. That does not mean you should not pray that God save you from slavery.

          • Andre Boillot

            All the while resting in the assurance that God will never give you more burden than you can bear.

          • God neither causes nor approves of our suffering. However, through the redemption, he has turned evil against itself so that every evil works towards a higher good. In that sense, it is ***as if*** God sends the evils because they all work together perfectly for the good. This distinction is important to make, and it is rarely made in religious language.

            God is perfectly opposed to all evil, and because of this perfect opposition, God has perfectly integrated every evil into his providence. [And the reason God does not prevent evil at the outset is, ironically, because he is perfectly opposed to it: http://newapologetics.com/the-theodicy-of-divine-chastity%5D

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Christ's words in Gethsemane make this distinction.

            "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me." Human nature (rightly) reject suffering.

            "Yet not my will but thine be done." The person of Christ embraced suffering as the way to take to himself every wound inflicted on human beings by sin.

          • The following quotes are from an unpublished set of writings which will soon appear on our Q&A page here: http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

            "This power of redemptive suffering operates within a person even if they are unaware of it because it is Christ doing the
            suffering. However, to continue to live in unawareness of the reality that is transpiring within oneself is to continue to live a false identity under the deception of the evil one. The Holy Spirit works to conform a person to the identity of being one with Christ in reconciling the world to God, and hence the Christian begins to offer his sufferings to the Father as an act of sacrifice for the salvation of the world."

            Note, though, the redemption is not about suffering being of some value to God in order that we may be forgiven in exchange for the right amount of misery. The redemption is actually about how God restores us suffering and dying beings to a state of non-diminishment. The following quote (from our Q&A page) is a partial exposition of the nature of the redemption:

            "For mankind to be restored to correspondence with God’s justice, the deprivation and disorder in the life of man must somehow be harmonized with God’s perfect intention of highest charity for humanity. However, this reconciliation seems impossible because God would have to incorporate human suffering (which is, by definition, the deprivation of a due good) into his perfect will, which necessarily only seeks the highest good of persons. God cannot directly will suffering on another person because he is perfectly good and no person was created by God for the sake of pain, but only for happiness. However, if suffering and dying man is to be reconciled with God’s justice, then God must, somehow, directly ordain human suffering and death in a way that is in accord with his perfect will (that is, with absolute, uncompromising charity).

            In order for God to perfectly will suffering in any sense, necessarily, he must either will it on another or on himself. For the reasons stated previously, God cannot directly will a destiny of suffering on another. Additionally, the divine nature, in itself, is not capable of being damaged or diminished in any way, and therefore cannot be subjected to suffering like that of the nature of fallen man. However, if God were to assume a human nature, then he could perfectly will to experience human suffering as an act of sacrificial love. God, without ceasing to be God, would take to himself a human body, mind and soul, and come into the fallen world to live as a man. Through the incarnation, God freely and perfectly wills to receive to himself the disorder and deprivation that have become the experience of all mankind. It would not be that God inflicts harm on himself, for this would be directly destructive and therefore an evil that is contrary to his goodness. Rather, God, in an act of love for the sake of solidarity with the fallen human race, perfectly accepts the injustices that come to him through the mere fact of being himself (namely, by loving without compromise) in the fallen world. In this act of love, God maintains his absolute opposition to human suffering while simultaneously embracing it totally in his own divine person. Through the incarnation, the suffering of one man, Jesus, is consistent with the perfect will of God.

            In the original order of creation, God had ordained that man would receive perfect happiness, but the advent of suffering and death have cancelled this original destiny. In Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising from the dead, God ordains a new, higher dignity and destiny for human nature that is not threatened by suffering and death. As true God and true man, Jesus is both the definer and model of the meaning of human life. In the new destiny that God ordains for man, it is not that God has compromised his perfect justice by accommodating the diminishment caused by suffering and death. Rather, God (in uniting human nature to himself) has raised man to a destiny that is infinitely higher than what would have been possible apart from the incarnation. This does not mean that the suffering and death of persons now become goods; they remain evils, but they are evils that no longer have the power to separate a person from God. Through the incarnation, God the Son is in perfect union with both God the Father and with the woundedness of humanity. If God, through human nature, has suffered, died, and has been raised from the dead, then suffering and death are no longer obstacles to the fullness of union with God. Apart from the incarnation, man would have enjoyed a happiness that was fitting to human nature. According to the new destiny of the human person in Christ, God brings man into the divine life of the Trinity, and bestows a joy which is, by nature, proper to God alone."

      • Randy Gritter

        Death is a punishment for sin. God decided to make it so. It might seem to us to be out of proportion. That is because we don't understand the seriousness of sin. It is also because we don't understand how bad immortality would be in a sinful world. In fact, that is what hell is all about, living forever in a sinful world.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The following is pulled directly from the NA website and says what you said in a startlingly different but complementary way.

          Does God not cause suffering and death as a punishment for sin?

          Answer: Sin seeks the fulfillment of desire in a distorted way which (along with the good attained) brings an admixture of lack and pain. God’s will is to give the human person maximal joy, and sin is forbidden only because it something which causes deprivation of a due good and precludes the reception of the fullness of God’s self-gift. If, by the very nature of things, sin did not bring about suffering, then sin would not be problematic with regard to man’s relationship to God.

          In such a situation (if it were possible), those actions which are presently considered sinful would be among the good and beneficial things that a person may freely choose. In God’s generosity, if it were possible for someone to be truly happier apart from God through a life of sin, then God would directly will that departure.

          Quotes: “These two punishments [eternal and temporal (i.e. all forms of punishment)] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

          “The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. Anyone who begins to live and grow away from God, who lives away from what is good, is turning his life toward wrath. Whoever falls away from love is moving into negativity. So that is not something that some dictator with a lust for power inflicts on you, but is simply a way of expressing the inner logic of a certain action. If I move outside the area of what is compatible with the ideal model by which I am created, if I move beyond the love that sustains me, well then, I just fall into the void, into darkness. I am then no longer in the realm of love, so to speak, but in a realm that can be seen as the realm of wrath.

          "When God inflicts punishment, this is not punishment in the sense that God has, as it were, drawn up a system of fines and penalties and is wanting to pin one on you. ‘The punishment of God’ is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World)

          “Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that strike the
          innocent and the guilty alike are never punishments from God. To say otherwise would be to offend both God and humanity.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Good Friday Homily, 2011)

          • Randy Gritter

            Thanks for that. Not sure what to make of New Apologetics. No names on the articles. The make bold claims. Trying to apologize on behalf of all Catholic apologists. What gives them the right? Then they claim to have THE right way to do apologetics for the new evangelization. Whatever. I do think the natural consequences of our actions are often what is meant by punishment. There are biblical examples that don't fit. Annanias and Saphira in Acts 5. St Paul talks about those that have fallen asleep because they disrespected the Eucharist. So I would say most of the time punishment is natural. I don't agree with Fr. Cantalamessa's last quote. Really nobody is truly innocent so it might be trivially true that way. God punished Israel many times for sin. Invaders, famines, etc. The innocent and guilty suffered together. You see in families that the sins of the parents cause suffering for the children. I just don't see the principle as being on biblical or imperial grounds.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The NA articles are not signed but you can easily find out who is behind the organization on the website.

            I disagree that nobody is truly innocent. My six year old daughter is baptized and innocent of sin (unfortunately, give her some time and that will change).

            Original Sin is not an actual sin but a condition the human person finds himself.

            Another quote from NA from Cardinal Ratzinger: “…when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

          • "These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

  • The Wake Up Call

    With all due respect, I encourage every theist to read this.
    http://thewakeupcall2014.blogspot.com/

    • Chip Williams

      You're wearing your tin foil hat the wrong way bro, you gotta turn it sideways for the best reception!

  • Carrl

    who made "good" and "evil"? is it us or Him? i think it's just us. we're setting up a norm where we can easily make "good" and "evil" actions. everything is just in its right place. we are only making it worst. when we try to understand a thing, we scrutinize it and find a way to make an argument so that someone would believe us. only then, we become either rational or irrational. the only thing i know about what we call "religion", is just believing. i don't want to say or name drop jesus as our savior but i'd rather call it in another name. perhaps i would call it someone bigger than me, biggest. and that would be "the universe". who made the rules? we made them and we try to break them.

    • Three questions:

      1) Would you prefer the vanilla or the strawberry ice cream?
      2) Would you prefer the vanilla or the "medical waste" ice-cream?
      3) Would you like "sharps" with that?

      The moral law derives logically and inescapably from what makes questions 2 and 3 easy for everyone to answer. It's not about rules, but about being "fully alive".

  • Chip Williams

    This will probably be hard to swallow: Evil doesn't exist, just as Cold doesn't exist, just as Darkness doesn't exist. Cold is merely the absence of heat, Darkness merely the absence of Light, and Evil merely the absence of Love.

    • Peter Piper

      Fill in the blanks:

      Murder is merely the absence of _________?
      Rape is merely the absence of _________?
      Cancer is merely the absence of _________?
      Pain is merely the absence of _________?

      • Boris G

        In each case it is again the absence or deprivation of a desirable and due good.No specifics needed and Just as Chip stated.

        • Peter Piper

          You say `no specifics needed', but specifics are needed for at least one purpose, namely convincing me that Chip's claim is sensible.

          • Boris G

            I just want to be clear and don't mind being pressed on this but can you explain how having specific examples to fill in these blanks will make the claim more sensible to you.
            I could give any number of reasons that could lead to each of the acts commited in the examples above to use to fill in the blanks...'Love' would suffice for all of them but I think the point that Chris is making is a philosophical one and that is that evil does not exist in itself.
            If it does exist it is a kind of a negative existence like a whole or space.That's why we call it a lack of something or a privation.It could also be considered a twisting or perversion of the good.
            Often people try to locate evil in one particular thing or person or object, which would be a mistake.
            If evil existed anywhere it would probably be in our will.Hence good-will and bad-will.
            Not sure if this helps and I suggest you ask NA for a better answer.

          • Peter Piper

            When we deal with a concept, such as `evil', in the abstract, it is harder to see any reason why it shouldn't be some sort of privation. But when we look at particular concrete examples of evil, it doesn't look much like privation. That's why I focused on specific evils, not on the nebulous concept and not on equally-hard-to-pin-down ideas like bad-will.

            It is easy to make abstract philosophical claims, but if they don't match what we see in the world then there isn't much reason to hang on to them.

          • Chip Williams

            in each one of those situations evil could have been prevented with love, or in the paradigm of religion, god. Explain why that is not a good answer. Also, I appreciate your constructive criticism and even though you disagree with me you are not being negative in any way.

          • The only reason why love would not prevent evil is if love had to *do* evil in order to prevent evil. The explanation of why evil is not prevented has to do with love being perfectly itself without any degree of diminishment in response to the threat of evil:

            http://newapologetics.com/the-theodicy-of-divine-chastity

          • Boris G

            I agree with you Peter.Pain and suffering are not in the abstract.They are very real and terrible experiences and I do not mean to lessen the reality in anyway.
            By privation I simply mean that the horrendous evils that occur and that we are all to aware of are *caused* by someone being denied or deprived a real good.The absence of love leads to great evils.

          • Peter Piper

            The claim that if A were present then B would not be is much weaker than the claim that B is simply an absence of A. For example, flooding can put out campfires, but a campfire is not simply an absence of flooding.

          • Randy Gritter

            But this is the point. Rape is not exactly the absence respect. You can have no rape without respect. People might not rape each other out of fear. But then have you really avoided the evil of rape? It is still there. People are not acting on it in that particular way but the disrespect ends up coming out in other ways.

            So the evil of rape is not the act but the absence of the love and respect that should govern sexual actions. So you might be able to get consent and still have the same evil because the love and respect is not there. For example, if you pay a woman for sex you can be engaging in the same evil. You just use money rather than violence but the nature of the evil is the same.

          • Peter Piper

            I'm glad that you agree with me that rape is not simply the absence of respect (not simply a privation). As you also point out, it is possible for there to be a lack of respect which does not lead to rape. I think it is clear that a scenario in which there is lack of respect but no rape (perhaps because of fear of getting caught) is still horrible, but is strictly better than one in which the lack of respect does lead to rape. So the act itself is an additional evil (in the sense of the OP) on top of the lack of respect.

          • Randy Gritter

            In the case of the fear of getting caught, what generates that? A respect for human freedom in society. So the absence of rape correlates to the presence of respect on another level.

            I would agree that the privation model does see the desire to do an evil as almost as bad as doing the evil. Sometimes just a flukey circumstance separates them. When the evil is acted on the privation increases. The disrespect becomes worse.

          • Peter Piper

            Fear of getting caught is not generated from `respect for human freedom', but `desire to avoid a just punishment'. In any case, this `other level of respect' as you put it (overlooking the specificity of the type of respect in the comment we are discussing) is only one of many things that deter people from crime. Are you claiming that all these other things are also instances of `respect on another level'?

          • The idea that evil is an "absence" and therefore not a real thing tends to connote that "it's all no big deal". We think cleaner language is available.

            It's better to say that "evil" is when things which are good in their essence (and all existing things are good in their essence) are in a situation which is not good and ought not obtain.

          • Peter Piper

            Yes, this is a better way to put it.

      • Paul Boillot

        Look, I did great on this section of the ACT.

        Murder is the absence of respect for another's right to life.
        Rape is the absence of respect for another's right to choose sexual partners.
        Cancer is the absence of genetic instructions for dealing with out-of-control cell propagation.
        Pain is the absence of healthy or chemically balanced neurotransmitters.

        I agree with the statement "evil exists," but only in so far as I define evil to be willful and intentional reduction of others' well being.

        • Chip Williams

          agreed Paul.

        • Randy Gritter

          Actually pain is not evil. Pain tells us about something bad. If we injure our foot it hurts. The injury is a wrong of sorts. The pain is not wrong. It gives us the correct data about the state of our foot.

          • Paul Boillot

            I'm not sure I follow; who or what are you responding to?

            Did you see me make that case that pain is evil?

          • Randy Gritter

            Peter Piper's inclusion of pain in his "absence of" list kind of implies pain is evil. You seemed to accept that with your response.

          • Paul Boillot

            Hmm...it seemed like i kind of implied that pain was evil?

            I was just playing along with the Piper's game of fill in the blank.

            If you re-read my response to him, you'll notice that I accept the premise of 'evil' existing, only insofar as 'evil' is intentional reduction of well being from one sentience to another.

            By that definition, pain and cancer are not 'evil.'

          • Peter Piper

            See my comment above: I think I got confused because the OP is using the word evil in a different way.

          • Andre Boillot

            Randy,

            "Peter Piper's inclusion of pain in his "absence of" list kind of implies pain is evil."

            The inclusion of cancer makes me wonder if that is in fact Peter's implication.

            "You seemed to accept that with your response."

            I'm not sure that's the right conclusive to draw, given what Paul means by evil: "willful and intentional reduction of others' well being".

          • Peter Piper

            Would you say the same about migraines? I would be happy to specialise to migraines, rather than pain in general.

        • Peter Piper

          Let us consider an illustrative case. Imagine a cubical steel box, about the size of a car, floating in space. Inside the box, just as in its surroundings, there is a vacuum. What is in the box?

          There is no light in the box, and since darkness is an absence of light we find that it is dark in there.
          There is no heat in the box, and since cold is an absence of heat we find that it is cold in there.
          There is no love in the box, or maybe there is the love of God or something, um... that's a bit abstract, so I'll focus on the more concrete examples.
          There is no respect for another's right to life in the box, and yet there is no murder in there (so murder is not simply the absence of respect for another's right to life).
          There is no respect for another's right to choose genetic partners in the box, and yet there is no rape in there (so rape is not simply the absence of respect for another's right to choose sexual partners).
          There are no genetic instructions for dealing with out-of-control cell propagation in the box, and yet there is no cancer in there.
          There are no healthy or chemically balanced neurotransmitters in the box, and yet there is no pain in there.

          So your answers don't work. Never mind, have another go! But this time, remember that whatever the correct answer is it has to be something you would find in that box.

          • Randy Gritter

            Is it really dark in the box? Is it really cold in the box? I know the tree falls in the forest. But my point is that murder and rape need a bit of context to make sense. They need a person or actually 2 people to exist. The same could be argued for dark and cold. That without an eye and without a nervous system that dark and cold are meaningless. So your trivial example is a bit too trivial. It breaks down.

          • Peter Piper

            If we say we need nervous systems etc for dark and cold, then we are rejecting even the original basic claims that dark is simply an absence of light and cold an absence of heat.

            Similarly, by acknowledging that you need people you are recognising that murder isn't simply an absence of respect for another's right to life.

          • Randy Gritter

            As I said about rape below, murder could be avoided without people respecting each others right to live. But is the evil behind murder avoided or is just the act of murder avoided? If you draw that distinction then you car in space problem goes away too,

          • Peter Piper

            See my reply below.

          • Paul Boillot

            You're 'illustrative case' is right out: you're missing the necessary premises.

            A lack of respect for another implies at least two people, the rest of your cases need at least one person, but you don't have them in your box; so my answers stand as stated, and your metaphor holds no water.

          • Peter Piper

            You say there are necessary premises. But these premises are not privations. So you have yourself refuted the idea that these evils are simply privations.

          • Paul Boillot

            When I say that "murder is the absence of respect for another's right to life" there's a necessary implication that there is at least a*one*, if not *another*, who is experiencing the lack.

            Since you don't have even the one in your box, you don't have a counterpoint to my claim.

          • Peter Piper

            The key point in question is whether evils are privations. You have shown that they are not. You have also shown that the analogies to darkness and cold fail by pointing out the extra element not present in those cases.

            Since in addition you want to dispute over the technical question of whether something counts as equivalent to an absence of x because it is the state-without-x of something presupposed by x, please consider whether a pure solvent is simply an absence of solutes.

          • Paul Boillot

            "You have shown that they are not."

            Begging the question.

          • Peter Piper

            How so? You have shown that there are necessary premises for these evils, such as out-of-control-cell-propogation, which can in no way be construed as privations.

          • Paul Boillot

            Pete, just FYI, I'm game to chase rhetorical and logical rabbits down whatever holes they fly, but I want to acknowledge at this point that we're in a rhetorical argument, not one that directly pertains to the OP.

            At the origin of this discussion branch, Chip offered the observation that 'evil' is a word which we use as-if-it-were-actual, when really it is a word we use to describe the absence of love, in the same way that we use 'dark' to me a lack of light etc.

            As a counterfactual, you offered four terms, I'll deal solely with 'murder' for brevity, but feel free to use a similar argument with the other three. You offered these terms as evidence that there are sorts of reified evils in existence.

            I pointed out that your actualized evils were themselves describable in terms of malfunctioning systems, systems with a 'privation', as you put it. We might use short-hand and speak colloquially as if these are actual things, but in reality they are symptoms of unbalanced systems.

            You think it an inaccurate analogy because 'murder' wouldn't exist sans the premise of extant beings to be murderers or to be murdered, unlike darkness which would still 'exist' even if there were no one to observe it.

            That is, a 'lack of light' (darkness) could still exist independent of sentient observers, but 'murder' is a term which makes no sense in a hypothetical sentience-less universe.

            I hate to tell you, but there are implied premises in 'light' and 'dark' as well - a universe.

            Light is not immaterial; you need a physical universe for photons to propagate through, to the best of my knowledge.

            If we put, not just a 'vacuum', but a complete absence of a material universe in your 'box', the concepts 'light' and 'dark' fall apart just as surely as 'murder' and 'respect' do when there is no one around to be murderous and respectful. They are meaningless terms without their premises.

            Murder is evidence of actual, reified 'evil' operating in our universe?

            No, I think it's more accurate to say that murder is most often the result of a faulty impulse-control system, which I imagine is rooted in a lack of respect for others, or you might say, in a lack of 'love.'

          • Peter Piper

            Thanks for taking the time to write this response, and I apologise for taking so long to reply to it (busy week). I won't address your summary of how the discussion has developed so far, since that wouldn't get us much further with the discussion itself.

            Your key claim here seems to be that, counterintuitively, darkness and cold cannot be considered as straightforward absences, since both rely for their existence on some preexisting structure: the universe. The main fact supporting your argument is that darkness and cold are always located within the universe.

            But if we ask why this fact is true, it turns out to be a matter of the definition of the word `universe'. All the things we encounter via our senses are taken, by definition, to lie within the universe, and so of course also darkness and cold are within the universe. So saying that darkness and cold are only ever found within the universe is uninformative. It is not, in this important sense, comparable to the claim `cancer is only ever found where there are cells', which gives some genuine information about cancer.

            That is the reason why your analogy breaks down. The fact that it breaks down, if not the reason, can also be seen from the incoherence of the idea of a box containing `a complete absence of a material universe', which you set forth as if it were as sensible as the idea of a box with no people in it!

            There is another way to see that murder cannot be identified simply with a lack of respect for life, and this is to consider the numerous other contributing factors which underlie or hinder murder. Thus you correctly say that murder is often the result of faulty impulse control, but you then go on to imagine that this is rooted in a lack of respect for life rather than (as is very often the case) in the consumption of alcohol.

            I would also be interested in your response to my counterargument directed against the central feature of all of your claimed examples. They all rely on the idea that something is equivalent to an absence of x if it is the state-without-x of something presupposed by x. But is a pure solvent simply an absence of solutes?

          • Paul Boillot

            Pete,

            When humans speak, it's a dangerous business - getting a thought from one brain to another is a fundamentally flawed exercise. Bearing that in mind, I hope you won't find me too rude when I say that your second, third, and fourth paragraph seem devoid of logic or meaning.

            The concepts referred to by the words "cold" and "dark" do not rely on any arbitrary 'definition' of our universe, they simply are a lack of particles in motion and a lack of reflected/emitted photons. That a non-universe couldn't be called "cold" or "dark" as it wouldn't have the quantum framework in which these voids could be located seems perfectly clear to me, I can't imagine why you think those facts are "uninformative," counter-intuitive, or what you could possibly mean by the phrase "genuine information." A box lacking respect is evidence of my flawed definition of murder in exactly the same way that a box lacking a quantum universe is evidence of the flawed definition of cold; the semantic burden of premises and frameworks is entirely shared.

            As for your "pure solvent" question: I'm not highly trained in chemistry, but to the best of my recollection we never used the term to refer to empty counter space. I would say that "pure solvent" is an amount of liquid solvent which had not yet been mixed with any solute.

            But now, onto the meat of your argument; simplicity. When I said “murder is … life”, I was hoping that the following would be understood implicitly. When one human says a phrase based on the following rubric, " ____x___ is ____y____ ", we need not assume that it is a comprehensive and exclusive definition where 'y' is the only possible meaning of 'x'.

            I’m sorry that you thought I was oversimplifying but murder is, at least in part, defined by 'a lack of respect for another's life’. I'm happy to admit that my definition of murder only works at some levels of depth of our investigation (is murder a lack of respect?, or is murder when the atoms of lead in a bullet push apart the atoms of someone's skin and flesh rendering their body incapable of supplying the CNS with oxygenated blood?) but get ready, here’s the salient:

            Just as the adage about squares and rectangles, there are killings where a lack of respect is present and we don't call it murder, but if you kill someone without a provable lack of respect for their life, there is no murder.

          • Peter Piper

            Since you have graciously accepted that your definition of murder was only partial and by no means comprehensive, I won't carry on nitpicking or try to explain the misunderstandings that I think have occurred.

      • Chip Williams

        nah peter, those all DO exist. Think about what I'm saying. Cold literally is not a thing, it's the absence of heat. Murder is someone killing another, rape is someone raping another etc. If you're implying that those things are evil, then your answer is they could have been prevented with Love. In a religious paradigm Love = God.

        • josh

          But since God didn't prevent them, we know that God is not simultaneously love and an omnipotent creator; much less can it be identical with Jesus, a prevaricating preacher wandering around 1st century Palestine.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            New Apologetics will do a good job of showing how there is no conflict between God love and him omnipotence.

            Before I type something I'll regret, please support your claim that Jesus Christ was a liar or evasive about the truth.

          • josh

            Before I type something I'll regret, please support your claim that Jesus Christ was a liar or evasive about the truth.

            "The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

            He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. "
            Matthew 13:10-11

            "When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
            ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
            and ever hearing but never understanding;
            otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ "
            Mark 4:10-11

            " 'Are you the king of the Jews?' asked Pilate.

            'You have said so,' Jesus replied."
            Mark 15:2

            "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.…" Matthew 15:17-19

            compare: "Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them." Mark 7:15

          • Chip Williams

            There's more where that came from too. smgdh

          • We'll try to translate to your satisfaction anything that seems absurd.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Josh, you've listed some words of Christ recorded in the Gospels.

            What about them lead you to think prevarication (lies or improper evasion) is involved?

            The connection is not obvious.

          • You've misread the account of the purpose of the parables. The clarification is further along in the text from Mark:

            "With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private." (Mark 4, 33-34)

          • josh

            I just quoted the explanation of the purpose of speaking in parables: to the disciples he explained the true meaning, but to outsiders he was intentionally opaque and evasive. Mark even has Jesus explicitly say that this is to prevent some from being saved. This is a direct reference to Isaiah 6:9-10, which again has God explicitly causing ignorance to prevent the possibility of redemption. Note that if you think he says otherwise in a different passage, that only supports the original comment that he was a prevaricator.

            Also, shouldn't 'New_Apologetics' be using a real name as per this sites rules?

        • Peter Piper

          I am saying that those things are evils in the sense in which this word is used in the OP (let me know if you were just using the word in a different way from the OP: it could be that I got confused about what you meant for a silly reason like this). The claim they could have been prevented with love (though I don't see where you get that idea in the case of cancer) doesn't imply that they are identical with an absence of love.

    • Boris G

      As Yoda would say - 'True it is'

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Chip, your insight is not hard for Catholics to swallow because St. Augustine had this same insight in the 5th century, that evil is a privation of a good that ought to exist.

  • Arnulfo Laniba

    Hi guys. I did not read all of your blogs, questions and answers, counter-questions and counter-answers, but I guess I sense enough or read enough of it that I can say this: brilliant mind battles brilliant mind.

    But this debate has been for centuries, these questions same age or older. But this I can surely say: if men are left to purge himself for the right answers, I am afraid that even if given another 2,000 years, we will be doing the same, merry go 'round the bush, without reaching to agree which really is the absolute answer.

    So, instead of making the debate team more in number, let me remain a bystander and be satisfied to to point to you what I found to be the book that contains such topnotch ideas that you are debating - this book contains topnotch questions including what you had cited, e.g., the issue of God being good or not, being loving or not, being wise or not, being powerful enough or not, or being alive or not, etc.

    This book is thick: 7,500 pages, in 25 volumes.

    All the most intelligent questions of the ages are not only there, but also being answered so eloquently by no other than that man we call the Christ.

    It is His own version of the gospel, yeah, HIs own biography book. If the Gospel of Matthew is only 30 pages long, this His own Gospel According to Jesus Christ is 7,500 pages!

    Some people asked: If Matthew has his Gospel According to Matthew, if Mark has his Gospel According to Mark, if Luke has his, and John too, what about the Lord Himself? Why can't He produce His own version? Why didn't He? Why isn't there a Gospel According to Jesus Christ Himself?

    My answer: Yes, there is. It is published in a few websites, one of which is http://www.franky1.com

    Remember, that's 7,500 pages, in 25 volumes, the Lord's own version of His three years of discourses, miracles and teachings.

    If you will be diligent to read His answers to your questions the same asked to Him, then, I can guarantee this to you: YOU WILL COMPREHEND AND WILL BECOME FULLY SATISFIED WITH HIS ANSWER.

    Result: And no one will be motivated to initiate any other debate, because full understanding will disable any debate.

    Read the Book which the Lord dictated to an Austrian Jew named Jakob Lorber, a humble musician, who heard the Lord's voice clearly in his heart as if a telephone sounding.

    Afterwards, let anyone of you go back here and we will see if there is anything left unanswered that we still have to use for debate!

    Good luck and bless to you, both atheists and theists!

    Cocoy777

    Email: cocoy777@yahoo.com

  • David Yaseen

    Thanks for the compliments! You're a lot more attractive without the holier-than-thou attitude.

    First off, I'm pretty sure your definition of purity of heart is an arbitrary construct. Second, hating that which is evil invites atheists to accept the frame of evil as having a purposeful author (we do not). Third, you have a long way to go before we're no longer suspicious of you.* Fourth, the presence of evil in the world is not, by a longshot, our only reason for rejecting what you call faith.

    It's nice to have a dialogue, though, so keep trying! At this rate, you'll think like us in no time.

    All the best.

    *By my rough calculations, you'd need every Catholic in the world doing Hail Marys nonstop for another eon or two just to get out from under the Inquisition.

    **We do find being told what to think irritating beyond belief (get it?), though.

    • You wrote:
      First off, I'm pretty sure your definition of purity of heart is an arbitrary construct.

      We reply:
      We mean by it that we love what is good, and hate what is evil. Your objection is not clear to us.

      You wrote:
      Second, hating that which is evil invites atheists to accept the frame of evil has having a purposeful author (we do not).

      We reply:
      It does not require that. Hating cancer does not require that we believe cancer has an "author".

      You wrote:
      Third, you have a long way to go before we're no longer suspicious of you.

      We reply:
      We agree. Much damage has been done.

      You wrote:
      Fourth, the presence of evil in the world is not, by a longshot, our only reason for rejecting what you call faith.

      We reply:
      It is so, though in many cases it is reducible to the presence of some form of evil, or the lack of an otherwise-expected good. Perhaps you would be interested in reading our (still in-process) Tractatus, which deals with the question of God's existence in purely philosophical terms: http://newapologetics.com/the-tractatus

      You wrote:
      By my rough calculations, you'd need every Catholic in the world doing Hail Marys nonstop for another eon of two just to get out from under the Inquisition.

      We reply:
      By that token, it is fortunate that we believe in grace.

  • Lyndsey

    One does not require religion to know what is good and what is bad. One requires only empathy, and empathy existed long before people believed in a god or gods.

    • You're right. The following is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

      "1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:

      For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense . . . . To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.

      1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.

      1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history; it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:

      Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface.

      1959 The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature."

  • Julian

    Intelligent design is just creationism in a suit and tie. This debate has indeed been going on for thousands of years, and all of those thousands of years one side has been right and the other wrong (I'm sure we know which side is which) its time to end this debate and it will as time progresses. No matter what frock you choose to pose in, in this century, religion, your days are numbered where you will be allowed to infiltrate perfectly capable human beings and their societies and leech off of them like the blood suckers you are. You have no Attila here in America with which to enforce your dogmatic cults upon societies so you have to submit to the superiority of secular humanism with hallmark cards and smiley face stickers (= All the while wishing so badly that you could impose your faith based. non sensical, mind numbing, slavish, intellectually incoherent religious ideologies by force. Let it never be forgotten fellow atheists how religion was when it was strong. When an ideology can be manipulated in as many ways as religions than there is no way can it be allowed to have a considered opinion. For example, I can believe that there is a holy face with a halo round it in the tree outside my bedroom window that helps me to sleep at night, perfectly fine and tolerable, but the second I go on to impose this on others with absolute "scientific" truth is the second that I have officially over stepped my bounds. Religions should do as, I have seen many individuals do and that is, admit to the intellectually incoherent nature of your ideology and the superiority of secularism, but say that is just helps you as an individual to sleep at night, then we would not be having this argument. But you cannot do that can you, you have to spread the gospel and believe (be a slave) with all of your heart otherwise it doesn't work. If anyone is undecided on the matter and reading these comments I hope after this they are realized of the danger that religion poses in our society. Nothing I've said is only accessible by me, which is much more than can be said for the religions in question.

    • Peter Piper

      Do you seriously think that the people we engaging in discussion with here are `blood suckers' or that they have `faith based, non sensical, mind numbing, slavish, intellectually incoherent ideologies' that they want to impose by force? I hope that if you stick around and take what they say seriously then you will realise that this is a complete misjudgment. I make no claims here about TheodoreSeeber, who I sincerely hope is a troll who doesn't really believe the stuff in his comments.

      • Julian

        Absolutely. Thats just the danger is that TheodoreSeeber DOES really believe the stuff in his comments, along with millions of others in this country. He just cannot enact his will by force, hence the reason why intelligent design exists, because secular law prohibits him from doing so. He has to pose in this disguise in order to continue to have relevance in todays society. Granted, TheodoreSeeber himself could just be a troll, but that doesn't excuse the fact that there are millions of people, both in power and out of power that do believe and wish intelligent design (christian creationism) to be the predominant political force in America, influencing education and our overall daily lives. I'm not so much concerned with the regular joe/jane christian that you seem to be underlining when you talk about the people we are engaging with in discussion with here, they are perfectly free to believe as they do, so long as they don't take that next step I mentioned in my initial discussion of indoctrination and truth claims, which is precisely what intelligent design does. I am more so concerned with the entirety of religion and its core traits and its core endeavors, and those traits are just what I stated in my initial post.

        • Peter Piper

          If your point is just that there are religious nutters, and plenty of them, then I can't deny it. But this is a corollary of the fact that there are nutters everywhere, and their religion is mostly determined by the culture they grew up in. So nutters in the US will mostly be Christians and nutters in the UK will mostly be nonreligious (or perhaps nominally Church of England). You cannot claim to be concerning yourself with `the entirety of religion' when you focus on the nutters.

          • Julian

            I agree that there are religious nutter's everywhere, and that their religion is based on where they grew up. I have equal disdain for all of them, but I have tried to keep it specific to America (christianity) because the topic is intelligent design. Overall though, religion itself is batty, regardless of the relative joe/jane members, and their kind of relative (doesn't really hurt anything) position is society. The point is that their irrational ideologies at the core (where the leaders are) can turn at any moment and have justification by their holy books for the kind of behavior that I posed above, and if you think for a moment that they would not enact that behavior should they come to a power of some sort than you need only to look at history and, indeed the present ie: (Homosexuality, Abortion, Stem Cells, Birth Control, Depictions of Muhammad ect.) By the way, I'm assuming you're for intelligent design, however I'm still not clear on your position in all this, you're opposing me on some textbook atheistic arguments, and yet agreeing with me on others?

          • Peter Piper

            You might have noticed that I said there are nutters everywhere, rather than religious nutters. In countries with less religion, you get correspondingly fewer religious nutters but correspondingly more nonreligious nutters. The problem is more the nutters than the religion.

            There's a very similar problem with your attempt to smear religion by pointing out that if you give religious people lots of power then they will abuse it. This claim is, of course, true. But it once more follows from a more general fact, namely that if you give humans, religious or nonreligious, lots of power then they will abuse it. So we shouldn't draw the conclusion `don't trust religious people with lots of power'. Instead, we should draw the conclusion `don't trust anyone with lots of power'.

            I'm sure you can work out for yourself how to generalise the principle I'm applying here to your other point, that religious people often believe irrational things.

            Why do you care whether or not I'm for intelligent design? Engage my arguments, not your mental image of me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd like to second what you have written here, Peter.

            The problem is in the disorder within every person which keeps breaking out in spite of our best efforts. The Catholic Church calls this problem original sin.

            To quote something from the New Apologetics,

            This fact is confirmed in all utopian efforts. The disorder that characterizes man’s action after sin has entered the world is simply amplified by the consolidation of power, and any political effort of man to attain the perfect happiness that was lost brings about disaster in proportion to the amount of power that is put behind it.

            This largely explains why the atheist utopian projects of the 20th Century--like Communism and National Socialism--were so phenomenally destructive. They brought all state power to making the world perfect.

          • Peter Piper

            I was in complete agreement, until I realised you had inserted the word `atheist', in the hope (I can only assume) of smearing atheism in the same way that Julian was trying to smear religion. But the point is that humans, be they atheist or not, are shockingly bad at handling power. It is fair to claim that communist states have been and are atheist. But national socialism? One of the reasons the nazis claimed communism was dangerous was its atheism. Do you have any evidence that national socialism was a predominantly atheistic movement?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry! My intent was not to smear atheists or get revenge on Julian. I was just supporting the thesis that the more power put into the utopian movement, the worse the effect would be.

            I think it is pretty well established that one of the tenets of National Socialism in Germany was a practical and theoretical anti-Jewish and Christian atheism.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_aspects_of_Nazism

          • Peter Piper

            Thanks for being so quick and generous in your apology. I agree that nazism was both overtly anti-Jewish and more covertly (at first) anti-Christian. That doesn't make it atheist. As far as I can tell, at first they claimed to support something called `positive Christianity' (not especially similar to actual Christianity, but nevertheless theist). This appears to have been an attempt to hide their ultimate goal, moving far away from Christianity towards something more neo-pagan (but still theist: worshipping in particular the sun god). I couldn't find anything about atheism in the article you linked to. Would you mind giving a more specific quote?

            In any case, I'm in complete agreement with your main point.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Julian, You've raised a lot of issues here and have said below you came here to engage in dialogue. If you would like to talk, why don't we begin with one issue? Which ever is up to you.

    • Paul Boillot

      No matter how strong your beliefs or how complete your knowledge, writing large blocks of text with poor grammar/punctuation which clearly attack the people you're trying to communicate to is doing yourself no favors.

      I'm not trying to enforce the comment policy, personally I don't much care if you want to insult people, but you are not rationally helping the atheist cause here.

      • Julian

        =/. Regardless of whatever grammar you may have picked out the points remain, and they are not beliefs, they are based on evidence (big difference). I don't much care if you care that I insult people, if people are offended, than good, maybe they will take a second look at the information. I find it funny that you pointed out my grammar, and how I'm hurting people feelings, without responding to any of the points I've made. Peter Piper is the only one who has done so far.

        • Paul Boillot

          But don't you see? I am responding to your main point, which is to get people to "take a second look at the information."

          You're right: accusing the readers who disagree with you of being "the blood suckers you are" *might* be a great way to get people fired up and respond.

          On the other hand, when you mix that abrasiveness with poor grammar, spelling, and walls-o-text, it might also be a great way to get yourself ignored and banned.

          If I were a religious believer of some sort, I would probably just ignore your post and let you hang yourself with your own rope, but since I am an atheist and I *do* recognize that you have some good points to make, I'd rather not watch you give atheists in general, and yourself, a bad rap.

  • Alan Canon

    The bottom line is that if the author is truly Catholic, he enjoys looking forward to seeing his atheist audience writhing in eternal agony forever, tortured and burned in an unquenchable lake of fire by the god he so fervently praises. Kind of takes the wind out of his rhetorical sails. Or those of any other Christian apologist. "We acknowledge that in this temporal realm we've behaved rather badly. But now for the sake of our declining movement, we will attempt to save face by reaching out to the group that we know in our heart of hearts are damned to punishment by the creator of the Universe." We have a right to remember what the Church was like when it was strong. And we do not for one second imagine that if the Catholic Church still had the power it enjoyed for some fifteen centuries, that it would not daily be burning us at the stake as heretics, all the while prating about their respect for human life.

    • Peter Piper

      I'm pretty sure the author does not enjoy looking forward to seeing us burn. I would appreciate it if you would let me know if I'm wrong about this, NA. I'm also pretty sure that the author really is Catholic. So it seems to me that your understanding of what it is to be a true Catholic is incorrect.

    • For a clearer exposition on what Catholics believe, please see the following: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/leading-catholic-apologetics-organization-brings-clarity-to-pope-francis-controversy-209481431.html

      We are indeed Catholic.

    • The Church officially teaches the opposite of what you write about the damnation of non-believers:

      "Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. 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. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, 'Preach the Gospel to every creature', the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Lumen Gentium)

      "In the Gospel Jesus takes up this fundamental theme of prophetic preaching. He recounts the parable of the two sons invited by their father to work in the vineyard. The first son responded: “‘I will not go’, but afterward he repented and went.” The other son said to the father: “‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.” When asked by Jesus which of the two sons did the father’s will, those listening rightly respond: “the first” (Mt 21:29-31). The message of the parable is clear: it is not words that matter, but deeds, deeds of conversion and faith. As we heard, Jesus directs this message to the chief priests and elders of the people of Israel, that is, to the religious experts of his people. At first they say “yes” to God’s will, but their piety becomes routine and God no longer matters to them. For this reason they find the message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus disturbing. The Lord concludes his parable with harsh words: “Truly, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the Kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him, and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him” (Mt21:32). Translated into the language of the present day, this statement might sound something like this: agnostics, who are constantly exercised by the question of God, those who long for a pure heart but suffer on account of their sin, are closer to the Kingdom of God than believers whose life of faith is “routine” and who regard the Church merely as an institution, without letting it touch their hearts, or letting the faith touch their hearts." (Pope Benedict XVI)

  • linford86

    As an atheist, I'll admit that I'm having a hard time trying to understand what this article is supposed to be about or for. While I can certainly translate the article into language that I am comfortable with, I would have thought that an "open letter to atheists" would have been immediately understandable to atheists. (Not to mention that I know of very few atheists who actually think that the problem of evil is a good argument for atheism!)

    On the other hand, I could much more easily understand this article as a message within the Christian community to other Christians, disguised as an open letter to atheists -- a way to tell other Christians that there is something wrong with the way in which atheist arguments have been received.

  • Half-Baked-Gogglebox-Do-Gooder

    What's this "We" stuff, kimosabee ?

    Unless you're officially speaking for the catholic church itself, this comes off as nothing more than jumping on the "Tolerance is COOL" pope Francis bandwagon, and (even worse), a lame attempt at Opus Dei-style "Look-at-me, I'm-so-SORRY !!!" self-flagellation.

    Get over yourself. The oh-so-public abasement and repentance schtick is just one more part of the theist mindset that keeps you imprisoned while believing yourself to be "free". Going along with the majority and calling that "morality" is still one of the greatest crimes of theological thinking.

    I fully expect you to delete this - Because it conveniently falls short of your precious "No-Snark" rules. So, here's your chance to prove just how "open" and "willing to listen" you really are - Surprise me. I dare you.

    • The apology is genuine. This does not mean that think we have nothing to say. In fact, we think you might enjoy engaging us on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NewApologetics.

      We are far from the majority right now. But the change has begun.

      • Half-Baked-Gogglebox-Do-Gooder

        Again - Are you qualified to speak for catholicism as a whole ? Or are you simply representing a miniscule FB page of apologetics ?

        Or, worse - Are you simply indulging another delusional conviction that you and your fellow apologists are the vanguard of some reformative group that's going to drive out all the nasty old calcified traditionalists and usher in a Golden Age of happy brotherly co-operation between theists and unbelievers ?

        Like most of the devout, you haven't offered a single pixel of evidence for your claims, so I'm sure that even an newly-open minded person such as yourself can understand my skepticism.

        • You wrote:
          Again- Are you qualified to speak for catholicism as a whole?

          We reply:
          To the degree that what we say conforms to Catholic teaching, we speak for Catholicism.

          You wrote:
          Or are you simply representing a miniscule FB page of apologetics?

          We reply:
          We are not representing a minuscule FB page.

          You wrote:
          Or, worse - Are you simply indulging another delusional conviction that you and your fellow apologists are the vanguard of some reformative group that's going to drive out all the nasty old calcified traditionalists and usher in a Golden Age of happy brotherly co-operation between theists and unbelievers ?

          We reply:
          We agree that delusional claims are not true.

          You wrote:
          Like most of the devout, you haven't offered a single pixel of evidence for your claims, so I'm sure that even an newly-open minded person such as yourself can understand my skepticism.

          We reply:
          Absolutely. We can back up what we say. Come to our page and ask us any question you want.

          • Half-Baked-Gogglebox-Do-Gooder

            I don't give a damn about who else reads this, and it sounds as if you do - A great deal, in fact.

            Which is one more thing that makes me suspicious of your honesty and forthrightness. Much of what I've read on this page reads as if you are just one more theist trying to start ANOTHER sub-sect or splinter group, and you are relying on the modern methods of web hits and internet traffic counts to further that goal.

            This suspicion is exacerbated by your insistence on my joining in on the Facebook page; I don't LIKE FB. It's hardly a place for serious discussion (And I'm not so sure you regard this entire topic as "serious", as opposed to one that will generate a lot of traffic). I took a look at the FB page, and there were a LOT of raving fanatics and clearly delusional, jabbering idiots. If you were SERIOUS about this subject, FB is the LAST place you'd be wanting to really argue it's merits and it's drawbacks. The FB page was a place where the loudest maniacs could just shout down people like me, or derail the entire conversation down asinine rabbit holes, none of which accomplishes your stated goal - Which is another reason for suspicion regarding your alleged integrity.

            I think you're at best a pious apologetic, with a sincere desire to create discourse but using a misguided method to do so. At worst, I think you're a pious fraud, a stubborn believer who is just trying to generate web hits off of a controversial topic.

            If you really want to debate this topic, right here is a better place to do it.

          • We're here to serve you, so we don't mind adopting your preferred format. Please ask us whatever you want.

            You've expressed a lot of mistrust, and it is warranted.

            Trust is a gift, and it would be violent (and contrary to the nature of "gift") to demand that gift from you. Know that we're not asking for your trust, but only for an opportunity to answer your questions rationally so that you see the coherence of the answers for yourself.

            Though the medium has its obvious limitations, our FB page has thus far been the only place on the internet where Catholics and atheists are defending each other instead of themselves. And this is done without anyone compromising what they know/believe to be true.

            It need not be relegated to that one page anymore.

            [If you ever feel the tug to come to our FB page and post any question about God to our timeline, you are always welcome to do so. Posts appear after a short delay, so don't worry that your contribution has been excluded.]

      • Randy Gritter

        It does sound strange that you are trying to apologize for some people other than yourselves. That is strange. I also find it strange apologizing without signing your name. We don't know who you are or in what forum you made these statements you are apologizing for.

  • Zachary_Bos

    "Instead, we confess that we need to learn from you."
    Ask away.

    • What do you think we need to know?

      Here's what we presently hold on the issue:

      The official teaching of the Church (which is very different from what is often defended on internet forums such as this) subsumes all of the points motivating atheists to argue for atheism.

      We Catholics reject (or should reject) all of the God-concepts you do for the same reasons you do. Not all Catholics are aware of this unfeigned harmony, and therefore many defend against atheological arguments as if obligated to come to the rescue of whatever diminished concept of God is rejected by the atheist.

      Instead of defending idols, Catholics are (if they are truly Catholic) free to recognize that the target of the atheist's critique is not God, but a lesser phantasm which oppresses humanity, crushes hope for real justice, and rapes innocence where it should be reverenced.

      Such God-concepts are unworthy of our reflection, much less our worship, and ought to be defenestrated forthwith.

  • Thomas Price

    A human being kills a human being. -Objectively Immoral?
    A human being kills a human being for killing a human being. -Subjectively Moral?
    A human being kills a human being in war. -Objectively Moral?
    War. -Subjectively Moral?

    • Zachary_Bos

      As per the labels, it depends on the subjects and objects involved. (This is not a facetious answer.)

      • “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. (John 15: 11-12)

    • Why not will to be a hero instead?

      "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15: 13)

      • Thomas Price

        Will to be a hero? I have a will to live, not to die. sure I would die for someone I loved, but I don't "will" to die for someone I love.
        anyways, I don't see where your reply fits into what I was asking.

  • mriehm

    Why now?

    • *Theodicies have been wholly inadequate.

      *Unsound arguments for the existence of God have been put forth with undue avidity.

      *Sound criticisms of those arguments have been offered by skeptics with sober humility, and those criticisms have habitually been dismissed out of hand.

      *Redemption theories across-the-board have been either diabolical or incoherent or both.

      *Sinfully rash ascriptions of malevolence to atheist motivation have been common among religious apologists even if these judgments were concealed in order to further a sham "dialogue".

      *Atheists (those lacking belief in God) are right to notice these things and to protest them.

      *We Catholics can agree with all of your observations, intuitions and are able to stand with you in rejecting all aspects of ugliness and evil without denying any aspects of our Faith.

      *We are well aware of all of the above, and are writing about it now.

      *Why now? There was not Penicillin until there was.

      Pseudo-tolerance is not Catholic. We must oppose evil where it is and affirm goodness where it is. Atheists are really good at rejecting idols. They should keep it up, and Christians would do well to start cleaning house.

      • robtish

        So do you have a plan for how to proceed? Are you offering new theodicy arguments?

        • We have a new theodicy and redemption theory which are fully compatible with all of the teachings of the Catholic Church and with all atheist indignation about the suffering of the innocent.

          Yes, we are claiming that this new model "solves" the problem of evil from a philosophical/theological perspective, and we invite scrutiny of every aspect of it from every reasonable critic.

          God sees evil like atheists do; He's against it.

          • Randy Gritter

            A new redemption theory? Yet compatible with the one outlined in the Council of Trent? Quite a claim.

          • We invite you to beat it about the head and shoulders mercilessly. All of the points are derivable from official Church teaching.

            The Council of Trent did not propose a redemption theory, but defined against error.

          • robtish

            How are we to "beat it about the head and shoulders" when you've closed the comments at the place where you've posted it?

          • You may not have seen this note on our site:

            "Due to the overwhelming response to the work of NewApologetics.com and our desire to respond to every reasonable question or objection, we have closed the comments feature on our main website and have consolidated the discussion on our Facebook page:http://www.facebook.com/newapologetics. Please post your response to our timeline. Your post will appear after a short delay."

            You are also welcome to try to ruin our theory on the forum of your choice. All we ask is that we be invited to respond.

          • robtish

            You haven't so much "consolidated" the discussion on your Facebook page and broken it up into dozens of Facebook posts. Frankly, your communication strategy baffles me. As a professional instructional designer, someone whose job it is to figure out ways of presenting and working with information, along with building communities of users to work with it, I don't think you're going to have much success with a strategy of:

            1. Writing an article telling people you sympathize with their impatience with traditional theodicy.

            2. Refraining from telling them in that article that you have an alternative theodicy.

            3. Revealing that you have an alternative theodicy in the comments section, but not linking directly to key articles.

            4. Shutting off the comments on your own web site's key articles and directing people to yet another webpage.

            5. Relying for discussion on a Facebook page that is organized primarily by chronology rather than by theme or topic, especially given Facebook's extremely primitive commenting technology which does not even allow subthreads.

            6. Fragmenting all discussion on your Facebook by scattering it among a series of posts.

            I hope this doesn't come across as snark. As a professional in this area of information, learning, and communication, I'm really trying to make sense of your plan.

          • Please excuse our delayed response.

            You wrote: You haven't so much "consolidated" the discussion on your Facebook page and broken it up into dozens of Facebook posts.

            We reply: It is consolidated in the sense of being localized to one place.

            You wrote:

            Frankly, your communication strategy baffles me.

            We reply:

            It is unusual because our discussion is not organized around topics or ideas, but around individual people. Our invitation was not "go and research our theory on the FB page", but was "go and ask any question you want". We would then personalize the discussion for you, according to your specific needs and interests. If you select "posts by others" then you'll see.

            You wrote:

            As a professional instructional designer, someone whose job it is to figure out ways of presenting and working with information, along with building communities of users to work with it, I don't think you're going to have much success...

            We reply:

            It has been unprecedented in its success.

            We'll now respond to your objections to explain our rationale behind the choices we've made.

            You wrote:

            1. Writing an article telling people you sympathize with their impatience with traditional theodicy.

            We reply:

            It is our view. We are offended by prior theodicies.

            You wrote:
            2. Refraining from telling them in that article that you have an alternative theodicy.

            We reply:

            The thesis of the article is not that we have an alternative. The apology should be given whether or not we have an alternative model. The models being discussed generally are not consistent with Catholic teaching. We wrote:

            "The view of the Catholic Church is not the view of the apologists in this regard, and we were wrong to let you think it was.

            “God is infinitely good and all his works are good… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

            Wisdom. Arise. Let us be attentive: The conqueror of evil is not also its architect. And infinite goodness admits of no degree of compromise with evil."

            You wrote:
            3. Revealing that you have an alternative theodicy in the comments section, but not linking directly to key articles.

            We reply:
            He are happy to direct you to key articles if you have not already found them.

            You wrote:
            4. Shutting off the comments on your own web site's key articles and directing people to yet another webpage.

            We reply:
            The activity on the FB page is already overwhelming. We do not have the resources to maintain two forums, and the FB page is the most popular apologetics page worldwide. It is only reasonable to devote our attention to it.

            You wrote:
            5. Relying for discussion on a Facebook page that is organized primarily by chronology rather than by theme or topic, especially given Facebook's extremely primitive commenting technology which does not even allow subthreads.

            We reply:
            It makes for a great deal of order as it is "organized" by person. It is *not* organized for an outside reader, but for the individual person asking a question by posting on our timeline, it is maximally focused. The people who come and ask questions are really satisfied with the answers, and that is mostly because we answer the person asking the question, not just the question.

            6. Fragmenting all discussion on your Facebook by scattering it among a series of posts.

            We reply:
            This is only a problem if you have not posted your own question. The page is not a research tool, but is a place to have direct attention to your question.

            You wrote:
            I hope this doesn't come across as snark. As a professional in this area of information, learning, and communication, I'm really trying to make sense of your plan.

            We reply:
            The plan makes sense (we've seen the proof) and your objections make sense (from not having seen the proof for yourself).

          • robtish

            Thanks for the reply. As a professional in this area, I'm always interested in different models for setting things like this up.

          • We stumbled upon or (depending on your preference) were providentially given this way of doing it. It is the first model that actually works to make it so that people are truly heard. It is very labor intensive, but well worth it.

          • Randy Gritter

            i will comment on it when it is fully explained. It seems to be being rolled out in bits. I would be interested to know what some of the more respected Catholic theologians think. Guys like Fr Barron and Scott Hahn.

          • Feel free to ask questions about anything that seems questionable.

            You can see some of it (in process) here:

            http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

          • robtish

            I think what strikes people as strange about the article is that you didn't say so in the article itself.

          • What is the part you think should have been mentioned in the article?

          • robtish

            I think you should have mentioned that you have an alternative theodicy theory ready for people to read and discuss. A key part of an apology is some sort of indication of how one plans to do things differently.

  • Ray Ables
  • This post and the replies to it will be the venue for our discussion with Paul Rimmer about theodicy. We begin by quoting the essence of the foregoing discussion, and we will proceed to expound on the topics at hand indefinitely until all questions have been answered to the satisfaction of all interested questioners.

    Paul Rimmer wrote:
    You mentioned a "third way" out of the Epicurus paradox. I'd be interested to hear it. So we'll start there if that's alright with you. And we'll look at only natural evil (hurricanes and cancer and the like).

    We replied:
    So, here is the beginning of the explanation:

    http://newapologetics.com/the-theodicy-of-divine-chastity

    It is only the start, and we expect to have a lot of explaining to do.

    Paul Rimmer wrote:
    Q1: Could God reduce the amount of natural evil in the world?

    We replied:
    Yes (in terms of power), but he's not morally free to do so. Read the article, and we'll expand on it as you lead with your questions. [You may enjoy the other articles on our site as well. They will confirm your intuitions about justice.]

    Paul Rimmer wrote:
    I read the article. Your response doesn't seem all that different from Leibniz's theodicy*. This is the best world God could have made. God's always doing his best. Now, granted, the language is unique. God's chaste, meaning he's completely self-giving. If God got rid of human suffering immediately, apparently he'd be less self-giving than he is.

    Getting rid of childhood leukaemia right now would somehow involve a violation of God's chastity. I think Candide is an entertaining and appropriate response.

    Your answer to Epicurus's paradox seems to be that if God were to reduce human suffering at this time, God would be less good than he is. I don't see how this is very different from saying that God's not powerful enough to get rid of childhood leukaemia.

    If I misunderstood your article, please correct me.

    EDIT:
    *This is distinct from Leibniz's argument in one important detail: you take it that there are logically possible worlds that even an omnipotent being cannot actualize. These logically possible worlds would presumably not be metaphysically possible. You also seem to take it that a world with morally free creatures producing only moral good, though being a logically possible world, is a metaphysically impossible world. If so, your argument is more like Plantinga's argument than Leibniz's argument. My apologies for the misrepresentation, but the critique doesn't change much. Additionally, Plantinga's argument doesn't deal with natural evil very well.see more3

    We reply:
    You have misunderstood it, and the correction is a matter of just a few "tweaks" here and there.

    • Now, to get into the substance of the question:

      You wrote: Your response doesn't seem all that different from Leibniz's theodicy*.

      We reply: There is almost no common ground between our theodicy and that of Leibniz. Leibniz's model involves an evaluative judgment about this world being the best possible. Ours starts with the judgment that this is obviously not the best possible world. Instead, it is a world full of gratuitous horrors.

      You wrote: This is the best world God could have made.

      We reply: Not at all.

      You wrote:
      God's always doing his best.

      We reply:

      He is in terms of using infinite power in a way consistent with undiminished love. We'll explain.

      You wrote:
      Now, granted, the language is unique. God's chaste, meaning he's completely self-giving.

      We reply:

      And this is the crucial consideration. This "chastity" is the refusal to diminish love in anticipation of the threat of evil.

      We are now going to quote directly from our Q&A page: http://newapologetics.com/catholic-apologetics-qa

      Our purpose in citing these segments of our Q&A page is to establish three important principles:

      Principle I: IN CREATION, POWER IS GIVEN AWAY
      Principle II: THE ACTIONS OF ONE AFFECT ALL

      Principle III: DIMINISHMENT OF LOVE IN ANTICIPATION OF EVIL IS THE ENTHRONEMENT OF EVIL
      ----------------------------------------------------------
      All of the principles are derivable from the definition of God as "that than which none greater can be conceived", but we will hold off on that derivation in case you can just see it intuitively.

      ----------------------------------------------------------

      So, now we'll take the three principles in order with the quotes from the Q&A page:

      Principle I: IN CREATION, POWER IS GIVEN AWAY
      In creation, God has given of himself in a maximally radical way. His love is one of total self- gift for the sake of created persons. In offering himself totally to creatures, God has given power to those creatures made in his image to be co-creators. That is, real power in shaping the world is given to men and angels. That which can only be done by God (such as creation of the universe out of nothing, or the governance of the entirety of reality via omniscient providence) cannot be given over to creatures, but all other finite powers and roles of importance that can possibly be entrusted to created beings have been given to men and angels for the sake of imbuing maximal importance to each creature made in the image of God. This gift of power is so absolute that even many of those actions which can only be accomplished by God himself, such as the forgiveness of sins, or the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, have been entrusted to human beings as intermediaries through the sacramental ministry of the priesthood. According to God’s generosity, if something can possibly be done or mediated by a finite power, God creates a finite creature to do it rather than doing the thing directly.

      Quotes: “We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself what may be achieved through created causality… For any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being capable of producing that result than produce it Himself.” (Abbot Anscar Vonier, The Human Soul)

      “God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1884)

      “For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306)
      ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Principle II: THE ACTIONS OF ONE AFFECT ALL
      "In creation, God intended a total communion of love such that each person would be integral to the happiness of all others. There were to be no superfluous persons, and every free action would be maximally important to the happiness of all. In this perfect communion, the exercise of each of the gifts of power given by God was ordained by the divine will to have a universal effect. That is, in every case, the free actions of any individual would affect every other in a harmonious way for the benefit of all. Such a totally unified communion of persons where each is maximally important to all others is God’s intention for the dignity of persons. However, when the order of the created universe is violated through sin, the gifts of freedom, power and universal causal significance that would have made a person an integral part of the happiness of all become the means of distribution for disaster and chaos. Sufferings of all kinds stem from the universal impact of sinful individual actions. The world is full of maximally important persons acting in ways that violate the order of creation, and everyone experiences the consequences of the disordered actions of each.

      Quote: “In this solidarity… the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 953)

      “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed… Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay’. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground’, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 400-401)

      “Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. ‘Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned’ is thus ‘the last enemy’ of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

      Principle III: DIMINISHMENT OF LOVE IN ANTICIPATION OF EVIL IS THE ENTHRONEMENT OF EVIL

      "In knowing of the eventual abuse of his maximal self-gift through sin, God either gives all that can be given and does exactly as he would have done as if he did not know that there would be an abuse of the gift, or he holds back his generosity in order to prevent the abuse from happening by giving something less than the total gift which he would have given originally. Necessarily, God either gives fully, as if evil were not a factor, or he gives something less in anticipation of evil. If God does exactly as he would have done were evil not a consideration at all, then the total gift is given without the least restraint even though he knows it will be abused; he creates exactly those whom he would have created, if evil were never to have been a consideration and gives away power and importance fully and without any degree of compromise in response to the threat of evil. However, if God holds back his generosity in anticipation of the evils that would follow from the abuse of his undiminished self-gift, then self-withholding in anticipation of evil (rather than uncompromising self-donation) becomes the guiding principle in the order of creation. Instead of unconditional love and generosity being the principle of divine action, reluctance to love in response to the threat of evil is elevated to the ultimate principle of being. Rather than the unconditional love of God, the power of evil takes the helm of the universe. It seems plausible at first glance that God’s goodness would be most exemplified by preventing the abuse of his gifts at the outset, but the deeper reality is that the self-withholding of God that would be necessary to prevent evil is the absolute enthronement of evil.

      ----------------------------------------------------
      You wrote:

      "If God got rid of human suffering immediately, apparently he'd be less self-giving than he is."

      We reply:
      Yes, but not because this is the best of all possible worlds or because there is some divinely perceived value in suffering. The reason is that the perfection of God's love is not consistent with him actualizing a world *directly*, but only with involving us creatures in that process as integral co-creators.

      From the Q&A page:

      "The world in its present form is a combination of God’s faithfulness to his creatures in a perfectly chaste self-gift, combined with the repeated abuse of this absolute self-gift by created persons. The current state of affairs in which suffering afflicts all of human experience was not orchestrated by God any more than a burned-out building corresponds to the architect’s design of what the building should have been. As such, the evil is neither directly willed, nor is it approved in any way by God, but is endured in a kind of agony. In creating the world, God has only loved in the greatest way that chaste omnipotence could, that is, perfectly and without any degree of compromise with the threat of evil. He wills only the highest good without any consideration of alternatives, and this is why he loves in exactly the same way that he would have had evil never been a factor. He will not do evil by diminishing his good will toward created persons in order to prevent evil. Therefore, he endures the infinite offense of evil so that evil does not become absolute."

      It has been argued throughout history that an omnipotent being would have the power to prevent any and all evils if it so desired; an omniscient being would know of them and know how to prevent them; and a perfectly good being would do all in its power to prevent all evil. Thus, it appears that, if God existed, and were omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, evil would not exist. The reality of evil has therefore been used in arguments against the existence of God. Various forms of such arguments have been presented, but the reasoning therein does not consider that the chastity of God entails that he is not morally free to do evil (that is, to diminish the absoluteness of his act of self-donation) in order to prevent the abuse of his love. In light of divine chastity, God can be omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, infinitely offended by human suffering, and yet evil can still exist despite God’s omnipotent opposition to it."

      "Even though God is omniscient, divine chastity causes it to appear as if God is entirely ignorant of the threat of evil, for in every situation he gives everything that he would have given had evil never been a consideration. Instances of this can be seen throughout the public ministry of Jesus. He chose Judas as an apostle even though he knew of the betrayal that was coming. In other examples, Jesus healed people, and instructed them to tell no one of the miracle. However, in doing this, he knew that they would not obey, and that the public knowledge of the miracle would create many practical problems in his ministry. In every action, Jesus simply loved innocently and would not compromise with evil by allowing its threat to diminish his love. He simply refused to negotiate with evil in any way. In the act of creation, this same uncompromising love is given. Knowing fully that many of the angels would turn from him in disobedience, and that the first humans would be seduced to do the same, God considered only the essential goodness with which they would be created, and bestowed the same power and importance on them that he would have given had he no knowledge that they would turn against him."

      "Oh Eternal Father, how then did you create this creature? I am greatly overwhelmed by this. In fact, as you show, me, I see that you did this for no other reason than that in your light you were forced to give us being by the fire of your charity in spite of all the iniquity we were to commit against you, Oh Eternal Father! It was fire, therefore, that forced you to do so. Oh Ineffable Love, even if in your light you saw all the iniquities your creature was to commit against your infinite goodness, you pretended almost not to see but fixed your eyes on the beauty of your creature whom you, intoxicated with love, loved and through love you drew her to yourself and formed her in your own image and likeness. You, eternal truth, communicated your truth to me, namely, that it was love that forced you to create her…” (St. Catherine of Sienna)

      We're still at the very beginning of this exposition, so please ask questions. We' have another introductory comment to offer about Plantinga's Free Will Defense, so you may want to withhold your response until that is posted (hopefully today).

      • This subthread deals with your next objection:

        "You take it that there are logically possible worlds that even an omnipotent being cannot actualize. These logically possible worlds would presumably not be metaphysically possible. You also seem to take it that a world with morally free creatures producing only moral good, though being a logically possible world, is a metaphysically impossible world. If so, your argument is more like Plantinga's argument than Leibniz's argument. My apologies for the misrepresentation, but the critique doesn't change much. Additionally, Plantinga's argument doesn't deal with natural evil very well."

        Let's break it down:

        You wrote:
        You take it that there are logically possible worlds that even an omnipotent being cannot actualize.

        We reply:
        Our point is different than what you suppose it to be in this objection. Omnipotence (when considered in and of itself) can cause any logically possible situation to obtain. Our point is that omnipotence (when considered in conjunction with ***perfect goodness***) *cannot* logically possibly cause certain situations to obtain. For example, it is logically possible that God cause the world of contingent things to begin to exist, but it is not logically possible that God causes someone to do evil.

        You wrote:
        These logically possible worlds would presumably not be metaphysically possible.

        We reply:
        We don't think there is a difference between those two types of subjunctive possibility.

        You wrote:
        You also seem to take it that a world with morally free creatures producing only moral good, though being a logically possible world, is a metaphysically impossible world.

        We reply:
        It is a logically possible world, and it would be the actual world were free creatures to have decided it to be so. Things were decided differently, and this was not God's decision. It is logically impossible that it be God's decision.

        You wrote:
        If so, your argument is more like Plantinga's argument than Leibniz's argument.

        We reply:
        There is no common ground with either. Plantinga's argument is not a theodicy, but is a "defense". The purpose is totally different.

        You wrote:
        My apologies for the misrepresentation, but the critique doesn't change much. Additionally, Plantinga's argument doesn't deal with natural evil very well.

        We reply:
        Plantinga's argument is not proposed as an explanation of natural evil in any way. As a "defense" it is only intended to show that some particular version of the argument from evil cannot be used as a disproof of theism. Plantinga was successful at that aim, and that's why the vast majority of the discussion has shifted away from the deductive formulations of the argument from evil to the more resilient inductive formulations. It is almost universally accepted that Plantinga's Defense refutes its intended target (viz., Mackie's formulation of the deductive argument from evil). It isn't really meant to do much more.

        Our theodicy does account for natural evil, and we'll be guided by your questions on how to start the explanation.

        • As a side note, we are also (independently of our theodicy) defending two "defenses", which (when taken together) refute all potential arguments from evil regardless of their form. These defenses are covered in Article II of the Tractatus: http://newapologetics.com/the-tractatus

          The defenses in Article II (by their very nature as defenses) do not offer any insight into the "why" question of evil, but are only intended to show that no argument from evil can be sound.

          A theodicy (an explanation of the "why") is much more difficult to construct.

          As far as we can tell, the one we have fully accounts for all the data in human experience and for the divine attributes as classically conceived.

        • You wrote:

          These logically possible worlds would presumably not be metaphysically possible.

          We reply:
          We don't think there is a difference between those two types of subjunctive possibility.

          Except I think you do. And hear me out. You just said, above this quote, that making a guaranteed better world than this one would violate God's goodness. So there's a logically possible world that God cannot actualize. If he did, he wouldn't be God.

          The better world is logically possible but not metaphysically possible. We can imagine what it would be like, but there's no way to get there, because presumably God would have to make it, and God can't do that.

          Maybe you dislike the language. That's alright. We all have our own tastes. I think the language is useful. In any case, if you think there's a misunderstanding here, please point it out. Because the more you say (so far), the more I think you're saying exactly this.

          I don't see the difference between your argument and Plantinga's (and I've read what you wrote as carefully as I can; maybe I'm too dense). Maybe further questions will help, but I've lost interest in this issue. Still interested in your answer to the problem. Not so interested about how it compares to Plantinga's. I'll give you the last word here, and won't respond. I'll ask questions about your previous post.

      • How does God's removing all childhood leukaemia today diminish God's love?

  • Joycey

    One must differentiate between atheists and anti-theists. Anti-theists from my considerable experience are hate-spewing vitriolic rhetoriticians, and I cannot spend more than a few seconds in their company. No matter how nice, cordial and understanding one may be towards them, they will spread hate about theists and theism and will not listen to anything a theist might say.

    • Jill

      Well said.

  • MNb

    “I don’t know, but I believe that he’s good”
    That's indeed a good and honest answer. Some months ago a muslim gave it atheist me too.

  • ClownMocker

    Typical atheophile ass-licker.

  • Luca Johnson

    I recently read this great letter:
    http://thewildvoice.org/letter-atheists/

    A LOVE LETTER TO OUR BELOVED ATHEIST BROTHERS AND SISTERS
    Written by PAUL JOSEPH C.

    Have you ever fallen in love? Have you ever had a strange coincidence happen to you? Have you ever wondered about the infinity of the Universe? Have you ever had a dog or a cat? Have you ever felt your heart beat differently when the person you were madly in love with would be looking at you? Have you ever seen a
    rainbow? Have you ever been to a forest? Have you ever met a kind person? Have you ever cried tears of joy? Have you ever had goosebumps because of some incredible music moving you? Have you ever screamed of joy when you passed a test? Have you ever cried tears of pain because someone you loved passed away?

    Have you ever felt hatred towards you? Have you ever met someone you felt
    hatred towards? Have you envied someone before? Have you ever been
    depressed? Have you ever seen the world through a dark filter? Have you
    ever felt fear? Have you ever stolen from somebody? Have you ever
    insulted someone? Have you ever been cheated on? Have you ever felt
    humiliation? Have you ever felt pain? Have you ever cried because others
    gossiped about you? Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever been
    abused mentally or physically? Have you ever angrily fought with
    somebody? Have you ever killed a person?

    I do not know you. You do not know me.
    You never saw me.
    Yet, you are with me, even if you do not know or see me.
    I speak to you and you read my thoughts, which come from an unknown corner on the surface of this speck of dust called earth.
    I am real, yet invisible to you.
    I'm invisible to you, yet you reflect upon my written words on this white screen.
    I do not need to know you to understand you, and you do not need to know me to understand me.
    We are so different and yet, we are the same.
    In my life, I have laughed and so have you.
    I have loved, and so have you.
    I have been rejected, and so have you.
    I have cried, and so have you.
    I have suffered, and so have you.
    I have known joy, and so have you.

    …and the list can continue endlessly…from now…until the never-ending eternity ~

    You, whoever you are and however bored or intrigued you may be with my
    words, must know that understanding one another is not a challenge – the
    human condition is the same for everyone.
    What it is that I know not of you, and you know not of me, are the nine-tenths of that inner iceberg of deep secrets kept hidden from all others' sight. People keep those only to themselves, so embarrassing they are, as they cast a judgment upon
    them. So, what is that inner voice that tells you not to reveal such
    things? When you make that discernment inside yourself, don’t you almost
    feel as if two were living into one, whom is you? You feel safe locking such secrets into that room deep in you, where it’s always night: but no stars can be seen down there, nor can the sound of crickets ever be heard.
    Lonely it is, indeed, to keep that inner you away from those whom you love. When they make a rough comment about an action they do not know that you have secretly committed, how do you cover the hurt of that punch? When they express their dissent about that something they say they would never do - and which you have repeatedly done beyond the limits of their knowledge – what happens in that imprisoned you?

    As I speak of you, unknown to me, I am dying inside for I would give anything to now meet you and truly know you. I have created one image of you and fifty at the same time. Your silence destroys me as I would love for you to now write back to me - to let me taste that exile in its best and, even more, in its very worse. The whole of you! I know the freedom you would experience if even and only one person, in this infinite universe, shared thine very mystery of thee which thou hast lonesomely carried on thy very shoulders.

    And, as I have been speaking to you, have you wondered about me, the invisible man speaking from an unknown place? You think I am writing this to all
    those who will read this page? You could not be any more wrong: it is you and only you I want to know about. In this limited reality, though, until you
    decide to contact me directly and share yourself with me, our
    relationship will stop at this never corresponded letter. I would always wonder how it could have been to communicate with you and grow together in depth.

    But it is all up to you.

    I reach out but respect your choices.
    I do not intend to bother you.
    I’m just waiting from here to see if you are interested.
    I know that I'm not offering you any money, or a new job, or a big house
    on the hills: I'm poor. What I offer you is friendship and an invisible
    smile. Please, write to me and tell me all you want…everything. Your secrets will always be our secrets. I would never and could never share them with anyone because all I care for is YOU.

    Think about it.
    I’m patient.
    I'm not asking you for anything but to be open with me.

    And if you and I become friends, I will always listen to you and promise – and I repeat PROMISE – to help you with all that you go through. Every single thing you go through. This is a promise. My promise.

    We understand each other, remember?

    I love you madly and I am madly in love with you…

    Looking forward…

    …And know that I am with you always. Yes, to the end of time…

    ~ Jesus Christ ~