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Revolution and Revelation

Ant

Many people are surprised when I, a Catholic priest, tell them that God does not exist—at least, he doesn't exist as we exist. He is, instead, the very ground of all existence. He does not exist so much as he is existence.

Yet this often provokes a good question: “How does one move from God who is ipsum esse subsistans (the very substance of existence) to the God of scapulars and rosaries?” In other words, how does one move from the philosophical concept to all the details of a particular religious practice without something called ‘revelation’?

The Catholic teaching is that there are two forms of revelation. The first is called “general” revelation. This is simply the stuff anybody who is observing the world might conclude about the existence and nature of God. General revelation is open to anybody. It’s included not only in the way the world is created, but the way humans are wired. We’re wired to look at the awesome and delicate forces of nature and be filled with wonder and fear and confusion and a sense of worship. It’s part of being human. It is also one of the traits of human beings that atheists need to account for.

Do we feel awe and wonder when we look up at the sun, moon, and stars simply because they’re big and we’re small? That seems like a sensible answer, but then why are we filled with curiosity and wonder when we study a colony of ants who toil in military order and communicate in ways we cannot comprehend to build a gigantic ant colony? Is it just because we are faced with something we cannot explain? If so, then why are we still filled with wonder when we hold a newborn, whose origins we can explain? These feelings of wonder, awe, fear, and joy are not necessarily an argument for the existence of God, but they are a realization that within human experience something greater than mere scientific experimentation and verification is going on. There is a quest for some other form of understanding.

This transaction between our curiosity and what is there to be discovered we might call “general revelation”. It is in this conversation between the natural world and ourselves that we draw the conclusion that there is something beyond—something greater than our five senses. From this many different religious expressions and experiences have arisen.

"Specific" revelation is the next step. Religious people of all kinds claim some sort of communication with beings that from this world beyond. The revelations may come through supernatural experiences of some sort. They may come through individuals in a trance state, they may come through visions or auditory experiences or inner locutions. They may result in a whole range of religious myths, stories, rituals, and beliefs. In this instance, I am still speaking about general human religious experience and not specifically about the Judeo-Christian experience.

Within this wider human experience the Jews said God spoke to their ancestors in particular ways. He called Abram out of Ur. He revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush and gave him a job to do. He appeared to Jacob and Joseph in dreams and to the prophets through visions and messages from angels. Within this tradition God also spoke to Joseph and Mary, and as the book of Hebrews said, “In various ways in various times God spoke to our ancestors, but now he has spoken to us through his Son.”

Jesus Christ is therefore the ultimate self revelation of God to humanity. Christians believe that in a miraculous way God took human form and showed us what he is like through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Do Christians realize that this is difficult to believe? Yes. Theologians call it “the scandal of particularity”—that the one who is ipsum esse subsistans becomes a squawking infant in a cattle stall, grows up to be an itinerant preacher, dies unjustly as a supposed rebel leader and then rises from the dead. Do we realize that this is a stretch? Of course.

We realize that this revelation is a revolution. If it is true, then it turns everything upside down. If it is true, then every other religion really is inferior to Christianity. No others have a historical person who claims to be God Incarnate and rises from the dead. If it is true, then history is turned upside down. Our concept of God is revolutionized. Our own self concept and our destiny are in a spin.

People may, of course, choose to disbelieve. Even worse, they may water down the gospel and turn Jesus Christ into a gentle moral teacher who died a tragic martyr’s death.

However, the reasoning behind the idea of specific revelation is sound—given one’s first principles. If the ipsum esse subsistans is really the ground of all being, then the existent beings which are dependent on that ground of existence cannot be superior to the ground of existence from which they come and upon which they depend. A communicating, thinking, reasoning, feeling, sentient person could not arise from what is a mere force. How can that which is superior come from that which is inferior?

If that superior force—that essence of existence—is indeed sentient and reasonable and able to communicate then it follows that he must do what he is capable of doing: i.e. communicate himself to others.

This self communication we call revelation, and from this revelation comes the revolution Christians propose.
 
 
Originally posted at Standing On My Head. Used with permission.
(Image credit: Alexander Wild)

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. He was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and then in 1995, he and his family were received into the Catholic Church. For the next ten years he worked as a freelance writer, contributing to more than fifty magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. Fr. Dwight is the author of many books including The Quest for the Creed (Crossroads, 2012); More Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith (Ignatius, 2010); and Catholicism Pure and Simple (Stauffer Books, 2012). Connect with his website DwightLongenecker.com, or his Patheos blog, Standing On My Heard.

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  • God does not exist—at least, he doesn't exist as we exist. He is, instead, the very ground of all existence. He does not exist so much as he is existence.

    It's fascinating to see that the theistic position has retreated so far that it no longer is even willing to defend the proposition that "God exists."

    • inqwizit0r

      um did you read the rest of it? That first phrase was what writers call a "hook" to get you to keep reading. So read on man.

    • mriehm

      It is interesting that the pronoun "he" is still applied to this nebulous entity.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Sorta gives the game away as to what is really behind the curtain.

        Why is a genderless entity referred to as "he" or the "father" by adherents to the faith?

        Probably because the inventors of the god concept were "he" and misogynistic to boot.

        It still begs the question that if God is an non-gendered immaterial mind, that is not complex...why apply gender?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          It is very interesting, and I think this would be a great topic for a separate post. To set the stage, it is worth reading what the catechism says about this:

          238 Many religions invoke God as "Father". The deity is often considered the "father of gods and of men". In Israel, God is called "Father" inasmuch as he is Creator of the world. Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, "his first-born son". God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is "the Father of the poor", of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection.

          239 By calling God "Father", the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.

          One point that could be fodder for a lot more discussion is the remark that, 'Many religions invoke God as "Father".' Is this only a reflection of the fact that so many religions were shaped into their present form in the context of patriarchal societies? I bet that is part of it, but on the other hand it seems like almost an inescapable metaphor if you live here on Earth. So many religions have seen female-ness in the sheltering, live-giving Earth (which happens to also be the place where the finite messiness of history occurs) and maleness in the ejaculatory provision of rain and sun from the sky (which happens to also be where the "eternal and limitless" stars reside).

          I think this can be understood as the way that God particularized our understanding of our personal relationship to him. As I noted in some other comments under this OP, there seems to be this need to particularize in history, to pick a particular path through time. If God wanted to reveal a parent-like relationship with us, there was a need to particularize that understanding with one gender or the other. Otherwise it remains vague and impersonal.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jim, I can appreciate all the reasons given. But the fact remains, that historically, women ordinarily were deemed subordinate to men. Which cannot be changed. So we are left with tradition.

            Or it might just be that the first believers, many subsequent, and many still today outside sophisticated theology, see God as the proverbial wise old father time type image who resides in a heavenly realm up there somewhere. To combat such nieve concepts, sophisticated theologians might well think about a move to calling God an it. But then again, going all impersonal wouldn't sit so well with the blue rinse brigade I favour.

            I don't see the issue of any great importance other than it is as archaic as many of religions other out of date ideas.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm at least somewhat aware of the ways the tradition has been used to justify the subordination of women As I've mentioned before, I have a mom and several aunts whom I love and trust who still get wide-eyed with rage when they talk the understanding of what it meant to be a woman in the 1950s Catholic world they were raised in.

            I don't intend to whitewash that past, but I think that understanding can be corrected from within the tradition, on very Catholic grounds. I don't think one needs recourse to sophisticated theology. Any Joe Catholic should know it was only because of Mary's entirely free kick-ass "yes" to God that the Word of God could be enfleshed among us. The Mary of popular piety is the "Queen of Heaven", not some docile submissive thing. Moreover, the Church is herself is feminine. Without the people of God and the tabernacle, the Word of God would just some dried up ejaculate in the desert. Also, the lines I quoted are straight from the catechism, which is not exactly the frontier of Catholic theology.

            None of that changes the fact that women are currently cut out of the high-level decision making at the level of the Vatican. I'd be the first one to advocate for changing that. I don't really know what all the issues are, in terms of the way the Vatican works. I can tell you that at our local parish level, there is no lack of female leadership in our parish. The women basically run the show.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Well of course, if one is looking through the rose tinted glasses of Catholicism. Muslims say exactly the same things. Mormons too...Hindus? Judaism?

            Would you considered Islam a misogynistic faith?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            No, the women do the work. The priests and bishops rub the show. And for all the talk about Mary, exactly how does she represent anything but the ultimate docile, submissive woman? "Yes god. Whatever you want." And then she does nothing for the rest of the scriptures. She's the ultimate symbol if the passive, decorative woman on a pedestal.

            The Catholic Church deeply fears and distrusts women and always has. Nothing if any substance has changed since the pre-Vatican II "golden age" that conservative Catholics frequently heathen back to.

          • fredx2

            This is nonsense. The women in the parish run the business side of things, most often. And they read the scriptures at mass, and distribute communion, Not exactly peon positions. Men are usually relegated to being ushers.
            The problem is we can see what happened in those churches that ordained women - they are all collapsing, presumably because the women insist on a pablumized christianity where a certain bland white bread niceness is the goal. Oh, look, they are bringing all the children up to the altar and she's holding a kindergarten class! How lovely.
            And look what happened with the LCWR. they insisted on being their own theologians, and as a result they ended up saying things like "We give birth to God" and :The universe is conscious".
            With all due respect only today is a person that is known for being completely good and kind is "docile and decorative"
            So she should be meaner? Sheesh.
            Why is more than half of the church women, then?

          • Ben Posin

            I'd say you're the one talking nonsense. "Men are usually relegated to being ushers"??? Tell that to the priests, bishops, cardinals, and Pope. Is there any woman in the Catholic church with the same authority as a bishop? Or that has the power to excommunicate a member of the flock, or make authoritative determinations on Church doctrine or religious "truth"? C'mon.

            If in fact more than half the church are women (if that's the case, wouldn't mind seeing a citation, though my gut finds it credible), I don't see how that demonstrates that women are the ones with power and authority. Feel free to explain further. A lot of orthodox Jews are women, and it doesn't get much more powerless than that.

            And wow: so that's the reason we can't have women as priests? They insist on pablumized Christianity? Huh. Well, at least that's an attempt at an answer, I guess, which is more than Brandon was willing to do.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Mysoginistic tradition.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Indeed, as alluded to above and to which we witness to this very day...like much other discrimination.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you must say that, at least spell it right: misogynistic

          • Max Driffill

            Jim, do you think you scored any major points there? I mean, I see that you didn't address the charge, just deflected with a shallow response. Do you think M. Solange doesn't know what misogyny means even though there was a minor misspelling? The comments aren't graded, or for formal publication, so why not spare everyone the lame grammar/spelling nazi responses?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I indulged in a little "tit for tat". I probably shouldn't have, but I think turn-about is fair play. I generally like M. Solange's comments and find them intelligent, but if M. Solange is going to post insulting "fightin' words" like that without any substantiation or elaboration, I think it's OK for me to fire back. You can't play by street rules when you are talking and then expect me to reply according to the standards of the academy.

          • Max Driffill

            What did MSOB say that was insulting? What were the fighting words?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Calling Catholicism a misogynistic tradition, absent any qualification, is insulting. I am raising my two daughters (and my one son) in the Catholic tradition. If you tell me that I am raising my daughters in a misogynistic tradition, you are telling me that I am either dumb or that I don't care about my daughers.

          • David Nickol

            If you read the entry Woman in the old, online Catholic Encyclopedia, you come across passages like this:

            If the two sexes are designed by nature for a homogeneous organic co-operation, then the leading position or a social pre-eminence must necessarily fall to one of them. Man is called by the Creator to this position of leader, as is shown by his entire bodily and intellectual make-up. On the other hand, as the result of this, a certain social subordination in respect to man which in no way injures her personal independence is assigned to woman, as soon as she enters into union with him. Consequently nothing is to be urged on this point of equality of position or of equality of rights and privileges. To deduce from this the inferiority of woman or her degradation to a "second-rate human being" contradicts logic just as much as would the attempt to regard the citizen as an inferior being because he is subordinate to the officials of the state.

            It should be emphasized here that man owes his authoritative pre-eminence in society not to personal achievements but to the appointment of the Creator according to the world of the Apostle: "The man . . . is the image and glory of god; but the woman is the glory of the man" (1 Corinthians 11:7). . . .

            Misogynistic may not be exactly the right word, but as little as a hundred years ago (and, arguably, today) one does not see in Catholicism a belief in the equality of the sexes. Here is one of my favorite passages:

            The second branch of the woman question, which of necessity follows directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fénelonexpresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has of late years spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encourage it. This has led in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There is no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.

            In the medical calling, which next to teaching is the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there are at the present time in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.

            It is now the case, of course, that women outnumber men as college undergraduates, college graduates, and recipients of masters' degrees and PhDs.

            If one takes misogyny to be literally "the hatred of women," then I don't think it is accurate to call Catholicism a "misogynistic tradition." It was, however, a tradition that was, at least up until very recently, incompatible with the equality of the sexes in the sense we understand it today. And the contemporary Catholic understanding of the "complementarity of the sexes" is something I find very difficult to grasp, and I frequently suspect it is deliberately presented obliquely or vaguely so as not to raise too many red flags, although perhaps I am just reading the wrong sources or talking with the wrong people. Should wives obey their husbands? Is there anything wrong with fifty percent of elected officials being women? If both husband and wife agree to the arrangement, is there anything wrong with the wife being the primary breadwinner and her husband taking primary responsibility for the home and for raising the children? Is the only reason women may not be priests the alleged fact that Jesus chose only men for priests, or is there some essential difference between women and men that makes men capable of taking on the role of priest and makes women incapable?

            I don't think the Church hates women, but I do think it has always seen them in a subordinate role, at least until very recently, and probably still sees the subordination of women (in certain real although limited ways) as an essential aspect of the way they believe God created the world.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think you have a number of valid complaints in there.

            At a high level, my response is this: I don't think any culture, in any time or place, Catholic or otherwise, has really figured out gender and sexuality. Sexuality is almost the ultimate riddle of the universe. Secular American culture can rightly take pride in an equality of opportunity for women that seems to be unprecedented in world history. At the same time, I think only a crazy person would claim that secular America has found a good way of understanding sexuality. To take one example that I find very troubling, it is apparently not uncommon at local high school parties for the girls, each wearing a different color lipstick, to get under the table and make the rounds on the boys, seated at the table, giving each one a blowjob, thereby creating a beautiful rainbow pattern on each penis. They think it is just fun and it doesn't really matter. I hope I can be forgiven for not yearning for this type of sexual liberation for my daughters. More generally, I'm not sure that the demise of Catholic mores has been such a boon to women. I'm also not sure the the emphasis on "equality", construed as it often is as "interchangeability" has been all that kind to women.

            Let me be clear: I don't want to go back to 1950s America. But as we move forward in our understanding of what gender and sexuality "mean", I don't think it is so crazy to listen to an institution that thinks that our bodies and our sexual acts have real sacramental meaning. It's not that I think the Church has gender and sexuality all figured out, but I do think -- in general terms -- that the Church has correct conceptual categories for thinking about it.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The fact that you don't think the secular culture deals with human sexuality in an entirely rational fashion hardly seems like a good reason to advocate for a far more controlling and oppressive culture, don't you think?

            Consider the church's rationale for not ordaining women (from the catechism)

            577 "Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination."66 The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.67 The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.

            "We won't ordain women because we've never ordained women?" That would also seem to leave out ordaining blacks, Asians, and Christians - since Christ never ordained any if them, either.

          • fredx2

            All the churches that ordain women priests are dying. Is that good enough?

          • Ben Posin

            Nope, unless you can show it's because they've ordained women.

          • MrsWolf

            " it is apparently not uncommon at local high school parties for the girls, each wearing a different color lipstick, to get under the table and make the rounds on the boys, seated at the table, giving each one a blowjob, thereby creating a beautiful rainbow pattern on each penis. They think it is just fun and it doesn't really matter"

            I know I am late to this discussion, but please know that this is an urban legend and does not actually happen. It's just another way for the older generation to wring their hands and despair at the poor behaviour of "kids these days."

            Carry on...

            -- Heather

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            My wife is a high school guidance counselor, so I'd guess I have as good a window into this as most people. That particular story is not something she came across in her caseload, but based on the very messed up stuff that she *does* come across in her caseload, that story is not at all implausible. Screwed up stuff like that really is happening all the time.

            In any event, if you want to discount that story, fine. Would you say that our prevailing secular culture provides a good approaches to understanding human sexuality?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You just admitted that the story isn't one you've actually come across; that you have no evidence that it's true; and yet you're claiming it's not implausible? Why present the story as if it were true and then get huffy when you're called on it?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I didn't say that I had no evidence that it was true. I said it wasn't from my wife's caseload. It is something that my wife relayed to me a year or so ago, and I don't remember what her sources were. I consider her to be a good judge of plausibility in this context. Moreover, while I'm not going to do this research, I would guess I wouldn't have to stress Google too hard to find something a lot like that on the internet.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But you presented it as "not uncommon" - an ordinary high school party event; yet it's a story you heard a year or two ago that you presented without sources as being true, and a primary example of what you were concerned about with your daughters.

            I'm disappointed. If you have issues you'd like to shield your daughters from, can we deal with something other than old, unsourced anecdotes presented as "normal"?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You have an awfully high standard here. I am not writing a doctoral dissertation. I am not even posting an OP. I am writing in comboxes about things that I believe to be true. I think anecdotal evidence that I sincerely believe to be credible is fair game in that context.

            Nonetheless. You are right that I should recant my use of "not uncommon". That was admittedly unjustified rhetoric. Wrongdoing acknowledged.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Thanks. But you said you found this "very troubling". That's what I'm trying to get at: when we approach "societal dangers", it's best to be highly skeptical and cautious; like the entire (and almost entirely ficticious) "hookup culture" meme that's been circulating recently. By not doing the homework, we find ourselves overreacting to imaginary dangers and issues.

            I guess I'm just trying to suggest more caution on your part. But I'm being overly personal again, and I apologize.

            Topic closed. Pace.

          • fredx2

            Look up the following on Google:
            "hook up culture"
            "More young women are depressed than ever before" "women are more unhappy than ever before"

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't even understand what you're asking with that question. I'd say our American culture has a weird, unhealthy mixture of irrational prudity and neurotic exposure. On the other hand, I consider the Church's view of sexuality even more out of touch and neurotic.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I consider the Church's view of sexuality even more out of touch and neurotic.

            OK, well I obviously disagree on that specific point, but this:

            I'd say our American culture has a weird, unhealthy mixture of irrational prudity and neurotic exposure.

            supports the point that I was originally making to David. This stuff is difficult to figure out. No culture anywhere has ever got it right (the RCC included, as I acknowledged in that initial comment), as far as I can tell.

          • MrsWolf

            If by "our" you mean American (I am Canadian), then the answer is no, but not for the reasons you may think. I think American culture is far too repressive and secretive when it comes to sexuality. Shame and guilt are the predominant emotions - especially when it comes to women and girls expressing their sexuality.

            I would point to Scandinavian and Western European cultures as a good example of secular approaches to sexuality. Children are taught about contraception and sex from an early age and openness and honesty are the norm.

            Take the Netherlands, for example, where comprehensive sex education is taught and where the culture of shame and secrecy about sex has been all but eliminated. They have a teen pregnancy rate of 5 per 1,000 (USA: 39 per 1,000) and an abortion rate of 10.4 per 1,000 women (USA: 20.8 per 1,000 women). They also have high rates of atheism (39-44%).

            My own country, Canada, falls somewhere in between. Our teen pregnancy rate is 14 per 1,000 and our abortion rate is 15.2 per 1,000 (and we have, literally, no laws about abortion in Canada). Our rate of atheism is approximately 24% (per the 2011 census).

            Seems like the more religious a country is, the higher the teen pregnancy and abortion rates are. Religious oppression of sexuality is a destructive force in our culture.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's a very reasonable and balanced answer that gets at the substance of the discussion. Thanks.

          • MrsWolf

            I would also point out that the Netherlands has a lower suicide rate (8.8 per 1,000) than the USA (11.8 per 1,000) and a much lower rate of death from drug use (12.5 per million) than the USA (181.8 per million). And a lower rate of intentional murder (Netherlands 1.1 per 1,000, USA 4.8 per 1,000).

            So, I think my overall point is that, yes, I do think that secular cultures have better track records when it comes to sexuality. And most other things.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think your cross-country analysis is a good line of thinking to pursue, and I think you are looking at a number of relevant endpoints. There are, of course, many confounding factors (including type of government, metrics of social cohesion, income inequality, etc) that would ideally be controlled for if we are trying to isolate the causal effect of secularity. The onus of making such covariate adjustments would, I suppose, fall to me, if I want to propose that secularity is not the causal factor that you are suggesting it is. I don't have the strength and determination to do that, so I accept your point as a good working hypothesis for now.

          • MrsWolf

            Jim, I would agree with you that secularity is not the ONLY causal factor for any of these outcomes. Certainly the factors you bring up, social cohesion, income inequality, government structure, are important to consider as well. It was for this reason that I chose the Netherlands. While certainly not identical, it is a Western democracy (although a parliamentary democracy with a monarch - more similar to Canada in that respect) with a predominantly Caucasian population whose religious affiliations (when they indicate one) are mostly Christian (Catholic and Protestant).

            The GDP per capita are similar, although the US is higher (53, 101) than the Netherlands (41,711). Still, they are not an impoverished country, by any means.

            I looked up income inequality out of curiosity. UN estimates of R/P 10% are 9.2 for the Netherlands and 15.9 for the USA. That's a pretty big difference.

            Anyway, interesting discussion and thought experiment for me. Thank you.

          • fredx2

            Except surviving. Their populations are expected to start falling after 2020, and the Dutch economy is actually shrinking. Although you paint the place as being heaven on earth, the Dutch themselves have started leaving the country in record numbers.

            Muslims are streaming in and having lots of babies, and one MP has suggested that the Dutch get ready to have sharia law as part of their constitution.
            Also, to compare Netherlands, which is a tiny nation with a fairly homogeneous population, with the United States, whch is a large country with a fluid, multicultural population is inapt.

          • fredx2

            AS LITTLE AS A HUNDRED YEARS AGO????
            No country at that time even allowed women to vote. So yes, somebody who wrote some book called the Catholic encyclopedia which is not an official Catholic thing, said things consistent with their time.
            Sheesh.
            And guess what. in the real world, you will find that women prefer men to be men. To take the lead on things.They can't stand a wishy washy man that sits around waiting to be told what to do.
            Not all women, to be sure, but most do. That's what I like about Catholicism, it sticks to what is real and does not get hung upon the fads of the day.

          • David Nickol

            You avoid all of the real questions:

            Should wives obey their husbands? Is there anything wrong with fifty percent of elected officials being women? If both husband and wife agree to the arrangement, is there anything wrong with the wife being the primary breadwinner and her husband taking primary responsibility for the home and for raising the children? Is the only reason women may not be priests the alleged fact that Jesus chose only men for priests, or is there some essential difference between women and men that makes men capable of taking on the role of priest and makes women incapable?

            Are you saying the Catholic Encyclopedia of a hundred years ago didn't accurately reflect Catholic teaching? Are you saying that Catholicism (and Christianity in general) doesn't believe that women are subordinate to men?

          • Max Driffill

            Why should a system that claims to have the fast track to morality ever say something that was merely consistent with their time? For instance why should Christian doctrine (from the bible onward) so have catastrophically gotten the issues of the treatment of women, and slavery wrong? Why should there be a historical context for the morality exhibited by people who get their direction from a perfect all powerful all loving, all just god?

            Also, 100 years ago was 1914. In Australia (white) women got their voting franchise in 1902. (for the full list go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_voting_rights) That is just a nitpick I understand but do you think you have any citations for your statements?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jim, what is your position on contraception for example?

            Unless you are just playing at being Catholic, contraception will restrict your daughter's emancipation.

            What decision would you come to if it was between the life of one of your daughters, or the termination of their pregnancy?

            Do you believe your daughter's should have the right to make life changing choices irrespective of what your Church doctrine may advocate?

            Misogyny, a cultural hatred of girls and women because they are female, is defined by its placing of women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. There is no clearer description of the Catholic Church,...

            Any study of Church doctrine reveals the degree to which Biblical hermeneutics and theologies codifying attitudes of virulently anti-female Church Fathers continue to inform today’s Catholic hierarchy. In this way, even if priests aren’t quoting St. John Chrysostom or St. Jerome in Sunday masses, women are an “inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation…a fault in nature, ” and “the root of all evil,” who (according to St. Clement of Alexandria)”should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.” These men lived during various dark ages, but so do the Catholic Bishops. Defending the contemporary Church’s position on women – in the priesthood, as human beings – from the perspective of what these theologians said and on their interpretations of divine truth is a serious and deliberate confusing of the “is” with the “aught” as a mandate for the future.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I used to dissent from the Church's teaching on contraception. Now, I don't know. I honestly just don't know. I'm in a state of flux. As I mentioned in my reply to David, I see how f'd up our contemporary secular understanding of sexuality is, and it makes me wonder more and more if the Church doesn't have it right on this issue as well.

            As for my daughters, I am going to teach them *why* the Church teaches what it teaches, and I am going to give them my opinion that it actually now makes sense to me, and I am going to be honest about the fact that I haven't lived my whole life according to those teachings. I am also going to tell them that those peripheral teachings, whatever one may say about their correctness, do not have the primacy of the teachings on the Incarnation and the Resurrection. I may also point them to line 1790 in the catechism, about the primacy of conscience.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Can't you see any dichotomous thinking here?

            In fact, 82% of American Catholics say that birth control is “morally” acceptable, according to Gallup. This is only slightly behind the 89% of Americans overall who approve of birth control. Official Catholic policy still forbids birth control just as the vast swaths of American Catholics collectively shrug and do whatever the hell they like. It would be easy to dismiss as silly except that these policies have real repercussions on real people both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world.

            I found this comment at a feminist blog particularly poignant.

            I was raised Catholic and my parents are still very active in their parish. I will say that I began to question the treatment of women around the age of 12 and have yet to find a valid argument for being a member of an organization that treats women as second class citizens. My mother has said that she was told to take what she wanted and leave the rest, but I find that argument problematic on several levels. Not the least of which is the idea that she would profess to belive a system except for the parts she does not like? And then I have to ask myself what exaclty I like about that system if anything. Turns out I liked the music, so I have a hymnal at home and sometimes I bring it out and enjoy the memories. When I informed my mother that was all I wanted to take, she got very upset. Maybe I misunderstood what she meant. The point is that while my mother is a very small sample of how a Catholic woman can rationalize her continued allegance, these are the kinds of arguments being used to sway a younger generation like myself that being Catholic is somehow good for me. My father has used the argument that my disagreements with Catholocism are political and I need to refocus on the spiritual. My response has always been that I do not think it is very spiritual to discriminate. He did not like my answer either. So, I say I am not Catholic and my parents are actually waiting for me to “come back to the church” like I am in a phase or something. Please note that since I am now 32 this “phase” has now lasted 20 years. Again this is an example of the level of denial and patronizing obliviousness that seems to charecterize those who are able to claim they are Catholic. Do not get me worng, I am not angry or against the good things that belief in a religion can bring to someone, I just have trouble forgetting about the rest of it.

            I think it is pretty clear that M. Solange has justification in asserting misogynist tradition, at least as traditional Catholicism is concerned.

          • fredx2

            I think it is clear that feminists like to sling around terms that they redefine to mean anything they want it to mean. Clearly, the church does not hate women. Millions upon millions of women in the Catholic church are quite frankly bored by such allegations. Feminists, on the other hand, seem to hate anyone who does not think like them and then start calling them names. and declare them to be enemies of the people.

          • Ben Posin

            Do you really think your issues with feminism can distract from the basic issues here? I think its clear that the Church has a very obvious, out in the open, no attempt to disguise it history of treating women as subordinate and not equal to men, though I guess there's the tiniest bit of window dressing sometimes in saying that men and women have "different roles." And to this day, women are denied any place above the bottom in the hierarchy of the church. That's problematic enough even leaving aside any issues of doctrine that seems aimed at controlling women's reproductive health and sexuality.

            You've brought up more than once the fact that there are many women in the Church. So what? That doesn't mean that the Church treats men and women equally, anymore than Hasidic/Orthodox Judaism treats men and women equally, or various brands of Islam.

          • Max Driffill

            I will tell you that the lack of citation with your assertions is certainly boring.

            I think it is clear that feminists like to sling around terms that they redefine to mean anything they want it to mean.
            Examples please?
            Clearly, the church does not hate women.
            That is almost certainly true, but not germane. The doctrines of the church, coupled with its structures of power, make it clear that women's voices and ideas are ideas that are not valued.

            Millions upon millions of women in the Catholic church are quite frankly bored by such allegations.
            By all means provide some sound research that supports this claim.

            Feminists, on the other hand, seem to hate anyone who does not think like them and then start calling them names. and declare them to be enemies of the people.
            This is very similar to the Christian tendency to cry persecution and declare that there is a war going on between the Church and the World whenever Christians don't get their way.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jim, you didn't actually answer my questions, do you think you could?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Didn't I at least answer one of your questions? Actually, two, I think? I told you my view on contraception, and I tried to give you a feel for how I understand the Church's teaching on primacy of conscience, which I see as at least a partial response to your other questions. Which specific question do you want me to address at greater length?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Sorry, my fault for not being clearer. I meant with regards to your family, not contraception in general. The use in general you say you don't know, but surely you know whether you and your partner use contraception? With regards to your daughters, I'm sure total abstinence will be your advice...as a widower raising a son and a daughter, both adults now, My advice was don't, but if you must, take precautions. There is nothing that will destroy a bright future like single parenting. I remember vaguely how the same advice was instilled in me by my parents...talk is cheap.

            As for primacy of conscience, that's a bit of a fudge. Circumstance has a way of dictating conscience.

            No need for detailed response's, yes or no will do.

            What decision would you come to if it was between the life of one of your daughters, or the termination of their pregnancy?

            Termination? Yes or no?

            Do you believe your daughter's should have the right to make life changing choices irrespective of what your Church doctrine may advocate?

            Yes or no?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hey, come on, I asked for just one question!

            1. You want to know about our use of contraception. That's a bit personal, but what the hell, I'll tell you. I had a vasectomy after our third was born. My wife and I were both church-going Catholics at the time, but I never thought about this stuff much back then. Didn't give it a second thought. Since then I've come to trust the specific teachings of the Church a lot more, and I now question whether the vasectomy was the right move. But I don't know. As I said, my thinking is in a state of flux on this. At this point, we are at the age where it is unlikely to matter much.

            2. Life of my daughter versus termination of pregnancy. For a Catholic I am really not all that well informed about the intricacies of the abortion debate, but I believe that the prohibition on abortion pertains only to deliberate killing of the child. If a medical procedure is needed to save the life of the mother, and that procedure results in the incidental death of the child, that is not considered an abortion, even if the incidental death was expected as a likely outcome. That is my understanding anyway. So, I vote to save my daughter's life in that case.

            3. Everyone has the right to make life-changing choices irrespective of Church doctrine. People don't have the legal right to make life-changing choices that are against the law, and members of the Church have the right to advocate for laws that conform to Church doctrine, but it must be the law of the land that constrains people's rights, not Church doctrine per se.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Actually, I think the church would argue that you cannot, as a catholic, make decisions contrary to doctrine - at least not without incurring eternal damnation. The fact that most Catholics ignore basic church doctrine on all sorts of key points.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, well you and I have a different understanding on that point. My understanding is that God -- not you, and not the Church, but God -- will judge whether I have made a sufficient effort to shape my conscience according to the magisterial teaching of the Church, and live according to my conscience thusly shaped.

            If, through continued study, reflection, and prayer, I am able to make the movement of the mind where I recognize sin in my past actions, I will confess those sins, and my relationship with God will be healed. If, on the other hand, I die never having been able to develop the contrite heart that is a prerequisite to confession, my understanding, as I said, is that God alone will judge the effort that I have made in shaping my conscience.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't argue with that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            You should not assume that Catholics who dissent from Church teaching are ignoring the teaching of the Church.

            I'll speak for myself, and I think this applies to many other Catholics. To begin with, I recognize the Magisterium as having the authority to set definitive bounds on what is and is not Catholic teaching. Based on that recognition, I make what I consider to be a good effort to understand that teaching and to recognize truth in it. Where Church teaching is in tension with my moral intuition, I do not jump to the conclusion that my intuition is correct (nor do I jump to the conclusion that my moral intuition is wrong -- indeed Church teaching itself forbids that ignore my own moral intuition). I instead regard Church teaching as objective and consequential "data" that I must consider in my attempt to ascertain the truth.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What you seem to be saying here is that you're not ignoring church doctrine even if you choose to ignore it. And that it is entirely possible that you will find points you dissent with. How does this differ from what I said? I'm just trying to get clarification.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If I listen carefully to a learned professor and think carefully about what he is saying, but at the end of the day I just plain don't agree with him, I have not ignored that professor. I will most likely continue to recognize him as a valid, even definitive, teaching authority. I will most likely harbor some doubts about the correctness of my own thinking (and rightly so), based on the respect that I have for that professor. But to the extent that the topic under consideration is consequential in the way that I live my life, I can only live according to the truths that I "own" and recognize at a personal level. Where I have uncertainty, I may reasonably default to the understanding that the professor has, but where I have strong moral intuitions, I cannot ignore them.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Do you consider yourself a cafeteria catholic, then? I admit your attitude seems reasonable (except for the part about BEING catholic at all - but we'll let that slide)

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            [see also my response to Amos, below.]

            No, I do not consider myself as a cafeteria Catholic as I understand that term. There is no line of the catechism that I simply disregard. Where I think I think I am in disagreement with the catechism, I struggle to understand the nuances of the teaching and why it is the way it is. If I think I disagree, I proceed very cautiously.

            If someone wants to call my approach "cafeteria Catholicism", fine. I think that doesn't do justice to what I believe, but people are going to say what they are going to say.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But the implication of your comments is that you MIGHT dissent from church doctrine, and you'd square that up with god later? Why BE catholic, then? Why not simply accept teachings from various faiths that work for you, since you needs must have faith? And why impose the chauvinistic system of Catholicism on your daughters at an age when they, presumably don't have the capacity to come objectively at your teachings?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I am going to somewhat re-hash the answer that I just provided to Ignorant Amos, just in slightly different words, if you don't mind:

            I am Catholic because I perceive Jesus of Nazareth to be at the center of reality, and because I want to be close to that center. I believe that participation in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church is the way to be close to Him, and I believe that the teachings of the Church are the way to understand who He is.

            PS: my eight-year-old daughter just struck out three nine-year-old boys in a row in an otherwise all-boys little league game tonight. You don't need to worry about her. Also, for what it is worth, I didn't wait until she could objectively evaluate my pitching advice before teaching her how to throw. I just showed her, and she trusted me, and it worked.

          • Ignorant Amos

            PS: my eight-year-old daughter just struck out three nine-year-old boys in a row in an otherwise all-boys little league game tonight. You don't need to worry about her. Also, for what it is worth, I didn't wait until she could objectively evaluate my pitching advice before teaching her how to throw. I just showed her, and she trusted me, and it worked.

            I think it is just grand that you live in a place, at a time, in a culture, with the freedom for such extravences to occur. Whatever!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            If you think you're not forming what your daughter thinks of religion, you're being naive. Well, I feel sorry for your daughters; but I wish you well with them. I can only hope they find their independence.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I definitely think I *am* forming what my daughters (and son) think of religion. Why would I withhold from them what I believe to be true? I don't just sit them in front of a piano and wait for them to figure it out. I don't just sit dumbly when they are faced with the social complexities of life, waiting for them to figure that out. There is really no dimension of life where I just sit idly by without trying educate them. I want them to think *for* themselves, but I do not want them to think *by* themselves. I want them to draw from what my wife and I have learned of life, and I want them to think in the company of their ancestors that have gone before them.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            As I said, I pity your daughters because the religious tradition in which you are raising them seems to treat women as second class citizens, but as I also said I wish you well with them. Raising daughters in the 21st century is a daunting task. Just ask my dad. :-)

          • fredx2

            Since the Catholic church has a position on almost everything, it is probably impossible to NOT be a cafeteria catholic to some extent, at least for certain periods of time. However, the term Cafeteria Catholic is usually used to descrbie those who just shrug off certain doctrines with no real struggle.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You should not assume that Catholics who dissent from Church teaching are ignoring the teaching of the Church.

            Jim, we have a name for these type of folk....they are called "PROTESTANTS"

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I don't agree Amos, and I don't think the magisterium agrees either. Maybe I am a heretic (I don't think so, actually), but many great Catholics in history have held heretical views, and without those heretics it would have never been possible to define orthodoxy. Heresy is part of the life of the Church.

            The Catholic Church is not the collection of all people who agree with every line of the catechism. The magisterium tells me that I am Catholic by virtue of my baptism, and I agree. That sacrament grafted me onto the Mystical Body of Christ.

            As an added bonus (though this is not strictly necessary in order to be Catholic), I recognize the Bishop of Rome and the rest of the magisterium as the definitive and final authority for Christian teaching. I may not agree with every teaching (though, as it turns out, I agree with all but a few of the most peripheral teachings, and even there I think the Church might be right), but I recognize the magisterium as having the final authority in defining Christian teaching.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You are without a doubt a real decent guy. Somewhat confused, but really come over as honest and sincere. But by your philosophy, I could claim to be Catholic. That makes the definition watered down to the point of homeopathy. I love you and your attempts to rationalise your confusion.

            Good tidings to you and yours, I wish your girls and son all the very best for their future. I haven't forgot a response to your three answers to my over zealous enquiries...it is part composed...I'll get it completed soon, the taverna beckons.

            BTW, what made Luther what he was?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            But by your philosophy, I could claim to be Catholic.

            Well, I don't want to insult you by applying a label that you think doesn't fit, but yes, I think you could claim that. All the pissed off ex-Catholics in the world should feel free to still call themselves Catholic. They are, in my view, languishing apart from the sacramental lifeblood of the Church, but they are still part of that mystical body. When they express anger at the Church, I see that as the Church expressing anger at herself.

            BTW, what made Luther what he was?

            Not sure what you are getting at, but Luther was not a Lutheran. I think Luther was misguided in several very important respects (e.g. I think he was off the mark with sola scriptura), but I also think he was an exemplary Catholic. I thank God for Luther from time to time.

            I love you and your attempts to rationalise your confusion.

            Not the worst thing anyone has every said to me. Thanks!

          • Ignorant Amos

            Thanks Jim....it is all really neat in that case. It now appears that anything goes and nothing matters..Pascal hadn't a clue really. I have to say, of all the Catholicism's I've had the misfortune to come up against, yours is the loveliest... Thanks for that, it isn't all gargoyles and...and...sectarian bigoted discrimination... Much.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Amos, I really sorry to ruin this wonderful buzz that I have created for you, but that is not what I am saying.

            The last thing I would say is that none of this matters. Humanity's relationship to God matters, and I believe that Jesus Christ is at the center of that that relationship, and I believe that the participation in the sacramental life of the Catholic Church is the way to be close to Him, and I believe that the teachings of the Church are the way to understand who He is.

            What I am saying is that you are already connected to Jesus through your baptism. Moreover, it is as clear as day to me that you are already challenged by the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and I understand that challenge in itself as a sort of relationship with Jesus. If I could find a way to make you see that all this is true, I would tell you to deepen that relationship with Jesus, through participation in the life of the Church.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jim, I believe you believe in what you are saying. I don't believe there was a Jesus of anywhere, let alone A place called Nazareth....but you carry on believing whatever you like, it is your prerogative. I think anyone that cherry picks is being dishonest with themselves, looking for outs all you like and live with it, I don't really care that much...it is how the pretzelmania works....contort all you like to square the circle. Regards to you and yours.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, Peace to you as well Amos. Good chat.

          • Susan

            I don't want to insult you by applying a label that you think doesn't fit

            Thanks, Jim. In that sense, you are better than your choice of church, who think nothing of counting me among the world's catholics. Th

          • fredx2

            Just for the record, Jim has been perfectly clear.You are the one who is confused.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Hey, come on, I asked for just one question

            Hey Jim, ya should know us Atheists by now, we are never content with the one question and answer }80)~

            1. You want to know about our use of contraception. That's a bit personal, but what the hell, I'll tell you.

            Well a lot of stuff that needs said on these boards and subjects are personal by there very nature. We all have the freedom to draw the line at any point things get uncomfortable. That said, I really appreciate your candor and effort to answer.

            I had a vasectomy after our third was born. My wife and I were both church-going Catholics at the time, but I never thought about this stuff much back then. Didn't give it a second thought.

            That is really interesting Jim. By second thought I assume that in your first thought, you were aware that you were breaking the rules? In any case, I commend your rational approach regardless.

            Since then I've come to trust the specific teachings of the Church a lot more, and I now question whether the vasectomy was the right move.

            Have you investigated the possibility of a reversal procedure? As far as I am aware, it is the right thing to do and one can petition the Church for financial assistance if needs be.

            But I don't know. As I said, my thinking is in a state of flux on this.

            You are very astute Jim. I think you do know but can't come to terms with the answer viv a vis your faith. Being as you describe yourself a Catholic, I think it is important for you that this state of flux gets resolved, your eternal soul may depend on it. If only for your own peace of mind.

            At this point, we are at the age where it is unlikely to matter much.

            Oh it matters alright. Perhaps not to your ability to procreate, that won't matter, but to the process it matters.

            http://ftp.catholicdoors.com/faq/qu349.htm

            2. Life of my daughter versus termination of pregnancy. For a Catholic I am really not all that well informed about the intricacies of the abortion debate, but I believe that the prohibition on abortion pertains only to deliberate killing of the child. If a medical procedure is needed to save the life of the mother, and that procedure results in the incidental death of the child, that is not considered an abortion, even if the incidental death was expected as a likely outcome. That is my understanding anyway. So, I vote to save my daughter's life in that case.

            Your understanding is correct, but that is a non sequitur. I was referring to the direct termination of pregnancy a la the sister Margaret McBride controversy... Or the contrary case of Savita Halappanavar who died as a result of medical professionals denying her the termination because of religious based laws forcing a review of such nonsensical laws. I guess I really know the answer, trying to get a person embroiled in such ridiculousness to admit it is another matter.

            3. Everyone has the right to make life-changing choices irrespective of Church doctrine. People don't have the legal right to make life-changing choices that are against the law, and members of the Church have the right to advocate for laws that conform to Church doctrine, but it must be the law of the land that constrains people's rights, not Church doctrine per se.

            Yet again you are side stepping the question. Being a practising homosexual is not breaking any secular laws or legalities. When it comes to your own, does the religious rules of you belief system take precedence?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think it is important for you that this state of flux gets resolved, your eternal soul may depend on it.

            True, but the salvation of my eternal soul depends on many things. As a guy who is tired at the end of every day, I need to prioritize. I am much more worried that my response to the poor of the world is insufficient, for example. If there is one thing that is likely to damn my soul, I think that would be it. I don't see that God especially wants me to indulge in a lot of navel-gazing (or vas-gazing, in this case). I am following the advice of Pope Francis, who tells me to turn outward.

            When it comes to your own, does the religious rules of you belief system take precedence?

            When it comes to my own decisions, I have the right to do what I perceive to be immoral, insofar as it is legal. My free response to God should not be be compelled by anyone else. That doesn't mean that I should do what I perceive to be immoral.

          • Michael Murray

            ************************************************************************

            It is with regret that we announce the banning of Comrade Amos. His wry Irish humour and propensity for calling a spade a feckin' shovel will be sadly missed along with his extensive knowledge of Christianity and Catholicism.

            We continued the struggle confident that he lives on in a better place.

            ************************************************************************

          • Ben Posin

            Seriously? What is he supposed to have done?

          • Michael Murray
          • Susan

            Seriously? What is he supposed to have done?

            Essan Brandt has also been blocked. He just barely showed up and was engaged in a respectful and thoughtful discussion about free will.

            No warning. What did HE do? No one would notice his banning as he was here for such a short time.

            As he had so few comments, it wouldn't be much of an effort for moderation to explain what he did that got him banned.

            At the very least, it would help us all understand what the site's guide lines actually are so that we aren't constanly wondering.

            On a site whose ostensible aim is that we "reason together", it's very difficult to understand what "reasoning together" means.

            I got a "final warning" (which is progress, something that at least observes protocol, a documented final warnng that is new here after so many confusing purges) a couple of weeks ago so even bringing this up might be the end for me.

            I think it's reasonable to ask what Essan did to get banned. And it should be easy enough for moderation to explain, if for no other reason, than to clarify the guidelines here for everyone.

            They are still unclear to me.

          • David Nickol

            This is too bad. I don't recall seeing anything in his messages that would justify banning him.

          • fredx2

            Your comment raises too many issues to answer, but one thing is clear: The definition of misogyny is the hatred of women, No one gets to alter that description by adding "and hatred of women is doing things I think are wrong."
            And the quote is just tendentious, it really does not add anything escept to let us know where your thoughts lie, not were the truth lies.

          • Ben Posin

            Jim,

            That's a hell of a card you're playing, and my goal isn't to upset you. You can pick the adjective of your choice, but you're raising your daughters in a tradition that doesn't treat them as equal to men, that seeks to make paternalistic choices for them, and denies them the ability to take on leadership roles. I don't think you're dumb, and I take it as a given that you care about your daughters. But from the outside, there don't really seem to be two sides of the issue. It's just human that from the inside, when one already has a large investment in a group (and possibly was raised in it?), such things are a bit harder to acknowledge.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            FWIW, no, I wasn't exactly raised in the Catholic faith, though it depends on what you mean I guess. My parents had left the Church before I was born, in large measure because of the issues we are discussing right now.

            I hope I have somewhat addressed your other points in my replies to David and Amos, above.

          • "you're raising your daughters in a tradition that doesn't treat them as equal to men, that seeks to make paternalistic choices for them, and denies them the ability to take on leadership roles."

            There's so much misunderstanding here, it's hard to know where to begin.

            First, the Catholic Church does believe men and women are created equally, in terms of dignity and value, and has since the beginning--contrary to many other religions and secularist regimes. But she also recognizes that equality is not the same as identity, and that while men and women are equal in dignity, they are not identical, a fact that all doctors and sane people recognize. Thus, because men and women are equal in dignity but distinct in particulars, men and women have different roles to play in society and in the Church.

            If you chide the Church for "not treating women as equal in men" in the sense of treating them identically, you'd have to also complain that OBGYNs and hospitals don't treat men as equal to women. I doubt you're willing to make that leap, but let me know if I'm wrong.

            Second, you claim the Church denies women the ability to take on leadership roles, which is silly in light of the (massive and easily accessible) data. Women are responsible for over 80% of leadership positions within parishes and dioceses. While it's true only men serve the Church through the priesthood, it's actually women who overwhelmingly and disproportionately control the day-to-day direction of each local Church community. Women aren't prevented from taking on leadership roles in the Church--just the opposite!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Brandon, this is simply not true. Women have no part in the decision making process of the church and are denied any part in the sacraments - the key "activities" of the church, even the very simplest ones. Women were traditionally reviled as the source of the fall, even the Queen of heaven is revered for her passivity: she followed orders without question. Until the 20th century women didn't even have the few, trivial administration roles they posses.

            Women may do the work, but me n hold all the power. And women are respected inasmuch as they obey.

          • "Brandon, this is simply not true. Women have no part in the decision making process of the church and are denied any part in the sacraments - the key "activities" of the church, even the very simplest ones."

            M. Solange, despite your impassioned assertions, they're both false. Even more, they make me wonder whether you've ever set foot in a parish office or even attended a Catholic Mass.

            I've already responded to your first point above ("Women have no part in the decision making process of the church"), but I'll repeat my answer in case you missed or ignored it:

            "The claim that the Church denies women the ability to take on leadership roles [or that they have no part in the Church's decision-making process] is silly in light of the (massive and easily accessible) data to the contrary. Women are responsible for over 80% of leadership positions within parishes and dioceses. While it's true only men serve the Church through the priesthood, it's actually women who overwhelmingly and disproportionately control the day-to-day direction of each local Church community. Women aren't prevented from taking on leadership roles in the Church--just the opposite!"

            The fact that women are not involved in *some* parts of the decision-making process doesn't mean, as you boldly assert, that they "have no part in the decision making process."

            You then asserted that women "are denied any part in the sacraments." Again, this claim is misguided and demonstrably untrue. Women participate fully in six of the Church's seven sacraments (holy orders being the exception), and do so at rates far higher than men. They can even administer at least two sacraments (baptism and marriage) and often assist at others (like the Eucharist, as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and the Anointing of the Sick, as ministers to the sick.)

            For these reasons, your claim that women "are denied any part in the sacraments" is not just wrong, its confusingly off base for someone as typically insightful as you. It displays not even a basic familiarity with that which you criticize.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Brandon, "participation" is hardly a relevant issue. Any catholic can do that. Women are denied - purely on the basis if tradition - the ability to perform the key sacraments. And even non-Catholics can baptize. As for marriage, not even the priest does that one - only the couple. And as it's a sacrament that effects only themselves, it doesn't have any relevance to the power structure if the church. Women's administrative positions are wholly confined to logistics; the essence of church life - the religious stuff - is wholly out if bounds for them. And accusing me of ignorance hardly helps your case: the church only grudgingly allowed for lay Eucharistic ministers and altar servers of the female gender, the more conservative elements would happily purge even these minimal duties.

            And surely you're not claiming that our current setup in America represents the bulk if the church in other parts if the world or before the last century? Have you visited churches in South America, Africa, Italy? Women work, men control the decision making process of everything more important thN how to arrange the flowers and who gets to run the rummage sale.

            You seem to think that because women are allowed to participate in the working process that this constitutes actual power in the church. That is naive.

          • Ignorant Amos

            And surely you're not claiming that our current setup in America represents the bulk if the church in other parts if the world or before the last century? Have you visited churches in South America, Africa, Italy?

            Or Ireland...until us "thick Mick's" woke up and smelt the coffee...as for here in Espana...there is a revolution going on...retreat to the ignorant third world is the only option. Did anyone notice where the latest Pope is from?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And my bloody phone keeps correcting "of" to "if". Sorry.

          • M, we're going down too many other tributaries here. I simply wanted to clarify two woefully misguided assertions you originally made: "Women have no part in the decision making process of the church and are denied any part in the sacraments."

            You seem now to agree that both were mistaken. Women do play a major role in the decision making process of almost every parish and diocese, and they do participate in the sacraments in many ways, from administering them, to assisting with them, to receiving them.

          • "Women are denied - purely on the basis if tradition - the ability to perform the key sacraments."

            I'm curious, why do you think the Catholic Church restrains the priesthood only to men?

          • Ben Posin

            I think that it's because the Catholic Church was founded by men at a time when it was normal to consider women subservient to men, and its traditions have calcified and not caught up with society at large (well, to the extent that modern societies actually do treat women equally, anyway)--a culture/community/religion that values tradition can perpetuate even foolish or awful traditions down the ages, as those raised in the tradition have a hard time recognizing how little sense they make. See, for example, a tradition among some Orthodox Jews calling for the mohel to suck the blood from a just-circumcised infant's penis, which has been known to sometimes cause very serious herpes infections. Oh, the outcry in those communities in New York when Mayor Bloomberg tried to ban that practice.

            Of course, that's not the official reason put forth by the Church, which, if it matches the Kreeft article, is hilariously nonsensical. But that's what I think the actual reason is.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That would be my take on it as well. The fact that Brandon thinks that being a priest is equivalent to deciding how many Religious Education classes to have is sad.

          • "That would be my take on it as well. The fact that Brandon thinks that being a priest is equivalent to deciding how many Religious Education classes to have is sad."

            M. Solange, this is simply not what I said. Once more, you've put words into my mouth--the latest in a long-standing pattern. I never said the two positions are "equivalent". And the condescending conclusion to your comment--"...is sad"--is completely unnecessary.

            Consider this a final warning. If you continue misrepresenting others, or refuse to drop the persistent condescension, we'll have to remove you from the site.

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon,

            You are being ridiculous, and are a biased judge of this. This is unbecoming behavior given the supposed goals of this website. It's true that you did not literally say these words, but I think this is a slightly colorful but reasonable interpretation of the IMPLICATIONS of what you said. That's what happens in discussion and debate: people do not just rebate your carefully phrased words, but also engage with and make use of the consequences and implications of what you say. Were this my website, I would be giving YOU a final warning now for this repeated pattern of tantrum throwing, and refusal to actually engage with people's points.

          • fredx2

            You are wrong. He rebutted her quite nicely, or at least showed that her comments were off the mark. She then pretended that all he had said was exactly what her position was, which is not accurate.

          • fredx2

            Distorting what the other person said and condescension is absolutely critical to the atheist.

          • "Of course, that's not the official reason put forth by the Church, which, if it matches the Kreeft article, is hilariously nonsensical. But that's what I think the actual reason is."

            Your answer above confirmed my suspicion: you aren't actually aware of why the Church holds to an all-male priesthood. You have your own suspicions, which you passionately attack, but that's only to attack a straw man. I'd encourage you first to study the Catholic Church's official position, and the reasoning behind it, before attempting to critique it. The Kreeft book is a solid place to start (and it's short, less than 100 pages).

          • Ben Posin

            We may disagree about the Church's reason, but that doesn't make me wrong. It would help if you would actually state what YOU think the reason is.I read the Kreeft article and was embarrassed on behalf of the Catholic Church at the thought that these might be the supposed reasons for an all male priesthood. And now you want me to "start" by reading a 100 page book by him!

            You're not participating in this conversation in good faith. It's as simple as that. You have refused to address the basic point many have repeated here: that the Catholic church is a hierarchical organization, with women at the bottom. You seem instead to want to laugh that off by saying oh, but priests have to be men, without actually wanting to come out and say why that's the case.

            I'm afraid I have to give you a temporary suspension, please don't post for the next week unless you're able to be a better participant.

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon,

            It's great that women can and do choose to participate in keeping their local parishes going. It's truly bizarre that you think this somehow makes it fair or reasonable to deny them the real positions of authority over the Church. Seriously, I don't think I am alone in scratching my head.

            Your analogy regarding medical treatment is also a little odd. Sure, where men and women are biologically different, they may need different medical treatment. But what is the relevant difference between men and women that makes women incapable of being
            priests, bishops, cardinals, or the pope? I mean, do you think your analogy supports not permitting women to be partners at a law firm? On the board of a business?

          • Ignorant Amos

            What? WHAT?... Ya mean something like Pope Joan for instance?

            Pope Joan was a mythical female pope who allegedly reigned for a few years some time during the Middle Ages. The story first appeared in 13th-century chronicles, and was subsequently spread and embellished throughout Europe. It was widely believed for centuries, though most modern historians consider it fictitious, perhaps deriving from historicized folklore regarding Roman monuments or from anti-papal satire.

            Really? How could such a travesty occur? I mean really, could anyone imagine such nonsense in this day and age, I ask you?

          • Ignorant Amos

            As for such scurrilous yarns subsequent... Like the Chair...

            As a consequence, certain traditions stated that popes throughout the medieval period were required to undergo a procedure wherein they sat on a special chair with a hole in the seat. A cardinal would have the task of putting his hand up the hole to check whether the pope had testicles, or doing a visual examination.This procedure is not taken seriously by most historians, and there is no documented instance. It is probably a scurrilous legend based on the existence of two ancient stone chairs with holes in the seats that probably dated from Roman times and may have been used because of their ancient imperial origins. Their original purpose is obscure.

            Not like the Catholic Church to make stuff up or anything?

          • "It's great that women can and do choose to participate in keeping their local parishes going. It's truly bizarre that you think this somehow makes it fair or reasonable to deny them the real positions of authority over the Church."

            What do you mean by "real positions of authority"? Women make the large majority of day-to-day decisions in the church and control far more institutions (school, parishes, dioceses, hospitals, etc.) than men in the Catholic Church. I'm not sure why you don't consider those "real."

          • Ben Posin

            Brandon,

            This is another example of you playing word games. You seem to want to argue about the word "real" as if that will distract from the fact that the Church has a top down hierarchy, with women denied all but the bottom levels.

            Anyway, let's look at an example of a woman in a position of authority at a Catholic institution: Margaret McBride. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excommunication_of_Margaret_McBride

            She was an administrator and on the ethics committee of St. Joseph's Hospital in Arizona (a Catholic hospital), and a Sister of Mercy, a devout Catholic. Faced with a pregnant woman who had a nearly 100% chance of death if her pregnancy continued, and who was too sick to be moved to another hospital, McBride and the ethics board came to the decision that Catholic Church ethical guideline Directive 47 permitted an abortion in this case. The local bishop disagreed with her interpretation of Catholic doctrine, and excommunicated her. That same bishop terminated the hospital's association with the Catholic Church when the hospital refused to change its policy of agreeing to terminate pregnancy where failing to do so will result in the death of both mother and fetus.

            McBride was a woman in a position of importance and authority (helped run a Catholic hospital) but nonetheless did not have power in the Catholic Church. The real power clearly lay with the bishop--and women can't be bishops.

            As an aside, I read the Kreeft article about why women can't be priests, and found it laughable. The idea that God, which Catholics on this website assert is "not a being, but Being itself" and the "Ground of all being" is, while not male, masculine, and thus priests as a symbol and stand in for God/Jesus must be men....just amazing

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Brandon, how many women are members of the curia? How many are cardinals? How many are bishops? How many are priests? How many are deacons? How many can consecrate the host? How many can perform Extreme Unction? How many women are on Francis' Council of Cardinals? Etc. That's the power in the church, Brandon: the decision makers in the quintessentially top-down hierarchical organization.
            And none of them are women.

          • fredx2

            So? If you don't like it, don't be a Catholic.
            It's our club, we can make up the rules.If you don't like it, make up your own club. We believe that there is a scriptural basis for those beliefs. Fine, you don't. Go be an Episcopalian. - a church that has women priests
            And is collapsing.

          • Max Driffill

            That's fine. But you should at least admit, that your rules don't value women, or their voices. This is a problematic model given that half the people in the church are likely to be women, and half the potential convert population are likely to be women. And given that women tend to expect more of institutions in this regard. Remember, Episcopalian's may be in decline, but the RCC isn't doing incredibly well either. Attendance is in decline, Catholic Identity is in decline.

            http://www.pewforum.org/2013/03/13/strong-catholic-identity-at-a-four-decade-low-in-us/

          • Max Driffill

            Brandon,
            How many women voted in the election of the current pope? How many women run a diocese? How many women run a parish? How many women have positions of significant influence? Oh, that is right 0. Perhaps you will remember when in 2013 the Inquisition, now more benignly referred to as, "The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" stepped into corral and silence the Leadership Conference of Women Religious? Perhaps you looked on with approval as a bunch of men dismissed their perspective and approach. Or perhaps like me you looked on with great sadness at the institutional sexism. Either way, it is just the latest, and not even the worst stain on the behavior of RCC leadership toward women. This is not a pleasant history.

          • fredx2

            It's hard to argue with someone who has digested propaganda pieces and spits them back at you as truth.

          • Max Driffill

            Its also hard to argue with someone who doesn't engage in the content of anther person's argument. Refute the points of M. Solange, demonstrate any errors you see. Accusing one of digesting propaganda is not the same thing as demonstrating the truth of that accusation, or telling us where the flaws in the arguments being made are.

            Is M. Solange wrong? If so where?
            Where do woman demonstrate any key roles in directing, churches, dioceses etc? Do women anywhere in the Catholic hierarchy have any say in the direction of the Church as a whole? Do any woman have a voice in the election of a Pope?

          • Susan

            a fact that all doctors and sane people recognize.

            you'd have to also complain that OBGYNs and hospitals don't treat men as equal to women.

            Yes. Women have different reproductive systems. How is that relevant?

            Women aren't prevented from taking on leadership roles in the Church--just the opposite!

            I'm not sure what you mean by "leadership roles". Who has authority? Who makes the rules? Women?

          • Yes. Women have different reproductive systems. How is that relevant?

            It's a relevant analogy because it confirms that men and women can be "equal" in regards to some things but not others. Thus, a woman can be anatomically, emotionally, and socially distinct from men while being equally in dignity and value. Likewise, God could have designed men and women equally while deigning they serve different roles in his Church.

            "I'm not sure what you mean by "leadership roles". Who has authority? Who makes the rules? Women?"

            I mean a role where someone leads others. By this definition, women dominate positions of leadership in the Church. They also have more authority over day-to-day activities and operation in most parishes and dioceses, and they make plenty of rules (more than men, in my experience.)

          • Susan

            Thus, a woman can be anatomically, emotionally, and socially distinct from men while being equally in dignity

            In what relevant way are women distinct from men that would justify them being prohibited from being in positions of authority?

            they make plenty of rules (more than men, in my experience.)

            What sort of rules do they make?

          • Ignorant Amos

            What sort of rules do they make?

            Well, the ones the men allow them to make...how silly are you.

            If women were permitted to make any rules they pleased, the RCC would be FUBAR'd.

          • "In what relevant way are women distinct from men that would justify them being prohibited from being in positions of authority?"

            There is no reason why women can't hold positions of authority in the Catholic Church. That's why the majority of leadership positions throughout the Church's institutions are held by women, a point I've repeatedly made.

            Now, if you're interested in why women cannot be priests, I suggest reading this article for starters (and then the slim book from which its excerpted):

            http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/sexual-symbolism.htm

            "What sort of rules do they make?"

            Visit any parish or diocese and you'll see a long flow of guidelines, rules, and policies, which are mostly implemented, statistically, by women.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Brandon, you continue to fail to address the points we are making. The Catholic Church is a top-down organization. Power lies in the hands of the priests and the bishops. Women are not permitted to be priests or bishops, therefore they have no power. They are allowed to work to keep the place running, but that's all.

            You keep dodging the point, and claiming that women make rules and then chickening out on actually, y'know, providing any is simply not trying to address our points.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And how many if these day to day activities are religious in nature. Do women set church policy? Are women serving as priests, bishops, cardinals? THATS where the church power is; not in committee heads.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The pope that we will have 50 years from now is most likely being educated in his understanding of the faith right now by a woman. Does true authority lie with that future pope, or with the woman who is shaping his understanding of the world? Author-ity consists of author-ing the story. Who do you see as having more influence in shaping the story? To me it is more complex than what I might be able to capture in a sound-bite.

          • fredx2

            And here you have the fundamental problem. As soon as your point out that women do have real power in the church, they dismiss all of that power as not being power.

            It is true that they do not have certain kinds of power - sacramental, etc. And the reason for that is biblical. So the church does not feel it can change that.

            However, they can be theologians and have theological input. The problem is, unfortunately, many current women theologians see their job not to interpret scripture, but to interpret it in a feminist way,and so they issue sometimes obvious garbage that no one listens to.

            The Pope recently appointed multiple women to various curia commettees,etc

            Those are the Catholic beliefs. If you find them unjust, do not be a Catholic.

            "Pope Francis has named British sociologist and professor, Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. she is the second female president of the papal academy"

            "Pope Francis has appointed a former child victim as one of the first members of a new commission to help the Catholic Church put an end to clerical sexual abuseToday, Marie Collins is one of four lay women appointed by Pope Francis to an eight-member Vatican commission for the protection of children. The appointments have astonished the Catholic world for they place the women involved in positions of authority usually reserved for Cardinals and high-ranking clerics, demonstrating a dramatic alteration in papal regard for women and their scope for participation in Church governance.."

          • Ignorant Amos

            Pass the bucket, I need to vomit.

          • David Nickol

            Brandon, I don't think you are getting anywhere near the heart of the issue. Women are clearly subordinated by certain aspects of Catholicism and its understand of the roles of the sexes. Men are the leaders, and women are the followers. That is (or so it seems to me) essentially the reason why women cannot be priests. They are not men, and men are "fathers and leaders," while women are "mothers and followers."

            In the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on Woman, the word subordinate or subordination occurs eight times in describing the role of women in society or the home, and in every case the encyclopedia article is endorsing that subordination (although at times acknowledging it has gone too far). For example, we have the following:

            The testimony of history as to the position of woman in all pre-Christian and non-Christian peoples may be summed up as follows: No people has completely misjudged the natural position of woman, so that everywhere woman appears in greater or less subordination to man.

            In other words, the fact that women in every society are in subordinate roles indicates that this is the way nature meant them to be. And this:

            In Christianized society also man was to act as the lawfulrepresentative of authority, and the lawful defender of rights, in the family, just as in the civil, national, and religiouscommunity. Therefore, the social position of woman remains in Christianity that of subordination to man, wherever the two sexes by necessity find themselves obliged to supplement each other in common activity. The woman develops her authority, founded in human dignity, in connection with, and subordinate to, the man in domestic society as the mistress of the home. At the same time the indispensable motherly influence extends from the home over the development of law and custom. While, however, man is called to share directly in the affairs of the state, female influence can be ordinarily exerted upon such matters only indirectly. Consequently, it is only in exceptional cases that in Christian kingdoms the direct sovereignty is placed in the hands of woman, as is shown by the women who have ascended thrones. In the Church this exception is excluded, so far as it refers to the clerical office. The same Apostle who so energetically maintained the personal independence of woman, forbids to women authoritative speech in the religious assemblies and the supremacy over man (1 Timothy 2:11, 12). Nevertheless, personalities like Pulcheria, Hildegarde, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Jesus show how great the extraordinary, indirect influence of woman can be in the domain of the Church.

            You say:

            Women aren't prevented from taking on leadership roles in the Church--just the opposite!

            Could you name some of these roles?

          • Ignorant Amos

            David, I know you are non partisan...but I Iike how you say it as it is....kudos.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Tip O'Neill had the insight that "all politics is local". It's an exaggeration, of course, but it's close to being true. The specific decisions made by parish councils (generally having a balanced composition of men and women, in my experience) and religious education committees (generally mostly composed of women, in my experience) are not as insignificant as so many here seem to think. Also, the indirect influence that laypeople (both men and women) have on the decisions of parish priests is not as insignificant as many seem to think. I think that lay influence could and should be increasingly formalized, as a safeguard against despotic priests who undeniably still do exist. In the parishes that I have participated in, the priests have always listened to the parish councils, advising, but ultimately respecting the conclusions of those councils. Nonetheless, I would agree that relying only on the beneficence of priests is not a safe strategy in general.

            To me, the important point is that there need not be such a strong link between worldly decision-making power in the Church and the priesthood, even if that link has been there historically. Male-only priesthood has historically implied male-only decision-making power, but I think the two have been greatly de-linked already, and I think it is reasonable to expect that de-linking to continue.

            At the level of the Vatican, I think more change is needed. We now hear hints that Pope Francis could appoint a female cardinal. Maybe some day the conclave will be 50% women. Not in my lifetime, I am sure, but who knows.

          • fredx2

            David: Could you please explain to me why those protestant denominations that have women priests are also the ones that are collapsing and virtually imploding?

          • David Nickol

            Could you please explain to me why those protestant denominations that have women priests are also the ones that are collapsing and virtually imploding?

            That is not the question under discussion. If there is one true correct approach to Christianity, be it Catholicism or some other denomination, certainly we would not measure it by the rate it is growing or shrinking. Jesus did not say, "By their growth rate you shall know them."

            The issue is the position of women in the Church and in the world as seen by Catholicism. The issue is whether the Church sees women as subordinate to men. As I understand the teachings of the Church on gender, the Church does indeed see women as subordinate to men. It seems to me that the Catholic Church views women pretty much as it did when the old (1912?) Catholic Encyclopedia was written. The statistics for shrinkage and growth of Christian denominations or world religions tells me nothing about how the Church views the role of women. Doing the right thing is not necessarily popular, so a denomination that ordains women and loses members is not necessarily guilty of going in the wrong direction theologically just because it is losing members.

            The Catholic Encyclopedia said the following:

            Therefore, the social position of woman remains in Christianity that of subordination to man, wherever the two sexes by necessity find themselves obliged to supplement each other in common activity.

            Does that reflect the position of the Catholic Church, or does it merely reflect the attitude of the men of the early 20th century who wrote the Catholic Encyclopedia?

          • Max Driffill

            Or it is saying that you, being close to an institution about which you care a great deal, and think has some value, cannot see that it doesn't value women very much. It is hard to view the history of the Catholic Church, stretching into antiquity, to the present day as being an organization that has been friendly toward women, or their concerns. Consider the brisk dismissal of the Women Religious. Or the demand that women never seek divorce, or have an abortion to save their own lives. It may not be woman hating in the strictest sense of the word misogyny, but it surely cannot be confused with an organization or system of thought that respects the minds, or bodies of women very much.

          • fredx2

            You want to interpret the fact that the church does not have women priests as "does not value women much" That is a shallow sound bite sort of thing that is beneath you.
            Do you know what women's concerns are?.First of all, I would think it would be not to be called idiots. Yet that is what you do to the millions of women who are happy in the church, and do NOT see the fact that they can't be a priest as the most enormous slap in the face to humanity, ever. Most don't care, because they do not have a rigid. political insistence in equality at all costs. They need the church to focus on their spiritual growth and comfort, and look to it to be wise when they are not. They realize that the church is a voluntary organization, not a government, and they are free to go whenever they want.
            Who are you to say who respects the minds of women? Or their bodies? You who want them to fill their bodies with chemicals? That the WHO has said is carcinogenic? Leave women alone to decide for themselves what they want and what they believe. The sheer arrogance of you guys on this issue is appalling.
            It's a voluntary organization. It decides what it wants to do based on its interpretation of scripture. That's called freedom. If you don't like it, don't be a Catholic.

          • Max Driffill

            Fredx2

            I won't be Catholic, (I once was), but I will feel free to criticize any aspect of the Church that I feel is open to critique.

            "You want to interpret the fact that the church does not have women priests as "does not value women much" That is a shallow sound bite sort of thing that is beneath you.'

            How could it value women much? They have no voice in the organization. Catholic men, decide what women should do, or not do with their own bodies. How is it shallow to notice this?

            "Do you know what women's concerns are?"

            I know what some women's concerns are, because I actually listen to women. However, I am not a sprawling organization of whom half my members are women. If I was such an organization, I would want women in positions of leadership, because I would want their perspectives and voices helping guide my organization.

            "First of all, I would think it would be not to be called idiots. Yet that is what you do to the millions of women who are happy in the church, and do NOT see the fact that they can't be a priest as the most enormous slap in the face to humanity, ever."

            Nothing I have said could be construed as calling women in the RCC idiots. If I thought they were idiots, I would say so. They may be happy in the church, and not want to be priests , and may not see their preclusion from being priests as a slap in the face. That does not change the fact that RCC leadership fails to value the perspective of women enough to involve them deeply in the inner workings and direction of the church. Glad they are happy, but that doesn't change the fact the church doesn't really care, ultimately if they are or not. How do we know this? Because they occupy not one meaningful position of power in the RCC structures of power.

            "Most don't care, because they do not have a rigid. political insistence in equality at all costs."

            How do you know this? Have any citations? Or is this just your gut instinct here?

            They need the church to focus on their spiritual growth and comfort, and look to it to be wise when they are not."

            However the Church can intrude on their physical lives too,

            They realize that the church is a voluntary organization, not a government, and they are free to go whenever they want."

            It is not as easy to leave for everyone. Children are stuck engaged in church whether they like it or not, at least until the parent tires of forcing the kids (though some parents are insistent). Nor is it always easy for a woman who is married to a catholic man to simply leave the church. These are not the simple cut and dried matters you make them out to be.

            "Who are you to say who respects the minds of women? Or their bodies?"
            I can say, any organization that denies, systematically, some portion of their members from having a say in the governance, interpretation and implementation of rules for its members, specifically the excluded members, does not respect minds, or perspectives of the group being shut out.

            You who want them to fill their bodies with chemicals?" I don't want women to do anything. If a woman wants to be on the pill, that is cool by me. Its their body. And the pill is quite safe.
            "That the WHO has said is carcinogenic?"
            Scientific citation from a respected medical journal please.

            Leave women alone to decide for themselves what they want and what they believe. The sheer arrogance of you guys on this issue is appalling.

            All I am doing is voicing my critique. Any woman listening can factor this critique into their analysis. There is no arrogance in my position.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm more than happy to go into why the catholic tradition is fundamentally anti-woman.

          • I'm more than happy to go into why the catholic tradition is fundamentally anti-woman."

            Despite the strange and concerning fact that discussing apparently anti-woman bigotry would make you "happy," we already have a thread that deals with this question. Let's keep the conversation there: Does the Catholic Church Hate Women?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            He asked to clarify a point that came up in this conversation. I appreciate your desire to organize and compartmentalize conversations, but often the most productive conversations consist of not entirely on topic posts. That's how creative thinking works.

          • Ben Posin

            "Despite the strange and concerning fact that discussing apparently anti-woman bigotry would make you "happy," "

            This is a really sad comment to see from you, especially since you very recently went after both Solange and myself for, as you thought, misrepresenting you. We both have reason to suspect the fundamentally anti-woman nature of catholic tradition is a source of unhappiness for Solange, despite his use of a standard idiom to show his willingness to further discuss the subject.

            I'll repeat that your posts on this subject have shown a real disconnect with reality, and your refusal to engage with the legitimate responses from others underlines this. Its a pretty glaring blow to any perception that you are capable of reasonably assessing the nature of your own church.

            As I said to Kevin: aim higher.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why did you DELIBERATELY misinterpret what I said? Apparently you did not bother to read the comments that set that context. Why be so rude? You dislike me that much?

          • fredx2

            Again, a slap in the face of the milions of faithful Catholic women, who you say are too dumb to know what is good for them.

          • Max Driffill

            Didn't you just complain about twisting people's words in another comment? Where did M. say women in the Catholic Church were, "too dumb to know what is good for them?"

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words you took as a personal insult because you took it as an attack on your parenting skills.

          • fredx2

            The point is that using a loaded word like misogynistic detracts from serious conversation. No serious person would ever say that the Catholic church hates women. To say so indicates a deep disrespect for the hundreds of millions of women that have no problem with the church, and presumes her tiny group and their distorted view of womenhood is what ALL women must join in.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Spelling is not one of my strong points. That's what machines are for.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Solange, look. My comment on your typo was a cheap shot. I won't do it again. As it turns out, I have posted at least one spelling error myself even in the short time since this started. So, I was wrong.

            Could I just ask you to reflect a little on why your initial comment might also have been a cheap shot? If you want to defend a comment like that, or qualify what you mean, I have no problem with that. David Nickol had a very well-defended and nuanced opinion that he provided, and that kind of thing is fine. But when you leave it out there on its own, can you see that that is just begging for a street fight?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Given my knowledge of the history of the church, I didn't think it was a particularly contentious claim. I admit I was puzzled by the vehemence of your reaction until you revealed that you are raising your daughters in this tradition.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I think this is a helpful primer on the meaning of "revelation", and I appreciate that on the whole it is presented in a way that emphasizes the continuity between general revelation, specific revelation, and Christian revelation.

    I only wish the author had found a different way of making this point:

    If it is true, then every other religion really is inferior to Christianity.

    I don't technically disagree, but technical correctness is not the only consideration. Why not state it in a more harmonizing, less denigrating way, like:

    If it is true, then Christianity is the proper fulfillment of all other religious expression.

    ?

    • Loreen Lee

      I entirely agree that this is a good primer of the meaning of 'revelation'. However, I read an article by Mark Shea (I believe) which contrasted private with public revelation, both of which were more related to Christian revelation.
      As usual, the use of definitions within different contexts can be confusing, at least initially. This is true in this instance because the specific revelation was particularly Christian orientated.

      I believe that my experience is 'open' to revelation within an on-going context. It occurs when I have insights into particular personal 'problems', and even when I see character and actions in a new light, which 'reveals' to me a greater understanding. In this sense even scientific 'discoveries' could be put under the term 'specific revelations'. Unfortunately, however, this would also apply to 'mystical experiences' which seemingly are deemed to be either the inspirations of a saint or the ramblings of a madman/woman.

      On the 'other point'; that God IS existence, I have also read the distinction that God is subsist-ant rather than exist-ent. I will keep to the distinction that God is best related to a concept of consciousness. I liked the contrast between 'order' (the third category of beauty, in the triune relationships I have been talking about) and 'intelligence' or 'truth'.

      But enough of this. I'm going to wait and merely read more of the comments. I expect it to be a very 'provocative' discussion.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I know had a minor complaint about this post, but now that I see all these other disparaging remarks I want to rush to its defense.

      This post makes the very valuable contribution of pointing out that revelation is not just what we read in the bible, or in accounts of miracles. I don't think that point is widely appreciated, and I think it is very important. It is very important to realize, for example, that our evolving scientific understanding of the universe is a component of revelation.

      • Loreen Lee

        Perhaps the use of the word 'divine' as in 'divine revelation' would make the qualifying distinction between the scientific and the mystical. So I agree. But are scientific revelations merely a subcategory? Is what is revealed about the cosmos per se, or do they always refer as revelation to God's 'kingdom, power and glory'?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I don't think we need to distinguish between "revelation" and "divine revelation". When we understand something new in science, that is a revelation of the divine order. I also don't think there is any need to refer explicitly to the "kingdom, power, and glory". Our growth in understanding and our increasing awareness of the beauty of the universe is part of the coming of the kingdom, whether we say it that way or not.

          • Loreen Lee

            And with the help of Kant, I identify the power with order and beauty, and the glory with Goodness, itself. Kant by the way says in The Power of Judgment that it is the sublime that makes us aware of the awe-full-ness of that kingdom, whether conceived socially/politically or as the cosmos.
            And thanks for reminding me that words are not always 'necessary'.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        You should be clearer: a particular catholic is offering a generally accepted CATHOLIC view of revelation. It does not for all theists, it certainly doesn't hold for atheists. We ask the perfectly legitimate question: how do you distinguish revelation from lunacy?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Fair question. I think I need to approach it differently depending on this: are you asking how I convince myself that *I* am not a lunatic, or are you asking how I distinguish lunacy from revelation in testimony received from others?

        • fredx2

          Lunacy is generally quickly recognized as such and discarded by the vast bulk of people, who are rational. Revelation seems to have some inherent validity to it, and people are drawn to it.

          • Max Driffill

            So, Joseph Smith's revelations have some validity then? Mohammed's? Jim Jones'? If you grant it for one, you must grant it for all.

  • My first comment on this page has the more important content. Here's the rest.

    We’re wired to look at the awesome and delicate forces of nature and be filled with wonder and fear and confusion and a sense of worship. It’s part of being human. It is also one of the traits of human beings that atheists need to account for.

    Technically that's four traits. And of course we know the origin of the human body, inclusive of the human brain which contains the mechanisms that cause us to feel wonder, fear, confusion, and worshipfulness. Fear has a very clear evolutionary usefulness. Confusion is just the feeling of not understanding a situation, and there's a clear evolutionary usefulness to understanding a situation. Wonder is several clusters of emotions but the relevant one here is surprise plus recognition of desirable qualities; it may not have been selected for as single whole, but the components (startle reflex, pattern recognition, valuation) that make up wonder all have clear evolutionary usefulness. Worshipfulness is the emotion corresponding to reverent homage: basically a sense of formality (i.e. which is just caution due to unfamiliarity) plus submissiveness (which we have due to our evolutionary history as apes).

    So yeah, regarding these traits atheists have got a clear conceptual account and significant evidence of their evolutionary history. What have theists got other than "Goddidit"?

    Do we feel awe and wonder when we look up at the sun, moon, and stars simply because they’re big and we’re small?

    In the modern world, yes. There's a pretty obvious evolutionary advantage to awe (mild fear and submissiveness) of things bigger than you. A historical aside: C.S. Lewis in The Discarded Image wrote that, prior to electric lighting, people primarily wrote about wonderment about things that shined or glowed, not about big things.

    why are we filled with curiosity and wonder when we study a colony of ants who toil in military order and communicate in ways we cannot comprehend to build a gigantic ant colony? Is it just because we are faced with something we cannot explain? If so, then why are we still filled with wonder when we hold a newborn, whose origins we can explain?

    Heh, maybe you should talk to a myrmecologist about what we do and don't understand about ant colonies. :) Not everyone is fascinated by them, and probably not everyone who is fascinated by them is fascinated in the same way, but for me, at least, they're fun to watch because they make such great images, with complexity emerging from very simple rules followed by independent agents without any overarching guiding mind.

    These feelings of wonder, awe, fear, and joy are not necessarily an argument for the existence of God, but they are a realization that within human experience something greater than mere scientific experimentation and verification is going on.

    Correct, we're not rational animals plopped into a world for the hell of it; we're organisms who evolved here and have all the complex types of values that were helpful in keeping our ancestors alive and reproductive.

    This transaction between our curiosity and what is there to be discovered we might call “general revelation”.

    From an atheist perspective this sounds like puddle thinking. The world isn't trying to reveal anything to us; we are curious about it because curiosity helped our ancestors survive. Lots of animals are curious, not just humans.

    "Specific" revelation is the next step. Religious people of all kinds claim some sort of communication with beings that from this world beyond. They may come through individuals in a trance state, they may come through visions or auditory experiences or inner locutions. They may result in a whole range of religious myths, stories, rituals, and beliefs.

    This makes me think of the Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other". Giving the two processes similar names doesn't coerce their actual characteristics into being similar. One is an adaptation to an ecological niche over evolutionary time, and the other is hallucinations and ghost stories.

    Within this wider human experience the Jews said God spoke to their ancestors in particular ways. ...

    Well, so they say. But there isn't evidence to support that. There's considerable evidence that much of the historical texts in the Hebrew scriptures, while having nuggets of facts, are stories that were developed through years of oral retellings for highly partisan, shifting tribal reasons.

    Within this tradition God also ... Jesus Christ is therefore the ultimate self revelation of God to humanity.

    Nah. You can't just skip from what happened in a story to claims about reality. It's missing all the steps in between where you're supposed to reference actual evidence for thinking that the ancient near eastern tribal stories are true and that we can make inferences from them to reality beyond time and space.

    Theologians call it “the scandal of particularity”—that the one who is ipsum esse subsistans becomes a squawking infant in a cattle stall, grows up to be an itinerant preacher, dies unjustly as a supposed rebel leader and then rises from the dead.

    Hm, so I Googled this and the doctrinal works that I found all say that the "scandal of particularity" is the claim that Jesus is the only savior for all humans and that all other religions are false. That's a separate problem with Christianity. The problem that you're discussing is, I think, just the "mystery of the Incarnation". In either case, though, giving a fancy name to a problematic lack of evidence for a whopper of a claim doesn't mean we get to rationally ignore the problem and go on to keep believing the whopper anyway.

    A communicating, thinking, reasoning, feeling, sentient person could not arise from what is a mere force. How can that which is superior come from that which is inferior?

    "Superior" and "inferior" are evaluative judgments that we can make according to whatever standards we choose. They're not properties that exist out there in the world independently of our choices and evaluations. So the question, properly asked, is: How can what we think is superior in some way come from that which we think is inferior in some way? That clarification makes it easy to see that our evaluative choices are irrelevant to the actual processes by which one thing comes from another. Then we can move on to scientific examination and see that, for example, communication, thinking, reasoning, feeling, and sentience all have long evolutionary pedigrees and are adequately accounted for by the natural processes of evolution and neurology.

    We realize that this revelation is a revolution. If it is true, then it turns everything upside down.

    And contrariwise, if it is false, then the whole world turns rightside up again.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Noah, you have done a masterful job of demolishing Fr. Longennecker's OP.

      The reason it is so eminently destroyable is that it was probably written for an audience of believers--maybe even as a homily. It was certainly not written to engage with atheists.

      Which makes me wonder, why do soft lobs like this keep being posted on SN?

      • Ben Posin

        Kevin,

        You might be right. Maybe this was written for an audience of believers. That makes me wonder though why it makes sense to direct such drivel at believers; isn't it worrying that you think the author wouldn't expect them to engage with it?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Ben, it is not drivel.

          The OP explains how God reveals himself both through nature and by divine interventions.

          The author assumes his audience already believes that God exists, that he is capable of making himself known, and that he does so both naturally and supernaturally.

          An author should not make these kinds of assumptions on a site like SN. But that is not Fr. Longenecker's problem, because he was not writing for atheists or agnostics.

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin,

            Drivel is harsh word, but honestly this article looks like one of those jokes where you people write Step 1, Step 2, ??, Profit.

            It basically just asserts 1, God is the ground of all being, 2 revelation,3 rosaries. How does revelation work, how do we know it's reliable, why should we think religious revelation is actually a real thing as opposed to delusion or confirmation bias or just making stuff up (purgatory, anyone?), how do we choose one religion's revelation over another, etc.? None of that's in the article. Is it even logically sensible to say that something that is "existence itself" could have the characteristics and qualities that are the supposed result of revelation? I'd say one hundred times no, and there's no reason to think otherwise from the article.

            Noah Luck has already demonstrated the silliness of that content actually in the article.

            Don't be satisfied with this sort of thing. Aim higher!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You are demanding the article do something the author never intended it to do and then you berate the article for not doing it.

            Why don't you "aim higher" and write something for SN?

          • Ben Posin

            What is it the article *does* do?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Without carefully analyzing it, I'd say (1) it reminds believers that when we say God exists we mean something different than "I exist"; (2) it explains that there are two kinds of revelation, natural and supernatural; (3) he provides links among other religions, "salvation history," and these two kinds of revelation.

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin,

            We'll have to agree to disagree. Noah did a pretty decent idea showing how nutty the whole thing is, and I'd rather not try to duplicate his efforts right now. I will say that you and I have a real different idea of what it means to "explain" something.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The "thing" is only nutty if you were expecting the writer to justify everything he said on the basis of reason alone. If that had been Fr. Longenecker's goal, he would have taken one point out of maybe twenty and written an essay on just that one thing.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      This makes me think of the Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the other". Giving the two processes similar names doesn't coerce their actual characteristics into being similar. One is an adaptation to an ecological niche over evolutionary time, and the other is hallucinations and ghost stories.

      There is more continuity there than you are acknowledging. Those hallucinations and ghost stories (I'll stipulate to that characterization for the sake of argument) are higher order adaptations to our environment. Our environment turned us into symbolic creatures, and our symbolic needs now need to be met. The symbolic nature of revelation is the continuation and the fulfillment of our adaptive response to reality.

      • Hm, maybe. But we did we really have "symbolic needs" or face evolutionary pressures on account of the usefulness of hallucinations and ghost stories? I'm inclined to think that the physiological susceptibility to those is just a spandrel, and that the myths that got passed down to us are at most a product of memetic evolution.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          We had a need to develop symbolic thinking, right? And don't you think that the natural sequela of symbolic thinking is the assignment of meaning to all things?

          I'm inclined to think that the physiological susceptibility to those is just a spandrel

          I know that's a popular theory, but there is no specific evidence for that. One could also blithely propose that our ability to think rationally is nothing more than a spandrel. Yet most of us assume that rational thinking brings us closer to the truth of things, while (inexplicably, in my view) relatively fewer of us think that seem to think that stories and mystical experiences bring us closer to the truth of things.

          myths that got passed down to us are at most a product of memetic evolution.

          That is no denigration, in my opinion. For example, if we compare Christian mythology to sun worship, the crucifixion can be seen as an evolution of the meme of the setting sun, and the resurrection can be see as the evolution of the meme of the rising sun. So what? That doesn't mean it isn't true. I am more sure that it is true because it represents the product of memetic evolution over all these centuries of our symbolic awareness.

          • We had a need to develop symbolic thinking, right?

            Maybe. I doubt that the environment of pre-speech humans put significant evolutionary pressure on them to think symbolically. Most social animals get by just fine with a very limited supply of crude, partly-instinctive symbols. Even now much of my daily thought is not symbolic and consists mostly of manipulating images and sounds from memory, fleeting intuitions, and many unconscious operations.

            At some point in our evolution there seems to have been a mutation that let us suddenly do grammar, probably in a FOXP2 or related gene like in birds. Since we're a social species, there was then strong selection pressure to be in the in-group that could speak better, and consequently that mutation and others that made a better voicebox spread quickly in the human population.

            And don't you think that the natural sequela of symbolic thinking is the assignment of meaning to all things?

            Sequela? No, I don't think that assigning meaning is a pathological condition or that symbolic thinking is a disease.

            I know that's a popular theory, but there is no specific evidence for that.

            True. I think the general evidence that "Hallucination is bad" is adequate, though, to suppose it wasn't selected for.

            if we compare Christian mythology to sun worship, the crucifixion can be seen as an evolution of the meme of the setting sun, and the resurrection can be see as the evolution of the meme of the rising sun.

            What? No, that's not how it happened. Christianity's set of ideas evolved from somewhat-Hellenized Judaism. The Romans really crucified people. That has nothing to do with the setting sun. The resurrection story of Jesus most likely was influenced by earlier resurrection myths, and possibly even developed from one of them.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sequela? No, I wouldn't say that assigning meaning is a pathological condition or that symbolic thinking is a disease.

            Oops, thanks. I picked the term up in biomedical space and had incorrectly assumed that it also had a more general meaning like "consequence". I guess not.

            What? No, that's not how it happened. Christianity's set of ideas evolved from somewhat-Hellenized Judaism.

            I understand the proximate antecedents to Christianity that you are describing, but all of that occured in a more general context of human experience. I imagine that from our first days of symbolic thinking, we have been able to see in the rising sun a sign of hope. I should not have used the term "sun worship" for talking about such a general sensibility, I guess, but I think the essence of my point still stands.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            And just to be clear, I know the Romans really crucified people. That's what I was trying to get at when I said:

            I happen to believe that the Christian story is not JUST the evolution of a meme, but that it is the completion of a meme in the context of something that actually happened.

            Something actually happened, including the crucifixion and (I believe) the resurrection, and whatever it was exactly that happened, the first Christians interpreted those things that actually happened as the ultimate expression of hope being found at the limits of godforsakenness. In so doing, they found a way to give explicit expression to a hope that has been with us from our earliest pre-human days, a hope that had been expressed incompletely in other times and cultures as the rising of the sun.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sorry to keep responding piecemeal ...

            Just so you don't think I am making this stuff up, here is some evidence that Jewish thought (and later, Christian thought) drew from a meme of the rising sun:

            Is.41:25

            I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes— one from the rising sun who calls on my name. He treads on rulers as if they were mortar, as if he were a potter treading the clay.

            Ezek.43:4

            The glory of the Lord entered the temple through the gate facing east.

            Mal.4:2

            But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.

            Lk.1:78

            because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

            2Pet.1:19

            We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

    • EssanBrandt

      You sir have put things into a very rational perspective and summed it up very well in a nutshell.

      We're not rational animals plopped into a world for the hell of it;
      we're organisms who evolved here and have all the complex types of
      values that were helpful in keeping our ancestors alive and
      reproductive.

      And of course the evolution of a propensity for superstition and belief in religion is also part of the evolved traits of the human brain, that were benefical for survival....and perhaps still are. These traits have no doubt been beneficial and even critical, for the development of "civilization" in the formation of tribes and cultures. Which I am sure is included in your astute preamble that I quoted at the beginning of my reply. I don't think much more that is significant, can be added in further comments on the article...said article which cannot be be interpreted as anything other than a desperate grab for Catholic credibility by SN.

      • You have a point. I'm not fully convinced that a propensity for superstition is a trait of the human brain that was specifically evolved; rather, I suspect that it may just be a feature of how neural nets work that biological evolution can't easily change. Neurons work largely by making connections between sensory-inputs that occur together; it's hard to guess what physiology could distinguish causation from mere correlation. Fortunately, cultural evolution is much faster than biological evolution, and has given us a flawed but effective tool with which we can correct the deeper flaws of our habitual modes of thought:

        https://scontent-a-dfw.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/t1.0-9/10338727_837802089574137_5643958656681172927_n.jpg

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        And of course the evolution of a propensity for superstition and belief in religion is also part of the evolved traits of the human brain, that were benefical for survival....and perhaps still are. These traits have no doubt been beneficial and even critical, for the development of "civilization" in the formation of tribes and cultures.

        This is a strange assessment in the context of a statement that disparages religious sensibility. If religious sensibility has helped us to proper (and not just briefly, but over the long haul), doesn't that suggest to you that religious sensibility is a correct response to reality?

        • EssanBrandt

          This is a strange assessment in the context of a statement that disparages religious sensibility.

          Excuse me, but my comment was not making disparaging comments about religious sensibility or anything else....was only expressing a reasonable probability in the evolution of the propensity for religion and/or superstition.

        • Danny Getchell

          It suggests that religious sensibility in general is a useful response to reality. It does not suggest that any particular flavor of religious sensibility is "correct" with respect to any other.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's true, though in the absence of additional information, I think it is reasonable to give more credence to religious systems that have a long track record of association with flourishing cultures. Based on that criteria alone -- and recognizing that there are other considerations -- it would be reasonable to give more consideration to, say, Judaism and Hinduism than to, say, Baha'i or Mormonism.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Just remember that argument from longevity is a fallacy.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's fine, but then I think one also needs to keep that in mind in other contexts. I have seen it proposed that rational thinking must provide insight into reality because it is such an evolved response to the stimuli of reality. That amounts to saying that we know rational thinking is correct just because it has helped us survive for such a long time. If argument from longevity is a fallacy, then this evolutionary defense of rational thinking has to also be discounted and there must be something else that grounds the correctness of rational thinking.

          • Agni Ashwin

            Perhaps Mormonism (or Baha'i) are just different forms of Judaism?

    • I like your comments but I do not think atheists should accept that we must account for anything. Atheism is not a world view.

      My world view does not purport to account for everything. Ultimately no world view is likely to be able to account for everything. At the end of the day theists simply claim things like there is a ground of existence that accounts for existence and that this accounts for something.

  • Max Driffill

    "We’re wired to look at the awesome and delicate forces of nature and be filled with wonder and fear and confusion and a sense of worship. It’s part of being human. It is also one of the traits of human beings that atheists need to account for."

    I'm not sure why atheists need to account for wonder, fear, or confusion especially. And I don't know if there is an innate worship instinct. We do tend to attribute agency too much, but that is well accounted for by evolution.

  • lee faber

    the 'esse ipsum subsistens' talk isn't a retreat, it's just classic Thomas Aquinas/Thomism. Not to say that the terms 'thomism' and 'catholicism' are coextensive. Anyway, the claim amounts to saying God is radically transcendent, not that there is no God. The scotists prefer to express this instead with the notion of infinity.

    • It is a retreat from Thomas Aquinas's ideas at the time he wrote the Summa, at least. He was perfectly willing to argue that God definitely existed.

      • GCBill

        To be fair, I think Aquinas probably used the word "exist" because we don't really have a separate word for the way in which Being itself "exists." It makes his work confusing to read, but I don't think it's much different than what modern analytical Thomism actually intends to say about God.

        • Well that depends: What's the "way in which Being itself 'exists'"?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That's why I suspect the arguments at this level are simply semantic games. And it's why I am a member of the Zen Jihad.

          • GCBill

            I think "Being itself" is supposed to exist necessarily, whereas other "beings" exist by virtue of Divine Conservation.

            Most atheists (myself included) subscribe to the idea of existential inertia, on which Divine Conservation would be unnecessary.

          • For my own part, when I let myself think too long about what it means for something to "exist", it starts looking to me like existence is not really any different than possibility, and that the most plausible scenario is a Plenitude, that "everything that can exist does" somewhere. But that's more a fact about my psychology than about the world. I'll toast to a day when science can disprove that quasi-superstition of mine. :)

          • GCBill

            I'm tempted by that view too, but I'm not sure how robust a notion of "can exist" I should employ. Should I restrict it to mere logical necessity as the modal realists do, or should I also allow that "laws of nature" can also be necessary in a different sense? Furthermore, I'm not sure how to settle the question scientifically, since "possible worlds" need not be able to interact with our world. I'm not even sure if reality will be describable "through and through" by logic, although I'd certainly like that to be the case.

          • Loreen Lee

            Can something 'exist' as a possibility? Is there someone who knows about modal logic that could answer this? And how about Aristotle's potency and actuality? I could even say of myself in this regard, (my own quasi-superstition) that I don't 'actually' exist - yet. I am 'certainly' not a being that knows what I am 'in itself'. (Kant's noumena or the subsistent God talked about in this post). Cheers!!!! (Such thinking can actually make more 'sense'? if you believe that ideas 'exist'. Some mathematicians belief this about numbers, for instance. And if there were some 'angels' around today, (theoretically) we humans might find it advantageous to consider that there could be higher intelligences somewhere - out there)

          • btpcmsag

            There are two modes of existence: being in act (esse) and being in potency (posse). They are related but not identical. To confuse them is the beginning of lots of trouble, which is what you're getting into right here, with "...what it means for something to "exist", it starts looking to me like existence is not really any different than possibility,..." And while you're waiting for "science" to "disprove that quasi-superstition," try to remember that science is not in the business of proving or disproving anything at all. There are no "proofs" in science, only data, analysis, and interpretation. Don't get science confused with geometry or logic. Science can make use of those, but cannot displace them.

        • btpcmsag

          The way St. Thomas used the verb "to be" is the same way that God revealed to Moses in the burning bush vision: to 'tell them, "I Am" sent you.' There is nothing new about this.

      • lee faber

        No it's not. This language is in the summa. Aquinas starts out proving the existence of God in q.1 and specifies the what this means in following questions. Eventually in q. 13 he argues that human language of God is analogical, ie. human terms apply to God in a different sense than they do to creatures.

        • This language is in the summa.

          ...but the language you go on to mention contradicts your claim. You will not find a place in the Summa where Aquinas affirmed that "God does not exist", even analogically.

          • btpcmsag

            Nor did St. Thomas Aquinas endeavor to use "exist" in a 'novel way' such that it can mean the opposite of what existence has always meant. That kind of tactic was a novel concept with the doing of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 600 years later. To say "God does not exist," only to follow up with "God is existence" makes Fr. L. look pretty silly.

  • EssanBrandt

    The author of the article should at least be a little chagrined, if not for having written it, but for having actually publishing the thing. Does he think that people reading this were born in 1950?

  • I first want to applaud Fr L for admitting that when he says God exists, he is using the word "exists" in a novel way. I further applaud the admission that it is a stretch to promote the view that this "ground of being" is also a man who lived and died.

    I do not understand what a "ground of being" means. I do not understand what it means to say something is being itself. Existence seems to me to be a concept we use to distinguish between entities that we can observe in some physical way from those that we conceive in our imagination.

    I further do not see any reason to make these stretches. We need very good reasons to accept such revolutionary ideas. Scientists make such findings such as the fact that time passes at a different rate depending on one's movement in space. But in that case we can demonstrate it empirically.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      There must be a ground of being, otherwise nothing would exist. The question is what is that ground of being? It is the universe itself or something outside it?

      • How do you know that things need a separate "ground of being" to exist?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't know that it has to be separate from the universe. For the universe to exist, there has to be something which "just is." Materialists claim some feature of the world or the entire universe is that "just is."

          To quote the Sound of Music, "Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Given our current knowledge, we could just as well make the case that the universe "just is."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's where philosophical arguments kick in that try to prove that "just is" is not possible.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            None of them are sound any more. Not all if them were valid anyway. And you're the ones claim "god" just is - so you must have worked it out already.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll try to read up on this tonight. I think Feser outlines the impossibility of this in "Aquinas" if I remember correctly.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Thanks. I'll look forward to it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I won't be able to present it right now. Feser's chapter on Aquinas' Aristotilian metaphysics is *long* and I was only able to work through about ten pages in an hour.

          • We both agree that there must be something that "just is" in some way. Unless you are an idealist, you accept that matter exists. Either matter is in some way fundamental or it is the result of something non material. I see no reason to assume there is something more.

            The material world I observe with quantum strangeness is hard enough to understand and conceive, I think it is fallacious to conclude we understand it well enough to be confident that it is the result of something we cannot observe, define or conceptualize. It is worse to conclude that this other is concerned with human foreskin and resurrecting people.

  • GCBill

    Do Christians realize that this is difficult to believe? Yes. Theologians call it “the scandal of particularity”—that the one who is ipsum esse subsistans becomes a squawking infant in a cattle stall, grows up to be an itinerant preacher, dies unjustly as a supposed rebel leader and then rises from the dead. Do we realize that this is a stretch? Of course.

    It's more than a "stretch;" it's logically impossible. If God exists as Being (and not merely another "being"), then He can't become human because that would require Him to exist in two distinct ways simultaneously. God cannot exist as both a contingent being and a necessary being. Nor can contingency and necessity apply to two separate natures,* because if God's nature is divisible then he can't be metaphysically simple (as required by the view that He is Actus purus).

    *I'm aware that Catholics call this the Hypostatic Union, but naming a metaphysical contradiction does nothing to make it more plausible.

    A communicating, thinking, reasoning, feeling, sentient person could not arise from what is a mere force. How can that which is superior come from that which is inferior?

    I disagree. Interactions between natural phenomena can produce effects that are at most present as potential* in their causes. A single water molecule cannot exhibit surface tension, but a multitude of them can. I worry that this "trickle-down" ontology forces you to deny some very ordinary phenomena (or otherwise give them completely new explanations).

    *In this sense of "potential," quantum fields possess the potential to think and act, insofar as successive organizations of these processes can yield new phenomena.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      Apropos the OP, I think an entry point to trinitarian thinking is to first consider Jesus as a perfect *revelation* of the essence of being. His life was the pure act of giving, and the pure act of giving is the essence of being. Nothing would exist if it were not given in every moment.

      Then the question is: if he perfectly revealed the essence of being, can we then say that he in some sense WAS the essence of being?

      • GCBill

        Perhaps you could say he embodied the essence of being, but I think that's substantially different than saying he was the essence itself. After all, God could have (theoretically) chosen to embody Being as a different human, such as if the messiah had come at another time during human history. Whereas on the other hand, God-as-Being-itself could never "be" different. To make Jesus identical to the essence of being would be to make everything about Jesus necessary through logical entailment. So I don't think your proposed fix works in the end.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          That's a great reply. I don't have an easy comeback, but I think that line of thinking would benefit from a lot more discussion.

          Was it necessary that God be revealed during the social and intellectual transitions of the axial age? Was it necessary that God be revealed through a tribe that had a seemingly unique insight about the linearity of time? Was it necessary that God be born of humble origins to reveal his true nature?

          For me, the answers to those questions, and many other related ones, is: "maybe".

          • GCBill

            I think the answer depends on which notion of necessity one uses.

            I'm using the notion of logical necessity, since I take omnipotence to mean that God can do anything that's logically possible. Some course of action might be necessary *given particular historical constraints,* but unless those historical constraints are themselves logically necessary, said course of action is not ultimately "necessary" for God.

            Some people dispute the viability of this approach (oh, hi Quine >_>). But I am quite sympathetic to the distinction between ultimate (logical) necessity and more conditional forms of necessity.

            Now of course, it's possible that some course of action could be necessary given the moral nature of God. Since God could (assumedly) not choose evil, this form of constraint would ultimately be as strong as logical necessity. In fact, a moral constraint on God's actions is effectively an extension of logical necessity, since neither logic nor God's nature could have been different on classical theism. But this still doesn't solve the problem of the Hypostatic Union, which (if logically impossible) is something that even God couldn't achieve.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Here is a question for you philosophy buffs, just out of curiosity. It seems to be some sort of necessity that history evolves along a single particular path. I don't think it is a logical necessity. What sort of necessity is it?

          • GCBill

            I'm tempted to think of it as an extension of nomic/nomological necessity. Things in nature tend to behave in ways from which they ordinarily do not deviate. This "lawfulness" (however you explain it) also places constraints on the development of life, which in turn constrains the development of civilization through its influence on human psychology. That's my guess, although perhaps there's a separate term for circumstantial constraints that aren't directly entailed by natural laws.

          • Loreen Lee

            This reminds me of the Buddhist 'karma'; cause and effect within the mental continuum, which is considered to be law governed, and thus explains why they do not have a concept of a messianic solution to the wheel of samsara. The individual is responsible for developing the 'awareness' that is necessary to achieve 'nirvana'.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Where do you understand this "historical necessity" from? I don't think inevitability is a common philosophical paradigm.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not sure if I understand your question exactly -- probably a typo in there -- but I think I get the gist of it.

            I don't think of history in terms of inevitability, though perhaps from some God-beyond-time perspective it would be OK to talk about inevitability. I think of history as reflecting a particularizing commitment. Out of all the things that could logically or physically happen, reality commits to one particular path through time. GC Bill tells me that this funny property of needing to commit to a particular path can be spoken of as a "nomological necessity".

            I don't know where this "nomological necessity" comes from. To me it is just the "shape" of reality. I understand it in the same way that I understand marriage. Marriage is a particularizing commitment. Out of all the women in the world, I chose a particular woman to ask to be my wife, and that particular choice was a reflection of who I am. Whether it could have been otherwise is a question I don't really ask. It is a reflection of who I am, and I committed to it, and that very particular commitment has a still-unfolding, universalizing dynamic. I think the relationship between ultimate reality and history is similar.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        I'm sorry, but none of that makes any sense at all to me. Please expand.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          Let me try to say it by way of analogy. Consider a geometric representation of a fractal pattern. You can zoom in and out and explore it forever. Now suppose some reveals to you the generating algorithm of that fractal. They have thereby revealed the entire logic or logos of the fractal. I am proposing that it fair to say that the algorithm IS the fractal. Now, as Bill Clinton famously said, "It all depends on what the definition of 'is' is." In completely revealing the algorithm, you have not completely elaborated the pattern that it generates. To me, it is very analogous with Jesus. He life is a complete revelation of the patterning of reality, even though it is not the full elaboration of reality.

    • Tim Dacey

      GCBill:

      Re: "it's logically impossible. If God exists as Being (and not merely another "being"), then He can't become human because that would require Him to exist in two distinct ways simultaneously. God cannot exist as both a contingent being and a necessary being. Nor can contingency and necessity apply to two separate natures,* because if God's nature is divisible then He can't be metaphysically simple (as required by the view that He is Actus purrs)."

      Forgive me for replying with a video (if it comes of lazy) but this one came to mind while reading through your comment.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y4iAuhUyxBc

      • GCBill

        No need to apologize, in fact I greatly appreciate your response. I'm not familiar with Timothy Pawl, but now I want to check out his scholarly work.

        I've actually considered the possibility that each set of contradictory "properties" could apply to separate natures. My worry is that this move violates Divine Simplicity. When you make the Hypostatic move, you compartmentalize God's attributes in a way such that Simplicity makes no sense anymore.

        When Jesus died, his natures must have had different fates. His human nature (a union of physical body and rational soul) would have ended, where His Divine nature (being unchanging) would have persisted. But if God's natures can undergo different fates, then they are divisible. And if they are divisible, then Divine Simplicity is violated. For it is not possible for a Being without parts to be divided.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I'm wading in above my head here, but God is not said to have two natures. God is thought to be manifest in the three persons of the trinity, but it is the person of Jesus, and not God, who is said to have two natures. As I imagine it, this means that one nature of Jesus participates in the trinity, and the other (human) nature does not. So perhaps one can still say that God is simple, while Jesus is not. I don't think I can defend this in any depth, but I throw it out there for consideration.

          • GCBill

            That's a fair point. Rereading my other post, I realize that my 3rd paragraph makes an unqualified move from Jesus's natures to God's natures. So I'm reworking my argument to avoid that (illegitimate) move.

            I'm not sure how this sense of manifestation allows Jesus to be fully Divine. God is timeless, changeless, immaterial, simple, etc. If Jesus is none of these things by virtue of having two natures, I'm not sure you can say he's fully Divine anymore. Because something cannot be "fully" X if X only applies to a part of that thing.

          • Tim Dacey

            You might also find John Hick (who is well known for his philosophical defense of classical views of the incarnation), as well as Eleanor Stump (i.e., her 'borrowed properties' view) to be of interest.

            Re: "My worry is that this move violates Divine Simplicity

            Re: "I'm not sure how this sense of manifestation allows Jesus to be fully Divine. God is timeless, changeless, immaterial, simple, etc. If Jesus is none of these things by virtue of having two natures, I'm not sure you can say he's fully Divine anymore. Because something cannot be "fully" X if X only applies to a part of that thing."

            Right; if the law of non-contradiction is violated, then Simplicity is incoherent, however if that law isn't violated, then Divine Simplicity can be salvaged. I'm inclined to think that it can be. It seems the first step would be to consider if anything can have properties in one respect but lack them in another but still resist violating the law of non-contradiction. An example (given by Brian Leftow) is that of an apple, which has the property of being red with respects to its skin layer, but lacks it with respects to its inner layer. Likewise, it can be the case that Christ has both Divine properties with respects to his Divine nature and lacks them with respects to his human nature and vice versa.

          • Tim Dacey

            I guess what I am trying to say is if the Incarnation doesn't violate the law of non-contradiciton, then Divine Simplicity can be salvaged. And furthermore, if you are going to argue that the Incarnation violates Simplicity, then you are going to have to use a different reason other than the law of non-contradiction.

          • GCBill

            I agree that if something can "have properties in one respect but lack them in another," then the PNC is not violated. Furthermore, you've convinced me that my original objection doesn't work. If one simply says that the humanity and Divinity apply to each nature separately, then there's no problem. But does the traditional teaching not say that Jesus is fully human and fully Divine? If that's true, then I think there's still a contradiction. Because Jesus is a union of two natures, it doesn't make sense to say he's fully X and Y if the properties of X and Y only apply to one nature each. If you lose the claim that Jesus is fully human and Divine, and allow that humanity and Divinity apply to each nature (but not Jesus), then the Hypostatic Union can work. But that's not my understanding of the Catholic position, hence my continued objection.

            In any case, I will look up the work of Hick and Stump; thank you for those leads. Perhaps they address my worries in greater detail.

        • Tim Dacey

          see my response below to Jim

  • cminca

    This is where I go cross-eyed:

    "He is, instead, the very ground of all existence. He does not exist so much as he is existence."

    No, Fr. Longenecker--you cannot say He "is" x, y, or z. You can only factually state that as your belief. There is no evidence to support your claim. That is your belief. Nothing more. YOU MAY EVEN BE CORRECT, but until you have evidence, it is only your belief.

    You can spout philosophy from now until the end of time but that still is not evidence of what you believe. You can claim any number of distinguished philosophers over any number of centuries agree with you. You can claim that billions across the globe believe the same thing you do. You can play philosophical word games that support your claim that there must be a higher, divine power.

    But you have no evidence. It is a belief.

    You can factually state "Catholic theology tell us....." or "According to Aquinas...." You cannot factually state that either Catholic theology or Aquinas (or anyone else) PROVES the existence of God. Because while some may believe that they are sound philosophical and theological arguments they do not, in fact, provide evidence of God's existence.

    All of that aside--you have ever right to your beliefs. You have every right, in a democratic republic, to state those beliefs. You may even be right in your beliefs.

    But, when you start presenting those BELIEFS as FACT I am going to feel it necessary to correct you.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      But cminca, I think it has to just be understood that whenever anyone says anything, they are just talking about what they believe. No one is absolutely sure of anything. If I say, "It is a fact that I am sitting on a couch", it has to be understood that what I really mean is: "I strongly believe that I am sitting on a couch." I don't know for sure, because I am not God.

      • Agni Ashwin

        "I don't know for sure, because I am not God."

        That's *your* opinion.

  • Max Driffill

    How does this formulation even make sense. "If the ipsum esse subsistans is really the ground of all being, then the existent beings which are dependent on that ground of existence cannot be superior to the ground of existence from which they come and upon which they depend," when earlier the author says God is ipsum esse subsistans "the very substance of existence" and uses that phrase as a synonym of "ground of all being." Its as if the author is trying to justify the phrase "ground of all being" by impressing us with a latin version of the same phrase.

    All this talk about the particulars and qualities of a particular god are really vastly more certain than I think they ought to be, given that there is no evidence that this being even exists. It is like talking about the detailed particulars unicorn ecology without ever having seen a unicorn, let alone possessing even a type-specimen. Why does so much of theology look like a game of putting the cart before the horse?

  • EssanBrandt

    Related to the topic of the article:

    "Paul Tillich is perhaps best known for his idea that God is the ground of being; that is, God is being-itself. For atheists, Tillich says some interesting things. Like
    this: “God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him.” “It is as atheistic to affirm the existence of God as it is to deny it. God is being-itself, not a being.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2011/12/the-impossible-god-of-paul-tillich/

  • Danny Getchell

    a good question: “How does one move from God who is ipsum esse subsistans (the very substance of existence) to the God of scapulars and rosaries?

    I hope it's not immodest of me to agree that this is a VERY good question, in the context of mentioning that I've asked it here at least a dozen times.

    Unfortunately, Father Longenecker completely fails to answer this specific question, as far as I can tell from the remainder of the article. Is there perhaps a followup article to come in which he does so??

  • Ignorant Amos

    Can someone explain the difference between....

    But in general, we can gauge the veracity of each of those religious claims based on the available evidence. Some of them—like Mohammed's conversation with Gabriel and Joseph Smith's reception of divine revelation--are purely testimonial and essentially non-falsifiable. There were no eyewitnesses.
    Therefore, those claims carry far less weight than the historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection that I shared above, which is based on multiple, independent eyewitness testimony.

    ...and...

    Within this wider human experience the Jews said God spoke to their ancestors in particular ways. He called Abram out of Ur. He revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush and gave him a job to do. He appeared to Jacob and Joseph in dreams and to the prophets through visions and messages from angels. Within this tradition God also spoke to Joseph and Mary, and as the book of Hebrews said, “In various ways in various times God spoke to our ancestors, but now he has spoken to us through his Son.”
    Jesus Christ is therefore the ultimate self revelation of God to humanity. Christians believe that in a miraculous way God took human form and showed us what he is like through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.