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The Catholic Advantage: Why Health, and Happiness, and Heaven Await the Faithful

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In his apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis beckoned Catholics to proudly bring the good news of Catholicism to as many who will listen. He did not call upon Catholics to be callous salesmen, or to triumphantly wear their religion on their sleeves; rather, he asked them to challenge the “sec­ularist rationalism” and the radical individualism that it entails. To be successful, we must provide an alternative, and there is no better tonic for our age than the good news that Catholicism offers. That is why the Holy Father exhorted us not to allow the Church to be reduced to “the sphere of the private and the personal.” He wants a public, full-throated exercise of religion.1 There is much to Catholicism that needs to be trumpeted.

The greatest joy that Catholicism offers is the prospect of achieving salvation; its teachings provide a veritable road map to heaven. There are other benefits, as well, residual rewards such as good health and happiness. All total, Catholicism offers the best guide to achieving health, happiness, and heaven.

Americans who are the most religious have the highest wellbeing” (his emphasis). That is the principal conclusion that Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport came to in his book God Is Alive and Well.2 He is not alone in this finding. Importantly, not only are the most religious the most likely to be healthy and happy; there is an impressive body of research on priests and nuns, particularly on cloistered nuns, that shows just how true this finding is. While much of the data on religion and well-being are true for those across religions, and are not unique to Catholics, this book focuses on the ways Catholicism impacts well-being.

It is not as though the clergy and the religious steer their lives to achieve health and happiness—their mission, and their actions, are oriented toward serving God and serving those in need—but there are certain positive by-products to their efforts. And when it comes to reaching heaven, even atheists will concede that altruistic behaviors and charitable giving are promising signs; very religious people, studies show, are the most likely to be altruistic and charitable.

It is not hard to come by evidence that shows religion to be integrally tied to well-being and self-giving, but attempts to explain why are sorely lacking. The purpose of this book is to examine what I call the Three B’s of Catholicism—beliefs, boundaries, and bonds—which in turn leads to achieving the Three H’s—health, happiness, and heaven. Its central contention is profoundly countercultural: It is not the abandonment of constraint that liberates; it is its rational embrace. What we get in return—it is quite a dividend—is the greater likelihood of realizing the Three H’s. By contrast, the dominant culture, which is increasingly materialistic, casts limitations on behavior as being suspect at best, and nefarious at worst. What that vision yields, however, is not at all endearing. The evidence is decisive: when it comes to the attainment of health, happiness, and heaven, there is a clear Catholic advantage.

“Many religions,” Newport writes, “either explicitly or implicitly promote norms of behavior that are in turn associated with higher wellbeing and healthy behaviors.”3 Newport and I are both sociologists, so when we refer to “higher wellbeing” we are speaking about an overall sense of satisfaction that people have with their lives; we are not talking about some Platonic state. The term “healthy behaviors” refers to conduct that is associated with living longer, and to lifestyle choices that are not destructive to our physical or mental condition.

Beliefs and bonds are tied to these outcomes, but it is the role of boundaries that matters most in this regard: those who see boundaries as stifling are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, making for unhealthy and unhappy outcomes. Those who greet every limitation on their freedom as an unfair burden are the most likely to break norms—the rules of society that are commonly agreed to as a condition of civility. This is as unhealthy for the individual as it is destructive to society. For example, whether the behavior is driving too fast, or taking drugs, the social price tag is high. Fortunately, our Judeo-Christian heritage has many resources to draw on; the wisdom inherent in the Ten Commandments, for instance, cannot be surpassed. Add to this the bountiful resources that Catholicism has to offer—it has explicit teachings on the necessity of maintaining boundaries—and the result is a veritable guide to good living.

Newport stresses the importance of belief. “Religions by definition include a belief in God or a higher power: That belief can provide comfort, surcease from sorrow, and inner spiritual calmness.”4 Those who are not religious have never been able to find a secular counterpart to the role religion plays in dealing with adversity. There is a reason why the old adage “There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole” is commonly cited: there is much truth to it. Of course, even the faithful have been known to surge toward God when they are crying out for help, so this phenomenon is hardly unique to nonbelievers. But at least believers have something palpable to repair to when crisis strikes.

“Active participation in a religious community provides individuals with friends, fellow worshippers, social networks, and social support,” Newport writes.5 This explanation shows the importance of bonds. Another ancient proverb, “No man is an island,” carries great truth: God did not mean for us to be alone. The physical and mental benefits that accrue from enmeshing ourselves in communities are formidable. Religious communities, more than others, provide a steady and reliable network of social relationships that its participants can draw on—they act as a buffer to adversity. In this regard, the communal appeal of Catholicism is central. It is indeed illustrative of the fact that bonds matter: they matter especially for the achievement of health and happiness.

Those who are religious vary considerably in the intensity of their convictions; they range from the serious-minded to the lukewarm. At the other end of the spectrum are agnostics and atheists. Agnostics are not certain whether God exists; atheists are sure he doesn’t. Then there are those who do not practice any religion, but who nonetheless fail to identify with agnostics or atheists.

While there are important differences between these three sec­tors, they all share a secular vision: they believe that the best so­ciety is one that strongly limits the role of religion. By definition, they are the least likely to embrace the first of the Three B’s, namely beliefs. Less obvious is their comparatively weak commitment to bonds and boundaries. This will be explained in detail; it has much to do with their penchant for individualism. Consequently, as we shall see, they are also the least likely to achieve the Three H’s.

Therefore, two models will be presented: the Catholic vision and the secular vision. But we need to illustrate these models with personal examples. The examples chosen reflect “ideal types.” The great sociologist Max Weber devised this methodological tool so that comparisons could be made. By ideal he did not mean the best; he simply meant that the subject matter under discussion would be presented in its purest, and most accentuated, form. It is with this understanding that saints, priests, and nuns are being presented as the Catholic model. This does not mean that all the saints were walking pillars of purity; many were just the opposite in their early years. Nor does it mean that all priests and nuns have successfully embodied the teachings of Christ. It simply means that as a whole, when compared to other segments of society, they are a useful index of Catholicism in practice.

The secular model is best represented by intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities. Intellectuals are not a monolithic group: the ones under discussion in this book do not include the great theologians or contemporary scholars steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The intellectuals that are illustrative of the secular model reflect a materialist worldview, as exemplified by Enlightenment writers. They reject traditional moral values, are disdainful of God, and are utopian in thought. Similarly, celebrities are not a uniform group: the ones depicted in this book are known for their hedonistic lives, hostility to conventional norms, and penchant for self-indulgence. While intellectuals and celebrities may seem to have little in common, the ones under consideration place a high value on individualism. For intellectuals, their individualism is manifested by their egotism; for celebrities, it is exhibited by their narcissism. In other words, they have practically nothing in common with saints, priests, and nuns.

The Catholic advantage over the secular model should not be interpreted as an argument against all matters secular. To be specific, the Founders crafted a secular government, one that has served us well. But they also cherished a strong religion-friendly culture. No contradiction there. Indeed, they knew that by crafting a secular form of government they would preempt the problems inherent in a theocratic state. But they also knew, as John Adams put it, that the Constitution was made “only for a moral and a religious people.”6 The secular model, as explained in this book, has nothing to do with our form of government—no one save extremists wants a theocracy—it has to do with religion’s devaluation.

Catholic beliefs stem from the realization that God matters; secularists hold that God does not matter. Bonds are important to Catholics, and indeed Catholicism’s communitarian elements are defining; on the other hand, secularism prizes individualism. Boundaries in Catholic thought are not inimical to freedom; for example, the imperative “Thou Shalt Not” is not reflexively seen as unfair or oppressive; secularists find boundaries constraining. By contrasting Catholicism and secularism on the Three B’s, we are able to see how their exercise affects the prospects of achieving the Three H’s.

 

Excerpted from The Catholic Advantage by Dr. William Donohue Copyright © 2015 by Dr. William Donohue. To be published by Image Books, a division of Penguin Random House, on March 3. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Notes:

  1. Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, Apostolic Exhortation on the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, November 24, 2013.
  2. Frank Newport, God Is Alive and Well (New York: Gallup Press, 2012), p. 51.
  3. Ibid., p. 61.
  4. Ibid., p. 62.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Quoted in Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square (Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdmans, 1984), p. 95.
Bill Donohue

Written by

Dr. Bill Donohue is the president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization. The publisher of the Catholic League journal, Catalyst, Donohue is also a former Bradley Resident Scholar at The Heritage Foundation and served for two decades on the board of directors of the National Association of Scholars. A formidable TV presence, Donohue has authored several books on civil liberties, social issues, and Catholicism.

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  • If this article is accurate about Catholicism and health and happiness, it answers the question: why should a non-theist live morally? I live by largely Christian morals because they lead to health and happiness, and I want to be healthy and happy. There need be no other, deeper reason. Heaven's not necessary.

    • Sqrat

      The real question it answers is, "Why should anyone, Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew, agnostic or atheist, avoid self-destructive behaviors?" The answer is fairly obvious. Heaven's indeed not necessary, and the question neither asked nor answered here is why, if there's a heaven, anyone should prefer living a long and happy life over living a short and happy life.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        If there is a heaven and one knows it, he should want to live a long life so as to do more good for the people in this life.

        Besides, even a long life is astonishingly short. I'm 61 and I'm wondering what happened to the last 57 years.

        • Sqrat

          If there is a heaven and one knows it, he should want to live a long life so as to do more good for the people in this life.

          Why? Connect the dots for me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why what?

            Why should he want to do more good in this life if he can?

          • Sqrat

            Yes.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Because it is good to do good and it is better to do a lot of good.

          • Sqrat

            How does belief in the existence or non-existence of heaven play into that?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Gospel, which promises eternal life, motivates many people to do lots of good things, like come up with the idea of hospitals and orphanages and start them, found schools and universities, and invent good stuff like beer and whiskey.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Gospel, which promises eternal life, motivates many people to do lots of good things, like come up with the idea of hospitals and orphanages and start them, found schools and universities, and invent good stuff like beer and whiskey.

            And many other people find no such motivation at all in the gospel. Perhaps the gospel message is inconsistent?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Perhaps it is people.

          • Doug Shaver

            You mean, like, perhaps the people who produced the gospel message were inconsistent? Yes, I have no problem with that hypothesis.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I meant people in general.

          • Doug Shaver

            Reasonable people can disagree as to an author's intended message, but I don't believe in blaming the readers when that happens except in cases where the readers themselves give evidence of intentional misunderstanding. It is an author's responsibility to write so that he cannot be easily misunderstood except by people clearly motivated to misrepresent his opinions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you are talking about the Bible, that is ancient literature. Wouldn't it would be unreasonable for someone to pick up a translation today and expect its meanings to be transparent?

          • Doug Shaver

            Wouldn't it would be unreasonable for someone to pick up a translation today and expect its meanings to be transparent?

            That would depend among other things on who wrote it and for what reason. I have not heard of any major arguments over the meaning of Homer's Iliad.

          • Hipshot

            It motivated other people to prohibit good stuff like beer and whiskey. Clearly a document permitting more than one interpretation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. Everything has to be interpreted. Human law. Natural Law. The Law of Love.

          • Sqrat

            You still haven't connected the dots, Kevin. Are saying that many people are motivated to do good things because the Gospel promises eternal life, whereas they wouldn't have been motivated to do those things without the Gospel's promise of eternal life? And, If so, why is that? How does the Gospel's promise of eternal life motivate people to want to put off partaking in the eternal life they think they have been promised?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Gospel is not a sine qua non of good works but many people would never have considered doing them otherwise. We naturally tend to be concerned with ourselves and our families and maybe our clan.

            Jesus Christ went about doing good, Christians are supposed to imitate him, and so Christians are motivated to do good works.

            I don't understand your final question.

          • Sqrat

            My final question was really a restatement of my original question -- why do you prefer to live a long life, and do good works, instead of dying young, and going to heaven? Am I to understand that you are saying that it's not a matter of personal preference, but a moral obligation?

            Jesus, of course, is depicted as dying relatively young, after only a very brief period of going about doing good. The Gospels do not tell us that he lived to a ripe old age.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is not a moral obligation to live a short or long life. It is not up to us at all. It would, however, be wrong to cut your life short through suicide.

            Personally, I am an artist and an educator and it takes a long time to get good at either one. I also have a family and children to raise, so I don't want to deprive them of whatever I can contribute. These are a couple of reasons, among others, that I prefer to stay in this world.

            It is not true that Jesus only went about doing good for a few years. Certainly he went about doing good from at least the age of 12 through 30 by doing good in ordinary life. And if he had lived to a ripe old age he would not done the specific work of his public life.

          • Sqrat

            It would, however, be wrong to cut your life short through suicide.

            Why?

            Personally, I am an artist and an educator and it takes a long time to get good at either one.

            Why is it important to your become good at either one while you are alive, when you have all eternity to become good at them after you are dead? Do you think, perhaps, that after you are dead, being an artist and an educator is not something that you or anyone else would need to be good at?

            I also have a family and children to raise, so I don't want to deprive them of whatever I can contribute.

            True, but isn't it also the case that if you and your family were to go to heaven at the same time, this would be a non-issue?

            Certainly [Jesus] went about doing good from at least the age of 12 through 30 by doing good in ordinary life.

            Objection -- Assumes facts not in evidence.

            And if [Jesus] had lived to a ripe old age he would not done the specific work of his public life.

            How so? Wasn't his specific work to "die for our sins"? All men are mortal. Jesus was a man. Therefore, Jesus was mortal. Would he not have died (for our sins) sooner or later anyhow?

          • Papalinton

            Sprat, an excellent series of focussed questions and erudite responses challenging and exposing the callow nature of religious belief. for what it is, an illusion.

          • Mike

            Don't you mean 'delusion' as an 'illusion' is...oh never mind. ;)

          • Papalinton

            Yes I guess both are interchangeable. But I refrain from using 'delusion' because it tends to be more targeted at the person/commenter, whereas 'illusion' is more about the belief held by that person, just saying. :o)

      • I'd personally prefer a long and happy life over the short happy life, but of course they need not be mutually exclusive. Why not both? Now, in any individual case, no one knows the number of days we have left, or what medical technology may uncover. I'm still hopeful for immortality through the miracle of medical science.

        • William Davis

          Personally, I think immortality is a mistake. Death and rebirth seems to be a very important natural cycle. I'm not against extending life a bit and living better, but people really need to die to make way for younger generations, myself included :)

          • My sentiments are somewhat different, more along the lines Dylan Thomas wrote for his dying father, and which I thought upon when my father was dying:

            Do not go gentle into that good night,
            Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
            Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

            Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
            Because their words had forked no lightning they
            Do not go gentle into that good night.

            Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
            Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
            Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

            Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
            And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
            Do not go gentle into that good night.

            Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
            Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
            Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

            And you, my father, there on the sad height,
            Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
            Do not go gentle into that good night.
            Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

          • William Davis

            I realize, in retrospect, my assertion seems callous. I suppose I'm asserting that "immortality for the masses" is completely impractical considering the issues we are already having with population. I think there would be a deep problem with trading immortality for the right to reproduce, where would evolution be?
            Let me propose the possible scenario of living in a digital world. Scan your brain, replicate you and your loved ones in the same simulation, and there we go, a man made heaven, eternal as long as it get's backed up and has power (losing power would just put heaven on pause). This would be practical I suspect. Instead of paying the church for a better place in heaven, we'd be paying the software company to maintain the family server.
            I had a grandparent on each side live to nearly one hundred. One recurring theme from all very old people, is that the longer you live, the more loved one's you will see die. Everything has a down side :(

          • Papalinton

            Cryogenics is in part a stop gap measure to achieving immortality of sorts, bodily immortality at least until a cure comes along. :o)

          • William Davis

            Personally, I'm more afraid of losing my loved ones than dying. To awaken 500 years later with everyone I knew dead would be worse than just dying, but that is just how I look at it :)

          • Papalinton

            As do I. Perhaps it has everything to do with the protective altruistic genes one is evolutionarily endowed with.

          • Michael Murray

            people really need to die to make way for younger generations

            Explain that to the couple in the picture above with their three children !

          • William Davis

            If they are Catholic, I'll leave that to the Bible. In Genesis God set and angel to guard Eden so that man could not eat of the fruit of the tree of life. It also makes it clear that man is "appointed to die". Heck in the oldest story known, the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh becomes obsessed with immortality after his friend Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh finds Noah (Utnapishtim) and get a flower that will make him immortal. Of course, before he could eat it a snake steals it from him.
            We've always been driving to live forever, no surprise is evolution is true, survival should be the strongest instinct next to reproduction. The search for immortality dates back to the oldest writing, and was "solved" by heaven. If heaven isn't an expression of evolution, I don't know what is ;)

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Because life is a good.

        • Chad Eberhart
        • Sqrat

          A good what?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Good" is a noun, as in "goods and services." It refers to that which perfects the nature of a thing. (Think of what one means by a "good archer," a "good drill," a "good pencil," etc.)

          • Sqrat

            "Good" is a noun, as in "goods and services." It refers to that which perfects the nature of a thing. (Think of what one means by a "good archer," a "good drill," a "good pencil," etc.)

            Or "a good whipping'", or "a good war".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You're catching on.

          • Sqrat

            And, as I understand Catholic theology, nothing can perfect the nature of life more than death.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Then you do not understand Catholic theology -- although this one is more a matter of philosophy.

          • Sqrat

            The Catechism is wrong?

            This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity—this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed—is called “heaven.” Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But it is not death, as your prior contention asserted.

          • Sqrat

            The word "death" has a variety of meanings. One is "completing the process of dying." Does it not seem to you that "death" in this sense -- completing the process of dying -- has been, in the Catholic understanding, an absolutely necessary stage on the way to the perfect life? Or does the Church hold that some folks go directly to heaven without passing "Go"? If so, those must be exceptional cases.

            "Death" may also mean "the state of being physically dead" (look it up in your Oxford English Dictionary). Doesn't Catholic theology hold that "being dead" is a form of being -- and at least for the lucky few, the most perfect form of being to which the ordinary person can aspire? Most atheist hold the contrary view that death is a form of non-being, not a form of being (and most certainly not a perfect form of being).

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Does it not seem to you that "death" in this sense -- completing the process of dying -- has been, in the Catholic understanding, an absolutely necessary stage on the way to the perfect life?

            Death is a deficiency of life. Its existence is dependent on life. (One may conceive of life without death, but not of death without life.) It is not a "separate but equal" thing to be juxtaposed with life.

            "Perfect" means to be "thoroughly made," (per fectus). A thing is perfected to the extent that it lacks nothing that is proper to its nature. (This is why death is a de-fectus, not a per-fectus, for a living thing. It is proper to a living thing to be alive.) Death is a quality of non-being, not a quality of being. (It is not a form at all.)

            Doesn't Catholic theology hold that "being dead" is a form of being

            No. Besides, it is a matter of philosophy, not theology.

          • Sqrat

            "Perfect" means to be "thoroughly made," (per fectus). A thing is perfected to the extent that it lacks nothing that is proper to its nature. (This is why death is a de-fectus, not a per-fectus, for a living thing. It is proper to a living thing to be alive.)

            But then, for a dead thing, it would be life that is the de-fectus, not the per-fectus, since it is proper for a dead thing to be dead. A dead thing that is alive is, after all, improperly dead. It lacks the one essential thing that is proper to its nature as a dead thing, namely "deadness" (insert smiley face here).

            More seriously, and leaving the scholastic language aside, it is true that we only speak of someone as "being dead" when they are no longer alive, after having once been alive. We do not speak of someone as dead before they ever existed. In 2012, John Paul II "was dead" (because he died in 2005), and in 1918, John Paul II "was not dead" (because he had not yet lived). However, I think that most atheists would argue that John Paul II's ontological states in 1918 and in 2012 were identical --during both years in question, he did not exist. The Catholic would agree with the atheist (would he not?) that in 1918 John Paul II "was not dead". He would also agree with the atheist (would he not?) that in 2012 John Paul II "was dead" because he had once been alive, but had died. However, he would disagree with the atheist (would he not?) because he would also say that, in 2012, John Paul II, who "was dead", was also alive -- not merely alive, but enjoying "perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity", otherwise known as "heaven".

            Does not the Church likewise hold that everyone, not just John Paul II, who "is dead" is actually alive, somewhere, or in some state (heaven, hell, purgatory)? Or does it claim that some people who "are dead" are actually dead in the way that most atheists understand the term, and thus no longer exist anywhere or in any state?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But then, for a dead thing, it would be life that is the de-fectus, not the per-fectus, since it is proper for a dead thing to be dead.

            If it is dead, it is not a thing (οὐσία) but a heap and the concept of perfection does not apply. A heap has no organizing principle, and hence no nature to be perfected.

            leaving the scholastic language aside

            Actually, it's Aristotelian and goes back to the ancient pagans. It was employed also by medieval muslims, Jews, and Christians insofar as they engaged in philosophy.

            Does not the Church likewise hold that everyone... who "is dead" is actually alive, somewhere, or in some state...?

            A human being is a συνόλων, or is said to be synolistic (sometimes abbreviated these days as "holistic"). That is, he is a union of matter and form and is incomplete if lacking one or the other. After physical death, the corpse is no longer that person any more than the carcass of a horse is that horse. Instead, it is a heap of matter that behaves simply as a pile of chemicals. If, secundum argumentum, some portion a substantial form survives the disorganization of the matter which it informed, continues to exist, as "sphere" continues to exist even when the basketball is deflated, then it too is incomplete. This is why Aquinas wrote, "My soul is not I."

            In particular, absent matter there is no passage of time, since time is the measure of change in mutable being, so the idea of being somewhere "now" does not apply. This is also why doctrine speaks of "the resurrection of the body," in which the soul will be reunited with a transformed body. After all, many of the soul's non-rational powers require material organs through which they function -- e.g., nutrition, sensation, etc.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This reminds me of "Life's a bitch and then you die."

      So by living in a way that leads to health and happiness (actually wealth, too, although for some reason that has not worked very well for me), you can revise that to "Life's quite wonderful and then you die."

      We still have the problem of death.

      • What is the problem of death?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That you die.

          18. It is in the face of death that the riddle a human existence grows most acute. Not only is man tormented by pain and by the advancing deterioration of his body, but even more so by a dread of perpetual extinction. He rightly follows the intuition of his heart when he abhors and repudiates the utter ruin and total disappearance of his own person. He rebels against death because he bears in himself an eternal seed which cannot be reduced to sheer matter. All the endeavors of technology, though useful in the extreme, cannot calm his anxiety; for prolongation of biological life is unable to satisfy that desire for higher life which is inescapably lodged in his breast.

          Although the mystery of death utterly beggars the imagination, the Church has been taught by divine revelation and firmly teaches that man has been created by God for a blissful purpose beyond the reach of earthly misery. In addition, that bodily death from which man would have been immune had he not sinned(14) will be vanquished, according to the Christian faith, when man who was ruined by his own doing is restored to wholeness by an almighty and merciful Saviour. For God has called man and still calls him so that with his entire being he might be joined to Him in an endless sharing of a divine life beyond all corruption. Christ won this victory when He rose to life, for by His death He freed man from death. Hence to every thoughtful man a solidly established faith provides the answer to his anxiety about what the future holds for him. At the same time faith gives him the power to be united in Christ with his loved ones who have already been snatched away by death; faith arouses the hope that they have found true life with God.

          Gaudium et spes 18

          • I think that death is a problem for everyone. As far as I can tell, there's no good solution to it. Maybe someday someone will solve the problem of death with medical science, although this seems presently unlikely. One thing's for sure, Catholics don't have the solution. If they did, then they wouldn't die.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Heaven and eternal life are the solution, if Christianity is true.

          • Then, if you're right, we'll soon find out. Presently, it sounds like addressing a serious problem with a fairy tale.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You don't think fairy tales address serious problems?

            "The Lord of the Rings" is a fairy tale. It addresses many very serious problems.

          • "Lord of the Rings" hasn't solved the problem of death. It didn't solve it for Tolkien. I suspect it hasn't solved the problem for any of his fans. But sure, stories like Tolkien's can solve other less ultimate problems.

          • David Nickol

            Heaven and eternal life are the solution, if Christianity is true.

            But that is a big if for many people here.

            Probably most people have heard the story of a visitor to the home of a great physicist (Niels Bohr in some versions, Einstein in others) noticing a lucky horseshoe hanging above the physicist's door. The visitor says, in astonishment, "You don't believe in that nonsense, do you?" And the great physicist replies, "Of course not! But they say it works whether you believe in it or not."

            The problem with religious belief and its benefits is that you have to believe, and another problem is that what you believe doesn't have to be true. The benefits of practicing just about any religion—in an affluent setting like the United States, mind you—are real, but that says nothing about the truth of a particular religion. You will be just as well off (if not better) being a Mormon as being a Catholic.

          • William Davis

            You are correct, and I think it is important to point out that you have to REALLY believe it for it work (not counting clean living). Fighting to believe something you simply cannot and fearing going to hell because of it can actually be quite stressful and damaging to your health. Feeling like God hates you because bad things happen can also be damaging. Religion isn't all roses when it comes to health, and clearly depends on the situation. Overall, however, it is definitely positive.

          • Sqrat

            Death is not a problem for the dead. "Dread of perpetual extinction" is a problem for many of the living -- but certainly not all.

          • William Davis

            Death is only a problem for someone overly attached to themselves ;)

          • Krakerjak

            Dread of perpetual extinction is a problem for many of the living -- but certainly not all.

      • Doug Shaver

        We still have the problem of death.

        And the Christian solution is simple denial. Christianity says in effect that you don't really die just because your body stops functioning.

        • Sqrat

          In an earlier thread, I asked a Christian (I'm believe a Catholic), "Are dead people alive?" Crickets.

          I don't know why I couldn't get an answer. I thought it was pretty straightforward Catholic theology that every single "dead" person is actually alive -- somewhere or other.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes, because the rational soul, being immaterial and simple, cannot decompose.

          • Sqrat

            Quite so. The Catholic to whom I referred then made a wisecrack about "killing babies". But Catholic theology would have it, if I am not mistaken, that you can't actually kill babies in the sense that most atheists understand the term "kill" -- to put a permanent end to a living thing's existence. Dead babies are actually alive, somewhere (unless, I guess they don't have rational souls), although if I read the Catechism correctly the Church isn't quite sure where that might be. I do get the sense that whether the baby was lightly moistened with magic H20 at some point may play a factor in what eventually happens to it, but I don't know.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > whether the baby was lightly moistened with magic H20 at some point

            You really want to have a dialogue.

            Adios.

          • Sqrat

            Does this mean you don't love me any more?

          • Mike

            You must be a real charmer ;).

          • vito

            Yes, according to Catholic theology, when you kill a baby, you do not actually kill it, but just terminate its physical existence and send them straight to heaven (at least the ones "moistened with magic H2O", although the recent Vatican policy has been shifting towards probably all of them) for eternal bliss and joy, where they end up without the many decades of trials, sufferings and and risks others have to go through in longer lives.

            So it seems you are kind of doing a service for them;but, of course, endangering your own soul - until the next confession, at least.

          • Sqrat

            Jesus is reported to have said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends," but he obviously had it wrong. What he should have said is, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his immortal soul for a baby."

          • George

            maybe it can.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Consider what the words compose and decompose mean.

          • George

            How do you know that the soul is so simple as to not be composed of parts?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not "so simple" but just simple.

            I can't recall or easily find the argument for the soul being simple, that is, just one thing. Maybe someone else does. It is a philosophical argument.

    • Hey Paul,
      I sense a great disturbance in The Force; meaning a contradiction (in terms of Christian concepts).
      Premise 1: Christian morals come from Love
      Premise 2: God IS Love
      Premise 3: Heaven is being in the presence of God
      Saying I live by Christian morals, but heaven is not necessary would be like saying… I live by love, but love is not needed to live by it.

      • Papalinton

        How about this one:
        P1: God is love
        P2: Love is blind
        P3: My uncle is blind
        P4: My uncle is God.

        :o)

    • Zippity-Do-Daddy

      But also fails to answer why Donahue, as a Catholic, is so incredibly mean-spirited and angry all the time. I put it to you that he places his secular political beliefs on a higher plane than his Catholic faith

    • Joe Ser

      You wouldn't want to be healthier and happier?

  • Krakerjak

    This piece seems to be nothing more than a blatant advertising promotion by the author, and reeks of Catholic triumphalism though the author says not. IMHO. I don't think that that non Catholics will be beating a path to Amazon for this book.

  • GCBill

    I may respond in more detail later, but for now I will only say that I am frustrated that SN republished something claiming that atheists are "sure" that God doesn't exist without any kind of author's note. It's discouraging and makes it seem as if your atheist commenters (both previous and current, and myself included) simply haven't been listened to.

  • Michael Murray

    Is this the same Bill Donohue as this one ?

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

    • "On March 30, 2010, Donohue appeared on CNN's Larry King Live on a panel discussing sexual abuse of children by priests. Donohue contended that the decades-old problem consisted mostly of offenses involving postpubescent boys aged 12 or more, which offenses therefore, according to Donohue, should be considered the acts of homosexual priests, rather than the actions of pedophiles." (from the Wikipedia article)

      • Kevin Aldrich
        • Luke Cooper

          You think this issue was all blown out of proportion? What happened really wasn't so bad?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. It was blown out of proportion compared to what other individuals and institutions were doing and are still doing.

            No. What those bastards did was evil to the core.

          • Luke Cooper

            Sound like one can't blow "evil to the core" out of proportion to me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Something can be blown out of proportion in different ways. It was the author's thesis that the issue was blown out of proportion.

          • Luke Cooper

            I read the article. Seems to me the scandal drew the attention it deserved. The author was making excuses on behalf of the clergy by quibbling over whether the victims should have been considered children or not.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "The author was making excuses on behalf of the clergy . . . " is your judgment.

          • Luke Cooper

            I'll accept that.

          • cminca

            Were those other organizations claiming to be the one true path to God?

            Were the other organizations publically condemning the (alleged) immorality of the private and harmless actions of others?

            Were the other organizations using money and influence to try and deny civil rights to others based on the organizations definition of "right" and "wrong".

            Dan Savage was correct:
            "(The Catholic Church) doesn't have moral high ground when they speak of the welfare and safety of children. They just don't. They have squandered that on the tips...."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Nobody needs to have a high moral ground to condemn immorality.

            It is a question of what is and is not immoral.

      • Michael Murray

        Funny that he would by implication think that homosexuality is preferable to pedophilia. He doesn't, on the whole, seem very keen on homosexuals

        http://www.glaad.org/cap/bill-donohue

    • Krakerjak

      I went to the wiki site that you linked. Yes it is he. Quite a list of accomplishments. Especially interesting was the part on the wiki site where he addressed the Charlie Hebdo killings.

      • You mean the part where Donohue is quoted as saying:

        "What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.... Stephane Charbonnier, the paper's publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn't understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, 'Muhammad isn't sacred to me.' Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive. Muhammad isn't sacred to me, either, but it would never occur to me to deliberately insult Muslims by trashing him."

        ?

        • Krakerjak

          I don't agree with trashing Muslims or Muhamed either....what I found interesting was his callousness toward the victims in implying that they deserved or brought the bloodshed on themselves.

          • William Davis

            Last I checked, thinking someone deserved to die because they are an ass is very bronze age. At least Catholics have moved on (though there are lingering psychological elements like we witness in Donohue), Muslims missed out on the enlightenment.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          It's called prudence. If you continually poke a snake with a stick, it may strike you. If you flash a wad of cash in the wrong places, you may be mugged. If you lean too far out an open window, you may fall. Not sure how the notion arose that behavior should have no consequences, even if the primary fault lies with the Other.

          • Luke Cooper

            I'm flagging this comment as inappropriate. You're victim blaming and seem to insinuating that people deserve whatever befalls them. Of course many behaviors have consequences; some of may be deserved, but other consequences may not be. Unless you think that people who flash a wad of cash, whether intentionally or not deserve to get mugged, I think you should reconsider your callous position.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's not surprising that ever since the triumph of the will some folks reject the idea of prudence, since that is the linchpin connecting the intellective and moral virtues and the only way to nullify temperance.

            I'm not sure why you're chewing the scenery about "deserves," since that is a separate issue from "does." Whether hitting an explosive device with a hammer causes it to explode is a factual question. Whether the hitter deserves to be blown up is a completely different question. The latter is a question of justice, which is a different virtue from prudence. Getting murdered as a response to mocking them is not just, since it is lacking in proportionality. A proportionate response would have been to satirize the satirists or file a lawsuit under the hate-speech laws.

            Hence, the responsibility for a mugging lies with the mugger, period. It is the mugger who is the actor. But a prudent man will not flash his wad unnecessarily. It doesn't mean he "deserved" to be mugged. It only means we was stupid or careless, and again, the mugger's response was not proportional to the stimulus.

            However, it is always nice to see a tip of the hat in the direction of morality even from an unlikely source, although it is spoilt by the weasel word "inappropriate." To simply say "this is wrong" is to appeal to an objective standard to which both individuals submit. To say "this is inappropriate" is an assertion of dominance by the speaker demanding submission from the Other -- and making him a victim of sorts.

          • Luke Cooper

            If only we could all agree on what is prudent. Yes, to me your comment above was inappropriate. I'll be sure to qualify my statements in the future to indicate what is my subjective impression.

            even from an unlikely source

            Back-handed compliment? I can't tell.

            To say "this is inappropriate" is an assertion of dominance by the speaker demanding submission from the Other -- and making him a victim of sorts.

            Oy. The roles have been reversed, it seems: You're the victim now, and I'm the perpetrator. Clever.

          • Marc Riehm

            YOS said nothing inappropriate. It is foolish to believe that Hebdo did not bring it upon themselves. "It" being savage, primitive injustice.

          • Luke Cooper

            Thanks for your input regarding the appropriateness of his comment.

            There are potential risks everywhere. Driving is a relatively big risk, yet most of us in the US do it daily. Should we think that anyone who gets injured or killed while driving is foolish and brought it upon themselves?

          • Marc Riehm

            The probability of dying while driving is very small, so no.

            Is someone who plays Russian Roulette, even once, foolish? Yep.

            It's a question of the degree of risk.

          • Luke Cooper

            I know it's about risk. At what level of risk does a behavior become imprudent? The risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident in the US is fairly high. Accidents are #4 on leading causes of death in the US ( http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/accidental-injury.htm ), and motor vehicle traffic deaths used to lead the accidents category; now accidental poisoning leads ( http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm ).

            I'm pretty sure that the probability of dying in a motor vehicle accident is higher than the probability of dying by terrorist attack because of drawing cartoons, so why is it the cartoonists who were being imprudent? What was the prior probability of dying by terrorist attack because of drawing cartoons?

          • Marc Riehm

            Oh come on. "The probability of dying by terrrorist attack because of drawing cartoons" is a straw man if ever I've seen one.

            Do you seriously compare the risks of dying in a car accident with those of the Hebdo crew? These were not just "cartoonists". They were widely-published, loud, obnoxious, and deliberately-offensive-against-Muslims cartoonists. Their offices were previously bombed. They received many death threats. They had the examples of Danish cartoonists and Salman Rushdie and Theo van Gogh.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            They had the examples of Danish cartoonists and Salman Rushdie and Theo van Gogh.

            And they were all heroes. The world does not become a better place by ignoring the absolute depravities that are committed in the name of Islam. Christian Europe was much improved by satire.

          • Marc Riehm

            I agree, 100%.

            But even to call them "heroes" is to acknowledge that they took on unusual levels of risk.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But why label their heroism as imprudence?

          • Marc Riehm

            Have not people questioned the boundaries between heroism and foolishness for a long time? ;)

          • Luke Cooper

            I agree that it's a silly comparison, but I hoped it would get a point across. Should people stop doing something as soon as they get a death threat? That's exactly what the "threaters" want. You seem to be saying that anyone who does something risky, even if it may be to fight for a good cause, is foolish and brought it upon themselves. Was Jesus also foolish?

          • Marc Riehm

            Absolutely they should not stop. But to pretend that they don't shoulder

          • Luke Cooper

            I think they knew of the risk. I did not mean to imply that what they were doing wasn't risky. I thought that you were arguing that they should have stopped because of the risk.

          • Michael Murray

            Playing Russian Roulette makes no contribution to society. There is an argument that political satire does. So I don't think the two situations are comparable. I wouldn't call someone foolish if they take a risk that has social benefits. I'd call them brave.

          • cminca

            Luke--So now you've learned that an inappropriate pro-catholic comment flies while random non-Catholic comments, even those that aren't in violation of the commenting policy, are removed.

          • Luke Cooper

            Loud and clear.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Ridiculing those who do violence in the name of God should have no consequences.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Well, there are the fantasy worlds of "should" and then there is the actual world of "is."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And we should try to make the world as it should be. I prefer a world with freedom and liberty to one without.

            “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
            -George Orwell

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The original comment was: Ridiculing those who do violence in the name of God should have no consequences. I only point out that this is not the empirical world in which we live. The parousia toward which you yearn is an imaginary future. "There'll be pie in the sky bye and bye," as the old song had it.

            But if there were no consequences to ridiculing those who do violence -- does it really matter in what name they do it? -- then what would be the point of the ridicule? Ridicule depends for its effect on the reaction of the Other. If it doesn't get a rise out of him, why bother? It's like trying to speak blasphemy of Thor.

            If a spurned boyfriend comes into the workplace waving a gun, the prudent man does not ridicule him.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Satire is not dependent on the reaction of the other. It is either witty or it is not. It is either poignant or it is not. How the object of satire feels about the satire is irrelevant. My views have been satirized before by various outlets, and if the satire is funny, I laugh. If people decide to react with violence, then they are a threat to our liberal democracy.

            The original comment was Paul commenting on Donohue's apology for terror. You are defending Donohue's comments, so I assumed that you agreed with them. People do imprudent things all of the time - when the imprudent action is also heroic, it is callous to call it imprudent. What do I know though. After all, I don't punch people in the face when they insult my mother.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            How the object of satire feels about the satire is irrelevant.

            Well, unless the bullying is so intense that they commit suicide.

            People do imprudent things all of the time - when the imprudentaction is also heroic

            Why do you suppose heroism is imprudent? Prudence lies in choosing proportional means to achieve an end. Sometimes heroic measures are called for. A man caught on a cliffside by a rising sea may prudently dance along a narrow ledge.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't think bullying is satire. Satire is about ideas, institutions, and cultures. It is not directed at individuals, but groups of individuals. Bullying is directed at single individuals and is another thing entirely.

            I don't think it is imprudent to exercise free speech in the face of tyranny. Donohue and terrorists both seem to think that anger and censorship is the proper response to speech that one doesn't like. I suppose at least Donohue doesn't support acts of terror to scare outlets into self-censorship, but he does seem to understand the impulse.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I don't think bullying is satire. Satire is about ideas, institutions, and cultures. It is not directed at individuals, but
            groups of individuals.

            Now you are trying to set limits on the permissible speech of others by specifying what does or does not count as "satire." If satire is not directed at individuals, what are we to make of depictions of the Prophet Mohammed? Or of comedy sketches making fun of Bush or Obama? These are not satires?

            I don't think it is imprudent to exercise free speech in the face of tyranny.

            Are we talking about speech in general or satire and ridicule in particular? One may be prudent and the other imprudent, depending on circumstances. The cardinal-archbishop of Vienna once preached a sermon to the Catholic Youth Organization from the outdoor pulpit at Stefansdom in which he famously told them "You have no Leader but Jesus Christ." (Leader in German is Führer.) In response the Party unleashed the Hitler Youth, who stormed the archbishop's residence and trashed it. Then they outlawed the CYO and ordered all its members to enroll in the Hitlerjugend. Was the archbishop exercising prudence? Maybe so, since it exposed the National Socialists to the Austrians who had welcomed them in the names of German unity. But what if he had reasonably foreseen that instead the SS would machine-gun the assembled children? Would the same speech still be prudent? I would say not.

            Much may hinge on whether the free speech is mere posing or moral preening versus whether it is effectively aimed at the tyrant. Sometime the best speech is clandestine and subversive.

            Donohue and terrorists both seem to think that anger and censorship is the proper response to speech that one doesn't like. I suppose at least Donohue doesn't support acts of
            terror to scare outlets into self-censorship, but he does seem to understand the impulse.

            Going by the empirical evidence -- that is, what was in the actual words he wrote -- it seemed only that he was saying be careful about poking serpents with a stick because if you keep it up long enough you may find that you are not mocking from a safe place anymore. In other circumstances Donohue would have been reviled (by the same people!) for being an Islamophobe. (How dare he suggest that muslims would reply to ridicule with violence!) But sometimes it is well to recall that "turn the other cheek" is a Christian admonition, not a muslim one.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You are equivocating on words that have very distinct connotations. Comedy sketches involving Bush or Obama are satires. Certain figures such as Obama or Mohammed have taken on larger cultural significance, and thus as individuals can be satirized.

            Bully connotes a malicious type of behavior against persons. One cannot bully dead people or presidents of the United States.
            The Archbishop was certainly a brave man. What the archbishop ought to have done is a difficult question. I am not an expert on this particular part of history, but I would guess that they had already lost their democracy before this had happened.

            When one has a liberal democracy, one should exercise their free speech in the face of minor tyranny, lest the tyranny grows
            .
            I personally care very little for Islam. I would not have considered him an Islamophobe for saying that muslims will reply to ridicule with violence. They have in the past and they will again. It actually takes very little for these Islamic extremists to react with violence - its best not to be a Christian where they have power. What I do object to is his belief that anger is a proper response to ridicule.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Oh, anger is, but violence is not. But one really ought to be aware that one is dealing with folks who are outside our cultural heritage. It is one thing to provoke violence wittingly, to speak truth to power, and stand alone in front of the tank.

            It is quite another to provoke while thinking oneself immune to any retaliation, or not even to recognize the nature of your foe. This is what is entailed by prudence: not that you take no risks, but that you take them on wittingly.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think we need to go back to what Donohue said.

            Killing in response to insult, no matter how gross, must be unequivocally condemned. That is why what happened in Paris cannot be tolerated. But neither should we tolerate the kind of intolerance that provoked this violent reaction.-Bill Donohue (Emphasis added)

            Donohue wants restrictions on free speech. He also uses the word provoked. The editors did not provoke anything. The word provoke casts blame on the victim. They have zero blame.

            For example, they have shown nuns masturbating and popes wearing condoms. They have also shown Muhammad in pornographic poses. - B.D.

            So what? I don't think there is anything particularly insightful about such cartons, but it isn't anything to get excited about. Donohue wants this speech to be restricted by the government.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Donohue wants restrictions on free speech.

            So does everyone. We aren't allowed to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. We are not supposed to make fraudulent product claims. Leftists demand that we not employ hate speech.

            The word provoke casts blame on the victim.

            No, it simply describes a psychological action. "Blame" is a moral dimesion you are adding on top of it.

            So what? I don't think there is anything particularly insightful about such cartons [nuns masturbating, popes wearing condoms, Muhammad in pornographic poses], but it isn't anything to get excited about.

            Of course not. That's because you agree with the sentiments displayed. We are never shocked by sentiments we find agreeable. But it would be disingenuous to suggest that such cartoons were published with no intention of evoking outrage on the part of the despised Other! What about images of black men altered to make them look like apes? Surely, there might be some "excitement." What if a sportscaster said that black men excel in certain sports because they have proportionately longer limbs? Should we get sufficiently excited as to deprive the speaker of his livelihood, make sure he never gets another job?

            Donohue wants this speech to be restricted by the government.

            Actually I think he wants folks to exercise self-restraint, politeness, and good taste, though I understand that to be lacking in some quarters.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So does everyone. We aren't allowed to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. We are not supposed to make fraudulent product claims. Leftists demand that we not employ hate speech.

            Fair enough. I am not a leftist, by the way. If a priest (or anyone) wishes to make statements about gay marriage or abortion or whatever, it is their right to say it free of censorship. It is not hate speech.

            No, it simply describes a psychological action. "Blame" is a moral dimesion you are adding on top of it.

            English is an expressive language with a vast vocabulary. Words have connotations.

            Of course not. That's because you agree with the sentiments displayed.

            Actually I don't. I just don't get worked up about it, and I didn't get worked up about it when I was Catholics. Bad artists are forgotten.

            However, I nothing more than a good satire (except maybe a good sci-fi), and I do not mind if it is directed at some of my beliefs. I will enjoy it for its own sake, and perhaps I will reevaluate some of my beliefs.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I nothing more than a good satire (except maybe a good sci-fi), and I do not mind if it is directed at some of my beliefs.

            That may depend on how savage the satire is and how deep-seated your beliefs. What about a satire that depicts the black race as lawless buffoons? I don't think I would enjoy that, and I do think that I might mind it a great deal.

            I've written a few satires myself, and rather more SF.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Fair enough. My gut is that a modern satirist who thinks of racial matters in such a callous way would lack the keen insight into the human condition to write great satire. In general, I prefer the more light hearted satire - Horatian.

            I do wish someone would bring a compilation of the Astounding Science fiction stories to a hardcover anthology. At least there is a kindle edition.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Then there is "biting" satire like Swift's modest proposal or Heinlein's Farnham's Freehold.

          • Marc Riehm

            Of course that is true. They should have no consequences. But they do - clearly to publicly insult Islam is to bring risk upon yourself. It shouldn't, and the Muslims who condone it need a bit of enlightenment.

            My wife and I advise our teenage daughter about her dress and behaviour. Of course, were she to go scantily clad, and were a man to assault her, he would be in the wrong. No question. But best for it not to happen at all, yes?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Satire is tremendously powerful in bringing about enlightenment. Donohue is an apologizer for terrorism and a victim blamer. Donohue thinks it is wrong for religion to be mocked.

            YOS seems to think that one should not satire, ridicule, or speak ones mind if it could possibly cost one their life. It is prudent not to. Is it prudent to allow terrorists to censor our free speech?

            I suppose I prefer liberal democracy (for which free speech is essential) to prudence.

            Men don't assault women because they are scantily clad. That is victim blaming.

          • Marc Riehm

            There is of course a difference in kind between prudency and the question of ethical wrong. The rapist and the terrorist are ethically in the wrong. The Hebdo crew was ethically in the right but quite imprudent. The drunk, scantily-clad girl who isn't careful about what be put in her drink has done nothing ethically wrong, but is certainly imprudent.

            I am a strong, strong advocate of freedom of expression. Hebdo is brave, but arguably to the point of foolhardiness.

            The world is what it is. Yes, we should all act to change it for the better. But in the here and now, rose-colored glasses can get you in trouble.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Fair enough. I suppose I largely agree.

            I do fear though that focusing on the prudence of the victim, shifts the focus from the real culprits. A barbaric conception of Islam in the one case and the misogynistic treatment of women in the other. These are both largely cultural things.

          • Chad Eberhart

            ...and should be done on principle. Martyrdom for secularism. This is something that YOS should understand as a Catholic.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Yes it should.

          • Sqrat

            Not sure how the notion arose that behavior should have no consequences, even if the primary fault lies with the Other.

            said Pontius Pilate to Jesus.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Where did he say that?

          • Sqrat

            In the praetorium, a few days after the Jesus gave the temple money changers a good whippin'.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Pilate said, "Not sure how the notion arose that behavior should have no consequences, even if the primary fault lies with the Other"? Must've missed that one.

          • Sqrat

            As Ken Ham is wont to ask, "Were you there?"

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Who is Ken Ham, and why should we care what he asked?

          • Sqrat

            Ken Ham is a well-known heretic. You should get out more.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Why? So I learn about nonentities like this Ham? Why should we care what he asked?

          • Sqrat

            Sorry, I was making a joke. Ken Ham is a Biblical literalist and young earth creationist with a certain amount of notoriety. I thought you might have heard of him before. If, in a debate, you challenge Ham's assertion that the universe was created in six literal days 6,000 years ago, and claim that, no, the universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago, he'll say "How do you know, were you there?"

            When I say that Pontius Pilate told Jesus (using your words), "Not sure how the notion arose that behavior should have no consequences," I am obviously making another joke. I am not actually claiming that Pilate actually said it, only suggesting that it would have been perfectly appropriate if he had. And can you be absolutely sure Pilate did NOT say it? "How do you know, were you there?"

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Okay. I guess this Ham guy means a lot to you. And the tag line, "Vuz you dere, Charlie?" goes back to vaudeville. The comedian tells an outrageous story; the straight man expresses skepticism, and the retort is as said. Even so, there is something to be said when comparing an eyewitness account to an armchair reconstruction.

            But as Aquinas stated, the existence of things unseen can be inferred from their effects and we can reason back from those effects to the source.

            You cannot prove a negative. Pilate could also have ordered a mocha latte and sent out for pizza. Or he could have held a pilates class. "You can't prove he didn't!" Fortunately, in history the onus is on the positive case.

          • Doug Shaver

            You cannot prove a negative.

            Says who? Mathematicians have been doing it since Pythagoras's time.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You might notice that mathematics deals with the abstracted properties of ideal bodies. The historian deals with actual events. Now of course there are certain kinds of "negatives" that can be proven. "There are no elephants" is a negative but it cannot be proven, only disproven (by producing a single elephant). OTOH, "There is no elephant in my bedroom" can be proven -- by complete induction. There are also negatives that involve contradictions with known positives. But you don't actually prove that "Napoleon did not march to Waterloo by way of Liege." You have the positive assertion that "Napoleon marched to Waterloo by way of Charleroi."

          • Doug Shaver

            Now of course there are certain kinds of "negatives" that can be proven.

            In that case, the unqualified "You cannot prove a negative" is false, isn't it? Putting scare quotes around the exceptions doesn't change anything.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It is usually taken to mean a negative existence proposition like "there are no elephants." Or more modernly, "There are no intelligent aliens." Such statements may be falsified, but never proven. The generally irritating thing is when people use a negative -- "You can't prove it didn't happen" -- in order to assert a positive -- "It happened."

          • Doug Shaver

            It is usually taken to mean a negative existence proposition like "there are no elephants."

            When I said that mathematicians have been proving negatives since Pythagoras's time, I meant they have been proving negative existence propositions, such as "there is no rational number that is the square root of 2." I would expect a statistician to know that.

            The generally irritating thing is when people use a negative -- "You can't prove it didn't happen" -- in order to assert a positive -- "It happened."

            I've gotten that sort of argument lots of times. I have never responded with "You can't prove a negative." I respond with something to the effect of "Absence of a proof of not-X does not constitute a proof of X." Not as succinct, but at least it's actually true.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "there is no rational number that is the square root of 2."

            For pity's sake. That's a positive statement reworded to look like a negative one: "The square root of 2 is an irrational number." It is not a proposition about rational numbers, as the negative wording implies, but a proposition about a property of √2.

            IOW, one does not proceed inductively by considering all the rational numbers in turn and verifying that none of them square to 2. The straightforward version is a statement about SQRT(2), which is demonstrated modus tollens by equating √2 = a/b and showing that it leads to a contradiction.

            A statement like "There are no irrational numbers" can be falsified by producing a single example of a number inexpressible as a ratio, but it cannot be proven, no matter how many numbers are inspected and shown to be rational. The very next one might be irrational.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There does not exist a rational solution to x^2 = 2 is proving a negative.

            Here is another example:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat%27s_Last_Theorem

            There does not exist an even prime greater than 2.

            There does not exist an upper bound on the function f(x) = 1/x

            There does not exist a construction to square a circle.

            There does not exist a non-constant bounded entire function.

          • Doug Shaver

            A statement like "There are no irrational numbers" can be falsified by producing a single example of a number inexpressible as a ratio,

            Yes, just like Fermat's Last Theorem, which asserts "There are no integer solutions" to a certain kind of equation, could have been falsified by producing a single example of such an equation with integer solutions.

            but it cannot be proven, no matter how many numbers are inspected and shown to be rational.

            Fermat's Last Theorem could not have been proven that way, either. Fortunately, Andrew Wiles found another way to prove it.

          • And the most Christian attitude of course is to make fun of the people who get bit by snakes. Pointing out 'what did they expect?' is always a great thing to say in response, preferably as publicly as possible.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, it isn't, any more than ridiculing muslims. Although at some point folks should be taught not to poke snakes with sticks, there is a time, place, and manner for doing so. I'm not sure why you think there can only be one sort of reaction.

          • Many sorts of reactions. From blaming and ridiculing people who get killed by terrorists to not blaming them. Takes all kinds.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Who is "blaming" and "ridiculing" the people who were killed?

          • George

            and Muhammad isn't "Muslims".

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            a) If "Mohammed" is being mocked, then it was an attack on an individual, which another responder here has claimed does not qualify as satire, but as bullying. (Mo' has been dead a long time, so it's hard to say what he's done lately to merit mockery.)

            b) If "muslims" are being satirized, then we have a case of Islamophobia and hate speech in which an entire group is being mocked because of the actions of a few.

          • George

            Do you tell persecuted christians to stop acting in such a way to be persecuted?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In ancient times Christians were taught to defer to Roman authorities and not provoke them. Those who deliberately sought martyrdom were criticized.

            Those who are being persecuted today, esp. in muslim lands, do not provoke their persecutions by taunting or provoking muslims. Rather their masters are simply carrying out what they mistakenly believe to be a mandate to do so in their own religion.

          • George

            Tell me, do you want to live in a world where cartoonists are assassinated for their speech or not?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Of course not. But that does not make their speech wise or prudent.

        • Zippity-Do-Daddy

          Yet,it was the said same Bill Donahue who back in 2012 responded to a an exhibition of 'P___ Christ' by placing a bobble head doll of President Obama in a jar of fake feces and staging a protest in midtown Manhattan. A year later he went on to blast a University of South Florida professor who compared priests to feces. Narcissism -- thy name is Bill Donahue. In other words -- its only okay when Bill Donahue does it

    • Krakerjak

      The SN Express

      • Michael Murray

        I do enjoy your cartoons !

  • William Davis

    The people of Okinawa Japan are the longest lived in the world, Japan in general has the longest life span of any country.

    "Most Okinawan holidays are related to a Kami ritual or celebration. As a result of contact with China, Japan, Korea and the West, Buddhism,Shintoism and Christianity have been introduced, but native animism remains the primary religion."

    I've had great experience with Buddhism, and perhaps my Spinozan beliefs make me an animist. Looks like I'm on the right track for a long life, not to mention I drink matcha on a daily basis (that is great stuff), eat lots of fish, vegetables and fruit, and avoid fake food like the plague. Lot's of exercise is beneficial. Interesting thing is, the better I take care of my body, the better my mind works, I do focus on things with neurological benefit. The notion that my mind is made of matter has been working out EXTREMELY well for me ;)

  • Mike

    When i stopped living as though God does not exist, my "cultural atheist" phase, i became gradually, happier, more grounded, less anxious, healthier, and more attentive to my family and better with money. It seemed to me that becoming a more intentional catholic helped me to become the person i'd always wanted to be but couldn't quite become - like all the distractions associated with living as an atheist were preventing me from "settling down". Anyway, i recommend it for anyone especially for those who don't believe - next time you aren't doing anything Sunday morning, pop into your local catholic church and spend an hour trying something truly different and unique and experience for yourself the wonder of this 2,000 year old tradition.

    • Luke Cooper

      My experience with religion was precisely the opposite. I had to discard it to achieve the things you gained by converting to Catholicism. Obviously, my recommendation is different than yours.

      • Mike

        It's interesting bc i was surrounded by a deep deep secularism and rebelled against it and it seems you did the opposite..interesting indeed.

        • Luke Cooper

          It definitely wasn't rebellion in my case; it was necessary for my well-being.

          • Mike

            That's interesting...can you tell us alittle more about that? or is it just too personal.

          • Luke Cooper

            Personal, but I'll be vague enough. I was struggling with many issues surrounding basic Christian teachings, and they were contributing to a major depressive episode that almost resulted in my death.

          • Mike

            Thanks for answering Luke. Maybe this isn't what you mean but my wife's dad's friend in the 70s had a bit of mental breakdown obsessing over the trinity (mind you he had also suffered through years of chronic back pain from a work injury but had turned to religion for "answers" and hope). Anyway apparently one night at some wedding reception he kept asking how 3 could be 1 and just kind of lost it and her dad took him to the hospital.

            I've had some times like that. Nothing as serious as that but i think that being catholic "helps" in that the church does alot of the interpretation and leaves believers a wide berth on what can be believed. Anyway i can tell you that many nights i've gone to bed thinking what would the earth look like if adam had not sinned; how many ppl would there be; and other things like that. It's speculation and kind of like science fiction fantasizing but when you read aquinas and really get into whether immortality is theoretically possible it can drive you a bit crazy thinking about that kind of thing - oh also things like well what if i get into heaven by my wife doesn't!! these kinds of i'd say more protestant doubts but you get the gist.

            Anyway i am sorry to hear about what you went through but am glad you seem to be doing fine now, you know beating up on us christians ;)...Seriously though i am glad you're doing better.

          • Luke Cooper

            Thanks, Mike.

          • Mike

            BTW forgot to mention that i think you might reading this short by fo'connor:

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

            https://foxhonorsenglish10.wikispaces.com/file/view/The%20Lame%20Shall%20Enter%20First.pdf/315567954/The%20Lame%20Shall%20Enter%20First.pdf

            anyway it's dark, southern gothic but good; it's not apologetic per se.

          • Luke Cooper

            Why you think that this is appropriate is incomprehensible to me.

          • Mike

            I am confused...i just thought you might find the story interesting; seriously.

          • William Davis

            I just mentioned to David Nickol that religion can be destructive, depending on the situation. The primary destructive force is the threat of hell for not believing. I think hell was invented as an anti-heresy mechanism, primarily targeting unorthodox Christians. Today I think it has the pews full of people who pretend to believe to get out of hell, but really do not believe. Someone who recognizes the fact that they really don't believe can be stuck with some real cognitive dissonance.

          • Luke Cooper

            I think that everyone would agree that some people's religious beliefs can be destructive, but no one seems to admit that his or her particular religious beliefs are destructive. Or they'll say that the destruction was justified.

    • Doug Shaver

      i recommend it for anyone especially for those who don't believe - next time you aren't doing anything Sunday morning, pop into your local catholic church and spend an hour trying something truly different and unique and experience for yourself the wonder of this 2,000 year old tradition.

      I spent a few hours at Catholic masses during my younger days. I was quite impressed by the pageantry, compared with the minimalist Protestant rituals to which I was accustomed.

      • Mike

        My mom once took me to the knox presbyterian church when i was like 9 years i think just to see what it was like bc it was by our apartment building. The "priest" wore a navy blue suit and there was nothing "cool" to look at in the place and to us it seemed like he wasn't doing anything except talking so we didn't go back. At that age i had no idea what a christian really was let along a protestant one. Anyway the pageantry is one of the things i really appreciate; you feel like you're part of something mysterious with deep roots...it works well on the senses.

  • Galorgan

    If I had a website which purpose was to cultivate dialogue with Catholics from an atheist point of view, I probably wouldn't include articles by David Silverman.

    • Luke Cooper

      Seriously. There should be ways to flag entire articles as inappropriate here. Surely there are other avenues for doing a buddy a favor by plugging his book. Mr. Vogt, if you're reading, could you please supply your rationale for publishing this article on a site created to engage non-believers in conversation?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I would like to hear the rationale as well.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The greatest joy that Catholicism offers is the prospect of achieving salvation; its teachings provide a veritable road map to heaven.

    And the other religions do not? I suppose those who do not follow this map cast doubt upon the fate of their souls?

    Regardless, it is a statement without evidence.

    There are other benefits, as well, residual rewards such as good health and happiness. All total, Catholicism offers the best guide to achieving health, happiness, and heaven.

    For some perhaps, but not all.

    Americans who are the most religious have the highest wellbeing” (his emphasis). That is the principal conclusion that Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport came to in his book God Is Alive and Well.2

    So, instead of linking to a particular study that we can evaluate and discuss, we have a broken link for a book on amazon with 12 reviews. I don't suppose there are more popular studies that have undergone more intense analysis or even better peer-reviewed studies. Gallup tends to have conservative biases in its polling.

    As it stands, that is an assertion without any provided evidence.

    He is not alone in this finding. Importantly, not only are the most religious the most likely to be healthy and happy; there is an impressive body of research on priests and nuns, particularly on cloistered nuns, that shows just how true this finding is.

    Such as?

    It is not hard to come by evidence that shows religion to be integrally tied to well-being and self-giving, but attempts to explain why are sorely lacking

    It was not for me. Religion made me depressed and selfish. Individuals are different. What makes one person happy, will not necessarily make another happy.

    The evidence is decisive: when it comes to the attainment of health, happiness, and heaven, there is a clear Catholic advantage.

    Still waiting for the evidence.

    Beliefs and bonds are tied to these outcomes, but it is the role of boundaries that matters most in this regard: those who see boundaries as stifling are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, making for unhealthy and unhappy outcomes.

    How boring! What if the thing one enjoys most is racing motorcycles, hang gliding, mountain climbing, or bull running. Living has inherent risks. In many cases, in order to achieve greatness it is necessary to risk life and limb. Exploring the ocean in 15th century vessels or flying ships to the moon all came/come with risk. Perhaps the risk is worth it. Dying isn't the tragedy - not living well is.

    Those who greet every limitation on their freedom as an unfair burden are the most likely to break norms—the rules of society that are commonly agreed to as a condition of civility. This is as unhealthy for the individual as it is destructive to society

    The rules of a properly functioning civil society are limited in scope. I don't want a Catholic nanny state.

    For example, whether the behavior is driving too fast, or taking drugs, the social price tag is high.

    Are these the best examples Bill has? How fast is too fast? I personally hate when people drive too slow, especially when they fail to merge at the correct speed. There is virtually no social price tag to a large number of drugs when they are used responsibly.

    Fortunately, our Judeo-Christian heritage has many resources to draw on; the wisdom inherent in the Ten Commandments, for instance, cannot be surpassed.

    Really? So the wisdom justifying chattel slavery cannot be surpassed? How is that even a serious sentence?

    Add to this the bountiful resources that Catholicism has to offer—it has explicit teachings on the necessity of maintaining boundaries—and the result is a veritable guide to good living

    This is circular. You haven't given any reason to believe that maintaining boundaries is a good thing. In many cases, pushing past boundaries has lead to great progress.

    Those who are not religious have never been able to find a secular counterpart to the role religion plays in dealing with adversity.

    So, religion is the opiate of the masses then? I can think of all sorts of ways to deal with adversity that are nonreligious. These ways are better than trusting in an all-powerful God who cannot help you, because he does not exist or at least is not interested in helping.

    Of course, even the faithful have been known to surge toward God when they are crying out for help, so this phenomenon is hardly unique to nonbelievers. But at least believers have something palpable to repair to when crisis strikes.

    Non existent things are not palpable. God does not make the world a better place. People do.

    “Active participation in a religious community provides individuals with friends, fellow worshippers, social networks, and social support,” Newport writes.5 This explanation shows the importance of bonds. Another ancient proverb, “No man is an island,” carries great truth: God did not mean for us to be alone. The physical and mental benefits that accrue from enmeshing ourselves in communities are formidable. Religious communities, more than others, provide a steady and reliable network of social relationships that its participants can draw on—they act as a buffer to adversity. In this regard, the communal appeal of Catholicism is central.

    Atheists can have social networks as well. Family, friends, and fellow hobbyists.

    In this regard, the communal appeal of Catholicism is central. It is indeed illustrative of the fact that bonds matter: they matter especially for the achievement of health and happiness.

    No, science demonstrates that bonds help achieve health and happiness.

    Agnostics are not certain whether God exists; atheists are sure he doesn’t.

    To paraphrase Hitchens: Bill, you sound like you have never read your opponents arguments. Atheists lack a belief in Gods. This is not the same as saying that Gods do not exist for sure.

    I would point out that the negation of the Catholic conception of God is not that God does not exist (though that is certainly possible). I can deny the tri-Omni Abrahamic God and still believe in a God.

    By definition, they are the least likely to embrace the first of the Three B’s, namely beliefs

    After reading this essay, I do not know why beliefs are necessary to happiness, what exactly Bill means by Beliefs, or why atheists don't have them. I have many beliefs and I am an atheist.

    Less obvious is their comparatively weak commitment to bonds and boundaries

    No, we have commitments to bonds. You haven't shown us why these boundaries that you speak of (like the one prohibiting a married couple from using a condom) are essential to happiness. I am quite sure that the boundaries that you would like on free speech are not good for a free and just society.

    Consequently, as we shall see, they are also the least likely to achieve the Three H’s.

    I see little promise for this. The argument is certainly not in this blog, and I am not going to buy the book of someone who is an apologist for terror.

    The secular model is best represented by intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities.

    Exactly what is the secular model? Why is it best represented by intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities? This stands out as a very silly sentence in a very silly piece.

    The intellectuals that are illustrative of the secular model reflect a materialist worldview, as exemplified by Enlightenment writers. They reject traditional moral values, are disdainful of God, and are utopian in thought.

    What does it mean to be "utopian in thought"? Bill, have you even read the enlightenment writers? Many of them were deists. That is not materialism. They were quite varied in their beliefs. Although I prefer liberal democracy to your rather fascist tendencies. What is traditional morality? Did the early church reject the traditional morality of the Greeks and Romans? Your morality system stands on its own against other competing morality system. It does not deserve some special place, because it is old and has the veneer of sacredness about it.

    Similarly, celebrities are not a uniform group: the ones depicted in this book are known for their hedonistic lives, hostility to conventional norms, and penchant for self-indulgence.

    Why do I get the idea that Bill's book is the knocking down of a strawman?

    While intellectuals and celebrities may seem to have little in common, the ones under consideration place a high value on individualism. For intellectuals, their individualism is manifested by their egotism; for celebrities, it is exhibited by their narcissism. In other words, they have practically nothing in common with saints, priests, and nuns.

    What is Bill's problem with individualism? I take it that he does not like liberal democracy or that people chose to live in a ways that he does not approve. I would also infer that Bill would like to use the power of the state to enforce his Catholic morality.

    The Catholic advantage over the secular model should not be interpreted as an argument against all matters secular. To be specific, the Founders crafted a secular government, one that has served us well. But they also cherished a strong religion-friendly culture.

    After ranting against individualism, Bill pretends that the founders are on his side.....

    Bonds are important to Catholics, and indeed Catholicism’s communitarian elements are defining; on the other hand, secularism prizes individualism

    You realize that one can both prize individualism and prize community and bonds. I am convinced that Bill fails to understand what individualism is all about.

    Boundaries in Catholic thought are not inimical to freedom; for example, the imperative “Thou Shalt Not” is not reflexively seen as unfair or oppressive; secularists find boundaries constraining

    The catholic thought on freedom that Bill is referring to amounts to doublethink. There are many Thou Shalt Nots that I find to be eminently just, fair and necessary to a civil society. Nice try though.
    If SN really wants to catalyze dialogue between theists and atheists, it would be best to leave posts such as these unpublished. It only upsets atheists and makes Catholics look really bad. I would think that most Catholics are not particularly proud of Bill Donohue and do not identify with his brand of Catholicism.

    • Mike

      Methinks thou protesteth too much ;)

      • Luke Cooper

        This seems to be your go-to response when someone makes points that you can't counter ;)

        • Mike

          LOL you got me!

          • Luke Cooper

            Now do you see how the winky-face doesn't help?

          • Mike

            I think it works just fine actually. ;)

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Is there something that you object to? Bill managed to write an essay in which, nearly every sentence either makes a false claim or a strong claim without evidence. I could have written something much longer.

        • Mike

          "I could have written something much longer."

          I do not doubt it!

    • My introduction to the National Catholic Reporter article, apparently, was deemed impolitic and was censored. I apologize.

      This Commonweal article raises legitimate concerns addressed in this thread:
      https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/bill-donohue-vs-facts

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I glanced at the article on my phone, but just now have had a chance to comment. I see it was deleted. I didn't think there was anything wrong with the article, but the SN mods are very sensitive to any posts critical of the abuse and the subsequent cover up. I mentioned the scandal once in one of my posts and that post was deleted.

        I don't think you have anything to apologize for. I think the mods should apologize for deleting respectful posts, and rethink posting articles by Bill Donohue.

        • Papalinton

          My only response here is to cite Morris R Cohen, Professor of Philosophy and Law, City College New York and University of Chicago:
          "If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good."

      • I now recall a guest post I contributed regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis several years ago. I thought I was even-handed:
        http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2010/04/12/the-clergy-sex-abuse-crisis-a-guest-post-from-john-sylvest/

    • Papalinton

      An excellent critique, I.R.

  • Michael Murray

    The greatest joy that Catholicism offers is the prospect of achieving salvation; its teachings provide a veritable road map to heaven.

    There is a road to heaven ? But it says "she's climbing a stairway to heaven". Maybe the men drive and the women climb the stairs. That would make sense.

    • William Davis

      I was thinking escalator, but close enough ;)

    • Papalinton

      Men are chauffeured, women must 'hoof it'. Couldn't get closer to the sentiments expressed in the bible if one tried.

      • Mike

        LOL...i am sorry for intruding but that is really really funny, really!

  • Michael Murray

    “Americans who are the most religious have the highest wellbeing”

    I'm not sure how wellbeing is being measured here. But in general America is an exception to most trends on religiosity. See for example the graph here

    http://www.pewglobal.org/2008/09/17/chapter-2-religiosity/

    and the comment they make

    Generally, there is a clear relationship between wealth and religiosity: in rich nations fewer people view religion as important than in poor nations. In the current survey, people who live in the poorest nations almost unanimously say religion is important to them, while the citizens of Western Europe and other wealthy nations tend to say it plays a less significant role. However, Americans – who tend to be religious despite their country’s wealth – continue to be a major exception to this pattern.

    • Michael Murray

      Answer to my own question which I missed before:

      Newport and I are both sociologists, so when we refer to “higher wellbeing” we are speaking about an overall sense of satisfaction that people have with their lives;

      Not sure how countries rank according to that criteria. I'd be surprised if it doesn't correlate strongly with national wealth.

      The exceptionalism of America with respect to religion remains.

      • Luke Cooper

        "The correlation between mean purchasing power income and mean life satisfaction was .62 across all nations in the survey."

        Quote and image from:

        Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American psychologist, 55(1), 34.

        Edit: Oops. Posted too soon. Image will be in comment below. Full PDF available here. Cited almost 17,000 times in Google Scholar.

        • Michael Murray

          Thanks Luke.

        • Luke Cooper

          Nations' life satisfaction correlates .62 with a proxy for wealth.

  • Doug Shaver

    With apologies for any repetition of Ignatius Reilly's comments . . . .

    That is why the Holy Father exhorted us not to allow the Church to be reduced to “the sphere of the private and the personal.” He wants a public, full-throated exercise of religion.

    He should be more specific. We already saw a very public, full-throated exercise of religion on Sept. 11, 2001.

    There is much to Catholicism that needs to be trumpeted.

    Agreed. But the parts of Catholicism that are uniquely Catholic should be trumpeted as a warning. Catholicism has its good parts, but none of them are unique to Catholicism. Or to religion in general.

    The greatest joy that Catholicism offers is the prospect of achieving salvation; its teachings provide a veritable road map to heaven.

    A church that I used to belong to said the same thing about itself. It also said that Catholics were most assuredly not following that map. And that church, by the way, claimed apostolic authority.

    That is the principal conclusion that Gallup editor in chief Frank Newport came to in his book God Is Alive and Well. He is not alone in this finding.

    So, there are other researchers whose studies agree with his conclusion. But there are yet others whose studies have reached a contrary conclusion. In any case, proof that religion is good is not proof that Catholicism is best.

    Importantly, not only are the most religious the most likely to be healthy and happy

    This is meaningless without an explicit metric by which person A is judged to be more religious than person B.

    there is an impressive body of research on priests and nuns, particularly on cloistered nuns

    Exactly what makes a priest or nun more religious than other people? Their celibacy? The frequency with which they perform religious rituals? Without some kind of answer, I cannot know the intended meaning of "more religious."

    I don't deny having some idea of what "more religious" means, but cannot just assume that my idea is the same as the author's idea.

    very religious people, studies show, are the most likely to be altruistic and charitable.

    Again, without an explicit metric for religion, I cannot judge the truth or falsity of this statement. If those studies include such a metric, the author should present it.

    “Many religions,” Newport writes, “either explicitly or implicitly promote norms of behavior that are in turn associated with higher wellbeing and healthy behaviors.”

    Uh huh. "Many religions", eh? But not all? Is this an admission that we must distinguish between good religions and bad religions? I'm OK with that. Just like I'm OK admitting that we must distinguish between good secular philosophies and bad secular philosophies. And I affirm that many secular philosophies “either explicitly or implicitly promote norms of behavior that are in turn associated with higher wellbeing and healthy behaviors.”

    those who see boundaries as stifling are more likely to engage in risky behaviors,

    That depends on the situation. During wartime, military service is pretty risky, but military service is all about accepting boundaries on one's behavior. So is civilian police work, during peace or war.

    Those who greet every limitation on their freedom as an unfair burden are the most likely to break norms—the rules of society that are commonly agreed to as a condition of civility. This is as unhealthy for the individual as it is destructive to society.

    If we're really talking about every limitation, it's also extremely rare, and not characteristic of any secular philosophy with a significant following. Every normal human being, regardless of their religion or lack thereof, accepts the need for limitations on personal freedom. The only dispute is over which limitations are necessary and on what grounds society is to justify imposing them.

    the wisdom inherent in the Ten Commandments, for instance, cannot be surpassed.

    That is an opinion with which I strenuously disagree, and I don't need to reject all or any of them to justify my disagreement.

    Add to this the bountiful resources that Catholicism has to offer—it has explicit teachings on the necessity of maintaining boundaries—and the result is a veritable guide to good living.

    As already noted, nobody needs Catholicism to understood the need for boundaries. And, as one who knows well enough how Catholicism says I should live, I cannot regard Catholic living as good living.

    Newport stresses the importance of belief. “Religions by definition include a belief in God or a higher power: That belief can provide comfort, surcease from sorrow, and inner spiritual calmness.”

    It is trivial to affirm without qualification "the importance of belief." Everybody has beliefs. As for the particular belief in a god or other transcendent power, its efficacy as an emotional analgesic has not, to my knowledge, been proven superior to that of every alternative. And even if there were such proof, it would do nothing to demonstrate the truth of theism.

    There is a reason why the old adage “There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole” is commonly cited: there is much truth to it.

    Wrong. There is no truth to it. It is commonly cited because it makes theists feel good to think it's true.

    “Active participation in a religious community provides individuals with friends, fellow worshippers, social networks, and social support,” Newport writes.

    Active participation in any community, religious or otherwise, provides people with friends, social networks, and social support. That's what communities are for.

    God did not mean for us to be alone.

    God or no god, humans are social animals. With rare exceptions, none of us could long survive living in true solitude. Even a prisoner in solitary confinement is not actually living alone.

    The physical and mental benefits that accrue from enmeshing ourselves in communities are formidable.

    The primary benefit is survival. We live in communities, not because the alternative is less enjoyable, but because the alternative is not to live at all.

    In this regard, the communal appeal of Catholicism is central.

    It has not been my observation that Catholics are more communal than people of every other religion.

    Agnostics are not certain whether God exists; atheists are sure he doesn’t.

    If anyone wants to know what Catholics believe, should they ask a Protestant? I don't think so. And, for exactly the same reason, no one who wants to know what atheists believe should ask a theist. I am an atheist. Atheism is being without a belief that God exists. It is not being sure that he doesn't. Of course most atheists do feel sure, but that isn't what makes them atheists.

    While there are important differences between these three sec­tors, they all share a secular vision: they believe that the best so­ciety is one that strongly limits the role of religion.

    Maybe such a vision is dominant among those sectors, though I have seen no reliable surveys on the topic. But it certainly is not unanimous.

    By definition, they are the least likely to embrace the first of the Three B’s, namely beliefs.

    Here we go again. Nobody, but nobody, is saying: People should not have beliefs.

    Less obvious is their comparatively weak commitment to bonds and boundaries.

    There is a reason it is not obvious. Secularism per se is not less committed than religion to the maintenance of bonds and boundaries.

    it has much to do with their penchant for individualism.

    Yes, many atheists are keen on individualism. But as we are often reminded in this forum, so are Protestant Christians. And communists, who are cited ad nauseam as the paradigmatic atheists, are pretty famously opposed to individualism.

    The secular model is best represented by intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities.

    If the chosen representatives are not typical secularists, then they prove nothing about secularism. I get the notion of an ideal type, and I endorse the notion, but there is a reason why the words "type" and "typical" have the same first three letters.

    The intellectuals that are illustrative of the secular model reflect a materialist worldview, as exemplified by Enlightenment writers.

    The Enlightenment writers do not exemplify the worldview that is prevalent among intellectuals in the modern world. The prevailing opinion is that the Enlightenment thinkers took a wrong turn that had to be corrected by more modern thinkers. I happen to disagree, but mine is a minority view.

    Catholic beliefs stem from the realization that God matters;

    That isn't all they stem from. You cannot infer any specifically Catholic doctrine from the proposition "God matters."

    • Manifold and multiform efficacies (or inefficacies) flow from various worldviews neither exclusively nor exceptionally, whether religious or secular. Still, inventorying and celebrating the efficacies of one's community, both by-products and end-products, along with the practices that fostered same, makes for a worthwhile contribution. That's fine as far as that's concerned.

      The author did acknowledge, when he turned polemical, that he wasn't treating intellectuals and celebrities as monolithic or uniform groups. Okay. However, maybe I missed it, but I didn't see where he applied the same sociologic rigor and/or common courtesy to secularists, in general?

      In his other works, the author traffics in sweeping stereotypes and facile caricatures. He represents a rather traditionalistic cohort that's steeped in an overly narrow natural law approach to human morality, which would need to be supplemented by a much more robust relationality-responsibility methodology in order to overcome its seriously impoverished anthropology. He reminds me of paranoid conspiracy theorists who overplay the victim card and see secular bogeymen behind every social, cultural, moral and political tree. For example,
      those who advocate better contraceptive access did so --- not to advance medically compelling health goals, but --- to further marginalize religion in the public square. Jeepers.

  • I'm certainly open to the idea that being a Catholic leads to improved well-being. This is an empirical claim and, according to Wikipedia, there have been some 3000 studies on the subject with mixed results. We don't see this research cited here, but rather one book written by a pollster.

    Of course, all the positive effects are irrelevant to the question of whether any of the claims of the religion are true. In fact, they are good evidence for why human societies might develop religions for evolutionary reasons. I don't need a promise of slightly improved well-being as an incentive, the promise of an afterlife in heaven is incentive enough!

    This assumes that the claimed positive effects are natural, which also suggests they are generally independent of the religion chosen, or even if the activity is religious. For example see the 16 year study of stress among Israelis. See also the research drawing connections between church attendance (not strength of belief) and life expectancy.

    If these effects are supernatural, then we have a larger problem for Catholics. Why is God using his power to slightly increase the general well-being of Catholics, but also non-catholic religious people, but will not do so to save the lives of catholic children with disease?

  • I would say one of the most widespread harms of religion is the social effects of those leaving it, or excluded from it. The atheist community is filled with people who have been alienated from their communities because they left their religion. This is a harm both for the atheist and religious. If no gods exist this harm is completely unnecessary. One needs to consider this as well as the health of the religious in considering the overall effects of religion on well-being.

    Here is a relatively recent article, examining this. (I'd say it also shows how selective Donahue has been in selecting the sources for his article. There is a great deal of research on the nexus between, religion and well-being. He refers to none of it.)
    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/the-health-effects-of-leaving-religion/379651/

  • Steven Dillon

    I love the Church's promotion of Natural Law ethics as a means to true happiness, I just wish it was more widely acknowledged as a Pagan theory, having come from Aristotle after all.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Everyone who knows anything about the natural law knows this.

      • Steven Dillon

        Of course. Which is why I wish it were more acknowledged. It's become so associated with Christianity that it's thought of as Christian.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Well, who has carried it forward for 2000 years? There are no more pagan Greeks and Romans to defend it!

          • Steven Dillon

            To be fair, Christianity didn't embrace Aristotle until about the 15th century :P But, its preservation and restoration of his school is one of the things I think Pagans should be grateful of Christianity for doing.

            Christian thinkers have had a lot longer to contemplate Aristotelianism than Pagans, so the development of Scholastic Paganism has a lot to learn from Christian thinkers.

          • William Davis

            I think you have to give the enlightenment (you aren't as anti-enlightenment as many Catholics) some credit, it has helped us determine what is actually good and bad for us, though the jury is still out on some things. In some ways, Christian abandonment of Jewish foods laws was a mistake, though a failure on occasion shouldn't be grounds for execution. Science is implicating pork in many health problems, including prostate cancer. Luckily I've always avoided the stuff. There is a lot of ancient wisdom science is now confirming was accurate. Surely there are some kosher items that don't hold up scientifically, but the general principle makes sense and is consistent with natural law.

        • Papalinton

          There is a very good and reasoned rationale for that, Steven. All of the significant rites des passages, and most important milestones of community and society, marriage, birth, initiations into womanhood/manhood, death etc, indeed the whole cycle of life, have been appropriated by Christianity in the first instance as if it were its exclusive prerogative. Equally we must face the fact, and make known more widely, that is, draw greater attention to the fact that religion has pervaded and commandeered everyday English as part of its comprehensive and invasive colonisation of experience. We cannot think of 'spiritual', or 'spirit' as a metaphor for life or vitality or energy without the unwarranted imposition of it being a 'Christian spiritual experience'. Words that have been in common use long before the conjuration of the christian mythos, such as heaven, hell, sin, devil, angel, soul, pray, worship, sacred, bless holy, divine, anoint, ad infinitum, are so heavily laden with christian-specific connotation that they are toxic to the everyday user who does not subscribe to the christian mythos, but nonetheless experiences all the exact same emotional, transcendental, psychological, a sense of oneness and meditative states as all humans experience. We should not have to preface our use of these words every time by having to delineate our experiences as distinct from the "Christian concept of heaven, hell, sin" etc, as David Eller, among many renowned life-long researchers in anthropology summarises: "because as we have seen, these are simply not universal and objective religious - let alone scientific - notions."

          • Steven Dillon

            Well said. As a pagan myself, I'm very much grateful to secularists for their (largely successful) efforts to break the illusion of ownership that Christianity and Islam have operated under in annexing every domain of experience.

            On the other hand, I've seen this effort made by some secularists with a sort of bellum se ipsum alet mentality, whereby one regime is replaced by another.

          • Papalinton

            Why shouldn't you be able to express your paganism and I express my atheism without the hegemony of christianity imposing its unwarranted and unjustified influence over me or you? That is why I assiduously challenge the christian mythos where I can. I have to say that secular humanism is where humanity is inexorably trending as it allows individuals the freedom to practice their particular and peculiar religious proclivities or otherwise without undue imposition into good public policy. This why separation of church and state is fundamental to the development and betterment of diverse and enriching communities living a fulfilling life.

            As you rightly point out, we don't need the nonsense of one regime replacing another. It's about congruence.

          • Marc Riehm

            Western Europe went through a period of complete domination by Christianity. The languages evolved during that time, as languages have a wont to do. It's history. No point in railing at it, or ascribing malice to it.

            The meanings of these words will continue to evolve. In what direction, who can say?

          • Papalinton

            Perhaps you don't understand the 'more than symbolic power' of the written word.

    • Papalinton

      Indeed. Aquinas's opus, his life's work was all about shoring up the arcane and problematic mythos of Christianity onto more robust and epistemologically sound foundations, the Truths of Pagan philosophical thought. Christianity owes its existence to pagan scholarship.

      • Loreen Lee

        Been reading a book on Neo-Platonic middle ages philosophers. Very introspective, and I think more 'religious' because of this, than what happened after the introduction of the externally motivated, logic based philosophy.of the Aquinas/Aristotelian interpretation known as Scholasticism.. I am quite enjoying the internal reflections of St. Augustine, etc. and especially the way they go about asking questions, which is 'essentially' different than argumentative debate.

        • Papalinton

          Quite.

  • Krakerjak

    Though I am less than enthralled with the article, I do really like the photo of the ideal family. Good vibes:-) Wish that that were me and mine. A really great photo.

  • Krakerjak

    Calvin says:

    • Michael Murray

      What do you expect to happen to a Calvinist on a Catholic site? Be glad it's just a gagging.

      • Sqrat

        Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

  • vito

    I wonder

    • Mike

      are you paranoid?

  • Zippity-Do-Daddy

    If the Holy Father exhorted us not to allow the Church to be reduced to “the sphere of the private and the personal”, then why is it that Mr Donahue uses the Catholic League as his own private and personal bully-pulpit to bloviate against those with whom he disagrees politically. He has used the organisation to viciously attack President Obama, for example in a recent article wherein he claimed that h was pandering Muslims, yet at the same time issued no criticism of Cardinal Dolan for making statements similar to that of the President. When Pope Francis was attacked by people like Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney, and Rush Limbaugh as being a Marxist, Mr Donahue issued not one word in defense of our Holy Father, and went o far as to publish a long personal interview of praise with Limbaugh. For a man whose faith should be one of joy and happiness, Mr Donahue is and angry and mean-spirited individual whose organisition should be censured by the archdiocese of New York for its disingenuous presentation of of itself as being anything Catholic or official ins ome way.