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Theism Without Religion and Atheism With It

Einstein2

“Religion” is typically considered as a “belief system” or a “structure of beliefs and practices concerning the divine.” It’s a recent development in the meaning of the word, and it would have been foreign to, say, Aquinas, for whom religion was a virtue.

A virtue is the perfection of a power of the soul, or, in modern parlance, an excellence of the human person. We see a height of humanity in courageous actions, a greatness we are all capable of. We admire courage, not as something for just this or that person, but as something every human being can and ought to aspire to. Virtue, then, is not the addition of some pleasing quality, slapped on like a sticker on the surface of this or that person. Virtue is the perfection of those powers and capacities every person really does have, our indwelling capacities for courage, patience, justice — and religion.

If religion is a virtue, then we have “religion,” not because it is one option among many, nor a “belief system” one may or may not take on, but because the human being is that type of being who is capable of the divine as he is capable of courage — as a power intrinsic to his person. In this view, there can be no clear distinction between the religious and the non-religious. To be human is to be religious, and the only distinction is the degree to which we perfect or do not perfect this power. There are those who are excellent in religion and those who are not; those growing in this particular capacity and those atrophying; the flourishing and the wilting.

Atheism does not a non-religious make. The lack of belief does not exempt anyone from the capacity to suffer the divine — from the power of honoring and reverencing God. Indeed, there are atheists who have made an enlightened, rational dissent towards the proposition of God who nevertheless remain more religious than Catholics. Watch them silence themselves in the Cathedral while the camera-clicking Christians babble on. Watch them defer to the priest while the Catholic bristles. Watch them imitate the genuflections and signs of the cross out of “respect” during weddings, funerals and the like — the Catholic breezes through them. Watch them speak late into the night and deep into the beer about theological issues the Christian has forgotten are issues at all — the doctrine of Hell and the problem of suffering. To deny God as a theoretical concept proffered by the Christian is not to cauterize the capacity for God always already present as a real possibility of human existence.

Theism, for its part, does not a religious man make. One is no more religious by believing in God than one is excellent in justice by believing in an ordered human community. The order of intellectual assent is not equatable with the order of virtue. Satan is a committed believer, a theist deficient in the virtue of religion. Only the theist has a real capacity for satanism – to believe in the divine while refusing Him honor and reverence.

Of course, the theist who wilts in the virtue of religion lives a painful contradiction between the content of his rational beliefs and the state of his life, as does the atheist who awkwardly — and even ironically — flourishes in his reverence and interest in the non-existent deity. Both flirt with the moment in which they will either unify their beliefs and actions into a consistent life, or content themselves with being a contradiction.

This, I think, is why our age wants to make religion a matter of rational choice rather than a matter of excellence. If it is something we are all capable of by virtue of being human (rather than something believers are capable of by virtue of an intellectual assent to the proposition “there is a God”), then we are all responsible. The theist is is not saved by his belief, and the atheist is not exempted from the issue by his unbelief. The capacity for honor, reverence and right relation to the divine is written on every human heart, and expresses itself as a demand to be realized, whether we’d like it or not. If it is true, and if the modern intellectualizing of religion is bogus, then it is a lovely truth. For I am often confused, and I often doubt, and there are many moments when I stutter, stall, and find myself without the capacity of “proving” or even giving “strong evidence” for God’s existence in any intellectual fashion. But I am religious. I suffer the divine, whether or not I can defend its presence in the intellectual sphere. While the arguments fluctuate according to the conversation and my own place on the scale of Density to Wit, the capacity remains, the virtue sticks, the power of the soul is the same power that has gnawed at me from childhood, demanding to be allowed to flourish in the full light of day.
 
 
(Image credit: Lifehack Quotes)

Marc Barnes

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

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  • David Hardy

    If religion is a virtue, then we have “religion,” not because it is one
    option among many, nor a “belief system” one may or may not take on

    If we are redefining the term, either to an older use or at least away from the current use, I would then point out that, if you separate religion from a belief system, you must be sure what you mean. While the author of this piece puts it as an "honoring and reverencing of the divine", he then seems to steer it entirely in the direction of honoring and reverencing the icons of a particular belief system (cathedrals, priests, acknowledging Christian rituals, discussing Christian theology). Would the same reverence be equally valid in paying homage to the symbols and practices of Hinduism, Shinto or Chinese Folk Religions? If so, one seems to be straying into the position of Universalism and Pantheism -- That all religions are equally valid expressions of the divine, and roads to connect to it, and as such are equally deserving of honor and reverence. If not, one is still resting on the underlying assumption that religion is, in part, a certain belief system, and so that belief system deserves a greater level of consideration. I am not opposed to someone arguing for Universalism or Pantheism, but I would want to make sure it was understood that this was where the argument was leading.

    On a side note, it is my personal position that a basic part of respecting others is to show at least a basic respect for what is important to them. Religion is important to many people, and I believe that showing basic respect to religion around those to whom it is important is a part of extending respect to them. I may challenge it, but I try to do so respectfully. I "honor and reverence" the dignity and worth of the people I speak with, and part of that is treating what is important to them with respect. If this, by extension, is honor and reverence to the divine, should it exist, then I am glad it can achieve this. However, it is not my goal in such actions.

    • Lazarus

      I think that Catholicism holds that all good other religions reflect some of the good and beauty of God, even if not in its fullness. Bishop Robert Barron dealt with that quite beautifully. If we accept that I would think that the same reverence and value can be extended to such other religions without necessarily committing to pantheism or universalism.

      • David Hardy

        Hello Lazarus. Catholicism, nevertheless, privileges the Catholic belief system as the truest expression and understanding of the divine. Once you do that, you have again linked religion to a particular belief system rather than as a virtue separate from specific beliefs, which was my primary point. Other religions are, whether knowingly or not, compared to that belief system to see how closely they compare to the "true" belief system. Also, one does not need to be a universalist or pantheist to lean significantly in these directions.

        • Mike

          "Catholicism, nevertheless, privileges the Catholic belief"

          is this really that surprising though?

          • David Hardy

            No, and I do not object to it. However, I would like to make sure that does not get lost in an effort to separate religion from a belief system.

        • David Nickol

          Catholicism, nevertheless, privileges the Catholic belief system as the truest expression and understanding of the divine.

          Does this mean that Catholicism may have something to learn from other religions? Or does it mean that, since Catholicism is the "truest," whatever pieces of truth another religion may have are also to be found in Catholicism?

          It has been a long time since I read Thomas Merton, but it seemed to me he thought there were valuable things to be discovered in Eastern religions. I don't think he studied Buddhism trying to find bits of Catholicism in it.

          • David Hardy

            Does this mean that Catholicism may have something to learn from other
            religions? Or does it mean that, since Catholicism is the "truest,"
            whatever pieces of truth another religion may have are also to be found
            in Catholicism?

            In my experience, it depends on the person. People exist on a continuum of how much value they believe comes from learning about other spiritual views, with "it is always enriching" on one extreme and "it invariably leads you away from the truth" on the other. Most people I have met are somewhere closer to the middle. However, they still have core beliefs that they use in making sense of new beliefs they encounter, and adults, in particular, are more likely to assimilate new ideas into their belief framework than overturn that framework by giving up core beliefs in it.

          • David Hardy

            On a follow up note, adults are also better able to construct and empathize with alternative viewpoints, even if they do not accept them, but this is a separate process.

          • Lazarus

            Despite all the gossip about how Merton was about to become a Buddhist he was simply fascinated by it, and thought it could teach him (and Catholicism) a lot about certain aspects of the mystical. Merton thought that Buddhism could bring him closer to God, that it could make him a better Christian.

          • David Nickol

            This would indicate to me, then, that in claiming to have the "fullness of truth," Catholicism is not saying there is nothing of truth to be learned from other religions. It is not saying that other religions that have elements of truth have, in essence, elements of Catholicism. The Church did not say to Merton that he should not study Buddhism, because anything he could learn from Buddhism he could learn from Catholicism.

            I never heard any gossip that Merton was going to abandon Catholicism for Buddhism. It is true, though, that he contemplated leaving the priesthood.

          • Lazarus

            There are certainly several voices in Catholicism that values the beauty and truth in other religions. Barron, Merton, and a list of others are quite clear on that. Others again differ strongly.

            Merton's relationship with Buddhism did cause unease in certain circles in the Church.
            I accept that it was well established that he was not going to leave the Church, although he seems to have considered leaving his order. Even that is rather speculative.

          • Hervé Villechaize

            When he had that love affair with the nurse (nothing in his journals that I've read indicates that they consummated things, though it's difficult to think there was no intimacy as they spent time alone together on romantic outings), I think he seriously contemplated giving up on his vows. if you want the excruciating details read Learning to Love.

          • Lazarus

            I'm reading several Merton books at the moment, but I'm trying to give that one a miss. From what I can see it's not really representative of Merton.

          • Hervé Villechaize

            I certainly have no interest in pressuring you to read what you do not want to read but having read the book I would not say it is not representative of Merton. In fact, I think it may be a truer representation of Merton than many of his other works. You see a man who truly loves a woman, and the pain and conflict he suffers trying to be true to his vocation and true to the woman he loves. It's heartbreaking stuff.

          • Lazarus

            Ok, that sounds compelling. I will add that to the pile. Six Mertons then. Thanks for the recommendation.

          • NDaniels

            The Catholic Church values persons, and desires that all persons come to know The Ordered, Communion of Perfect Love, The Blessed Trinity.

          • NDaniels

            Lazaras, what is not speculative, is God's Commandment regarding the worshipping of false idols.

          • Lazarus

            I would not say that Merton was worshipping any "false idols".

      • LaDolceVipera

        “God” is a metaphor for an unknown and unknowable reality that transcends all levels of intellectual thought. All religions refer to “God” in a symbolic, often poetic way. Some stories are more coherent than others. Catholicism is a superb belief system but why would only Catholicism reflect the fullness of the truth? Atheism tells another, less attractive story. It is another way to cope with the unknown.

        • Mike

          apparently not everything about this other reality is unknowable:

          http://www.basilica.org/pages/ebooks/St.%20Thomas%20Aquinas-Summa%20Theologica.pdf

          • LaDolceVipera

            Ah, the inevitable Thomas. Alas, it only works if you already believe.

          • Rob Abney

            It can also work if you follow his reasoning.

          • LaDolceVipera

            If you accept circular arguments

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not a philosopher, will you give me an example of Thomas using circular reasoning please?

          • NDaniels

            If you begin with truth, you will end with truth, unless you add a false assumption.

          • LaDolceVipera

            If you assume what you are trying to prove, if your conclusion is already among its premisses your argument is circular.

          • NDaniels

            Truth is essence, not assumption, which is why we do not assume that a rose by any other name is still a rose.

          • Mike

            check out the sections on God's existence, no beliefs required only the belief in reality.

        • Lazarus

          I can agree with you on all of that, and throw in that it was well stated. I was simply stating the Catholic approach, to the effect that Catholicism has the whole real deal. I know that Buddhism, Islam and certain forms of Hinduism also proffer their own uniqueness.

          Does Catholicism hold the fullness of truth? I believe so, as far as we humans can understand that. Does only Catholicism hold such "fullness of truth"? That will depend, in my view, on how you interpret Jesus, his life and resurrection.

          • LaDolceVipera

            I understand what you mean and I respect your position.

        • ben

          “God” is a metaphor for an unknown and unknowable reality

          No person is knowable without his cooperation. We can work in an office or shop with someone for years and never know, or want to know, anything about him. Recogntion of a face does not constitute knowledge of the person. When you bring your new baby home and hold him, staring at his face, you are staring at the face of a complete stranger; one that you will watch for years getting to know him. And yet the best way to know him is talking with him, teaching him, correcting him, playing with him... You get to know him, form him, and he gets to know you and you change and grow also by that interaction.

          How many times have we heard, or seen, news articles where someone has done some horrific misdeed only to have all the neighbors relate "how quiet" he was; that he kept to himself and no one really knew him?

          We see the rich and famous in the media constantly, but do we really know them? Yes, we recognize their faces, but that is not knowledge of the person. Unfortunately, we may know details about their sex habits, drug habits and other vices; still they remain strangers to us.

          We get to know other persons when they reveal themselves to us by their willing interactions with us. We want to "get to know" the other.

          So it is with God, we live in a universe that, dispite the protests of some, cannot be its own source of being. Thus we get an inking that the cause of the universe is other than and outside the universe. So, we know some attributes of God, as with the rich and famous, by what we see: stars, galaxies, living creatures, laws of physics (including that recently mystical law of gravity), our innate senses of justice and fairness, etc.

          However, we "get to know" God, the Personal God, as with humans, by His willing revelation of Himself to us. We talk to Him and He talks to us (not in words heard by the ear, but in thoughts, insights, etc). Thus we change and grow because of that personal interaction.

          Therefore, I reject the proposition that: God is an unknown and unknowable reality. God wants us to know Him.

          Can any thing exist and yet be absolutely unknown and utterly, forever unknowable, past, present and future? The universe exists because it is known to exist in the Mind of God. The universe exists because it is willed to exist by God.

        • Steve Brown

          Hello there. It's been awhile since I commented. I think it is better to identify God in the category of Analogy of Being. Metaphor is one type of analogy. There are 4 basic distinctions of being as analogy. The analogies lie somewhere in between univocal and equivocal.
          For a good breakdown see here:
          https://thomism.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/analogy-in-st-thomas/

          and here:

          https://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/LOA5.htm

          this lecture gives a sense of analogy, only George seems to identify it as "topology"

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWYaoAoijdQ&feature=youtu.be

      • NDaniels

        To Love one another as Christ Loves us, is to desire Salvation not only for ourselves, but also for others. The purpose of ecumenism is conversion, not compromise.

        • Lazarus

          That is what ecumenism desires, but a practical and realistic ecumenism also understands that such wholesale conversion will not happen and then walks the path with those of other views with respect and understanding.

          • NDaniels

            And that path can not diverge from The Way, The Truth, and The Life (Light) of Love.

    • ClayJames

      On a side note, it is my personal position that a basic part of
      respecting others is to show at least a basic respect for what is
      important to them. Religion is important to many people, and I believe
      that showing basic respect to religion around those to whom it is
      important is a part of extending respect to them. I may challenge it,
      but I try to do so respectfully. I "honor and reverence" the dignity and
      worth of the people I speak with, and part of that is treating what is
      important to them with respect.

      This is such an important and well articulated point, especially at a time where people believe that a refutation of a belief system gives them the justification to mock and ridicule that belief system. Disgusting actions such as drawing cartoons of Mohammed is a reprehensible decision regardless if one is right or wrong about the prophet and his works.

    • Rob Abney

      What is the definition for religion that you see as being redefined?

      • David Hardy

        The definition of religion as a virtue rather than a belief system, or at least more based as a virtue than a belief system.

        • I wonder again what will happen to the required belief that one 'must!' hold to BE Catholic, as articulated in the Nicene Creed when Catholics pose this point of view, i.e. that belief is not necessary for religion, in a blog such as this
          Edit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion

          Throughout most of my life, until I ran into this new-atheism it was merely quite a simple procedure for me to answer when I was required to state my 'religion' on any document that required this, to simply check the box that identified me as 'non-nondenominational'
          How complicated things have become here, but it is still 'therapeutic' for me to reprocess some of the quandries that remain, by examining my thought processes, within the comments that this site offers me. I just accidentally came upon an analysis of the 'writings' of Islam, presented by Hitchens. A most impressive and even 'scholarly' presentation.

  • Lazarus

    Thank you, Mr. Barnes, some well-stated points in there.
    You show what I often find to be very artificial categories to be less rigid than what our cliches would have them be. In particular I liked to see the reference to the non-religious religious people. Some of the most beautiful, holy people in my life are quite far from conventional religious people. It's good to see these categories being so well understood. I accept that the honest, modern faith can be devout, but that it must also be alive to the shades of grey that you have drawn here in order to survive and flourish.

    • David Nickol

      There is a popular phrase that is frequently scoffed at by religious people—spiritual but not religious (SBNR)—that to me is what Marc Barnes is talking about (although he may be appalled that I think so). Einstein practiced no religion, but he was "spiritual." Religion, to me, is some sort of pre-packaged set of beliefs and rituals. SBNR isn't so bad a description of someone who takes seriously the ultimate questions about existence but doesn't have anything to fill in when a form leaves a blank space asking for "religion."

      • Mike

        imho ppl who say they are SBNR are too embarrassed to say that they aren't atheists.

        • David Nickol

          Maybe some of them, but certainly not all of them. Some may be too embarrassed to say that they are atheists. Some may be making an excuse for not going to church or doing anything else "religious." And some—believe it or not—may actually see a difference between being spiritual and being religious.

        • Doug Shaver

          imho ppl who say they are SBNR are too embarrassed to say that they aren't atheists.

          I wouldn't be surprised if that were sometimes the case.

          What I often suspect, though, is that it's a politically correct way of saying, "I have found the one and only true religion." Since it's no longer socially acceptable to say that there is only one true religion, if you think you have found it, you've got to call it something other than a religion.

      • Lazarus

        I'm comfortable with SBNR, as vague as most people define it. I have a lot of friends who do the crystals and chakras thing, and they're completely spiritually fulfilled, wouldn't have it any other way. Some of them upgrade / downgrade to conventional religion.

        I don't think we should take those labels too seriously. I can, without spending more than five minutes, give you ten names of people I know who would call me a Catholic fundamentalist, and in that same time ten who would call me a heretic, a cafeteria Catholic. Sticks and stones.

  • Mike

    great reflection, thanks for this.

    everyone feels that there must be something behind this incredible in explicable thing we call life even if some ppl think that it is only some mathematically expressed brute fact or law. some ppl are more prone to philosophical reflection than others but everyone person has an innate sense of awe at all of this. it's just so damn bizarre imho that we are here talking about being here.

    but maybe all of this is mere dust in the wind, a faint memory already passing away into a total and never ending absolute nothingness. all our hopes and dreams and fears are nothing but a grand illusion, a mass delusion, a conspiracy of chemistry and physics, an evil joke.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    Marc,

    Thanks for a truly excellent article. You write powerfully, and I think what you say is a profound truth. Einstein described himself as deeply religious, in a certain sense, though he was an agnostic. To contextualise, and provide insight on that sense:

    "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is inpenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms— this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men." - Philipp Frank, Einstein: His Life and Times (Knopf, 1947, rpt by Frank Press, 2007 pb), 284. (Sourced from Wikipedia)

    • Rob Abney

      I agree, great article. And I like your quote. "To know what is impenetrable to us really exists..." Catholics understand the sacraments to be such visible signs of the invisible.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        A sacrament is "an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace." (Baltimore Catechism 136A) or more strongly, "The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify." (CCC 1084) Grace is "favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life." (CCC 1996)

        Einstein was a committed naturalist, like many scientists are today. We naturalists cannot accept the above definitions exactly as they are presented. But we can get very close.

        Careful and detailed measurements are outward signs of invisible and profound laws that govern reality. If the laws of nature and their effects are seen as divine, then the study of the visible effects of invisible natural laws and forces does lead one to grace, in the sense that it leads the student of nature to become a partaker in the divine nature and eternal life. It allows the student to see that she is not separate from nature, but is part of it, and that the deepest principles in nature are not limited in scope, but that they are "everywhere and always the same" (Spinoza, Ethics, Part 3, Preface)

        • Rob Abney

          I'm not sure I understand how Einstein can be a committed naturalist as you say because that contradicts the first quote of his that you posted where he admits to being in awe of the mystical.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Nature's mystically amazing. It's worthy of our awe.

            If Einstein really believed in Spinoza's God, as he said, then he was a naturalist. Maybe he misunderstood Spinoza, or maybe he changed his mind.

            There's nothing in naturalism that precludes mysticism. It just precludes supernatural mysticism which people who have looked into Einstein's thought and writing on the matter much more than I do don't think he had much respect for.

            Of course, it may turn out that Einstein at some time in his life was not a naturalist. If that's the case, then I would disagree with Einstein.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          My question for one of our resident "religious naturalists" ...

          "Religious naturalists" readily speak of a basic orientation of gratitude, e.g. Ursula Goodenough has a brief essay on the web page that William Davis linked where she says:

          "The Epic of Evolution is our warp, destined to endure, commanding our universal gratitude and reverence and commitment."

          I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. A fundamental orientation that many of us have toward the universe is one of gratitude -- partly innate, partly cultivated, but very fundamental in any case.

          Here is my issue: I cannot intellectually reconcile my fundamental orientation of gratitude with a view in which the universe is itself the "necessary being". If the universe is itself necessary, if it "has to be", then it seems to make no sense to be grateful for it. Who is grateful for a gift that necessarily "had to be given"? Yet I am grateful for it, and somehow I am sure that I should try to cultivate this gratefulness even more. I conclude that either my gratefulness is delusional and misplaced (a conclusion that, practically speaking, I don't allow myself), or there must be something necessary that lies above (or beneath, depending on your preferred metaphor) that has gratuitously given (and is still in the process of giving) the universe its being.

          So: our fundamental orientation of gratitude. Do we trust it? And if we do, what does it imply intellectually? This is what I imagine is at stake in pantheist -- theist dialogue.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I think you are correct about gratitude. I think gratitude is the desire to benefit one who out of love for us benefited us. I don't think nature loves us. So I am not grateful to nature in this sense. Just like I strive not to resent nature when bad things happen.

            I think it is good to love nature, that is, to take pleasure in the majesty of the world and to associate that pleasure with the elegant principles that govern the world. But I think that gratitude anthropomorphises the cosmos, and comes too close to worship. Seeking the favor of an indifferent force is a waste of time. Praying to gravity will not help people fall slower.

          • Lazarus

            Do you think that you have answered Jim's question?

            Why do we feel gratitude?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I think I answered Jim's question, although he can ask for me to clarify, or maybe I misunderstood the question.

            Why do we feel gratitude?

            In what context? Do you agree with the definition I gave for gratitude?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree with your reply above in the sense that it makes no sense to direct our gratitude to the universe itself. I am grateful for the universe, and I direct that gratitude to _______. Well, you know how I would fill in the blank. How would you fill in the blank?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I don't know if there is anything to put in the blank. Also, I'm not sure it is appropriate to be grateful for the universe, because the universe isn't mine. As far as I can tell, it wasn't a gift made for me.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I certainly don't feel it is exclusively for me either. If it was meant to be, I have some revisions to request :-) Nonetheless, I do feel it is a gift that is (non-exclusively) for me.

            I suppose I cannot help but think this way, at least to some extent. It is in our language after all, when we speak of established data or an established law being "a given". For me, this linguistic constraint is to be embraced rather than escaped.

          • Lazarus

            I don't really agree with your definition. We can feel gratitude for other reasons too, and love need not form a part of it. But even so, and this could be my error, I don't believe you address the reason why we feel gratitude in the context that Jim raises it. Do you agree that most of us have this sense of gratitude towards the universe, life, living? Why do we have that sense? Why would we even have the need to anthropomorphize it at all?

          • Galorgan

            Perhaps this is the most fundamental difference between "us," that I do not feel that gratitude.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I certainly respect that. I would suggest that gratitude can and should be cultivated though. Below, I link to a talk that many will find to be too "touchy-feely", but I think it is on the money.

            https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful?language=en

          • Lazarus

            I wonder if the answer to The Problem of Gratitude (just kidding) doesn't lie somewhere in that fact. I would suggest that less and less modern people would feel that gratitude to the universe as the decades roll by. Does that not show, as Paul suggests, that gratitude could be a form of superstition, something that we are growing out of?

          • Galorgan

            You previously asked of its origins. I obviously don't know, but do you think the gratitude you're speaking of is a universal (or near universal) human experience? I say this because, looking back, I can definitely see some socialization to feel this type of gratitude. This is especially true being raised in a Catholic/Christian environment, but would probably still be true just being raised in a culturally Christian country. We are taught to be thankful for the good things in our lives, our health, and even our existence. Look at holiday of Thanksgiving for an example. We're also taught that not being grateful for "normal" things is somehow bad with sentiments such as: "I took having the full use of my arms for granted."

            As an atheist, I do look at as a form of superstition. It's only correct to be thankful if there's an intelligence/sentience to be thankful to. If you don't believe in that, then it doesn't make sense. Actually I have an anecdote which may show our divide. At some point (while I was still religious) my parents decided that for our nightly grace (the prayer before eating dinner) we would state the things we were thankful for (such as each other, health, events, etc.). They still do this and when I come home I participate, but use the words "I'm glad that..." instead of thankful/grateful.

          • Lazarus

            I do think most people have an innate sense of gratitude towards something. I mentioned here the example of my Buddhist friends, who all grew up far removed from Christianity. I cannot discount the possibility, however, that it is up there with our fear of the dark, or more simple superstition. But I do remain intrigued by the origin of a few of our human quirks - beauty, true compassion, gratitude.

          • Rob Abney

            The Catholic church has been teaching against the error of ingratitude since the very beginning.
            Acts 12:23

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            People, myself included, will say things like "I'm grateful to be alive",
            and "life is a gift". These could make sense in the context of my being grateful to my parents for having me, or being grateful to others for protecting me and helping me preserve my life. Beyond these kinds of sentiments, I think gratitude for life can be understood metaphorically, but I don't know how much beyond metaphor these concepts can be taken.

            I think the feeling of gratitude that accompanies many of these sentiments is misplaced, an anthropomorphisation of nature. Something good happens to us, and we don't understand the full causal structure, the complete explanation for why, so it seems contingent and fickle. This uncertainty is often joined by hope and fear, and further a desire to control the order of the world to realise our hopes and avoid our fears. We begin to try to manipulate the order of nature, and it makes sense that we would perceive good things that happen to us as favours and bad things that happen to us as slights. The natural reaction when our hopes are realised is to feel grateful, and when our fears are realised to feel resentful, or to feel guilty that we failed to curry the favour of those that determine our destinies. Gratitude in this sense would seem to me a kind of superstition.

            Maybe there's another sense of being grateful for the universe?

          • Lazarus

            Your explanation is a sound one. I notice gratitude in lots of people, and it's certainly not always a religious feeling. I have Buddhist friends who say this beautiful prayer of gratitude at mealtimes, simply thanking and expressing gratitude to the earth, the people who prepared the food and so on. Jim's question just made me wonder where the feeling comes from. Could it have any evolutionary history, some benefit now or long ago?

            To us theists that sense of gratitude is of course explained by reference to God, to a gratitude to our Creator, a yearning even maybe.

            I fully agree that gratitude can, even should, be directed at many causes. I'm just intrigued by its origin.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Could it have any evolutionary history, some benefit now or long ago?

            That's an interesting question. I don't know. Quite a bit has been written about the "Agency Detection Device" concept. I like Darwen's expression of the idea:

            "The tendency in savages to imagine that natural objects and agencies are animated by spiritual or living essences, is perhaps illustrated by the little fact which I once noticed: my dog, a full grown and very sensible animal, was lying on the lawn during a hot and still day; but at a little distance a slight breeze occasionally moved an open parasol, which would have been wholly disregarded by the dog, had any one stood near it. As it was, very time that the parasol slightly moved, the dog growled fiercely and barked. He must, I think, have reasoned to himself in a rapid and unconscious manner, that movement without any apparent cause indicated the presence of some strange living agent, and that no stranger had a right to be in his territory. The belief in spiritual agencies could easily pass into the belief of the existence of one or more gods." (Darwin 1882: 95)

            This I think could go part of the way to explaining why we feel gratitude toward the universe.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This seems pretty plausible to me.

            Now, given that we have evolved the way that we have, what to do about it.

            One option is to treat all perceptions of (non-animal) agency as illusory. To pursue this option, I believe, is to feebly swim upstream against a torrent of evolutionary and linguistic history. Another is to embrace the way that we and our language have evolved and to work with it. For example, I find it enormously helpful to imagine that my computer program "wants" to do certain things. I can suitably refine my understanding of how this "agent" "thinks", so that I don't run afoul of thinking it is just like me. But to exorcise this way of thinking from my brain altogether would seem to be a very bad move.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I sometimes talk about how electrons like to move toward positive charges. Or thinking about how the sun is moving around a stationary Earth. Thinking of the Earth as moving all the time would become tiring. When I imagine stars, they are about the size that would fit between my hands. I think and talk of time as a march from past to future.

            Maybe none of these ways of thinking about things are fundamental. I can still think this way, for convenience, while also noting to myself that these thoughts are not true about fundamental reality.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sure ... I would naturally assume that none of our conceptual models for reality are true in any perfect or univocal sense. But certainly some models are better than others. Nothing is truly deterministic, but some things are well-approximated by a deterministic model. Nothing is truly random, but some things are well-approximated by a stochastic model, and so forth.

            All that I would claim with regard to ultimate reality, to paraphrase a John Polkinghorne remark, is that modeling the source of all being as a loving father is "less wrong" than modeling "it" as an abstract an impersonal force.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Beyond these kinds of sentiments, I think gratitude for life can be understood metaphorically, but I don't know how much beyond metaphor these concepts can be taken.

            Actually I agree, but I think I take a higher view of metaphor and analogical thinking as a real means of knowing, so I don't think this is misplaced. What higher level of understanding can there be, beyond that conveyed by analogy and narrative? More specifically, I actually quite fond of anthropomorphic thinking (though I know there are risks associated with it) when it comes to ultimate questions. How much more intimately could I know a thing than by comparing it to my own self?

  • Doug Shaver

    “Religion” is typically considered as a “belief system” or a “structure of beliefs and practices concerning the divine.”

    It is so considered because that is what people generally mean when they use the word.

    It’s a recent development in the meaning of the word, and it would have been foreign to, say, Aquinas, for whom religion was a virtue.

    Yes, language evolves. Many have tried strenuously to keep that from happening. They have always failed and always will.

    That noted, the word has not entirely lost the meaning Aquinas gave it. Even nowadays, almost everybody considers it virtuous to be religious, i.e. that it is a virtue to accept a “structure of beliefs and practices concerning the divine.” Many even think that no one can be virtuous unless they do just that.

    A virtue is . . . in modern parlance, an excellence of the human person.

    I won't dispute that.

    Virtue is the perfection of those powers and capacities every person really does have, our indwelling capacities for courage, patience, justice — and religion.

    I agree about courage, patience, and justice, among other powers and capacities. Whether I would include religion depends on how I'm obliged to define it, but whether any theistic belief system is a virtue obviously depends on the beliefs that comprise that system.

    the human being is that type of being who is capable of the divine as he is capable of courage

    I agree that we're all capable of courage. I don't agree that we're capable of the divine because I don't think the divine is real.

    To be human is to be religious

    If that is supposed to mean "To be human is to be virtuous," then I'll go along with that, though I will also claim that some people are a lot less virtuous than others.

    Atheism does not a non-religious make

    It's certainly true that atheism does not make anyone non-virtuous.

    Theism, for its part, does not a religious man make.

    Obviously, because theism is just the belief that at least one god exists. One belief can be the basis of a belief system, but it cannot alone constitute a belief system.

    This, I think, is why our age wants to make religion a matter of rational choice rather than a matter of excellence.

    I don't quite follow that. Are you saying that a person cannot rationally choose to live a life of excellence?

  • neil_pogi

    i'm a true believer in the divine. but i'm not a religious fanatic, (i'm a practicing adventist, but i seldom go to church every saturday, instead i just worship on my own, observe what is being taught to me by the church, and do good to others, etc) when i say fanatic, for example, if someone attack my being an adventist or the adventist church, i don't go with heated arguments with them, instead, i just explain to them the teachings of the church.

    it's just nonsense to believe that i just exist without no reasons at all.

    maybe Einstein hated religion because there are conflicting ideas within every churches. but i adore him because, at least, he believed in a divine agent.

    ‘I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.’ (Quoted in M. Jammer, Einstein and Religion, Princeton 1999, p. 48.)

    'Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who - in their grudge against the traditional "opium for the people" - cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not becomes smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.' (ibid, p. 97.)

    ‘What really makes me angry is that they ['people who say there is no God'] quote me for support of their views.’ (ibid, p. 150.)

    • David Nickol

      maybe Einstein hated religion because . . . .

      As far as I know, no one has ever suggested that Einstein hated religion!

      • neil_pogi

        i mean Einstein hated religion that triggers so much conflict with other religions (muslims, jewish, and christians), but he firmly believed that there is a God!

  • Peter

    If belief in God is theism, fear of God is religion. Fear of God is not a craven fear of being struck down by God for misdeeds but a fear of offending God whom you value more highly than anything else. Religion, then, is not just believing in God but putting God first in one's life.

    Without belief in God there is no fear of God, and without fear of God there is no religion. Atheists can never be religious unless they first accept a living God as the creator of their existence. In that case, of course, they would no longer be atheists.

    • Rob Abney

      Peter, I like your distinctions but I wonder if Marc Barnes is saying that there are degrees of each. Especially since he is referencing Aquinas, it makes me think of degrees of intellect (belief in God) and degrees of will (fear of God). The most excellent virtue of religion would be a full understanding of God and consistent actions that demonstrate the will guiding decisions based on that understanding - exemplified in the lives of saints. A lesser degree would be an incomplete understanding of God and a will that is inconsistent because of that incomplete understanding - exemplified by most of us.
      An atheist's complete denial of God can still be accompanied by a will toward the good, so in that respect there is still a degree of religious virtue.

      • Peter

        I'm not sure if belief in the existence of God is purely a matter of intellect. It requires faith to enlighten the intellect, to open one's eyes further, so that what we observe we can recognise as the handiwork of the Creator.

        And faith requires will, the desire to believe, which some have and others don't. That's why some are theists and others not. The problem is that even though many have faith to believe, they do not put God first, like the rich young man in the Gospel who put God second.

        I think true religion is where the fear of God is so great that one puts God first in one's life, before all other things, or at least tries to. There may be atheists who are good people, who want to do good things, but that is a matter separate from religion.

    • Lazarus

      Do we have to use "fear"? I wonder if something got lost in translation there.
      How about "reverence", "awe", "love", "respect", "dedication"?

      • Peter

        If we believe in God as the creator and sustainer of our very existence, then God should warrant nothing less than the greatest importance in our lives.

        Fear of God is the fear of falling short, of failing to give God the paramount importance that God is due.

        Without this fear, God is easily relegated to a secondary or background position in our lives, where other things take over and become our principal gods.

        • Lazarus

          But there is an important disconnect there. I could, and do, agree with each of your descriptions (except the "falling short" one) and it still need not be described as "fear". It is a non-sequitur.

          I think that you are using the word in the old way, and I certainly do know what you mean. I simply don't believe that it is an accurate description of how we should worship God.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    I must say it is a rather well written article, and it conveys a message that a lot of people want to be true. This is a dangerous combination. People want to believe that we are all somehow connected to the Divine and are inclined to agree with someone writing eloquently in favor of this belief. However, I think there are some serious issues with Marc's line of thinking.

    Virtue is the perfection of those powers and capacities every person really does have, our indwelling capacities for courage, patience, justice — and religion.

    Why be virtuous? Why not perfect the powers of cowardice? We may all agree that courage, patience, and justice are virtues, but without knowing why they are virtues, I see no reason to include religion in the mix. (In general I reject this sort of virtue ethic, but that is another conversation)

    If religion is a virtue, then we have “religion,” not because it is one
    option among many, nor a “belief system” one may or may not take on,
    but because the human being is that type of being who is capable of the
    divine as he is capable of courage — as a power intrinsic to his person.

    I have an idea of what it means to be capable of courage. I do not know what it means to be capable of the Divine.

    To be human is to be religious, and the only distinction is the degree to which we perfect or do not perfect this power.

    This is not very existentialist of you, Marc. To be human is to be free. :-)

    I would object that the above sentence does not make sense for any of the other virtues Marc lists. For instance, to be human is to be courageous, and the only distinction is the degree to which we perfect or do not perfect this power. Actions are courageous. People are courageous only so far as they act courageous. Courage is not a necessary component of our essence. Even if it was, it does not follow that religion is essential to our nature.

    Indeed, there are atheists who have made an enlightened, rational
    dissent towards the proposition of God who nevertheless remain more
    religious than Catholics. Watch them silence themselves in the Cathedral
    while the camera-clicking Christians babble on. Watch them defer to the
    priest while the Catholic bristles. Watch them imitate the
    genuflections and signs of the cross out of “respect” during weddings,
    funerals and the like — the Catholic breezes through them. Watch
    them speak late into the night and deep into the beer about theological
    issues the Christian has forgotten are issues at all — the doctrine of
    Hell and the problem of suffering.

    This is the closest we get to an idea of what it means to perfect the power of religion. It is rather inadequate. If I am quiet in a Cathedral, it could be because I was taught it at a very young age and thus am silent out of habit, or out of respect towards friends who are getting married, have had a love one die, or are baptizing their child. I do not genuflect. I find making the sign of the cross revolting. Indeed, I would prefer not to enter churches at all. If I do any of these things, I do it out of respect for my friends and contrary to the revulsion I feel towards the ritual. I have no desire to participate in a ritual predicated on the idea that we are created sick and commanded to be well. I do not wish to take part in an expression of faith that I was indoctrinated into. I resent the Roman Church. I participate because I value my friends more than I care about my problems with Roman Catholicism.

    Why would I ever want to defer (automatically) to a priest? When I was Catholic, some of the worst decisions I made came from deferring to priests and those were supposedly spiritually enlightened. A priest is a man. Sometimes he may be wiser than others, but he is often more foolish.

    I don't talk to my atheist friends about the problem of hell. We don't waste valuable drinking time discussing problems that would arise from imaginary states of being. I do wonder if Marc hangs out with many atheists.

    None of this gives much of an idea about what it means to cultivate the virtue of religion or the capacity to be Divine. It seems to be more about obedience to authority and institutions. If the Divine exists, I doubt this is what it is about. So again, what does it mean to be practice the virtue of religion?

    • Rob Abney

      "Indeed, there are atheists who have made an enlightened, rational
      dissent towards the proposition of God who nevertheless remain more
      religious than Catholics. Watch them silence themselves in the Cathedral
      while the camera-clicking Christians babble on. Watch them defer to the
      priest while the Catholic bristles. Watch them imitate the
      genuflections and signs of the cross out of “respect” during weddings,
      funerals and the like — the Catholic breezes through them."

      I agree, this was an inadequate way to describe someone as more religious or less religious. As you point out a very pious appearing atheist genuflecting while reflecting on his hatred of priests from his past should not be judged as more religious than a visiting Catholic who wants to preserve his remembrance of sacred art by snapping photos.
      Maybe Marc could've used an example comparing a cafeteria catholic to a SBNR (David Nickol's term).

      • Ignatius Reilly

        As you point out a very pious appearing atheist genuflecting while
        reflecting on his hatred of priests from his past should not be judged
        as more religious than a visiting Catholic who wants to preserve his
        remembrance of sacred art by snapping photos.

        I don't think atheists usually reflect on hatred towards priests for past offenses when they visit a Church for a wedding. I feel pity for those who think that priests are particularly wise by virtue of them being priests, and I feel some indignation towards those who would use the power of religion for immoral ends. Hatred does not enter into this. Regardless, these sort of things do not in anyway explain why religion is a virtue or how to practice it.

        Obsequiousness and respect for authority is no virtue.

        • Thanks for this: "Obsequiousness and respect for authority is no virtue." That's what the phrase/term religious/ virtue implied -for me- Whether it is the thing in itself - the noumena - is another matter!!!! I merely must confess that I have not found within it the Word of God...!!!! :) or what ever symbol you wish as an articulation or understanding of whatever I mean by this!!!!

        • I just ran across this in the radical left-wing blog Counter Punch- I am sending it to you because it deals with 'language' It may however convey meaning according to it's own 'political ideology'!!!???Oh yes, religious virtue, vs. political virtue. There's another article about the 'obsequiousness and respect for authority' within such political ventures as fascism, for instance. Does such exist even within what might be called 'religious virtue' or even within the casual remarks defined in some cases perhaps as gossip? All is not won by logical argument- but as well by the meaning implied or understood!!! Nietzsche: There is no truth - only interpretation???? How would you interpret that, (solely within the context of this comment. It could of course mean something entirely different within another context???? ) (Please note- moderator. I shall respect your decision to delete this comment. Thank you.) (P.S. Checked out your site, and yes, I respect your privacy.)

          http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/30/the-idiom-of-political-violence-a-language-betrayed/

        • Rob Abney

          "None of this gives much of an idea about what it means to cultivate the virtue of religion or the capacity to be Divine. It seems to be more about obedience to authority and institutions. If the Divine exists, I doubt this is what it is about. So again, what does it mean to be practice the virtue of religion?"
          The virtue of religion is part of the virtue of justice, which you say you understand how that could be intrinsic. Justice is the act of giving an individual what he deserves. So religion is giving God what he deserves, adoration, awe, gratitude... All virtues have interior and exterior components because we are body and soul. Exterior religious acts are the rituals the Church has developed to visibly demonstrate our pursuit of that virtue. To cultivate the virtue of religion is to interiorly pursue a just understanding of God and then demonstrate that just virtue through actions and/or rituals. Rituals without interior justice will be empty of meaning, but interior understanding without external demonstration will also be empty because it will too easily fail when tested.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, I deny that the sentence: to be human is to be just is correct.

            So religion is giving God what he deserves, adoration, awe, gratitude...

            Now you have to demonstrate that God deserves those three things, and that it is virtuous to give him those things.

            Somehow I doubt that if God exists, he cares very much for the rituals of the Catholic Church. In all of this you are assuming a metaphysic that is questionable and making assumptions about God. You can assert things to be true, but that does not make them true.

          • Rob Abney

            "We may all agree that courage, patience, and justice are virtues, but without knowing why they are virtues, I see no reason to include religion in the mix"

            This quote of yours made me think that you agreed that justice was intrinsic. I also think you suggested that it would be silly to promote cowardice as a virtue.
            Let's start there, if you don't agree that justice and courage are intrinsic virtues then I won't be able to convince you that God desires justice.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't ascribe to virtue ethics. Before we name what the virtues are, I think we first have to define virtue and then we have to say why one ought to be virtuous.

          • Rob Abney

            Definition: excellence of perfection of a thing, formed habitually, disposes it to good acts, i.e. acts in consonance with right reason.
            Ought: to actualize your full potential.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So, actualizing your full potential is the purpose of human existence? It is the good that we should aspire to?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, should be our full potential rather than singular. Trying to be concise.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So it utilitarian? Greatest realization of potential for the greatest number?

          • Rob Abney

            Today is All Saints Day, our potential to be actualized is for us all to be Saints. A Saint is an individual who lives in the presence of God. The purpose of the Church is to teach everyone how to do that, such as by teaching us to live virtuous lives. Is that utilitarian?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I wouldn't call it utilitarian. If our goal is to actualize human potential, I don't think living virtuously adequately captures what it means for humans to flourish. For instance, painting a masterpiece is clearly flourishing for the painter, but I do not see how it falls under a virtue.
            I'm also curious as to why the Catholic Church reject that homosexuals should actualize their sexual potential, which is clearly an example of human flourishing.

            Finally, what Marc offers as examples of religious virtue respect for authority, deferment to priests, genuflecting etc is not conducive to human flourishing. Slavery is not flourishing.

            Let us suppose that you are correct. Our goal in life is to grow closer to God. Why should we presume that the Church brings us closer to God?

          • Rob Abney

            "Why should we presume that the Church brings us closer to God?"

            Good question. The Church, as instituted by Jesus Christ, offers us the opportunity to confess our sins against God's will, be given the grace of forgiveness, and partake in the communion of Christ. That is as close as you can get to God while in this present human form.
            I can agree that there is a higher form of flourishing, that is man's response to God's gifts, such as a painter painting a masterpiece.

          • ben

            "If God exists..." is illogical and fallacious: There can be no universe without God. We know of a certainty that the universe began to exist, regardless of when it began. We know of a certainty that, from nothing, nothing comes. The cause of the universe must be wholly, utterly Other than the universe.

            Therefore, if there is no God, there can be no universe; there can be no one to say, "...if God exists...", yet we do exist and are aware of our beingness. Therefore, nothing that derives from the presumption of atheism has any validity, religiously quoting from Einstein, Spinoza, et al. not withstanding.

            "...God does not care about the rituals of the Catholic Church..." It is the Self-revealed God who establishes the rituals. Explicitly, starting with Moses and Aaron with the requirements of The Law; but, also implicitly as seen in the common traits of the pagan worship rituals.

            And then there is Jesus (who demonstrated that He is indeed God by the things He did). He transformed the last passover "ritual" (details intricately specified by God) to the first Mass: "...This is My Body...", "...DO THIS...". Jesus who specified the ritual of baptism, in the Name of the Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit. It was Jesus who instituted the ritual of confession, when on Resurrection Sunday He breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive..." It was Jesus who instituted the ritual of Christian marriage,

            But the invincible presumption of the atheist that there is no God causes them to dismiss the eye witness testimony and personal experiences of living men as mere stories (tantamount to calling them lies, since they are proclaimed as true events.)

            Atheism is like the science fiction cities that float on clouds in the sky. It has no foundation, no base; there is nothing to hold it up.

            Atheism cannot even get a non-existing universe to come into being without saying
            * "...something in the universe caused the universe..."
            * or (even worse: "...the universe brought itself into existence..."

            Atheism is the fruit of an under developed and immature anthropomorphic notion of God as the "ancient old man" in the sky, looking down, watching in anger. Waiting to smack someone down."

            Yet the atheists continue to ignore THAT elephant in the room and proceed as though it's not there even though they keep bumping into it. Obfuscating the issues with quotes from, Kant, Spinoza, Einstein, et al. Kant, Spinoza, Einstein, et al. all died. They are all still dead.

            What events from their lives can one take as an example of how to live in relation to other men? Who has been healed by their words? Who fed? Who raised from the dead? So, Einstein, the Great and Wow, knew something of gravity; but he couldn't even use that knowledge to walk on water!

            You can assert things to be true, but that does not make them true.

            To wit: atheism, evolution, global warming, etc,, etc.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            "If God exists..." is illogical and fallacious: There can be no universe without God.

            Perhaps, but you do not have any warrant to claim such a thing.

            We know of a certainty that the universe began to exist, regardless of when it began.

            No we don't, but if you have proof, there is a Nobel Prize waiting for you.

            We know of a certainty that, from nothing, nothing comes.

            Nope.

            The cause of the universe must be wholly, utterly Other than the universe.

            Nope. Even if it were true, we could be nested in an eternal multiverse.

            Therefore, if there is no God, there can be no universe; there can be no one to say, "...if God exists...", yet we do exist and are aware of our beingness.

            Mere assertion.

            Therefore, nothing that derives from the presumption of atheism has any validity, religiously quoting from Einstein, Spinoza, et al. not withstanding.

            Since your premises are all wrong, I wouldn't bet on the conclusion.

            It is the Self-revealed God who establishes the rituals. Explicitly, starting with Moses and Aaron with the requirements of The Law; but, also implicitly as seen in the common traits of the pagan worship rituals.

            How do you know that the rituals described in the OT are of God and not man?

            And then there is Jesus (who demonstrated that He is indeed God by the things He did). He transformed the last passover "ritual" (details intricately specified by God) to the first Mass: "...This is My Body...", "...DO THIS...". Jesus who specified the ritual of baptism, in the Name of the Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit. It was Jesus who instituted the ritual of confession, when on Resurrection Sunday He breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit, whose sins you forgive..." It was Jesus who instituted the ritual of Christian marriage,

            How do you know that Jesus's words were adequately captured by the New Testament?

            But the invincible presumption of the atheist that there is no God causes them to dismiss the eye witness testimony and personal experiences of living men as mere stories (tantamount to calling them lies, since they are proclaimed as true events.)

            Nope. I could presume theism and I would still dismiss the stories in the scriptures.

            Atheism is like the science fiction cities that float on clouds in the sky. It has no foundation, no base; there is nothing to hold it up.

            Atheism cannot even get a non-existing universe to come into being without saying
            * "...something in the universe caused the universe..."
            * or (even worse: "...the universe brought itself into existence..."

            Men of straw.

            Atheism is the fruit of an under developed and immature anthropomorphic notion of God as the "ancient old man" in the sky, looking down, watching in anger. Waiting to smack someone down."

            Seriously? You need to talk to more atheists.

            Honestly, the rest of your post is simple assertions and straw men as well.

            To wit: atheism, evolution, global warming, etc,, etc.

            So you think evolution is false?

  • NDaniels

    "To be or not to be", is not a strange notion. The following statement is false because in order to be Catholic, one must abide in The Word of God.

    "Atheism does not a non-religious make. The lack of belief does not exempt anyone from the capacity to suffer the divine — from the power of honoring and reverencing God. Indeed, there are atheists who have made an enlightened, rational dissent towards the proposition of God who nevertheless remain more religious than Catholics."

  • Perhaps you will allow this submission (you can always yourself choose not to read, or the monitor can choose to delete any submission I make), of what might perhaps definitely meet the criteria of 'Strange Notions'. It is the hope, however, that this pursuit could meet scientific criteria, as I interpret the phrase of Nietzsche', in his use of the title 'The Gay "Science"'. (We see even here how important 'interpretation of words' can be). As hopefully, a project such as this does not necessarily evolve into a closure that we are aware characterized his later years, I am rather hopeful instead, that as he suggested, his life may be used as an example, to come, within our individual lives, to some understanding of 'how' we think. Developing this perspective with respect to a possible Mad=venture, therefore, I submit is also the result of reading the Postmodern book, Capitalism and Schizophrenia, anti-oedipus - capitalism and schizophrenia, wherein Schizophrenia is regarded as 'a/the' cure (Deleuze and Guattari) for instance, as well as other interpretations of the 'spiritual?' within recent literature. Thank you. (A personal explanation of some of my interests with respect to this project is found within the comments). (Edit: Perhaps, hopefully, it is possible to come to some understanding even of what is 'meant' by the 'Holy Ghost'!!!!!- which I intuitively associate with overcoming the 'negative' influences.)
    https://recoverynetworktoronto.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/connecting-to-madness-jim-van-os/#comment-5439

    • The links in the above article at least have helped me to understand the concept of 'poetry' - extended to poiesis, auto-poises, which would include not only self-determination but individual responsibility, and thus feel I have indeed found what I was searching for, as an interpretation of Heidegger's philosophy. I am also satisfied that I have at least understood what I assume to be a conception of a 'human' freedom of will, examined with respect to external and/or institutional power and/or authority over the individual. Surely such distinctions can be regarded as helpful in coming to an understanding of the 'personal' and/or the 'divine', and/or even such distinctions as that between the empirically external, in contrast to the many possible 'modes' that can describe the experience of thought 'within'? You will of course note my failure tp achieve 'perfection' with respect to my choice of words!! Yet I am satisfied that this exercise of responding to comments, as a means of searching for answers has been sufficiently productive 'for me'....at this time???..Thank you for your patience with me. I do appreciate the links I find, even on the post that has been published following this one, and possibly too, you will find the following links of some relevance to today's topic. They do after all, do they not? reflect a post-modern, post Christian perspective!!???? .
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Oedipus and although there are many excellent links within this article, there is also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poiesis

      Edit: This comment is being placed here some time after the original posting. Perhaps though, it will be found by someone who is interested. https://books.google.ca/books?printsec=frontcover&vid=LCCN88019831&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false