• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Was Bertrand Russell Right About Thomas Aquinas?

by  
Filed under Philosophy

Bertrand Russell was one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, and an outspoken skeptic. His bestselling book A History of Western Philosophy (which was cited as one of the reasons for his 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature) contains a short chapter in which he examines St Thomas Aquinas’ life and work, concluding with the following, damning remark:

There is little of the true philosophic spirit in Aquinas. He does not, like the Platonic Socrates, set out to follow wherever the argument may lead. He is not engaged in an inquiry, the result of which it is impossible to know in advance. Before he begins to philosophize, he already knows the truth; it is declared in the Catholic faith. If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation. The finding of arguments for a conclusion given in advance is not philosophy, but special pleading. I cannot, therefore, feel that he deserves to be put on a level with the best philosophers either of Greece or of modern times.1

This, like a lot of Russell’s criticisms of philosophers he disagrees with, is unfair, inadequate, and misleading, resting on very basic misconceptions, and I want, in this blog post, to briefly argue so.

First, however, it ought to be said that Russell does not only have negative things to say about Aquinas – on the contrary, he makes a point of listing a good number of positive elements of his philosophy. He praises Aquinas’ deft synthesis of Aristotelianism and Christianity, as well as its originality, noting that in his day he was considered a “bold innovator”, whose doctrines were condemned by the universities of Oxford and Paris. He also commends his practise of stating opposing arguments before developing his own, although his remark that this is done “often with great force, and almost always with an attempt at fairness” renders this an imperfect compliment. Aquinas does well in clearly distinguishing doctrines derived from reason and doctrines derived from faith, he notes, and “knows Aristotle well, and understands him thoroughly, which cannot be said of any earlier Catholic philosopher”.2

What are we to make of Russell’s assessment? Perhaps even those sympathetic to Aquinas might feel that there is some force to it – isn’t there something pretty questionable about deciding what you believe first, and then searching for arguments to back it up later?

The first problem with the assessment is the very basic one that it is unsupported by evidence – Russell fails to provide a single example of Aquinas’ failure to “follow the argument where it leads”. He ignores, moreover, the frequent examples of Aquinas doing what appears to be the exact opposite; namely, accepting unpalatable conclusions when the facts seem (to him) to suggest that he ought to. Many philosophers before him had held that it can be demonstrated, by pure reason, that the universe is not eternal (this is still a position held by a good number of thinkers), and whilst it would no doubt be very convenient from a religious point of view if this were true – as it might point to a creator – Aquinas, after considering the subject in some detail, comes to the conclusion that it is not. 

So what about the broader claim that Aquinas’ whole method is unphilosophical, since he starts from the position that the Catholic faith is true, and then looks for arguments to that effect? As the Oxford philosopher Sir Anthony Kenny remarks,3 this is a comment that comes pretty strangely from Russell, who spent a few hundred pages of his book Principia Mathematica trying to prove (starting from a few logical axioms) that 1 + 1 = 2, something which, we can assume, he already believed before he began. More fundamentally, I think that Russell's assumption that Aquinas' religious belief is independent of reason is wrong, or, at best, unevidenced. Of course, being raised Catholic, Aquinas will have been religious before he was able to give any reason to be, but this doesn't imply that his later, mature faith was not rational. As he grew older, and became capable of reasoning about religion, and the world in general, it seemed (to him) that evidence confirmed his beliefs, but if it had not, it seems very unlikely that he would have remained Christian. Aquinas is famous for his insistence on the importance of reason, even in the face of certain church authorities, who claimed that it ought to be subservient to faith; his reasoning was that if the Christian religion is true, and reason leads to truth, then it makes no sense for the two to be in conflict. If he had found them to be in conflict – if, for instance, he was not convinced by his own Five Ways (arguments for the existence of God), and found prayer useless, or the problem of evil irresolvable, or the Bible seriously unreliable, and so on, then there is good reason to think that he would have abandoned religion.

If this is true, then his religious belief is really, contrary to Russell, no different, and no more intellectually suspicious, than the vast majority of the beliefs held by everyone – learnt, pre-rationally, in childhood, and later confirmed or rejected on the basis of mature reflection and experience. Think about the way you learnt that London is the capital of England, or that democracy is a fairer political system than fascism -  these are beliefs which you learnt uncritically as a child, and later grew to understand and accept (or deny) as you grew older – just, I would suggest, as Aquinas did with religion. This does not, of course, show that his belief is justified – I've said nothing about whether the reasons for his belief are any good. It does, however, suggest that if Aquinas is to be criticised, it must be because of the quality of the evidence he uses, and not on the basis that his religious faith is independent of it. 

A final problem with Russell's analysis lies in his assessment of Aquinas’ view of the interaction between faith and reason, when he writes that “If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation”. This accusation neglects a very simple and fundamental distinction in Aquinas’ thought, that between doctrines which can be known by reason and arguments which, by their very nature, cannot be. According to Aquinas, the existence of a prime mover, an uncaused cause of the universe, would be a fact of the first kind – he thinks that anyone, no matter where and when they are born, will come to belief in this sort of supernatural power if they think hard and well enough. The Trinity, he thinks, is a fact of the second kind – no amount of unaided reason could ever bring anyone to the conclusion that the uncaused cause has one nature in three persons; this can only be known through God's revelation. 

In providing arguments for some doctrines and not for others, then, Aquinas is not, as Russell suggests, just scrambling around for arguments where he’s able to, and making excuses where he isn’t, but relying on  what is a very sensible distinction between two types of fact. For analytical philosophers such as Russell, such distinctions are bread and butter, and it reflects very poorly on him to have so obviously missed the point.

It can, then, be seen that Russell's criticisms of Aquinas hold little water. Such misjudged attacks are, unfortunately, characteristic of him – his treatment of a number of important thinkers and schools of thought in the History of Western Philosophy has come under criticism, as has his condemnation of his one-time protégé Ludwig Wittgenstein, of whom he became extremely dismissive after they fell out (and who then went on to become probably the most significant philosopher of the 20th century). Perhaps we would do well to emulate Aquinas, who, as we saw, always made sure to treat his opponents charitably, rather than Russell, when we have criticisms to deliver.

Notes:

  1. Russell, Bertrand, History of Western Philosophy (1945), Simon and Schuster, New York, 462
  2. For all citations in this paragraph see ibid, 461-462
  3. Kenny, Anthony, "Peter Geach", in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy, XIV, 201
Joe Tulloch

Written by

Joe Tulloch likes thinking and writing about stuff, which, considering that you’re reading this, makes a lot of sense. He comes from Yorkshire in the north of England, and studies Philosophy and Italian at Oxford University. He’s especially interested in ethics and philosophy of religion, and is a passionate effective altruist and member of Giving What We Can. In his free time he likes budget travelling and playing baseball (he may well be the only Texas Rangers fan to have been born and bred in Britain and never left Europe).

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Simon

    Just one quibble about his otherwise rather good piece: according to Catholic belief, and following the Nicene creed, God has but one single divine Nature, not three. There are of course three Persons in the Blessed Trinity, but they share a single substance/nature.

  • Ficino

    Some good points, but some overstating.

    So what about the broader claim that Aquinas’ whole [my bold] method is unphilosophical

    Russell does not make the above claim.

    Russell's assumption that Aquinas' religious belief is independent of reason is wrong, or, at best, unevidenced

    Russell does not say this.

    if, for instance, he was not convinced by his own Five Ways (arguments for the existence of God), and found prayer useless, or the problem of evil irresolvable, or the Bible seriously unreliable, and so on, then there is good reason to think that he would have abandoned religion.

    Absolutely no reason is given for supposing that Aquinas would have done the above.

    A final problem with Russell's analysis lies in his assessment of Aquinas’ view of the interaction between faith and reason, when he writes that “If he can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation”.

    I agree that Russell is wrongly snarky here. It remains, though, that we come across places where Aquinas seems not to want to endorse a conclusion of an argument because the Catholic faith precludes his doing so. E.g. "“It follows, then, that everything which occurs here insofar as it is related to the first divine cause, is found to be ordained by it and not to be accidental, although it may be found to be accidental in relation to other causes. This is why the Catholic faith says that nothing in the world happens by chance or fortuitously, and that everything is subject to divine providence. But in this place Aristotle is speaking of those contingent events which occur here as a result of particular causes, as is evident from his example,” In VI Meta l. 3 C1216. Aristotle does not restrict the scope of chance or spontaneous causation in nature in the way we get in Aquinas' gloss. Aquinas will also insert qualifiers not in Aristotle, e.g. "From this it is evident that nature is nothing other than a certain kind of art, i.e., the divine art, impressed upon things, by which these things are moved to a determinate end." In II Phys. l. 14 C268. "Divine" is Aquinas' addition, not in Aristotle's Physics, upon which he is commenting. I suspect, though, that our own views of Aquinas may color our take on additions like these.

    Aquinas, who, as we saw, always made sure to treat his opponents charitably, rather than Russell...

    Well, not "always." For example, Mani "raves" (delirat), Avicenna and Averroes "make things up" (fingit), and Aquinas denounces the "insanity" of poor David of Dinant (cf. SCG I.17.6), who "most foolishly" (ST 1a 3.8 co) had held pantheism and had been forced into hiding. If we're going to give Aquinas a pass for his language's being a thing of its time, does Russell's milder tone rate a pass?

    I think Russell could have confronted the difference in genre between Platonic dialogues and scholastic works written in disputational style. So yes, Aquinas is not going to show a philosopher wrestling with an open-ended problem in the way that Plato shows us in, say, the Theaetetus. I don't recall Russell's acknowledging that difference, though at the time Russell was writing (publ. 1945), the dramatic element of Plato's dialogues was less appreciated than it is today.

  • Ficino

    Joe, via email I saw a reply from you to my reply, but I don't see your reply here, and I think it should have appeared by now. Did you delete it, or did it get eaten by something in cyberspace?

  • Ficino

    I'm glad you got your response back on here.

    As to 1) and 2), maybe I am just more used to seeing qualifications of what sound like sweeping claims. I wouldn't reframe "little of" as "nothing of." But not a big deal, nor can I push 3) any further.

    As to 4), the following struck me as perhaps the sort of thing that Russell had in mind when he faulted Aquinas for not following the argument where it leads and for not engaging in inquiries, the result of which is impossible to know in advance:

    In De Potentia 3.17, on the question, is the universe eternal even if it is God's creation, Aquinas begins his reply so: "One must say that it must be held firmly that the world did not always exist, just as the catholic faith teaches." And at the end of the same article, he says that none of the defenses of temporal creation that he had listed as others' responses (the "sed contra" replies to the "arguments") is necessary "except the first, which proceeds from authority" [i.e. a quotation of Prov. 8:24]. Aquinas goes at length in this article to give arguments for the teaching that the world is not eternal. But he leads off from authority. Perhaps that's an example of a place where Russell would think Aquinas is not like, say, Socrates.

    In a similar way, Aquinas leads off from authority when opposing the argument, "conceded by many philosophers," that God cannot immediately cause temporal effects. "Were this argument taken up, many of the foundations of the Catholic faith would be destroyed, for it would follow that angels would be able to effect nothing new in these lower beings immediately, and much less God, who is not only eternal, but before eternity..." On the Book of Causes l. 11.

    As to 5), yes, after I wrote my reply I thought you probably had in mind your 2), i.e. Aquinas' efforts to represent opponents' views accurately. I too think Aquinas does that. I don't think the saint would countenance straw-manning an opposing view. As to his language, as I intimated, earlier centuries were not averse to polemical language that normally we view as bad form in academic writing. "These raving madmen who assault the holy institutes of God" is the sort of phrasing we used to chuckle over in seminary when quoting early 16th century polemic, for example.

    I'm not convinced, though, that Russell was disingenuously unfair in what he wrote about Aquinas. I think Russell thought he was speaking the truth to praise Aquinas' skills as a philosopher but fault his subordination of philosophy to revelation. Russell says similar things, for example, about Arabic philosophy: "Arabic philosophy is not important as original thought..." (p. 427). You say that Russell is unfair toward various philosophers. Well, maybe, but again, I don't have reason to think Russell believes his criticisms untrue. He gives some credit to Avicenna and Averroes, as you note that he does to Aquinas. That's why I wouldn't describe Russell's criticisms as totalistic. But from our vantage point, overstated - yes, I'll buy that.

    • Joe Tulloch

      Hi! Yeah, let’s leave (1), (2), and (3) to one side - I want
      to push back on (4) and (5).

      On (4), I can grant that Aquinas appeals to authority (although, as you say, he generally presents lots of other arguments as well), but the question is whether there is anything wrong with this; it can actually be perfectly legitimate to appeal to authority if you have reason to think that the authority will be right about the issue in question. It’s like going to your teacher if you have a problem with your homework– generally actually a pretty good way to get at the truth.

      So does Aquinas have reason to think that the Bible and
      church tradition will be right about the issues in question? Well, that depends on whether the arguments for the existence of God are any good, and, as I’ve already said, that question is beyond the scope of this discussion. But since he obviously thinks he does there doesn’t seem to be anything in principle wrong with his appeal to authority.

      If he had done it more, and provided fewer other arguments
      in support of his conclusions, then we might have reason to be suspicious, since the lack of other support for the authority being appealed to (here the Bible and church tradition) might indicate that it’s not actually a good guide to reality. Since Aquinas does not appeal to authority an unreasonable amount, though, and gives plenty of independent arguments to support his ‘revealed’ conclusions, I have no such worries.

      On (5) – I’m not actually claiming that Russell was ‘disingenuously unfair’ or ‘believed his own criticisms untrue’. My argument is not that he deliberately lied, but that he is guilty of making unsubstantiated claims and not bothering to properly understand his opponent’s position, as well as (probably, although this less certain) being too confident in his own judgement and not thinking hard enough about the issues at stake. From what you’ve said it sounds like you might agree with some of this?

      Also lol yeah, that’s exactly the kind of thing I had in mind
      when I said Aquinas’ way of writing was probably normal for his time.

      • Ficino

        On 4), I think Russell took issue with Aquinas' conviction that church teaching trumps philosophical inquiry/argument when the two conflict. I think Russell goes too far when he makes it seem as though, if Aquinas can't think of an argument, he'll just pull a doctrine out of his hat. And Russell goes too far when he makes it seem as though in almost every case, the answer to a question for Aquinas was set in advance by church teaching. Obviously, there were some controversies in philosophy and theology going on in Aquinas' time that had not yet prompted authoritative church declarations to settle them.

        I think that the way philosophy has been constructed as a social/political discipline, even as a professional vocation, has differed a lot over the centuries. I don't think people in 13th century W. Europe thought of the profession of philosopher the way they had come to think of it in Russell's Oxbridge world of the early 20th cent. By those lights, I think Russell is on the whole correct to point out that for Aquinas (as for pretty much everyone else with an ecclesiastical position), church doctrine imposed limits on philosophical investigation.

        An example right now is Wm. Lane Craig. I attended a session at the Eastern Div. APA earlier this month on God's aseity and abstract objects. Craig said in his remarks that he finds some form of ontological realism attractive and that he'd like to be a realist, but that nevertheless he is a nominalist because, if abstract objects exist, then God's aseity is threatened. He said Platonism poses one of the greatest challenges to classical theism. Craig liked the Middle Platonist attempt to solve the problem by locating the forms in the divine intellect. And Craig quoted NT passages to support his views about the "location" of abstract objects in God's mind. It was an interesting panel discussion, but I was left thinking that Craig was importing theological strictures into philosophy in a way that I don't feel is consistent with philosophy as I've been exposed to it since undergraduate days. I don't think it's genuinely philosophical to reject traditional Platonism because it entails consequences that (seem to) threaten Craig's Protestant theology. If one isn't convinced that the theology is correct, then for philosophy to remain theology's handmaid seems mistaken.

        But those are my thoughts. I don't know that there is anyone who can adjudicate questions of what counts as the philosophical spirit and what doesn't - a poll of everyone in the APA? I doubt that will satisfy!

        I think by now we are substantially in agreement about 5).

        Cheers, F

        • Joe Tulloch

          Hi Ficino, I see what you’re saying but I still don’t think that there’s anything unphilosophical about what and Aquinas and Craig are doing. They (at least think that they) have reason to believe in Christianity, and so have reason to reject something that implies its falsity.

          It all depends on the overall balance of evidence. If these
          cases started to stack up, Craig and Aquinas might be obliged to begin doubting their beliefs, and, by extension, if a particular argument which conflicts with Christianity is so powerful that it outweighs the reasons in favour of it, then they would have to rethink. But so long as they have more reason to believe in Christianity than the argument they are rejecting what they’re doing is entirely in line with the philosophical spirit.

          Maybe this will be clearer if you consider the parallel case of a scientist who has really good reason to believe in evolution. If a particular interpretation of some biological data suggested that evolution were false, the scientist would be justified in rejecting the interpretation on the basis that they have better reason to believe in evolution

          • Ficino

            The comparison between Craig and the hypothetical scientist is not really apt. Craig has said repeatedly in public that there is nothing that would bring him to cease believing in Christianity. I can't think of any piece of disconfirming evidence, or any argument, that Craig could not rationalize away. A scientist, unless s/he is led by other considerations (e.g. geneticists under Stalin), will stick with a theory as long as it proves its worth for predicting and explaining observations. But the scientist is ready in principle to replace a weak or falsified theory, or a theory too laden with exceptions etc. (think Tycho Brahe's theory of the solar system), with a better theory.

            As far as Russell's criticism goes, I think the nub lies in what one considers to be "the true philosophic spirit" and in how much of that spirit, once it's defined, Aquinas displayed. I don't know who gets to stipulate what counts as "the true philosophic spirit." In the Intro to the book from which you quoted, Russell says that what we call philosophy is a product of inherited religious and ethical conceptions and of "the sort of investigation which may be called 'scientific,' using this word in its broadest sense. Individual philosophers have differed widely in regard to the proportions in which these two factors entered into their systems..." (p. xiii) It is worth noting that for Russell, the "second great period" of philosophy was from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, with the third beginning in the seventeenth century (p. xv). So if R can call scholasticism the outcome of a great period of philosophy, we can't say he denies that movement a place at his own table.

          • Joe Tulloch

            Hi!

            You say ‘the comparison between Craig and the hypothetical scientist is not really apt’, but don’t mention Aquinas – does this mean that you agree that in his case it is apt?

            Interesting to hear what you have to say on the ‘true philosophic spirit’. The view I’ve tried to defend here is that Aquinas has as much claim to the philosophical spirit as any other thinker – for the reasons I’ve given, I’m not really convinced that he’s any less receptive to argument and reason than anyone else, and in fact I think he’s probably a lot better in that respect than many others.

            (On a side note, I think your characterisation of Craig is a bit wrong, but maybe we’ll leave that to one side as it’s not super relevant)

      • On (4), I can grant that Aquinas appeals to authority (although, as you say, he generally presents lots of other arguments as well), but the question is whether there is anything wrong with this; it can actually be perfectly legitimate to appeal to authority if you have reason to think that the authority will be right about the issue in question.

        Obviously appeals to authority require shared agreement on the ability of that authority to properly and correctly resolve the contention, else this is straightforwardly circular reasoning. With regard to the quality of Aquinas's philosophy, however, an appeal to authority is fallacious in principle since it offers no actual argument, and no premise which can mandate the conclusion. As such this is evidence for Russell's criticism, not a defense against it.

        • Joe Tulloch

          Hi! Aquinas thinks that he’s produced shared agreement on the reliability of the Bible and church teaching through arguments such as his Five Ways. This means that there’s no reason to think that his appeal to authority is ‘fallacious in principle since it offers no actual argument, and no premise which can mandate the conclusion’. The premises would look like this

          1) Various arguments (such as the Five Ways) give us reason to trust the Bible and church teaching

          2) The Bible and church teaching say that X

          Hence

          3) X

          This is why I don’t think that there’s anything unphilosophical about what Aquinas is doing. Of course, you might well dispute his premise (1), but that’s very different to saying that his arguments are ‘fallacious in principle’.

          • Thanks for responding, Joe.

            If, as in your response I quoted to Ficino, you agree that Aquinas does appeal to authority, then you agree that Aquinas has not provided the reasoning necessary for such an appeal to be legitimate, else the appeal would be redundant. Your syllogistic example does not describe this. Appeals to authority take the following form:

            P1) Person A claims X
            P2) Person A is authoritative
            C1) Hence, X is true

            What you describe as legitimate appeal to authority strikes me more as reference to other argument:

            P1) Person A claims X because of A1, A2,...An.
            P2) If A1...An is true, then X is true
            P3) A1...An is true
            C1) X is true

            There is an implicit argument in the second form which holds despite whatever beliefs about it might be commonly held, and the strength of it does not depend on shared perceptions of the authority.

            Where Aquinas offers premises in the form of "all confess that X" or "and this all men know to be X", he is not using the second form, but the first.

          • Joe Tulloch

            Yeah, good point. I meant that Aquinas appeals to authority in the sense that he goes to church teaching and scripture for the answer to certain questions, but you’re right to point out that, at least as I formulate it, this is really just a way of appealing to another argument.

            Surely this works in my favour, though – if his appeals to religious authorities are in fact appeals to other arguments, then they surely aren’t ‘fallacious in principle’, as you claim.

            The two purported examples of appeals to authority that you give at the end – ‘all confess that X’ and ‘and this all men know to be X’ – are a separate issue, since they are appeals to the general consensus, and not appeals to revelation or doctrine. Maybe you think this is bad philosophical practice as well, I don't know, but they don’t go any way to showing that Aquinas’ appeals to scripture etc are fallacious.

          • The two purported examples of appeals to authority that you give at the end – ‘all confess that X’ and ‘and this all men know to be X’ – are a separate issue, since they are appeals to the general consensus, and not appeals to revelation or doctrine.

            The issue is not whether Aquinas appeals to revelation or to doctrine, but to authority in place of argument for justification. Since the locus of justification for general consensus, revelation, and doctrine is always in authority, your claim here seems at best a distinction without a difference.

            I'll agree that whenever Aquinas makes reference to an argument by referring to its author, or the work in which it is found, that this is not necessarily an appeal to authority. That distinction lies entirely within the quality of the reference. Even in your own telling, however, Aquinas refers to that which he purports to justify as the justification itself, and hence is fallacious.

  • Sure, sounds like Russell might have been wrong in his characterization. But the question for me is was Aquinas right about a god existing.

    I think Aquinas was wrong about god. But I've never either's work in detail.

    • Mark

      That's the typical knee jerk response of atheists, there is no God. I'm at least pleased to hear you admit you haven't done your homework on AT philosophy. To which I ask how do you define/describe the God Aquinas was wrong about?

      • Joe Tulloch

        Hi Mark,

        Not sure how helpful this sort of comment is? How do you know this is a 'knee jerk' response and not a considered statement?

        I also think that Brian is right to point out that the more fundamental question is whether or not God exists - although, of course, that wasn't what I was trying to discuss in this article.

      • His arguments as presented to me have all argued from ignorance and the use of invented categories of universal properties or ways of existence, are very ad hoc.

        Have you read Aquinas in detail? I think when I looked his writings in this topic are thousands pages, u wouldn't know where to begin. He was spoken highly of in my course on Great Ideas in philosophy I.just don't have time to weed through it. I'm looking a good neutral summary and criticism.

        Yes my interest in this site is about arguments for the existence of gods, not how some philosophers characterize the work of others .

        • Mark

          >His arguments as presented to me have all argued from ignorance.

          In which of his arguments as presented to you has he proposed that God is true because you cannot prove God false? Just so we're clear "Is there a God" is a philosophical question and as such requires a philosophical proof. Also just because a proof is valid it doesn't mean it is true.

          > "invented categories of universal properties or ways of existence are very ad hoc"

          Integers are an invented category of universal property. Maybe you should argue against the existence of math, my son who suffers from discalculia would greatly appreciate this.

          Just to be clear Ad Hoc by definition is part of a counterargument. I'd need to know which counterargument was posed to the Aquinas' proof before I'd know if the counterargument reply was ad hoc. I'll agree in advance that "God works in mysterious ways" counterarguments are ad hoc. They are helpful in areas not related to reason.

          >Have you read Aquinas in detail? I think when I looked his writings in this topic are thousands pages, u wouldn't know where to begin.

          I certainly have not read him in the detail that others on this site have, but I've read him well enough to defend his reason. I'd recommend Aquinas by Dr. Feser. You can also listen to the podcasts from The Thomistic Institute. You might like them because they are recordings of Thomists where they guest lecture at, for example, Harvard Medical School. Some of the lectures will include audience members that pose challenge questions you'd appreciate to the lecturer.

          Often time BGA, when an atheist explains the god(s) they don't believe in, Catholics don't believe in that god either. I recall a posts a while back in a different article where you described a god you'd like to believe exists. I remember thinking, Catholics/classic theists are atheistic or at least agnostic to your proposed personalist god. And it's not for the reasons you probably think (i.e. homosexuality), it is because it was categorically wrong.

          Cheers BGA. Will be camping with Scouts this weekend and may not be able to respond until next week. -19 C tonight :)

          • >In which of his arguments as presented to you has he proposed that God is true because you cannot prove God false?

            None of them. They argued from ignorance, they didn't try to shift the burden.

            >Just so we're clear "Is there a God" is a philosophical question and as such requires a philosophical proof.

            Actually I would call that an empirical question, but I don't disagree that the statement "God exists" requires justification.

            >Also just because a proof is valid it doesn't mean it is true.

            I would say, in terms of logic, just because an argument is valid doesn't mean the conclusion is true. I would say Aquinas' apologetics are valid, but not sound, fallacious and above all, vague. I would suggest terms like proof are better left to math.

            >Integers are an invented category of universal property.

            No, I do not think that's accurate. Integers are symbols for concepts, all of which ultimately are based on axioms.

            >Maybe you should argue against the existence of math

            I think al discussion on the ontolion of math would be interesting. It is a live topic in philosophy, if I'm not mistaken.

            In any event integers are not used ad hoc like Aquinas' use of "act" and "potency" are, for example.

            >need to know which counterargument was posed to the Aquinas' proof before I'd know if the counterargument reply was ad hoc.

            Sure, present the argument and we can have the debate. But briefly, one example is saying everything has a "present" state and "potencies". I don't accept this as true. These are concepts humans have about objects not properties of objects.

            >. I'd recommend Aquinas by Dr. Feser.

            Maybe. I've found his material dense, I'm looking for a good reason to make the effort I guess. It seems that only Catholics refer to Aquinas.

            >You can also listen to the podcasts from The Thomistic Institute.

            I will try that .

            >Often time BGA, when an atheist explains the god(s) they don't believe in, Catholics don't believe in that god either.

            I know. It's hard to keep track of all the different Christian theologies, not to mention all the rest .

            >Catholics/classic theists are atheistic or at least agnostic to your proposed personalist god.

            Yes, Christians are atheist to most god concepts and deny the others, this is where the term "atheist" comes from .

            >And it's not for the reasons you probably think (i.e. homosexuality), it is because it was categorically wrong.

            No I didn't think that. I'm familiar with the apologetics of classical theism.

            Ok stay warm.

          • Mark

            >None of them. They argued from ignorance...

            You made the assertion that Aquinas argued from ignorance. I responded with a fallacy statement of God that followed an argument from ignorance and asked where in Aquinas work did you find that. You responded none of them. You're going to help me out BGA because I don't understand your assertion that they argued from ignorance without you showing the logical fallacy in the argument. Or you could concede he didn't argue from ignorance.

            > I would say Aquinas' apologetics are valid, but not sound, fallacious and above all, vague.

            I understand you continue to say they are fallacious and unsound and ad hoc. And I'd ask to please stop pounding your fists and asserting generalities without any explanation. What ad hoc counterargument? An argument is valid if the truth of the premises logically guarantees the truth of the conclusion, it is said to be free of fallacy. That's a philosophical proof.

            >I would suggest terms like proof are better left to math.

            When did math take sole ownership of proof? I doubt you're going to get many takers on a site like this for that suggestion.

            > In any event integers are not used ad hoc like Aquinas' use of "act" and "potency".

            I'll ask where does Aquinas' use "act" and "potency" in a counterargument ad hoc?

            You release a greased pig like "invented category of universal property" and expect me to grab it. Philosophers usually introduce properties because they believe it is needed to solve specific philosophical problems. I gave you the example of number theory, (which befitting to the article, Russell spent much time on arguing the properties of numbers), you reject that, so I'm obviously not grasping what you're saying Aquinas is doing there.

            >Just so we're clear "Is there a God" is a philosophical question and as such requires a philosophical proof.

            >Actually I would call that an empirical question. (Is there a God)

            Actually, no it isn't. If you hold to that you are not "familiar with the apologetics of classical theism" and you are categorically approaching your god empirically in a way I don't. You're trying to use the laws of mathematics to empirically evaluate the existence of something that gives you the laws of mathematics. As Bishop Barron put it, "It's impossible for a two dimensional object conceive of a three dimensional human."

          • >You're going to help me out BGA because I don't understand your assertion that they argued from ignorance without you showing the logical fallacy in the argument.

            Yes, I think you'd need to present a he argument to really to this, but very briefly, it's the leap from things like, we don't know the ultimate origin of change, therefore god is the ultimate origin of change.

            >And I'd ask to please stop pounding your fists and asserting generalities without any explanation.

            You're asking why I don't accept an argument but you haven't presented the argument. I'm telling you my concerns but also not presenting the argument. If you'd like to present one I will critique it in depth.

            >An argument is valid if the truth of the premises logically guarantees the truth of the conclusion, it is said to be free of fallacy. That's a philosophical proof.

            Ok.

            >When did math take sole ownership of proof?

            Just my use of terms, proof implies certainty to some. I don't expect it in these arguments.

            >I'll ask where does Aquinas' use "act" and "potency" in a counterargument ad hoc?

            The use of these terms at all, in my view.

            >You release a greased pig like "invented category of universal property" and expect me to grab it

            No, I'm just answering your questions . if you want to have a debate an this, again, present an argument and I'll critique it .recallri haven't readrAquinas, I've only read Feser's posts on this site. A number of posts on Reddit. A few other things .I may very well be straw Manning . maybe post onon Deba an Atheist on Reddit?

            >so I'm obviously not grasping what you're saying Aquinas is doing there.

            I see no reason to assume all entities are act and potency other than to make his argument. I simply don't think this is a real aspect of material reality. There appears to be not "current" state of matter rather it is constantly changing. What he calls potency is a conceptual, not ontological reality of the cosmos.

            By contrast, is integers are symbols we use to describe things we see. We can identify what we.mean by 1, 2, etc.

            >Actually, no it isn't. If you hold to that you are not "familiar with the apologetics of classical theism" and you are categorically approaching your god empirically in a way I don't.

            I never said, that, I just said I'd never read Aquinas. I guess classical theists don't see god as empirical? What do you understand empiry to mean? Is this worth debating?

            >You're trying to use the laws of mathematics to empirically evaluate the existence of something that gives you the laws of mathematics

            No I'm not .Math isn't empirical, it's can be uabstract.Math can be applied to empirical objects, but it itself is not empirical.

            I'd much rather have a formal debate .I'm sure Brandon would let you post one if Aquinas' arguments.

          • Mark

            Hey BGA thanks for the reply. To answer your question on empirical, I assumed you mean it us capable of being proven or disproved based on empirical/observable data.

            I tend to not use the five ways as my go to proofs among non-Catholics. The historical nature of his writings and the misunderstanding of literary terms like act/potency, soul, form, and matter doesn't translate well to modern day skeptics. This is why I'll leave the discussion here as it would require an understanding of Aquinas writings you're probably not interested in pursuing. Also as mentioned by other more qualified Aquinas scholars, his primary goal in writing was not to convince skeptics, it's a very small part of his body of work but it was necessary to proof his premises.

            As before I'll let you have the last word BGA. If my memory serves me well you're in Canada, which means you're participating of the bitter cold this week too. Break out the heavy toque, stay warm as well. Cheers!

    • Alexandra

      Hi Brian, what convinces you that God doesn't exist?

      • I'm not convinced no gods exist. I don't believe any do and no one has presented anything convincing.

        Not really sure what people mean by the term.

    • David Nickol

      I am offering you my deepest sympathies for the two bizarre responses you have received so far for your comment above.

      Alexandria: Hi Brian, what convinces you that God doesn't exist?

      As someone who has participated in Strange Notions for a very long time, I know that you have written here for years also, writing possibly hundreds of messages and even in one case contributing an OP titled Why the Problem of Evil Makes God Unlikely. After years of participating here, it must seem strange to be asked such a basic question, as if the discussion were somehow just beginning.

      Mark: That's the typical knee jerk response of atheists, there is no God.

      Perhaps I am overly sensitive, but the above strikes me as bizarre and condescending, particularly in light of the fact that your writings here and your "extracurricular activities" give ample evidence that your position as an atheist is at the very least as well thought out as that of the average believer. In what sense it is a "knee-jerk" response for a "devout" atheist to express the belief that God does not exist I can't even begin to imagine. (And the comment gets an upvote by Dennis Bonnette!)

      Mark: I'm at least pleased to hear you admit you haven't done your homework on AT philosophy. To which I ask how do you define/describe the God Aquinas was wrong about?

      This raises the question, "Who has assigned AT philosophy as homework?" Can no one legitimately call himself or herself an atheist without studying Thomas Aquinas? Who says? The attitude of some on this site seems to be that AT philosophy is the royal road (and in fact, the only road) to truth. This site has abandoned its founding principles (a site for theists and atheists to discuss the existence of God—civilly) and has been turned almost exclusively into a site where Thomists (professional and amateur) look down their noses not only at nonbelievers but also Protestants. And while condescension can sometimes be done with a certain degree of civility, such is not always the case here.

      People believed and disbelieved in the existence of God long before Aquinas lived and died (1225-1275). AT philosophy isn't necessary for either belief or unbelief. There is no AT philosophy in either the Old or New Testaments. I acknowledge the major contributions of Aquinas to Catholic theology, but I do not believe they make him a great philosopher. They make him a great Catholic theologian.

      Just for the record, I self-identify as an agnostic, not an atheist.

      • Alexandra

        I understood Brian's answer as, to paraphrase: does God exist? I think no. Those that that think God does exist, like Aquinas, are wrong. Did I misunderstand him?

        Hence my question: "...what convinces you that God doesn't exist?"
        In other words, what convinces him that we are wrong?
        That is not an agnostic position by Brian, is it? This is new.

        Edit: removed sentences. Added words.

        • My comment was just, yes it seems Russell was wrong but I'd rather talk about whether gods exist.

          So your response was off topic of this OP, but it be happy to discuss philosophy if religion with you.

          • Alexandra

            As I explained to David, I was indirectly asking a clarification about this :

            You said: "I think Aquinas was wrong about god"

            Aquinas being wrong about God is quite pertinent to the OP, especially if Aquinas then ignores evidence that he is wrong to reach his conclusions.

            I'd be more than happy to discuss the philosophy of religion. Would you like to start first, or shall I? (I'll try to keep it on topic with the OP.) Do you have any questions for me?

            Edit.

          • >I'd be more than happy to discuss the philosophy of religion. Would you like to start first, or shall I?

            Go for it.

            >Would you like to start first, or shall I? (I'll try to keep it on topic with the OP.)

            No need.

            >Do you have any questions for me?

            What do you mean by "God" and why do you believe He exists?

          • Alexandra

            (Haven't forgotten our conversation, will get back to you.)

          • Ok.

          • I haven't forgotten either. ;)

        • Ellabulldog

          When you assert a god exists to others you need to prove it.
          What you believe doesn't matter. Beliefs are a dime a dozen.
          We can now study why humans believe what they do. Sad thing is that humans are biased and while they know "voodoo" isn't real and that "crystal balls" are a scam they will not look at their own superstitious beliefs the same way.

          It applies to things other than religions.

          One can be agnostic on the question of Existence but atheist towards the gods invented by men.

          To simplify things an atheist only needs to say "I don't believe you" to a theist. But that doesn't make for much of a conversation so atheists expand their responses. Theists do their best to overwhelm the conversation with lies, fallacious reasoning, apologetics, emotion, and propaganda.

          Aquinas was trying to justify the existence of a god. For his job or life or maybe to satisfy himself. His logic is faulty and any good philosopher without a Christian bias would agree the arguments don't hold up logically. He fooled many and maybe fooled himself.

          What's funny is he wasn't trying to prove the Catholic "God". No intellectual would try to do that.

          • Alexandra

            Hi Ellabulldog,

            Thank you for sharing your opinions with me. You're new here, right? Welcome.
            (I’m putting your comment in bold, my response in not bold.)

            When you assert a god exists to others you need to prove it.
            No. But I'm always happy to share my perspective with anyone who’s interested.

            What you believe doesn't matter. Beliefs are a dime a dozen.
            I disagree. But you're entitled to this belief.

            We can now study why humans believe what they do.
            Interesting.(1.) Do you have a source or reference? What studies are you referring to?

            Sad thing is that humans are biased and while they know "voodoo" isn't real and that "crystal balls" are a scam they will not look at their own superstitious beliefs the same way.
            2. What are your criteria for labeling something "superstitious"?
            It applies to things other than religions.
            Agreed.

            One can be agnostic on the question of Existence but atheist towards the gods invented by men.
            If by "Existence" you mean existence of God, agreed.

            To simplify things an atheist only needs to say "I don't believe you" to a theist. But that doesn't make for much of a conversation so atheists expand their responses.
            Atheists seek charitable conversations with Theists. That's great.
            Theists do their best to overwhelm the conversation with lies, fallacious reasoning, apologetics, emotion, and propaganda.
            3. Should we all follow your example of conversation instead?

            Aquinas was trying to justify the existence of a god. For his job or life or maybe to satisfy himself. His logic is faulty and any good philosopher without a Christian bias would agree the arguments don't hold up logically. He fooled many and maybe fooled himself.
            4. So does that make you wiser than Aquinas?

            What's funny is he wasn't trying to prove the Catholic "God". No intellectual would try to do that.
            If by "Catholic 'God'", you mean the Trinity, I somewhat agree.

          • Ellabulldog

            New to this part of Discus. Usually on the Religion Channel.

            When you assert a god exists to others you need to prove it.
            No. But I'm always happy to share my perspective with anyone who’s interested.

            Well if you don't insist that it is true to me then of course you don't have to defend it. I like soccer. Others like baseball. It's subjective to which sport is better. "btw it's soccer". :) Of course then you really aren't asserting anything for me to respond to.

            What you believe doesn't matter. Beliefs are a dime a dozen.
            I disagree. But you're entitled to this belief.

            I should explain better. It matters to you. Why it matters to you matters to me. Why it matters to humans concerns the human race and our cultures. But what you actually believe is really no different at it's core from any other unfounded belief.

            We can now study why humans believe what they do.
            Interesting.(1.) Do you have a source or reference? What studies are you referring to?

            Yes, google the Cognitive Science of Religion. It's where scientists, anthropologists/psychologists and others study how beliefs form in the human mind. It helps to explain why humans believe where most want to argue about what humans believe. You can read books. Take an online course. Study it at a university. You are free to agree or not. If religious it will challenge your worldview. It's why many Christians homeschool. A fear of learning things beyond what their faith teaches and not wanting to overburden their mind with dissonance.

            Sad thing is that humans are biased and while they know "voodoo" isn't real and that "crystal balls" are a scam they will not look at their own superstitious beliefs the same way.
            2. What are your criteria for labeling something "superstitious"?
            It applies to things other than religions.
            Agreed.

            My criteria? Can a belief be supported with facts, falsifiable evidence, and lastly proof. Is it rational or irrational? Are there reasons why a person holds such a belief that can be explained in other ways. See above.

            One can be agnostic on the question of Existence but atheist towards the gods invented by men.
            If by "Existence" you mean existence of God, agreed.

            By Existence I mean not just our universe but whatever came before if anything and whatever will come after. It would include other universes if they exist. It isn't about a god. A god is not necessary. Looking at the question of how this all came to be humans simply at present don't have the ability to answer such a question. We attempt to but we are limited in brain power, limited simply by the short life spans we have, limited by physical constraints. Our biggest limitation is we exist in this universe at this time. We currently can't go back in time and we can't at present access other universes from this one. Inserting that "God did it" is an argument from ignorance. We don't know how some things happened. Yet. Maybe never will. We should not just make up something but we do in order to explain the world to ourselves. Humans want an answer even if it is wrong. I don't know doesn't work for many. Those that pretend to have an answer take advantage of this flaw in our ability to reason.

            If a god can exist without someone creating it then Existence or if you will the Universe needs no Creator. It really is special pleading even though others will use apologetics to argue it isn't. Such a simple thing to understand. No need to create something that doesn't exist to explain something that does exist. We do so because we are conscious and fear our deaths. It is very stressful for humans to know they will die. In the past with short lifespans, smallpox, black death and constant warring humans needed a god belief to make life bearable. Many still do.

            To simplify things an atheist only needs to say "I don't believe you" to a theist. But that doesn't make for much of a conversation so atheists expand their responses.
            Atheists seek charitable conversations with Theists. That's great.
            Theists do their best to overwhelm the conversation with lies, fallacious reasoning, apologetics, emotion, and propaganda.
            3. Should we all follow your example of conversation instead?

            Well on here I write bluntly You may not see your faith as lies. I was raised in it. So when someone insists Catholicism is true I tend to bluntly call them on it. I will not apologize for calling it out for what it is. That offends some but it simply is what we call "blaming the messenger". My sister is becoming more and more religious. She can't hold a conversation like this. Her head might explode. She can't understand why others don't believe as she was taught. She is study in confirmation bias. Goes to retreats. Reads apologetic books and propaganda. She would not want to learn why she is wrong. Her husband and his family are Catholic. It would greatly disrupt her life and maybe end her marriage if she gave up her faith. So she has to not think about why her belief isn't rational she works really really hard to keep the faith. Sunk costs and all that. If you truly believe and have confidence what I or anyone else says should not bother you. If you can assert gods exist my saying they don't is simply doing the same as you. I respect people I don't respect unsupported beliefs. Two different things. I do wish theists would not equate their belief with themselves. If they do I can't help that. Not saying you do. I'm not trying to offend nor are others trying to offend me. It's good to have these conversations.

            Aquinas was trying to justify the existence of a god. For his job or life or maybe to satisfy himself. His logic is faulty and any good philosopher without a Christian bias would agree the arguments don't hold up logically. He fooled many and maybe fooled himself.
            4. So does that make you wiser than Aquinas?

            I have about 800 more years of human achievement to access. It doesn't make me wiser just more informed. For his time he did a fabulous job. Scientists today use the knowledge of the past to improve humanity. Aquinas at his time was putting forth ideas and others took them and improved on them. We aren't smarter today. A polymath 4000 years ago was just as brilliant or more so than Einstein. Today there are just more polymaths with access to computers and the accumulated knowledge of the whole world. Not wiser. The question we'll never know is would Aquinas believe today what he did then. In 1000 years
            Catholicism will not be around. The trend is that it is declining in Europe and also in the US. It's slow for sure. Humans don't like change.

            What's funny is he wasn't trying to prove the Catholic "God". No intellectual would try to do that.
            If by "Catholic 'God'", you mean the Trinity, I somewhat agree.

            No I mean the God of the Bible. He stayed away with that with his 5 ways. He was trying to prove a god was possible without trying to prove a certain god was possible. Baby steps but his five ways failed. You may disagree but unbiased philosophers agree that his arguments are flawed. Convincing to many sure. But not to a discerning skeptic looking at the arguments themselves. Others simply want them to be true they convince their own minds they are true.

            I'm sure you are aware of confirmation bias and other psychological effects that the human mind plays on itself.

            Sorry I tend to ramble. Hope I did not offend. Just explaining. Have a great night.

      • Rob Abney

        Having also been active here at SN for quite awhile, I recognize a frequently attempted ploy at work here, it is a technique called "shaming", and the main intent of the ploy is to get Catholics to stop participating in the dialogue.
        And if you won't stop participating, at least stop bringing up the very effective writings of Thomas Aquinas, try to stick with bible verses which the anti-Catholics can interpret anyway they like to their advantage.
        There is no need for an apology for pointing out a knee-jerk reaction (that is: an un-informed reaction) just as there is no need for an apology for making knee-jerk reactions.

        • >the main intent of the ploy is to get Catholics to stop participating in the dialogue

          I wouldn't think so, the whole point of any Atheists being here is to engage with Catholics. It's the only reason I come here.

          • Jim the Scott

            Rational beings like yourself Green get that but reasoning is a learned skill. Just because someone might deny God doesn't automatically make them rational thought they might think so.......

        • Jim the Scott

          Rob your post to David Nickol is what we call a "Mike Drop"!

          "he main intent of the ploy is to get Catholics to stop participating in the dialogue.
          And if you won't stop participating, at least stop bringing up the very effective writings of Thomas Aquinas, try to stick with bible verses which the anti-Catholics can interpret anyway they like to their advantage."

          I would like to frame these words.

          • David Nickol

            @dennisbonnette:disqus
            @rob_abney:disqus

            It seems to me this is a clear request from all three of you for me to stop participating in Strange Notions. I will comply.

          • Jim the Scott

            @dennisbonnette:disqus

            @Rob Abney

            Dude if you want to go then go. If you want to stay then stay. But fi you want to post here and not recieve criticial feedback I canna help you.

            The later is ironic since in the past you haven't kept your power dry with me but I have a thick skin and it serves me well.

            Cheers.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            From some of your comments above, I could interpret them as a clear request for Thomists, like myself, to stop participating in Strange Notions.

            Even if I thought this was true, which I do not, I would not let someone else determine whether I participated on this site or not. That would be my decision, not theirs.

          • David Nickol

            I must confess I misunderstood Rob Abney's original message, which contained the phrase ". . . and if you won't stop participating . . . ." Since the message was to me, I took the "you" to refer to me and to mean, "if you, David Nickol, won't stop participating." I now see "you" refers to "Catholics" in the previous paragraph."

            I can see now that Rob Abney's original comments were not an invitation for me to stop participating. Apologies to all for anything I said based on that erroneous reading.

            I do, of course, strenuously deny the charge of an attempt or "intent . . . to get Catholics to stop participating in the dialogue." That would be a bizarre thing to attempt on a Catholic site!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am glad to see this all cleared up. Thank you for your reply.

          • Jim the Scott

            Dude nobody wants you to go but I will aways respect your free choice. Peace.

          • Jim the Scott

            I thought it was about shutting down Catholics.......

          • Rob Abney

            The more effective threat would be a persuasive argument in favor of your position.

          • David Nickol

            Like the Almighty, I hold back from being too persuasive, lest the free will of those who disagree with me be violated and they be forced to accept my position.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm agnostic about that.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          While I would prefer not to address areas outside my own field of competence, I applaud your words about St. Thomas Aquinas. I can see the essential superiority of his thought to that of all other philosophers, especially as compared to the erring ventures of those belonging to the history of modern philosophy -- including the presently dominant analytic school, which seems innately blind to all things spiritual.

          I know that St. Thomas was a theologian and that he sometimes erred, especially in conclusions dependent on the biology and physics of his time. But his purely philosophical insights, preeminently in the science of metaphysics, provide a body of unrivaled rational knowledge about the deepest truths of reality, an intellectual contribution to human wisdom manifested in the number of brilliant Thomistic commentators whose own works are recognized as outstanding.

          I cannot seem to get the well-known words of Leon Bloy out of my mind, words I will put into French, lest they be seen as offensive to English readers: "Il n'y a que deux types de philosophie, le thomisme et le bullshitism."

      • Yes it was weird, especially since my comment agreed it seems Russell was overshooting in his criticism of Aquinas.

        Thanks for your kind comments .

    • Alexandra

      In light of David apologizing on my behalf, I apologize if my question was out of line.

  • "Russell ... spent a few hundred pages of his book Principia Mathematica trying to prove (starting from a few logical axioms) that 1 + 1 = 2".

    It is a good thing he did. I was never quite convinced by that equation.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      In grad school, I took a course in Boolean algebra in which we proved the principle of excluded middle. That was fine, but my fellow students and I were appalled that it took until the fifty-third theorem to get to it!

  • Personally, I think Russell was largely right. And I say that as an admirer of Aquinas. But not of Thomism.

  • There are at least two central contentions in the OP, which are not at odds with one another, and thus the truth of the one does not attest the falsehood of the other. The first is that Russell was wrong in his characterization of Aquinas as following from agreed upon conclusions to premises warranting said conclusions, as opposed to the great tradition of philosophy which follows from premises to conclusions. The second is that Russell himself engaged in this essentially apologetic form.

    I'm really only interested in the former, and since the truth of the latter is irrelevant to it, I'll focus on the quality of Aquinas's work.

    What's odd about the OP's characterization of Aquinas as following from premises to conclusions is that it isn't at all clear Aquinas himself would agree with it. Consider his defense of god's omnipotence from the Summa Theologica, which is characteristic of his larger form of argument throughout his masterwork:

    All confess that God is omnipotent; but it seems difficult to explain in what His omnipotence precisely consists: for there may be doubt as to the precise meaning of the word 'all' when we say that God can do all things. If, however, we consider the matter aright, since power is said in reference to possible things, this phrase, "God can do all things," is rightly understood to mean that God can do all things that are possible; and for this reason He is said to be omnipotent.~ Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas

    Aquinas's form is literally and explicitly to begin with the conclusion, and then to justify that conclusion in whatever might be the strongest form he can devise. We begin with the knowledge, commonly held, that god is "omnipotent", but given the logical complications of such a concept, what we understand by this word must be tempered according to the dictates of logic. Here, logic dictates that the "all" is something less than "any", and must apply only to those things which are possible.

    The problem for Aquinas is that he is working from older texts, and one is a sacred text, divinely inspired if not actually dictated by god itself. He refers himself to Luke 1:37, which is characterized in this translation of Aquinas as No word shall be impossible with God, but which in Koine has a more formally logical translation:

    ὅτι ἀδυνατήσει παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ πᾶν ῥῆμα

    or

    For not will be impossible with God [ from ] everything

    In plainer English, this can be rendered as "For not one of every thing will be impossible with God".

    The Greek πᾶν ( pan ) is the same root in the word Paul and John referred to god's power, which is παντοκράτωρ or pantokrator, and means literally "all and every". How can this be justified in light of Aquinas's claim to judge this arightly as only referring to the possible?

    The question would seem to turn on whether or not "all and every" thing can include that which is impossible, and Aquinas here leaves that consideration entirely off the table, referring to his preference only as being "aright". This consideration is only slightly more directly addressed in the apologetic argument referring to the impossible as being nonsense, and thus "no thing", and therefore not a member of the set of all things. This argument seems to be in good company, echoing the injunction Parmenides gave us against referring to that "which is not".

    The problem with this view is that unlike Parmenides, who referred to the empirical existence of things as we experience them rather than possibility in the abstract, there is no objective measure to apply to god's domains of power. To "consider aright" the question of what is possible for god is, according to Aquinas, simply to say "if god is to be reasonable, then it cannot be unreasonable," in answer to the question of whether or not god is reasonable. In other words, it does nothing at all but restate the question.

    Aquinas literally seeks to obtain a premise for his received conclusion which requires a black box to warrant, which is a rejection not only of the Principle of Sufficient Reason by which Aquinas seeks to justify his "argument", such as it is, but of philosophy itself. In syllogistic form, Aquinas reverses the warranted "Socrates is a man, all men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal" form to the fallacious "Socrates is mortal, all men are mortal, therefore Socrates is a man". That god cannot do what god cannot do is a tautology, even if the sum total of things god cannot do is zero. Aquinas's statements here get us no closer to defining either set, and thus offers no mandate for his conclusion, which is that god is omnipotent, nor any connection to his premise, which is that "all" is a subcategory of everything.

    Appeals to common opinion, question begging, conclusions without mandates and premises without warrants are all clear indications that the argument in question is not philosophy, but something else.

    • BCE

      First I apologize, my knowledge is limited but I enjoy reading SN and comments.
      I don't know enough to say Russell's critic is wrong, but I question if it is not
      just pretentious.
      I can't debate God, but since you brought up set theory and syllogism I have a question.
      Could Aquinas argue otherwise?

      In one syllogism Socrates is "a man" in the other he is "mortal" (now or having lived and subject to death). Obviously fish and bugs are "mortal" too
      so in your second syllogism Socrates might be someones dog.
      However that's true because there is already agreement that there are other "mortal" entities besides men.
      But what if the only mortal entity, to have ever existed, were man?
      So the construct of your second syllogism is only false because
      we already treat part of the syllogism as truth.

      • Hi BCE, thanks for the comment.

        The second syllogism is false precisely because man is not the only mortal form of life, and so one cannot deduce from Socrates's mortality that he is a man, exactly as you point out. But to say that it is false "only...because we already treat part of the syllogism as truth" is to underplay rather significantly the facts of the matter. I disagree that the reference to mortality is a referral to shared agreement only, as mortality itself is demonstrable. This isn't an appeal to authority ( which I take as an interesting and subtle challenge here ) but to established fact, about which there is shared agreement.

        Good comment!

        • BCE

          Thank you.
          But Aquinas doesn't just say things come into being because
          the bible says so, or because God exists.
          Rather he observed things coming into being and concluded
          they can't exist without a cause. Then he attributes causation
          to something other than itself, God.

          So I ask you this
          if I understand that it's special pleading(who can say what God is)
          however at his time Auinas could not say what electro magnetism was let alone a boson.
          and if a+b = c therefore c-a=b the axiom is true despite no clue as to what {a} is.
          And in your second example Socrates is mortal, he might be a man
          or might not, he might be a dog or bug but you can't exclude he might be a man, then you can't say the syllogism is false, but only that the conclusion is not verifiable.
          Perhaps why Boole understood the problem of syllogisms.
          And maybe why Aquinas's conclusion could be God(or may be not), but
          certainly it's not proved God is excluded....right?

          • The problem with the second syllogism is not that Socrates might be a man, but that he must be. To say he "might" be a man requires no premises, nor any warrant from them, because such a statement essentially says nothing at all in this context. Thus if I was to claim

            All men are mortal, and Socrates is mortal, therefore Socrates is a man

            my claim would be false on its face.

            Aquinas does not directly address the ex nihilo argument in his Five Ways, but rather takes on the attempts by which Aristotle sought to refute Parmenides who was the originator of the ex nihilo. Parmenides argued essentially that if nothing can come from nothing, and something is, then nothing can never have been, and what is always was. This led him to reject the idea of a "void", since to speak of a void is to speak of some thing, not no thing. To the Greeks, motion required a space to move from and a space - a void - to move into. Since Parmenides rejected the existence of a void, there could be no space for a thing to move into, hence no real movement.

            Aquinas rejected this idea, very sensibly, though perhaps overly literally. One way he argued against it was by the Prime Mover argument, which noted that things in motion must be set in motion by other things in motion, and this chain, to avoid being infinitely recursive, must have an origin in an unmoved mover. In addition to being an apparent case of special pleading, since why would any movement require a motivator if movement can be self-induced, and in addition to synthesizing Parmenides' case in the first place, it also directly influenced at least three of Aquinas's Five Ways, which include that of motion, of causation, and of contingency.

            Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas nor anyone has ever observed the origin of the universe itself, though science gets pretty close these days. Still, all cosmology of ultimate origins is predicated on reason alone, not empirical observation. Aquinas was quite clear about this, arguing that the universe was contingent, which is to say its existence might be conditional, and thus some other necessary thing created it. Here he continues Aristotle's argument against Parmenides, with the same mystifying result: if some "thing" must be an uncaused cause, why not the universe itself?

            So when Aquinas concludes this necessary "thing" was not the universe per se, but "that which all men know to be god", he does not do so from any set of observations, but precisely because the bible - and more importantly, the Church - says so.

            Aquinas did not conclude that god "might" be, but that god was the necessary thing the universe required for existence. That is to say god must be, and just as in the second syllogism example, Aquinas was wrong.

  • Ruben Villasenor

    Is Russel incorrect when he says that Aquinas' arguments are special pleading? There is an unknown (the cause of the universe/reality) which Aquinas is offering an explanation for. He lays of the rules and premises and then within the argument present X which does not have to abide by the very rules he described. If the universe has a cause nothing can be said of it since we do not have access to that. What is the link between this possible unknown cause and the specific god Aquinas believed in? It seems that every argument ends with X (the universe has a cause or this cause was an unmoved mover as an example) but no demonstration of the link between X being the cause and X being Jesus or Yahweh or the Father. I do agree that Aquinas was a disciplined thinker and innovator in his time. He climbed on the shoulders of thinker before him and now we climb on his and other great philosophers shoulders.

    • David Nickol

      I think we need to remember that Aquinas's proofs of the existence of God constitute only a tiny fraction of his works, and I can only presume Russell was taking into account all of Aquinas's writings when judging his place within the history of philosophy. So how are we supposed to classify something like the following (heavily abridged) excerpt as philosophy?

      Article 1. Whether clarity is becoming to the glorified body?

      Objection 1. It would seem that clarity is unbecoming to the glorified body. Because according to Avicenna (Natural. vi, 2), "every luminous body consists of transparent parts." But the parts of a glorified body will not be transparent, since in some of them, such as flesh and bones, earth is predominant. Therefore glorified bodies are not lightsome. . . .

      On the contrary, It is written (Matthew 13:43): "The just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," and (Wisdom 3:7): "The just shall shine, and shall run to and fro like sparks among the reeds."

      Further, it is written (1 Corinthians 15:43): "It is sown in dishonor, it shall rise in glory," which refers to clarity, as evidenced by the previous context where the glory of the rising bodies is compared to the clarity of the stars. Therefore the bodies of the saints will be lightsome.

      I answer that, It is necessary to assert that after the resurrection the bodies of the saints will be lightsome, on account of the authority of Scripture which makes this promise. But the cause of this clarity is ascribed by some to the fifth or heavenly essence, which will then predominate in the human body. Since, however, this is absurd, as we have often remarked (Supplement:84:1, it is better to say that this clarity will result from the overflow of the soul's glory into the body. For whatever is received into anything is received not according to the mode of the source whence it flows, but according to the mode of the recipient. Wherefore clarity which in the soul is spiritual is received into the body as corporeal. And consequently according to the greater clarity of the soul by reason of its greater merit, so too will the body differ in clarity, as the Apostle affirms (1 Corinthians 15:41). Thus in the glorified body the glory of the soul will be known, even as through a crystal is known the color of a body contained in a crystal vessel, as Gregory says on Job 28:17, "Gold or crystal cannot equal it."

      Reply to Objection 1. Avicenna is speaking of a body that has clarity through the nature of its component parts. It is not thus but rather by merit of virtue that the glorified body will have clarity. . . .

      I would call this theology (of a sort), but i don't think it is philosophy, or certainly not great philosophy.

      • Rob Abney

        Is this theology or philosophy? Or are you unsure of which it is?

        For whatever is received into anything is received not according to the mode of the source whence it flows, but according to the mode of the recipient.

        • David Nickol

          Are you asking me to classify the passage which you quote as philosophy or theology or something else? Can I as you to give two or three examples of how the quoted statement applies to something other than glorified bodies?

          It is notoriously difficult to define philosophy, and it is an interesting to reflect on what the relationship of theology is to philosophy or vice versa. But it strikes me that my conclusion that the passage I quote from above "is certainly not great philosophy." I think it is a good example of what Russell was talking about when he said, "If he [Aquinas] can find apparently rational arguments for some parts of the faith, so much the better; if he cannot, he need only fall back on revelation."

          I do not pretend to be an expert on Aquinas, but just scanning the tables of contents of his works makes it clear that a tremendous amount of his work requires as a prerequisite the acceptance of revelation. The idea of the resurrection of the body is not something that can be generated through pure philosophy (like, say, the idea of an unmoved mover).

          • Rob Abney

            how the quoted statement applies to something other than glorified bodies?

            It applies to all things known. It is an explanation of how we can know anything much less something as advanced as glorified bodies.
            "There are but three requisites for knowledge, namely, the active power of the knower by which he judges of things, the thing known, and the union of both."
            It is explained here https://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/etext/kog02.htm
            It does not involve revelation or the acceptance of revelation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"I do not pretend to be an expert on Aquinas, but just scanning the tables of contents of his works makes it clear that a tremendous amount of his work requires as a prerequisite the acceptance of revelation."

            I hope you will forgive my intrusion here, but having taught the philosophy of St. Thomas for some half century at the university level, I find this a very curious statement. Not based merely on "scanning the tables of contents," but actually studying his writings, I have found that the philosophical content is ever-present. Certainly, his commentaries on the physics, psychology, and metaphysics of Aristotle are essentially philosophical, not based on revelation. Even if you read his two Summas, what is evident is that, although they are theological works and authority is cited, the body of the arguments in most all cases is philosophical in content.

            I have no doubt that St. Thomas is a Catholic and accepts all the Church teachings. Still, the substance of most of his best known works is defended by purely rational philosophical reasoning and one merely needs to read it to see that. Of course, anyone is free to disagree with his philosophy, but to suggest that it is fideistic for the most part is to read a different thinker than the one I have read.

            >"The idea of the resurrection of the body is not something that can be generated through pure philosophy (like, say, the idea of an unmoved mover)."

            Again, this last statement suggests to me an unfamiliarity with the substance of St. Thomas' thought. While I am not trying to offer a rigorous proof of the thesis you say is "not something that can be generated by pure philosophy," consider the following outline, given the main theses of his works:

            He offers purely rational proofs of the spirituality and immortality of the human soul. For example, see chapter six of my Origin of the Human Species, where I present the three main ones. He offers proofs of God's existence and a list of divine attributes that make clear that God creates all things, and does so with deliberate, benign intentions.

            St. Thomas teaches that the soul is the natural form of the body, and that the body is needed to complete the human substance in it natural state as created by God.

            From the above, you can see a clear outline of reasoning that comports with the notion that God made man to be complete solely with a body, and that while life after death as a subsistent form (the spiritual soul) may be possible for some time, it would not be conformable with the divine intention to offer man the possibility of eternal happiness to leave him there forever -- since the natural state of man is not complete without a body.

            From the above, there is the brief outline of natural reasoning suggesting that God would intend to reunite the separated soul with a human body in order to complete the divine intention expressed in his original creation of the human substance.

            Thus to suggest that the resurrection of the body is "not something that can be generated through pure philosophy" is clearly inconsistent with what I understand about St. Thomas' philosophy. He surely believed in the resurrection originally through his Catholic faith. But, as faith seeks understanding, St. Thomas spent his lifetime exploring the purely philosophical arguments that faith illuminates but does not replace.

            Just as we can follow a map that guides us from point A to point B, if it says there is a bridge across a certain river and none is there, anyone would know that the map is not helpful at that point. So, too, faith can illuminate and guide reason to insights not readily available without it. But the work of Christian philosophy is to see what elements of faith can be rationally sustained. Intellectual honesty requires knowing the difference between what is known by faith alone and what reason can also demonstrate. I have always found St. Thomas Aquinas to be intellectually honest.

          • David Nickol

            I realize it must be excruciating to read such uninformed opinions as mine on something you have studied and taught for over forty years!

            However, what is an atheist, or an agnostic (like myself), or a non-Christian to make of Aquinas as a philosopher when he devotes so much of his efforts to Catholic (or Christian) doctrine? How is a person who does not believe in the existence of God, or the Incarnation, or transubstantiation, or the resurrection of the body supposed to judge Aquinas and his explanations of these things?

            I am reminded of an opinion piece I read in the New York Times that contained this paragraph:

            The trouble is, a “prediction” in particle physics is today little more than guesswork. (In case you were wondering, yes, that’s exactly why I left the field.) In the past 30 years, particle physicists have produced thousands of theories whose mathematics they can design to “predict” pretty much anything. For example, in 2015 when a statistical fluctuation in the L.H.C. data looked like it might be a new particle, physicists produced more than 500 papers in eight months to explain what later turned out to be merely noise. The same has happened many other times for similar fluctuations, demonstrating how worthless those predictions are.

            The question in my mind (which I do not offer an answer to here) is how do you judge, as science, the 500 papers that "explained" what turned out to be nothing (noise) from the LHC?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, with respect to the physics papers, I can only note that there is an inherent lack of certitude in natural science, especially when it is speculating about theoretical issues far removed from direct observation. Philosophy, especially in matters grounded in metaphysics, can attain universal certitudes based on first principles of being -- even though many non-metaphysicians are not impressed. :)

            Second, with respect to St. Thomas as a philosopher, I can understand how the non-professional can get confused. Most of what you read about him probably is based on the two Summas, both of which are labeled for all to see as "theology."

            I don't want to be touting formal education too pridefully, but it does have some advantages. Presumably, if you are studying a field and do so in a graduate school filled with faculty very familiar with the history and traditions of that field, you have some safeguards against badly understanding the field.

            That is why a graduate school steeped in the traditions of St. Thomas is better situated to grasp what he was really doing. Two points stand out. First, most non-Thomists may not realize that he wrote a number strictly philosophical commentaries on Aristotle's works -- commentaries on the Physics, the Metaphysics, and the De Anima (On the Soul) in particular. Second, some of St. Thomas' most important philosophical works were purely philosophical, in particular one thinks of the De Ente et Essentia (On Being and Essence). Third, and very important, is the fact that there is much purely philosophical content in the theological Summas -- the content of which scholars of St. Thomas have been "extracting" from its theological context for hundreds of years. Just reading the Summas carefully will show anyone that most of the arguments given in the Contra Gentes are from pure reason, and certainly that is also true of the first three books of the Summa theologiae.

            Given that secular scholars long decried the entire scholastic period as part of the Dark Ages and also dismissed the work of someone like St. Thomas as simply justifications for Christianity, it is hardly the fault of modern readers that they miss the solid philosophical contributions to the history of thought given by St. Thomas Aquinas.

          • Rob Abney

            How is a person who does not believe in the existence of God, or the Incarnation, or transubstantiation, or the resurrection of the body supposed to judge Aquinas and his explanations of these things?

            Surely the unbelievers should have some sort of explanations for their unbelief. If they do not then they could consider Aquinas' well-thought out explanations, and if his presentation is too unfamiliar then an explanation from someone who is familiar and can explain the explanations is available, such as Dr. Bonnette.
            Similarly, I don't understand how the LHC works but I would consider Hossenfelder's explanations as true.

      • flan man

        Definitely. For some reason "Thomism" seems to only concern the purely theological part. A light reading of all the stuff that Thomists no longer bring up is enough to cast doubts on his value as a philosopher, his works on astronomy and biology, for example. He borrows an erroneous idea or two from Aristotle and spins them out into even more erroneous ideas. Suddenly planets are composed of an immaterial quintessence and possess souls and intelligences.
        He "proves" properties of demons by quoting earlier writers. He starts with the homunculus theory and then spins all kinds of grand theological points about the soul and what not out of it. He couldn't figure out how babies are made, but he can tell you all about the invisible world and the nature of God.

  • OMG

    The chapter of Russell's History on Aquinas claims: "What follows is an abstract of the Summa contra Gentiles." Russell then abstracts but he also seems to insert his own judgments. How much of the chapter is unadulterated Aquinas may in fact be Russell's interpretation. All conclusions (preconceived or logically derived) drawn from this Chapter may therefore be suspect.

    For example, Russell writes: "My purpose (he says) is to declare the truth which the Catholic Faith professes. But here I must have recourse to natural reason, since the gentiles do not accept the authority of Scripture." Analysis: The 'he says' in parens appears to be Russell talking about what Aquinas says. But to whom does the 'I' of the next sentence refer?.

    Elsewhere Russell points to Aquinas' conclusions on sexual differences and educational methods as not modern! Russell faults Aquinas' not holding the scientifically modern consensus on rational abilities of the fairer sex. Russell also questions Aquinas' thinking that a powerful physicality is of much value in modern education. [I suggest we ask Hitler.]

    Finally, it seems that Russell plays a silly game when he writes: "Or take again the arguments professing to prove the existence of God. All of these, except the one from teleology in lifeless things, depend upon the supposed impossibility of a series having no first term. Every mathematician knows that there is no such impossibility; the series of negative integers ending with minus one is an instance to the contrary." One begins or starts to examine any series from some one point. But where is that one point to be found? Is it possible to know?

    • That was a very helpful comment. On the last point about "supposed impossibility of a series having no first term", I would point people to Caleb Cohoe's There Must Be A First: Why Thomas Aquinas Rejects Infinite, Essentially Ordered, Causal Series.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I am not entirely unfamiliar with the problem of infinite regress, since my first book, written some four decades before the article you cite here, was centered on precisely that problem -- and demonstrates why an infinite regress of essentially subordinated causes is metaphysically impossible.

        Although entitled, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence, my book's subtitle was St. Thomas on the 'Per Accidens Necessarily Implies the Per Se.'"

        The book summary on Amazon explains the significance of that subtitle:

        "The purpose of this study is to investigate the legitimacy of the principle, "The per accidens necessarily implies the per se," as it is found in the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas. Special emphasis will be placed upon the function of this principle in the proofs for God's existence. The relevance of the principle in this latter context can be seen at once when it is observed that it is the key to the solution of the well known "prob­lem of infinite regress. "

        • Ahh, @TubalCain42:disqus reviewed your book. Obnoxiously, it's in the $100 range. I recall checking it out of my library at one point and finding it too dense for my understanding of Thomism at the time; I've requested it again and I'll give it another shot. My intuition is that something very important lurks in the difference between efficient and proper causation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Many thanks for the link to that review. I did not know it existed -- and especially that someone would take the time to do such a careful review fully half a century after the book's publication. It had some seven or eight reviews at the time of publication back in 1972, several in peer reviewed philosophy journals.

            Reading it today to me is like reading something someone else wrote for the most part. Fifty-seven years is a long time and my memory isn't getting any sharper.

            When initially published, you could buy a copy for something like thirteen dollars. The only reason they can sell it for so much today is probably not because of individual sales. A reference librarian told me that they get sold because a library loses a copy and, having a large budget, does not hesitate to pay such a ridiculous price to replace it.

            Despite its title, its real focus is on the per accidens/ per se principle -- not just in the Five Ways, but throughout St. Thomas' philosophy. Moreover, the book assumes St. Thomas' position on all substantive matters, and then presents analysis and commentary through the eyes of all the classical and modern Thomistic commentators. So, no, it does not attempt to prove God's existence. Rather, it examines the role of the principle in each of the "ways." But it does defend the principle itself and, in so doing, demonstrates that no infinite regress among essential causes is possible.

            You may recall that one of my OP's for SN was on the question of infinite regress among proper causes.

    • igor

      The problem of infinite regress seems to have no solution.

      If we are talking about (negative) infinity-by-counting, then it would seem to be impossible to have traversed from a beginningless count to now (refer the KCA by WLC).

      On the other hand, if we have a changeless entity existing from (negative) eternity, we do not have any counting, but we have (negative) infinity-by-extent.

      In both cases we have negative infinity and there seems to be no other solution, unless maybe we invent a weird set of laws of physics...

      • OMG

        The problem, as I see it, with Russell's sentence is that it
        purports to address some claim of Aquinas, but which claim is Russell addressing? Is it infinite regress? Russell simply asserts that a series of negative integers ending with minus one is contrary to the 'impossibility of a series having no first term." Look at the series Russell posits. Is it possible to know, on the basis of the information Russell gives, what is the first term of his series? What do you think Russell intended? And how does that refute Aquinas?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          Amazingly, the same error keeps getting repeated.

          Bertrand Russell thought that one could regress to infinity in the taking of causes because he conceived of them as going back through time.

          St. Thomas' proofs using "no infinite regress" as a premise are not based on Russell's conception of temporal regress at all. St. Thomas is talking about regression among essential causes which entail a series of causes existing here and now in which the cause is not prior to the effect in time, but simultaneous with it. For St. Thomas, you cannot take away the cause without also removing the effect.

          Causality that goes back in time is called a per accidens series of causes, whereas a per se series is one in which all causes are acting simultaneously. For example, procreation entails per accidens causality, wherein it is obvious that a father can be dead while his son remains alive. But a series of chain links in which each one holds up the one beneath it would constitute a per se series in which all causality takes place at the same time.

          St. Thomas' proofs for God's existence clearly entail a causal regression among per se causes -- an regression in which there must be a first cause uncaused, or else, none of the intermediate causes would have any causal power and no final effect could be produced.

          I have already published an article on Strange Notions precisely on this topic. See this: https://strangenotions.com/why-an-infinite-regress-among-proper-causes-is-metaphysically-impossible/

          Moreover, as I indicate in my reply to Luke Breuer immediately below, I long ago wrote a book explaining this very topic in full.

          • OMG

            Dr. B., Thank you for seeing us all through this. I am not a trained philosopher, so I know only commonsensically that Russell does not adequately refute Aquinas with a 1-sentence which seems to contradict Russell's own claim. And yes, it seems clear that Aquinas talks about CAUSE while Russell talks numbers. Cheers, and don't ever leave us orphans, please, so far as you have any say about it all.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You may not think of yourself as a professional philosopher, but you clearly have a good deal of philosophical common sense. Some have called Thomism "pedantic common sense." I would accept the "common sense" part of that, but prefer to call it "sophisticated common sense." When someone starts saying absurd things in the name of philosophy, things that violate all common sense, I begin to worry about them.

            We all know that a series of numbers can be hypothetically generated to infinity, but you are right in noting that St. Thomas is concerned about actual causes operating here and now. Among these you cannot go to infinity for a number of reasons I begin to mention in my earlier SN article: https://strangenotions.com/why-an-infinite-regress-among-proper-causes-is-metaphysically-impossible/

            I particularly like the theater example, where, if everyone says that the fellow behind him has the tickets, the truth is that there are no tickets and the theater will go broke.

  • Simon K

    If he had found them to be in conflict – if, for instance, he was not convinced by his own Five Ways (arguments for the existence of God), and found prayer useless, or the problem of evil irresolvable, or the Bible seriously unreliable, and so on, then there is good reason to think that he would have abandoned religion.

    If Aquinas had publicly abandoned religion, what would have happened to him? He would likely have been imprisoned, tortured and executed.

    Can anyone really be rational, when the government will execute you if your reasoning reaches a conclusion it doesn't agree with?

    I think many of recent history's great atheist/agnostic/etc philosophers would probably have argued for theism instead if atheism still attracted the death penalty (as it still does in some countries even today.)

    • Rob Abney

      If Aquinas had publicly abandoned religion, what would have happened to him? He would likely have been imprisoned, tortured and executed.

      Do you have any sort of evidence to support such a claim?

      I think many of recent history's great atheist/agnostic/etc philosophers would probably have argued for theism instead if atheism still attracted the death penalty

      Your conjecture is that many people you admire would actually be cowards in different conditions?

      • Simon K

        Do you have any sort of evidence to support such a claim?

        Look at how heretics were commonly treated in mediaeval history. Atheism was largely unheard of (although, the educated knew of it as a theoretical possibility, and some may have privately entertained that possibility as true), but it seems likely anyone advocating atheism would have been classed as a heretic or worse, and received the same treatment.

        Your conjecture is that many people you admire would actually be cowards in different conditions?

        I'm not sure to what extent I admire "great atheist philosophers", being a theist myself.

        • Rob Abney

          Atheists are not heretics. Heretics as defined by St. Thomas himself: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas".

          • Simon K

            Yes, you are right, a baptised person who comes to profess atheism is strictly speaking an apostate not a heretic. But, in mediaeval Europe, were apostates treated any better than heretics were? Both apostasy and heresy were capital offences. A public apostate who refused to recant could expect to be executed.

          • Rob Abney

            Simon, your initial point was that St. Thomas could not have publicly abandoned religion without being executed even if he didn't believe. That's a hypothetical situation that we cannot conclude decisively. But St. Thomas was never in that situation, he was in the opposite situation, others were trying to convince him to abandon religion. Are you familiar with his story, if not I recommend the biography by GK Chesterton.

          • Simon K

            I agree the hypothetical can't be concluded decisively, but I still think it is probably true.

            I think religious persecution–under which heading I will include both theistic persecution of atheists, atheistic persecution of theists, and theists persecuting other theists–actually harms religion. I believe that God exists, and there are rational arguments for believing that God exists. But force and compulsion to believe (or disbelieve) are anti-rational forces. It is always more rational to believe in the absence of force and compulsion than in the presence of it; force and compulsion injure the rationality of everyone. Even if a person believes the truth for good reasons, their belief would have been even more rational if they were fully free to advocate for the opposite position.

            I know the stories you are referring to, but I don't think anyone was trying to get Aquinas to abandon religion for atheism. His family followed a comparatively lax interpretation of Catholicism, and they intended for him to become a Benedictine monk like his uncle. His own religious inclinations were far more devout, and he wanted to become a Dominican friar instead. Even the episode with the prostitute, if it is real (as opposed to legendary) – mediaeval Catholics varied widely in their attitudes to prostitution – even though it was always officially a grave sin, some Catholics (even clerics) were quite willing to tolerate (and engage in) it in practice. His family were not using a prostitute to seduce him to atheism, just to a laxer interpretation of their shared religion.

          • Rob Abney

            We agree,

            The Church has been always averse to forcible conversions, as was emphasized in modern times by Leo XIII in his Encyclical "Immortale Dei" of 1 November, 1885: "Atque illud quoque magnopere cavere Ecclesia solet, ut ad amplexandam fidem catholicam nemo invitus cogatur, quia quod sapienter Augustinus monet: 'Credere non potest (homo) nisi volens'" (The Church has always taken great care that no one should be compelled against his will to embrace the Catholic Faith, because, as Augustine wisely declares: except he be willing, man cannot believe)

          • Simon K

            What about a person who is baptised as an infant, and upon reaching adulthood, reaches the conclusion that Catholic doctrine is incorrect? Has the Church in the past claimed the authority to punish such a person for reaching that conclusion, and to enlist the cooperation of the state in carrying out such punishment? I believe the answer is "Yes". What Leo XIII says is literally true, but not the whole story.

          • David Nickol

            The Church has been always averse to forcible conversions . . . .

            Where was "the Church" when the following (see Wikipedia) was going on?

            A converso (Spanish: [komˈbeɾso]; Portuguese: [kõˈvɛɾsu]; feminine form conversa), "a convert", (from Latin conversvs, meaning 'converted, turned around') was a Jew who converted to Roman Catholicism in Spain or Portugal, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries, or one of their descendants.

            The majority of Spain's Jews converted to Christianity as a result of the pogroms in 1391. Those who remained openly practising Jews were expelled by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella in the Alhambra decree in 1492, following the Christian Reconquista (reconquest) of Spain. However, even a significant proportion of these remaining practising Jews chose to join the already large converso community rather than face exile. In order to safe-guard the Old Christian population and make sure that converso "New Christians" were true to their new faith, the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established in Spain in 1481.

            Conversos who did not fully or genuinely embrace Catholicism, but continued to practise Judaism in secrecy were referred to as judaizantes ("Judaizers") and pejoratively as marranos ("swine").

            New Christian converts of Muslim origin were known as moriscos. Unlike marranos, moriscos were subject to an edict of expulsion even after their conversion to Catholicism, which was implemented severely in the eastern region of Valencia and less so in other parts of Spain.

            Conversos played an important role in the 1520-1521 Revolt of the Comuneros, a popular uprising and civil war centered in the region of Castile against the imperial pretensions of the Spanish monarchy.

          • Rob Abney

            From the same wikipedia article:

            Specific groups of conversos left Spain and Portugal after the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, in search for better life. They left for other parts of Europe, especially Italy

            Why would they go to Catholic Italy?

          • Ellabulldog

            The Church compels children to believe by indoctrinating them from birth. Threats of Hell and false promises of Heaven do not allow many minds to come to the belief freely. Many that were forced to support Catholicism or forced into silence under threat of death may not have "believed" but certainly had to play along. Pope Pius lX kidnapped a Jewish baby. The child didn't become a priest because he wanted to. He never was given a chance to live his life freely. There were many other forced conversions.

          • Mark

            I live in a country that ripped African descended children from their parents until 1865, native American children from their parents until 1970, and illegal immigrant children from their parents still today. I try to not throwing stones living in a glass house and all.

            Father Mortara was free to leave the priesthood, leave Catholicism and return to his Jewish ancestry. He died a devout Catholic priest preaching the virtues of the faith he acknowledged he was blessed to be a part of. Unfortunately his life story was a political football used since his abduction as propaganda. It obviously still is. It's clearly easy for Catholics to understand a Pope can make fallible decisions (Peter's shortcomings are well documented). I don't use this as evidence that the Catholic church is inherently evil any more than I use the immigrant children being ripped from their parent's arms as evidence of the US being inherently evil. Circumstances must be weighed individually, unlike how you just demonstrated.

          • Ellabulldog

            Yes, the old that others are evil too so give Catholics a break argument.

            I gave only one example of how an institution that claims to be moral is not. I did not say all Catholics are kidnappers.

            It is powerless today. When it had power it was quite evil.

            The institution that is.

            Steal a baby and brainwash him makes one blissfully ignorant. He didn't know any better because he wasn't allowed to know any better. Shameful to claim he liked it so it was ok to do it.

          • Mark

            Shameful to claim he liked it so it was ok to do it.

            What's shameful is to assert Fr. Mortara was brain washed, ignorant, and lacked free will without any evidence other than your poorly-formed, biased opinion. You might consider reading Fr. Mortara's memoirs as Dr. Bonnette suggested and let him speak for himself.

          • Ellabulldog

            A child kidnapped and brainwashed has no free will.

            It isn't hard to get people to believe superstitious nonsense. Many are prone to it. It is sad how easy it is.

            If he had remained with his rightful Jewish parents he would never have thought Jesus was "God". Simply indoctrination through culture. Same kid would have been a Jew not a Catholic.

            Some people are more able to escape the programming because they are more rational.

            Others are more superstitious.

            Believing lies and things that are not true is ignorance.

            Is Scientology correct? Why not?
            Do you practice voodoo?
            Do you believe witches really exist?
            How about human sacrifice? People thought that pleased their gods. Were they wrong or correct?

            Kidnapping a child was evil.

          • Mark

            It isn't hard to get people to believe superstitious nonsense. Many are prone to it. It is sad how easy it is.

            Which is why the Catholic church teaches superstition is a sin. (CCC 2111,2116,67)

            Believing lies and things that are not true is ignorance

            Like, for example, when someone believes the lawful government separation of a child from his parents is kidnapping.

            Is Scientology correct? Why not?
            Do you practice voodoo?
            Do you believe witches really exist?
            How about human sacrifice? People thought that pleased their gods. Were they wrong or correct?

            Is there a sale on red herring?

            Edit done: Added superstition references

          • Ellabulldog

            the Catholic Church teaches fable and myth. It is a superstitious belief. It is simply a bunch of lies it purported to be reality.

            Taking a child from the parents was kidnapping. Lawful? Because they were Jewish?

            No red herring fallacies. My questions are directly related to your belief.

            That you can't see how your belief is the same as a belief in Scientology, witches or voodoo then you need to study some more cognitive science and not so much that bible thingy you cling to.

          • Mark

            I cling to nothing but knowledge as gained through rational and logical inquiry. The Catholic Church teaches fable and myth in what way? You make all sorts of assertions without one piece of evidence. That's illogical and irrational. You also show an inability to grasp the concepts of superstition, fable, myth, philosophy, cognitive science, and reality. That's ignorance. How can you respond to an interlocutor that challenges you? Well an ignorant person just pounds his fists harder and repeats the same unsupported assertions or uses ad hoc or red herring sophistry to put up a smoke screen. A learned person responds with logical reasoning and evidence that is contrary to their interlocutor's counterarguments or concedes there is evidence contrary to his and represents his own evidence validly to his interlocutor. I'm happy to engage in any specific (intelligent) qualms you have with Catholic believers or atheists or agnostics. I'm not, however, going to stoop to your level of sophistication and fallacious argumentation.

          • Ellabulldog

            Jesus walked on water. Fable.
            Jesus rose from the dead. Fable.
            Jesus was born of a virgin. Fable.
            Moses fable.
            Adam and Eve fable.
            Noah fable.

            How many do you want?

            Now tell me why the Greek gods are myth and the Christian god is not?

            I know why. Do you?

            And you are no "learned" person if you can't support your assertions. No theist has ever proven their "god" exists.

            Terrible fallacious arguments don't count.
            Books written by cult leaders don't count.

            You are a hypocrite for using the word fallacious. I doubt you know what it means as your bias ignores it where your "faith" is concerned.

            The cognitive sciences do show why people are superstitious and hold irrational beliefs. If you know anything about it you would not be supporting Catholicism. So don't claim to understand something you do not.

            If you want logical reasoning and evidence you have to assert some first.

            All I have to do is say I don't believe you.

            I don't have to prove that Catholicism is a lie. Catholics have to prove that they are not lying and support their assertions.

            We can go over the lies. I listed a bunch at the start. So many more it isn't funny. 1500 years plus of lies.

            There exists a whole industry called "apologetics" to try to keep their lies straight and keep people believing. Sometimes they simply don't care or bother and people go right on believing.

            Evolution? Didn't happen according to Catholics. Adam and Eve etc. was real. Then later it became we sound stupid for ignoring the science and people are catching on so they changed their stance. Adam and Eve is just a story now don't take it literally.

            Philosophy? You don't know any.

            If you did you would not ask me to prove your assertions. You would support them.

            You can't.

            Support your bullshit or admit you can't and stop acting like the intellectual you are not. You are superstitious.

            It's ok to be superstitious. But it is not going to win you a rational argument because you are being irrational about the subject.

            A logical person is agnostic on Existence.

            Gods as asserted are man made constructs. Poorly defined. Constantly evolving. Culturally indoctrinated into the minds of children. Offered as hope to those struggling with reality and fearing their mortality. Religions are used by leaders to control the human herd. To manipulate the minds of the masses to make them easier to control.

            But you knew all that right? Or you believe some lame story that any rational kid at age 10 knows is complete nonsense.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Gosh. I never knew all that. I guess I have no choice but to return my doctorate in philosophy to the University of Notre Dame, ask the publishers to retract my books on proofs for God's existence and human evolutionary origins, and ask the editor of this web site to take down my nineteen articles on topics related to God, including the one on Adam and Eve.

            You learn something new every day. ;-)

          • Ellabulldog

            Lot's of bright people are superstitious. Your legacy will no doubt be one of extreme confirmation bias. I am sure Notre Dame paid you well to work on such stuff. It's a business for the Church.

            You are simply conning people starting with yourself if you really believe it.

            There is much to learn about humanity from studying religions and why humans follow them. It would further humanity if we can learn to understand how we form beliefs. Some intuitively know how to manipulate others. Bernays made it public knowledge. It still isn't common knowledge or politicians would not get away with what they do.

            Would you want to spend your whole life defending L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology as factual? One day someone might.

            I'm sure you are brilliant. Smarter than I. But on this subject you simply can't support your beliefs rationally. You certainly can try. You certainly can convince yourself. It's emotion not reason. No matter how much you write nor what you claim.

            I will commend Notre Dame as a great school. It's fans are well behaved at it's events. I'm sure you put a lot of thought into your work.
            It's students are well prepared for life and are very bright. I know someone attending there now. Wrong about their god? Sure are.

            I'm sure you are aware most are predisposed for superstitious beliefs. Seems it can't be helped for many. It's a relatively new field.

            We will learn why people believe. We still need to learn why some believe their faith is true but argue that there is no way that the Aztec's beliefs were true. That human sacrifice stuff is crazy but our stories are aren't. Some can't see the hypocrisy in that.

            I'm agnostic on Existence. I'm atheist towards the asserted gods of men.

            Your fallacious appeal to authority is noted. You referenced yourself.
            It's a first for me on Disqus.

            Your article on Adam and Eve is a hoot.

            Have a good night.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Oh, yes! And I shall have to find the many thousands of students I taught philosophy to in the last half century and inform them that I really didn't have a clue. ;-)

          • Ellabulldog

            Yes it would be nice if you apologized for passing on your theology disguised as philosophy. But if you are Catholic the line is long and so many billions are owed an apology.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You know, I have had discussions and debates with a number of people on this site who are skeptics, agnostics, and atheists. But most all of them present their positions without denigrating believers, telling them they are fools, telling them they are disguising theology as philosophy, telling them they don't have the "rational knowledge of a kid at age 10," telling them they don't know any philosophy, telling them they are "superstitious," or telling them what they believe is "bullshit" all based on lies.

            I strongly disagree with my opponents, but I do not tell them, nor do I believe, that they are lying or stupid or insincere or irrational. There have been very intelligent and well educated atheists as well as theists. I am not a theologian, nor a professional apologist. I do know a little philosophy and write mostly within my field of competence. If I am outside my field, I have tried to so note. That is why I rarely debate matters of Scripture or pure theology. If I do so, I try to make clear that I am acting in my personal capacity, not as a professional philosopher.

            This web site functions far more effectively when there is fairly respectful dialogue between intellectual opponents, even though they may be firmly convinced the other is dead wrong.

            And statements like this one need a lot of defending: "No theist has ever proven their "god" exists."

            That means that you are implying that you know every proof for God's existence and can demonstrate that either their premises are false and/or their inferences are invalid. Have you studied every major proof for God's existence and can demonstrate exactly why they are invalid? It is not enough merely to make such a claim. Just like you demand of your opponents, you, too, must defend your expansive assertions.

            If you want people to take your omniscient claims seriously, you need to do a little more proving and less mere asserting. And people will listen more carefully when you show them some measure of personal respect.

          • Ellabulldog

            Dennis, I was raised Catholic. As a child sitting in a church I knew it was not true. If that offends you not much I can say. Some people are born with great math ability, others are musically gifted. I was born more rational than most. Simply put the indoctrination didn't take hold. You might have a different standard than I do in order to believe things. I sat there for years wondering why anyone thought it made sense.

            Now if you assert something without proof first please don't expect others to prove their responses to you. I simply don't believe you or others because they failed to meet the standard for proof. You only get back what you give. So, no I don't have to prove your god doesn't exist. You have to prove it does. Nobody has. Saying so isn't an assertion it is a fact. If it was proven we'd all believe the same thing. There would be no atheists.

            Now if the word superstition bothers you that is due to your lack of self confidence and not my issue. As the article says 62% of philosophers would agree. Cognitive science of religion professors would agree. It isn't a bad word it is simply a descriptive word in this instance.

            If you don't want others to call it a lie that is on you being sensitive not on me because I lived it. You don't see it that way. That's fine. I do. I don't like being lied to. So I call it as I see it.

            You are insisting that I argue your way and that your assertions deserve respect. You are a philosopher. Great. Not how I argue. Not on here. It's what you are comfortable with. It's been your job. Well you arguments are better than someone simply saying "the Bible says". I 'll concede that. But Aquinas is from 700 years ago. You can do better.

            Here is an article about philosophy and religion. Maybe you read it already it's a few years old. 62% of philosophers agree with me. The author discusses Plantinga. Someone you may know and studied with or under? https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/logical-take/201402/why-62-philosophers-are-atheists-part-i

            It touches on some of what we are discussing in a philosophical style that might appeal to you more.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"So, no I don't have to prove your god doesn't exist. You have to prove it does. Nobody has. Saying so isn't an assertion it is a fact. If it was proven we'd all believe the same thing. There would be no atheists."

            You proclaim, "I was born more rational than most."

            But if so, why is your reasoning so faulty here?

            You claim that nobody has proven God exists is a fact, because if it were proven, there would be no atheists.

            That is as logical as claiming that evolution has not been proven, because there are still some young earth creationists.

          • Ellabulldog

            Hi Dennis,

            You have a burden of proof. That burden has never been met by any theist.

            I simply say I don't believe you.

            So instead of simply pointing me to a theist that has met that burden and has proven their god or any god exists you attacked my response.

            Of course I'm not surprised. You can't defend your belief so you have to resort to such things. Many make a living out of it.

            So far you have appealed for me to respect your argument instead of defending your assertion with proof.

            You appealed to your own personal authority which means little to anyone not wanting a good grade in your class. Again you didn't support your assertion.

            Not here to have an argument about how to argue. You simply are trying to dodge your responsibility.

            I'll wait.

            Remember I do respect you and Catholics. I don't respect Catholicism. There is a huge difference.

            Have a great day. Crazy shooter situation near me and the news is pulling me in.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            After the illogical reasoning I caught you in in my previous comment, I have limited optimism that you would know an authentic proof for God's existence if you saw one.

            You tend to make totally unsupported outrageous claims like this one concerning proofs for God's existence: " That burden has never been met by any theist." Again, just how many proofs for God's existence have you studied in detail? I'm rather skeptical.

            And yes, for the record, I have written a well peer-reviewed scholarly book entitled: Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence. So, I do have some idea of what I am talking about.

            By the way, what is your evidence for this claim? "I was born more rational than most." So far, I am not impressed -- not because of bias against you, but by the reasoning you have offered to me as I cited above.

          • Ellabulldog

            You dodged again, Congrats.

            You wrote a book about Aquinas. Good for you. So?

            I'm not here to impress you. You certainly don't impress me.

            Waiting for you to support your burden.

            Such a time will not arrive will it? I know it. You know it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not dodge you.

            I nailed you.

          • Ellabulldog

            dodge, is all it was.

          • Jim the Scott

            I agree with Dr. B and I would add you are clearly intellectually inferior not superiorly rational.

            You made a clearly irrational and illogical claim. Dr. B. blew it to bits and you don't even have the humility to admit it. Even if there are no gods clearly you are too mentally knackered to argue the point. If there are no gods you are clearly only correct because you made a lucky guess not because you authentically reasoned yourself there.

            There are stupid theists and stupid atheists both of whom should sit on the sidelines and be quiet till they become more compotent. If that sounds mean I care not. Reasoning is a learned skill. One is not born with it anymore then one is born knowing Calculus. Go do some learning then come back here with some sensible questions. Otherwise jog on. You will doing nothing here but generate heat not light.

            There have been some intelligent and challenging Atheists of good will who have posted here in the past. You are not any of them.

            Now on your bike.

          • Ellabulldog

            So you prefer responses that tell you are wrong if they sound better to you?

            The quality of a response is conditional to the quality of your argument.

            Yes there are more philosophically trained atheists. One doesn't have to be a children's book writer to know that Humpty Dumpty is fiction. Nor the Bible.

            I'm not atheist because I'm a philosopher.

            I'm not agnostic because of Catholicism.

            I like to study why people believe. You only read things that you already believe.

            One is an intellectually honest pursuit of knowledge. The other a wish to reduce or eliminate cognitive dissonance.

            What is good will regarding assertions?

            You have a sense of entitlement that your belief is somewhat special. It isn't.

            That you believe lies and repeat them makes you quite the hypocrite.

            There are intelligent theists. I don't question their intelligence. Humans are complex. Someone brilliant at math may not be able to tie their shoes.

            Quite a bit for you to learn. Quite a bit for me to learn.

            Maybe you are open to learning. Maybe not.

            So provide me with an intelligent response. Got one?

          • Jim the Scott

            If you want in intelligent response then write something intelligent I can respond too.

            >So you prefer responses that tell you are wrong if they sound better to you?

            No I prefer rational criticism. What you are doing here is mere preaching and it is tedious. You are giving me platitudes not argument.

            >There are intelligent theists. I don't question their intelligence.

            Yet all you did here is question the intelligence of believers? Over the course of several posts you flatly contradict yourself. How droll.

            As to learning from Atheists I have learned from many in my time. You I doubt will be any of them since you really have nothing to teach.

          • Ellabulldog

            More projection. I'm not preaching.

            I've asked several times for you and others to support your assertions.

            I'm still waiting.

            I don't question the intelligence of believers. I question their assertions.

            You certainly are a hypocrite.

            You get back what you supply.

            I simply don't believe you.

            Got anything? Rational?

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes the old prove "evolution/Quantum Physics/Moon Landing/God/Grassy Knoll/Birth certificate etc" in 100 words or less and answer unstated objections I have or it's not true canard.

            It's like you are trying to bore me.....

          • Ellabulldog

            Catholics have had 1600 years. Not long enough for you? Aquinas failed to do so over 700 years ago and nobody has come up with anything since?

            Lot's more knowledge out there today.

            You have to look for it.

            I can't make you.

            It really exists. Not the stuff you say you have but never produce.

            https://www.edx.org/course/science-religion-ubcx-religionx

            Take this course. It's free. Or don't. But then don't complain when someone calls your belief superstition. You should learn why it is not get mad at others for your ignorance.

            Read Pascal Boyer "Minds Make Societies" , "Religion Explained" or others.

            Expand your mind stop limiting it.

            Good luck.

            Just remember the stronger your belief the harder your mind will work to reinforce that belief and reject anything that conflicts with it.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are easily influenced and you clearly don't think critically.

            >The course is based on the idea that religion is a naturalistic phenomenon.

            Then they are question begging as they are presupposing their own world view rather than first proving it by either science or philosophy(of course it's a philosophical question not a scientific one).

            That is legitimate for people who already disbelieve and came to their disbelief hopefully by a more rational process than the pseudo-Mormon like burning in the bosom that has been moving your faculties. But it begs the question for me.

            So religion is hardwired in the brain according to some neuro-scientists? I can believe that but that begs the question. Why are we so hardwired? Is the hardwiring some random utility of natural selection or is it merely a product of Divine Providence? Or both? In a Theistic reality wouldn't I expect to find rational creatures hardwired for religion? Some might say yes(I am not one of them but some would).
            Also doesn't this show religion is somehow natural or part of our nature because it was willed by Super Nature? OTOH if it wasn't hardwired in the brain and a purely learned phenomena wouldn't that be what we would expect to find in an Atheistic reality(some might say yes but again I am not one of them)? Thus proving it's not part of our nature but a virus meme as someone like Richard Dawkins would say?

            Of course these questions are interesting but I am not a scientific Theist so they are non-starters for me. I don't believe you can prove or disprove God with science nor can you do the same with naturalism.

            That category of inquiry is solely the realm of philosophy. You are doing what every other New Atheist boob does. Boring me to death with your warmed over positivism. I see putting you in the intellectual category of a Young Earth "scientific" Creationist was foresight on my part.

            Positivism is baloney even if there are no gods.
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/03/scientism-roundup.html

            >Just remember the stronger your belief the harder your mind will work to reinforce that belief and reject anything that conflicts with it.

            But then wouldn't that apply to you as well? Your bad arguments and lack of reasoning are getting more wacko with each post. The smart thing to do would be to admit you need to do some learning before you dive in swinging. One does not have to believe in God to believe in common sense. The lack of that virtue is what dogs you. Being a godless heathen is the least of your worries now is it?

            PS I have just bought a cheap copy of GOD IS NOT DEAD by Hindu Physicist Amit Goswami today at a thrift store. It seems to be the flip side to your little course.

            But as interesting as his book is and regardless of some of it's insights it is a non-starter for me. God is not a scientific question. I lack belief in a Scientific God or that empirical dicastic Science can by its nature prove or disprove God. So the burden of proof is on you to prove Positivism scientifically to me before I buy into your assumptions.

            Yeh good luck with that. Maybe you can find the lost fake Moon Landing footage buried under the Grassy Knoll next to Obama's real Birth certificate right next to the evidence for Russian Collusion while you are at it.

            I am rooting for ya guy.

          • Mark

            Jim, not always charitable, but always enlightening...whether or not there is a god. :)

          • Jim the Scott

            Thank you and I am all for charity except some people need a smack in the 'ed cause their skull is too thick.

          • Ellabulldog

            Well that was a long rant of absolutely nothing.

            What you believe doesn't matter. You don't care to learn why you believe what you do is because it ruins your worldview. Take some psychology classes to figure out your issues. Not my job to cure you from your delusions.

            Science isn't out to prove a god exists. Certainly not to disprove one either. Science simply is seeking to understand why humans have such beliefs.

            Religion is cultural and naturalistic. You can't deny it. You don't have to like it.

            Gods are superstitious not philosophical. All philosophical arguments fail to support the existence of any.

            Many gods simply are myth and fable. Most are simply childish superstitions.

            Now you might argue for a Deist type god that is something that doesn't interact with mankind. You can't prove it but the definition brings it outside of humanity's and science's purview. But when you make claims like god talking to people then it's not supernatural anymore. It is natural.

            Common sense? You lack it.

            Common sense is to not make claims you can't support.

            Thrift stores don't sell bibles. Even cheap ones.

            They have to give them away.

            You are the same as a Young Earth Creationist. One stupid argument is not better than another stupid argument. Arks and burning bushes. Virgin births and rising from the dead. Adam and Eve was 6000 years ago is no dumber than 6 million years ago.

            Keep pretending you are smarter than the average bear Yogi.

            If being ignorant is virtue than theists have a monopoly on it.

          • Sample1

            Science. Philosophy. Theology. Logic. Reason.

            It’s a catchy phrase, to say to a believer, “you and I are atheists about many gods, I just go one god further.” With forums like these, sometimes discussing logic, reason and philosophy, it might be more accurate to say, “I just make one less presupposition than you.”

            Whadya think?

            Mike

          • Ellabulldog

            Well that's a little different of what I'm try to convey. That all beliefs no matter the details come from the same place in the human mind.

            Some minds are more superstitious than others. Those minds end up believing in something. Other minds end up not being indoctrinated into a god beliefs. I'm not saying a theist can't be rational about many topics. I'm saying a theist isn't rational about their belief system.

            What that belief ends up being is a result of mostly cultural forces. In Haiti they practice Catholicism mixed with Voodoo. In Utah it's Mormonism. In Iran it's Islam. Buddhism and Hindu elsewhere. It's obvious what religion is as we can study it anthropologically. Demographics certainly support the conclusions.

            Catholics don't see other theists that disagree as heretics anymore. Where Catholics used to kill Deists and others today they simply think Deists are right about a "God" existing but just disagree about the details. Similar with the other religions. If one says "god" they just assume it's a shared belief but the small details don't matter.

            The world is trending to take monotheism with many different beliefs to one universal generic god philosophically. The different brands can't hold up to scrutiny.

            Those on here arguing philosophically are ignoring the details of their belief system and arguing for a "Creator God" not the "Catholic God".
            In their minds they don't understand that nor will they admit it.

            Aquinas was not arguing for Jesus/God existing but for a any god existing. He knew those stories would not hold up. His arguments don't hold up but all theists try to use them not just the Catholics.

            So yes a Catholic is just as irrational as a Muslim or Scientologist.

            I have found the line that I just believe in one less god doesn't matter. Because while true the thought process to get there is fundamentally different.

            A Scientologist doesn't know he/she is brainwashed. A Catholic doesn't know it either. They don't like the word of course. Starts at birth and continues throughout life. Hard to break out of it.

            Most won't argue on here because they simply can't handle the stress it causes their mind. Those that do argue on here are such staunch believers they ignore everything that negates their faith while soaking up anything they think supports their faith.

            When guilty of poor logic theists simply figure that the best defense is to lie and deny. None can support their belief logically.

          • Jim the Scott

            I make "long rants"? ROTFLOL! You are a spectacular hypocrite and you keep back tracking and contradicting yourself. So droll.

            >Science isn't out to prove a god exists. Certainly not to disprove one either.

            Yet you made a big deal out of a course that claimed that science has proven religion is hardwired into our brains and that somehow by studying it I would loose any and all religious belief? Or something. Do make up your mind. Pick one story and stick with it. There is a good fellow.

            >Gods are superstitious not philosophical. All philosophical arguments fail to support the existence of any.

            More question begging. Prove it. We use philosophy to reach conclusions you already have your conclusion and you dismiss philosophy. You are doing it backwards. All philosophical arguments fail? We all know you aren't familiar with any.

            You are simply intellectually inferior. There are many Atheist on this blog who are not. So what is your damage?

          • Ellabulldog

            I said science can help you understand where religious belief comes from. Well maybe not you but others might be capable of understanding it. Gods are not science's domain. Science explains where belief in witches comes from.
            Where other superstitions come from. Your belief falls into that category. Nothing special about yours over any other. Religious claims doom themselves because they make claims that science decimates when they find an answer. Like Evolution destroying the Adam and Eve myth. Darwin isn't at fault that Adam & Eve is wrong. He presented a theory that holds up. Adam & Eve was a theory/fable that failed. I doubt those that wrote it believed it. It served a purpose for those people at that time.

            I actually said you won't lose your belief and look at this because your dissonance is high and that you would work twice as hard or harder to ignore what goes against it. You will believe anything no matter how poorly constructed that confirms what your mind has already decided is true and won't ever change. I never thought you would take the course or read a book that conflicts with whatever you believe. You have sunk costs that you can't overcome. Your anger is indicative to me of that.

            All philosophical arguments for a god fail. They are fallacious. Have one that isn't present it. No special pleading allowed. No arguments from ignorance.

            Intellectually inferior to whom? Certainly some because the world has several billion people. I'm not claiming to be smarter than anyone and certainly not everyone. I am saying that you can't support your superstition as being true.

            I don't believe in your god. Catholicism is a lie. If you wish to support it please do so. Not with hurt feelings. Not expecting me to prove it wrong. Prove to the world that gods exist and only yours. That all the other gods asserted don't exist. What makes yours special?

            Again I know why you believe. You don't know why you believe. It's apparent in your ramblings.

            You put forth a crap argument and expect what in return?

            Now I have some gold to fetch that a leprechaun promised me that he found. Just waiting for my unicorn to get saddled up. :)

            That's the level of argument you give so that is all you receive.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I said science can help you understand where religious belief comes from.

            More backtracking. You are still begging the question.

            All you are doing is giving me long winded bloviating and preaching. I can get that from anti-Catholic Young Earth Creationist type. You are twice as boring and you have offered no intelligent criticism of the essay above or the topic in general.

            >All philosophical arguments for a god fail.

            We all know you don't know even one.

            >Like Evolution destroying the Adam and Eve myth.

            ROTFLOL!!!! What part of the Young Earth Creationists are over there>
            do ye not understand laddie? No Thomist cares about evolution. Tis a non-starter like all your low brow non-arguments & boring preaching.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/09/modern-biology-and-original-sin-part-i.html

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/12/knowing-ape-from-adam.html

            You are intellectually inferior and nobody marks you. This is your choice. Not mine.

          • Ellabulldog

            You simply have just as ignorant an argument as a Young Earth Creationist.
            Crap is crap no matter what kind of bow you put on it.

            Aquinas's arguments are crap. He's no better than Ken Ham.

            You can spend all the time you want talking about them but they aren't fooling real intellectuals. Which you surely are not.

            62% of philosophers today are non-believers. Wonder why?

            You don't know philosophy you have a childish theology.

          • Jim the Scott

            What you are doing now is called "Point weak..pound pulpit".

            You are basically lame at this point and you are not an intellectual.
            You have nothing intelligent to offer.

            >You simply have just as ignorant an argument as a Young Earth Creationist.

            And you are reduced to stealing my lines. You are not even original at this point.

            Your personal brand of "Atheism" is for the intellectually inferior. Go read some Thomas Negal, Jack Smart, or Graham Oppy or William Rowe & since you don't know who they are they are REAL Atheist philosophers. Spend a year reading them and come back. You might actually be challenging rather than merely mildly amusing. You are a YEC without gods belief at this point. With further posts you haven't improved. I don't think that will change.

          • Ellabulldog

            One doesn't need to be a philosopher to be atheist. Nor does one need philosophy to know your beliefs are superstition.

            That you don't practice philosophy but theology is lost on your little mind.

            Again I can't offer anything intellectual until you assert something intellectual.

            Belief in gods are childish superstition. Cultural indoctrination.

            We don't think that we know it.

            You don't know a god exists you hope a god exists. So much so that you simply surrender any personal integrity to follow ancient myth. Might as well practice voodoo. Same thing.

          • Jim the Scott

            One doesn't need to be a philosopher to be an Atheist. Rather one needs to know philosophy to argue against Classic Theism and Philosophical Theism which constitutes the Theism of Catholicism. Just like one need not know any science to disbelieve Evolution but if one is going to at least attempt a credible case against evolution(not that I think there is one) one should at minimum know some science.

            You OTOH, like Jon Snow, do not know anything. You seem to think preaching platitudes will substitute for rational argument or criticism? Yeh how is that working out for ya chief?

          • Ellabulldog

            One doesn't need to be a philosopher to know they are being lied to.

            You are claiming Catholicism is philosophical. It is not. It is irrational superstition. You are trying to support it with philosophy but it is not really philosophy you are using but theology. You are starting with the conclusion of Catholicism being true and trying to support it. Philosophy does not lead to Catholicism.

            Your example the other day referred to souls and metaphysics and other excuses to get around the fact that science and evolution show that Adam and Eve as a couple were impossible. You were grasping at straws to say that while human life evolved over millions of years that initially there were two humans that started it all. That is not science or philosophy it's apologetics. Dissonance makes you believe what others come up with because if Adam and Eve isn't true the bible narrative falls apart.

            Homo sapiens have dna of homo neanderthals so at one point our ancestors were co-mingling. There was never one first couple. If you follow and understand science you have to agree. Unless you refuse to agree because then Adam and Eve didn't happen.

            Aquinas uses special pleading. He can't get away from it. You will excuse it because you have to in order to hold onto your beliefs.

            A philosopher today "a real one not a theologian" would understand that the universe can exist without a cause just as a god can exist without a cause. Such was understood by the Ancient Greeks as well. Aquinas chose Aristotle who was a deist of sorts not someone that thought gods interacted with humans. He took what he liked and left out what he didn't. That's a lie by omission btw.
            Aquinas can not argue philosophically for the Catholic "God". Neither can you.

            He could have used Protagoras, Aristophenes, Diogenes or others. He could have chosen Lucretius of Rome but did not. Because of his beliefs, his job, his culture.

            Philosophy isn't about what you agree with. Philosophy asks questions and attempts to arrive at answers. When it starts with the answer and then makes up the question so that it agrees with the answer it isn't philosophy.

            Aquinas did what he had to do hundreds of years ago. It's 2019 not 1250 or so. We know more today than 800 years ago. Or 2000 years ago or 5000 years ago.
            We don't know everything. That's why most philosophers are agnostic today.
            62%.

          • Jim the Scott

            Your stream of conscience is tedious and off topic. Maybe I can work with this one? It is sort of on topic.

            >A philosopher today "a real one not a theologian" would understand that the universe can exist without a cause just as a god can exist without a cause.

            Prove it! Where is your argument? Also what kind of causes are we talking about? Efficient Causes? Material Causes? Formal Causes? Final Causes?

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2016/06/four-causes-and-five-ways.html

            https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/10/warburton-on-first-cause-argument.html

            You have to offer us more then "Crude Arguments by Non-Philosophers".

            I dismiss your "confirmation bias" argument on the grounds of it being self-refuting and incoherence.

            By its own standards the believers in this "confirmation bias" theory of yours might be tanted by confirmation bias. You might be as well. Well a person might affirm or deny let us say evolution based on confirmation bias but that has little to do with arguments for or against evolution and wither or not it true. As a Theistic Evolutionist nothing bores me more then hearing some YEC nutter kvetch about how I only believe in Evolution because of confirmation bias (because it is so obviously wrong).
            As a low brow intellectually inferior New Atheist these non-argument arguments of yours are just as tedious. Like those of your YEC cousin. They are at best the argumentative fallacies of poisoning the well and or ad hominem.
            Rather than take on the fifth way you would rather bore me to death by claiming I only hold the firth way because of confirmation bias. Well why then do I reject the Ontological Argument for the existence of God? If my sole motivation is to believe in gods at all cost they why would I reject some arguments for His existence? (Maybe because I find them flawed?).

            You Atheism is clearly the product of emotion not facts or reason. Now to be fair that doesn't mean you are not correct. Anybody can make a lucky guess but you have to get off your butt and go learn some philosophy. Till you do nobody here will take you seriously. I certainly don't.

          • Ellabulldog

            I don't have to prove the universe exists and is part of Existence It does. Are you saying it doesn't?
            You have to prove a creator exists. There is no evidence of a creator. Only thing you have is the universe.

            It's special pleading if YOU say a creator is necessary but then that creator needs a creator. Infinite regress. You will make excuses why a god doesn't need a creator. The same excuse one can make for Existence not needed one.

            I don't care if some superstitious person takes me serious. Provide evidence for your god. The specific god. You know the Catholic god doesn't exist other than as a fictional character in a book.

            I'm still waiting for you to provide an argument. All you have still are hurt feelings and ad homs.

          • Jim the Scott

            You can't even read English. Further proof you are intellectually inferior.

            >I don't have to prove the universe exists and is part of Existence It does. Are you saying it doesn't?

            But you said "A philosopher today "a real one not a theologian" would understand that the universe can exist without a cause just as a god can exist without a cause."?

            I challenged you to prove it. I never disputed the existence of the Universe only your claim "the universe can exist without a cause just as a god can exist without one". The only Atheists who claim the universe doesn't exist are those who confess Solipsism.

            You are so unsuited for this discussion.

            >Provide evidence for your god.

            Not interested. There are a host of essays here that make philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Why should we re-invent the wheel for your lazy arse? You Provide philosophical defeaters for them. Not that you have competence in that area.

            Like I said the Young Earth Creationists are over here. (Have at them)
            https://answersingenesis.org/

            It's more your speed.

          • Ellabulldog

            You claim a god and then challenge me.
            Sure not intellectually honest are you?

            Any argument you make for a "god" simply means I can insert any word I want.

            You like the word "god".

            Call it nature.
            Call it the laws of physics.
            Call it a supernatural farting bulldog.

            But you want it to be a god that cares about humans. You can't prove it. You can't even prove there is a god let alone the Catholic god.

            You are not intellectual you are being dishonest.

            Lie to yourself all you want but not to me.

            Your faith is the same as a belief in witches. You must be so proud.

          • Jim the Scott

            But you can't even read English so why should anybody listen to you? You conflated my challenge for you to prove your claim the Universe can exist uncaused the way God can with some bogus claim to prove the universe exists? How did you misread that? What English isn't your first language or something?

            You simply cannot argue for or against Atheism or against Theism because you lack competence. Your ignorant blather is tiresome.

          • Ellabulldog

            I would think you would understand that if god doesn't need a cause the universe doesn't. I'm pointing out your special pleading.

            If you say I have to prove the universe doesn't need a cause then why don't you defend your burden that your god doesn't need a cause.
            It's your argument turned against you.

            The universe exists. We know it. Your god? It's from an old book.

            When you travel to Oz ask the Wizard for what the Scarecrow did.

          • Jim the Scott

            Again you can't even read English so why should anybody listen to your nonsense?

            Your lame statements remind me of Young Earth Creationists who complain that "a Monkey can't give birth to humans" and thus that somehow makes Evolution wrong or something. Yours are about half as intelligent and twice as ignorant.

            > if god doesn't need a cause the universe doesn't. I'm pointing out your special pleading.

            No you are serving me special pleading.

            Let's face it. You first need to graduate High School and learn to ask adult questions.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/03/straw-men-and-terracotta-armies.html

          • Ellabulldog

            YEC is the same belief as yours. That you don't see it is hilarious.

          • Jim the Scott

            Theistic Evolution is the same belief as Young Earth Creationism?

            Sure pal..........

          • Ellabulldog

            terrible links.

            For one thing there is no such thing as original sin. It is a made up concept.

            So it's an argument about nothing.

            Also Evolution is about how man evolved from prior primates. There were no original Adam and Eve. There were slow changes over time. At one point current homo sapiens mated with neanderthals.

            Adam and Eve is a myth. If you don't know it you need your head examined.

            It's like you spend your life trying to figure out if Humpty Dumpty was a chicken egg or an ostrich egg.

            Intellectual ha.

          • Jim the Scott

            Rather the links show that Evolution is not a problem for Catholics nor an automatic defeater for a literal Adam and Eve. But as I read your nonsense response it is clear didn't read the links carefully at best you skimmed them.

            Like I said the Young Earth "Scientific" Creationist are over there. Have at it. Their lowbrow nonsense is more your speed given your limited intellect.

          • Ellabulldog

            Again it is called confirmation bias. Even though the links are simply propaganda for your belief and not real science you want it to be true so you simply will believe it because it fits what you already believe.

            You seem to think that I have to spend hours negating any crap you throw out. I don't. You gave me a crappy link. I dismissed it.
            You give me crappy theology disguised as philosophy and I dismiss it.

            The story is fable not literal. Meant for a people thousands of years ago.

            What convinces you that your belief is true doesn't mean that it is convincing or actually good science or philosophy to those that have a mind that is more rational.

            You are asserting things you can't back up and simply want them to be true. You can't prove that there were two humans we all descended from your only wish (and it is wishful thinking) is that it can't be ruled out. When it is ruled out you simply will come up with another excuse.

            Well rule out that aliens didn't seed the Earth. It could have happened right?
            Rule out that Scientology isn't true. You won't try because if you prove Scientology to be false you prove Christianity false. It would take the same logic to do so minus one's bias.

            You can't prove Jesus rose from the dead. You can't prove a god exists. You want the stories to be true so anything that supports your version you cling to and anything that doesn't you dismiss.

            You are brainwashed. You don't know it. Stay blissfully ignorant I don't care. But you are no intellectual.

            If I am or am not doesn't matter. You aren't and you are the one asserting nonsense.

            I'm smart enough to simply understand that you aren't smart enough to understand. I should trademark that. :)

          • Jim the Scott

            I bet you spent a lot of time on that incoherent stream of conscience you just posted? The funny thing is if I wrote it down and strapped it to a Nuke and blew it up I couldn't atomize anything worth responding too. Oh well.........

          • Ellabulldog

            watch this video it reminded me of you...

            https://youtu.be/kyioZODhKbE

          • Jim the Scott

            You haven't given any facts. Just opinions and preaching & this video doesn't give us a philosophical critique of the fifth way (which is the subject matter of this thread you have been hijacking) thus it is off topic. Also this business about confirmation bias is fascinating but logically it still begs the question(i.e. what is the truth?) and if you apply it to us for Theism then it pretty much applies to you in spades over your low brow version of Atheism.
            That you are too thick to see that is obvious. Talk about cognitive dissonance.

          • Ellabulldog

            the topic was Russell and if he was right

          • Jim the Scott

            He clearly wasn't even if there are no gods & you have strayed from that topic.

          • Ellabulldog

            yes confirmation bias applies to everyone. I would tend to agree with atheists. You agree with theists.

            I'd admit that. You need to understand it and then do your best to not let it happen to you. If you can.

            Now I was a kid and didn't know what atheism was when I rejected the Catholic faith. I didn't need philosophers or scientists. Dude sit in a church for an hour and listen to what they say. It makes no sense.

            A god impregnated a virgin and then this god's kid later preached for a bit and then got himself killed. The claim is he died for our sins which the god that fathered him made us capable of and then blames us for not living up to his standards. So he had to impregnate a young girl and have a human son that would then grow up and 30 years later walk around with some other dudes to fix his original problem.

            Now for an all powerful god this story is lame.

            Of course the real part of the story is that if a person believes they will live forever. If not they go to Hell. Added later I believe.

            Now for Jews there was no "afterlife" so this offered a little bit more. It would appeal to people that feared their mortality.
            For others then as well.

            Is what it is. Certainly fiction. Certainly man made.

            Do you kick your dog for pooping on the grass instead of using the toilet? This is the god you worship.

            Remember the Bible isn't just the NT. It's the OT as well. The two don't work well together. The story falls apart further because it relies on the old part and that part is a mess. Again it worked back then. Nobody had access to the bible so they relied on what others told them.

            Those that read the bible don't believe the bible is literal.

            Remember "God" according to the Bible isn't the only god. Can't be monotheist if the Bible claims there are other gods. Unless you simply ignore what is written in it.

            So which god do you believe in?

            Thousands have been asserted. A Deist god? Pantheist god?

          • Jim the Scott

            Confirmation bias is irrelevant. I stopped believing in Young Earth Creationism based on arguments made by Theistic Evolutionists. I don't think I would have gotten anywhere arguing that the Theistic Evolutionists just wanted to believe in Evolution at all costs & has a bias. I had to refute their arguments against YEC and I couldn't. So I changed my mind. Your "confirmation bias" mishigoss doesn't take people who change their minds into account and it is useless in finding out the truth behind the topics which individuals might have bias.

            You have to argue against specific philosophical arguments against the existence of God. You haven't and you can't because you haven't studied the topic. Thus you are unsuited to make any arguments. Go back and do some learning then come back here. I am not going to instruct you. I am not getting paid and I don't have the patience.

            All you have done here is preach and that is altogether tedious. At least Fundamentalist preachers are entertaining. You don't even provide that.

          • Ellabulldog

            So you thought the world was 6000 years old at one time? Really?

            Now you discarded that for what? A little less stupid?

            Wrong is wrong no matter how it's packaged.

            Ancient people had many gods. Went down to one god. Myth is myth. It was just that one extremely powerful god was easier to get people to fear then a bunch of minor competing gods. One god or many. All are myth.

            The philosophical arguments you mention have been refuted. This article said Russell claimed special pleading. You all ignore that and attack Russell.

            You know they fail. Name one you want me to refute.

          • Jim the Scott

            >So you thought the world was 6000 years old at one time? Really?

            Well I was young 30 plus years ago. But I improved with time, study and age. What is your excuse for how you are now?

            >Now you discarded that for what? A little less stupid?

            Your "preaching pulpit pounding" version of "Atheism" isn't at all high brow.

            >You know they fail.

            More mixing of Mormonism and Atheism.

            >Name one you want me to refute.

            Why should I? You are not competent. That is like Richard Dawkins being challenged by a Young Earth Creationist with a 5th grader's knowledge of biology on Evolution. "Pick a version of Evolution & will refute it!" he says pathetically. You are about half as impressive and my hypothetical YEC isn't impressive at all.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You appealed to your own personal authority...

            Vs

            >I was born more rational then most....

            It's like watching Hugh Heffner condemn Larry Flint for being a "pornographer".

            Dr. B does have a PhD in philosophy. What do you got genius?

            Now Jog on.

          • Ellabulldog

            "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. Einstein.

            Time Man of the Century. Theory of Relativity. Genius stuff.

            So Jimmy what do you have?

            It's a fallacious appeal to authority. What Einstein says doesn't matter.
            What one philosophy professor believes doesn't matter.

            Philosophers at present 62% to 38% support me. The 38% are still superstitious

            That doesn't matter either. It's a bandwagon fallacy. More isn't better.

            What matters is what we know.

            We don't know how Existence began. Ancient fable doesn't cut it. Arguments from ignorance don't cut it.

            So go read some books that won't confirm your bias if you can. Challenge your belief system. Try to learn why you believe what you do.

            You can believe whatever you want. Please don't insist that others that were not indoctrinated have to listen such lame arguments that work on your mind.

            Up to you. The information is out there. I'm sure it scares you. Your whole worldview is at stake. No Heaven means you just die. Scary right?

            So if a false belief helps you to deal with reality better feel free to believe whatever you want.

            I don't think going on the internet in an age where 5 billion in a world of 7 billion don't think you are correct.

            When you study comparative religions, anthropology, psychology and can look at the world and religions without bias feel free to enter a rational discussion with me about it.

            Study the history of your own faith. Not apologetics. The true history.

            The true history should make you cringe. Not be proud.

            Don't be mad at me or others for telling you facts that destroy your faith.
            Your faith was designed for a people that didn't know better. Most could not read. People lived short lives. Science wasn't known then. Stories like Adam and Eve made sense then. Today it's fable.

            Not my fault you believe a book written for past generations.

            It wasn't true then. Those people simply didn't know better.

            What's your excuse? I can give you one. I know why.

            Study the Cognitive Science of Religion to learn why you believe what you do.
            Why Muslims believe what they do. Why religion dominates our cultures.

            I also know why you won't question your beliefs but only seek to confirm them.

            I'm no genius. It doesn't take a genius to know this. It simply takes a brain that can't be easily indoctrinated. It takes a brain that isn't superstitious.

            It's ok to be superstitious. It's not ok to demand others ignore reality so as not to hurt your feelings.

            Don't ask people that disagree with your opinion for comments and get mad when they give them.

            Have a great day.

          • Jim the Scott

            Your long tedious stream of conscienous here is just so much ignorant blather and mud slinging. How boring. Can't you write even one interesting thing?
            I can get this nonsense from any anti-Catholic Chick Comics reading Fundamentalist Creationist type.

            >Einstein.
            Time Man of the Century. Theory of Relativity. Genius stuff.
            So Jimmy what do you have?

            Well there is the Priest and Physicist Fr. Georges Lemaître whose work on Einstein lead to the discovery of the Big Bang Theory.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre

            Take your argumentive fallacies from special pleading and jog on. If I want to read an intelligent Atheist I can read any essay by Rowe or Jack Smart or Thomas Negal and get a real philosophical challenge to my Faith.

            You don't even qualify as an amusment much less intelligent Atheism. Is that mean? Dina Care. I have little patence with willful ignorance and incompotence.

          • Ellabulldog

            Work on your reading comprehension. Try to get past the quote at least. I said it was a fallacious appeal. It was used to point out your own poor argument.

            Willful ignorance and incompetence? Look in the mirror. Look up the word Projection.

            If you want to read an intelligent Atheist?
            One doesn't come to atheism by learning from it from others. If you can be talked into theism you can be talked into anything. Read Bernays.

            What to you is one authority figure over another? The quality of the words or who better agrees with what you already believe?

            Your faith?

            "Faith is believing what you know aint' so" MT.

            You can't be mean to me. I feel sorry for you. If ignorance is bliss you are a case study in it.

            Remember what matters is the quality of YOUR support of YOUR burden.

            We don't judge works by how long they are, how many words are used, how many like it nor how old they are. It doesn't matter who wrote it.

            You believe in the bible. You don't even know who wrote it. Funny right?

            I don't believe you is all I have to say.

            Why doesn't matter does it?

            Why you believe what you believe matters.

            That we can study.

            Have a great day.

          • Jim the Scott

            >One doesn't come to atheism by learning from it from others.

            I take this as an admission you didn't come by your non belief rationally? One can believe or disbelieve without reason but neither is really interesting like most of your posts thus far.

            Anyway go learn some philosophy and get back to us. If that is not your speed the Young Earth Creationists Blog is thatway.........>

            Good luck with that.

          • Ellabulldog

            My rejection of Catholicism was easy. I didn't need others to tell me. It's plainly evident what it is.

            One doesn't learn how to be rational or superstitious. They just are.

          • Jim the Scott

            An Atheist Fideist.....it takes all kinds.

            Or its more of a reverse burning in the bosom?

            Like I said the Young Earth Creationists or the Mormons are yonder that way........>

          • Sample1

            As a side note, I’ve recently wondered if it offends Trinity if believers are into homeopathy, chiropractic subluxation theory, anti-vaccine, flat earth, young earth, dousing for water, basically non-science based ways of thinking. I know witchcraft is a no-no!

            Is it a sin to teach homeopathy? If not, why not? Enquiring minds need to know! /rhetorical

            Mike

          • Ellabulldog

            Many can hold an irrational belief yet dismiss other's similar beliefs as irrational.
            Psychologists are trying to figure that out.

          • Sample1

            Indeed. I’m sure an evolutionary psychiatrist (perhaps someone like Randy Nesse who I had the privilege of meeting/talking with years ago) might describe the behavior convincingly from that perspective. Evolution leaves us susceptible to many problems even if adaptations generally are positive. For example, bipedalism gave advantages but left us susceptible to lower back pain. The back pain isn’t an adaptation, it’s a consequence of another adaptation. We see this mistaken understanding all over when people say, “why did evolution select for maladaptive X”. Well, it may not have. It’s likely just a byproduct of another useful adaptation.

            I’m guessing cognition is similar. Humans have amazing cognitive skills comparatively to other primates but irrationality may be a byproduct of that.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            It’s been a very long time since a pope has died, but the last one who did die put out an official Apologia for his Church’s crimes through the centuries.

            There was pushback among Jews and others about the careful wording and omissions but it was generally reported as a significant attempt to right past wrongs. Want to know where a lot of pushback occurred? From Catholics! I remember those times well.

            Mike

          • Ellabulldog

            A person can't apologize for what others did. It was a nice gesture. A person or group can make changes to ensure such things don't happen again. Sadly some atrocities are still being covered up. I would like to see Catholics speak up more. I don't share the beliefs but I know many Catholics. My family is Catholic. The Church has no business acting like a moral authority on any issue given it's history past and now present. And yes most Catholics are very nice people. Not because of the belief system. They'd be nice people no matter what. Most people are.

          • Sample1

            Agreed. And every single Satanist or Pagan or Wiccan I’ve met has been a nice person too. But no, they are disordered, possessed, or lost according to the Catholics. Because they are taught to fear a strawman rather than understand a neighbor, a doctor, a food service worker. Of course I think Satanists, Pagans, and Wiccans are goofy but I can’t say they aren’t nice and even moral. Of course they are. I’m guessing they are statistically no different than others in morality.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            It’s refreshing to have a new visitor call a spade a spade. Those of us atheists who’ve been here (many have been banned) don’t really lay out the criticisms so bluntly anymore. Instead we tend to charitably ignore the begging the question claims so some kind of discussion can follow.

            I have a friend who is an army chaplain. Yesterday I decided to delve into Christianity with him. Specifically about owning, outright, people as property and the divine instructions for that from a so-called grounding morality force (their god).

            It actually started a few weeks back and he said his notes were unorganized but he’d be happy to go into that. Well, it had been weeks so I brought it up again. His response? He’d figured that all out years ago. So I asked for clarity. I’m not joking when I say he said the following: boring. It’s a boring conversation for him.

            So that was that. But I pressed. He admitted he was afraid I was going to call his god immoral. I said I didn’t believe in any gods so that doesn’t make sense. I’m talking about what humans wrote, words we can examine. Surely we can talk about that? Nope. Instead he said “you have your beliefs and I have mine” and neither of us are going to change. I had to point out how insulting that was, calling me close minded essentially. But he is treating others how he thinks they behave. And his reference point is his own way of behaving. He won’t change, therefore others must be like him in their beliefs. All that told me was he was the close minded one and he views others that way. Amazing. And, if I can use a Trumpism: SAD!

            We talked a bit and I think he understood my POV, that his position was that of arguing with a ghost. Something that doesn’t exist, his predetermined box he had for me.

            We were able to be blunt with each other as the friendship is almost 20yrs old. But in the end he told me he couldn’t go there all the way with me (continued examination of claims) because Christianity was a “safe place” for him. I let it drop. But you can imagine my questions.

            I knew a Jewish woman who once said about JW’s, “I wouldn’t want to pull the rug out from anyone, someone who is getting along in life.” I remembered that when talking with my friend.

            But comboxes are voluntary and those here want to be here. So I thank you for the comments you’ve made.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Mike I noticed again your interest in morality of slavery and universal human rights. This article about the father of human rights, Fr. de Vitoria might interest you.

            https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.uprait.org/archivio_pdf/ao7103-williams.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwjeufG8jb3gAhXpm-AKHTmhA3k4ChAWMAh6BAgAEAE&usg=AOvVaw0ARzXP2xnaEVLnl5S8oii4

          • Sample1

            I’m interested in the morality of divine instructions for owning people as property as inspired in the greatest book ever written. What you’ve offered does not address that.

            I read your link. It was interesting. A bit of propaganda, imo, is found in the last sentence so I’m not sure how much of the article is intellectually honest. But I read it.

            Summing up arguments to the contrary, Vitoria states that only four possible grounds could be put forward to deny the Indians their status as subjects of natural rights: either because they are sinners, or infidels, or simpletons, or irrational. Vitoria refutes all these argu- ments, one by one

            Do you believe simpletons or sinners or infidels or the irrational are legitimate grounds to deny someone their rights?

            Good grief.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I’m interested in the morality of divine instructions for owning people as property

            Mike, read the notes from this video at this link, he arrives at a different conclusion than you have.
            https://www.bethinking.org/bible/does-the-bible-support-slavery
            Another suggestion, read the different books of the bible completely if you haven't done so recently.

          • Sample1

            What conclusion does he arrive at? I read it.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I'm not sure which resource you are talking about so I'll answer both.
            The bethinking article surmises: Often the Old Testament Law is a matter of permitting or regulating something, rather than saying that it is good.
            From the bible: Love God and love your neighbor.

          • Sample1

            The bethinking commentary does not address all the specifics in Exodus 21. He does not address the owning of a married female and her children as property, as money, for life while letting the male go.

            21 “These are the laws you are to set before them:
            Hebrew Servants
            2 “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. 3 If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free.

            Instead he talks about Roman slavery equivalences and indentured servitude (a different topic with its own moral qualms!). I found his apologetics ridiculous.

            I know few like to talk about slavery in the Bible but it is right there in both testaments. And it’s not just permitting slavery, its wholesale instructions on how to do it God’s Way from God.

            Most Christians don’t like being asked if God is behaving morally by giving instructions on how to enslave others. In fact, most will not answer a yes or no question about it.

            But there are natural ways to explain why primitive people behaved the way they did. I don’t believe in any gods, let alone the Yahweh/Trinity one. But I do believe primitive people looked for ways to justify immorality. They found a god who could do that for them. They found a god who instructed them how to use violence:

            20 “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, 21 but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.

            If we want to talk about non-Hebrew slave instructions we can go there too. Those divine instructions aren’t as beautiful. /s

            Just think how much better the greatest book in the universe could have been if written by a god who simply said, slavery is immoral. People are not property. Instead, I have to peel the palm prints from my face and tolerate learned Catholics telling me morality needs a foundation from god.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            I’m short on time but what do you think about his explanation that the Hebrew word ebed was previously translated as slave only two times in the whole Bible but modern translations translate it as slave 46 times?

          • Sample1

            First of all, I know you are against slavery/owning people. So these remarks of mine are not about that.

            Regarding the translations. There is no getting around it. Two times, one time is too much. But I’ll do you one better. The word isn’t even important. It’s the behavioral instructions given by Trinity on how to treat people. These owned people could have been called kings instead of slaves. Doesn’t matter. I’d be saying that is no way to treat a king.

            The behavioral instructions aren’t coming from an angel or Matthew, or a Judean ruler. It’s coming directly from the god Catholics claim to be the absolute grounding of morality.

            There are plenty of ways people have tried to justify these divine rules throughout the centuries. I think I’ve read most of them, if not all the major attempts. The more interesting ones come from the Jewish commentaries. It goes along the line of Yahweh giving much “better” ways to own people than it currently was, or so they say. And these “better” ways of behaving toward people-property supposedly set the stage for the gradual weaning away from slavery.

            Of course, this is preposterous wrangling but it is novel. It’s also situational ethics for a deity in this apologetics. Telling your children, as their Father God, precisely how to hurt another person without getting in trouble (they can be beaten so long as they don’t die in a day or two [but what if they die in a week?]) is immoral. It has always been immoral. And it should always be immoral. Because that is the judgment of gaining knowledge about human well being. Knowledge a perfect moral Being should have. But if there is no such thing as a god, it makes sense. Let me repeat. It is difficult if not impossible to make sense of those instructions if one believes they are from a moral god. But it makes sense if there is no god.

            I really don’t know how people can read this stuff and still believe it isn’t t the work of human hands alone. Out of sight, out of mind I guess. It’s just not talked about from the pulpit. Or if it is, it’s translation rationalizing. Or better yet, it’s a “mystery.” Good grief. Like I said at the start, it’s the behavioral instructions to own people, and if you were a non Hebrew, you could be taken as a permanent acquisition!

            This was slavery, if not in name (but it was) then in behavior. This was immorality. And it’s right there to read.

            But no, for me to have a coherent moral worldview, I am told it needs a grounding in an absolute arbiter. Baloney.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            It is difficult if not impossible to make sense of those instructions if one believes they are from a moral god. But it makes sense if there is no god.

            It is not difficult to make sense of those instructions when one takes into account historically the concept of slave in the first century and ancient Judea and Egypt and when one understands historical accounts of, say Spartacus, that challenged the Roman Empire on slavery. 6,000 of his followers were crucified on the Appian Way. Also "good behaivior" was one way that slaves could earn freedom. Paul was far more concerned about man's enslavement to sin than to the Roman Empire. If a slave suffers under his master and does not retaliate with evil, but with good, he stand blameless before God and his suffering becomes virtuous as Christ, who suffered blamelessly. (1 Pet 2:20) That is also why the end result of the lifetime of slavery is the promise of a kingdom where slavery no longer exists. (Gal 3:28)

            So put that into contrast to the Roman ideas of the time:

            According to Joshel, “Seneca sees slaves as inferiors who can never rise above the level of humble friends” (Slavery in the Roman World, 127).

            to that of the early Catholic church where Callixtus I or Pius I or Onesimus go from slave to brother to priest to bishop and Pope. Clearly, while the NT proof texts often seem condoning, they are seemingly condoning for the sake of not provoking the Romans. IMO that is precisely the historical narrative one must see. As I say to my children, actions speak louder than words.

            Edit done

          • Sample1

            Nope, the Trinity made a rule that certain people could be owned for life regardless of that person’s behavior, good or otherwise and God made rules so that the person could be beaten up. You’re not reading what God instructed.

            Sparta is irrelevant. You’re rationalizing. But we can go there. Catholicism does not deny that Moses could be the author of the first five books (which it traditionally held that they were for 1500yrs along with Jewish Tradition). As did the Apostles. So if that’s true, God’s divine instructions for slavery predate Sparta by centuries Mark.

            But let’s say you’re right (which cannot be proved). The Romans had slaves, yes. Paul was more concerned about sin you say. Tell me where Paul condemns slavery. Was slavery a sin? Where does Jesus condemn slavery? Was slavery a sin?

            This is simply a dodge. The Master of Morality, Trinity, had no choice but to command the institution of slavery because...people where doing it anyway? That’s compelling to you? People were doing lots of things God didn’t like. And Trinity forbade it: worshipping other gods. That was an accusation against Christians by Romans, Greeks, Syrians too, that monotheism was seen as a kind of atheism (denying the Roman gods). Christians were harassed, hated and killed because of that. No, your rationalizing doesn’t hold up.

            Actions can speak louder than words. Agree. That’s why I don’t care if the word slave is used or not. Is owning people as property and allowing them to be beaten up moral? I ask you. Are those actions moral?

            It’s not according to my worldview. And you can’t seem to say that. That is bizarre to me.

            Mike

          • Mark

            Mike, there is a story about the blind men who were told about an elephant that came to town. Each goes to find the elephant and comes back to report to the king. One says, it's like a rope. Another, it's like a wall. Another, it's like a big fan. Another, it's like a sharp hard sword. Everyone of them is telling the truth. Paul was telling the truth. Moses as well. Understanding the whole truth of something may be beyond the ability of person in a certain time place. Including us today. If you don't think future generations will mock your truths, spend some time with a teenager (I have 3 I'll lend you one). If you grew up in ancient Judea you'd likely believe the earth was flat. That is true, the earth was flat, just not the whole truth. It's special pleading to read ancient text and supplant 21st century moralism or science or any other version of knowledge into their understanding of truth and call them liars. And yet you expect the god of your rationalization, should have revealed the whole truth of understanding of all things right then and there, or here and now by dropping a book out of the sky as a complete instruction to understanding and truth and everyone will universally accept it without any ill will. That is bizarre to me.

            Paul was more concerned about sin you say. Tell me where Paul condemns slavery. Was slavery a sin? Where does Jesus condemn slavery? Was slavery a sin?

            Your question is premised on the idea the apostles acted upon instruction that were limited to the written accord of His teachings we have today and not the three years of instructions they received. It is narrow and convoluted understanding on how Catholics understand the revelation of God. Jesus doesn't condemn slavery; he humbly becomes a slave to all of us (2 Cor 8:9, Phl 3:7); and taught us to be slaves to one another (Gal 5:13) and that sin is slavery (Rom 6:15-23).

            Edit Done: added references

          • Sample1

            I think you chose the best route: it’s a mystery. But it’s a non-explanatory route. It’s a gap. And yet you call it truth. Good grief. The other route is progressive revelation. In short, you’re trying to paint a mosaic that makes sense, with some mystery splattered in, to you. I get that. I am asking you to look at what the Painter commanded or in another sense, what he didn’t command. This isn’t trivial. We are talking about people equated to an amount in silver!

            You must see the problem. If God is the moral grounding, his instructions must be moral. Even beating people to near death and passing them on like property to their descendants. At least you aren’t taking the Divine Command Theory route: whatever God (who is Jesus and Yahweh for you) says to do is moral, period. Some Christians do.

            I’m not calling anyone a liar. Where have I done that? Remove that offense please. Isn’t it you who is special pleading? You think morality back then cannot be addressed by people alive today. I don’t buy that. And if that were true, you’re going to have to reconcile how it is anything back then can be taken as moral. But you believe the Ten Commandments are moral, I’m guessing. No special pleading by me. I’m just asking questions about the greatest book ever written. Or maybe you don’t think that’s true?

            Is owning people as described in the OT moral? Yes or no? I say no. Why won’t you answer? Maybe because I haven’t provided all the scriptures? Go read them. Don’t forget Deut. and Levit.

            And please don’t tell your kids you offered to give them to someone online, even in jest. Or anyone. What a crappy thing to say. What if they found out? Why burden them with having to think, “gee my dad actually found something wrong enough with me to want to be jokingly rid of me.” Words do hurt kids.

            I am going to probably finish up this discussion with Rob as he is going to tell me which Bible to use. I’ll let you have the last word.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Mark

            Heres the last word Mike. I have discerned 3 ways to make someone instantly not like you. 1) tell them they are fat. 2) tell them how they're raising their children improperly 3) in my professional rhelm tell them their pathology is in their head. Just calling a spade a spade here as that is where you set the bar.

          • Sample1

            Sorry it didn’t work out!

            Mike

          • Mark

            X=(7x70)-1

          • Sample1

            I see you added references. You’re right. I’m premising my concerns only on the greatest book ever written. I question the morality that comes directly from the Master god himself. If you dismiss the Bible as unimportant, that’s fine.

            Regarding Paul, he never actually condemns slave holders or slave trading. He does condemn people who steal slaves placing those people with gays, liars, murderers.

            I know this isn’t a comfortable topic but there are Christians today who claim owning people is a god given right. And they can support this with a logical line right to scriptures.

            I’m glad the CC doesn’t condone slavery anymore. But they can’t point to Jesus for that. He’s cool with it.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            First of all, I know you are against slavery/owning people. So these remarks of mine are not about that.

            Here's a few thoughts I have on this subject:
            I wonder why you and I, both raised as Catholics, have always been against slavery. Did you notice these texts before you left?
            As I mentioned to you before, there is a worldwide epidemic of slavery still today, and yet it is not embraced by the Catholic church.
            Do you think that Catholics use the bible to determine what is moral? I don't think so. But we do read the OT as the introduction of God to a stiff-necked tribe who were asked to prepare the way for Jesus Christ.
            And again I recommend that you read the book of Exodus completely, use an old Catholic translation.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Here is a good Protestant analysis explaining why the New Testament never really tolerates slavery, but set the stage for its abolishment:

            https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-and-why-did-some-christians-defend-slavery/

          • Sample1

            Let me know which Bible you want me to use.

            Mike

            We can talk about your other subjects later if that’s ok.

          • Rob Abney

            Here's the one I'm reading now, though it is not old.
            Bible in a Year
            Tim Gray
            Augustine Institute
            It has an insightful reflection every few chapters and pairs a NT reading with an OT reading.

          • Sample1

            Ok. NLT. I thought you said an old Catholic translation? Please don’t say, well you didn’t use that. I’m using what you are telling me to use.

            Exodus 21 New Living Translation (NLT)

            Fair Treatment of Slaves
            21 “These are the regulations you must present to Israel.

            2 “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. 3 If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him.

            4 “If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. 5 But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ 6 If he does this, his master must present him before God.[a] Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.

            7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. 8 If she does not satisfy her owner, he must allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. 9 But if the slave’s owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave but as a daughter.

            10 “If a man who has married a slave wife takes another wife for himself, he must not neglect the rights of the first wife to food, clothing, and sexual intimacy. 11 If he fails in any of these three obligations, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

            16 “Kidnappers must be put to death, whether they are caught in possession of their victims or have already sold them as slaves.

            20 “If a man beats his male or female slave with a club and the slave dies as a result, the owner must be punished. 21 But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property.

            26 “If a man hits his male or female slave in the eye and the eye is blinded, he must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And if a man knocks out the tooth of his male or female slave, he must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth.

            This is just Exodus! The Bible identifies different categories of slaves including female Hebrew slaves, male Hebrew slaves, non-Hebrew and hereditary slaves. These were subject to different regulations. (Rational Wiki).

            What do you make of all this? My question is what on earth is such immorality doing in the word of god? This isn’t merely describing the behaviors of others, or the Hebrews making up laws. These are actually god’s laws. And this god is your god.

            My opinion is this is people trying to make laws in their society to regulate certain people as property. No gods involved. But rather the perceived approval of a god to be used as a moral grounding of authority.

            What’s your take?

            Mike, morality is based on the singular human assumption of promoting behavior that addresses well being. No gods needed.

          • Rob Abney

            Exodus is the story of the Hebrews escaping "slavery", they sold themselves into slavery in the first place thanks to the goodwill of Joseph.(That's why I'm suggesting that you read the whole book).
            But, finally, here is Aquinas' commentary.

            Now the preservation of man's life may be considered from two points of view. First, from the point of view of the individual, i.e. in so far as man preserves his individuality: and for the purpose of the preservation of life, considered from this standpoint, man has at his service external goods, by means of which he provides himself with food and clothing and other such necessaries of life: in the handling of which he has need of servants.

            Read the rest of his explanation here, article 4
            http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2105.htm

          • Sample1

            I’d rather have your thoughts rather than someone else’s.

            For instance. You say they escaped slavery. But what was wrong with it that they needed to escape from it?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            These will become my thoughts as I get informed by Aquinas at the prompting of you.
            The point that Aquinas made is that we need each other to survive and prosper. Unfortunately, without strict guidelines for cooperating with each other, the relationship often gets abused. Jacob's family agreed to become servants of the Egyptians to avoid starvation. The Egyptians had a right to the family's services and possessions in exchange for providing food and sustenance in their time of need. Although the descendants of Jacob multiplied they could not ever repay their debt and regain their freedom. If the laws from Exodus had been in place in Egypt then many of the Israelites would have lawfully paid their debt to the Egyptians.
            The Israelites escaped slavery but they didn't escape from Egypt. The Egyptians decided that it was no longer to their advantage to have the Israelites in service because the Israelite God was causing havoc. So the Egyptians paid the Israelites to leave.
            But even the Israelites in the desert then needed laws to treat each other right. Their laws were to assure survival of the Israelites as a race of people, and they were intended specifically to avoid unfair relationships.
            What do you think about this reasoning Mike?

          • Sample1

            I think what you’re trying to say is that if you had the authority to create a society you would write up a Constitution that said:

            Article I: classes of non citizenry exist: slaves captured in war; born into slavery; purchased via slave trade; sexual slavery; debt slavery
            A: some could be freed, males, but never daughters. Foreign males never freed. Males with families can choose freedom alone or remain slaves with families, forever.
            B: they can be brutalized so long as they don’t die too soon.
            C: debt slaves would be exempt from humiliating chores, expected from the other slaves who may be worked every day.
            D: nice things about being a slave [here]

            Article II: failure to abide by these rules will result in your kingdom’s utter destruction by Rob.

            You do this, Rob, because you are behaving morally?

            Mike
            Edit done: added Article II

          • Sample1

            I think it is fairly good reasoning. But the irony here is inescapable. I hope you sensed it too. And the irony is this: you’ve constructed a perfectly a-theistic, sociological understanding of a primitive environment to naturally explain how ancient civilizations behaved. And it makes sense.

            Meanwhile, I am assuming a God exists, using his words/scriptures, and who is supposed to be able to provide his people with moral guidance to explain slavery and it doesn’t make sense.

            It makes sense naturalistically. It doesn’t make sense if God is a moral grounding. At least, I haven’t been shown that. Naturalistic explanations go further though. Explanations that can describe why a society can see things in both a relgious and naturalistic way depending on their needs.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I think it is fairly good reasoning

            Thank you.

            No, an a-theistic society would not ever be constructed this way for the simple reason that "some are more equal than others". There will always be an abuse of power. But in this Hebrew society there was one King, God, and everyone else had equal opportunity, even those in servitude. Here my thought is informed again by Aquinas

            Moses and his successors governed the people in such a way that each of them was ruler over all; so that there was a kind of kingdom. Moreover, seventy-two men were chosen, who were elders in virtue: for it is written (Deuteronomy 1:15): "I took out of your tribes wise and honorable, and appointed them rulers": so that there was an element of aristocracy. But it was a democratical government in so far as the rulers were chosen from all the people; for it is written (Exodus 18:21): "Provide out of all the people wise [Vulgate: 'able'] men," etc.; and, again, in so far as they were chosen by the people; wherefore it is written (Deuteronomy 1:13): "Let me have from among you wise [Vulgate: 'able'] men," etc. Consequently it is evident that the ordering of the rulers was well provided for by the Law.

            But, I don't believe that you really believe that God gave instructions to Moses, because if you believe that then you also have to believe that He sent manna from heaven.

          • Sample1

            Hang on, let’s clear something up. I’m not saying it’s an atheistic society being constructed. I am saying you are demonstrating the use of the historical method; to describe how that civilization behaved. I’m fine with that. The historical method is a naturalistic based method. It is a-theistic in that sense. Making a study of behavior without presuming the supernatural. That’s what you’ve done in your reasoning to me. That’s all I’m saying. I’m not calling you or anything atheist.

            And you’re correct. I don’t believe God gave tablets to Moses. Moses is largely seen as a mythological figure by many scholars and Jews alike. Likewise with the Exodus. Despite three centuries of claimed captivity, and modern scientific searching for an Exodus, archeologically by the state of Israel itself, no evidence has been found. No pottery or anything that corroborates the stories.

            But I am granting you that everything you say is true for this particular discussion. That a God exists, that the Exodus happened. I am playing the role of believer (and I was pointing out that you were, ironically, posting replies that were historical method based, which could be supported by naturalists). I guess you don’t appreciate the humor in that, which I saw. No biggie then.

            Let me ask my question a different way. Were the divine instructions about owning people as property moral in their day but immoral now? I don’t see any other way of asking this question.

            If you don’t want to answer it, then just say so and we can move on.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Were the divine instructions about owning people as property moral in their day but immoral now? I don’t see any other way of asking this question.

            It was not about owning people it was all about "owing" people.
            I wasn't saying it was an atheistic society, but I said an atheistic society would never be able to be formed because unless there is a higher power then some ruler becomes a god. But when God is the ruler then He transcends the abuse of power.
            Read article 1 from http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2105.htm

          • Sample1

            I’m confused. You’re saying Exodus 21 says nothing about owning people as property for life? I posted your NWT, it says property.

            I agree there was a category of slavery law that regulated those who sold themselves into bondage to pay off a debt. The bondservant. Are you not aware that there were other categories of slavery that had nothing to do with debt? Hebrews were allowed to purchase from foreign slave trading. Hebrews were also allowed to acquire slaves during wars, for life. And other categories exist that are different than owing something like the bondservant. Personally, I’m perplexed that the bondservant category is the go-to category when some try to defend slavery. I think bondservantry is immoral too. Surely you are aware of the other categories that aren’t about owing anything, right?

            How do you know an atheistic society would result in some ruler being god? Our Constitution is secular, we do not have ruling gods. We have term limits, representation, the whole lot of democracy. Is it perfect? What would be perfect? As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of governance but it’s better than anything else we’ve tried. I’m fine with that description.

            Imagine if Yahweh gave women the same rights as men. Would that have been immoral? I say it would have been a better system, morally, immediately. But he didn’t. And I think he didn’t because it was people of the time governing themselves. People who knew less than we know now. And people believing in gods because that was fashionable then.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            Mike would not be alone. According to Wikipedia,

            The modern scholarly consensus is that the figure of Moses is legendary, and not historical, although a "Moses-like figure may have existed somewhere in the southern Transjordan in the mid-late 13th century B.C."] Certainly no Egyptian sources mention Moses or the events of Exodus–Deuteronomy, nor has any archaeological evidence been discovered in Egypt or the Sinai wilderness to support the story in which he is the central figure.

            My trusty Dictionary of the Bible disagrees and unqualifiedly confirms the historical existence of Moses but points out that events pertaining to Moses were not put in writing for two- to three-hundred years after the time of Moses, and oral traditions varied so that there was no single coherent narrative.

          • Sample1

            Do you know about the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi? It’s one of the most ancient writings discovered and predates Moses. Moses, being an Egyptian prince, could have known of it. Of course, there are speculations on whether Moses is a made up hero who is somewhat based on Sargon of Assyria. Sargon was also abandoned by his mother, into a river in a reed basket, was later found, adopted, and rose to power.

            Back to the Babylonian Code. It’s legal framework allowed women to testify in court. Mosaic law gave the same amount of weight to a woman's testimony as a donkey’s; meaning none.

            I like Moses. Well, the fictional Hollywood motifs anyway and the actors. But I appreciate his story as myth. I also liked how Noah was portrayed by Russell Crowe, even though I believe Noah’s ark is pure myth. Jesus believed Noah’s ark was true. -1 for Jesus (I’m agnostic if Jesus was real)! The local creation stories by the Tlingits are fun too. Mankind discovered in a clamshell and released to the world by Raven! Makes sense, a coastal tribe incorporating their local geography and ecology into creation myths. Likewise with desert tribes. It’s all so natural along with why humans might have behaved the way they did.

            The OT is harsh. Yahweh, for me, is a projection of human behaviors at the time. I’ve been re-reading some of it. It is truly disturbing. Religious Jews have a much better way of interacting with their books than later Christians who adopted them, imho. They aren’t afraid to argue and disagree with what their supposed deity has done.

            But here I can’t get anyone to say Yahweh imposed immoral guidance. Well he did. Why? Because I claim it was human beings doing the law making all along.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Because I claim it was human beings doing the law making all along

            Finally you say what you really mean. You don't believe we worship an immoral God, you believe that we created God, and that you have found the proof that will unravel the whole enterprise.
            I do believe that Moses existed, and I believe he wrote the Mosaic law. But he wrote it as an instrument of God. He was in communion with God and his actions were based upon knowing, loving, and serving God intimately. But I don't think he took dictation.
            The guidance was not immoral it was based upon people working together to survive and the law recognized the important cooperation required between men and women, the most important cooperators throughout history.

          • Sample1

            Finally you say what you really mean. You don't believe we worship an immoral God, you believe that we created God, and that you have found the proof that will unravel the whole enterprise

            Correct. I don’t believe you worship a god because I don’t believe gods exist. This is news? I believe you believe you’re worshipping your god. I think in your mind you’ve constructed a rationale that allows you to think that you’re right about god existing. And I’ve constructed a rationale to think that it is reasonable to not believe in any gods. Proof is not something I have, to say a god does not exist. I don’t think a proof is likely. Proof isn’t really used for these types of questions. Proof is for logic, math, axiomatical constructions. But I think I know why you said that. It’s because you think there are proofs for gods existence. You’re projecting how you think onto others. We all do this from time to time but we can be mistaken for doing so. That’s why I would have preferred if you asked me if I thought I had a proof that would “unravel the whole enterprise.” The answer to that is no. I have no such proof.

            Thank you for saying it was not immoral. I disagree. I can disagree without believing in the actual god. I’m disagreeing with the words in holy books, which were written by people. And it’s not forbidden or illogical for me to speculate on what that may mean for someone who does believe in that god. It seems to me that divine moral guidance, then, has changed over time. It was situational. The behaviors and actions regarding Exodus 21, you say, were under divine guidance (this is what you’re saying, right?). But surely you don’t consider it applicable for today, to perform those actions (like selling people for silver), correct? Today it would be immoral to behave that way, right? All I know is that if I did those things I’d be in jail. But if I did those things back then, I wouldn’t be. So something has changed.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            The behaviors and actions regarding Exodus 21, you say, were under divine guidance (this is what you’re saying, right?).

            Yes, correct.

            But surely you don’t consider it applicable for today, to perform those actions (like selling people for silver), correct?

            It is still applicable though further developed, not unlike most laws that become more precise as they are used over time. Here's one example, LeBron James. LeBron cooperates with the Lakers' owner.

            I shouldn't have used the word proof, more like you have seen the man behind the curtain.

            Edit: I'll respond to you other post after I return from Mass, there is a lot of good discussion there! Thanks.

          • Sample1

            Interesting take on what I’d call progressive revelation. So the obvious question for me is, does “further developed” mean further immorality or further morality? Something else? Equivalent?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            My position is that the slave/master relationships from the OT was a cooperative moral relationship for the benefit of each party and the community. As long as there was no abuse of the relationship such as withholding of food or shelter or excessive labor requirements. Of course throughout history the relationships has been abused in such ways. So the relationships have developed morally into contracts and employee/employer relationships. But there has also been development of immoral abuse such as making it impossible for the relationship to end.
            Your position seems to be that there should never have even been bondservant relationships. But that would be harmful to many parties.
            Of course, your real issue is that these are laws made by men who then attribute the laws as coming from a lawgiver; and you don't believe a lawgiver exists. Correct? But there doesn't seem to be any way we could ever demonstrate that these were laws spoken to Moses or even inspired to Moses, that is too subjective to demonstrate. I rely on the philosophical proofs for God as well as the subjective experiences I have with Jesus Christ to know the Trinity exists. That is how I am then able to see that OT commands cannot be immoral. It sounds like confirmation bias, but you have caused me to read quite a bit on the subject and to make myself comfortable that I'm not biased. Thanks.

          • Sample1

            If this isn’t a discussion you want to continue always feel free to say so. I may continue to object to positions but will leave your name out of it. I still see problems here and disagreement between us.

            My real issue, if we drill down, has been stated already though maybe I wasn’t clear. I’ve been told that without a grounding in morality via a god, my moral framework (and of naturalists generally) is incoherent. Usually this goes to first principles, such as logic, reason. We presuppose that such first principles exist and axiomatically procede from there. Others here say another presupposition is required: God. I don’t see the evidence for that. I don’t need that extra presupposition. I just say I don’t know, which I think is honest.

            So no, of course I no longer believe in gods or the Trinity but no one here, including me, denies that holy books exist. I don’t see why I have to believe in a god to discuss ancient writings.

            I’d like you to be able to see what others see about them regarding slavery. For instance you say:

            but there has also been development of immoral abuse such as making it impossible for the relationship to end.

            Rob, the instructions in Exodus 21 begin with the guidance on how the Hebrews should regulate slavery. It’s not a development toward immorality. It begins there. That includes being able to acquire certain categories of people for life. I’m beginning to think you don’t believe me which is why I asked for your choice of translation.

            An argument can be made that the conditions of slavery as described in Exodus were improvements compared to how slaves were regulated elsewhere. An argument can be made that some categories, not all, of slavery were debt servants. They come with challenges but people try. But even if those arguments are compelling, they are different subjects that don’t address the other instructions I’m highlighting.

            But if a god-grounding is needed for morality, what is slavery at all doing in such a grounded framework? This is the word of a divine father, supposedly. As a father, could you ever imagine insisting that slavery is a legitimate and moral way to cooperate with others?

            Besides my moral grounding point, I guess I’d like you consider that there is another way to understand these behaviors. Naturalistically. If we look at this naturally, it is just the story of how people behaved towards one another for various political, religious and social reasons that are further understood evolutionarily.

            Again, if you want to leave the discussion, that’s fine. I’m glad we’ve been able to keep this focused on ideas rather than each other.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This topic is totally outside my field, but I did find a few links that might make more reasonable the moral compass of OT regulations regarding slavery:

            https://www.rationalchristianity.net/slavery_ot.html

            https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-wrong-say-bible-pro-slavery/

            https://www.bethinking.org/bible/does-the-bible-support-slavery

            Interestingly, these sources seem largely to be Protestant.

            As I said, I have no special expertise on this subject and am involved in other matters right now, so if anyone wants to use this, fine. I am not joining this conversation!!

          • Sample1

            Thanks for the links. I’d read the last two previously but not the first.

            Unfortunately the first link is a lie by omission in the truest sense of your own sin definition. While the header has links to new window relevant slavery laws, nowhere does it give an analysis of Ex. 21:4 like it does for the others in the apologetics. Why? Because it’s ugly, immoral. They skip it. But it’s worse than that, the site purposely deceives by saying:

            Slaves weren't forced to say they loved their masters if they wanted to stay; the speech given in Exodus 21:5 is only an example. A parallel passage in Deuteronomy 15:16 only has the slave saying he doesn't want to leave. My underlines.

            Dammit I hate when apologists do this garbage. But they have to. Does it make commentary on 21:4, the previous sentence? No. Here is 21:4 and 21:5 together:

            If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out [c]alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’...

            If the male slave had been given a wife and had children with her, they would remain his master's property. He could only stay with his family by becoming permanent slaves or go out alone. This is rendered as saying If they wanted to stay. Lie by omission! The husband slave can choose freedom without his family or remain a permanent slave with his family. This is not moral. It’s Sophie’s choice and the NAZIS win with either choice.

            I know you are staying out of this but thanks for the links. They only bolster the immorality of biblical slavery for me and spotlight what most of the apologists I’ve read do with these dark passages. They lie.

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not really in this, since this is mostly a question.

            Is it possible that the indentured servitude slavery was a way of repaying debt for people in their own nation -- whereas the real slavery pertained to those captured in warfare who would otherwise have been put to death? These were pretty bloody times, you know.

          • David Nickol

            Is it possible that the indentured servitude slavery was a way of repaying debt for people in their own nation --

            Yes, but only Israelite men. An Israelite father could sell his daughter into servitude, and the daughter did not have to be freed after seven years (as did Israelite men). The laws for freeing Israelite women slaves were very complex, and there were many possible outs for them.

            . . . . whereas the real slavery pertained to those captured in warfare who would otherwise have been put to death?

            Foreigners captured in warfare were not the only non-Israelites to be enslaved. For example, children born to non-Israelite slaves were born into slavery, so there could be successive generations of non-Israelite slaves who were slaves by birth. As Mike has pointed out, the children of a man who married before becoming a slave were his, and would be freed when he was freed, but if the master provided an unmarried slave with a wife, the wife and any children remained in slavery when the male slave was freed.

            Let us assume purely for the sake of argument that all non-Israelite slaves were captured in wars and would have been killed had they not been enslaved. It may have been preferable for most to live and be slaves rather than be slaughtered, but it is hardly to the credit of the Israelites that they enslaved rather than slaughtered some of the people they conquered. When you do something bad, you don't deserve any credit for not having done something worse;

            It does seem to be true that Israelites may have treated their slaves more humanely than other ancient peoples. But this doesn't mean they didn't practice "real" slavery.

          • Rob Abney

            It may have been preferable for most to live and be slaves rather than be slaughtered, but it is hardly to the credit of the Israelites that they enslaved rather than slaughtered some of the people they conquered. When you do something bad, you don't deserve any credit for not having done something worse;

            It is really no argument to assume what you are trying to prove, that slavery is bad. But what would be an effective alternative to do to a warrior who was trying to kill you and take all of your possessions?

          • Mark

            I just want to add to what Phillip said about the sophistry involved here:

            [A Pharisee lawyer] asked him a question, to test him. "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets." (Matt. 22:34-40)

            As Catholics we are not bound by imperfect OT laws. We don't have to circumcise our children. We go to Mass on Sunday rather than temple on Saturday. We don't have to eat Kosher pickles. We don't have grow out our beards and sideburns. We don't have to take a year off work or war after we're first married to please our wife.

            The sophistry here is to create a false equivocation between the 613 OT laws and a moral dictation of God or Divine Revelation. Or to create the false moral dilemma that the Catholic adherence to certain OT laws (Decalogue) and so should adhere to this OT law. We are not bound, and have never been bound to OT laws because they are the God's dictation but for the most part because they are part of natural law. I already put forth the historical account of the first international human rights arguments, made from Thomistic and natural law reasoning by de Vitoria.

            I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath." (Matt. 12:1-8)

            What I'm saying is that if you are forced to debate Catholic moral reasoning you should debate it with Catholic rules and reasoning, not antitheist rules and sophistry. Did Jesus own slaves? No. He chose to be a slave to humanity. You should be defending the washing of other's feet.

            "The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment" (CCC 2053).</blockquote
            .

          • David Nickol

            What I'm saying is that if you are forced to debate Catholic moral reasoning you should debate it with Catholic rules and reasoning, not antitheist rules and sophistry.

            I have checked a few definitions of sophistry, and some of them mention an intent to deceive. What is your personal understanding of the term sophistry—your intended meaning here? Do you believe that "antitheists" are malevolently posting here with the intention of decieving Catholics to undermine their faith? Do you make a distinction between "antitheists" and atheists?

          • Mark

            I don't know if the sophistry is an attempt to deceive or not. Maybe I should ask do you see an attempt to deceive or be malevolent in the following arguments and counterargument on this article's blog from the last 2 weeks:

            If Aquinas had publicly abandoned religion, what would have happened to him? He would likely have been imprisoned, tortured and executed.

            Catholics have a superstitious belief. It does falsely make claims about morals...The Church as an institution has done many immoral things. Evil things. It is simply hypocritical for any Catholic to make a false claim that their belief has anything to do with morals.

            went to a Catholic Church for years. Parents were Catholic. Nothing rational about that mess. Lot's of lies. Hypocrisy. Superstitious beliefs and silly rites. It's a cult. It ensnares people by indoctrination.Ignorance is bliss for those that follow that cult.

            That you can't see how your belief is the same as a belief in Scientology, witches or voodoo then you need to study some more cognitive science and not so much that bible thingy you cling to.

            I’m interested in the morality of divine instructions for owning people as property as inspired in the greatest book ever written. What you’ve offered does not address that.

            Nope, the Trinity made a rule that certain people could be owned for life regardless of that person’s behavior, good or otherwise and God made rules so that the person could be beaten up. You’re not reading what God instructed.

          • David Nickol

            It is really no argument to assume what you are trying to prove, that slavery is bad.

            I should not have to prove to a Catholic that slavery is bad!

            2414 The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian - lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord."

            I note with some bewilderment that, up until now, the argument has been whether or not what is referred to as slavery in modern English translations of the Bible actually was slavery. (You said it was really only indentured servitude.) Now it seems the argument has change from whether or not there actually was slavery to whether or not slavery was bad!

          • Rob Abney

            If slavery is defined with the terms you quote from the CCC then it is bad. But you continue to ignore what I've posted such as this from the bethinking.org site that Dr. Bonnette also posted:

            The King James Version of the Bible had two occurrences of the word slave: once in each Testament. The New King James Version in the twentieth century had 46 occurences. There has been a general increase over time in the use of the word 'slave' in translations of the Bible into various languages.

            ‘ebed is translated as 'slave' in some cases and 'servant' in others. Leviticus 25:42 in the English RSV translation has slave once and servant once, but both translate the same word ‘ebed.

            You also ignore what I've posted from St. Thomas' explanation from the Summa concerning relationships. The relationships can be abused and become assaults on personal dignity such as how slavery was used in the American south. But you are equating abuseive relationships with non-abusive relationships and calling them both immoral.

            Remember this is a site that allows us to reason together, shaming techniques are not needed.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Thanks for the clarifications. My only wonder about the lineage of those captured in war pertains to possible suspicions about the loyalty of these descendants if they were freed.

            In ancient warfare, the option of slavery to death may have seemed a real mercy. But just letting people loose whom you were just fighting to the death might have been viewed as potentially suicidal.

            If you just finished killing half their nation, I would fear that anyone I let live and their offspring might well be looking for revenge, and thus, never to be trusted with full freedom of action. This would go for their descendants as well, since tribal hatred doubtless would be passed down through generations.

            Keeping defeated foes and their descendants in slavery might have been viewed as legitimate self-defense.

            What do you think?

          • David Nickol

            What I think, overall, is that for the ancient Israelites to conquer territories in battle; possibly slaughter the men, women, children, and livestock of certain peoples; and take slaves was as natural to them at the time as drinking water and breathing air. That was how things were in the ancient world in which they lived, and I doubt that anyone seriously worried about coming up with a rationale for warfare, plunder, and slavery. They were warriors, and their mission was to take the land God wanted them to have by military conquest, with all the brutalities that entailed. If they had believed God wanted them to be pacifists who worked by nonviolent means, there would have been no land of Israel.

            Keeping defeated foes and their descendants in slavery might have been viewed as legitimate self-defense.

            Why not?

            The problem is that contemporary Catholicism condemns slavery as evil. In fact, in Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II said the following:

            Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature "incapable of being ordered" to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed "intrinsically evil" (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object".

            John Paul II specifically cites slavery as an intrinsic evil (paragraph 80), and if that is true, it does not make a difference how necessary the ancient Israelites believed slavery to be; it was still objectively wrong. Now, of course if we could travel back in a time machine and try to persuade the ancient Israelites that slavery was against God's law, they would think we were insane. They were of a time when the acceptance of slavery was unquestioned. We cannot blame them for being products of their time. The problem arises when we take notice of the sanctioning of slavery by God in his very own words. I think any reasonable Jew or Christian would concede that some explanation is required. I don't think it is an insurmountable problem, and there are a number of approaches to take. But to deny that the Israelites practiced slavery is simply to deny reality. It doesn't make the problem go away. In my opinion, it undermines the credibility of the apologists who attempt it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not sure that what you said contradicts the direction of my question. It may not have been a noble motive, but when you conquer another nation, you want to make sure it stays conquered -- and one means might be to enslave its people.

            I am not addressing the more complex issue of explaining why God would inspire his writers to write about it the way they did.

          • David Nickol

            I am not sure that what you said contradicts the direction of my question.

            I am glad you read it that way, since it really wasn't meant to.

            I am not addressing the more complex issue of explaining why God would inspire his writers to write about it the way they did.

            And of course, for believers anyway, that is exactly what needs to be addressed (in a way that can make sense to nonbelievers). It is futile to attempt to make the problems go away by denying what the text says. It is a persuasive theory about scripture (and inspiration) that is needed. I would suggest as a beginning acknowledging that although Exodus 25 begins . . . .

            The LORD spoke to Moses:

            . . . what makes up the rest of the chapter is not a translation into English of a verbatim transcript of words spoken to Moses by God thousands of years ago. That would no doubt present difficulties for some who post here, though.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I have said, this is not my field and I will leave it to others to explain the believer's position here. As to the content of Exodus, I know that Moses did not write all of the Pentateuch, since it records his burial. From what little I know, the Catholic Church does not insist on definitive interpretations for most of Scripture, except perhaps as needed to settle a controversy. So, we are not as invested in some of these arguments as much as some of our Protestant brethren might be. I have read some defenses of what is written about slavery in the OT, but do not know enough about to attempt to present the "official" defense -- if there be one! Obviously, though, we must maintain that God's Scripture reveals nothing that would contradict his infinite goodness and mercy. The believer's role must be to explain how God's goodness comports with what is authentically recorded in Scripture.

          • David Nickol

            I think we are in basic agreement, to the extent you have taken a position. The one thing I would say is that while I think there are passages in the Old Testament (and maybe even the New Testament) about slavery that are very problematic, I do not think the Bible as read by the Catholic Church can be used to justify slavery (although I believe attempts were made in the past, as in the American Civil War). What I am saying is that I don't think the Bible, read as one coherent work, can be said to justify slavery. I think given the trajectory of the Bible's position on slavery in successive books in the OT coupled with the NT is away from slavery, even though there are no explicit condemnation. Morality in the Old Testament tended to require proper behavior toward one's neighbor (that is, members of one's own tribe or clan), whereas Jesus and early Christianity sought to widen the circle of who was considered a neighbor. Leviticus says Hebrews cannot make slaves of fellow Hebrews. When the circle is widened so that "neighbor" applies basically to everyone, then no one may make a slave of anyone else.

            Of course, I am agnostic as to whether the Bible actually should be read as one coherent work. And I'm willing to go out on a limb without doing any significant research and say that Jews who rely heavily on only the "Old Testament" are as strongly opposed to slavery as Christians. So they have gotten there without the New Testament.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you say sounds pretty coherent to me. Given that even the Bible speaks of the Jews as a "stiff necked" people at that time, it may be that even God had difficulty turning the Titanic around. (Forgive the horribly mixed metaphor.)

          • Sample1

            You had other questions I said we could talk about later. I’d be down for that. A new question for me comes from reading your post.

            How do we demonstrate philosophical proofs that are more than abstract inferences? Specifically, which philosophical proofs for your god can be demonstrated as something more than claimed abstract inferences to natural reality?

            There is a book called The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics. The challenge is to understand how math can explain physical models whereby we then infer a justification and the relationship math also has to abstraction which may not or cannot be inferred as a justification for physical models but only ontologically.

            I see the same challenge in philosophy, except it seems only ontological rather than something more than abstraction at least with god models.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Whatever is moved, is moved by another. That doesn't seem to be abstract.

          • Sample1

            Agreed. But we can make it abstract.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            My position is that the slave/master relationships from the OT was a cooperative moral relationship for the benefit of each party and the community.

            There was indeed something among the Israelites very much like the indentured servitude of later eras (for example, the early settlement of what would become the United States). However, that was reserved to Hebrew men. (See Leviticus 25:39-43.) How do you square your position with Leviticus 25:44-46:

            44 The male and female slaves that you possess—these you shall acquire from the nations round about you.

            45 You may also acquire them from among the resident aliens who reside with you, and from their families who are with you, those whom they bore in your land. These you may possess,

            46 and bequeath to your children as their hereditary possession forever. You may treat them as slaves. But none of you shall lord it harshly over any of your fellow Israelites.

            A footnote to the above in the NAB reads as follows:

            [25:44–46] While Israelites may not be held as permanent slaves (vv. 39–43, 47–55), foreigners may be. They are not released in the jubilee, but may be bequeathed to one’s children. They may be treated as “slaves,” i.e., harshly (cf. Ex 21:20–21).

            So in Exodus 25 we have a direct narration from God to Moses in which God says that Hebrew men who enter into indentured servitude are not to be treated harshly (like slaves), but those from other ethnic origins may indeed be treated "like slaves" (harshly) and owned for their entire lifetimes like property.

          • Rob Abney

            That is a poor analysis, you have to want it to say that to be able to read it that way.

          • Sample1

            When I was an amateur apologist talking with JWs, I would have them read out loud the “this is my body” quote. They would read it but then say my then Catholic analysis was poor or wrong, it was only if I wanted to read it that way. I’d ask what other ways are there to understand it? They’d invariably say things like some kind of memorial or symbolism. Not literally his body. Then they’d say, “was Jesus a literal door when he says, “I am the door?”

            But those rationalizations were easy to dispute. And you know why, as a catechism teacher yourself. We’re they being stubborn? We’re they under some mental constraints from the Watchtower?

            But what other way can David’s cut/pastes be read differently? It looks unambiguous to me, it did when I was a Catholic too. I just placed it in the “mystery” column; that I can’t know the wisdom of god. This was me experiencing cognitive dissonance so I found a way to relieve the discomfort of slavery: look away.

            David isn’t giving an analysis. He is providing Catholic footnotes and what you believe is the will of god, at least then. He’s giving a summation without adding anything to the scriptures. Like I used to do with JWs.

            I am honestly perplexed at your reply.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            It was an uncharitable reading; the text does not say that slaves can be treated harshly.
            The reference to Ex 21:20–21 doesn't support harsh treatment either.

          • Sample1

            I disagree. But maybe it’s because I think it is immoral that non-Hebrew slaves could be kept permently and passed down as property. While Hebrew males had the opportunity to be released after six years.

            I’m not talking physically harsh in this case, what about harsh in terms of different laws for different people?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            The OT is a complicated set of books, imagine picking up a book of state laws and reading it. How close have you studied the OT?
            Every country has different laws for different people, citizens vs. non-citizens. In the OT if a non-Hebrew slave were released he would have nowhere to live, nowhere to work, etc.
            https://ancienthebrewpoetry.typepad.com/ancient_hebrew_poetry/2010/03/the-abolition-of-slavery-in-leviticus-25-some-preliminaries.html

          • Sample1

            I used to study it with Jews online over a decade ago. Every week we’d study the parashah or portion of the Torah. I think I did that for a minimum of a year.

            Those were fun times. Everybody’s opinion was worth hearing. As important as the Torah is, the actual discussion and gathering between people is generally thought as being the true gift.

            I don’t think we ever went over slavery or I’ve forgotten.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            I'll join with you if it's still available. It would be interesting to see how your atheist views change your perspective from your previous views.

          • Sample1

            Sure, thanks. In someways it’s no different than what others go through when they relate to or find a cause. When I was a vegetarian obviously my worldview shifted a bit. I had to pay attention to little things. Little things that mean nothing to non-veggies. I’m sure there is a disease cause out there for someone which dominates their life because a family member is afflicted. Someone I knew a while back developed Alzheimer’s, next I knew we were involved in walking-for-cure fundraisers. This happens for everyone. And all those with their particular interests hope that others take up their interests too.

            As an atheist I’m now more aware of laws that affect or could affect the secular nature of our Constitution. Secularism in this sense means the freedom to worship or not. Few I know personally who would want to ban freedom of religion. I’m not sure even I would. Would I fret if it declines to obscurity? Probably not. But I’d rather it happen bottom up rather than top down. Freedom of thought and not having fear to think freely about anything, religion or non religion. I’m talking thinking, not necessarily actions, has to be protected by all or I’d want off this planet. Also aware of Carl Sagan-like wonder anew, though I’ve always had some of that. And on and on.

            Likewise for you, you’re getting a daily feed of information different than mine or someone in Tibet. And you navigate with it. Sometimes we navigate to differing worldviews, like this site. And sometimes understanding happens and sometimes not. Sometimes emotions are all that’s left, sometimes blocking happens.

            As much as humankind can be cruel it is also amazingly altruistic too. Whenever I am at my wits end online or IRL, I think of someone I admire, perhaps Sagan’s words:

            “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

            The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

            Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

            The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

            It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

            Maybe the sentiment gets one through for a day or week, until the next challenge online or wherever. We only know one way to be human we aren’t superheroes or saints or mythical archetypes. We are just who we are and sometimes that has to be enough.

            /off soapbox. Your turn.

            Mike
            Ah, just got it, that Jewish forum is long gone.

          • Sample1

            In the OT, if a non-Hebrew slave were released he would have nowhere to live, nowhere to work, etc.

            Probably true, anthropologically speaking. But since we are speculating, and the supernatural is not off limits, it could also be said that if Exodus laid out God’s laws such that men and women were equal, escaping slaves from other cultures could live and work as Hebrew citizens, and the pursuit of happiness with liberty and justice for all was biblically enshrined perhaps they’d look around and not want to leave. Instead we get what a culture would look like without such a god. I will probably be told by some, that’s too much to expect. I’d I would just have to say, really? The Bible is supposed to be a moral compendium when god’s will is involved. As I said earlier, it makes sense naturally—humans being humans—but involve a god and problems for me arise.

            I appreciate you maintaining the discussion. It is becoming very Jewish in form. Argument, different points of view, even giving god a black eye for this one. It’s about people for both of us. That’s my guess. We both, ultimately, want our counterparts, the theist or the atheist, to understand things as each does. If there was a god, that’s what a moral god should delight in. Instead we can place ourselves somewhat in the times long past and know even this discussion would be impossible for peoples of fundamentally different worth. And it didn’t have to be that way if a god existed. But evolving apes, well, that just makes sense to me.

            Mike

          • David Nickol

            How do you analyze the passages? As far as I can recall, in this whole debate, no one who maintains that slavery in the Old Testament was really indentured servitude has actually dealt with any of the pertinent passages brought up and quoted in the discussion.

          • Rob Abney
          • Sample1

            if sounds like confirmation bias.

            Thank you saying this Rob. I don’t think that particular example is confirmation bias. But it does sound like cognitive dissonance. Two contradictory ideas held in one’s mind with various ways to mitigate any discomfort that may arise from that. People who smoke cigarettes know two things: it makes them feel good (the nicotine) and it will markedly increase their chances for cancer. They may mitigate the discomfort of those two facts that they see conflicting by thinking they will quit soon or they are still too young to worry about it.

            I am not using cognitive dissonance theory as a personal pejorative against you. I’m just saying it’s a natural phenomenon that probably all
            humans experience in one way or another during their lives. The mom who has reasons to believe her kid is doing drugs but rationalizes it away by saying she’s never actually seen it and her daughter gets good grades is holding two contradictory reasons in her head.

            I’ve done it. What I don’t know is if there are really good defenses to say, once recognized, if it’s still good to maintain the dissonance anyway. I’m thinking no, as it’s kind of a lie to oneself. Maybe in some circumstances there are survival benefits to do it be they social or even physical threats otherwise.

            When my pregnant friend died a couple weeks ago in a plane crash I thought of something. She was über Christian. I hope she whispered to her unborn baby something like, “I’ll see you soon.” It’s a comfort I will never know again because that’s not what I believe anymore. I would probably just say something like, “so this is how the story ends!” But for my friend, I only want her last moments to have been hopeful, happy ones.

            Being a naturalist does not mean life becomes easier, in many ways it does but the existential questions bother some who are new to naturalism. I suppose my cognitive dissonance is to invent ways to mitigate discomfort by thinking about atoms being repurposed someday in someone or something else. It may not happen, but it is eminently plausible. And plausible is my sweet style.

            Cheers,

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Ellabulldog

            Thanks Mike, the magical Disqus bots brought me to this page. It supposedly is open to atheists. They should not say it if they don't mean it.

            I have Catholic family. My sister is big time Catholic. I don't tell my niece and nephew gods don't exist. I stay away from First Communion type stuff. No need to support that by going. I can't fake like that stuff matters.

            Someone brought up Christianity on a shared limo ride. I simply said I don't believe that nonsense. He was a member of one of those mega churches. He didn't say another word. I'm sure he simply isn't used to such a response. Quite frankly he insulted me. Do I have a sign on me saying gullible? Maybe that's a good response?

            I did tell two JW's they really didn't want to have the conversation with me. They were nice. Simple folk. Lights not fully on certainly.

            True there is a time and place. But if someone brings it up first I don't think silence is necessary nor respect be given. Beliefs are not people. Some people make a mistake and conflate them.

            Your friend simply doesn't want to really talk about it. You create dissonance for him. The stronger his belief the more he will fight to hold onto it. If not strong he will try to avoid anything that creates conflict in his mind. You both might have to agree to never bring it up. We all don't have to like what others do for a hobby. I consider it my friend's and family's hobby. If they don't insist that I agree it is more than that then no big deal.

            On the internet. Certainly fair. Don't ask questions if you can't handle the answers. Some need to learn that.

            Thanks again.

          • Sample1

            Agree about keeping certain hobbies and politics quiet if mutually agreed upon.

            I was a Catholic. Fortunately I went right to atheism after a gradual evolution of examining claims as honestly as I knew how to. In every other aspect of life I behaved as a science based naturalist.

            Once had JW’s come to my door. I was asleep, woke up disoriented threw on sweats quickly. Talked with them on porch for twenty minutes. They never returned. I never knew if it was because of our discussion or rather my loose underwear sticking out of the bottom of my sweats which I discovered as they left.

            We used to have more naturalists and humanists here. It was a fantastic place many years ago, learned a lot. But the arguments just get rehashed. The articles are starting to be more atheist convo inviting lately so maybe it will continue that direction.

            Have fun!

            Mike

          • BCE

            Well are you open to saying...
            in the event a parent can't care for their child, adoption is a wonderful thing
            However choosing to use anonymous donor sperm or surrogate or keeping the name of the biologic parents(when it could be known) from a child or keeping the father unknown(exception for rape or abuse ) is also
            a theft?
            It steals that child from knowing those relatives and experiencing a
            relationship with them.

            So what was done to slaves then, is touted now as simply an alternative

          • Ellabulldog

            Your comment is incoherent.

            The Church kidnapped a baby from a loving family. It did not save him from anything.

            It was not a legal adoption.

            It was more like slavery as you aptly point out. They mentally abused the kid and he worked for them for life. More than likely sexually abused and tormented him as well.

            He had no freedom.

            Poor kid.

          • BCE

            My premise, about adoption being a good thing, was not
            intended to imply the Pope legally adopted.
            It was the use of a grammar lead-in for the next question about children being intentionally deprived of a relationship.
            It was a new thought, like if you said...yesterday you saw a man die in a car crash and I respond... I saw a women die in a house fire
            and in this case it may have been preventable but they had no detector. Can we agree they're both tragic

            But you respond..."your comment is incoherent...the car was never on fire"

          • Ellabulldog

            Your example of adoption and then going on to sperm donors/keeping father unknown is supposed to mean what?

            The kidnapped child was deprived of knowing his parents and his parents had their child stolen.

            What relationship are you talking about?

            It is tragic and criminal that the kid was stolen from his parents. His parents were deprived of a relationship.

            Not sure where you were going with slavery?

          • David Nickol

            I think (hope!) we would all agree today that a Jewish child—too young to give consent—should first of all not be secretly baptized by someone like a nanny, and second of all should not be removed from his family to be raised Catholic even if he is. The fact that Mortara later became a priest and died a faithful Catholic does not make the initial events of his secret baptism and removal from his family any less troubling.

            On the other hand, the charge of "brainwashing" and loss of free will make little sense. The fact that he was indoctrinated as a Catholic doesn't mean that he was deprived of free will any more than if he had been born into a Catholic family. The Catholic Church as a two-thousand-year old institution cannot be condemned for this incident involving Pius IX. Why he was beatified, though, is beyond me.

          • Mark

            I mostly agree David. Sometimes it is hard to put into perspective how a law can be considered justified, especially in matters of religion. But living in the historical Papal States is very different than living in the US today. Having said that, we are not far removed (my lifetime) from having our own government systematically removing Native Americans from their parents and adopted away from their belief system as a way of forced conversion to western civilization. There is no question the government has a moral obligation to the welfare of the children in either situation. Maybe the better question is whether or not the lawful decisions to do it were just or unjust. Either way, I appreciate your ability to keep a level head on it. FWIW, Pius IX was never shown to have been the authority behind orchestrating the abduction; I think he probably was. He certainly participated post-abduction. Canonization is a whole different subject matter IMO. Edit Done.

          • Rob Abney

            How were you able to escape indoctrination yourself?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            He also does not realize that the priest in question, Fr. Edgardo Mortara, always insisted that he immediately loved the Church, converted and sought the priesthood of his own free will, and had a special devotion to Pope Pius IX for bringing him to the True Faith. A careful examination of the facts of the case show that it was fully in accord with the law and practices of the time. He should read, Kidnapped by the Vatican?, that includes the unpublished memoirs of Fr. Mortara.

          • David Nickol

            A careful examination of the facts of the case show that it was fully in accord with the law and practices of the time.

            The same can be said of any number of atrocities committed in the name of religion down through the ages right up until the present day.

            He should read, Kidnapped by the Vatican?, that includes the unpublished memoirs of Fr. Mortara.

            There is compelling evidence that the English translation of Mortara's memoirs was "doctored." A somewhat defensive article in the conservative National Catholic Register provides more information. It notes the following:

            AP found that anti-Semitic comments contained in the original Spanish had been removed from the Messori translation, including a reference to Mortara having ‘always professed an inexpressible horror’ toward Jews.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is easy to look down our noses at the cultural and legal context of the nineteenth century, but the fact is that Pius IX was both head of the Church and of the Papal States. Like it or not he was a pope-king, bound both by ecclesiastical and civil law in 1858. Both laws required that someone validly baptized (remember we baptize infants who can give no consent today) should be raised as a Christian. Pius IX had both a religious and legal duty to enforce the laws of the Papal States, the oldest state in Europe, recognized by all other powers that had diplomatic relations with it. Whether such laws were agreeable or not, they had to be enforced.

            As I recall, the tragic case of Elian Gonzales in Florida in 2000 was equally wrenching to his American relatives, but his father in Cuba had the legal right to demand his son's forced return to the communist dictatorship that Elian's mother died trying to escape with that same son. Many would say that that father's demand should have been ignored for the good of the child. I know these cases differ in essential ways, but there is also an essential likeness in that the proper action of the American government , in the eyes of many observers, should have been to ignore the pleas of the natural father.

            We should be relieved that such a situation as the Mortara case could not occur today, but that does not give us leave to condemn something that we can hardly conceive in the present times. The pope considered himself as the spiritual father of this baptized son, even as he understood the anguish of the child's natural parents. Many steps were taken to soften the situation, contrary to the reports of those who then, as now, hated the Church and used this incident to defame her.

            No one should countenance deliberate translation errors for purposes of absolving anything in the memoir of Fr. Mortara. But the essential problem faced by Pope Pius IX and the Papal States is independent of this later question.

          • Mark

            First, like Dr. Bonnette, I don't condone some of the unfaithful translations. So thank you for that. But I might just point out the pretty bias attitude the article you referenced in The Atlantic:

            Defenders of the pope’s action in taking Edgardo have argued that the events had nothing to do with anti-Semitism, yet the way Church authorities treated Jews was deeply rooted in demonization.

            This is one of several areas where the author purposefully interjects opinion as fact. Here is the one I found most disturbing:

            In Edgardo’s original account, the pope proposed sending him to a Catholic boarding school in Bologna, for, “That way, his parents would be able to visit him whenever they wanted.”...Yet this account is pure invention—and not by Messori, but by Edgardo himself.

            As a way of discrediting Fr. Mortara's personal testimony he suggests the trial of the Inquisitor in 1858 included several hundred pages of testimony about the case and none of this testimony supports Fr. Mortatara's account. My problem is that it is a sleight of hands because while there was a trial and there was a great deal of testimony, the Inquisitor, did what we would know as "plead the 5th". Weaving anti-Semitic opinion into the account using an argument from ignorance is equally disturbing as changing translations. The other interesting part was from the second article you posted about Katzer:

            Kertzer confirmed that he had not read the memoir before publishing his best-seller in an email to the Register.

            Which basically confirmed to me Kertzer has an axe to grind and truth is what you spin it. But it was an interesting read, so thank you for that. I hope Spielberg does a better job of portraying truth in the movie, but I'm not holding my breath with Holywood.

          • Ellabulldog

            just lucky. born more rational than superstitious.

          • Rob Abney

            If that is the case then you should be Catholic.

          • Ellabulldog

            I went to a Catholic Church for years. Parents were Catholic. Nothing rational about that mess.

            Lot's of lies. Hypocrisy. Superstitious beliefs and silly rites.

            It's a cult. It ensnares people by indoctrination.

            Ignorance is bliss for those that follow that cult.

          • Rob Abney

            Was there a more specific reason that you left the Church?

          • Ellabulldog

            Other then it is nonsensical and a bunch of lies?

            No.

            The real question is why do people go?

          • Rob Abney

            You went for years despite being born rational, so why were you going and what changed, did you become even more rational!

          • BCE

            What I find interesting in Ellabulldog's responses to me is
            that it ignores that I didn't state I support what the Pope did.
            The Pope and child are both born into a family, historical time frame, culture etc. that shapes their beliefs and actions.
            And we acknowledge the young are especially vulnerable to those forces, and why we are even more concerned when adults have influence over the young.

            It seems clear, many take the position that there remains no excuse
            for the Pope's actions which I was not addressing.
            Rather I was inquiring of Ella*** about adults convincing themselves of entitlement, whether based on status or ideology(religious or otherwise )

            If anything, though Catholics can explain academically the effects of
            historical time and culture on their choices, they know non-the-less
            that doesn't always excuse it, but it does give context to why they may have acted as they did.
            Fascinating to me... Ellabulldog's and others infer or affirm a *moral injustice* took place.

            Not that I think it fascinating in that they respond to "justice" (for Catholics, must except anti-theists are not created differently ) but that for anti-theists to be logically consistent, they must think "justice" is not a moral certitude. Rather our species evolved to become anxious about things that might reduce survival. That makes the case for why anti-theists can except how our species can instinctively move between acting both altruist and brutal, and why any behavior is a neurological/biochemical(not moral) response.
            Not that theists deny the inclinations of human nature biologists/psychologists observe, but that ant-theists so vigorously defend the transcendentals; as if they are faithful theists.

            I wonder if they realize how comforting that is to Catholics?
            As though their criticism of Catholics (or any church or sinner) can do anything but lead us to believe, as they seem to, that there really is
            a true objective moral principle to guide us. And why they seek justice and hold us to it. I'm glad for it!

      • Ellabulldog

        How many great atheist philosophers live in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and other Muslim countries today? None. Rushdie wrote a book and fears for his life.
        How many comics making fun of Mohammed do you see today? Few. His analogy is spot on. We can only see what happens when someone doesn't have to worry about their livelihood or their life. Even in the US it is still hard for many to come out as atheist. Politicians certainly can't. Many others are afraid that being outspoken in atheism could negatively affect their lives. It is slowly changing today so we don't see how terrifying it was for Bruno who was stripped naked, hung upside down and burned to death. It is still terrifying today for billions of people to live under such a threat.

        It is not cowardly to want to live. It is rational to want to stay alive.

        • Rob Abney

          It is not cowardly to want to live. It is rational to want to stay alive

          Is that the highest degree of rationality that you can conceive?

          • Ellabulldog

            A life form's only reason for being is to live and procreate. Dying is the end so one is not rational if they will die for atheism. It's a non belief not a belief system.

            One may die for a religious belief. Mainly because they were indoctrinated to believe this isn't the only life one gets. Much easier to get a person to die for an irrational belief if it it isn't the end and that they might even be rewarded in an afterlife.

          • Rob Abney

            A life form's only reason for being is to live and procreate.

            Then why do you have powers of rationality?
            And since we can't know if we will be rewarded in an afterlife then it is best to live our life attaining the highest good our rationality enables, and that includes loving others also not just procreating with them.

          • Sample1

            If by “highest good” you mean human well being, then I can agree.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, the highest good of human well being is to have beatific vision! That is the highest use of the powers of rationality.

          • Sample1

            I know that’s what you believe (at least I’m inferring that). But I don’t believe that.

            Also, if the highest use of the powers of rationality means what you say, then what is to be said for those who are irrational, such as those with certain cognitive deficits?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            then what is to be said for those who are irrational, such as those with certain cognitive deficits?

            That they need and deserve our help.

          • Sample1

            Of course they deserve our help.

            Mike

          • Ellabulldog

            Why can I think? Evolution after billions of years came up with a brain that works pretty good.

            It is best to live our life cooperating with other humans. Humans do better in groups than alone.

            Conflict is destructive. Cooperation is productive.

            Nothing wrong with being a good person. One need not believe in a god to be a good person.

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry but you are using your rational powers to rationalize. Humans do not need a big brain to survive and procreate, there are many beasts and bugs that do both of those much better without much of a brain.

          • Ellabulldog

            I never said a brain is essential for life to thrive. I was talking about humans. Humans use their brain to survive and thrive. No bigger brain would simply makes us more like apes/monkey's again. Limited to warmer climates. Foraging for food. It has allowed humans to expand beyond what other animals can do.

            Our being smart animals let us increase to 7 billion in numbers. Without that we'd be maybe in the hundreds of thousands at best like other primates.

            Our intelligence may also be our downfall. We simply may destroy our planet and deplete our food resources.

            One asteroid or plague could also wipe us out.

            Humans are different. Not special. Unique that we can think. Other animals live longer. Others were here before us and will be here past us.

            It's only been a short but successful run for humans. 100000 years is nothing when compared to the couple billion years of life.

            No brain and we simply are another mammal. A little bit of a brain and we learn to dominate those without one but end up ruining our environment and kill ourselves off. Can we evolve past what we are today or have we reached our limit?

            Time will tell. We'll never know ourselves. We will not live to see it.

          • Rob Abney

            It has allowed humans to expand beyond what other animals can do.

            Why? Why do humans have that unique capacity if we, like other animals, just need to survive and reproduce?
            You make a lot of assertions without ever giving any reasons.

          • Ellabulldog

            Why?

            Why do fish swim?

            Why do birds fly?

            When you figure that out you will have your answer.

          • Rob Abney

            Why do fish swim?

            Because they live in water.

            Why do birds fly?

            Because they have wings.
            Why do humans have rational powers? So we can know God.

          • Ellabulldog

            Try to be less obvious next time.

            Know what exactly?

            I am sure you believe something. You don't know anything.

          • Rob Abney

            Do you only believe that birds fly or do you know it? Do you only believe that fish swim or do you know it?
            Your problem is that you don't trust yourself to know.

          • BCE

            I challenge that.

            If you observe a species, ants or humans, you would see both strategies of cooperation and aggression. Ants are extremely altruistic....unless
            you're not one of their own.

            Behaviorists can describe actions( strategies ) without the emotive
            categorizing of "good" or "evil" or "right" or "wrong".
            They would never describe a behavior, rape, murder, slavery with
            a moral bias. There are no moral or immoral animal behaviors
            whether human ape or bee, lion, bug. No "good" bats, rats, babies,
            or being of any kind.

            I'm sure you realize Christians must believe humans seek the good(though they can fail). That's a a moral position, not a scientific one.
            Science doesn't take moral positions. It can only conclude i.e. cuteness, smiling and sharing is a strategy just as much as stealing, enslaving and rape.

            I have read enough evolutionary psychology aka ethology, to know
            they would not use morality as a device to evaluate or describe behavior.

            You can't describe what the Pope did as immoral. It is within the scope
            (obviously by its existence) of human strategies.
            Behaviors are neutral(no current known advantage or disadvantage)
            or optimum( currently providing greater survival ) or deleterious (but not necessarily extinction as long as a low numbers effected ).
            However all of this only means that if the environment changes, then
            so can the favored archetype. Actions in themselves are not immoral.
            They emerge(like anatomical traits) through mutation, environment, and selection.

            It's not that anti-theists don't know these concepts, but that some
            refuse to remain consistent, shifting incoherently between transcendentalism and metaphisics vs materialism.
            Pizza is good, it's not a moral agent. In the cosmos people and pizza
            are pretty much the same, just stuff.
            Anti-theists can try to suck the young and ignorant into a moral discussion; something they don't actually believe exists.
            They just resent theists thinking they can be good and anti-theists can't.
            Like... I can own a unicorn and they can't ... they protest..yes I can !

            I'm sympathetic to the fact that theists/deists might look down(even persecute) atheists.
            But that doesn't mean in philosophy discussions here(on SN) or academic setting, you have to betray yourself.
            There are no moral truths in atheism; there's no "goodness" or "evil".
            I wouldn't think you would want to veil yourself by their terms and use "good person". Except to confuse.

            If I say the Pope acted in his own interested and that of his group (what animals do) you might rant.. "it's immoral", "where are your Catholic values"?
            You can only be mocking, you can't really believe in "morality" or "goodness" or "evil" as scientific truism. It's just a devise to challenge theists... like game strategy.
            Except Catholics have an advantage, they can sincerely question behavior in the light of truth and justice, both materially and metaphysically. Both scientifically and spiritually.
            They can call something good, that is evil. And call something good that is truly good. Because goodness is objective, the err is theirs.
            They can muse for days and centuries over morality, as though it really matters.
            And let me repeat, they can't think you are created different ( why they know you are attracted to goodness and justice despite yourself )

          • Ellabulldog

            You challenge what?

            That one doesn't have to believe in a god to be a good person?

            Catholics have a superstitious belief. It does falsely make claims about morals. It is not about morals at all.

            Catholics murder, rape, kill at the same rate as others. The Church as an institution has done many immoral things. Evil things. It is simply hypocritical for any Catholic to make a false claim that their belief has anything to do with morals.

            It is a lie to say others can't be moral if they don't share that belief.

            When did lying become moral?

            Atheists simply don't believe in gods. Atheist certainly can be moral. Morality is not the domain of superstitious people. Superstitious people don't behave in a more moral way.

          • BCE

            Well! I can hardly believe you read what I wrote.

            Catholics and anti-theists are created the same...I said that.
            I said anti-theist seek the "moral" good... morality is real.
            I didn't say they "have to" believe...just the opposite; they don't believe
            in God.

            Anti-theists are no different than other humans throughout time, they
            seek goodness, truth and justice.
            Catholics can choose good or evil, and often choose evil.
            If you're Catholic raise your hand if you deny free will and
            our sins. I never suggesting anti-theists are not capable of identifying and choosing the moral good. I never said Catholics don't lie(rape and murder).

            What side are you on?
            Are you aware of the implications of what you are saying
            about metaphysics, religion, this article (and the 5th way? )
            You realize you are treating "immoral " "evil" and free will as real?
            And I dare say, who(among anti-theists) would say evolution is the *only* mechanism for both physical and behavioral traits, yet write about human conduct as if evolution had some external blueprint for standards of morality.

            I don't say we disagree.
            Thank you for your reply, it was worth your repeating.

          • Sample1

            Rationality comes in degrees? Really? Beliefs arguably come in degrees. This may help:

            Probabilism is committed to two theses:
            1)
            Opinion comes in degrees—call them degrees of belief, or credences.

            2)
            The degrees of belief of a rational agent obey the probability calculus.

            Correspondingly, a natural way to argue for probabilism is:
            i)
            to give an account of what degrees of belief are,

            and then
            ii)
            to show that those things should be probabilities, on pain of irrationality. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11225-007-9059-4 My underline.

            But, I’m open. What are examples of degrees of rationality?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Honestly, I'm not sure what that article is about?!
            But what I had in mind is that there is something "worth more" than just wanting to stay alive.

          • Sample1

            The article isn’t important, the abstract addresses my point because degrees of rationality doesn’t make sense to me. Something is rational or irrational. I suppose claims as a whole (as in a construct) can have elements of rationality and irrationality within them, but not partial or a “degree” of rationality for any singular claim.

            Worth more. I think you’re approaching that from a believer’s bias. That’s fine, expected, but I’m not sure why it’s necessarily relevant to Ellabulldog’s comment.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            What do you consider the highest use of human rationality?

          • Sample1

            If I read this correctly, it seems you are actually asking what endeavor among human beings is the highest that is also rational.

            Conceding further clarification about what you mean by highest, I think recognizing another as being of the same species as oneself is as close as I can come to a quick reply.

            From there, it seems to me, everything else regarding the human condition flows.

            Now that I said that, a Beatles tune instantly comes to mind: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”

            Did Paul McCartney borrow that from St. Paul? It sounds as if he is describing the Body of Christ.
            And I propose that the highest/best/ultimate use of rationality is to contemplate the greatest good (and I'm pretty sure that you and D. Deustch agree), and upon considering that good then one would not be able to neglect his fellow species members because he would know that they desire and deserve the same.

          • Sample1

            Mostly a Lennon song. But the Beatles wrote it with the intention to make light of those fans always trying to find some hidden meaning or messages in their music.

            The song is specifically meant to be gibberish, unintelligible. And people still look for and find “meaning”..
            The irony rolls on.

            I don’t know what the best use of reason is supposed to be. But if we make the assumption that morality is tied to human well being, that’s all we need to assume. Reason can help us grow in knowledge. Knowledge is what can help us with well being.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            But the Beatles wrote it with the intention to make light of those fans always trying to find some hidden meaning or messages in their music.

            And Paul denied that Let It Be was about the Blessed Virgin Mary. What do you think?

          • Sample1

            It can mean whatever you want it to mean. Like any story.

            In this case it was about his own mother who died. It was a thought he had dreaming about her, to let it be.

            I know other Catholics who think it’s about Catholicism. Good grief. Me, Me, Me. Blah. Whatever.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Ha! Looks like plagiarism. Here is the Anglican bible that he probably had at home growing up.
            Luke 1:38 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
            38 Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord;
            let it be
            with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

            His mother was named for the Virgin, as most Marys are!

          • Sample1

            Not sure what your point is. Whatever it is, you can have it if it makes you happy.

            Mike

    • Mark

      I have a tough time being charitable with biased personal philosophical conjecture is being placed on historical figures in hypothetically impossible situations. But that's the point of the article, so in response to this I'd just say the question of a new atheist philosopher in medieval times of Aquinas is absurd to say the least. A new atheist philosopher would be as foreign to the people of the thirteenth century as astronauts. Individual relationship with divinity or lack thereof is a modern thing. At that time religion was a deeply communal activity. It connected you to your family, your clan, your ethnicity, your history. It was imperative to survival in harsh agrarian cycles. Once one would explain what was meant by new atheism, en masse it'd be rejected. It would be contrary to something foundational for them like if I were to try to convince you today the earth is flat. It'd be dismissed by academia and the individual would suffer social ostracism and pity from their family and community. If they so chose to continue to promote the new atheist flib flabbery and people started following the heresy and it created turmoil in the community by the heretic(s) mocking or taunting the religious or secular authorities, well then the church would intervene and turn them over to secular authorities to punished as they seemed fit for heresy which may have included torture if they refused to redact the position. Mostly heretic teachers were not paid attention to contrary to your biased implications. There were much more pressing things to worry about like famine/starvation, disease, and war.

      In academia Magnus and Aquinas both taught at Paris, where interestingly the first two universities appeared (Catholic invention). There was a deep commitment to knowledge in these places. And the basis for this commitment to knowledge was the Christian commitment to (drum roll please) theology. Theology is and was at that time a sophisticated, highly rational discipline that has it's roots in Judaism and Greek philosophy and was fully developed in Christianity by great thinkers such as Aquinas. The pursuit of knowledge in Christianity led to a pursuit of knowledge in God's creation: nature. Natural philosophy defined as the study of nature and natural phenomena during medieval times lead directly to the Copernican and subsequent scientific revolution. I could go on, but suffice it to say the premise to the question is absurd and probably intentionally provocative as Mr. Tulloch rightly contends that Russell was. It's an unimpressive attempt by modern philosophers to rewrite (Catholic) history.

      • Sample1

        Atheists I know don’t really care about opposing views being charitable or not. Just well reasoned.

        Mike

        • Mark

          I mostly agree Mike. Leaned atheists such as you are infused heavily in science and reason. I suspect, however, most people I know, atheist or theists, are apathetic to history and reason and religion that doesn't confirm their bias. I was in my response, however, speaking in generalities, where some modern philosophers either take a cursory glance at classical philosophy or are are uneasy with their academia ancestry being tied to Catholic theology. "Luke, I am your Father" complex.

  • As a practical matter, if someone like Aquinas lost the faith, they would likely have kept that secret, since the punishment for expressing it would likely be dire.

  • daniel

    Aquinas was a theologian primarily who used philosophical approaches. No shame in that.

    There is a distinction between Theology and Philosophy, and Aquinas is squarely within the field of Theology.

    In that sense, I think Russell was correct.

  • Edmund Jones

    "Aquinas does well in clearly distinguishing doctrines derived from reason and doctrines derived from faith, he notes, and “knows Aristotle well, and understands him thoroughly, which cannot be said of any earlier Catholic philosopher”.

    Looking at the above statement, unless I'm totally mistaken Aquinas believed in the literal interpretation of of Adam & Eve and the subsequent fall from the perfect creation, which led him to his faith. For all his wisdom it would take a large pinch of salt to think that Eve was crafted from Adams rib and the rest of the story which, so I read, was viewed by Jewish sources historically as an allegory, in fact St Paul was apparently the first to view the Eden story as historical fact.
    I think Russell was correct.

  • Ficino

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lugnZFaOWWE

    St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that there will be no animals (or plants) after the Parousia, when the heaven will cease its motion.

    God creates CATS and then withdraws existence from cats??

    I reject a system that propounds such. You can say, Argument from emotion. Evolution is a kindlier goddess. Rage on, dogmatists, rage on.

    • Rob Abney

      My understanding is that an immaterial form is required to have an immaterial existence, man has immaterial existence, do you consider cats to possess immaterial existence?

      • Ficino

        Aquinas in De Potentia 5.9 is talking about species of plants and animals, not only individuals. Once the motion of the heaven ceases, there can be no embodied living things except humans, and that's because humans have rational soul. I think it's strange to have a system in which a lot of effort goes into extolling the divine intelligent governor of nature and then build in the claim that most of nature will cease, so that it turns out all that wondrous complexity of organisms is only temporary at the species level, not just at the individual level. I don't think it entails a contradiction, but it seems more economical just to say that nature goes its way.

        I am glad that cats exist now, at any rate!

        • Rob Abney

          but it seems more economical just to say that nature goes its way

          That is certainly more economical but it seems like the naturalist's version of Goddidit!

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You may be forgetting that the entire purpose of this world is subordinated to man attaining his last end, which is the Beatific Vision.

          This life is one big "entrance exam."

          • David Nickol

            You may be forgetting that the entire purpose of this world is subordinated to man attaining his last end, which is the Beatific Vision.

            As I understand it, the Beatific Vision is in heaven.

            The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called "vision" to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed "beatific". For further explanation of the subject, see HEAVEN.

            That precedes the resurrection of the body. After the resurrection of the body, what will physical bodies do? What will they be for? Won't they be in a physical world? Why does Aquinas imagine them as perfected, with special abilities, if they aren't used for physical activity. Is N. T. Wright wrong that Heaven Is Not Our Home?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are, of course, quite right. The Beatific Vision is had by the separated souls in Heaven.

            After the Resurrection, what will the saints be doing with their "new" bodies? What will life be like? Simple answer. I don't know.

            Speculating about what life is like in the next world -- and I don't know if it was about just the soul or the soul with body -- St. Thomas is reported to have said that "it is simply 'other.'"

            Clearly, if we have bodies, they are physical and must thus exist in a physical world -- a "new heaven and a new earth."
            I think Christ tells us about there being many mansions in his Father's kingdom and that the eye has not see nor have we imagined what lies ahead for us.

            For my part, I shall be happy just not to discover what life is like in the "other place." ;-)

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I am trusting that He will withdraw existence from cockroaches and big spiders as well!

      C.S. Lewis says that if you want your dog (or cat) to be in heaven, it will be.

      • David Nickol

        Isn't the old saying, "If you need your dog to be happy in heaven, then you will have it"? The catch, of course, is that those who say this secretly believe you won't need your dog in heaven to be happy. I suppose it's not even a little white lie, but it still seems like a kind of deception.

      • Ficino

        C.S. Lewis then was at variance with Aquinas' De Potentia 5.9. After heaven ceases its motion, no dogs or cats on earth or in heaven.

        ETA: but cockroaches and big spiders manifest final causality too!

        • Dennis Bonnette

          I appreciate the humorous sides of all this, but a couple serious points should be made:

          First, the essential happiness of heaven is the Beatific Vision, which, when had will exceed and subsume all lower pleasures and joys -- since its object in the infinite goodness of God's very essence. We conceive our desires in terms of things like beautiful babies and adult perfection, but it is almost an anthropomorphic fallacy to impose our present conceptions on how God will reward our sense experiences.

          Second, I would be the first to admit that St. Thomas can be dead wrong on many matters, especially those pertaining to cosmology and biology insofar as his understanding was based on the then contemporary science.

        • Sample1

          Forget an afterlife for the moment. Let’s consider this life.

          If that is where the logic leads, then what does that mean for sole human parasites (where the evolutionary lifecycle requires human hosts and no other species)? The guinea worm parasite kills humans. Granted it has a low mortality, but not zero; it does have a high morbidity though.

          The final causality of the GW is only human suffering and/or death.

          Thoughts? I have many...

          Mike
          Edit done.

          • Ficino

            I'll let the exponents of a divinely-governed final causality answer these questions.

          • Sample1

            But what if question answering is
            not a perceived valued end. Wait! I think it makes sense now!

            [wide eyes emoji here!]

            Ha,

            Mike
            PS: a little blue sky perspective here:

            https://youtu.be/NM-zWTU7X-k

    • David Nickol

      Aquinas said

      The Age of the Risen Bodies.--All will rise in the condition of perfect age, which is of thirty-two or thirty-three years. This is because all who were not yet arrived at this age, did not possess this perfect age, and the old had already lost it. Hence, youths and children will be given what they lack, and what the aged once had will be restored to them: "Until we all attain the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ."

      So not only will there be no cats or dogs in heaven, there will be no babies! There will be no children. I used to say that when I retired, I was going to spend my time at Whole Foods looking at people's babies. (Parents and nannies in my neighborhood frequently have their children with them.) For those of you who like babies, look at them now, because you will be spending eternity without them!

      Anecdote: I was in Whole Foods and spotted a very beautiful child in a stroller. I said to the mother, "What an adorable child!" She said, "Thank you!" Then she hesitated a bit and added (laughing), "Appearances can be very deceiving!"

      • Michael Murray

        So the 70% of miscarried fertilised eggs will appear as 33 year olds ? With adult souls ? What life experiences will they share ?

        • Mark

          I think I see where where going with this Michael: the cruelty of women's reproductive organs.

          • David Nickol

            I can't even imagine what point you're trying to make. The fragility of the newly conceived is an established fact. A great many human conceptions don't result in live births for a number of reasons. If they die and are resurrected as 33-year-olds, what will they be like?

          • Michael Murray

            No my point was the same as David's. In fact I read the number originally on a post of David's. What does a soul that has been ensouled in a foetus for only a few weeks or months do as a 33 year old in heaven ? Remember these are the majority of souls in heaven as only 30% of conceptions (hence ensoulments) lead to a birth.

            [EDIT] In fact if this situation is good for the 70% you have to ask why God bothers with life at all ? Why not give every soul a couple of weeks in a warm bath and then send it straight to heaven. The Matrix springs to mind.

    • David Nickol

      Hmmmm. Another thought. Presumably resurrected bodies will not be in heaven. (See N. T. Wright's provocative essay Heaven Is Not Our Home.) If the only life forms after the resurrection of the body must have spiritual souls, then there will be no animals, no plants, no bacteria (no more yogurt), and no yeast (no beer or bread). Imagine a planet devoid of all living things but humans in their early 30s.

    • Mark

      CATS can't withdraw from existence soon enough. I have no idea why people can view that musical as entertainment. A wise benevolent prophetic cat that picks a single cat to ascend to the Heavyside Layer and be reborn to a whole new Jellicle life? That all sounds like bunch of superstitious lies being promoted by trans species ideologues.

      • David Nickol

        You're entitled to your own opinion, but if you criticize Betty Buckley, you better watch out!

    • Jim the Scott

      Anthopomorphic fallacy. Getting upset over the possibility there would be no cats in the World To Come is like crying whenever a comet stikes the Planet Jupiter because you think it must hurt.

      As Thomas Negal points out we don't know what it is like to be a bat or a cat so we have no reason to be upset if there are or are not cats in the World To Come.

    • Jim the Scott

      additionally: The beautiful scene of children playing with cats merely is a pale reflection of the beauty of the Beatific Vision and the Beatific vision is the ultimate cause and source of that lesser beauty's existence. In the beatific vision we will have the original not the pale imitation.

      • David Nickol

        As I have mentioned before, the Beatific Vision is supposed to be in heaven. It would seem to come before the resurrection of the body. So what is existence going to be like after the resurrection of the body? What is the point of being reunited with one's physical body if one can experience infinite bliss in heaven experiencing the Beatific Vision?

        I think it is very common for Christians to think of the ultimate goal as "getting to heaven." But heaven seems to be a temporary stop on the way to a resurrected, physical existence. If the Beatific Vision is infinite, unalloyed bliss, won't the loss of it be absolutely crushing? Who would want a physical existence after being a disembodied soul experiencing God "face to face"?

        • Jim the Scott

          >As I have mentioned before, the Beatific Vision is supposed to be in heaven.

          That doesn't sound correct guy to my ears? Usually you are correct about these things Nickol which is what I like about you. The Beatific Vision is pretty much on the practical level Heaven. Heaven doesn't really have any meaning without it.

          >So what is existence going to be like after the resurrection of the body?

          Something wonderful the union of Heaven and Earth.

          > What is the point of being reunited with one's physical body if one can experience infinite bliss in heaven experiencing the Beatific Vision?

          You ask "Why?" and I counter with "Why not?". Also do you assume after the resurrection the souls of the saved won't still experiece the Beatific Vision? That is not the case.

          > But heaven seems to be a temporary stop on the way to a resurrected, physical existence.

          It is prior to the final union of the New Heaven and the New Earth. But the saved still experience the Beatific Vision.

          >If the Beatific Vision is infinite, unalloyed bliss, won't the loss of it be absolutely crushing?

          Absolutely except the saved in Heaven won't lose it during the resurrection. Where did you get that idea? It's alien to me.

          >Who would want a physical existence after being a disembodied soul experiencing God "face to face"?

          Rather who would object to it since they will still experience the Beatific Vision?

          Cheers.

          • David Nickol

            Absolutely except the saved in Heaven won't lose it during the resurrection. Where did you get that idea? It's alien to me.

            See the following, the last sentence of which may very well be the most important:

            The location of Heaven

            Where is heaven, the dwelling of God and the blessed?

            Some are of opinion that heaven is everywhere, as God is everywhere. According to this view the blessed can move about freely in every part of the universe, and still remain with God and see everywhere. Everywhere, too, they remain with Christ (in His sacred Humanity) and with the saints and the angels. For, according to the advocates of this opinion, the spatial distances of this world must no longer impede the mutual intercourse of blessed.

            In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world. For the surroundings in the midst of which the blessed have their dwelling must be in accordance with their happy state; and the internal union of charity which joins them in affection must find its outward expression in community of habitation. At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). Hence there seems to be no sufficient reason for attributing a metaphorical sense to those numerous utterances of the Bible which suggest a definite dwelling-place of the blessed. Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain. The Church has decided nothing on this subject. [Boldface added]

            So as I read it, there will be Heaven and Earth, and God will be in Heaven, and the Beatific Vision will be available in Heaven, but Earth will still exist, and the resurrected dead can visit Earth. But there is no authoritative teaching one way or the other.

            The question in my mind is the following: What purpose will physical bodies serve after the resurrection of the dead? What will be the point of the physical universe, wither it is similar to the present one or whether it is "glorified" in some way?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is a very complex topic, since we are speculating in the extreme here. Christ warns us that the mind of man cannot imagine what lies in wait for us in heaven.

            But one thing we need to remember is that man is not a Cartesian being with soul and body two distinct things somehow patched together. Man is a rational animal with both intellectual and sentient powers -- a natural union of soul and body -- ontological principles, which are incomplete in some sense in themselves, and complete only when made into a single substance.

            The separated soul has by nature only its spiritual faculties operative and God can infuse whatever intellectual knowledge he wishes to into us. The Beatific Vision is an intellectual object of understanding, not sensation. Since the senses naturally operate only through bodily organs like the brain and nervous system, we cannot have direct sensation, at least short of a miracle, of the physical world as we presently do.

            The only natural state of the human soul is when it informs and actuates the material body. So, resurrection, that is having the spiritual soul once again animating the body, is essential to the normal state of the human person.

            Man is perfectly happy in his separated state by having the Beatific Vision, and no lesser good is as pleasing to the soul. Still, being reunited with the body -- or better, being materialized, allows the human person to experience and enjoy the sentient modalities of his natural state of being.

            But we have to be careful not to misunderstand here. It is like saying is a six foot tall man more human than a five foot tall one? No. But there is a little more of him to be human.

            So, human natural completeness is achieved only through physical resurrection. We are not separated souls, like ghosts, perfectly complete in ourselves. Angels are, because they are pure spirits. We are not pure spirits. As such our natural state does not exist until we are resurrected. Indeed, since God created us with bodies, one can argue that his intention for the final end of man must include the resurrection, or else his original intention in creating us as incarnated spirits would make no sense. And God always makes perfect sense.

          • Jim the Scott

            God love you Nickels but this is almost as bad as your past misunderstandings of the incarnation and Trinity(or was that Green? I forget. Sorry I am getting old and cranky and fat etc). Your assumption a saved soul will cease to experience the Beatific Vision post resurrection is 100% against the Tradition of the Church.

            >See the following, the last sentence of which may very well be the most important:[for brevity I skip the quote].

            You have badly misread this but considering in the past you have gotten many things correct(& corrected other Catholics) and have shown your good will in seriously trying to figure it all out I won't bang you like I do the other Gnu Rabble. They have already proven their bad faith. You have not. You are merely mistaken IMHO and I will shortly explain why. So stand by

            >So as I read it, there will be Heaven and Earth, and God will be in Heaven, and the Beatific Vision will be available in Heaven, but Earth will still exist, and the resurrected dead can visit Earth.

            Did you miss this part in your own quote " At the end of the world, the earth together with the celestial bodies will be gloriously transformed into a part of the dwelling-place of the blessed (Revelation 21). "

            Also when it says quote"Theologians, therefore, generally hold that the heaven of the blessed is a special place with definite limits. Naturally, this place is held to exist, not within the earth, but, in accordance with the expressions of Scripture, without and beyond its limits. All further details regarding its locality are quite uncertain." that clearly refers to Earth as it exists now pre judgement day.

            At best from this quote the author (who is it Aquinas? Boniventure? I could google it but I would have to close my EVE ONLINE game and I don't want to do that & then there is my 20 minute attentions span) don't absolutely know if Heaven is a physical place or not but there can be no question that post resurrection the souls reunited with their bodies will still have the Beatific Vision.

            The reason why your idea that the saved Resurrected don't have the Beatific Vision on the New Earth is wrong is as follows (thought I amend my 100% claim to 90% and will explain why you are 10% correct later).

            The distinction between "being in the realm of Heaven" vs "having the beatific vision" is made in THE FOUR LAST THINGS by Fr. Martin von Cochem. Also Pope John XXII who got in trouble for preaching heresy in a sermon is a factor. Pope John XXII erroneously taught in his public sermons (thought he admitted he was speaking as private theologian and did not intend to bind the rest of us) that the souls of the saved would not experience the Beatific Vision till the resurrection(as oppose to the correct teaching at death not factoring in Purgatory). It doesn't make sense any Theologian would teach the saved don't experience the beatific vision in the New Earth. It goes against everything I have ever read. The Souls of the saved always have the beatific vision and Heaven is their natural home and will still be when Earth is made part of it.

            But you are 10% correct so here is your consolation prize. If ye believe in Limbo of the Infants the souls of those infants will be resurrected according to many theologians into the New Earth but naturally having being "damned"* to Limbo would not experience the Beatific Vision but like in Limbo they will continue to experience natural happiness in the world to come.

            >The question in my mind is the following: What purpose will physical bodies serve after the resurrection of the dead? What will be the point of the physical universe, wither it is similar to the present one or whether it is "glorified" in some way?

            I suspect if you could answer the question "Why create anything in the first place?" You would have your answer. But here you ask why and I counter with why not? Cheers and peace be with you.

            *naturally I am using the term "damned" in the traditional sense not the popular one.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that the Beatific Vision is so vaguely defined that it is really difficult to say much of anything about when it is experienced. The old online Catholic Encyclopedia says the following

            The immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven. It is called "vision" to distinguish it from the mediate knowledge of God which the human mind may attain in the present life. And since in beholding God face to face the created intelligence finds perfect happiness, the vision is termed "beatific". For further explanation of the subject, see HEAVEN.

            The previous quote I reproduced in my earlier comment was from the Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Heaven, by the way.

            The problems begin with the facts that the Beatific Vision isn't a vision, souls can't see, and since neither a human soul nor God has a face, humans can't see God face to face. Of course, I know these things are not meant to be read literally, but the problem of the figurative language is it's difficult to say anything intelligible about the Beatific Vision beyond what the above definition says. For example, saying the Beatific Vision is "the immediate knowledge of God which the angelic spirits and the souls of the just enjoy in Heaven" seems rather ambiguous to me, since (to me) knowledge is something you acquire and retain, but the rest of the definition implies the Beatific Vision takes place only when in the actual presence of God in heaven. (Of course, how can God have a location?)

            The earlier quote, which you think I misread, implies most theologians believe there is a heaven where God and the saints reside, but that the saints (after the resurrection) can leave it for "the world." Now, if heaven is a special place where God and the saints reside, then it would seem to me that leaving heaven to visit "the world" means leaving the Beatific Vision behind, if the Beatific Vision is apprehending God as is is uniquely present in Heaven.

            It seems to me that almost all believers have is imagery from the Bible and speculation based on that imagery. I am not saying that this imagery has no important content for believers, but it seems to me that speculation based on imagery remains speculation.

            There is speculation, for example, that people with glorified bodies will be able to walk through walls, but nobody seems to specify any particular walls or explain what the purpose of walls would be after the general resurrection when everyone has the ability to walk through them. Walls that everyone can walk through would seem to me not to be functioning walls. And if you can walk through walls, why wouldn't you sink through floors?

          • OMG

            Hi David,
            Hello again. Did you miss me? I've missed your unique insights and questions about the faith.

            This conversation is quite interesting.

            Inasmuch as no one (except Jesus) has been gifted the Beatific Vision and come back to tell us all about it, we can only surmise from Revelation and Intellect (read 'soul'). If we believe the soul survives death, it likely retains knowledge it learned on earth. Additionally, assuming the soul is in heaven, doesn't it seem plausible that God would infuse additional knowledge rather than have the soul or the resurrected body (with soul) work for it? If God gives a good soul entrée into heaven, why should He not give it many other Godly gifts as well? Saintly souls still alive have claimed special gifts, visions, prophecies and miracles. Some people knowing said saintly persons have claimed evidence and/or belief in those special gifts (i.e., prophecies coming to pass, miracles witnessed, etc.).

            Paul, in 2Corinthians 12:1-7, says it is not expedient to boast, but he knows of a man who was caught up to the third heaven. This third heaven suggests more than one 'place.' Jesus also reported that many mansions exist in his Father's house; He also says when he goes there He shall prepare a 'place' for each of us. Paul cannot say whether his man was in the body or out in the third heaven, but he was caught up into paradise* where he heard secret words that man may not repeat. It's been explained that no words exist to adequately describe the experience and so that is why they are not repeated.

            * Does Paradise differ from Heaven? Is Paradise the same as Eden? Theologians suggest they differ.

          • Jim the Scott

            Let us get to the meat of this so you will forgive me if I skip a bit.

            >The problems begin with the facts that the Beatific Vision isn't a vision, souls can't see,

            When I precieve things in the abstract I don't literally see them with my eyes but I know them. Why can't the intellect and soul be given such a similar perception by an act of extra-ordinary grace?

            > it's difficult to say anything intelligible about the Beatific Vision beyond what the above definition says.

            That is actually the point given the Divine Incomprehensibility. We can based on theology revealed and nature make some inferences of what it will be like for a soul to precieve God directly but actually experiencing it well....Aquinas himself, the greatest of theologians, was given a vision of God on his death bed and dropped his quilt and refused to write more of the Summa proclaiming it mere straw. If the most brilliant theology in the Church is straw compared to the actual God well I am all for it.

            I would not waste my time worshiping a God who is less then that.

            >The earlier quote, which you think I misread, implies most theologians believe there is a heaven where God and the saints reside, but that the saints (after the resurrection) can leave it for "the world."

            Well some Saints had visions of other Saints who had passed on like Joan of Arc & thus visited us in this world but in the strict sense even then no matter where a Heavenly Saint goes the Beatific Vision goes with them.

            >Now, if heaven is a special place where God and the saints reside, then it would seem to me that leaving heaven to visit "the world" means leaving the Beatific Vision behind, if the Beatific Vision is apprehending God as is is uniquely present in Heaven.

            I think you need to read up on the difference between Eternity vs Sempiternity as it relates to Heaven. I'll see if I can get back to you on that. It might help clear it up for ya.

            > And if you can walk through walls, why wouldn't you sink through floors?

            One assumes the spiritual aspect dominates the physical ones?

            > I am not saying that this imagery has no important content for believers, but it seems to me that speculation based on imagery remains speculation.

            Well if I could comprehent the Incomprehencible One one my own without His Help then I wouldn't waste my time with Him.

            Cheers. PS I think I could kind of agree with you here. But the speculations are often based on reasonable inferences so there is no reason why they can't be true.

            In the Four Last Things as a thought experiment the writer speculates what Hell would be like if the damned suffered every punishment inflicted on them sans the loss of the beatific vision. If you had the Beatific Vision in Hell you would not heed your other sufferings.

            OTOH if the Blessed in Heaven lost the Beatific Vision they would hurl themselves from Heaven down to Hell just to get back the Beatific Vision since Heaven without it is pointless and more like that Sitcom THE GOOD PLACE (which is a phony Heaven that is secretly Hell like that Twighlight Zone episide which is so famous I would be suprised if you never saw it. "What makes you think you are in Heaven Mr. Valintine this is the Other Place!" .

            Cheers.

          • OMG

            You are having fun, I think. At least your last paragraph brought a chuckle. Gravity doesn't affect a being without material substance. Walls probably would have no use either. Who said that they existed in heaven? That's not Biblical, I think.

          • David Nickol

            Welcome back.

            The question I have been raising pertains to what will human beings be like, what will they do, and where will they be after the resurrection of the dead. I have many times recommended N. T. Wright's article Heaven Is Not Our Home. Unfortunately, the full article is now for subscribers only, but even the opening paragraph that are available at the link I gave make the important point. "Going to heaven" is not the end of human existence. It is a temporary situation that ends (presumably) with the resurrection of the body. Humans are meant to be physical creatures, and the ultimate destiny is for soul and body to be reunited. The question is what physical existence with "glorified bodies" be like. Presumably, it will be in a physical environment.

          • Rob Abney

            I suspect if you could answer the question "Why create anything in the first place?" You would have your answer. But here you ask why and I counter with why not?

            Here is Fr James Schall's take:

            The one thing even God cannot do is to create a free rational being then turn around and save him apart from his own choosing. The very point of living the inner life of the Trinity, to which we are invited but not coerced, is that everyone has to be there freely. No friendship with man or God is possible if it is coerced against his will. If man were simply created to live the inner life of God with no input of his own, no real reason could be found to create him in the first place.

            https://www.thecatholicthing.org/2019/02/25/on-hell/

          • OMG

            "In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world."

            Have you interpreted "this world" in the above citation to mean the Earth on which we currently live? I took "this world" to mean the "special and glorious abode" (which the Church has decided nothing about its locality).

          • David Nickol

            Have you interpreted "this world" in the above citation to mean the Earth on which we currently live?

            Yes.

            Note that the words "this world" appear twice in the passage I quoted:

            For, according to the advocates of this opinion, the spatial distances of this world must no longer impede the mutual intercourse of blessed.

            In general, however, theologians deem more appropriate that there should be a special and glorious abode, in which the blessed have their peculiar home and where they usually abide, even though they be free to go about in this world.

            I take both uses of "this world" to be the same, referring to the created world, whether as it exists now or as some believe it will be after the end of the world and the general resurrection.

          • OMG

            I see. After the end of the world and the general resurrection, "this world" is said by some to consist of both the Earth on which we currently live as well as a special and glorious abode. It looks like "this world' will be without limit--all of creation, then, and the blessed will be free to go about and communicate without impedance by any boundary. Sounds good to me.

    • OMG

      If one is enjoying the 'beatific vision' of the first cause and creator, one should be given vision of all the pretty kitties and cats ever known to God and man. I don't see anything rude or unkind about that. Unless I'm there and I don't like cats.

    • dudester4

      "Replacement" theology? Meet the new boss (Gaia), just not quite the same as the "Old Boss?" I see little difference, dogmatically speaking, replacing the Oracle with the Architect.

  • Ficino

    The OP raises the question, does Aquinas display a philosophical spirit when he holds something by faith that he says is not demonstrated by reason. An instance has to do with the thesis upon which Aquinas bases his conclusion that at the end of the age, there will be no plants or animals (or minerals). Of the grounding thesis, sc. that the motions of the heavenly bodies will cease, Aquinas commences his discussion so: "I answer that following the teaching of holy men we hold that at some time the celestial movement will cease, although this is held by faith rather than by demonstration by reason." De Potentia 5.5.

    It’s not obvious, however, that cessation of heavenly motion after the last judgment is a thesis that must be held by faith. Prophetic passages in scripture speak of destruction of the old world and of a new heavens and a new earth, and we don’t get clarity from them or later tradition about what will cease to exist and what will be renewed or restored. As far as I know, the thesis that all heavenly motion will cease is not de fide.

    The first authority Aquinas presents in De Pot 5.5 is Rev 10:6, which includes in the Vulgate the statement, "tempus amplius non erit," lit: "time any further shall not be." That the heavens shall cease to be in motion (and to move lower bodies) is a deduction from this verse. Other documents presented by Aquinas include a gloss of Ambrosiaster on Rom. 8:22 (the gloss says sun and moon shall rest when humans are taken to heaven), a deduction from figurative language in the mouth of Job (14:12, "till heaven is worn away"), and a saying of Isidore of Seville. The Catholic NAB, however, translates Rev 10:6 as "there shall be no more delay," i.e. of the blowing of the seventh trumpet and the fulfillment of God's plan. It does not translate, "there shall be no more time." Agreeing with the NAB are the NIV, the NKJB, and various other newer translations. One notes that after the seventh trumpet in Revelation, motion and change do continue on earth, leading up to the millennium (20:2). In the final two chapters, after the last judgment, the author writes that there will be a new heavens and new earth, and no more sea (21:1), but he does not say that the (new) heavens will cease to move or that animals and plants won't exist. There’s dispute about how many trees there are in 22:2 and how to interpret them.

    It would be beside the point in the case of Rev 10:6 to counter that private individuals aren't allowed to interpret scripture. The NAB is not published as the work merely of private individuals, and its construal of 10:6 is at variance with Aquinas'. Someone who insists that Rev 10:6 (or Job 14:22) proves that the heavenly bodies will cease to be in motion is giving a private interpretation of highly figurative language. The genres of poetry and apocalyptic literature don’t support literalistic interpretation. Aquinas himself interprets many other such verses figuratively, including the wolf living with the lamb, in a passage which many more fundamentalist Christians think prophesies the messianic age (Is. 11:6, cf. Aquinas’ commentary ad loc.).

    Another argument given by Aquinas in De Pot 5.9 is that animals and plants won’t exist on the “new earth” because, as composites of form and matter but without rational soul, they are subject to eventual dissolution. But in the new age, there will be no death. So there cannot be creatures that are subject to death. So no creatures without rational soul can exist. Aquinas does not say how we know that the class of things that can’t die in the new age includes plants and animals. I should think that only a YEC would hold that plants and animals became subject to death only as a consequence of, or after, Adam’s fall.

    So the foundation is weak for Aquinas' conclusion in De Pot 5.9 that plants and animals will not exist after the end of the age. He even says that there won’t be minerals, because the four elements/simple bodies will all be in their natural places in the sublunary zone and won’t combine. He allows as we saw in 5.5 that cessation of heavenly motion is not a conclusion of reason, and its biblical basis is not obvious. Cessation of heavenly motion is not a teaching promulgated by the magisterium, as far as I know. I have no idea what scientific conclusions, if any, may be established about the future of the species feles domestica etc or the motion of the heavenly bodies or any of this other stuff.

    This isn’t a question of great import, esp. since much of it revolves around parsing scriptural imagery. I find not super-philosophical, though, the tendency to give Aquinas a pass when his science is erroneous while hastening to defend whatever conclusions he draws—some of which are bound up with that science—before examining those conclusions and their basis closely. Back to Joe Tulloch's OP.

  • Ficino

    In light of the OP, it's interesting to consider this about the difference between Moses' rod becoming a serpent and Pharaoh's magicians' rods' becoming serpents:

    "Augustine, quoted in the same gloss says that the change was real. And he proves this with a certain amount of likelihood from the fact that Scripture uses the same word in speaking of the rods of the magicians and the rod of Moses, which of course was changed into a real serpent. Yet the demons’ work in changing the rods into serpents was no miracle, since they did it by means of seed collected together, with which they were able to corrupt the rods and change them into serpents. But what Moses did was a miracle, since this was done by the power of God without the cooperation of any power of nature." Aquinas, De Potentia 6.5 ad 8.

  • michael

    There is nothing rational about the trinity. Anyone who accepts it is naively deluded, simple as that. This article just handwaves away that logical truth.