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What Racism Reveals About God and Man

Racism

A day after Thanksgiving, with the turkey and stuffing settled in our stomachs, it's a good time to reflect on one aspect of the holiday often ignored: historically, this was a day in which Americans were encouraged to call upon God both in gratitude for His blessings, and to ask mercy for our sins.

We see seeds of this in Lincoln's 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation, the source of the modern holiday, in which he reminded Americans of “the gracious gifts of the most high God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.” It's clearer in prior Thanksgiving proclamations (for example, James Madison's 1814 proclamation of a day intended for “a devout thankfulness for all which ought to be mingled with their supplications to the Beneficent Parent of the Human Race that He would be graciously pleased to pardon all their offenses against Him”).

In 1865, President Andrew Johnson proclaimed the third modern Thanksgiving by setting apart

"a day of national thanksgiving to the Creator of the Universe for these great deliverances and blessings. And I do further recommend that on that occasion the whole people make confession of our national sins against His infinite goodness, and with one heart and one mind implore the divine guidance in the ways of national virtue and holiness."

So let's talk about one of “our national sins,” racism. Whether you're recounting to your kids the story of the first Thanksgiving, and have to explain what happened to the Wampanoag Indians; or explaining how President Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday while fighting to save a nation and liberate a race of people from chattel slavery (which then-Senator Obama referred to as “this nation's original sin”); or simply taking a break from Thanksgiving festivities to watch the news, only to see a nation in flames over the shooting death of Michael Brown, racism is an unavoidable reality.

I'm not going to write an essay explaining that racism is evil. I'm confident that you know this already, even if you struggle with racism personally. And in describing racism as “evil,” I use the term advisedly. We recognize—virtually all of us, anyways—that racism isn't just mistaken, or factually incorrect, but actually a moral ill. This is why the Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg can casually refer to the racist as “a wholly bad person.” She doesn't need to explain or defend this association, because she can count on her readership sharing her sentiment.

Instead, what I want to explore is what we can learn from our moral intuition. If we're right that the racist (or, in any case, racism itself) is evil, what does this tell us about human rights, metaphysics, and God?

I. Why Racism is Evil: The Universal Equality of Man

If you were asked why racism is evil, I suspect your answer would involve something about the idea of the universal equality of man. America was famously founded on the proposition that all men are created equal. At the time those words were penned, one race of Americans was being used as slaves, one race was being exterminated, and women and non-landowners had very little political voice. We weren't, as a nation, actually living as if our Declaration of Independence was true, nor have we always done so in the years since. But we really do believe those five words, and they've served as a veritable engine of social justice.

This notion of fundamental human equality is also the basis for international human rights law. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” And it is precisely this “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family [that] is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

This is why we rightly view racism as an evil. It strikes at the very root of our belief in the universal equality of man. For example, consider the white supremacist who believes that members of his race are superior because they're more intelligent than other races. That's not primarily a question about the latest social sciences on how well different racial groups perform on IQ tests, or how legitimate IQ tests are, or anything else. Underlying all this, we're confronted with a question about the foundations of human dignity. Is the worth of human beings something that can be determined by skin color, or by any sort of test, or by any of the countless other markers by which we can separate ourselves from one another? Because if all men truly are created equal, it's because our inherent dignity is rooted in something deeper, in our common humanity.

When we take seriously this idea of basic human rights, owed to us simply due to our humanity, we repudiate all manner of injustice, from racism to sexism to abortion. But these rights also point to a bigger reality, namely the existence of God.

II. Universal Human Rights, the Equality of Man, and the Need for God

So most of us share these foundational beliefs about human rights and dignity. But atheistic materialism can't get you to universal human rights or the equality of man. As Ross Douthat asked Bill Maher, “Where are human rights? What is the idea of human rights, if not a metaphysical principle? Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?”

The Declaration of Independence recognized this. Remember that the Declaration didn't suddenly make all men equal. Rather, it simply recognized that we already were equal, prior to the law. That's why the Declaration describes these realities in theistic and natural law terms: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

These aren't rights that are invented by the state or by the crowds; these are rights that we have inherently, rights which the state and the mob must recognize. If they came from the state, then they wouldn't be human rights at all, but civil rights. And what the state giveth, the state can taketh away. Obviously, corrupt states and corrupt men can violate human rights; the point here is that they can't repeal them. They're unalienable.

Indeed, the whole point of saying something is a human rights violation is that the victim had rights that the state or the masses ought to have respected. It's why slavery was wrong even when the government and the majority of people condoned it. And it's also why, when corrupt southern states imposed Jim Crow laws, and lynch mobs threatened the basic rights of African-Americans, there was a higher law to which African-Americans could appeal, above the level of the mob or the state.

The Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, one of the principal drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognized this, explaining that the “philosophical foundation of the Rights of man is Natural Law.” For human rights to exist in any meaningful way, they must be rooted in natural law, in something coming from before and above the level of the nation-state or the masses.

III. The Unsavory Alternatives

Having said all of this, where does this leave atheists? Not in a good place. On atheism, fellow man is nothing more than a mere collection of material parts, none of which are inherently dignified. And he, like you and I, is ultimately nothing more than a cosmic accident. In such a world, how can he or we have any rights to begin with, except for the rights that the state or the masses decides to give us?

Human rights, as we've seen, can't be meaningfully grounded in the masses or in the state; after all, these rights are often needed precisely to protect us from the masses and the state. We need the existence of something like natural law, and law based on much more than instinct or the like. If natural law is just instinct, why ought we listen to it or obey it?

Likewise for the equality of all men. What exactly is the basis for this equality, if not our shared endowments from our Creator? Theists hold that our equality is ontological, related to the sort of beings that we are. We're each made in the image of God, and we're each endowed with certain rights and dignity, which we share in common. But ontology is blatantly metaphysical, and this particular belief appeals quite directly to God. Without that theistic appeal, the whole thing seems to fall apart.

The most you can say without God would appear to be that all men are of equal social utility. But of course, that's untrue, and obviously so. Some people are born with serious handicaps; others are born into extreme privilege. By any purely-material criteria, some people are born better or worse off than their peers. So, without any connection to the Creator, “all men are created equal” reduces to a meaningless bromide. It sounds nice, but deep down, we don't believe it.

Let's return once more to our port of departure, racism. If your view is that human dignity and human worth is rooted in our intelligence, our physical ability, our life expectancy, our freedom from pain (or conversely, our ability to feel pain), and the rest, the most that you can say is that you're only conditionally not a white supremacist. Tomorrow, some double-blind gold-standard study could come along showing that whites (or some other racial or ethnic group) outperformed their peers in these categories, and you'd be forced to that they have more dignity and worth than members of other racial and ethnic groups.

Such an absurd result reveals the poverty of atheistic materialism; it fails to account for our most basic moral intuitions, and it fails to explain how we can know that racism is a moral evil. Since we do know that racism is evil, we can know with equal certainty that our brother is more than a collection of purely-material parts. During this time of thanksgiving, we should rejoice and be thankful to God for our shared human dignity, and we should take this chance to entreat His forgiveness for our individual and national sins, not least of which is racism.
 
 
(Image credit: Nation of Change)

Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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.

  • You have said that God created everyone equally. You have also said that this means it is wrong for humans to treat each other unequally. My question is what in your view connects those things?

    And if this is the case, why does the Catholic church discriminate against women and homosexuals?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Where did Joe say it is wrong to treat human beings unequally?

      It is wrong to treat human beings unjustly, not unequally. The priesthood and marriage are two quite different realities, but if they have an actual nature, depending on what that nature is, there could be nothing unjust in only ordaining men to the priesthood and judging that it is impossible for two men to marry.

      • Mike

        Justice = "that which you are due"

        Equality = either sameness or ignoring differences for Justifiable reasons

      • A failure to provide services in a substantively equal way is unjust. If it were impossible for two men to marry you would be correct. Calling homosexual acts gravely depraved, intrinsically disordered, contrary to natural law is discriminatory. Our laws simply give religion a pass on this.

        The prohibition on women and men having the same opportunities in the organization is not defensible by any bona fine requirement of the organization. It is a violation of fundamental human rights.

        The only reason your and other church is not called to task on this under the law is that the laws simply excuse the church from anti-discrimination laws as the do for many taxation obligations or other organizations.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          What "service" are you referring to? The Catholic Church does not marry anyone. The man and woman who are able to give proper consent marry each other by the promises they make.

          It can only be possible for two men to marry if you change the fundamental definition of marriage to something completely novel, but even if you change the definition, you cannot change its nature. So you can call it marriage but it is not.

          To know if any behavior is disordered you have to know what ordered is. Again, if you fundamentally redefine the purpose of sex, you can call all kinds of sexual behavior ordered, but since human sexuality remains what it is, you can call it ordered but it is not. It is disordered.

          As far as not ordaining women to Holy Orders, the Church *does* have reasons intrinsic to the priesthood. But this matter is not anyone's business but Catholics. No government has any authority or even legitimate interest in the matter.

          • Rationalize it however you want, define things however you want. But there is no doubt in human rights jurisprudence that if any other service provider or employer behaved the way the Catholic Church does it would be found to violate human rights legislation. If it was not bound by dogma it could just change and accept what most people in my community accept that there is nothing "depraved" or "disordered" about gay sex and that there are no reasons to deprive women of opportunities.

          • Mike

            but sexual expression/orientation is NOT a recognized status in the US or in Europe or at the UN; it is not a basic human right.

            btw how can 2 men become one body without doing something disordered anatomically? it's impossible; the men or 2 women can never consummate their relationship.

          • I think you are wrong about Europe. Sexual orientation is absolutely a protected human rights ground in my country.

          • Mike

            No the european high court of human rights does not list sexual expression as a human right nor orientation; in the us it does NOT require heightened scrutiny as does race or sex; at the UN it is not a basic human right and never will be bc if it is then polygamy and polyamory would be protected as well as S&M etc. remember thought that "straight" sex is also not protected but that's bc it doesn't need any bc it is just basic biology; btw ppl who are "gay" are NOT protected specially by any piece of legisltion even in the UK; there are employment laws which say you can't not take their orientation into account ie discriminate but NOT as a matter of basic human right.

          • You are wrong about this. It is not explicitly stated but that does not matter. It has been included by the case law and there are many decisions of the Court finding various member countries to have violated the Convention by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

          • Mike

            I am sorry but i don't think you're right; the high court may have found that like i said employment law or health care law was violated but not the foundational docs of any major legal system; even in the uk marriage was redefined by parliament not the courts and especially at the eu high court redefining marriage was 2x rejected by a very liberal court.

          • Tyler

            If your girlfriend gives you a blowjob is that going against some divine order? If not then what's the difference for two gay men? As for 'consummating the relationship' that's a petty appeal to judgement. Let's judge them because they're different. 'They don't do it like us so it's not okay'. Let's try and rise above that garbage.

          • Michael Murray

            If your girlfriend gives you a blowjob is that going against some divine order?

            If you are Catholic the only allowed sex is between a couple married in a Catholic ceremony and of a nature which might potentially lead to conception. So unless you have a better imagination than me that amounts to intercourse. No oral sex, no masturbation and no anal sex.

          • Tyler Janzen

            I have met a lot of Catholics but none of them (before you) ever decried the evil of blowjobs! I wish I could say the same about homosexuality. How many Catholics do you honestly believe adhere to this? I assure you it is incredibly few if any at least where I come from. We continue to vilify that which we find unpleasant and make excuses to justify that which we enjoy, with little justification for either discourse. I'm curious why our increasing understanding of the hormones relating to positive mood and bonding benefits between individuals (and so much more) which are the products of sex (and an active element in a healthy adult physiology) is not opening the door to discussions about sex having more of a purpose than mere procreation. Whether by divine testament or evolution or both, clearly the evidence is there if you choose to consider it.

          • Michael Murray

            It's definitely the Catholic position. Here is proof by random google search:

            Examples of intrinsically disordered sexual acts include: masturbation, homosexual acts, any sexual acts with more than two participants, oral sex, anal sex, manual sex, sexual acts involving objects or devices, etc.

            http://catholicplanet.com/CCSE/marriage-sins.htm

          • Tyler Janzen

            Oh I believe you completely, but thanks for the reference. I just meant to point out the irony that people are so attached to the dogma which hurts others but easily dismiss that which in doing so brings themselves pleasure. I just wish they had other priorities is all.

          • Mike

            Ppl are not orifices and appendages they are whole integral ppl males and females; consummation is not possible btw ppl of same sex this is not a judgement it is science.

          • Tyler Janzen

            I already made this argument elsewhere on here but it was apparently directed towards the wrong person. I acknowledge that there are ways in which people have chosen to define
            and acknowledge a legitimate marriage (and consummation) which discriminate against those
            whose marriage would be considered unconventional. Definitions and Marriage acts
            can be changed. You wouldn't (I hope) argue that we should have kept
            laws that made African Americans second class just because people had
            defined things previously in a way which was antithetical to equality.
            When we see that the way we do things is wrong, we acknowledge and
            change them, unless we have some bias against change. Then we make
            irrational appeals to the authority of definitions. Do you think it
            would be fair in a world where Christians were the minority for Gay
            people to retain a definition which did not allow for Christian
            marriages to be considered legitimate under the law? There is no reason
            any two people expressing a desire to commit themselves as life partners
            should not be able to do so legally.

          • Mike

            Should the relationship of 2 elderly brothers who live together and take care of each other and love each be recognized as a marriage too?

          • Tyler Janzen

            This might be a worthy point except that the number of brothers looking to get married was pretty well an unwavering zero last time I checked, and it still does not justify denying equal rights to people who are different. Besides, if two elderly brothers want to get married for some strange reason, if it benefits them I don't see how that hurts me or society. It's just a little odd. If you want to have an honest discussion than you can go back and actually address the good points I made (and questions asked) which you promptly ignored and moved forward from. Otherwise I will refrain from wasting my time further. Lets be respectful and not ignore that which is not easy to respond to yes? Otherwise how can we ever get anywhere?

          • Mike

            Why's it "odd" for 2 brothers who love each other to marry each other? I can't see why that might be except for latent prejudice/stereotyping that 2 ppl who love each other "just can't" be related.

            On your view of marriage i can't see a logical reason for denying marriage to relatives and good friends and more than 2 ppl - now bf you get me wrong i DON'T think that extending marriage to 2 old spinsters is weird at all/immoral IF your defn prevails ie marriage is public recognition of an emotional bond.

            Don't forget either than by far most gay groups DID NOT want marriage in the 70s and 80s and early 90s - they thought that it was an archaic evil institution that put arbitrary limits on sexual freedom and imposed a capitalistic morality on what should be a free and loving arrangement.

            Anyway we disagree that's a good thing and we can discuss our differences w/o name calling which is rare these days - we should be proud of that.

            Take care.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Rationalization and definition go both ways. Human rights and human rights legislation are not the same thing. There is a new dogma that says if you don't support SSM you are a bigot and a hater who does not even need to be listened to. I guess I'd call that irrationalization.

          • Tyler

            You know who defines a marriage? The people getting married. Because it's their damn marriage and it has nothing to do with you. Get married according to your own definition. As I said, no one has a right to take that away from you. Why do you think you have a right to take it from them?

          • Michael Murray

            While that is true if you want a legal marriage then it's usually defined by whatever version of a Marriage Act your country has.

          • Tyler Janzen

            Michael Murray, I acknowledge that there are ways in which people have chosen to define and acknowledge a legitimate marriage which discriminate against those who would be considered unconventional. Definitions and Marriage acts can be changed. You wouldn't (I hope) argue that we should have kept laws that made African Americans second class just because people had defined things previously in a way which was antithetical to equality. When we see that the way we do things is wrong, we acknowledge and change them, unless we have some bias against change. Then we make irrational appeals to the authority of definitions. Do you think it would be fair in a world where Christians were the minority for Gay people to retain a definition which did not allow for Christian marriages to be considered legitimate under the law? There is no reason any two people expressing a desire to commit themselves as life partners should not be able to do so legally.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm a supporter of marriage equality and believe homosexuals should be allowed to marry. I was just trying to make the point that what homosexuals want is the right to marriage under the laws of the land not just the right to define their own marriages.

          • Tyler Janzen

            Fair enough Michael. Thanks for clarifying. I took your statement of fact as implying a different position than you were apparently presenting. But you are very right. Hopefully these laws are something that will be changed where they already haven't.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You claim that two people who want to get married have the sole and unalienable right to define what marriage is.

            For this claim to not be arbitrary you have to provide a rational justification for it.

            Can you?

          • Tyler Janzen

            Clearly they do not have that right but to an extent they certainly should. The point is beyond some very basic elements however people choose to define their relationship should be irrelevant to a governing body. If two consenting adults wish to commit themselves as life partners then they should be able to obtain the same rights and privileges as any other married individuals. However the individuals want to define their relationship beyond that is up to them. Perhaps a broadening of what is considered 'consummation' would be necessary. As far as I am concerned if you want to define marriage in a certain way and claim that other peoples idea of marriage is not legitimate than you are the one that should be providing rational justification for your assertions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How any two parties define their relationship when it comes to rights, responsibilities, and property is very much of interest to a governing body otherwise contracts have no force.

            Both view of marriage should be able to justify themselves rationally. Natural marriage as a life-long exclusive union of a man and woman for their mutual support and the procreation and education of children can.

            Check out the article "What is Marriage?" by Robert George, et. al. for a thorough treatment.

          • Tyler Janzen

            You define marriage in regards to what you see as important, while failing to acknowledge that other peoples' values are not inherently less valuable for simply being different than yours. You neglected to elucidate me as to how giving same-sex couples the rights to share health benefits and other legal rights is going to be detrimental to society? It helps people take care of those they love! Oh the humanity. What more justification do you need? And who does this harm? And who says a gay couple can't adopt a child and help nurture that young person into a healthy, happy, confident person that they never would have been without those strong loving influences? You avoid the difficult questions and refer me to a book/essay which I would read except that I will not pay for a book that would support the alienation and discrimination of good people. If you can link me to a free copy I will give it my full consideration. In the meantime perhaps you can go back and actually attempt to give me some real answers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Free article that presents the arguments for traditional marriage and against revisionist marriage in secular terms from a totally non-religious perspective:

            http://www.harvard-jlpp.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/GeorgeFinal.pdf

            But you are showing your prejudice when you assume their book-length treatment supports alienation and discrimination. I thought you thought that prejudice is BAD?

          • Tyler Janzen

            Prejudice is an innate part of human nature. Not really good or bad, just good to be aware of so you can try and compensate by putting effort into considering things that are contrary to your inclinations. Thanks for the link.

          • Michael Murray

            Free article that presents the arguments for traditional marriage and against revisionist marriage in secular terms from a totally non-religious perspective:

            Is that the traditional marriage where the husband takes all the wife's property and the wife has to have sex whenever it is demanded ? Or another tradition ?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Nope.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            SSM is not necessary to get or share health benefits. Plenty of children raised by SS parents think it is harmful.

            Here is one testimony. There is lots more if you care to look at it. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2014/09/13692/

          • Tyler Janzen

            It sounds like this man might have made some incredibly bad parenting choices, if what his wife says is true. I nevertheless cant help thinking that if he was not struggling to be someone he was clearly not happy being, than he probably wouldn't have married this poor woman and lived a lie and ultimately hurt his wife and children, because they would be somebody else's wife and children ,preferably someone who is not gay. That way they could have an actual honest, mutually loving, respecting and appreciative relationship. Building relationships on top of lies is a recipe for disaster. One scenario does not really tell us anything though does it? There are a billion straight parents who have totally messed up their kids.
            http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J082v32n02_02#.VL13vC5ZqSo

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Parents who do not live the natural dimensions of marriage do mess up their kids. Rather than that justifying SSM, that should call for parents to live the demands of their marriage better.

            Here are four more testimonies: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/quartet-of-truth-adult-children-of-gay-parents-testify-against-same-sex-mar

          • Tyler Janzen

            You missed the point. I brought up the fact that so many straight parents mess up their kids because there are so many millions of people in the world we would clearly have no problem finding many examples to help us decry the evil of ANY child rearing situation. These examples are pointless and do not necessarily show that same sex unions are inherently destructive, just as the many examples I could give of dysfunctional Catholic families who do live under the 'natural dimensions of marriage' and still screw up their children would not really prove that the opposite is true. You are just justifying your pre-held beliefs, repeating what you have been taught and latching onto whatever seems to confirm it and it proves nothing. We need to depend on science instead of merely seeking out stories that support our pre-existing perspective. This is a method for embracing confirmation bias, we need to enlist methods for overcoming it if we are to see the truth.

            The justification for same sex marriage is that you continue to fail to present any decent arguments for why it would be inherently destructive to society and children and therefore you have no basis for discriminating against people, especially in light of the fact that there is ample evidence that treating homosexuality in such a way is very destructive to these individuals. It worries me how easily Christians and Catholics can dismiss the fact that your belief system leads people to treat others in a way that makes them more likely to feel alienated and depressed and even to kill themselves. Does this not engage any red lights in your brain? You know, something about Jesus and actually caring about people!? Being a good person? I don't know you're the christian. Are you supposed to give a fuck about stuff like that?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here is a link to ten reasons supported by social science to oppose SSM.

            http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=if04g01

            And keep your profanity to yourself.

          • Michael Murray

            And keep your profanity to yourself.

            Maybe Tyler needs to get married and he'll stop that cussin.

            10. Women and marriage domesticate men.

          • David Nickol

            Linking to an article on the Family Research Council site when the discussion is about same-sex marriage is engaging in serious dialogue just about as much (or I should say as little) as linking to the site of the National Rifle Association when the discussion is about guns or linking to NARAL or the National Right to Life Committee when the discussion is about abortion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is only propaganda if it is not true. I respect the FRC, especially Pat Fagan (http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=by08b09). FRC has been labelled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which resulted in a wacko trying to murder everybody there.

            Why would you think you would not find good pro-gun info with the NRA? That's what they are dedicated to!

          • David Nickol

            Why would you think you would not find good pro-gun info with the NRA? That's what they are dedicated to!

            You're not serious, are you?

            It is only propaganda if it is not true.

            I don't think that's the case. What characterizes propaganda in my opinion is its one-sidedness. It may be entirely true, partly true, or completely false. It is not meant to inform but rather to persuade or, at its worst, to manipulate.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you think there are entirely neutral, disinterested "fact" collectors out there?

            Recall that the original and uncorrupt meaning of propaganda is "message to be spread." The message may be entirely true, partly true, or completely false.

          • David Nickol

            Do you think there are entirely neutral, disinterested "fact" collectors out there?

            While complete objectivity may be very difficult or impossible to achieve, that doesn't mean that organizations that at least attempt objectivity aren't frequently more reliable sources of information than advocacy groups whose raison d'être is to make the most persuasive case for their side and against the opposite side.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You assume that the FRC don't care about the truth? What organization can you point to that attempts objectivity when it comes to marriage and the family?

          • Michael Murray

            This one is interesting

            9. Marriages thrive when spouses specialize in gender-typical roles.

            Does that mean if I went back to the Church I could stop doing all the cooking and washing up ? Why didn't someone tell me that before instead of all the Pascal's wager stuff ?

          • Tyler Janzen

            I find it curious that you don't stop to ask questions when someone suggests that your actions seriously harm people but you will take time to express your offense at profane language. Is this indicative of the difference between secular and religious morality? When you tell me that what I see as positive is actually bad for society and/or people I ask for evidence, and I will seriously consider it, because I want to help move society towards a place of greater all around health, happiness, and equality (and because I am as fallible as any man). Although aside from giving me long winded links to peruse you have offered little in this regard. When I suggest the same to you it is invariably dismissed or ignored. It is not requested of me to explain or produce evidence for this assertion, which leads me to think you don't want to consider that you could be mistaken, and that you don't want to help move society towards a place of greater all around health, happiness, and equality. My profanity was not simply representative of my low class upbringing, it served a literary purpose. To metaphorically shake you by your shoulders and say "look! This is something important that I would really like you to consider! And it may even be that your belief system would necessitate that you care enough to consider what I am saying honestly." That being said I will consider the arguments put forth in this article, despite the very valid point of David Nickol below, that it is clearly biased propaganda. First off, this one blew me away...
            "The danger with this mentality is that it fosters an anti-natalist mindset that fuels population decline, which in turn puts tremendous social, political, and economic strains on the larger society."

            Do we live on the same planet? We are about to witness an insane population boom like never before. We are likely going to have trouble feeding everyone without destroying the environment, add the uncertainty of our wildly changing and destabilizing climate and you have a situation where it is ridiculous to argue that we are not going to have enough people. We are going to struggle to feed the people we have. Even if these points are legitiimate they could easily be rectified/compensated for by allowing educated young foreigners to immigrate. Unless you have a problem with immigrants.

            10. Women and marriage domesticate men.
            This is hardly justification for denying people who are different equality under the law. This fact is irrelevant to someone who has no interest in or would take no true pleasure or satisfaction from a heterosexual relationship. How well did being domesticated work for the married gay man in your anecdotal article?

            And #6
            "One of the biggest threats that same-sex "marriage" poses to marriage is that it would probably undercut the norm of sexual fidelity in marriage." The justification of this is another study which showed a greater disinclination towards fidelity among gay men then among straight or lesbian couples.

            Lets pause for a second and come back to this. Maybe just consider the children in your own life, your own or your families' or children of friends you care about. What influence are you going to have on the path that their life takes? Specifically if one of them turns out to be gay or have some sort of non-conventional sexual orientation. According to one survey conducted with a few hundred young adults... "Higher rates of family rejection were significantly associated with poorer health outcomes. On the basis of odds ratios, lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults who reported higher levels of family rejection during adolescence were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection."

            (http://m.pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/123/1/346.short)

            (and according to another study...) As far as the greater social environment those kids or young adults will experience...

            "Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were significantly more likely to attempt suicide in the previous 12 months, compared with heterosexuals (21.5% vs 4.2%). Among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth, the risk of attempting suicide was 20% greater in unsupportive environments compared to supportive environments. A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts, controlling for sociodemographic variables and multiple risk factors for suicide attempts..."

            Another similar study, in addition to confirming the above found that...

            "A positive school climate and a lack of homophobic victimization moderated the differences among sexual orientation status and outcomes. Results indicate that schools have the ability to lessen negative outcomes for LGB and sexually questioning students through creating
            positive climates and reducing homophobic teasing."

            And we have this to consider...
            "A new study finds that lesbians, gay men and bisexuals (LGB) who sought mental health treatment from health care providers were no less likely to attempt suicide than LGB people who did not seek any treatment at
            all, but seeking help from religious or spiritual sources was associated with higher odds of a suicide attempt."

            Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2014/08/study-lgbt-people-who-go-to-religious-counseling-more-likely-to-commit-suicide/#ixzz3Q5AfnXK4

            So perhaps we should consider that if there is evidence of greater infidelity or dysfunction as you might see it (and your propaganda claims) that your very treatment of homosexuals and all things related is at least partly to blame for this. Also that your own children or the children you care about could be driven farther from what I think you would perceive as living in line with what God intends (and what I would just consider living a healthy happy life in harmony with the people and world around you) as a result of the environment you foster and support. The man in the anecdote you shared earlier had clearly been trying to live the life that he thought God and society wanted him to lead, but his own dissatisfaction and unhappiness inevitably lead him to abandon this pursuit. In rejecting the repressive elements of the faith which he was not able to live with, he also abandoned the wisdom and the good elements. Being in a time or state of turmoil and great change, a person does not have time or cognition sufficient to rationalize their actions and develop an entire new morality to replace the old one. The result is the situation described which was undoubtedly not positive for the children involved. I have had terrifying conversations with people who assert that without God there is no reason not to rape or kill or do whatever you want, so long as the end result is to your own benefit. So what, I have to wonder, would become of the morality of these men if they came to believe God a fiction? They would surely provide great examples of the immoral depravity of a Godless man. This is a stark contrast from children who grow up with a morality which is not predicated on God or religion, who generally learn and experience and see that (regardless of whether or not something exists which could be considered God) it is a positive experience to empathize and to care about and have reciprocal social bonds with others. I think I already spoke of the positive feedback mechanism involved in this. As long as we continue to treat homosexuality as some sort of illness or disorder, as long as we keep pushing people into pretending they are someone they are not to make some unknowable deity happy we will continue to see broken families and lost homosexuals trying to find themselves and probably making mistakes along the way, hurting themselves and others. Just like every human.

            Going back to your "social science arguments against same-sex marriage" and the infidelity and unhealthiness of gay relationships, perhaps we should consider evaluating our own effect on the problem and how we can influence people positively. This could prove far more productive than simply identifying problems people may have and using them as justification for discrimination. Wouldn't it be funny if the true path to healthier families and bringing people closer to God was simply following Jesus' example and treating people with kindness and acceptance even when you don't necessarily agree with their actions? I believe these studies I shared illustrate the truth of this idea pretty well. I don't expect you to change your mind completely, but at least consider the influence you might be having on the self esteem and self confidence of young people you care about, and where that may lead them in their lives. I'll leave you with one last story to consider.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/12/30/transgender-teen-killed-in-traffic-after-writing-suicide-letter-describing-her-christian-parents-opposition/

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Underneath all this verbiage what are your actual claims?

            1. Christianity is stupid but Christians who don't approve of homosexual sex and SSM are unChristian.

            2. People who don't approve of homosexual acts cause massive psychological problems for people who have SS attraction, including suicide.

            Is that about it?

          • Tyler Janzen

            Well that's certainly part of it. Stupid is not the word I would use. Many very intelligent people were and are Christians, it is clearly a reasonable thing to believe in for some people and under certain circumstances. I just don't think it's correct. What is Christian, and unChristian? I imagine there are as many answers as there are Christians, and no way to discern who is right. I am just trying to suggest that you don't have to alienate people for their differences to consider yourself a good Christian.

            Anyways I am curious. Do you think this is all nonsense? Do you not care? Or do you just think it doesn't matter?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You wrote:

            > And you don't have to approve of anyone. Just speak about people respectfully and respect their rights to equality and to not have the same beliefs as you.

            I can reconcile the following statements but I don't think you think they can be:

            > Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”

            > [Persons with same sex attraction] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.

          • Tyler Janzen

            Well I'm glad you feel that way. The only problem I see is that telling someone they are intrinsically disordered is kind of antithetical to everything else you just described (especially in the case of a child). Why do you place so much value on tradition? Have you explored the history of the people who passed these traditions on? They were violent and power hungry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albigensian_Crusade

            To treat anyone's claim to divine knowledge or revelation as anything but dubious is surely folly.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic Church does not call persons with SSA intrinsically disordered. It calls homosexual acts intrinsically disordered.

            Dishonor to parents, murder, adultery, lying, stealing--these are intrinsically disordered too.

            I think if you think about the meaning of the words "intrinsic" and "ordered" you will agree that you think some human acts are intrinsically disordered.

          • Great Silence

            Would you agree that other than the Bible as authority we have no basis for not allowing gay marriage and women priests? If you wish to add the church fathers, where did they get that information from? Same goes for the Popes. If we want to use Jesus as the authority it comes back to the Bible, agreed?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think I would agree.

            The revealed authority is Sacred Tradition as interpreted by the Magisterium. The Bible is the written portion of Tradition.

            The natural authority is human nature itself. The reason secular law should not recognize SSM is that it does not have a basis in human nature--in fact, it contradicts what human nature reveals about marriage and would most likely to have negative effects--just as divorce has negative effects on society.

            As for women priests, the basis for not allowing them is the Magisterium's interpretation of Sacred Tradition.

            I think one place the two issues overlap is that the Magisterium might say it is not a question of the Church allowing or disallowing SSM or women priests but that neither one could actually exist in reality.

          • Great Silence

            I know the canon law position on the two topics, I've worked with both scenarios. I've just found it difficult to distinguish that clearly between the Bible as authority and the Magisterium. The one seems to feed into the other. What I'm trying to get at in a terribly long-winded way is that I have difficulty with the "Sorry, we can't change the rules" approach. Technically it is possible. The true nature argument is also our say-so. but that's a big topic..

      • Tyler

        Its not only unjust it's sexist. Women clearly do not get the same opportunity in the church. Which is sad coming from an institution which so many people revere and believe represents God. How must that influence their perception (and treatment) of women? I see a contradiction(s) with this supposed inherent equality. As usual the church has powerful sway to enact change but other priorities prevail. And as for the nature of things and gay rights, I saw quite an astute meme today about how the Catholic church decries homosexuality as unnatural despite being observed in 1500 different animal species. The one thing you don't observe is celibacy. So what's really unnatural?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Sorry, but your comment is all over the place. I don't think you have a clue about the Catholic Church and are judging it by your own arbitrary standards.

          Let me ask you two questions. (1) What is the reason the Catholic Church gives for not admitting women to Holy Orders? (2) Why does the Church claim that homosexual acts are disordered?

          • Tyler Janzen

            If a company chose to only hire African Americans for menial jobs such as janitorial work or other labor positions, and explicitly stated this as company policy, they would get in a lot of trouble. This is discrimination and it is illegal for a good reason. Nobody is going to consider that they might have a good reason because there is no justification for this kind of oppressive policy. Your closeness to the church obviously leads you to see this as a necessary product of something else but I assure you it is just as reprehensible as the above example. I have always taken the major religions' historical (and often present) tendency to be complicit or at least complacent in the propagation of misogyny as a clear indication that what they are spreading must not come from God. Or at least not from any God I would have interest in worshiping. The individual reasons each church might give to justify their destructive tendencies just seem kind of irrelevant.

            As for homosexual acts, I have had this explained to me a couple times I am sure. Something about things being designed with a certain God given purpose. It's also irrelevant in view of the lives that have been lost to the pseudo-love hatefulness which Catholics spew destructively into the minds of their children. Seeds of poison which blossom with puberty and lead the ones unlucky enough to be homosexual to struggle with feelings of worthlessness and sometimes even to kill themselves. I have seen more than one person struggle to cram themselves into the mold which they perceive society to expect them to fit in. Despite their great efforts however, and after many struggles they all come to except who they are really meant to be. And when you see this massive cultural force which people you care about had to struggle against for years and which kept them from being completely happy, healthy, honest people. When you see all that and you also see groups fighting against Gay Straight Alliances in schools which have been proven to decrease feelings of depression, alienation, and suicide among gay students it's pretty hard to believe that there could be any justification for something that hurts people so much. So much that sometimes they kill themselves. If you care to present to me your justification I will give it my honest consideration. I would hope in return you might give my words the same.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You have already judged everything I could say to be "obviously" false and harmful. How could I possibly expect you to listen considerately?

            How do I know you have even thought these matters through on your own and are not simply repeating what is "obvious" to everyone around you?

            For example, what is the rational connection between only hiring black people as janitors and being opposed to SSM?

            One of the arguments the SSM advocates like to use is an analogy between some former laws against whites and blacks marrying and laws which recognize marriage as only between men and women. Do you know that no one ever argued that it was impossible for blacks and whites to marry? Rather these laws were aimed at keeping real marriages between races from happening for racist reasons. On the other hand, one argument against SSM is that it is, in fact, impossible for two men or two women to marry because the cannot procreate. Did you know that in California most black voters rejected that SSM was part of a civil rights movement?

          • Tyler Janzen

            Can you blame me for learning from my experiences, and considering that that which has caused so much harm and difficulty for so many people must be a bad thing? This is the logical human position, to judge what we are told against our experience. I have seen a lot of destructiveness and so I would need to see a strong element of something positive which would balance all that out. This is only rational, and I am nevertheless open to new information. I equated hiring black people for only certain jobs to the church only giving women positions with no actual power, that was the subject of my first paragraph. You draw a false connection so I wont defend it. As for following those around me, well, I am an atheist in a sea of Christians Catholics, Muslims and Agnostics who lean towards the God or something is real side of the spectrum. If I followed those around me I wouldn't be arguing with you.

          • Johnny

            On the contrary, his comment pretty clearly shows that he knows and understands the despicable nature of your church quite well.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You too make a claim with no justification.

      • Tyler

        And also, what part of not letting other people have an equal right to live their lives and seek their own happiness (gay marriage) is NOT unjust?! That's seriously twisted my friend. If there were more gay people and less Catholics, should they have the right to keep you from getting married?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It seems like you think that marriage laws are merely exercises of people with power lording it over people without power.

          Marriage laws which civil society enacts must have a rational basis, otherwise they are arbitrary. Ever since divorce laws have been liberalized the rational basis for marriage has been undermined such that today many people see marriage as nothing more than a contract based on romantic love that can be broken for any reason. It is seen as a benefit for the two "partners" alone. I can understand why two men or two women think they have just as much right to this kind of arrangement as a man and a woman. What the new definition leaves out is what is good for children and society. "Companionate marriage"--of which SSM is one form--is another "try it you'll like it" promise to society.

          As far as the Catholic Church goes, she does not marry anyone. She just wants to make sure when one or both of the persons are Catholics that the two persons marrying each other are able to marry, enter this covenant freely, and know what they are promising. However, due to the Church's understanding of the nature of marriage, she judges that it is impossible for two men or two women to marry.

          • Tyler Janzen

            Alright. So how exactly is two men who are committed life partners being able to share their health benefits like a straight Catholic couple 'bad' for society, as opposed to just offensive to religious bigots? Also what evidence do we have that two gay men would be inherently detrimental as parents? Most gay individuals are the product of straight households, and I don't imagine gay parents would have any desire to force their children towards a sexuality they are not inclined towards, given their own struggles. You have no basis for what you are implying here.

          • Tyler Janzen

            Also I would add that not considering a marriage as a proper Catholic union is one thing which I would not have so much of a problem with. Fighting against different people's equality under the law is a complete different thing and one I find to be sadly deplorable.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Until you can get past the prejudice that those who disagree with you have reasons that are not the product of being offensive religious bigots, those reasons will never penetrate your consciousness.

    • Mike

      The RC does not discriminate against homosexuals; it loves them.

      • Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

        • Mike

          I agree but it doesn't unjustly discriminate against them either

          • Yes it does. It calls gay sex intrinsically disordered and depraved. That is a discriminatory in the human rights context meaning it makes a negative distinction based on sexual orientation that is not justifiable.

          • Mike

            I think you're confused no major jurisdication legally declares sexual expression a basic human right; not europe not the us not the UN.

          • From the Ontario Human Rights Code:

            "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services,
            goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry,
            place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual
            orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status,
            family status or disability. "

            From the Canadian Human Rights Act:

            "3. (1) For
            all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are
            race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual
            orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction
            for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of
            which a record suspension has been ordered."

            See Vriend v Alberta, in which the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged that sexual orientation is an analogous ground under section 15 of the Charter... 20 years ago.

            Like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms the European Convention on Human Rights has been interpreted to protect sexual orientation as under Article 8, for at least 20 years, see Modinos v. Cyprus in this regard.

          • Mike

            These and other human rights codes are subject and therefore not primary to things like the constitution or charters of rights; again these rulings say basically that for things like housing sexual expression is protected but NEVER as a basic human right it is not listed in the US, Canada or anywhere in europe or at the UN.

          • Chad Eberhart

            Mike, just for clarity's sake are you making the distinction between human rights and civil rights?

          • Mike

            there is a distinction to be made my only point is that EVEN in the west's most liberal jurisdictions sexual expression/orientation is NOT a formative human right not in the US as is race/sex not in europe not in the uk not anywhere i can think of where that is a specific right enshrined in any doc like the un charter on human rights.

          • Jim Dailey

            Can you expand on "BTW in the church 2 gay people CAN get married like anybody else"? Pretty sure you left something out there.

          • Mike

            no i don't think so; 2 gay ppl can marry in the catholic church and probably do every day...oh you mean that at least 1 of them has to be a male and 1 a female? yes that's obv but what does that have to do with their sexual orientation?

          • Jim Dailey

            Hah hah! I guess I was the straight man there, eh?

          • Mike

            Ahh...Yes.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Along these lines, I just ran across this quote from Anthony Esolen:

    I know there are atheists who believe we can build a morality up from odds and ends of old sentiments, political expedience, self-interest, and more or less popularly acknowledged "goods." In vain. Those things alone are no stronger than straw. What obliges me to accept another man's calculation of utility? You may say that a taste for brawling in the streets is obviously evil, because it upsets the good order that should prevail in suburbs flush with material comforts. But upsetting that order is precisely what I intend! What you call good order, I call dreariness. And I have Mikhail Bakunin and his fellow anarchists at my back. Nor am I impressed by your material comforts. Why should men be soft and pampered? What obliges me, in your moral system? Bare rationality? But I find it unreasonable to commit myself to so insipid and mechanical a life. The threat of force? Obey, or find yourself behind bars? Then your system amounts to no more than the will of numbers. A villain may resist the will of numbers. So may a hero.

    http://catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/social-justice/man-in-the-image-of-god.html

    • An atheist need not be a materialist. The conclusion that racism is evil is not drawn from contemplating the nature of God, but from contemplating the nature of man of which an atheist is capable, if not a materialist. Ethics is the proximate norm for human behavior. The nature of God is the ultimate norm of all things.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        What I can't understand is why should an atheist care what human nature indicates is best for human beings in general if it does not suit him in particular.

        • Mike

          Exactly; it is anything but obvious that all men really are somehow magically endowed with rights from some supernatural metaphysical "being" after all some are clearly stronger than others and smarter and more capable -per Dawkins wouldn't that almost indicate that therefore the smart ones ought to rule the others and reserve menial jobs only for them? Atheism can't possibly account for something as weird as some intrinsic value that each person possesses no matter who they are even if they have no money, no legs, can't talk and are barely able to write - per atheism they simply must be less intrinsically valuable bc all their evidence points clearly in that direction.

          • Dagnabbit_42

            Well, one big problem with the smart ones ruling over the less-smart is the fact that smartness so rarely equates to wisdom or even the ability to correctly apply knowledge to the creation of policy. "Knowledge puffs up"...and some of the smartest people in the world are so impressed by their own smartness that they can't bring themselves to admit that some problems -- like centrally planning an economy -- are far beyond the processing-power of the world's smartest people to manage.

            As a consequence, some of the most foolish ideas of the last two centuries have shown themselves to be so wrong that mostly only people with a PhD still believe in them, especially in academia. But they do, because academics, being very smart, are smart enough to deceive themselves, and to internally realize a fantasy system of ideals so fully that external reality is unable to impinge upon it.

            And smartness is often measured by knowing a lot, but sadly doesn't often distinguish well between a man who knows 1000 things and a man who "knows" 1250 things, 500 of which aren't true.

            Re: "magically endowed": You have to be careful with how you use that word "magic," you know. It's slippery. It's used so varyingly and vaguely that it's very difficult to avoid equivocation when trying to use it in an argument.

            Are we talking about the "magic" which is, in essence, a technology? You know: do/say ABC and XYZ will happen, given prerequisites PDQ. The kind, y'know, which figures so prominently in fantasy novels and movies, where the author has to devise the system quite carefully to avoid unbalancing the whole plot?

            Or are we talking about conversing with hypersomatic transdimensional intelligences and plying them with gifts or promises in exchange for assistance?

            Or are we talking about what Christians alternately call "providence" or "miracle" in which Elijah can stand atop Mount Carmel in a showdown with priests of Ba'al, and ask for fire from God, and get rewarded with some kind of convenient meteor impact which occurs because the meteor traversed many light-years over billions of years, its trajectory ultimately determined by the Big Bang and the laws of physics, both of which were crafted "just so" by the All-Foreseeing God whom Elijah would eventually get around to petitioning so that, among other outcomes, the desired meteor-strike would intersect with our planet at the right moment without the slightest need for unusual variations in the causation of events?

            Or are we talking about the ongoing existence and operation of the laws of physics, which in the Christian view is an ongoing and active outpouring of grace from God, which He could cease at any moment were His character any different, but which is reliable because His character is what it is?

            I'm not sure whether your use of "magical" in your post is intended to make any point. If it is, you may need to narrow down which "magic" you mean. Anyway, I've seen the word used a mite too cavalierly by others, so I thought I should insert a note of caution about it.

            Come to think of it, "rights" is another such term. Civil Rights? Natural Rights? Human Rights? Ye gods, it's tough to have a meaningful discussion without ponderously defining terms.

        • We are all tempted to act as if there were something good for us at the expense of our neighbor. We judge such an act sinful
          and such thinking false. Of course, if my hypothetical atheist thought correctly at the level of ethics, he should then think correctly when it came to ontology and the existence of God. However, I do believe we too often fail to distinguish between the ultimate reason for ethics, who is God, and the proximate reason for ethics, which is the nature of man. Ethics should be common ground between atheists and theists. Common ground is essential to furthering argument.

        • Doug Shaver

          Some of us have noticed what usually happens to people who care nothing about the interests of other people.

        • Tyler Janzen

          I could pose a similar question but replace your atheist with a Catholic. You merely have to confess, repent and you're good to go. You practically teach children that they're going to sin. It's as good as permission. Our medieval European ancestors all watched their neighbors be disemboweled as public entertainment. They clearly did not have our ability to empathize with the suffering of strangers which we have learned and developed over time. Like any other skill our wonderfully adaptive brains will develop an ability proportionate to how much we develop and use it. It is my personal experience that the more we come to feel unity with and empathy for all different people the more we feel that positive energy radiate back within ourselves. I think people often mistake this feeling for God.

          Anyways in response to your question I think that the answer does not come from convincing an individual atheist that he should act in accordance with what you view as human nature. Whether you are dealing with a Christian or an Atheist is ultimately irrelevant. We are all just people and we all need to grow up in an environment where we learn the value in human relationships and have plenty of opportunities to view and emulate people doing what is good and right simply because they know it is right. When we emulate those actions we discover the many social and personal benefits we often incur, and a positive feedback cycle hopefully begins, but I think the ability to empathize is critical. When you include everyone within the circle of people who matter then you no longer have enemies, this inclusive world is a happier, safer feeling existence, and preferable to selfish materialism. Anyways whatever the catalyst for greater empathy was, it spread very quickly once it had begun to root itself, that alone says something. Steven Pinker seems to think it was the invention of the printing press and its subsequent influence in motivating people to consider perspectives completely separate from their own (considering the influence of writers like Steinbeck on my own morality, greater awareness and understanding I am inclined to think he's right). Whatever factors may be at play, empathy, as far as I am concerned, is learned and developed. Which means that we can learn to do this (and teach children to do this) more efficiently and ubiquitously so that we have a population of individuals who are not brainwashed but nevertheless happy to act for the common good (or just for their own good feelings).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you realize that you are present a view of morality based on human nature but the only value you draw out of it is empathy?

            By the way, have you ever heard of the Good Samaritan?

          • Tyler Janzen

            Once you have a well developed ability to empathize, and feel compassion for the plight of others, the only barrier to true morality is ignorance. The more you can experience and understand, the broader and more full and complete your morality will be.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is something to what you are saying because if we treat others as we would like to be treated we will get a lot of the moral law right. The problem is that compassion must be tempered by truth. You want to show empathy to SS couples but what about compassion on the children who are by definition denied a father or mother?

          • Michael Murray

            How does opposing marriage equality stop same sex couples raising children? Surely you should be opposing same sex couples raising children if you think the evidence supports that?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I do but the two go hand in glove. In fact, my state government forced all Catholic social service agencies out of adoptions because they would not arrange SS couple adoptions.

          • Michael Murray

            OK. I just see them as separate issues. If being raised by a same sex couple damages children surely that will happen regardless of the couple being married. So the issue is the same sex couple raising children not their marriage.

          • David Nickol

            You want to show empathy to SS couples but what about compassion on the children who are by definition denied a father or mother?

            When you think about the number of children who live with a single parent (usually a mother) as a result of divorce, and especially about the number of out-of-wedlock births (a little over 40% in the United States), it makes any alleged deep concern about the number of children who will be raised without a mother or father because of same-sex marriage seem misguided at best, and justification for a homophobic stance a possibility.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ah, a homophobic stance hidden under alleged deep concern.

            Don't you know that SSM is just a branch of the same tree that has resulted in the devastation of the traditional family?

          • Tyler Janzen

            Because the same sex people could have lived a lie and forced themselves to have sex with someone they are not attracted to? Because that would have been a really healthy marriage that wouldn't lead to broken homes and dysfunctional families that never should have existed in the first place? Because every woman deserves the love of a man who isn't even attracted to her? That's surely the recipe for success right there. Like really, you can't just equate one thing to another without some sort of reasonable justification (beyond anecdotes). If you want to use your stories as justification for these 'facts' than you also must agree that every priest is inherently a child molester, after all we have far more evidence of this occurring. Logically we must assume all priests are going to be demented child rapists. Must be something inherent in priesthood. So why aren't we decrying the evils of priesthood? Probably because you are starting at what you want to believe and wrapping the evidence around it as opposed to just giving an honest assessment of the evidence which is there. The evidence which points to the fact that there are good and bad, cruel and compassionate people in all walks of life and that someone's religion or sexual orientation is not likely to have a significant effect on whether they are a good person (or parent) or not).

      • Vicq Ruiz

        An atheist need not be a materialist.

        Quite correct. The fact that I have not found any of man's religious constructs to provide satisfactory answers to the big questions does not therefore require me to don the straitjacket of absolute materialism.

  • Krakerjak

    Racism is a sad fact of life and we must all do our best to struggle against it using whatever tools are available, be they educational economic , political or by rule of law, and cooperation. It is of course not as simple as some august body such as the UN or human rights organizations declaring that all humans are equal.

    Psychologists have long known that many of our prejudices operate automatically, without us even being aware of them. Most people, even those who care deeply about equality, show some level of prejudice towards other groups.Despite this overwhelming evidence that our brains are wired for bias, our society continues to think about prejudice as premeditated behavior.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/evolution-of-prejudice/

    • Kevin Aldrich

      To be a rational animal means to be able to order emotions and passions according to the rule of reason. So, if you can see your bias is unjust, you can get into the habit of overcoming that defect.

      • Loreen Lee

        Some people require a little help from authority - be it church or state....... Also the Christian concept of repentance, meaning change is perhaps relevant here, because it recognizes how difficult it can be for people to see the 'error of their ways'.

      • Krakerjak

        Some people even though they can see the error of their ways in the light of societal judgment yet the "rule of reason" means little to them, and they require the outside "judgement" and control of the tribe to get them to tow the line.

      • Doug Shaver

        To be a rational animal means to be able to order emotions and passions according to the rule of reason.

        If that is true, then we are not rational animals. And I for one have never claimed that we are. That was Aristotle's idea, not mine. We are capable of reason, but our feelings will not submit to our reason just because wish they would.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That's not what I mean, Doug. We are rational animals not just because we have the faculty of reason but also because we can act contrary to our feelings, as most of us do every morning by getting out of bed.

          • George

            Can you act against your feelings, or is that a case of one feeling beating out another in that situation?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think we can answer this question by introspection. When I act against my feelings, what I really mean is, I don't do what I feel like doing and do what I don't feel like doing. What makes me choose something that feels distasteful is the judgment that it is the right thing to do.

          • Doug Shaver

            You are still conflating capability with character. That is certainly tempting when we're considering our positive capabilities, but most of us are indisposed to characterize ourselves in terms of the worst things we're capable of doing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you mean by confusing capability with character?

            I see character as the sum of our virtues and vices. Capability would have to do with our ability to perform individual virtuous or vicious acts.

          • Doug Shaver

            I mean you have argued that we are rational animals because on some occasions, when we want to do one thing but reason tells us to do something else, we follow the dictates of reason.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That certainly does not exhaust the idea "rational animal." We are primarily rational animal because we have animal bodies and animal passions and emotions on the one hand, and possess rationality and free will on the other.

          • Doug Shaver

            That certainly does not exhaust the idea "rational animal."

            It was all you said. In ordinary conversation, someone who says "X is Y because Z" is suggesting that Z is a sufficient condition for declaring X to be Y.

  • Loreen Lee

    I believe the American constitution 'owes' a lot to the British empirical philosophy, a movement which developed I understand as part of the development of 'statehood' in England, well before this became a possibility within the continental 'system(s)'. Among the ethics developed in these philosophies were the concepts of utilitarianism and consequentialism; perspectives towards which the virtual ethics of Aristotle, still one of the primary basis of Catholic ethics is very much opposed. For instance the saying "the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people" had duly been criticized for not 'living up' to a standard of universalism, even that 'preached' in Kant's categorical imperative. However, it may also be interpretated as 'aiming' for the universal, within the constraints of the 'practical'. Principle vs. practice may be a good way to describe this. The 'good' thing about these social ethics is perhaps that describe an ethics, (in contrast to a personal morality) which can be implemented within a secular government 'control': as in welfare benefits, health care, etc. etc. I say this to hopefully make a point that even human rights, as represented 'in law' may not conform to a 'universal' ethics.

    • Loreen Lee

      Another thought: Within this context should Natural Law be considered an ethics or a morality. Can marriage for instance be considered a 'human "right"'?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Natural law ethics is a system of morality based on reason's reading of human nature.

        Marriage *is* a human right.

        • Loreen Lee

          Not, according to Natural Law, for 'All'.

          • Mike

            Marriage as a civil contract can be distinguished from sacramental marriage in that you can create any kind of "marriage" law you want as we're seeing in the US where the definition is being forced to change mostly by the legal community which thinks that the existing definition unjustly excludes 2m or 2women.

          • Loreen Lee

            Gee you beat me to it. Was just going to get back to you with the distinction between marriage (a sacrament) and a civil union. The distinction between a 'right' and a 'rite'. Perhaps then the 'idea' of equality is indeed a civil concept. I would propose then that this runs counter or perhaps parallel to what, may I, describe as a hierarchy of obligations (duties) and 'rewards'. This, in keeping with the idea that we will all not necessarily be 'saved'.

            When it comes to racism, sexism, gender bias, oh there are so many possible grievances, we must remember that we are talking about 'external' conditions, as distinct from internal developments of such 'metaphysical' possibilities as goodness, and even rational acumen. Indeed, I don't even think the secular ideal is equality per se, but equality of opportunity or something. The divide between the empirical and the metaphysical in these cases, then, may not be so easy to draw as one would expect. (Just some thoughts).

          • Mike

            I agree except that a human right imho doesn't make sense without God in that secular rights are just utilitarian or what the powerful agree are rights; human rights are "enshrined" in law but come from our dignity as human beings from our rational souls as i've heard it said not from the us constitution or any other doc.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, somehow the concept of 'human right', speaks to me of secular 'law and order', in contrast to a divinely related 'state of being'. that is ascribed to the 'rational soul'. This said, because in my memory, I have the idea that the Catholic church does not always act in support of human rights issues. Please correct me if I'm wrong here. (Like abortion and marriage, obviously. Natural law again. I have trouble with these distinctions.)

          • Mike

            i am not sure what you mean bc i obv think the church is the foremost defender of human rights on earth and in the history of the world...i simply says publicly what everyone used to agree on "last week" that killing small babies in their moms wombs is wrong and that marriage btw 2 or 3 ppl of the same sex doesn't exist in reality...sorry if that's not where you were going with your comment but i couldn't really understand it.

          • Loreen Lee

            Here's the 'problem'. It seems to me that Natural Law seeks to define morality, well actually I definitely would describe it now as a social 'ethic' based on reason operative within an empirical context. (Thus Natural). In a certain sense then it could be said to have the same limitations as even a utilitarian ethic. Indeed, did not Natural law once support slavery, and thus was contributory to the issue under discussion, i.e. racial bias, even if only indirectly. Indeed, as individuals, we may be fortunate to learn to have better control of our reasoning powers through even the errors we make within our experience. I just think that when we come to Natural Law we are not directly talking about a rational 'soul', or the metaphysical basis that this implies.

          • Mike

            yes i agree natural law is not exactly christian metaphysics but it is based on it i think.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yeah! It's the 'I think' that has got me to start thinking over a few of my comments on this post. Oh well, if you don't get it out you're possibly not going to be able to correct it, or improve upon it.
            This post has at least raised the problematic for me of the great difficulty in defining just what constitutes, metaphysics, the transcendental, ontology. Not only are words used 'differently' by different groups,philosophies and cultural groups, but they also depend often on context. There is a possibility that I even related the concept of transcendental to the imagination, without any proper clarification, in some instance. But thinking it over this in itself could be a very controversial subject. Are ideas real? What is the difference is saying/thinking we are made in God image, from we make God in our image, that is within our understanding of such a high order concept/or/Being.

            I do understanding now that I was attempting to make a distinction between what is referred to colloquially as walking the talk. I 'subconsciously' I guess had that in mind when thinking of the life 'lived' by even an atheist (what could be compared in this post, perhaps as a now substituted bias similar to that found in racism) in contrast to any specific ideology (a kind of transcendental?). and that any dogma/ideology which forms the epistemological basis of any person, does not always conform to their 'ontology' or practice within life, - for good or for bad.

            Indeed, I have found in rereading my thoughts, that there is need to become more aware of exactly what the difference is between thinging and being, particularly within our use of language.. (Epistemology and ontology/metaphysics/the transcendent). I am beginning to realize what difficulties can be encountered in understanding and presenting these concepts.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. You can't marry your own child, for example.

      • Krakerjak

        The American Constitution,British empirical philosophy and Natural Law are all intertwined broadly speaking, and part and parcel of each other as I understand the recipe. and we are not especially beholding to British philosophers more than any other philosophers of antiquity....since it is turtles all the way down No? They are all standing upon each others shoulders.

        • Loreen Lee

          What of the law of Moses? Natural or 'divine given'? I'm still re-thinking/thinking natural law and its relation to either society alone, or man within a state of 'nature'. It is difficult to draw 'markers'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The ten commandments are arguable all natural law precepts that are also revealed for ease of access.

          • Loreen Lee

            I gave you a thumbs up because it set the 'natural' within the concept natural law as referring the the natural element of man/woman/kind rather than nature per se.

          • Krakerjak

            The Old Testament law of Moses is only relevant or "given" to Theists. To consider it as Divine one has to be a theist. No? In other words we can't count on "revelation"....we have to figure it out for ourselves. Theists can draw up their own rules and laws, and look where that has got us throughout the centuries and into the present.....especially regards Islam and Catholicism even in recent times....where educated Catholics should know better.

        • Loreen Lee

          What of the law of Moses? Natural or 'divine given'? I'm still re-thinking/thinking natural law and its relation to either society alone, or man within a state of 'nature'. It is difficult to draw 'markers'.

      • Krakerjak

        The American Constitution,British empirical philosophy and Natural Law are all intertwined broadly speaking, and part and parcel of each other as I understand the recipe. and we are not especially beholding to British philosophers more than any other philosophers of antiquity....since it is turtles all the way down No? They are all standing upon each others shoulders.

  • Mike O’Leary

    I plan to make a few responses to this article, but I want to start with the part that stands out the most to me. Nary a discussion about ethics between the religious and non-religious occurs without someone bringing up how atheists should or must see their fellow man based on their lack of a belief in a god. The person will say something akin to if you don't believe man was created by a higher being than you must resolve that man is "nothing more than a mere collection of material parts". From there it is said you must conclude that since we are little more than bags of meat that we have no reason to be kind to each other, or be compassionate, or have a system of ethics (depending on the specific topic at hand).

    It's a way to try and undercut an argument by a non-believer by decreeing out of hand that the person isn't even allowed to address moral issues or find flaw in the moral positions of others. It's a diversion tactic to jump to the ridiculous conclusion that atheists must toss aside their non-god-given emotions and strive to be ruthless, coniving, fleshy robots.

    Whether the emotions of love, compassion, brotherhood, and the like come to us through the Holy Spirit or through a series of evolutionary jumps that rewarded protection of the species is neither here nor there. To us these emotions are real and we live with them just like believers do. It's the reality that we exist in.

    Honestly it can be baffling to be told that I have no claim to human rights or even an expectation of kindness from anyone who can't fathom goodness without it being decreed by someone above them. The human experience is not limited to believers.

    • Jim Dailey

      "Whether the emotions of love, compassion, brotherhood, and the like come
      to us through the Holy Spirit or through a series of evolutionary jumps
      that rewarded protection of the species is neither here nor there. To
      us these emotions are real and we live with them just like believers do.
      It's the reality that we exist in."

      I think you are mistaken there. Those particular emotions are touted as centerpiece virtues only in certain religions (actually, only one religion comes to mind), over a very limited time period in human history.

      • Mike O’Leary

        If you believe the one religion that love, compassion, and brotherhood (along with others emotions of similar ilk) are centerpieces of is Catholicism (or Christianity in general) I would disagree in three ways. One, many other religions also advocate those concepts. Two, the Bible - a most vital component of Christianity - shows a higher being that often times fights against those concepts. Three, the Catholic Church and other Christian churches have had a mixed history in that regard when it comes to practicing those concepts.

        • Jim Dailey

          Actually yes I was thinking of Christianity. There are several other religions that have love, compassion and brotherhood as centerpiece virtues? Ok name 5. 2. The New Testament ( Chritianty) certainly does not fight against those virtues. Finally, as was noted in the article, while adherents to a religion may violate its precepts, most people recognize that it is the problem with the individual, not the religion.

          • Mike O’Leary

            Ok name 5.

            Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Mormonism, Baha'i.

            while adherents to a religion may violate its precepts, most people recognize that it is the problem with the individual, not the religion

            What about those times where the religion is at fault and the individual is right for violating those precepts?

          • Jim Dailey

            Mormonism is a Christian religion. Of the other four, well, I hate to wave this around like some nut at a football game, but John 3:16 is the sort of thing I am looking for. Any examples of this in the other religions?

            And sorry, I do not see any times where the precepts of Christianity are "at fault". Can you please give an example?

          • Mike O’Leary

            Sikhism: You can read 1400+ pages of their scripture here.

            "Those who serve the True Guru in this world are very rare. Those who keep the Lord enshrined in their hearts subdue egotism and possessiveness. I am a sacrifice to those who are in love with the Naam. Those who attain the Inexhaustible Name of the Infinite Lord remain happy throughout the four ages."

            Baha'i: You can read a fraction of their scriptures here.

            790. Have full assurance that love is the mystery of the appearance of God; that love is the divine aspect of God; that love is spiritual grace; that love is the light of the Kingdom; that love is as the breath of the Holy Spirit in the spirit of man. Love is the cause of the manifestation of truth in the material world. Love is the essential bond of union which exists between God and all things in their ultimate reality. Love is the source of the greatest happiness of the material and the spiritual worlds. Love is the light by which man is guided in the midst of darkness. Love is the communication between truth and man in the realm of consciousness. Love is the means of growth for all who are enlightened.

            Love is the highest law in this great universe of God. Love is the law of order between simple essences, whereby they are apportioned and united into compound substances in this world of matter. Love is the essential and magnetic power that organizes the planets and the stars which shine in infinite space. Love supplies the impulse to that intense and unceasing meditation which reveals the hidden mysteries of the universe.

            Love is the highest honor for all the nations of men. To that people in whom God causes love to appear the Supreme Concourse, the angels of heaven, and the hosts of the kingdom of the Glorious One make salutation. When the hearts of a people are void of this Divine power -- of the love of God -- they will descend to the lowest estate of mortals, they will wander in the desert of error, they will fall into the slough of despair and there is no deliverance for them. They become like worms which delight in groveling in the earth.

            O friends of God! be ye manifestations of the love of God and lamps of guidance in all horizons, shining by the light of love and harmony.

            How beautiful is the shining of this shining!

            Buddhism:

            “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across — unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.” – The Buddha

            Hinduism: I may be wrong, but from what I understand there are four "vedas" which are a collection of writings/scripture. The quote below is from the Yajurveda (which I've seen as both one word as well as two):

            The one who loves all intensely
            begins perceiving in all living beings
            a part of himself.
            He becomes a lover of all,
            a part and parcel of the Universal Joy.
            He flows with the stream of happiness,
            and is enriched by each soul.

            Mormonism: I wouldn't be so quick to answer that Mormonism is Christian. They don't believe that Jesus was a divine being, but instead a perfect man. This article from Catholic Answers says Mormonism does not hold the essentials of Christianity.

            As far as how Christianity can sometimes run counter to the positive concepts I mentioned, a few quickly come to mind. The endorsement and encouragement of slavery is an excellent start. Exodus 21 (which is said to be directly from God) is a wonderful example of decreeing man's inhumanity against man. Jesus doesn't say word one against it and encourages slaves to obey their masters. Another item is God agreeing to Jephthah's deal and winning victory for him knowing full well who would be come out of that door and sacrificed. If I know that an agreement I make would cause harm to another then I won't agree to it. If I find out after agreeing the consequences are evil I will terminate the agreement. Clearly I have a better sense of right and wrong than Jehovah.

            But the biggest one has to be the punishment of eternal torment for having doubts about the existence of a divine being. The narrative is so muddled and contradictary that a reasonable person might question its accuracy. Yet it is claimed the Christian God would commit the ultimate punishment to reasonable people with reasonable doubts. It goes against human nature. We are sickened when someone in power weilds that power cruelly. Instinctively we know it is wrong, yet Christianity endorses it claiming this cruelty is somehow perfectly good.

          • Jim Dailey

            1,400 pages???? You suppose you could find me a good recipe for meatloaf in there? We can argue l day about "centerpiece" but I learned a long time ago not to wrestle a pig in the mud. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.
            As far as the courant Bible bashing about " slavery" goes, I refer you to Brandon Vogts excellent rejoinder to the first comment on the post. "Slavery" can take many forms - including owing so much money in student loans to greedy academic institutions that you never can afford a decent existence. Frankly I hold secular windbags accountable for that disaster, but I digress.
            Finally, as to hell, it was not created by God, and the souls that go there are "lost". Hell in the Catholic tradition is the willful separation from Gods love. I will stop there.
            You really should talk to a priest or someone else with more patience than me. Your points are not awful, and deserve a full response. I hope you find what you are looking for.

          • Mike O’Leary

            1,400 pages???? You suppose you could find me a good recipe for meatloaf in there?

            No meatloaf recipes but I did find the sheet music for Inna Godda Davida (long version).

            We can argue all day about "centerpiece" but I learned a long time ago not to wrestle a pig in the mud. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

            I must admit feeling a bit deflated. I answered your first question. When that wasn't enough I scoured through the holy texts of four religions that I know very little about and gave a very thorough answer to the second question. With that done, now the answer isn't important and it's all just pig wrestling. If no answer was sufficient I could have saved myself some time this afternoon :)

            As far as the courant Bible bashing about " slavery" goes, I refer you to Brandon Vogts excellent rejoinder to the first comment on the post. "Slavery" can take many forms - including owing so much money in student loans to greedy academic institutions that you never can afford a decent existence. Frankly I hold secular windbags accountable for that disaster, but I digress.

            The slavery I speak of was in regards to the question of whether religion can endorse something that we as humans know is wrong. It's the slavery of Exodus 21, where Jehovah tells men how to sell their daughters. Where a male, Hebrew slave might have to face the Hobson's choice of freedom or family. It's where a man can manslaughter his servant so long as he doesn't die the same day because he is but property. To conflate real slavery with harrassing phone calls from loan officers is an embarrassing comparison. Sallie Mae has nothing on the man holding the whips and chains.

            Finally, as to hell, it was not created by God, and the souls that go there are "lost". Hell in the Catholic tradition is the willful separation from Gods love. I will stop there.

            There are over a half-dozen verses in the Bible which specifically refer to sinners being sent to a lake of fire or an eternal fire. That's not separation, that's burning and torture.

            You really should talk to a priest or someone else with more patience than me. Your points are not awful, and deserve a full response. I hope you find what you are looking for.

            The original article suggested two things: That atheists have no grounds by which to morally combat injustices like racism and that only Christianity possesses such moral groundwork. My posts have been to show both suggestions are demonstrably false. I don't necessarily need a priest to try and defend the accusations lobbied in the article. Anyone will do so long as they can back up what they say.

          • William Davis

            It can be amazing the ignorance that religious believers can have of other religions. I enjoy truth that is in all religions, and most have very similar themes, though different paths to getting there. Personally I find Buddhism one of the best because of it's simplicity and its focus on getting straight to the point.
            It's sad that after handily losing your argument you resort to "pigs in the mud." The level of arrogance you possess seems misplaced considering your ignorance of basic concepts of other religions. This arrogance that Catholics often exude is related to its continuous decline in membership, at least I suspect it is. Catholicism no longer commands the might of Rome to enforce it's views of doctrine and demand obedience to the church. You are now in a market, and if Catholics want to stop losing market share, a dose of humility would go a long way in marketing efforts. A bit of understanding of the competition would go a long way, as well.

          • Jim Dailey

            I thought the "pigs in the mud" comment was pretty funny. I guess we can add "humorless" to however you happen to feel about defining atheism today.

          • William Davis

            I'll grant you that "pigs in the mud" is much more humorous than "never argue with an idiot, they'll just drag you down to their level and beat you with experience." I'm quite confident you were not laughing when you wrote it, unless you were mocking Mike. I find it etiquette to either concede a debate, or continue until there is some kind of resolution, not start and argument and then just run away when it is clear you've lost. There are many verses in the Bible that would support this idea, I don't think I need to start listing them. I live in the southern U.S., so we can probably both laugh at Baptist jokes. Obviously this doesn't prove I have a sense of humor, but why not:

            Q: What is the difference between Catholics, Muslims, and Baptists?

            A: Muslims do not recognize the Deity of Christ.

            Catholics do not recognize the prophecy of Mohammed.

            Baptists do not recognize each other in a liquor store.

            I've personally seen congregation members hiding from each other at the liquor store, so I get a personal laugh from that one.
            On a side note, I would like to see a resurgence of Catholicism as opposed to Mormons or Islam. The Catholic church possesses some of the most beautiful building in the world, and many brilliant works of literature have come out Catholicism. Lose the arrogance, respect other religions and points of view, even if you don't necessarily agree with them, and we'll be getting somewhere :)

          • Jim Dailey

            I have never heard the saying "never argue with an idiot..." - not a real folksy colloquialism. And no, I was not mocking Mike. I was mocking the inevitable route of the debate. That is, I am sure I could find somewhere why Catholics find that Buddhism is not the way to go, and, you and Mike are right, on some level I owe that amount of research to the people here. Unfortunately, I am too busy even to be writing this to you right now.
            So, if you like, fine I concede defeat in that I do not have to adequately address what I feel are the weak parts of Mike's argument. Also, I feel obligated since you conceded we made a few nice buildings.
            Finally, I hereby grant you the rights to "pig in the mud" (which even you agree is snappier than "never argue with an idiot" if you grant me the rights to your Baptist joke. We can take "humorless" off your list.

          • Mike O’Leary

            Don't worry, Jim. I didn't think you were mocking me. You just didn't want to go further with that line of discussion. You feel that there is a weakness in my argument (which really wasn't an argument so much as a well-detailed answer to your question as to what religions feature love and compassion as their centerpieces). I, like you, saw how the conversation was going to turn out; but if I could be so bold here's how I saw it on my end. Repeatedly you would have narrowed the definition as to what is a centerpiece each time. Eventually you would have to find some aspect very specific to Christianity to which those other religions would fail to qualify (despite speaking so much about love, compassion, sharing, helping, etc.) That aspect might be that the Christian god is triumverate, or that he came to earth in human form, or that he performed a ritual to take upon man's sins. Whatever that aspect was it wouldn't proclude those other religions from being centered in love, just in a way that was different. Citizen Kane was a great movie but that doesn't mean that every great movie has to have a snowglobe. Religions can be about goodness in ways different than how Christianity is about goodness.

          • Jim Dailey

            Actually I was going to end up with Christ dying for our sins, but yeah, pretty much the rest of the discussion was going to go as you predicted.
            For a while I was going to go with finding violence is ok ( in 1400 pages it's gotta be in there somewhere!) but I figured the comeback would be " well what about 'just war'".
            You atheists do keep us Catholics on our toes!

          • William Davis

            Lol, fair enough. Thanks for the reply :)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      There *is* a natural law, meaning a reading of what is good for man according to human nature. That is a bottom line morality for everyone.

      What you need to account for is why should anyone submit themselves to this law of human nature if they would rather do something else.

      Catholics have a reason to humble themselves before human nature, since we believe our nature is given to us ultimately by God, is really good for us in the long run, and God wants us to obey it.

      Atheists don't have these reasons, except that it is really good for one, but that knowledge is hard to come by given any individual's ignorance, weakness, emotions, and passions directing him away from this law.

      • Mike O’Leary

        I agree that man can be ignorant, weak, emotional, and passionate to the detriment of doing good. We have to take into account our history and see where we've failed our fellow man. We have to be willing to empathize on the plight of others. We have to nurture the compassion and the charity in ourselves and each other. It is not easy, simple, or straightforward; but it is built into us and it is that innate feeling that must in part guide us.

        For Christians you state that these feelings come from the christian God. Though there must be times when those internal ideas of what is right and wrong come into conflict as to what God says or what the Church says. When God called Lot a righteous man for offering his virgin daughters to be gangraped, I can only hope that those reading that for the first time felt conflict between their human nature what was claimed to be good. When the Church wrote Dum Diversas pushing for entire peoples to be enslaved, there must be some who knew in their hearts that bad and inhumanity was being called good and charitable.

        These conflicts between the internal and external understandings of right and wrong happen to everyone each day. Those external determinations come from places of worship, peers, leaders, or society at large. All people struggle with this, both believer and non-believer. I go in knowing that I may be wrong and that the others around me may be wrong as well. Believers don't get the luxury of considering that their spiritual leaders or supreme being(s) may be wrong -- even in the most obvious cases.

        For atheist, agnostic, Humanists, and others it is a concerted effort to make moral choices. It is filled with nuance and a need to understand others. Personally, while it is not perfect, I am thankful that at least my sense of morality is non-Biblical.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          So does this mean you actually believe there is an objective and binding moral law that every person is obliged to obey or are you just using it as a club to beat on Jews and Christians?

          If you do believe in this moral law, on what basis?

          • Mike O’Leary

            I believe that each action we do must first have the least negative impact on others, and then from there should strive for the most positive impact. Each situation differs. Some things will always have a negative impact on others (which brings me back to what Lot did and how God endorsed it). Other things are not so clear cut.

            I believe in this moral law because it is part of very existence. Through generation upon generation we have built in us a need to work together and protect one another. If you don't believe that we can follow this moral law, then that's fine. I'm good because I am good.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I do believe we can obey the natural law (but imperfectly, due to fear, ignorance, strong passions, and emotions).

        • Kevin Aldrich

          "God called Lot a righteous man for offering his virgin daughters to be gangraped"? That is absurd.

          • Mike O’Leary

            I might edit my sentence to say "God called Lot a righteous man despite offering his virgin daughters to be raped." Tell me where I am wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            With that change I think you would be correct.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          "When the Church wrote Dum Diversas pushing for entire peoples to be enslaved."

          The pope was not pushing for entire peoples to be enslaved. It was aimed at the Saracens and their mercenaries who were waging war against Europe and who were about to sack Constantinople. What do you do with enemy combatants that have been captured? Execute them all? Lock them all up in a vast Renaissance Guantanamo? Let them go so they can take up arms again?

          • severalspeciesof

            What do you do with enemy combatants that have been captured? Execute them all?

            That's something that the Old Testament god, on several occasions, prescribed. Right?

            Let them go so they can take up arms again?

            How about letting them go and forgive them. If they attack again, turn the other cheek?

  • Doug Shaver

    Such an absurd result reveals the poverty of atheistic materialism; it fails to account for our most basic moral intuitions

    The ethical principles you're talking about are shared by perhaps a majority, but still only a fraction, of the well-educated fraction of the modern world. And if it is a majority view, it became so only within the past century. That does not look to me like a basic intuition.

    According to Oscar Hammerstein (in South Pacific), racism is something that "you've got to be carefully taught." I think he had it backwards.

  • Doug Shaver

    If natural law is just instinct, why ought we listen to it or obey it?

    If it is a law in any useful sense, then there are consequences for failing to obey it, and we probably won't like those consequences.

    And if "natural law" means "law of nature," then we don't have any choice. The penalty for violating any law of nature is nonexistence.

  • Doug Shaver

    On atheism, fellow man is nothing more than a mere collection of material parts, none of which are inherently dignified.

    The belief that we're just a collection of material parts is not atheism. It's materialism. It might be the case that most atheists are materialists, but that doesn't mean atheism by itself entails materialism. Most Christians are trinitarians, but that doesn't mean everyone who believes in the divinity of Christ is a trinitarian.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      If nothing immaterial actually exists, what is left except materiality?

      • Doug Shaver

        You seem to think that I am or ought to be prepared to defend those people. Just because I acknowledge the existence of atheists who are not materialists doesn't mean I think they're making any sense. But if you think God is the only immaterial thing that can exist, then you must deny the existence of souls, angels, demons, and what-have-you. Do you?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It sounds like you are saying that atheists exist who are not materialists, but they are wrong.

          I certainly think there are plenty of immaterial beings.

      • William Davis

        A knowledgeable materialist would have to realize that immaterial things do exist within the world of ideas. On the basic level, science has shown us that our thoughts are the result of electrical activity in the brain. The thoughts themselves are not actually the electrical activity, however, I don't think anyone is quite sure what they are. The same is true for information in a computer. We can create impressive worlds inside of computers that are immaterial, but anyone experiencing them would definitely have to say they exist.
        I can therefore argue, as someone who is doubtful of the existence of God, but certain that an objective God had no involvement in religion, that God most certainly exists. He exists in the minds of believers everywhere, though he is immaterial. In a way, this is a scientific way to prove the existence of God, though maybe it isn't the type of existence believers actually want. Recognizing the fact that religions are man made, does not mean that man does not need religion. As a person who prioritizes objectivity and rationality, I cannot dismiss the fact that every ancient civilization had a religion, and the strength of that religion had direct affects on how well that civilization did. I also can cannot dismiss the NEED for the concept of God in many humans (but not all). With everything I know, it is most likely that all of this is a result of human nature instead of anything else. It is human nature to need immaterial things, and these immaterial things can create more happiness for us than anything material. I say all this, and still believe all this occurs within and as a result of the brain. The mind (what the brain does) is distinct from the brain, however, and immaterial.

  • Loreen Lee

    I'm going to hazard a comment here. I say that on the basis that I believe it can be understood in the sense that I don't really know what I'm talking about. The intuition, the feeling, are somewhat vague, but the point is that these kinds of human faculties can be set in contrast to the concept of reason, which I believe in even natural law is set against the constraints of the 'empirical'. I have believed for quits some time that morality is the most difficult element within human experience to comprehend, let alone find an adequate expression, particularly for the particulars, within human experience.
    I am thinking at the moment that in scripture, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus following his announcement that he came as fulfillment of the law presented his listeners with the Beatitudes. What do the beatitudes mean to me? We firstly I associate them with the Holy 'Ghost', or preferable Spirit, - that is with 'order' (within our rational basis, in contrast to 'law'. Yes. Law and Order.
    I found a good representation of this contrast with Kant's trilogy, in which the analysis of judgment and teleology constituted his third book. Yes, as I remember he outlined perhaps a half dozen or so kinds of 'beauty', the beauty found in the good being specifically related to 'truth', perhaps even in the context of law within an empirical context.
    Some time ago I found a discussion of the beatitudes which placed them within a 'pragmatic' context. The hierarchy proceeded from developing awareness of one's limitations, to the actually giving of one life, even in analogy to soldiers, fighting the good fight. (The confusion between applications within an exterior context of such ideas, in contrast to development of one's interior mental framework can be found not only, I suggest in the current dichotomies of Islam but in Catholic tradition, I believe). What is it called - the Church Militant?
    The point here is that the Beatitudes suggest means of personal inner growth, in contrast to stark commandments of what one is not to do. Indeed even in this context, concessions are made, as when the commandment not to kill is interpreted as 'Thou shalt not murder' and unending debate ensues as to when it is 'acceptable' to accept a qualified interpretation of yet another commandment. Ah- reason.
    I*n this respect, as a side note, to giving, through my own personal experience I have had to come to the conclusion that it is not always 'right' to give to the poor for instance. So that 'being charitable' can be difficult to interpret also within an empirical context. Didn't Jesus say: Get behind me Satan, even to Peter. That was just a side note.; Pardon my meandering on the topic here.
    The point is that of recognizing the priority of Judgment, perhaps even to reason. That is having the faculty to 'know' what to do in any particular situation. This to my mind puts the context of morality within the domain, once again of the individual or personal self, rather than in some kind of statutory law, be it the Natural Law of even the pragmatic, often self interested motivated dictates of State, where in some cases even a kind of sentimentality might be associated with the quest for happiness that is not based on 'reason' per se. Indeed, Kant criticized the American constitution for picking up on Hume's emphasis in this regard, and wrote a good critique on the fault of the Constitution for including in it the 'right' to 'quest for happiness'. (Why? was not explained. Fits in though with my difficulties in understanding the Proof from desire)
    In retrospect, I believe the most I go out of my association with the Buddhists in the 90's was an understanding that it was the development of consciousness, not adherence to a code of law which was of primary interest. As I have remarked before, I have found in this on-going re-study of my Catholic heritage that not much is said about the 'Spirit'. These just some thought on the subject of morality, simply because I have learned from experience, that within the arena of the temporal, I have found it is not always 'wise' to place my trust, when it comes to moral issues, to 'reason'.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think one can make a lot of progress in understanding the Beatitudes if one tries to see them as portraits of Jesus Christ himself.

      • Loreen Lee

        That's a very good suggestion. After all, it was Christ who lived up to the final 'beatitude' in sacrificing his life for the purpose of our salvation. (The universal within the 'particular' or 'individual) When it comes to sacrifice of my life, physically, however, In this respect, even the 'common' soldier is far ahead of me 'ethically' in this regard.
        As is my won't I keep ruminating on the subject of this post, and realize I have not yet considered the context of God within the equation. In keeping with my naturalistic/religious perspective !! I have been equating God with the transcendental in Kant's (naturalistic/idealistic philosophy which recognizes the propensity of humans generally to consider realities which lie 'beyond' the merely empirical. Kant consideed this an aspect of human nature which would thus apply to even the a-theist as well as adherents to Catholicism, but within the framework of a different terminology. Indeed even the 'fictions' i.e. science fiction, are examples of this propensity within the 'human'.
        However, as individuals we may be born into a specific cultural context. Yet, given 'ideal' circumstances we can choose what language we use as well as attempt to make some relevant translations between them. Catholicism, even recognizes the great diversity within the experience of being 'human'.
        I consider my now divorced husband in this regard, and the difficulties I had in dealing with his materialistic Marxist 'ethic'. Recently I have come to understand that he is but one example of the diversity within human nature, and that his interest in the social good reflects a personal psychology and an interest in humanity which is not, (like mine) directed to understanding the individual, (n my case my own consciousness, but rather sociology. Who then is when it comes down to it, the 'most' 'spiritual'. But even back then in the 70's I could see that the ideology he held had similarities to dogma as it rested on the hope and possibility for a 'better world'. Indeed it is only recently that I have begun to be able to recognize the plight of other individuals, rather than merely my own difficulties in dealing with the realities of this world, both practically and 'spiritually'. And this would include atheists of all kinds, even 'Buddhists' and the new age philosophers who equate the ultimate Being with a kind of nothingness which is so because it IS Pure Being. So much is needed in the area of translation within the various understandings of language. (Just an argument that atheism does not exclude the human consciousness from considerations of transcendental thoughts or what could be translated as the 'divine'. for even my Marxist husband I now understand had/has a 'transcendental' perspective with regard to human purpose, which could even be considered by some to be more inclusive than my own). In this respect it is not impossible that an atheist could be in reality less 'racist', etc. etc. than a proponent of any of the alternative religions. . .

        Thinking of this with respect to Kant, his categorical imperative based on the concepts of necessity and universality, is explicitly put forward as a transcendental through his use of the language of 'as if' to describe the mental state of assessment within any empirically judgment of what is 'moral'. He thus recognized that the individual 'person' is incapable of achieving the manifestation of these concepts completely within a lived experience.
        I have also been thinking that the 'idea' that Christ will, on his return, give the final judgment,(an idea I have in my last post related to beauty and the beatitudes and thus in my interpretation of the Holy Ghost. Indeed a coherent representation of the metaphysical/transcendental idea that a final judgment would be a relationship between the individual and the universal, within an empirical context is given in the idea that Jesus Christ will as a Person make the 'last judgment'.. And saying that just now, is in itself is a recognition of a transcendental 'ideal', which finds or proposes a relationship between a naturalism and a religiousity or transcendental perspective, that is a matter not of science or 'reason' but of faith.

        • Krakerjak

          After all, it was Christ who lived up to the final 'beatitude' in sacrificing his life for the purpose of our salvation.

          I am not sure if you actually believe this....if you do there are certain implications to this which would require certain commitments on your part.

          • Loreen Lee

            Actually, you have recognized one of the reasons why I withdrew from the challenge Kevin Aldridge. On looking again at the Beatitudes and reading several interpretations, several things came to mind.

            l. The nine beatitudes are actually also presented as either l0 or 11 in number. The last beatitudes are involved with sacrifice and especially the 11th were presented as addressed to the disciples and thus preparation for their trials in spreading the gospel after his death and resurrection..His sacrifice on the cross I surmised was not made on the same basis or principle as what is addressed in the beatitudes.

            2. The first beatitudes are addressed to those who are learning how to become part of the kingdom of 'heaven'.

            3. For this reason I questioned whether they would actually apply to Jesus, who is after all God and thus not in the state of imperfection that may I assume is present in those to whom the beatitudes are addressed..

          • Krakerjak

            Thank you for your reply comment.

            The final 'beatitude' Christ in sacrificing his life for the purpose of our salvation.

            Ok....call it "beatitude" or not. you seemed to indicate that you believed that he gave his life for our salvation. I would ask if you actually believe that Christ sacrificed his life for our salvation? Mind you, I am not questioning whether or not he was crucified or not. I think that there is ample evidence that he was, and also ample evidence that he existed, contrary to what some mythicists would have us believe. Whether or not the doctrine and dogma of the Catholic Church has any truth or validity is another question entirely.

          • Loreen Lee

            This is a very difficult question and one that I am struggling with. I think that it can, as even your comment suggests, be approach on many different levels. Even considering thee questions, in themselves, however, in itself, as your question implies implies an element of faith.
            So there is the first perplexity. What is faith? A theological virtue? a metaphysical concept? A state of being or a state of mind? Or even all of these, and something ...more!!!!
            By this something more, is that when we contemplate these concepts, images, 'articles of faith', there is potentially, even at least a growing process involved, on both the epistemological and 'ontological' level, in that as individual 'persons' the use we make of our thoughts, etc. does indeed effect out life.
            Perhaps that is why the term 'mystery' retains for me some validity of use.
            However you look at it,. as knowledge, faith, state of being, however, it is indeed 'powerful'. Even as a mere logical 'hypothetical'. the 'existence' of your sentence:" if you actually believe that Christ (i.e. God!!_ sacrificed his life for our salvation" implies a perspective on the cosmos that has a scope of meaning and physical possibility that would take a life time- nay it would be impossible to work through.
            Thus considering 'expressions' of faith in such a way are, as you rightly observed. themselves a form of commitment. The 'atonement' is held to be dogma rather than doctrine, I understand. The truth is thus held to be both in the ontological and epistemological dimensions. How deeply one is committed then to the reality and possibility cannot therefore, I understand be answered with a simple yes, no, or maybe. There are 'innumerable consequences that obtain even in the consideration of this as merely an idea. But silence is often a blessing, and some 'thoughts' and 'states of being' are beyond the scope of my capacity to articulate.

            I am glad however, that you make a distinction between a person having faith, and what you, I believe, refer to as the dictates of dogma and doctrine of the Catholic Church. The crucifixion and resurrection are of course expressed in the Credo. I have 'trouble' in expressing my 'belief' in the creed. I do find myself questioning the statements within it on the basis of their being 'beliefs'. So please understand that I can't even understand myself in this regard. Only that there is in my consciousness some distinction between a belief and 'faith'. I can say no more. I like what the philosopher Kierkegaard says about faith in this regard. Thank you.

          • Krakerjak

            I can't even understand myself in this regard. Only that there is in
            my consciousness some distinction between a belief and 'faith'.

            Thanks.....lots of food for thought, no doubt.

            " And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him,He said "all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them," " Leonard Cohen.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes. It helps to be a poet. And Cohen is one of my favorites!!! A fellow Canadian too who I had the opportunity to meet those many many years ago. I have a collection of all of his poetry. Thanks.

          • Loreen Lee

            Actually, I wrote the comment below, put myself into bed, and then had an 'insight'. So qualification please. Jesus in the mass makes his sacrifice to God the Father. Jesus after all is the Logos, the Word of God made flesh. And doesn't he always qualify by saying that God the father is greater, and 'Thy Will be Done'. So yes, about the value, we need to control our propensity to make ourselves 'as great as a god'!! but the idea of sacrifice is also implicitly humbling. If Jesus offered Himself, (as Logos or intellect) any self-giving of self, including the intellect can be seen in the light of sacrifice or working towards a greater good. And put this way, I can even regard it as a very 'worthwhile' belief to have and to cherish. Thanks for making me 'think' this through. Goodnight.

      • Loreen Lee

        As a postscript - I just checked out the current postings on Google for the meaning of the Beatitudes. As is always the case there are always new and multiple interpretations on any scripture. I still remember best the one I told you about in a former post. With respect to your above suggestion, therefore, I do not believe that I shall ever be proficient enough in Christology to see/find such a correspondence. I shall merely continue to attempt to relate what I read to what understanding I have attained within my life context. But thanks for the suggestion.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You don't think you have enough Christology to apply "Blessed are the meek" to the life of Christ?

          • Loreen Lee

            Well Kevin, I follow the daily readings through New Advent, but when it comes to the Beatitudes I think I would just have to trust the Spirit.

  • In my jurisdiction at least and in many parts of the world, it is well acknowledged that prohibitions on same-sex marriage are discriminatory. These were hard fought human rights battles, but the question is now settled. It is also acknowledged that religious organizations will be allowed to continue to discriminate on this basis. See section 18(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code. No such exemption would be necessary if the prohibition on same-sex marriage by religious officials was not otherwise contrary to the Code:

    "Solemnization of marriage by religious officials

    18.1 (1) The rights under Part I to equal treatment with respect to services and
    facilities are not infringed where a person registered under section 20 of the Marriage Act refuses to solemnize a marriage, to allow a sacred place to be used for solemnizing a marriage or for an event related to the solemnization of a marriage, or to otherwise assist in the solemnization of a marriage, if to solemnize the marriage, allow the sacred place to be used or otherwise assist would be contrary to,

    (a) the person’s religious beliefs; or

    (b) the doctrines, rites, usages or customs of the religious body to which the person belongs. 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (11)."

    • Kevin Aldrich

      > "The question is now settled."

      How about "Any law that violates reason is not a law but a kind of violence"?

  • David Nickol

    In the 21st century, for many of us in the West, slavery, racism, "unjust" discrimination, religious persecution, and other violations of human freedom are paradigms of self-evident evil. That it took the Catholic Church so long to come to the same conclusions is, to me, evidence against the claims the Church makes for itself as the great and infallible teacher of morality to humankind. How could the Church, under the alleged guidance of the Holy Spirit, be so wrong for so long on these matters?

    • Thanks for the comment, David! I'll respond to each of your points below, but I would first like to point out how you avoided the central challenge of Joe's article, which concerned the failure of atheistic materialism to explain why racism is an objective moral evil. At least in this comment, you've offered no reply. Instead, you've resorted to ad hominem attacks against the Catholic Church (attacks that, as I'll show below, nevertheless fail.) The only conclusion I can draw is that you have no good ground, on atheistic materialism, to explain why certain actions, like racism, are objectively wrong.

      In the future, per our commenting guidelines, please focus your replies on the central question under concern. Joe never mentioned Catholicism, or even referred to the Catholic Church. Therefore, you're attack on the Church's moral authority is ancillary at best.

      "In the 21st century, for many of us in the West, slavery, racism, "unjust" discrimination, religious persecution, and other violations of human freedom are paradigms of self-evident evil."

      The problem is that the entire Western world disagreed with this sentiment until Christians re-shaped its conscience in each of the cases you cited, paving the way for modern Western moral enlightenment. You seem to imply that moral clarity in these areas came to us moderns in spite of the Church, when precisely the opposite is true. For instance, it was early Christians who stood against slavery and led the 19th-century abolitionist movement--not atheists.

      "That it took the Catholic Church so long to come to the same conclusions"

      Again, it didn't take the Catholic Church a long time. I challenge you to show where, in any century, the Church officially taught that slavery or racism was acceptable. (I cant point out many instances where those practices were vigorously condemned.)

      "How could the Church, under the alleged guidance of the Holy Spirit, be so wrong for so long on these matters?"

      The simple answer is that the Church was not wrong. You've yet to provide one example of the Church officially praising a moral evil.

      It's important to add that by accusing the Church of being "so wrong" in her moral teachings implies an objectively "right" standard by which to judge it. But as Joe's original article argues, such a standard is impossible on atheistic materialism. (A challenge you've yet to engage.) Therefore, an atheist can't even legitimately accuse the Catholic Church of being objectively wrong in her moral teachings. The best he can do is to say, "The Church's moral teachings differ from my subjective moral opinions." But that claim has little to no relevance beyond that person.

      • Vicq Ruiz

        I challenge you to show where, in any century, the Church officially taught that slavery or racism was acceptable.

        Sorry I don't have time to dig any further than Wikipedia this morning, but perhaps this can be a start.

        The Portuguese sought confirmation that they could enslave infidels in a crusade. In 1452 Nicholas V issued the papal bull Dum Diversas to King Alfonso V of Portugal which included the following words: "we grant to you...full and free permission to invade, search out, capture and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ...to reduce their persons into perpetual slavery". In 1454 Pope Nicholas explicitly confirmed the rights granted to King Alfonso V in Dum Diversas in Romanus Pontifex by which he granted to Alfonso "...the rights of conquest and
        permissions previously granted not only to the territories already
        acquired but also those that might be acquired in the future".

        "We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due
        meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of
        ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso – to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit...[77]"

        In 1456, Pope Calixtus III confirmed these grants to the Kings of
        Portugal and they were renewed by Pope Sixtus IV in 1481; and finally in 1514 Pope Leo repeated verbatim all these documents and approved, renewed and confirmed them.[78]

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

        • "Sorry I don't have time to dig any further than Wikipedia this morning, but perhaps this can be a start."

          Generally a bad start to a comment reply... ;)

          In regards to Dum Diversas, I think some context would provide more clarity. From my friend James:

          "This bull was written at a time of severe Muslim persecution of Christendom - Byzantine/Constantinople was under threat of attack and takeover by Muslims. In fact it was written just one year before the Muslims defeated Christian Byzantine (100-200K invaders against a mere 8,000 or so defenders). To give a context let me say that the Muslim invaders looted, pillaged and slaughtered Christians for a number of days before giving the few hiding survivors terms for their subjugation and homage if they surrendered as vassals to Islam.

          The call by Pope Nicholas V (who authored this bull) was to rally Christendom to come to the aid of its members and confront Islam (the Saracens and pagan mercenaries they gained by conquering W. African pagan countries) head on. But he failed to get the European Kings to help and that is why Byzantine fell. This bull was directed to the Spanish only and was an authorization to engage the conquering Muslims and make war with them to stop their encroachment and aggression and conversion of Pagan Africa into homage by providing a quota of men of war - mercenaries . It was a time of war and at this time the Church had a definite voice of influence in government secular affairs and had to assert itself to defend innocent lives being slaughtered by the Muslim hordes. The pope uses the language and emotion of the day. Christians were terrorized by what looked like Satan himself waging war against Christendom. So the pope authorized the taking of prisoners of war and their enslavement/incarceration as a life sentence for crimes against Christendom. This is a mercy since the war convention at the time was to kill enemies due to the high cost of maintaining them and guarding or else holding the noble ones (knights/lords) as hostage for payment from their Christian families.

          This bull was not a general edict to enslave people willy-nilly. It was no different than giving a life sentence to criminals with hard labor to pay back society as we still do to this very day here in the USA.

          Bottom Line - Dum Diversas was a real papal bull but it in no way is a general endorsement of slavery. It is simply an authorization to the Spanish monarchy to engage the aggressor enemy of Christians in a "just war" and to take any survivors as prisoners and incarcerate them for life for their crimes against Christianity. It was all issued at a time when the Church was trying hard to rally Christendom out of its apathy to help defend our eastern Christian brothers from being defeated."

          Yet with all that said, the bull is irrelevant to the main challenge of Joe's article: how on atheism can one describe certain actions, like racism or slavery, as objectively immoral?

          • Mike O’Leary

            Dum Diversas did not limit the powers to enslave by time, space, or people. So long as the people on the other end of the sword were not Christian the soldiers were given carte blanche to take whatever and whomever they wanted whenever.

            I know at work I become unhappy when someone misrepresents what I say. When it occurs I make sure to let those know my true intentions. Assuming that the papal bull was being misunderstood or misrepresented by the conquering armies in the New World, do we have something from the Church trying to correct those conquering armies in their misuse of Dum Diversas? Do we have record of a formal admonishment of those priests who went along with those armies and participated in such terrible acts against those whose crime against Christendom was simply not being Christian?

            As far as how atheism can describe certain actions as immoral, I discussed that in another post on this thread. We must look at our history and assess our previous failures. We need to incorporate the golden rule (which is by no means exclusive to Christianity) and determine how we would feel if the roles were reversed. As I noted not only do all people determine an act's morality by internal measurement but also by external ones. These can include our faith, our peers, our leaders, and society large. Atheism has the benefit of being able to say that at times those external forces can be wrong (as in the case of religiously-endorsed slavery). It is neither perfect nor easy, but it stands up equally if not better than a divinely-inspired morality.

          • "As far as how atheism can describe certain actions as immoral...We must look at our history and assess our previous failures."

            Assess them according to what? Again, to "fail" at something implies an objective standard by which to measure successes or failures. You've offered no such standard. You've simply assumed, based on your opinion, that certain societies have morally failed or succeeded.

            "We need to incorporate the golden rule (which is by no means exclusive to Christianity) and determine how we would feel if the roles were reversed."

            Why should we? Is the Golden Rule morally binding or is it just something you're proposing as the best way to produce harmony? But on atheism, why not instead choose to live selfishly and gain all the power, wealth, pleasure, and honor one can, regardless of how it affects others?

            This proposal suffers another problem, namely the fact that many people enjoy receiving and delivering pain. Thus the Golden Rule for them--"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"--would involve violence. Would it be morally praiseworthy for those people to obey the Golden Rule?

            When considering your proposal, it quickly becomes evident that the Golden Rule cannot stand as an objective moral standard. It's a noble guide to living a virtuous life but not a morally binding standard.

            "As I noted not only do all people determine an act's morality by internal measurement but also by external ones."

            But once again, measurement implies an objective standard (like the metric system for units of length, mass, or time). When gauging the morality of a particular act, we need an objective standard by which to measure it. On atheistic materialism, there doesn't appear to be one and you've yet to provide a viable source.

            "Atheism has the benefit of being able to say that at times those external forces can be wrong (as in the case of religiously-endorsed slavery)."

            Wrong according to what standard? If all you're saying is that, "Atheists today disagree with Atheists back then that [Act X] was wrong" then that's a textbook example of moral relativism. And if you're saying that the ground of your proposed objective morality ("external forces") can be erroneous, then your standard is not trustworthy! Either way, it's not a viable source for objective morality.

            "It is neither perfect nor easy, but it stands up equally if not better than a divinely-inspired morality."

            I'm afraid it does not, for all the reasons above.

          • Mike O’Leary

            Assess them according to what? Again, to "fail" at something implies an objective standard by which to measure successes or failures. You've offered no such standard. You've simply assumed, based on your opinion, that certain societies have morally failed or succeeded.

            Each act we do or don't do has consequences for ourselves and for those around us. Those consequences can be negative or positive. We fail when we perform a negative act when we could have done a neutral or postive act instead. Failure is measured by what we do compared to what we could have done, when we could have done less harm and/or more good.

            Why should we? Is the Golden Rule morally binding or is it just something you're proposing as the best way to produce harmony? But on atheism, why not instead choose to live selfishly and gain all the power, wealth, pleasure, and honor one can, regardless of how it affects others?

            When you say "morally binding" do you mean that it comes from an outside source who may punish us if we do not follow it? If so, then it's not morally binding. If by "morally binding" you mean it is the simplest and most accurate way to determine if an act is moral, then I would say that it is.

            This proposal suffers another problem, namely the fact that many people enjoy receiving and delivering pain. Thus the Golden Rule for them--"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"--would involve violence. Would it be morally praiseworthy for those people to obey the Golden Rule?

            Honestly I've never heard masochism as an excuse not to follow the golden rule, and for good reason. We all understand that other people like and dislike things different than what we may like or dislike. I prefer a room to be cooler than what most people enjoy, but I'm not going to break my upstairs neighbor's heat under the guise of helping her. It's absurd on its face.

            When considering your proposal, it quickly becomes evident that the Golden Rule cannot stand as an objective moral standard. It's a noble guide to living a virtuous life but not a morally binding standard.

            It's not the moral be-all and end-all, but as I said above it's the simplest and most accurate way to determine if an act is moral or not. Most people will add more concepts on top of that but it's an excellent start.

            But once again, measurement implies an objective standard (like the metric system for units of length, mass, or time). When gauging the morality of a particular act, we need an objective standard by which to measure it. On atheistic materialism, there doesn't appear to be one and you've yet to provide a viable source.

            First, morality is not quanitifiable. Helping a kid study for his English test isn't worth 5 gigamorals more than holding the door open for a woman at the store. Each thing we do can only be compared to other things we can do in the same situration. If you're stuck behind someone at the checkout line who is a dollar short, then giving that person a dollar is better than sitting there quietly which is better than loudly complaining about running late. As I said before the best possible action in any scenario is to minimize the negative consequences and maximize the positive consequences. This is something we do so often we barely think about it. It's what makes us human. It doesn't have to come from an outside source.

            Wrong according to what standard?

            Are you suggesting there is any standard in which the deplorable decree of religiously-endorsed slavery as laid out in Exodus 21 is NOT wrong?

            If all you're saying is that, "Atheists today disagree with Atheists back then that [Act X] was wrong" then that's a textbook example of moral relativism.

            Based on the standard that I gave of maximizing positive consequences and minimizing negative consequences then at no time was slavery moral, since as long as there has been slavery there has always been a better course of action at that time. It's Christians who are the moral relativists. I've had the discussion several times on Catholic Answers Forum regarding slavery in the Bible. Without fail the cries of "It was a different time" and "Other societies at the time practiced slavery" will be heard. If Christians believe in a perfect moral standard, then God should have told the Israelites not to partake in it, Jesus should have told slaveowners to free their slaves, Popes and other Christian leaders should not have owned slaves, the churches should have admonished those armies that enslaved people in the New World.

            And if you're saying that the ground of your proposed objective morality ("external forces") can be erroneous, then your standard is not trustworthy! Either way, it's not a viable source for objective morality.

            External forces are not completely trustworthy, and those forces include religious practices and religious leaders. This is not to say that one should abandon all external forces but to measure them based on internal forces, concepts like the golden rule, the idea that one's freedom should not unnecessarily hinder the freedom of another, and to look at our history (both good and bad). External forces (including religious ones) can be beneficial. The trick is we have to be willing to veto them when they are clearly in the wrong. Religious belivers do not get that benefit, which is why I believe non-religious morality can sometimes be truer and more correct.

      • George

        "It's important to add that by accusing the Church of being "so wrong" in
        her moral teachings implies an objectively "right" standard by which to
        judge it."

        Not if you're simply pointing out an inconsistency in the church which claims to be consistent, and using its own definition of wrongness. Someone says A is bad and acts a certain way in response to A. Another person who is supposedly consistent with the first does not say A is bad and acts differently in response to A. What should we take away from this?

        • "Not if you're simply pointing out an inconsistency in the church which claims to be consistent, and using its own definition of wrongness."

          But this is precisely what David failed to do. He seemed to suggest the Catholic Church taught moral evils, but then provided no specific example.

          Yet even if he accomplished that, it's still not a response to Joe's article. It offers no defense of objective moral goods or evils on atheistic materialism. In fact, it doesn't even concern the question.

          "Someone says A is bad and acts a certain way in response to A. Another person who is supposedly consistent with the first does not say A is bad and acts differently in response to A. What should we take away from this?"

          Perhaps that either the first or second person are confused about the moral implications of A (or that both are confused.) But that's irrelevant to the question of whether A is objectively good or evil--in other words, whether A is objectively moral despite how either of your hypothetical people respond to A.

  • bobthechef

    Actually, the Church says nothing about equality and suggests something quite different (see Peter Kreeft who called equality "boring" and nothing more than the arrogance of modern egalitarians who say "No one is better than me." It doesn't even have the understandable aristocratic arrogance of previous, just bland equality). I'm not sure where you got the idea from. Even the constitution doesn't say men are created intrinsically equal, but are equals under the law (though it matters little what it says because it is a legal text). You merely commit the stupid idealism of so many other Americans who have created a religion of Americanism. We may be equal as persons, but that says very little. We are most certainly NOT equal.

  • Tyler

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Hard to rationalize this idea of an inherent, self evident, God given equality and right to all the aforesaid in relation to all the biblical allusions to the acceptability of slavery and violence and murders by God. Maybe its just me.

  • dippu dixit

    The prohibition on women and men having the same opportunities in the organization is not defensible by any bona fine requirement of the organization

    http://www.peermolvi.com/islamic-dua-for-success-in-business/