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Why Having a Heart of Gold is Not What Christianity is About

HeartOfGold

Many atheists and agnostics today insistently argue that it is altogether possible for non-believers in God to be morally upright. They resent the implication that the denial of God will lead inevitably to complete ethical relativism or nihilism. And they are quick to point out examples of non-religious people who are models of kindness, compassion, justice, etc. In point of fact, a recent article has proposed that non-believers are actually, on average, more morally praiseworthy than religious people. In this context, I recall Christopher Hitchens remark that, all things considered, he would be more frightened of a group of people coming from a religious meeting than a group coming from a rock concert or home from a night on the town. God knows (pun intended) that during the last twenty years we’ve seen plenty of evidence from around the world of the godly behaving very badly indeed.

Though I could quarrel with a number of elements within this construal of things, I would actually gladly concede the major point that it is altogether possible for atheists and agnostics to be morally good. The classical Greek and Roman formulators of the theory of the virtues were certainly not believers in the Biblical God, and many of their neo-pagan successors today do indeed exhibit fine moral qualities. What I should like to do, however, is to use this controversy as a springboard to make a larger point, namely that Christianity is not primarily about ethics, about “being a nice person” or, to use Flannery O’Connor’s wry formula, “having a heart of gold.” The moment Christians grant that Christianity’s ultimate purpose is to make us ethically better people, they cannot convincingly defend against the insinuation that, if some other system makes human beings just as good or better, Christianity has lost its raison d’etre.

Much of the confusion on this score can be traced to the influence of Immanuel Kant, especially his seminal text Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone. Like so many of his Enlightenment era confreres, Kant was impatient with the claims of the revealed religions. He saw them as unverifiable and finally irrational assertions that could be defended, not through reason, but only through violence. Do you see how much of the “New Atheism” of the post-September 11th era is conditioned by a similar suspicion? Accordingly, he argued that, at its best, religion is not about dogma or doctrine or liturgy but about ethics. In the measure that the Scriptures, prayer, and belief make one morally good, they are admissible, but in the measure that they lead to moral corruption, they should be dispensed with. As religious people mature, Kant felt, they would naturally let those relatively extrinsic practices and convictions fall to the side and would embrace the ethical core of their belief systems. Kant’s army of disciples today include such figures as John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, James Carroll, Bart Ehrman, and the late Marcus Borg, all of whom think that Christianity ought to be de-supernaturalized and re-presented as essentially a program of inclusion and social justice.

The problem with this Kantianism both old and new is that it runs dramatically counter to the witness of the first Christians, who were concerned, above all, not with an ethical program but with the explosive emergence of a new world. The letters of St. Paul, which are the earliest Christian texts we have, are particularly instructive on this score. One can find “ethics” in the writings of Paul, but one would be hard pressed indeed to say that the principal theme of Romans, Galatians, Philippians, or first and second Corinthians is the laying out of a moral vision. The central motif of all of those letters is in fact Jesus Christ risen from the dead. For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is the sign that the world as we know it—a world marked by death and the fear of death—is evanescing and that a new order of things is emerging. This is why he tells the Corinthians “the time is running out” and “the world in its present form is passing away;” this is why he tells the Philippians that everything he once held to be of central importance he now considers as so much rubbish; this is why he tells the Romans that they are not justified by their own moral achievements but through the grace of Jesus Christ; and this is why he tells the Galatians that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the “new creation.” The new creation is shorthand for the overturning of the old world and the emergence of a new order through the resurrection of Jesus, the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The inaugural speech of Jesus, as reported in the Gospel of Mark, commences with the announcement of the kingdom of God and then the exhortation to “repent and believe the good news.” We tend automatically to interpret repentance as a summons to moral conversion, but the Greek word that Mark employs is metanoiete, which means literally, “go beyond the mind you have.” On Mark’s telling, Jesus is urging his listeners to change their way of thinking so as to see the new world that is coming into existence.

It is indeed the case that Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, atheists, and agnostics can all be “good people.” In terms of what we privilege today, they can all be tolerant, inclusive, and just. But only Christians witness to an earthquake that has shaken the foundations of the world and turned every expectation upside down.
 
 
(Image credit: Deviant Art)

Bishop Robert Barron

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Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Terry

    Yes we always have to remember that some of the most evil men in history thought they were doing the right thing according to their consciences. It is not enough to guide our lives by our own consciences or we fall into error. The truth in in the person of Jesus Christ nowhere else. The absolute truth of existence and of our very own nature. God bless you.

    • William Davis

      Did you know that the Nazi's used Martin Luther book "On Jews and their Lies" to justify concentration camps? Luther quoted many verses from the New Testament to back it up. Anti-Jewish thought was deep in Christianity, and resulted in the first Ghetto's were they forced the Jews to live. To the Church, harboring those who rejected Christ was the cause of many sufferings that God was inflicting as judgement on Europe. I'm not saying Christianity is responsible for the holocaust, but the Church clearly fostered the anti-Jewish sentiment that eventually led to it.
      Did you know there are a ton of verses in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament that condone slavery? The Church condoned the idea of taking non-Christians as slaves. It even went so far as to say the black people have no souls.
      How on earth can you guys expect me to believe the Church has been anything but an abject failure when it comes to being a moral guide? I'll take my chances using reason, compassion, and some help from Buddhist philosophy. I'm also willing to accept the synoptic gospels (forget John), especially the oldest and one the others were copying from, Mark. Love is clearly the key to morality, and Buddhism teaches the same thing. It was Paul, and those who forged letters in Paul's name, that condoned slavery in the New Testament. Perhaps Paul was one of the Pharisees that could not get over the law that Jesus was warning us about.

      • Paul Waterhouse

        I always find it fascinating when people tell me, "Did you know there are a ton of verses in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament that condone slavery?", as if there isn't supposed to be any sins in the Bible that man commits? The Bible is written by Man inspired by God, written for a specific audience, man's imperfect view on morality but with steady growth, the coming of Christ, the sins of man, and how God slowly revealed himself to humanity. Slavery was the social norm for eons. The treatment of slaves in the early books of the Bible was astonishing back then, but it wasn't whole, and neither was St. Paul's. Even St. Paul's statements on slavery was revolutionary and continued the growth towards anti-slavery. Eventually it didn't take long for the Church to speak out against slavery after St. Paul. Too many people look back at scriptures with the mind-set of the 21st Century, and that is the worst way to read the texts. When we do read the texts with our current norms we see how we have grown spiritually since then. You have to know how to crawl before you can walk, before you can run.

        Christians always baptized when given the opportunity no matter who the person is, which means that The Church has always acknowledged that black people, and slaves, have souls. What you described was a "fringe" (bold, underline, italicized) minority that did exist but was not the view of The Church. The Church baptized people/slaves of all ethnicity's all around the world.

        The Church is the FULLNESS of truth, reason, compassion, etc. Yes you can find truth in Buddhism but the FULLNESS is solely in The Church.

        • William Davis

          The Bible is written by Man inspired by God, written for a specific audience, man's imperfect view on morality but with steady growth

          If God were involved, they would have gotten all the things wrong that they did. Like you said, it was just man's imperfect view on morality. We live in the days of the internet, where we have all kinds of views on morality. If you were getting that much wrong then, how much are still getting wrong, as you "grow". We're all growing, and the Church has no monopoly over the minds of men anymore, we are aware.

          I get the FULLNESS by learning new things. I see real benefit in learning from many disciplines, and reading many different books. I can't say my FULLNESS is better than yours, that is subjective, but I dawn well think it is more useful. Thanks for the response :)

          • RobertOrmsbee

            ... 01-29-22015
            Dear William Davis...
            ● From what you have offered here,
            I think you are naively and wildly foolish...
            in your acceptance of such diversity of today's "media-mania" and the profusely expressed
            ideas, notions, "how-to's," whys, and variant
            exclamations of shallow-minded, presumptive
            and generally "ignorant" people of our populace.
            ● I think you lack good discernment skills
            concerning what to accept and "believe" in
            matters of news, importance, value...and
            existential "truths" concerning Earth, our
            universe, "purpose, things, life, the superiority
            of humans"...and...
            "a moral point of view" regarding any and all
            of what your "mind" experiences.
            ____
            Consider this:
            ● A mixture of lies (or inaccurate information)
            blended with enough "truth," can appear
            and "seem" to be humanly plausible and
            reasonable.
            ● That's why and where social and cultural
            problems and dangers come from.
            ● Everyone must learn good reasoning
            and discernment skills...
            to better understand and decide upon "trustworthy leadership and information sources."
            ____
            Consider this:
            ● Beginnings of human "cognitive reasoning" capabilities are most generally agreed
            to be around 50,000 years B.C.
            ● From that time, it seems that our experiential concepts of "spirituality and God" are most responsible for the advanced growth and evolution of humanity as we (the vast majority of scholars and adherents of religion and academia) now know our existence to be.
            ● This means (simply) that a "moral point of view" is more important for sustenance and goodness in our humanity,
            than even technology or animal drives and reproductive behaviors.
            ____
            ● I should repeat that...
            ● A "moral point of view" is more important for sustenance and goodness in our humanity,
            than even technology or animal drives and reproductive behaviors.
            ● Where a moral point of view is absent, it is
            possible to live and enjoy animal behavior,
            but "NOT" human joy.
            ● That's how I think it is.:)

          • William Davis

            I agree about a moral point of view, because without morality, society would fall apart. I, after careful consideration, believe that Christianity has failed as a moral guide and should be replaced, though I respect your opinion. I don't think you are naive or misguided as you claim I am, I think you are simply a creature of your time, and times are changing at an pace unseen in before in human history. Strange writing style you have, is there a purpose for all the bullets?

          • William Davis

            Just one thought for you, slavery was never abolished until the industrial revolution. Machines became the new slaves. Without technology, I am certain Christians would still own slaves today, though non-Christians would too. This is a big example of how technology can change morality. Morality does not exist in a vacuum, and calm, well taken care of people have a much better morality than a starving man. What you eat can affect mood, and also morality...the human mind is quite fascinating.

        • Tooze the Bard

          Thanks for being a voice of reason in a sea of madness.

      • KareemAbdul

        Dear William - slavery is alive and well in many forms in 2015, from the sex trade, child slaves, slaves from China and the Philippines... and then there is slavery to drugs, to money, to sex, TV, the Internet, publicity, violence and so on.

        Heck, look at Greece today... a colony of Germany. The Germans have made it clear that they want the privatization of Greece's public assets. They aren't even hiding their intentions to enslave the Greeks as they did 60 years ago with slavs, jews, catholics, gays, etc.

        Look at college grads in the US who can't find a job and cannot escape crippling debt. They're debt slaves.

        Slavery or indentured servitude, or whatever cute name its given, is still very much here in 2015.

        • Josef Laspina

          Slavery persisted and persists today because mankind wanted it, regardless of the RCC & the belief in Jesus Christ's Resurrection or the universal resurrection.

      • Randy Otis

        Your on a "Catholic" site, using the "prodestant" Matin Luther as an example? Is there not enough babies for liberals like you to kill to keep yourselves busy?

        • William Davis

          Lol, slow day at fox news? For the record I'm a reasonably conservative liberal, but I'm not a true conservative liberal, as I reject the Christian notion of the self, the Buddhist notion is much more compatible with modern psychological and neurological findings. If you don't like liberals, you must be authoritarian, thinking the government should control much more of people's lives. Not surprising if you are a Catholic, though most Christians accept the enlightenment view of government at this point. I do think that having an imaginary "Big Brother" (God) is necessary for some people to control themselves, they must enact an authoritarian regime within there own mind. I've had many tell me this is very accurate, and that is why Christianity is so helpful for drug addicts and other criminals. So of us actually want to do the right thing because we are built that way.

          For the record, progressives are the opposite of conservatives, and liberals are the opposite of authoritarians. Anyone who isn't a liberal is an enemy of liberty and is truly against what America was founded on.

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

          This is from the article on authoritarianism, they directly mention the Catholic church, lol

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

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

          Keep reading btw, I get to the Catholic Churches direct involvement with anti-Jewish papal bulls and the creation of the first Ghettos.
          Isn't internet debating fun where can actually source fact and not worry about pulling punches? P.S. Calling me a baby killer makes you look like a complete fool and despicable person...

        • William Davis

          Your words from your comment history:

          "the church thinks that is going to get more butts in the pews...I guess there are not enough baby killers (Democrats) sitting in the church.

          You would know his "solutions" if you were not a baby killing liberal troll

          judgement on the Pope means nothing coming from a baby killing liberal

          Must be Abramson is a racist.....is that not what it is when you say something negative about a black person?...maybe only people on the political right can be racist and not the baby killer left......

          PP does not do screenings, they only refer people to go elsewhere..but don"t let the facts get in the way of good baby killing liberal lies."

          Do you realize how dimwitted your comment history makes you look? You are like a broken record (and this is over 2 years). You might want to make it private, you should be really embarrassed. You might also want to be more worried about what killed your brain cells than baby killing democrats.

      • Alexandra

        What is your evidence thet the church said "black people have no souls"?

      • TheTruthHurts

        No one has ever used love, reason, compassion, or Buddhism to commit atrocities? No one has ever twisted those ideologies to fit their own wicked plans? These must all first be completely understood to be applied effectively, just like Christianity.

        Did you know that there is nothing in the Bible, once actual thought has been applied, that can be interpreted as condemning to Jewish people (the people defended by God Himself from the front to the back of the book)? Jesus was Jewish. Paul was all about Jesus, and he was Jewish and proud of it. He also denounced Pharisees. Neither hated Jews. Case closed. Luther and Hitler were clearly not above twisting other philosophies to fit their own.

        • William Davis

          I've learned a lot since a wrote that 4 months ago, here is important information you should know. The case is closed but in the opposite direction ;) First Papal Bulls, then I'll let Luther show you where in the Bible this comes from:

          The Bull Cum Nimis Absurdum ("How completely absurd") of Paul IV, 1555, which created the ghetto of Rome, began with these words:

          As it is completely absurd and improper in the utmost that the Jews, who through their own fault were condemned by God to eternal servitude,

          The Bull Hebraeorum gens ("The Jewish Race") 1569, of Saint Pius V, which expelled Jews from some of the Papal states, began with these words:

          "The Jewish people fell from the heights because of their faithlessness and condemned their Redeemer to a shameful death. Their godlessness has assumed such forms that, for the salvation of our own people, it becomes necessary to prevent their disease. Besides usury, through which Jews everywhere have sucked dry the property of impoverished Christians, they are accomplices of thieves and robbers; and the most damaging aspect of the matter is that they allure the unsuspecting through magical incantations, superstition, and witchcraft to the Synagogue of Satan and boast of being able to predict the future. We have carefully investigated how this revolting sect abuses the name of Christ and how harmful they are to those whose life is threatened by their deceit. On account of these and other serious matters, and because of the gravity of their crimes which increase day to day more and more, We order that, within 90 days, all Jews in our entire earthly realm of justice -- in all towns, districts, and places -- must depart these regions."

          http://www.zionism-israel.com/hdoc/Papal_Bulls_Jews.htm

          Click on that link, there is more; I just quoted the highlights.

          This is from Luther's book, "On Jews and their lies". Note that Luther wrote this book just a few decades before these Papal Bulls. Luther and the Popes were spouting this garbage nearly in unison. They were allied in their hatred of Jews.

          He did not call them Abraham's children, but a "brood of vipers" [Matt. 3:7]. Oh, that was too insulting for the noble blood and race of Israel, and they declared, "He has a demon' [Matt 11:18]. Our Lord also calls them a "brood of vipers"; furthermore in John 8 [:39,44] he states: "If you were Abraham's children ye would do what Abraham did.... You are of your father the devil. It was intolerable to them to hear that they were not Abraham's but the devil's children, nor can they bear to hear this today.

          http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/Luther_on_Jews.html

          Germany was almost entirely Christian during the holocaust:

          In 1933, prior to the annexation of Austria into Germany, the population of Germany was approximately 67% Protestant and 33% Catholic.[1] A census in May 1939, six years into the Nazi era[2] and incorporating the annexation of mostly Catholic Austria into Germany, indicates that 54% considered themselves Protestant (including non-denominational Christians), 40% Catholic, 3.5% self-identified as "gottgläubig" (lit. "believers in god", often described as predominately creationist and deistic[3]), and 1.5% as non-religious. Most members of the Nazi Party were Christians.

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

          So yeah, case closed. I've got facts, what do you have?

          P.S. As far as I know, Buddhism has never been used for such purposes. Here is a great article on anti-Jewish sentiment and the New Testament Specifically. The more you know, the worse it gets. I will never be a Christian because it is an unjust religion on many levels. I go into detail on this site. Keep reading, I'd love to convince you of this fact :) I'm much better at debating this now.

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

          • Pofarmer

            Need. More. Upvotes.

          • TheTruthHurts

            You have shown me lots of examples of individuals twisting ideas from scripture to fit their own agenda, but very little actual scripture. Papal Bulls are not scripture, and neither are Luther's writings. Still, let's see what you've got there...

            Matt. 3:7- "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees..." He wasn't talking to all of the Jewish people, but specific groups (Jesus was Jewish, and He didn't consider Himself to be a viper).

            Luther tries to tie together events from chapter 3 with chapter 11. Fail! Chapter 11 happened about 2 years after chapter 3. Totally intellectually dishonest.

            John 8 begins with Jesus calling out the Pharisees, and then He speaks to the crowd that has gathered and tells them that if they don't believe Him (God), they are not children of Abraham, but children of Satan. That sounds very similar to something that would have been written in the Old Testament.

            Nazis were Christians. Yep. Didn't deny that. Obviously, the Christian Church wanted to kill all the Jews, right? That's why the rest of the Christian nations around the world sacrificed life and limb to stop the Nazis and rescue the Jews, yeah? I see your point there.

            You don't have facts, you have Luther, popes, and articles. Wikipedia? Oh noes! I can link to plenty of articles, but that won't do us much good. Show me some specific stuff in the Bible that you have a problem with, and I'll be happy to discuss those things. In the meantime, we're all going to be wondering why Jesus (a Jew) and Paul (a Jew) wanted all of us to hate the Jews.

            P.S. Google "Buddhist atrocities."

          • William Davis

            In the meantime, we're all going to be wondering why Jesus (a Jew) and Paul (a Jew) wanted all of us to hate the Jews.

            Because they rejected Christianity. Why did they reject Christianity? Because they were there. Jesus's "miracles" were all in Israel, especially Jerusalem, yet hardly any Jews in the region converted. The Christians were in fact kicked out of Jerusalem pretty early...obviously Jesus wasn't that impressive. This is from a Catholic source:

            My sole aim is to examine the
            growth of the Christian movement in the first century, and to determine in a
            general way the numbers of Jews who converted to it. It will be argued that,
            despite the evidence of Acts to the contrary, the Christian movement made very
            little impression upon the Jewish people. Its Jewish membership probably never
            exceeded 1 000 at any point in the first century, and by the 50s the Jewish
            members were quite likely exceeded in number by their Gentile counterparts.

            http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/viewFile/430/329

            Some argue that there were more Jewish converts, but they were all in Asia minor, far away from the events described in the gospels. Tell me the New Testament isn't upset with Jews who didn't think Jesus was God, and I'll question if you've ever actually read it. It wasn't ethnic anti-Jewish sentiment, it was religious. To me, these are just two angles of the same thing.

            Here is more backup from the NT

            In several places John's gospel also associates "the Jews" with darkness and with the devil. In John 8:37-39;[11] 44-47,[12] Jesus says, speaking to a group of Pharisees:

            I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me, because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did. ... You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But, because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? He who is of God hears the words of God; the reason why you do not hear them is you are not of God.

            According to Pieter Willem van der Horst, there is an instance of antisemitic statements in one of the Pauline epistles;[15] Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 as follows:

            For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last.

            Revelation 2:9

            9 “I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

            Rev 3:9

            9 I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.

            So those who didn't convert aren't real Jews, they are of the synagogue of Satan...yeah.

            P.S. There aren't many "Buddhist atrocities", but there are some. The list is much shorter Christianity's and Pol Pot was communist but raised Buddhist. Stalin of Soviet Russia was raised Greek Orthodox, but I don't blame Christianity for communism at all. The anti-Jewish situation is very different.

            Here is a nice list of Christian witch hunts while we're on the topic:

            http://www.religioustolerance.org/wic_burn2.htm

          • TheTruthHurts

            I ask for scripture, and you give me pure conjecture, along with some fringe Catholic "theologian" who conveniently assumes the account in Acts is unreliable! Let's just throw out the book of Hebrews while we're cherry-picking. Are there any reliable primary sources to back up your assertion that Paul and Jesus hated the Jews because not enough of them converted?

            Aha! Some scripture! 1st Thess. 2:14-16 says that the specific people who ordered Jesus' execution and drove out the Christians displeased God, and we're glad He's dealing with them. Those are somewhat harsh, but accurate theological observations, but I'm not really seeing much hate there. My pitchfork is staying firmly tethered to the ground.

            Your Revelation passages refer to people in the future, so that is hardly admissable. I'm not seeing anything about conversion here at all...am I missing something? It looks like John is saying that there will be fake Jews, and they are from the synagogue of the Liar (translation of Satan). Again, not raising pitchforks over that.

            Thanks for admitting that Buddhists have had problems. I'll bet you feel that the bad deeds done in the name of Buddha don't affect your moral compass; nor do they reflect your beliefs. I don't assume that they do, anyway. Likewise, the decisions of "Christians" centuries ago don't represent the Jesus I'm familiar with.

    • Marc Riehm

      Much evil was done by men of God, too. The Catholic God.

  • Linda Dokey

    AMEN AMEN

  • Edward Carlin

    Father, I understand that our concept of time is different from God who is outside of it, and even the Hebrew people waited longer for the arrival of Jesus than we have been waiting for his second coming, but I can't help but feel some empathy for these Enlightenment thinkers for being a bit... weary.

    It's been 2,000 years, and we're still waiting for the realisation of the Kingdom of God, however much it may be "at hand." I suppose one could say that mankind has made leaps and bounds of progress in realising a better world since Jesus walked the earth, but on the other hand, I'm not entirely sure how much a difference that event really has made in the grand scheme of things, especially when one considers the current state of affairs amidst the wreckage of the Christian West (the Christian East notwithstanding; I'd be curious to see what happens once places in Africa and Asia experience their own Renaissances).

    I've been attending mass and confession my whole life, and I'm still not entirely sure that any of it is more than a bunch of hocus-pocus, so while I'd like to believe that the grace of the sacraments is real, I have to admit that it's much easier to observe the difference that Christianity's moral and ethical teachings have made on my daily life.

    In sum, can we really blame people for being a bit tired of waiting? How many times has the Our Father been prayed over the centuries, and yet we're still waiting in a seemingly never-ending Advent for God to actually renew the face of the earth?

    • Joe Sax

      Thanks for this post; I was expecting the usual cheering section (nothing wrong with that in itself; Fr. Barron often gives us reason to cheer), and what you have offered is some genuine searching, faith seeking understanding. Bravo. I have no idea what Fr. Barron or his staff would say in response. I look forward to reading that. But Let me respond to you this way: a great theme of Catholicism is 'waiting.' It is the core of messianism. We await the second coming of the Messiah (we really liked the first coming, but we really really like what we think the second will be :-). It's what we're doing when we're waiting that matters. We look for the kingdom, hear the call of the kingdom, and respond to the call. by this I mean more than expectation, religion, faith reduced to ethics. I mean that the kingdom calls, and awaits a religious response. That response is what we mean my cooperation in the ongoing creation of the world, and bringing the kingdom into existence.

      • Gail Finke

        I would add that none of us has any longer to wait than any of the others. As far as our own lives go, what does it matter if the crucifixion was 20 years ago or 2000 years ago? It happened, and we are waiting with "joyful hope" for Christ's return. None of us has any more than 100 years or so to wait, most of us considerably less. All we can do is live now and hope.

        • David Nickol

          One of the problems with the Christian message, it seems to me, is that the return of Christ was supposed to happen within the lifetime of some of the people who followed him before his death and resurrection.

          • Eric

            The return of Christ in fact did happen within the lifetimes of some of the people who followed him before his death and resurrection...the very next time they obeyed his Holy Thursday Command to 'do this in remembrance of me' and took bread saying "This is my body" and wine saying, "this is my blood". The Hebrew concept of remembrance has eternal connotations which go beyond symbolic 'memorial' and touch more closely on 'make the past present'. In this sense, the very first time the apostles gathered to break bread on the Lord's Day, the Christ they knew and loved, as promised, came to them again, and again, and again for the last 2000+ years and will continue to do so multiple times daily fulfilling his promise in Matthew to be "with you always to the end of the age." This is precisely the Good News that Father Barron is getting at, the foundations of reality have shifted and boundaries we thought existed between eternity and time are shattered. This is the call of metanoiete.

          • David Nickol

            I am talking about the Second Coming (or Parousia). All you say is fine. To add one more example, Jesus said, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” However, neither that nor anything you mentioned constitutes the Second Coming.

            Apologies in advance, but I think most non-Christians (and perhaps a great many Christians) would consider your response something akin to "bait and switch." A Second Coming was promised and expected in the early Church. It did not happen. So your response seems to imply that Jesus really did return, not just in the way expected.

            A similar (and weightier) example would be the assertion that Jesus was the (Jewish) Messiah. But why didn't Jews acknowledge him as such? Because "he was not the type of Messiah they were expecting." But since "Messiah" was defined by the Jewish expectations, it makes little sense to claim Jesus was a different type of Messiah than what the Jews expected.

          • Loreen Lee

            The Jewish tradition I learned from the Kabbala was that God is revealed through the interaction of the community, not through a specific individual. This seems contradictory though, unless the Messiah was another special kind of prophet, and they never did expect any Son of God or Man in the sense its understood in Christianity.
            I end up having to change my mind all the time, so thanks for the insight I prefer to mind, above on when Christ will 'return'.

          • Zach Streng

            I keep replying to your comments haha. It's not on purpose, you just bring up good points :) Anyways, I'd contend that the messiah isn't defined by Jewish expectations, but by God himself. The misinterpretation of God's word by people shouldn't limit what he is able to do, should it? Id say that Jesus fits the suffering servant prophesies pretty well btw (Isaiah 53, Psalm 22). If you look at psalm 22 in conjunction with Matthew 27:32-46 it's pretty crazy imo.

          • heidi keene

            First, parousia needs to be defined: (wikipedia)
            "Physical presence, arrival – The main use is the physical presence of a person,[3] which where that person is not already present refers to the prospect of the physical arrival of that person,[4] especially the visit of a royal or official personage[5] and sometimes as an extension of this usage, a formal "occasion".[6] I
            The word is used 24 times in the New Testament.[11] Of these, six uses refer to the coming of individuals: Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus (1Co.16:17), Titus (2Co.7:6 & 7) the physical "presence" of Paul himself (2Co.10:10, Php.1:26, 2:12), and a 7th use to the "coming of the lawless one" (2Thess.2:9). The other seventeen uses refer to the Second Coming of Christ, except the one case in which it refers to the coming of the "Day of God" (2Pe.3:12, see also The Day of the Lord).

            The word parousia is found in the following verses: Matthew 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 1 Corinthians 15:23; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8, 9; James 5:7, 8; 2 Peter 1:16; 3:4, 12; 1 John 2:28."

            So, when Jesus used the term it certainly did not always have the same connotation. Obviously, he used it in the sense of physical presence (the resurrection on the 8th day) as well as referring to his "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem (a parousia in the classic sense of the term).

            The bizarre tendency to read 'parousia' in restriction to the sense of the second coming is a protestant type of reductionism that ignores the literal sense of the text.

            Moving on.... the "Jews" did not define " Messiah" by their expectations. First of all, there were several sects who had totally different Messianic expectations (Rabbinic-pharisaic theology which was post exilic and Apocalyptic Messianism). Both major sects shared a misconception of the Messiah that was the result of the deliberate dismissal of several important messianic prophetical texts. These texts were dismissed out of hand because they involved a messiah who was to inaugurate a Gentile inclusive kingdom. This ran contrary to the eschatology of the major Hebrew sects because both dominant sects shared the belief that the Messiah would submit all Gentiles to Jewish authority and dominion. The 'Law' was eternal and following it to the letter would be the main accomplishment of the messias. "Rabbinic nomisim...had usurped the Old Testament prophesy" (Felder, "Jesus of Nazareth" p. 188. Ricciotti, "The Life of Christ" p.72-77) The forgiveness of sin was believed to have taken place under the Mosaic covenant. So, the kingdom Jesus came proclaiming ran contrary to these beliefs, but the concept of Messias was by no means under the propriety of those Jewish leaders who had made a slipshod interpretation of the prophesies motivated by their own political and eschatological dreams.

            Regarding the "kingdom of God":

            'The dominion of God over the world, or the kingdom of God in the world, was in general the sum total of all the hopes for the future. The entire Old Testament is replete wiht the idea which Jeus expresses in the words: Thy kingdom come!" By the term Malkuth Schamaim or Malkuth Jahweh, Holy Scripture mans, in line with Semitic usage, preciselythe concrete, royal rights which God possesses over the world, the exercise of these rights on the part of God, and the recognition of them on the part of men-consequently a kingdom which is governed from heaven and which must be entirely subject to heaven, a heavenly dominion, a royal government of God. It is precisely this recognition of the inalienable rights oof God on the parat of men which the Messias made a reality. Kingdom of God and Messias therefore are correlative ideas."- Hilarin Felder, Jesus of Nazareth, 173.

          • David Nickol

            The bizarre tendency to read 'parousia' in restriction to the sense of the second coming is a protestant type of reductionism that ignores the literal sense of the text.

            I have not cited any particular verses but made the following general statement:

            One of the problems with the Christian message, it seems to me, is that the return of Christ was supposed to happen within the lifetime of some of the people who followed him before his death and resurrection.

            One of my favorite references, Dictionary of the Bible by John L. McKenzie, S.J., says the following:

            The attitude of the NT and the early Church toward the time of Parousia creates one of the more vexing problems of NT exegesis and theology. A number of texts seem to suggest with all desired clarity that the Parousia is an imminent event (Mt 10:23; 24:34; Mk 13:30; Lk 21:32; 1 Th 4:13ff; 1 Pt 4:7; Apc 3:11; 22:20). . . .

            He continues a bit later:

            The impression of the proximity of the Parousia, however, does not arise from any single text, but from a number of texts found in different books, and it is not altogether honest to attempt to rationalize it out of existence. That the impression was common in the early Church seems to admit no doubt.

            He argues that on the other hand, that "the current of tradition which contains warnings that the time is entirely unknown is as solidly embedded in early tradition as the impression of the proximity of the Parousia. Consequently, he says,

            One may combine these themes, it seems, only by preserving both of them. The Parousia was never described by Jesus as an event which was in the remote future; and to be altogether accurate the attitude of the early Church should be described as a hope and an expectation that the Parousia was near rather than a firm conviction that it was near.

            Fr. McKenzie's argument, which I probably have not done justice to, is reasonably "fair and balanced," but is definitely from a believer's point of view. I'll go out on a limb here and say I think the consensus among historians who do not approach the Bible as believers is that the belief in the early Church was that the Parousia was coming very, very soon, and as time passed and it did not happen, "adjustments" had to be made in Christian thought.

            Why I find Dictionary of the Bible such a valuable reference is that Fr. McKenzie is quite frank in acknowledging the difficulties in cases like this, and does not scoffingly dismiss the problems with statements like:

            The bizarre tendency to read 'parousia' in restriction to the sense of the second coming is a protestant type of reductionism that ignores the literal sense of the text.

          • heidi keene

            I am not blithely dismissing those persons who refuse to accept a plurality of meaning in the word parousia when used in the NT context. I am simply stating my bewilderment at the lack of hermeneutical finess that those person's display in such judgements. I have included here 4 short excerpts from widely variant scholars in terms of their personal schools of belief on the subject.
            The fourth excerpt is relevant because it puts forth excerpts from 1st and 2nd ce documents (fragments) which show just how variant the understanding was for the earliest Christians.

            Although quite obvious, it bears pointing out (as in the first excerpt) that St. Peter points out in his epistle that 'false teachers' will try to lead Christians astray precisely by insisting on an immediate parousia without allowing for the necessary delay due to several other eschatological factors that must be accounted for. Both Peter and Paul's message is in union with Jesus' own message on the parousia (see excerpt 3): That a long time must pass, but how long is unknown so be ready at all times.

            This point of eschatology (parousia) is not a scandal except when viewed from a exceedingly narrow and uninformed hermeneutic.

            "Some scholars take the comparatively few explicit references to a future return of Christ in Paul’s later letters as evidence of a development of Pauline eschatological thought away from an imminent expectation of the Parousia (e.g. Dodd 1953). However, it is possible to read Paul as maintaining the possibility of Christ’s sudden and immediate return, and as advocating a constant state of readiness in light of this possibility, throughout his writings (see Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, 294–315). To this effect, Paul echoes Jesus’ warning that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:1–4) and encourages his audience to remain steadfast in hope and action until that day comes (see e.g., Rom 13:11–14; Phil 3:20–21, 4:5; Col 3:3–4; also 1 Tim 6:13–16; Titus 2:11–14)."

            The Lexham Bible Dictionary. . John D. Barry

            "THE PAROUSIA AND REASONS FOR ITS DELAY 2 PE 3:3–10
            This passage states some allegations of the false teachers regarding the Parousia, as well as Peter’s answer to these allegations. The Parousia is certain to occur, but it is delayed for a purpose: to allow for people to repent and thus be saved from judgment."

            2 PETER A TRANSLATOR’S HANDBOOK ON THE SECOND LETTER FROM PETER.
            Daniel C. Arichea, Howard A. Hatton

            "That Jesus did not anticipate that the second coming would be soon is shown by many assertions of the parousia speech (Mt. 24:14, 21:31; Luke 21:24; cf. Luke 17:22; Mt. 12:41), the Parables of the return, which suggest a long absence of the Lord (cf. Mt. 24:48; 25:5; 25:19: “But after a long time the Lord of those servants came and reckoned with them”), and the Parables of the gradual growth of the kingdom of God on earth (Mt. 13:24–33). Many passages which speak of the coming of Jesus must be understood not in a literal sense but rather as referring to the revelation of His power, whether it be for the punishment of His enemies (Mt. 10:23: destruction of Jerusalem) or for the extension of the Kingdom of God on earth (Mt. 16:28; Mk. 9:1; Luke 9:27) or for the reward of His faithful ones in the blessedness of Heaven (John 14:3, 18:28; 21:22). The words of Mt. 24:34: “Amen, I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done,” refer, according to the context, to the omens of the parousia, among which already the judgment of punishment on Jerusalem is counted.
            The Apostles also teach that the time of the parousia is unknown to us. St. Paul writes to the Thessalonians: “But of the times and moments, brethren, you need not, that we should write to you. For yourselves, know perfectly that the day of the Lord shall so come as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1–2). In 2 Thess. 2:1 et seq., the Apostle gives a warning of exaggerated anticipation of the parousia, by an indication of the omens which must precede it (2 Thess. 2:1–3). St. Peter ascribes the delay of the parousia to the patience of God who wishes to give sinners time to repent. With God a thousand years are as a day. The day of the Lord will come like a thief (2 Peter 3:8–10). Cf. Apoc. 3:3; 16:15"

            DR. LUDWIG OTT. FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC DOGMA. p.488

            "As in the individual writings, so in the NT as theological role, though Just. Dial., 54, 1 says that Christ is present in believers and will be present (παρέσται) at the second parousia. παρουσία is used in the profane sense (the coming of Danaos to the Peloponnese), Tat. Or. Graec., 39, 3. The technical eschatological sense of παρουσία occurs in the post-apost. fathers only at Dg., 7, 6 and Herm. s., 5, 5, 3, cf. also Act. Thom. 28. In Ign. Phld., 9, 2 there is ref. to the earthly coming of Jesus: The Gospel has as its chief content τὴν παρουσίαν τοῦ σωτῆρος … τὸ πάθος αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν ἀνάστασιν. In Just. the term occurs only infrequently for the coming in power and glory (Dial., 49, 8; 31, 1; 35, 8; 51, 2). It is used more often for the earthly coming (Dial., 88, 2; cf. 120, 3; Apol., 48, 2; 54, 7). Mostly the two are set in juxtaposition as δύο παρουσίαι, πρώτη and δευτέρα, ἄδοξος and ἔνδοξος παρουσία (Apol., 52, 3; Dial., 14, 8; 49, 2, 7; 53, 1; 54, 1 etc.). There is a hint of the idea of the coming again of Christ (Dial., 35, 8; 118, 2). The eschatological emphasis is stronger in Iren. In the Gk. of Haer., I, 10, 1 (MPG, 7, 549)—if we are to read τὴν ἔλευσιν with the Lat.—he seems to be distinguishing between ἔλευσις and παρουσία. But in the Lat., which is all we have for the other passages, he speaks repeatedly of the twofold coming, IV, 22, 1 and 2 (MPG, 7, 1046 f.); 33, 11 f. (1079 f.), illustrated by the twofold coming in Gethsemane. Hippolyt. speaks similarly of δύο παρουσίαι, ἄτιμος and ἔνδοξος. On the other hand, Cl. Al., in his 41 refs. to the παρουσία, almost without exception has the earthly life in view. Here παρουσία occurs frequently without gen., Strom., III, 12, 90, 4; VI, 17, 159, 9. In Strom., V, 6, 38, 6 the ref. seems to be to the discernible presence in the Church (αἰσθητὴ παρουσία). Once in an obscure context, perhaps under alien influence, we find the ancient formula of a twofold coming, Ecl. Proph., 56, 1. The eschatological sense seems to be almost forgotten. We are pointed in the same direction by a Pap. Fr. from Cairo which in line 10 calls Jn. the Baptist the forerunner of the παρουσία of Christ. This complete de-eschatologising is, however, the exception. The further history of the term in the West comes to be connected esp. with the word adventus. Later an adventus triplex or quadruplex was distinguished. Liturgists and preachers sought such distinctive formulations as adventus ad homines, in homines, contra homines, or in carnere, in mentem, in morte, in maiestate."

            THEOLOGICAL DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
            Editors: GERHARD KITTEL GERHARD FRIEDRICH. Tdnt 5.871

          • David Nickol

            GERHARD KITTEL GERHARD FRIEDRICH

            From Wikipedia:

            Biography

            The son of the famous Old Testament scholar Rudolf Kittel,[4] he married Hanna Untermeier in 1914, but there were no children from the union. In May 1933 he joined the National Socialist German Workers Party.[5] He had had no previous involvement in politics but called the Nazi
            Party "a voelkisch renewal movement on a Christian, moral foundation".[6]

            In 1945, after Hitler's Third Reich capitulated to the Allies, Kittel was arrested by the French occupying forces, removed from office and interned at Balingen. In 1946 Kittel was released pending his trial. He was forbidden to enter Tübingen until 1948, however. From 1946 to 1948
            he was a Seelsorger (soul carer) in Beuron. In 1948 he was allowed back into Tübingen, but died that year before the criminal proceedings against him could be resumed.[7]

            Nazi Germany

            For the Third Reich, he produced antisemitic propaganda posing as scholarship.[8] A Professor of Evangelical Theology and New Testament at the University of Tübingen, he published studies depicting the Jewish people as the historical enemy of Germany, Christianity, and European culture in general.

            In a lecture of June 1933 Die Judenfrage (The Jewish Question), that soon appeared in print, he spoke for the
            stripping of citizenship from German Jews, their removal from medicine, law, teaching, and journalism, and to forbid marriage or sexual relations with non-Jews - thus anticipating by two years the Nazi government, which introduced its Nuremberg Racial Laws and took away Jewish rights of German citizenship, in 1935.[9][10] A close friend of Walter Frank, Kittel joined Frank's Reichsinstitut für Geschichte des neuen Deutschlands,
            a highly politicised organisation that claimed to be involved in scholarship, upon its foundation in 1935. Within this institute he was attached to the highly anti-Semitic Forschungsabteilung judenfrage.[5]

            William F. Albright wrote that, "In view of the terrible viciousness of his attacks on Judaism and the Jews, which continues at least until 1943, Gerhard
            Kittel must bear the guilt of having contributed more, perhaps, than any other Christian theologian to the mass murder of Jews by Nazis."[11]

          • heidi keene

            Right on, David. At least you have the critical thinking to question the motives of the Tubingen school of so called 'historical critical' thought. I would make the claim that a great majority of 'scholarship' coming from this school was ideologically motivated against the claims of the Catholic Church (they were materialists and rationalist after all).
            Never the less, these guys have all the respect in the field of historical critical and have not yet been abandoned even by their opposing camps.

          • David Nickol

            Regarding the definition of Messiah, it is not at all clear to me what you are saying (or whom you are quoting). Let's keep it very simple. Are you saying that Jesus was—or was not—the Jewish Messiah?

            If a Messiah was expected (and there certainly were messianic hopes, although not in the Old Testament, in which the word Messiah does not appear), how was he to be recognized? If Jesus did not fulfill the expectations of those who were awaiting the Messiah, in what sense could he be called "the Messiah"?

          • Heidi keene

            Yes, Jesus was the Messiah. According to whom? Himself, his disciples, Paul the Pharisee, the Prophets (explicitly Daniel) and the pre-exilic expectations of the two main schools of pharisee/rabbinical theology (see citation below)

            "The original and genuine idea (of the messiah) is put forth in the OT; its later and erroneous interpretation is found in the rabbinical and apocalyptic theology. The OT concept of the Messiah ...can be expressed by the OT terms: Son of David, Servant of God, Son of Man, God with us, and the Kingdom of God" - Hilarin Felder, Jesus of Nazareth, pg 169.

            Felder also wrote an 1000 page seminole work entitled, Christ and the Critics vol. i and ii, in which he addresses this historical subject in depth and against several prominent historical critical scholars of the Tubingen school.

            "None of the prophetic books of the Bible use mashiakh as a title for such a coming king except Daniel (placed not among the Nevi’im, or Prophets, but among the Ketuvim, or Writings, in the Jewish canon). Dan. 9:25 has the first reference to an anointed one (mashiakh), a prince (nagid) who is a future, expected leader".

            Such expectations are clearer in Hellenistic Jewish literature of the Second Temple period. In the Psalms of Solomon (first century bce) there is expectation of a “righteous king, taught by God,” who will be “their king, the Anointed of the Lord” (Gk. christos kyriou; 17:32). The author prays that Israel will be purified “for the day of election, for the manifestation of his Anointed” (Gk. christou autou; 18:5). This ideal king reflects the current opposition to the non-Davidic Hasmonean dynasty. Similarly, the Similitudes of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71), probably dating from the mid-first century bce, link the day of judgment with an expected heavenly figure, a “Son of Man,” also called a “Messiah” (1 Enoch 48:10; 52:4).

            "Within a short time after the final redaction of the book of Daniel, Palestinian Jews who dwelt at Qumran recorded in their rule books that they were awaiting the coming of three expected figures: “They shall be ruled by the original precepts by which the men of the Community were first instructed, until there comes a prophet, and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel” (1QS 9:10–11). The “prophet” was the one promised by Moses (Deut. 18:15, 18), the “Messiah of Aaron” was to be a priestly figure, and the “Messiah of Israel,” a kingly, probably Davidic, figure. Thus, despite the lack of clear teaching about the coming of a Messiah in biblical writings prior to the book of Daniel, messianic expectation clearly fed into Jewish belief current at Qumran in the first century ce (see also 1QSa 2:14, 20; CD 12:23–13:1; 14:19; 19:10–11; 20:1; 4QpGen [4Q252] 1:3–4; 4QMessApoc [4Q521] 1:1)."

            Powell, M. A. (Ed.). (2011). In The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated). New York: HarperCollins.

          • Loreen Lee

            Yes, perhaps every moment of patience is a moment of waiting. Perhaps every moment is a kind of end time. After all, the scripture is that we never know when the end time will come. Perhaps it's coming all the time. (Although I don't really understand the relation of the eternal to the temporal) I believe that Jesus said that he would be there, whenever more than one, that is within even the Jewish context of community, a revelation of God as truth, is with us and is revealed. We're kind of lucky. Because we have the Holy Ghost with us too..

          • Zach Streng

            It would seem that way, but I feel like it is a matter of context and interpretation. People use Matthew 24:34 as proof for "Jesus' failed prophecy", but when read in context (Matt 24:32-44) it seems to me that the statement about "this generation" isn't referring to first century Christians, but rather, is making a statement about the timeline of the final coming (that all of the signs would happen within a generation) because right after he makes the "this generation" statement Jesus claims that, “about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." So, why would he prophesy about the time something was going to happen and then claim that he doesn't know when it's actually going to happen? His following statement gives us context and informs our interpretation. In fact, if you read the whole chapter jesus uses phrases like "In that time" and "all these are the beginning (world wars and the gospel being preached in all the world)" suggesting that "this generation" and the signs to come are definitely well in the future

          • Marc Riehm

            Christians have waited for nearly 2000 years. In another 2000, they will still be waiting and rationalizing the delay. And so it will be for 20,000 years, and beyond.

          • Zach Streng

            May I ask how you came to the conclusion that God doesn't exist? Just curious. Please be specific if you have the time

          • Marc Riehm

            Well, it wasn't what I was saying here. But since you ask...

            I was raised rationally – although not atheistically – and schooled heavily in science. There simply isn't any evidence.

          • Zach Streng

            It wasn't what you were saying, but it was the underlying premise of your statement :) Anyways, I was raised heavily in the sciences, went to UC Berkeley to get my engineering degree but actually became a Christian in college. There is more evidence than you think just from philosophical and historical perspectives, although I'd say science is a wash since you can't really observe something outside space and time. Science is limited that way haha. The Fine Tuned theory and the Cosmological Argument carry some weight though imo. What gets me more though is how interconnected the themes and prophecies all 66 books are even though they are written by so many different authors. A lot of people don't seem to be able to make these connection between the themes though :/ (not a statement about you, just people in general) Also, some of the prophecies about Jesus are pretty crazy (Isaiah 53, psalm 22 (read next to Matthew 27:32-46). There are more too, like correlations between the end of John 1 and Gen 28, but that one is a lot less apparent haha. But that puts us into the realm of history and whether the texts we have are reliable haha. Definitely too long to argue about on here. Anyways, just some food for thought. Btw, sorry my post didn't flow well! I have somewhere to be but I wanted to respond quickly!

          • Tyler Janzen

            It depends which idea of God you are referring to. The idea of a God who simply sparked the beginnings of life or the universe which seeded life is about the most difficult to criticize I would think. But it seems to me that to absolve yourself of the question of universal genesis, you create an even greater conundrum. Divine genesis. This doesn't necessarily prove that this God doesn't exist, but the plausibility of this supreme being with amazing supernatural powers having poofed into existence or always being there seems low in my mind. I think you would find most atheists retain a level of agnosticism. As for the main three monotheistic Gods and their belief systems, I don't see how any of them have done much of anything to incite change in regards to the ubiquitous misogynistic treatment of women, the owning of human beings as property, or the insane violence prevalent in almost every culture until very recently in our history. Even now there are versions of each which are still terribly oppressive towards women. Look at the example the Catholic church sets for the world. Or Muslim countries where the kings have dozens of wives and women are often treated like livestock. I'm reading a fascinating book by Stephen Pinker in which he hypothesizes that development of the printing press and the accessibility of literature to the common man at least partly lead to the spread of empathy and decline of medieval style torture and violence, it's acceptability in society, and subsequently war in general. Whatever the change was which lead us out of the cycle of violence and dispassion, religion was clearly not the catalyst. Religion was merely a neutral by-stander, suffering all of the shortcomings of the minds of the day. I would concede however, there are valuable ideas in every religion. The doctrine which made sex inextricable from marriage was probably a very positive one in a world without birth control.

            Also when I consider the sheer heartless brutality of nature, parasites boring into children's eyeballs, the hundreds of thousands deformed by polio, every minute a child dies from Malaria, Cancer, diabetes, Aids, Tuberculosis, the list is inexhaustible. Consider all that and the idea of an all powerful, all loving God seems absurd. If he is omnipotent than he can achieve anything he desires without the requisite of thousands of souls being born just to suffer and die.Why create evil parasites and bacteria and diseases that take babies away from their mothers or fathers away from their children? If God is anything but a curious bystander he is anything but compassionate. He is impotent or uncaring or non-existent.

            Meanwhile I could rape a child and still get into heaven, but if my mentally unstable friend kills himself he will not? Given our present day understanding of mental illness this is hardly justifiable. This God practically gives people permission to be evil. You are born in sin. Tell someone that and they will probably sin as it is clearly expected of them. Or at least if they are inclined to sin they can feel justified in it and receive absolution. I don't think we have the right to tell people they can be absolved if they raped somebody, or for anything. That's an abhorrent thing which they should feel terrible guilt for as long as they exist. Lord knows their victims won't likely get absolution from their suffering. I guess I just don't want that to be God. If that's God I will politely tell him that's terrible myself if I ever get the chance. Whether or not God exists I'm honestly not particularly worried either way, I can be proud of myself and my actions regardless of what I think about God's existence.

            I could go on but I'm not sure if there's a point, or if I'm addressing things which are irrelevant. Feel free to lob any criticism my way, if you think my logic is faulty perhaps.

            Cheers

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The idea of a God who simply sparked the beginnings of life or the universe which seeded life ...

            But that is not the idea of God, who is supposed as supporting the existence of things at all moments of time. Unless you have "scientific" proof that once something exists it will continue existing. But then there is no scientific proof that anything exists at all. Science begins with the assumption that things exist. There cannot be empirical evidence unless something empirical exists in the first place.

            create an even greater conundrum. Divine genesis.

            Ah, the old "What caused the uncaused cause?" conundrum. What part of "uncaused" is difficult to grasp?

            supreme being with amazing supernatural powers

            That imagery is about as misleading as the image of the atom as a miniature solar system.

            I don't see how any of them have done much of anything to incite change in regards to the ubiquitous misogynistic treatment of women

            Then a better knowledge of history is called for. A useful book in this context is Women in the Days of the Cathedrals, by Regine Pernoud.

            I don't see how any of them have done much of anything to incite change in regards to...the owning of human beings as property

            Then a better knowledge of history is called for. Slavery as an institution disappeared from Europe during the Age of Faith, was revived in the Age of Reason (to rationally staff the sugar plantations of the Canary Islands), only to be eliminated a second time by religious zealots.

            I don't see how any of them have done much of anything to incite change in regards to...the insane violence prevalent in almost every culture until very recently in our history

            Then a better knowledge of history is called for. Certainly better than Pinker's.

            Look at the example the Catholic church sets for the world.

            By elevating Mary to "Queen of Heaven" and canonizing Agnes, Agatha, Lucy, Anastasia, Theresa, Hildegarde, and others? So different from elsewhere that a Turkish embassy to Vienna reported that women ran Europe. Or by the series of edicts restricting and stangling slavery in 8th century Europe? Or by founding such orders as Our Lady of Ransom and the Trinitarians for the purpose of freeing slaves? By establishing the Peace of God and the Truce of God, defining the notion of "non-combatant" and so forth?

            I'm reading a fascinating book by Stephen Pinker

            The one that had historians and statisticians both rolling their eyes?

            when I consider the sheer heartless brutality of nature

            Nature is neither heartless nor brutal, although humans may project those subjective notions onto an objective world.

            Meanwhile I could rape a child and still get into heaven

            How do you propose you manage that?

            if my mentally unstable friend kills himself he will not?

            How so? To commit a mortal sin you must know it is seriously wrong, intend the wrong, and give full assent to the wrongness. A mentally ill person might not satisfy any of those criteria.

            You are born in sin. Tell someone that and they will probably sin as it is clearly expected of them.

            Just like you tell them their face is dirty they will not go and wash it?

            I don't think we have the right to tell people they can be absolved if they raped somebody, or for anything.

            So, you're a Calvinist?

            their victims won't likely get absolution from their suffering.

            What in the world do you suppose "absolution" is, a shot of Novocaine?

          • Tyler Janzen

            "But that is not the idea of God"

            That is not YOUR idea of God. There is clearly variety among people's perceptions of a rational God. I do not know the man asking the question so it seems logical not to make assumptions if I can help it.

            "who is supposed as supporting the existence of things at all moments of time. Unless you have "scientific" proof that once something exists it will continue existing."

            What reason do we have to assume that everything in our universe must be held in existence? What reason do we have to believe that anything would tend to not exist if some great unmeasurable force ceased to willingly cause it's existence? This is ,from what I can see, a baseless statement/idea which you somehow foist the burden of disproving of upon me.

            "But then there is no scientific proof that anything exists at all"

            I have pretty good evidence that my own mind exists, and there is good reason to believe it evolved to be able to survive in a world filled with other minds and objects potentially harmful to me. Even if the world doesn't exist I am experiencing it as a real thing, and have nothing to gain from considering it to be otherwise. It's pointless to even consider. Should we not study how things work objectively? This is how we eradicate disease and suffering, and develop new technology so we don't have to burn fossil fuels and destroy our atmosphere. So what are you suggesting we should change about science (that wouldn't render it useless and doom our species to our own destruction)?

            "What part of "uncaused" is difficult to grasp?"

            This is a non-answer. What is the essence of this statement? 'God always existed, he just is, and was, and will be. Just don't ask me how or why or anything that would actually require a legitimate explanation in regards to this supposed wondrous being's mysterious existence.' So yes, I grasp what you're saying, it just doesn't actually get me anywhere or explain anything.

            "Then a better knowledge of history is called for. Certainly better than Pinker's."

            You are truly grasping at straws on this one. Anyone who cares to look up the accomplishments of Stephen Pinker can see that you are not justified in implying that the man is lacking in either academic experience, knowledge, or intelligence. Among many other accomplishments he is currently a professor of Psychology at Harvard. I'd say that's a reputable opinion.

            "Nature is neither heartless nor brutal"

            In 2007, an estimated 13.7 million chronic cases (of Tuberculosis) were active globally,[5] while in 2013, an estimated 9 million new cases and 1.5 million associated deaths occurred,[6] mostly in developing countries. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuberculosis)

            Do the bacteria that cause such suffering empathize with their victims? Surely not, and 1.5 million deaths a year isn't brutal at all either. Just another part of God's plan.

            "although humans may project those subjective notions onto an objective world."

            Perhaps you can explain to me what you mean by an objective world? I don't see the world's objectivity as pointing towards the existence of God, but I don't want to base an assertion on a misunderstanding. So if you would please clarify.

            As for getting into heaven after raping someone, it is my understanding that if I were to embrace a life of sin and do terrible things, robbing and molesting people. So long as I at some point decided that this was not a good path to be taking, so long as I genuinely repented and confessed my sins, I would be forgiven, and enter into the kingdom of heaven when I die. Is that not what your church believes?

            Also my friend is a Catholic, who knows quite well what the church teaches. I don't see that pointing out how he might not go to hell or be denied entry into heaven justifies or even really deals with the fact that many people have clearly fit that criteria and therefore would be in hell.

            "To commit a mortal sin you must know it is seriously wrong, intend the wrong, and give full assent to the wrongness."

            I just have a random thought/question regarding the above statement. According to this, if I did not believe killing myself was a mortal sin (which I don't), would that mean I would still get into heaven if I killed myself? And conversely if the only thing different was that I believed it was wrong, that would suddenly make the difference and I would pay dearly for my actions? Hardly seems fair, people are randomly lead to believe all sorts of things for different reasons beyond their control, that this should decide their ultimate fate in the afterlife seems like an absurd lottery. Doesn't it?

            "By elevating Mary to "Queen of Heaven" and canonizing Agnes, Agatha, Lucy, Anastasia, Theresa, Hildegarde, and others?"

            Canonizing
            women after they are dead does little to compensate for the fact that
            they are inherently second class within the church while alive. I can't help but
            notice that even the rare women who managed to obtain a position such as
            an abbess that included a reasonable amount of power were only given
            opportunity to wield it over other women. Think of any meaningful
            position in regards to the church as a whole, Cardinal, Archbishop,
            Pope. They are all exclusively available to men. It's a clear statement regarding how God perceives men to be superior and in charge, we don't have to look hard to find similar suggestions in the bible. My experience in life tells me that women have different strengths than men, strengths that compliment the strengths of men. But not when they are subjugated or kept from playing on level grounds with their male counterparts.

            "Or by founding such orders as Our Lady of Ransom and the Trinitarians for the purpose of freeing slaves?"

            Our Lady of Ransom and the Trinitarian order were founded to free Christian slaves, not the Muslim slaves kept by Christians at the same time. The problem wasn't owning people it was owning Christian people. This is not the kind of progress I was referring to. You talk big but your arguments don't hold a lot of weight my friend.

            The fact is the duality of ideas in the bible meant that in most of these critical junctures of history in which we struggled towards greater equality and morality there were just as many people with bibles on both sides of the fence. Both often using the same book to justify their position. The Vatican did not really take a consistent stance on slavery until the 19th century, and did not " declare without qualification that slavery was an "infamy" that dishonored the Creator and was a poison in society..." until 1965. The Vatican did not abolish judicial torture until the early 1800s, only after at least a dozen other European countries lead the way. Way back in the 15th century God (or the papacy) was totally cool with us treating human beings like livestock. As illustrated in this excerpt from a papal bull...

            "We grant you [Kings of Spain and Portugal] by these present documents,
            with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search
            out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other
            unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their
            kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property [...]
            and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude"

            (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dum_Diversas)

            "Just like you tell them their face is dirty they will not go and wash it?"

            Indeed, but most people will go back and get their kicks in playing in the mud before they do it, and possibly go back for more later. We can always shower again right?

            "So, you're a Calvinist?"

            No. Agnostic humanist if anything, something along those lines or in that general vicinity. Leaning heavily towards the atheistic side of agnosticism.

            "What in the world do you suppose "absolution" is, a shot of Novocaine?"

            The word fits in an obscure sort of way, when you consider the effect that being raped can have on a woman or a child, but also in regards to the treatment of the issue by the church. I thought it was very fitting in both regards. Perhaps this excerpt from Les Miserable will help you see where I am coming from...

            "Every establishment of the kind has it's peculiarities. The Chateau d'Ecouen, for example, was converted under the empire into a school for the orphan daughters of members of the Legion of Honor. To determine the order of precedence in the procession of the Holy Sacrament they were divided into 'virgins' and 'flower-bearers'... The flowers were retained as of right by the flower-bearers. Four 'virgins' led the procession. It was not uncommon, on the morning of the great day, to hear someone in the dormitory ask, 'who are today's virgins?', and Madame Campan has quoted the words addressed by a seven year old, whose place was at the tail of the procession, to a big girl of sixteen who was at the front:
            'Well, you're a virgin, but I'm not.'"

            absolution: act of absolving; a freeing from blame or guilt; release from consequences, obligations, or penalties.
            There are undoubtedly consequences for rape victims, social and psychological. Blame and guilt can come from within, from difficulty rationalizing the situation and from external sources, often when a person seeks help. As I said, release from these consequences is not likely for many victims.

            Cheers.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "But that is not the idea of God"
            That is not YOUR idea of God.

            Well, it's not the idea of God put forward by Aristotle, Maimonides, ibn Rushd, Thomas Aquinas, etc. and taught by Judaism, traditional Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, Coptic, etc.), or Islam. Or for that matter, the Vedanta. Probabilitistically, that would include the OP and most others.

            What reason do we have to assume that everything in our universe must be held in existence?

            Because they continue to exist. There must be a reason, and it really ought to be more than IT JUST DOES!

            "But then there is no scientific proof that anything exists at all"
            I have pretty good evidence that my own mind exists

            I asked for scientific proof.

            there is good reason to believe it evolved to be able to survive in a world filled with other minds and objects potentially harmful to me.

            You're begging the question. What reasons are there if you do not assume the existence of the universe a priori?

            Even if the world doesn't exist I am experiencing it as a real thing, and have nothing to gain from considering it to be otherwise.

            You're missing the point: the claim is that it is impossible to establish the matter scientifically, not that it is unreasonable to assume.

            what are you suggesting we should change about science (that wouldn't render it useless and doom our species to our own destruction)?

            I'm not. I only pointed out that there are things that the methods of natural science cannot address. No science (in the broad sense) can demonstrate its own axioms. Natural science must assume an objective universe.

            "What part of "uncaused" is difficult to grasp?"
            This is a non-answer.

            You made a statement about "divine genesis." I pointed out that the classical arguments of Aristotle and others concluded to the necessary existence of a primary changer that is not itself changed, a primary cause that is not itself caused by another, and so on. Subsequent theorems establish that this entity is that which is called God. So to talk about "divine genesis" is to talk about something other than God.

            "Then a better knowledge of history is called for. Certainly better than Pinker's."
            Anyone who cares to look up the accomplishments of Stephen Pinker can see that you are not justified in implying that the man is lacking in either academic experience, knowledge, or intelligence.

            He's a psychologist, not an historian or a statistician. The "statistics" he relied upon in his book came from an amateur website called "Necrometrics." His death rate for the An Lu Shan revolt assumed that the decline in registered households between two census periods was due to slaughter rather than (as scholars of Chinese history tell us) a collapse of the imperial bureaucracy's ability to register them.

            it is my understanding that if I were to embrace a life of sin and do terrible things, robbing and molesting people. So long as I at some point decided that this was not a good path to be taking, so long as I genuinely repented and confessed my sins, I would be forgiven, and enter into the kingdom of heaven when I die.

            Your understanding is deficient.

            if I did not believe killing myself was a mortal sin (which I don't), would that mean I would still get into heaven if I killed myself?

            Not necessarily. There are likely to be other reasons. It's not really a matter of getting a black mark on your permanent record. It's more like turning away from the good.

            people are randomly lead to believe all sorts of things for different reasons beyond their control, that this should decide their ultimate fate in the afterlife seems like an absurd lottery.

            There is also the matter of what natural reason can discern. Start here: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html

            Canonizing women after they are dead does little to compensate for the fact that they are inherently second class within the church while alive.

            But they are not. The Church was the first to recognize women as equal in dignity to men. Check out Regine Pernoud's book. Check out the notarial acts, the tax rolls of Paris in the late 1200s, the Inquiries of King Louis. You will find that women had a wider scope of action than they did in later periods. The Paris rolls, for example, list women as schoolmistress, doctor, apothecary, plasterer, dyer, copyist, miniaturist, binder, etc. The Inquiries mention women as salt merchant, miller, farmer, chatelaine, even a woman Crusader!

            I can't help but notice that even the rare women who managed to obtain a position such as an abbess that included a reasonable amount of power were only given opportunity to wield it over other women.

            Ah. You think solely in terms of Power over other people as a measure of worth!
            But of course, Abbess Petronilla, the head of the dual abbey of Fontrevrault, had authority over the men as well as the women. Nor was she exceptional in this matter.
            Abbess Hroswitha of Gandersheim held a seat on the Imperial Council.

            Muslim slaves kept by Christians at the same time. The problem wasn't owning people it was owning Christian people.

            Muslim captives were kept to exchange for Christian slaves, but there was no chattel slavery in Latin Europe in the widespread institutional sense. (One may find individual cases even today.)

            the duality of ideas in the bible

            Fundamentalists often give undue weight to proof-texting Bible verses rather than to the teachings of the Church. People whose economic livelihood depends on holding slaves will find some way to justify their practice. If they don't find what they want in a Bible, they will find it in Reason. This is the hazard of DIY religion.

            "So, you're a Calvinist?"
            No. Agnostic humanist if anything

            Right. Same thing. Unforgiving, no second chances.

          • Tyler Janzen

            "There must be a reason, and it really ought to be more than IT JUST DOES!"

            Where to begin! Well first off "it just does" does not imply what actually is, you are certainly right. But I can't help but notice, "it just does' and 'there ought' and 'there must be' are essentially the same statement. Do you not see the irony here? Your logic, "there must' (which is supposedly my logic as well, "it just does") is used to explain why my supposed argument (the very same) must be wrong! Amazing. Especially considering I never argued that either possibility was reality, it's all unknowable. You made an assertion and I asked for justification, which I am still waiting for. We would be at as much of a loss explaining one possibility as the other. So I re-iterate: Why would we think that a being so great as to be able to will all of reality into existence couldn't will it to also stay in existence? I'm not going to simply accept it because someone smart decided it made sense a long time ago. One could end up believing anything that way.

            "I asked for scientific proof."

            To what end? I don't think it's necessarily unscientific to assume your mind is real, but for the sake of argument lets say there is no scientific proof. What does this prove? How does this change my life or anything that matters in any significant way? Elucidate me please. I don't see the point.

            "You're begging the question. What reasons are there if you do not assume the existence of the universe a priori?"

            So what if I consider that there was nothing before me? Or nothing now even? What if I accept any of your ideas as truth? Where does that get me? Same questions as before. I'm not interested in ideas if they can't take me anywhere meaningful.

            "I'm not. I only pointed out that there are things that the methods of natural science cannot address. No science (in the broad sense) can demonstrate its own axioms. Natural science must assume an objective universe."

            And what methods do you have for addressing these things? More specifically what means of ascertaining any sort of truths do you have? None. Yes science is unable to study things which only so far as we know exist as ideas in people's heads, but it can and has studied the mechanisms with which our brains lead us to conclude that which is clearly false. This if anything leads us only closer to understanding the truth. We can feel justified in the axioms of science because we can see the remarkable functionality of technology which we have created based on the knowledge which we derived based on those axioms, we can see the incredible predictions adherence to these ideas has led us to make about the physics of our universe. There is no evidence that would lead us to think that these things are not as we perceive, and we have nothing to gain from making the assumption. I apologize but I will have to ask you again. What are you trying to prove? What do we stand to gain from this line of reasoning?

            "to talk about "divine genesis" is to talk about something other than God."

            Once again, let me clarify my position. You see I need an actual reason to believe something. Simply telling me that `people a long time ago decided God is something that was always there` is not actually an explanation of why God is there. It doesn`t justify God`s supposed existence or belief in it. I don`t care how people define God, the idea is nevertheless equally implausible. I don`t know why this is so hard to grasp. You said it yourself:

            "There must be a reason, and it really ought to be more than IT JUST DOES!"

            So what's the reason?

            "The "statistics" he relied upon in his book came from an amateur website called "Necrometrics.""

            See the problem is I have the book beside me and I can simply look and see that these stats were taken from books written by a political scientist and a historian, Rummel and White respectively.

            ``Your understanding is deficient.``

            Care to explain? Because it seems to me without the forgiveness of sins your whole system falls apart. Or in the words of your own catechism...

            "No sin is so serious that the Church cannot forgive it. There is no one so wicked who cannot hope for forgiveness if his repentance is honest" (Roman Catechism). Christ always wants the Church's gates of forgiveness to be open for those turning from sin.

            The Church wants the faithful to believe fully in the Church's power to forgive sins through the ministry of priests. "Were there no forgiveness of sins in the Church, there would be no hope of life to come" (St. Augustine)."

            Seems my understanding was right on the money. I could rape a woman and lead her to kill herself, then change my ways, honestly repent and gain entrance into heaven while she goes to hell. That's messed up.

            "Start here: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristo..."

            I'm working on Plato at the moment but I will definitely get to it eventually. Thanks for sharing.

            "there was no chattel slavery in Latin Europe in the widespread institutional sense."

            Funny how everything I was reading about that era suggested slavery of foreigners/prisoners of war was common place, and the ancestors of those very same Europeans still seemed quite at home treating foreign people as property after they traveled to America so many years later. Somehow I don't think it was a new idea.

            "Fundamentalists often give undue weight to proof-texting Bible verses rather than to the teachings of the Church. ...This is the hazard of DIY religion."

            Substituting one flawed source of knowledge for another. Have you followed the actions of the Catholic church? Have you not witnessed their prioritizing the maintenance of their image and power over the better interests of thousands of raped and molested children, and prevention of more? Do you honestly think you can't do a better job ascertaining right from wrong than an organization who would perpetrate such indefensible acts?

            There may be a God. What do I know. But I defiantly reject anyone's claim to knowledge of the divine, and all the Catholic church knows is how to control people.

            One last point. I never said I don't believe in second chances. But I certainly don't believe you have the right to forgive someone or to tell someone they are forgiven for raping someone else. Only their victim has that right. Also not being forgiven does not mean you can't repent and become a better person. I'm not a Calvinist. I don't need a box to put myself in. Skeptical freethinker, that's what you can call me if you need to label. Thanks.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "There must be a reason, and it really ought to be more than IT JUST DOES!"
            I can't help but notice, "it just does' and 'there ought' and 'there must be' are essentially the same statement.

            Actually, they are not the same statement. It is very different to say that "there must be a reason" and to say "the reason is IT JUST IS!"

            Why would we think that a being so great as to be able to will all of reality into existence couldn't will it to also stay in existence?

            But of course that is what happens from an eternal POV: all moments are simultaneous. From a time-bound perspective such as our own, this amounts to sustaining existence from moment to moment.

            "I asked for scientific proof."
            I don't think it's necessarily unscientific to assume your mind is real

            If there are no empirical, measurable, objective facts, then it is unscientific.

            lets say there is no scientific proof. What does this prove?.... I don't see the point.

            It is quite common in certain quarters to demand "scientific proof" or "empirical evidence" for metaphysical conclusions. The point is that, unless one is willing to extend one's skepticism to other matters that also lack such proof, the demand amounts to special pleading.

            "You're begging the question. What reasons are there if you do not assume the existence of the universe a priori?"
            So what if I consider that there was nothing before me? Or nothing now even? What if I accept any of your ideas as truth? Where does that get me?

            Because begging the question is a formal fallacy in logic. It weakens one's own rational stance. Of course, you may continue on your merry way without ever questioning the ground beneath your feet, and will probably get on well enough.

            And what methods do you have for addressing these things?

            Logic works pretty well in mathematics.

            [science] can and has studied the mechanisms with which our brains lead us to conclude....

            This is an example of reading into facts one's conclusions. You are assuming the brain the Magical Organ than uses an organism rather than, as with other organs, being used by the organism. This is a bit like saying the mechanisms which our pianos use to compose the Moonlight Sonata.

            We can feel justified in the axioms of science because we can see the remarkable functionality of technology which we have created based on the knowledge which we derived based on those axioms

            Yet the Chinese achieved a quite remarkable technology without ever having had natural science. For that matter, a great deal of Western technology was achieved by engineering, tinkering, and serendipity. Many times, the science came afterward, to explain how the engineering innovation worked.

            Besides, that a theory T predicts X and X is observed proved nothing about the theory T. To proceed otherwise is to commit the fallacy of Asserting the Consequence. But, to take a famous example, the Ptolemaic model of the world produced excellent predictions of celestial events and reliable calendars for roughly two millennia. That didn't make the model true. (Though it did make it dang difficult to overthrow.)

            I will have to ask you again. ... What do we stand to gain from this line of reasoning?

            This is a very American stance. "What's in it for me?" "What do we stand to gain?"

            You see I need an actual reason to believe something.

            And yet earlier you disparaged me for stating this.

            telling me that `people a long time ago decided God is something that was always there` is not actually an explanation of why God is there.

            No, of course not. You can't suppose that Aristotle or Maimonides, or ibn Rushd or Thomas Aquinas simply said "people a long time ago decided."

            So what's the reason?

            Too lengthy for a combox snippet, but basically: that the natural world is constantly changing, things are coming into existence and passing out of existence, there are natural laws, there is an ordering of efficient causes. Stuff like that.

            "The "statistics" he relied upon in his book came from an amateur website called "Necrometrics.""
            See the problem is I have the book beside me and I can simply look and see that these stats were taken from books written by a political scientist and a historian, Rummel and White respectively.

            That would be the same Matthew White of the Necrometrics site and author of The Great Big Book of Horrible Things from which Pinker's table of historical death tolls came. In fact, Pinker cites Matthew White's Great Big Book of Horrible Things (Norton, 2011), as if it were actual historical research. On his site, White describes himself a librarian with "a few years of college." He seems to have made a hobby of amateur history, including some whimsical "surreal histories." The notion that the An Lu Shan revolt was the greatest dying in human history is historically absurd and equates the household registrations on two censuses as if they were actual population figures rather than a failure of the bureaucracy in troubled times.

            This is much like the confusion between a mathematical abstraction and an actual physical structure.

            I could rape a woman and lead her to kill herself, then change my ways, honestly repent and gain entrance into heaven while she goes to hell.

            Why would she go to hell?

            Funny how everything I was reading about that era suggested slavery of foreigners/prisoners of war was common place

            Prisoners of war were indeed put to work, much as allowed in the 13th amendment. This was much better than slaughtering them, and it meant that the prisoner could be ransomed. I'm not sure about the foreigners. I know of no cases in which Englismen took Frenchmen as slaves or vice versa.

            the ancestors of those very same Europeans still seemed quite at home treating foreign people as property after they traveled to America.

            I think you mean "descendents," not "ancestors."
            That took place in the Renaissance-Enlightenment re-birthy thing, when all things Greco-Roman were to be imitated. The new sugar plantations needed slaves to run them, so the Moderns rediscovered slavery.

            Have you followed the actions of the Catholic church? Have you not witnessed their prioritizing the maintenance of their image and power over the better interests of thousands of raped and molested children, and prevention of more?

            It was unfortunate that during the Sexual Revolution (the vast majority of cases occurred 1965-1985) the Church relied on the "science" of the times and took the advice of the psychologists regarding publicity and the efficacy of counseling.

            The John Jay report concluded that the numbers, style and type of abuse is consistent with other large organizations -- public schools, boy scouts, etc. -- with men who had unsupervised and unlimited access to minors during the last half century (and most especially during the 1960's and 1970's). Since the cleaning, there were a total of 15 allegations of childhood sexual abuse in the American Catholic Church from 2000 to 2007, an average of less than 2/yr. In comparison the 2007 Associated Press investigation identified 2,570 public school teachers who, from 2001 through 2005, had their teaching licenses “taken away, denied, surrendered voluntarily, or restricted” as a result of sexual misconduct with minors, an average of 514/yr. And that's comparing allegations to actionable incidents.

            Only 0.5 percent of those who sexually abuse children are “professionals.” And clergy are a subset of “professionals,” and Catholic priests are a subset of clergy. Child Maltreatment 2006, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services.

            Do you honestly think you can't do a better job ascertaining right from wrong than an organization who would perpetrate such indefensible acts?

            The acts were perpetrated by individual priests, the vast majority of whom were homosexuals, not by the organization. (And note that this does not mean that the majority of homosexual priests were abusers.) Some of the acts consisted of too-intense hugging, squeezing, and such like, but everyone imagines all the allegations were actual rapes.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Then a better knowledge of history is called for. Slavery as an institution disappeared from Europe during the Age of Faith, was revived in the Age of Reason (to rationally staff the sugar plantations of the Canary Islands), only to be eliminated a second time by religious zealots.

            There are some papal documents that suggest otherwise.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Which ones?

            cf. Regine Pernoud, Those Terrible Middle Ages!

          • James Wyss

            Says who?

      • KareemAbdul

        Great job, Joe Sax.

        Indeed, life is about waiting.

        Time and time again I have found that the timeline of God is inexplicably uncanny. His timing is perfect and these things I can see clearly in retrospect of my own life.

        As to "hocus pocus"... what other faith can claim not hundreds or thousands but tens of thousands of miracles, so many of them well-documented, medically proven? In my town there is a woman who was quite literally on her deathbed in the hospital. She wasn't aware of St. Therese of Lisieux but in her desperation called out for help and was instantly cured of extensive cancer through her organs and bones. It was the feast day of the Little Saint.

        She called a priest who came to the hospital, the two prayed and received a message to pray for world peace.

        I have personally had a healing of Padre Pio (a stomach ailment), an instant cure after touching one of his gloves which felt very hot to me (but not my family).

        The miracles go on and on. People can deny them, rationalize them, explain them away in a thousand ways but there are thousands of examples.

        We are here to grow in love and faith. The saints are here to help us if we ask for help. The angels, and our guardian angels, are also here to help.

        So be of good cheer. We are pilgrims just passing through.

    • Zach Streng

      I know it is wearisome. Read Hebrews 11 if you want to feel better about it. All of these heroes of faith died without receiving their reward on earth, but that is because their reward is in heaven. The reward for following God is having an eternal relationship with Him. "39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect." Read the whole chapter though, it gives more context and makes it a lot more inspiring :)

    • heidi keene

      Edward,
      Here's the problem with your line of thinking: you are thinking like Pelagius.
      You said, "mankind has made leaps and bounds in realizing a better world since Jesus"-
      I would first off argue that that statement is debatable to say the least. However, the heretical error in your statement is that MAN has made (or not made as you allude to later in your post) the difference. You are judging the earthly, natural progress of man as your measure rather than the supernatural progress that the Trinity (as apportioned to Christ and the Third Person) IS making in men everyday.....IN MEN'S SOULS.
      Why can't we observe the change? We can't observe the change precisely because the change is not visible. Was Jesus Christ visibly Divine? Could one visibly see what was being effected that day on Calvary? Or in the manger? These are supernatural-not material realities- hence St. Paul's, John's gospel, and the entirety of Jesus' mysterious teachings.

      One may argue that this interior change should inevitably lead to a visible tangible change in the moral climate of the globe. This argument ignores the fact that all men, whether responding to God' grace or despising it, are permitted to act in the world. Because acts of Love are currently legal (except for in some countries)- they are simply not 'news worthy' as such. Whereas if the law gets broken, the citizen's must be informed for their safety. So there is a responsibility for the media to report the bad but not the good acts of citizens. Therefore, good acts (acts of love) go largely unnoticed. This, I would suggest to you, makes a visible estimation of the efficacy of the Cross impossible.

      Thus, do not look to the material world for confidence in heavenly realities but look to heaven.
      Regarding your life long attendance at the mass with no 'feeling' of change. Grace works through nature. Therefore, if there is any obstacle in you that is hindering grace (obstinacy in sin -even venial) then the effects in your soul will be limited or negligible. Additionally, if you are not predisposed by prayer and mediations to receive the sacraments, the same will apply. However, supposing that every sacramental reception you have had has been duly prepared for and your are an open and loving heart longing for The Lord- then you can be assured that the grace is there. Remember, grace is not going to give you a material facelift or a visible halo. Nor frequently does it give prophesy or levitation....but what it does it heal the wound of original sin and prepare you for your destiny of beholding God in se for eternal life.

      I understand you feelings toward the 'long and winding road'. Frequently, God uses these feelings to invite us deeper into His mysteries

      • Tyler Janzen

        What reason do we have to believe this progress is in any way a result of the workings of God? People are still killing each other with God as justification to this day, and this is only a small remnant of historical bloodshed in his name. Segregation is an inherent element in all religions, they clearly work best when a society or group is isolated, evidence of the lack of forward thinking in their creation. If there was a true word of God that we could access, it would bring people together, not divide them and give them reason to persecute and alienate each other. The only deeper mystery is why we keep giving some imaginary deity credit for all the amazing progress our species has made, while the idea continues to hold so many to antiquated and destructive ideologies.

    • Mike

      Are you a protestant?

      • Edward Carlin

        Not at all. I'm a cradle Catholic who has been practicing my whole life.

        As for visible effects of the sacraments, I'm not looking for levitation or bilocation or anything extraordinary. What I'm saying is that when I go to confession, I truly to try to be sincere in my resolutions not to sin again, and I have spent many hours in Eucharistic adoration sincerely trying to be open to God acting in my life, but here I am confessing the same old sins over and over because as beautiful as the Catholic teaching on sexuality is in theory, it has made me an enemy of my own body.

        Say what you want about struggling against "the flesh, the world, and the devil," but there is no peace. Either you follow your impulses and feel the pang of failure to live up to an ideal or you follow your conscience and feel the protest of your passions, but in either case, there is no peace-- you just pick whichever poison you want to take.

        It's curious how we're always supposed to predispose ourselves through prayer to be more receptive to this grace everyone talks about, but doesn't that seem kind of obvious? At least for me, surrounding myself with likeminded people to encourage me or spending time in prayer is really just starting to seem like nothing more than an echo-chamber.

        • Mike

          Dude i am so sorry; i know how you feel, well at least a little bit but i guess my expectations are much much lower (that's why i asked if you were a protestant bc i thought maybe your view of the sacraments was "protestant").

          Well i am no expert but what i'd say is that i hope you don't "blame yourself"! and if you do, DON'T! You should be proud of your faith and your steadfast commitment to putting your trust in God and the church - you are showing heroic virtue in the face of what seems like a stale nothingness.

          Anyway i hear you.

        • Loreen Lee

          St. Augustine in The Confessions spoke of that great conflict between the passions and reason. He said something like: Oh God, give me grace, (or something) but please not now. The description you gave of an 'echo chamber', suggests to me the difficulty all of us can find within the subjective consiousness of feeling alone, helpless, or many other states: perhaps it is the basis of our need for recognition. of 'something' else, 'an other' a 'purpose, call it what you will that is 'beyond' in the sense of being either 'practical' or metaphysically transcendent' to our 'selves'. The recognition of this state of being suggest to me that you are not unreceptive to change, grace, revelation, insight, new knowledge, self-discovery - call it what you like. "This too shall pass" I am confident you will find the origin of a new 'voice' that is sounding within the 'echo'..

        • Chad Eberhart

          My experience exactly. Thanks for you comment.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You will be struggling against your passions you whole life unless you capitulate to them. Dude, chastity is a virtue in marriage, too.

    • Chad Eberhart

      Stick around. Reading the comment section here will expedite your exodus from the Church. It did for me.

  • Loreen Lee

    Something I wrote on EN with respect to the issue of genetics and the problem of self-reference in relation to the help they gave me in understanding the issues. I also hope you find it relevant to this discourse, particularly as it could relate to what could possibly be meant by the new world. 1. A constant attempt to bring transformation within the context of our understanding. 2. The final cosmological entropy 3. Any other suggestions you might have!!!

    Explanation: Self-reference. Something we have talked about on this
    site. How do I avoid the problem of self-reference? Why I like
    naturalism but am confused regarding the term: a-theist. This is not
    meant to be a proof. I have read Kant, who has a pretty good analysis
    of why proofs of such concepts, either way, just don't cut ice.

    I hope this is taken as somewhat entertaining. Thoughts of a madman.

    Been
    thinking over the phrase: "the LIVING truth" I have related this to
    Wittgenstein's philosophy about language being a life force or
    something. But also to the saying of Jesus: "I AM the truth". How do
    I interpret this? Today's gospel for instance is a quotation that
    since I first found it,I have found the most 'disconcerting'. phrase in
    the New Testament. I'd like to share it with you.How do I interpret:

    My 'sermon of the day'!!!
    “The mystery of the Kingdom of God has been granted to you.
    But to those outside everything comes in parables, so that

    they may look and see but not perceive,
    and hear and listen but not understand,
    in order that they may not be converted and be forgiven.”

    Is
    this like the Buddhist adage that the guru only gives to his follower
    what is within his understanding? It certainly does not seem so, from
    the expression used. But interpretation is a constant difficulty. What
    is 'the living truth'? It certainly has been shown by philosophers not
    to be either, correspondence, consistency, or coherence. The three
    C's.

    So, assuming the worst, this is said to the apostles giving
    them the authority, together with the priests, to hear my confession!!.
    Is he perhaps giving power to the Church as an a priority -necessity-
    rather than to the granting of forgiveness and conversion to particular.
    individuals, like me. No wonder the church is so powerful. As a
    Baptized catholic, and thus catholic for life unless I am
    excommunicated, I won't confess this, but I think I have the 'right' to
    'question' the orders of the magisterium, particular when they haven't
    been able to give me the rule on every particular. They may condone
    this, however, if it is a quest for 'greater understanding' How are
    they going to assess my 'intentions'? By my 'living word'?

    So is
    this quote from scripture "the Living Truth"? How does it relate to
    language. I simply mention this because even though the concept 'God'
    could be considered 'unclear', or "abstract" we've talked about the liar
    paradox, and self-referential thinking and there has even been a proof
    of the need for the term 'God' as a means of 'solving the paradox'. So
    all these proofs are 'intellectual'. rather than 'living'. perhaps.
    Could Speaking to 'God' be interpreted as an overriding abstract, or a
    concrete-even universal 'other' like Hegel's national spirit or geist,
    (Fascism?) as well as Marxism, or what might be a particular other -
    Nietzsche. As in the film. Thank you. This could even explain his 'God
    is dead'. within a linguistic definition. Simply 'talking to
    oneself' then could definitely be found to be self-referential.,
    especially if it was the talking of the madman walking down the street
    without an i-pad.
    The Buddha did not find the necessity to talk to
    'God'- but there is no relationship of man to the cosmos in this
    'religion'. (my understanding).. Even in the Spirit religions of the
    Aborigines there is some
    relationship between an over-riding conception of consciousness to
    nature.
    What of the concept of God within the religions of the book, or
    Catholicism where the concept is defined by the Magisterium?. Does not
    everyone who uses this term, unavoidable have what is called 'my
    understanding of God'. What of the concept of unity within cosmological
    theories, where there is the reverse- and no inclusion of 'people' or
    even the inclusion of the consciousness of the theorist, particularly
    within a relationship of 'Self' to 'Other'. What concept can you
    suggest to me to replace the concept of God? How is it possible to
    avoid the need for some such concept? Can you tell me why I don't need
    the term, or something else like it to describe a quest, perhaps, for
    some kind of real, concrete, Wittgenstein-ian, 'living truth'. Is the
    avoidance of the concept of theism merely a justified rejection of
    all, or even aspects of Catholicism?
    If you cannot give me reasons to
    cease using this concept, I hope you will understand what my interest
    in exploring (what the h**L the metaphorical context of religions?),
    especially Catholicism, the one I inherited, is 'all about' In this
    context, I could even speak about my need to 'know and understand God'
    which would be interpreted very differently within the context of SN and
    EN, and the presentation of the video on this post.. So I won't!!
    Oh! Language. Oh Words. What is the 'living truth'? Surely it is not
    simply the use of parables. Isn't that the 'truth'!

    • Loreen Lee

      I guess it could be an example of the need for patience. This quotation is from today's reading:

      With many such parables
      he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
      Without parables he did not speak to them,
      but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

      I still feel it is unfortunate that 'we' do not have the explanation given to his disciples.

  • Loreen Lee

    With respect to Immanuel Kant, I most often refer to myself as Kantian. Early in my understanding I found there was indeed a 'paradox' between his early saying that 'we need to go from reason to faith' (paraphrase) and the later book you mention: Religion within the Limits of Reason alone. Later I found the truth he was referring to was that even articles of faith needed, within the scientific context, to be related to some empirical evidence. Faith was not simply related to the interior discrimination of those concepts and events in life that are within Kierkegaard referred to as the paradoxes taken on by 'The Knight of Faith'. This suggests compatibility with the Christian relation of Faith to Works, with the priority being Faith.
    So can Kant be thought of as rejecting the concept of revelation. However, within the context of some Post-Modern philosophy, I have found an interpretation of revelation merely directed to the 'odd reality' that there is a continual revealing/disclosure and hiddenness ongoing within our consciousness of what is perceived as well as understood conceptually. This could even be interpretated as an ongoing kind of death and resurrection even of meaning. The point is, that an intention, or if not, perhaps a hope can be found, that this process that we can refer to as life, can ultimately bring new revelations. I don't believe that Kant objected to this kind of interpretation.
    With respect to the metaphysical scriptural basis of a physical Resurrection, this can be interpretated, as revelation, both within the context of faith, possibly in many ways. Physical resurrection could be described as almost a common phenomena within the time, I understand. Indeed the concept replaced, even within the Second Temple Jewish tradition, I understand, the long held belief, held by Buddhists of Incarnation. This I interpret as placing mankind within a cosmological and even spiritual context, which could be compared even to the Conservation of Matter, and other scientific theories. But the Resurrection of Jesus is far more personal, and in dogma includes 'us all', as personal individual beings, rather than as the transitory states of being within the concept of incarnation. Is this perhaps, and even truly, a real development, and thus revelation of broadening and personalization of the original concept?
    I think today, unlike the early followers of Christ, who I understand awaited within a social and political context the end of a period of history, perhaps, and a new beginning, the hope of a New World was truthfully I understand, predicted and prophesied within the New Testament.
    What of today? And I don't want to comment on happenings politically, socially, and even culturally today. I have however, found, the ever recurring talk again of End Times. A university course was given some time ago in my city on the Apocalyptic theme that is recurrent within our tradition. We can as well relate this concept to the cosmological anticipation of Entropy. And since argument can be given that the bible can, an idea unexplainable, of coincidence or what, that the changes the bible between times of darkness and chaos, can be argued to have some correspondence to the development of the physical universe, (in fact) as found within scientific theory. In this case, humanity, would within the short span of a life time, find the necessity of thinking of a new cosmological order, within a development involving heat, (I've found in my life time reference to a religious acceptance of this idea - can't support) that far exceeds my ability to comprehend.
    Thus, within an attempted personal context, I can relate this idea, not to any thinking that is thought of scientifically as 'magic thinking', or miracle, but to the idea generally of transformation: of my understanding with respect to others as well as myself.
    I wondered today whether I could ever have the energy to read Heidegger's analysis of Kant. I wish I was younger sometime. But rather than emphasize what Catholicism regards as an unacceptable materialism in Kantian philosophy, perhaps also they could see the real value in his work: particularly the correspondence of his trilogy to the Christian concepts of truth, goodness, and beauty, and an analysis of mind, that I believe is not in contradiction to Christian values, except possibly as you say, the priority of reason to experience, if experience is indeed related to the concept of revelation within the tradition.

  • Luke

    But only Christians witness to an earthquake that has shaken the foundations of the world and turned every expectation upside down.

    I would like clarification on what the author meant by this sentence. What metaphorical earthquake? What expectations?

    • James Hosler

      He might mean that the events of Christ's life require us completely to overhaul our interpretation of everything that happens in this "A.D." world. Life, death (expectation?), ritual, family... none of these means the same thing to a Christian and to an atheist, precisely because of the Christian's belief in Christ. All of that sounds like hogwash to an atheist, though. Or at least I imagine it does.

      • Luke

        The ideas of an afterlife and salvation predate Christianity from what I can tell. I agree that this particular myth has had an impact, but that fact is not testament to its veracity.

        • James Hosler

          I agree. I would not point an atheist to this article for additional reading about God's existence.

    • Christy D

      I took it to be referring to: the Incarnation (the Almighty God, Creator of all things seen and unseen becoming man is more earth shattering than you or I deciding to and then actually becoming a toaster); the Crucifixion, whereby this God-man became the perfect sacrifice to forever destroy eternal death for a fallen world simply out of his love for said fallen world; and the Resurrection, whereby Jesus rose from the dead and restored eternal life for humans, body and soul, with this loving God. These things are quite unlike anything else the world has ever experienced. We Christians believe that it actually happened, not as an ideology but as real events. We also believe we have our own resurrections to look forward to one day and life eternal with the source of all that is good (God). For the believer, these events show us that own lives have a purpose that is higher than ourselves but that includes us and validates our existence. For someone who doesn't believe in God's existence at all, this probably sounds unreasonable. To those of who do believe, just the ability to conceive of purpose at all (or anything that transcends us, such as love, awareness of beauty, etc) by a human mind makes not believing in God seem unreasonable.

      • David Nickol

        The problem for me, here, is that if everything is indeed different because of the Incarnation and Resurrection of Jesus, it nevertheless looks exactly the same as if these event had not happened. While I would not say I know for a fact that these events didn't happen, it seems to me true that from what can be observed, there is nothing that we can attribute to these events having happened that we can't just as easily attribute to people devoutly (but mistakenly) believing they happened.

        I can think of any number of ideas that would radically alter the human outlook. Any new story of human origins has the potential for turning the world upside down, as the theory of evolution did for so many. But just because something gives a new, revolutionary outlook on human existence doesn't mean it's true.

        • Luke

          Thanks. Beat me to it and said it better than what I had going.

        • James Hosler

          So is the problem that the evidence is not the kind of evidence you happen to be looking for?

          • David Nickol

            So is the problem that the evidence is not the kind of evidence you happen to be looking for?

            The problem for me is that I once sincerely (to the best of my self-understanding) accepted the evidence but gradually lost confidence it.

            I think perhaps there is an implied suggestion that I am looking for the evidence I want, not the evidence that you have determined is the real evidence. And perhaps there is a further implied suggestion that there is no problem with the evidence for Catholicism, so anyone who does not except it is in some way resisting belief.

          • James Hosler

            I didn't mean to imply it; I meant to state it outright.

            My point is that I can give evidence and describe my perspective--you already know what I would say--but you would not buy it.

            I know the evidence for the claim, "The world has been turned upside down by Christ," is not rock solid. You can reasonably disagree. Your perspective is different. There is evidence, you just don't like it. I can't make you and I can't call you irrational. But there is evidence. You see where this going? A: Not far.

          • David Nickol

            I would quibble (perhaps a stronger word would be better) with, "There is evidence, you just don't like it." I am fascinated by the "evidence—the Bible, the teachings of the Church, theology, so it's not a matter of not liking something. But you are probably correct in saying that any "evidence" you put forward to try to convince me is something I have already encountered before and not found convincing. However, I try always to respond with why I am not convinced, often after consulting my own library of mostly Catholic references. So I don't believe I close off dialogue. You can always attempt to respond to the reasons I give for not finding the evidence convincing. I freely acknowledge I could be wrong.

            I think at this stage of the game I am more likely to be tipped toward belief not by arguments, but by encountering people who seem to have what strikes me as a deep, genuine faith. If Christianity is true, it seems to me that Christians should be the kind of people that I would want to model myself after.

          • James Hosler

            Instead of "like" I should have said "accept." And I tried to edit out the "just" before I posted, but I couldn't make the sentence work with out. Sorry that the sentence had an edge that I did not intend.

            And I don't think you're closing off dialogue. If anything, I'm the one who seems to be doing that. Not because I don't want to talk to you, but only because on this particular topic I don't know how we can proceed. I just don't like going in circles.

            I hear you about the need for examples. I fall short every moment of day.

        • Christy D

          Indeed I can see your point. I go through times of doubt to be sure, but the first Christians didn't just believe it true, they witnessed it. By their witness and countless other saints through the centuries, we have had it handed down to us. The idea of such a thing was so outlandish even back then, that early Christians were driven out, put to death, etc., but they continued their witness to hand it down. To be sure, it takes faith since I didn't personally see those events with my own eyes, but I do see everything in life according to it and by it. It is a light for what would otherwise be a very dark and pointless journey. I still find that more reasonable than there being nothing to look forward to and that everything is arbitrary including my ability and innate desire to try and find out if there is a God.

          • Michael Murray

            It is a light for what would otherwise be a very dark and pointless journey.

            But, as David points out, the fact that your beliefs are beneficial to you doesn't make them true.

          • Christy D

            I agree. The need for hope is deeply human. For all of history, humans have been searching for that lasting "something" in which to place their hope. Humans are the only known animal that can contemplate things outside their environment. This ability is deeply human. What would the evolutionary need for this ability be? To survive? The animals survive without it. The fact that we can perceive of and search for that which is outside of ourselves, our environment, and even our world at least suggests that we may have been made for something outside of these things. Is it not more reasonable to believe that we have this deep human need because we were actually made for something else? Or does reason have us ignore this innate human trait and point us toward nothing lasting in which to place our hope? Is it really more reasonable that everything, including the astounding human mind, the seemingly infinite things we can learn about the world, the universe, the infinitesimal, the order that has emerged from chaos, all that is beautiful, etc. is arbitrary and accidental? We all place hope in things unseen. Before you open your front door, you believe that your lawn or the street or whatever you normally see each day will be there. Why? Not because it can't possibly be gone but because it is unreasonable that it will be. You can't prove that before you open the door, it will be there. But everything you know about it points toward it being there. All that points you toward the reality of it leads you to believe it will be. That is faith. When you do open the door, it is there just as you had hoped for. We Christians haven't opened the door to our face to face encounter with God yet but everything we see by the light of Christ points us toward the reasonableness of believing that when we do open that door at the end of our lives, God will be there. C.S. Lewis, a former atheist, probes this train of thought in the reasonableness of faith in "Mere Christianity." It is worth the read.

        • Zach Streng

          I think God has made it pretty clear that he wants to work through people, not just through his own power (Exodus 3:8-10, Isaiah 6:8, Luke 10:2-3, Matthew 28:19-20, etc...). So, it may seem that because we can attribute the historical impact of Jesus' to the devotion of his followers than there is room for doubt since they may have been mistaken about God, his intent or even the resurrection. I mean, they made an impact for sure, but maybe they were wrong about Jesus. If this is what is on your mind then I think you should then be asking, "Why did Jesus' followers believe him?" instead. I think this is a more useful question to ask because it can actually be answered, whereas "Why does everything look the same, except the impact that his followers made?" can't really be answered without massive speculation. Maybe try reading "The Case for Christ". There are so many reasons on the scale that I've been convinced that Jesus is who the bible says he is. As a former agnostic from the Engineering school at UC Berkeley, I can attest that there ARE answers out there if you really want to find them!

        • Edward Carlin

          This is exactly what I've been thinking for a long time now. I would be willing to wait through a difficult life in this fallen world if I had been given the certainty that paradise and union with God await me on the other side of death, but unfortunately, I cannot honestly say that I *know* the resurrection of the dead is (will be?) a reality.

          I've never quite understood why faith and hope are "virtues," especially if they must be given by God rather than cultivated by our own actions. In a way, perhaps I can see some sort of merit for believing something even when all seems contradictory to it-- it's a radical act of trust-- and yet I also think that's just the force of my Christian upbringing talking.

          I read a story like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, and while I can certainly appreciate the literary and poetic beauty of the foreshadowing of Jesus' death, I still say to myself: Abraham's life kind of sucked! Sure *we* remember him today, but what good did that do Abraham? Yes, the saints live on in a kind of immortality because we venerate them and pass their stories down, but none of us *know* that they're enjoying an eternal reward for their sufferings.

          The only things that keep me from completely throwing out the baby with the bathwater are things like the incorruptibles or Eucharistic miracles, but even having witnessed a few incorruptibles myself in France, it occurred to me that the bodies of Sts. Louise Marillac and Catherine Labouré might very well just be wax mannequins underneath some religious habits.

          In short, it seems that the only honest label I can use for myself is "agnostic" because I simply don't know. We're not omniscient beings, so how can we really *know* anything? Actually, I'm very curious as to what the verb even means in English considering that other languages have multiple forms of this idea to varying shades.

          I can orient my life around this belief based on the limited evidence available to me, but can I really know with certainty that the Resurrection is real?

          • heidi keene

            First off, if you are 'unwilling to wait through this difficult life' will that make your life any easier? Aren't we all stuck with lives that materially stink? Yes, because we are all living in fallen creation.
            Second, you state that we can't be sure of anything because we just can't 'know'-
            so you know you can't know? (and you sound fairly certain of that)
            Third, faith is supernatural knowledge of God. Hope is the supernatural trust in His promises. Both are theological virtues (and there are natural virtues of faith and hope btw but they are not the same thing). The reason they are supernatural virtues is that they require supernatural knowledge and assurance of God (which we don't have by nature).

            It seems to me you are having both an epistemological and an ontological struggle.

            On the epistemological side: You are correct that when you go down to the most fundamental principle (I exist or I do not exist)- there is no proof available for this belief (no syllogism can be made to prove it because you would have to have a proof from a previous syllogism to begin the syllogism with- follow my meaning?? However, it is the first fact upon which all other conditions/principles and syllogisms will be built by which we come to know reality. It is simply accepted according to the mind of the person choosing. If you say, "I exist" then the first condition is the law of contradiction and the first principle is "I can know reality". If you chose the opposite as your first fact "I do not exist" then you are properly Kantian and if you can reason as flawlessly as he did then you will condemn yourself to a life of continual contradiction and epistemological error (because then his first condition is the refutation of the law of contradiction and his first principle is "i cant know" so why spend your life thinking about it (what a moron). )

            So, if you say, "I can know" then you will find through reason alone that God exists. You will also be able to reason that every field of knowledge uses different methodology and has different types of 'certainty'. Algebraic axioms have absolute certainty, whereas physics has 'conditional certainty' (If a then b). History has 'conditional certainty' (like the empirical sciences). The truths of the Gospel have been established as 'conditional certainties'. They are not absolute certainties and can not be. However, they do not allege contradictions (square circles) they allege that a superior cause interfered with natural causes to produce a new consequent ( a truth which hypothetical certainty allows). The fields of archaeology (the pilot stone, P72, etc) support the historicity of them. The analysis of genre supports them historically. The dating of them supports their veracity against allegations of folklore (which would necessitate 2nd ce or later dating).

            Those persons who err on the side of excessive skepticism (Hume and today's 'new atheists' ) and those who err on the side of excessive credulity (those who accept out of hand animism, new age-ism, reincarnation, mormonism or even Christianity with no reason for it) are committing the same act of unreason- that is a denial of the facts of reality based on one's personal ideologies.

            Suffice it to say, there are many, many reasons to believe in the gospels. The miracles you mentioned are simply supernatural helps for our natural scrutiny.

            You also need to understand that because of the nature of humans, (not being Divine) freedom is a tricky issue. For instance, you have no freedom to see the computer screen you are reading. There is no act of reason there, you are simple being 'informed' of it. You have the choice to look away, but as long as it is in your face you have no freedom. Because of this, the 'challenge of faith' for God is to have to hide Himself so He can be found if one wishes to find Him or He can be ignored if one wishes to ignore Him. Imagine having to hide a million kilowatt lit lamp in a totally dark room. Seem impossible? Yet that is exactly what God has done with creation. IF HE DIDN'T HIDE THE LAMP YOU WOULDN'T BE FREE TO FIND IT OR IGNORE IT AND THIS IS THE CRUX OF LOVE- IT MUST BE FREELY CHOSEN.

            It is false when people accuse atheists/agnostics of actually seeing God yet denying it. That is not only unfair an accusation but manifestly false according to God's plan. I was an atheist (life long) until 3 years ago. I can attest that I DID NOT SEE GOD. I chose not to, and God respected that choice. However, when I wanted to find Him, He was easily found.

            This is why it is so much silliness when clowns like those tv magicians make fools of themselves by commanding God to appear or strike them down if He exists. It is His plan to be hidden to those who truly do not want to find Him.

            By the way, I'm not yelling when I use all caps. I just can't figure out how to use italics on disqus. So I guess I am the moron.....

          • David Nickol

            Here are the tags you need. If you type the following . . . .

            These tags will make <i>italics.</i>
            These tags will make <b>boldface.</b>
            <blockquote>These tags will make a block quote.</blockquote>

            . . . . when you save your message, it will look as follows:

            These tags will make italics.
            These tags will make boldface.

            These tags will make a block quote.

          • Heidi keene

            thanks!!!

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks for your remarks regarding Immanuel Kant. I do not agree, however, that his first premise is "I cannot know". His critique is rather an examination of the kinds and limitations of pure, practical and aesthetic thought. Indeed, counter to the empiricism of his giant, Hume, he established his purpose of demonstrating the 'a priori' necessity of reason to the categories which order our observations in the world. I have regarded the principles of his categorical imperative: i.e. the laws of necessity and universality, as being comparable to Natural Law. The difference is however, that the onus is on the individual, that is within the context of an individual freedom, to make moral commitment based on maxims and principles, with however, the difference from Christianity, that one acts as if the necessity and universality were real. Thus his rationality is called Transcendental Idealism.

            This has long been a difficulty for me: i.e. the distinction between the Ideal and the Real within this context. But I understand it is possible to appreciate the Word of God as a reality, and still face the practical contexts I find within my life which unfortunately must acknowledge that I act, think and speak within the constraints of my limited 'human' abilities. Thus I can act, even with faith, that my judgments will conform to truth within an interpretation of 'as if' rather than an assumed conformity between my own individual interpretation and 'absolute authority'. Hopefully I have found a possible explanation between a relationship of the ideal to the real. Thank you.

          • heidi keene

            Hi Loreen,
            Certainly Kant believed knowledge can only come through deduction- Hume through deduction. However, my statement was not critical about Kant's preferred type of logical reasoning. My statement was about his defensive metaphysics/or epistemology (chose your term). Kant peddles that being can not be known by the mind. Hume argues that only existence can be known by the mind. Without existence (Kant's position) - love is not possible. Without essences (Hume) -knowledge is impossible. Both sides- essentialism and idealism are built on the epistemological error by refuting in their own way the first fact: I can know.
            The only difference intellectually between Hume and Kant is that Kant's reasoning was flawless- he began with a couple of lies and reasoned perfectly through to the end. He himself knew his defensive metaphysics must deny the law of contradiction (which Hegel and Marx did explicitly). Hume's only distinguishing feature is that he is the low water-mark of all philosophy.
            Kant could've been a great philosopher but he shot himself in the foot before he even got out of the gates (epistemological error).

          • Loreen Lee

            I believe that Kant makes an 'essential' distinction between reason and faith. He limits knowledge to reason related to the evidence of the senses, or empirical reality. This knowledge is thus based on inductive reasoning, but as we would all agree, I believe, science within this phenomenal context is never regarded as any kind of 'absolute' knowledge. The propositions of mathematics and the reasoning with theories, I agree would be deductive, in mot instance.
            When it comes to the noumena as contrasted with such phenomenal realities, the searching for truth within the noumenal world is related to his belief that such areas of thought result in paradoxes, or his antinomies. As with the paradoxes of Zeno, which have in some cases been resoled through experience, so too I have not come to any definite conclusion with respect to freedom, simplicity, whether or not the universe has a beginning, and of course, whether or not God exists. Kant simply demonstrates that within our existing logics, such questions not be satisfied by 'proof'. His three transcendental ideas are freedom, immortality and God.
            Could these ideas be related to the intuitions of space, time and awareness of my own consciousness? And most important, can you or anyone else tell me if I can know God. I believe that even within the Catholic tradition there is some controversy regarding what this means, even within the Thomistic traditions of the angelic orders of Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, and our capacity in knowing, loving and serving God.

            Thanks for your reply..

          • Loreen Lee

            Quote: My statement was about his defensive metaphysics/or epistemology (chose
            your term). Kant peddles that being can not be known by the mind. Hume
            argues that only existence can be known by the mind. Without existence
            (Kant's position) - love is not possible. Without essences (Hume)
            -knowledge is impossible. Both sides- essentialism and idealism are
            built on the epistemological error by refuting in their own way the
            first fact: I can know.

            Please know that I thin I might have misinterpreted your meaning because I am not familiar with this use of concepts.

            Could you please explain further how you would define: defensive metaphysics, 'being' as not being knowable to the mind, 'existence' only can be known by the mind.

            Specifically, how do you distinguish between being and existence.

            What is the first fact that can be known?

            Is there any difference between Hume's idea of essence and .Kant's idea of existence?

            Thank you for giving these questions your attention.

          • heidi keene

            Hi Loreen,
            Thanks for clearing that up. I had a feeling we weren't understanding each other.

            1. Defensive metaphysics is the term used for epistemology in many other languages (I thought perhaps you were Australian or British)

            2. 'being' as not knowable to the mind: that the being that exists, as it exists, is not knowable to our minds. So for example, kant says one may know the pneumena (what your senses perceive) but the essence of the thing is utterly unknowable to our minds. The erroneous claims of both schools- that ideas do exist but only outside the mind (kant) or do not exist at all and only the individual thing we directly perceive exists (hume-existentialism). This epistemological position denies that the whole being can be known as it is. The scholastic or moderate realism of Aristotle and Aquinas reject this and maintain that through the senses and the intellect, the thing that exists (the being) can be known as it is (matter and form) by the intellect. This is a material and spiritual process as nothing enters the intellect that doesn't first come through the senses.

            3. In the case of created beings there are natures (synonymous with 'essence' but used to refer to what the being can do or what can be done to it. Whereas the 'essence' is that principle of the being which can be apprehended by the intellect). Once a thing is rather than isn't - it has existence. Does a unicorn exist- does it have being? Yes, but it is called being of imagination. Does a square circle exist or have being? No because it is not possible to exist because it is a contradiction. There are four types of being:
            1. that which exist and can't not exists (necessary being= God)
            2.that which exists and can not exist (contingent being/not necessary being=all creation)
            3. that which doesn't exist but is possible to exist=possible being
            4. that which doesn't exist and can not exist=impossible being

            So those things which already exists have being in existence.

            4. the first fact that can be known is "I exist"- the initial knowledge of the world is built initially via inductive reasoning based on this and the consequent principles and conditions to it. (You must first know this person before you can know other people, this table before you can know table, this woman (mother) before you can know women in general) etc.

            5. Hume rejects essences and therefore has no idea of them. He believes that they are imaginary beings in the mind that refer to no reality in existence.
            Kant believes that existence is all of reality that is knowable, but that essences do exist in an unknowable reality (plato's world of form basically). Kant believed in God but insisted that He was utterly unknowable.

            Thanks for writing so we could clear up our line of communication!

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you. A few minor interpretations that didn't quit fit into an overall comprehension: but your brief resume has put the relationship of Kant's philosophy to Aristotle/Aquinas within a better context. In brief summary, I truly believe now that possible disagreements between them are capable of resolution.

            First I under stand that Aquinas is fundamentally an existentialist, and that his I is based on his perception, like George Berkeley. And from this he arrives through induction to a universal truth which later can be the basis of a deductive reasoning. (j.S.Mill's inductive logic).
            This contrasts with the Deontological Argument, presented first in the Middle Ages, and then by Descartes. His "I think there fore I am, which can be interpreted as an immediate 'perception' rather than a logical inference, is actually in the same form or essence an expression of the the existence/essence of God within the Ontological 'proof'.

            The phenomena and noumena distinction I have presented in another com box. What is essential to the different arguments is I believe the transcendental categories of Ideal and Real. I believe that Catholicism holds as primary theological first principle the Real existence of God. The Ideality of Kant, as you say is based on the assumption that the whole cannot be known. This has been contested by other modern philosophers. Can we completely know ourself? Can we within the context of our individuality become whole, complete, unified, integral, holy.

            I believe the Catholic Church holds that this is associated with the One, (Catholic) Holy, and (Apostolic) Church. This is thus a 'mystical' proposition, whose 'Reality' is may I suggest held in Faith.

            The contradiction found in faith situations I have spoken about in another comment, are held to be capable of a unification within a universal, or absolute context, but this is, although faith, within the context of our empirical/existential lives, a Possibility: a Modal State. There are philosophies that accept a Modal Realism.

            Thus, as I believe that no philosopher has achieved a wholeness, completeness in any particular philosophy, I feel that through dialogue, and say communion, even between the philosophies of Aristotle/Aquinas/Kant et al.
            will bring us a better understanding not only of our Idealities, but the Modal Realities that are accepted by man.

            But I will accept Kant's position as a very accurate description of my state of being, both respect to mind and body.

            Thank you.

          • Edward Carlin

            I appreciate your response.

            My pain comes from the exact opposite of your history, though. I have spent my whole life sincerely seeking God and being a well-informed, ardent defender of my faith. I wasn't one of those lukewarm Catholics who didn't give a damn about his catechesis. While I've been fortunate to experience certain chains of events that were just too uncanny to dismiss as mere coincidence, and I would say that when I would visit the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal or Lourdes I had a real connection with God, in the past 3 years since those times, I have been seeking God more and not finding him.

            You have the opposite story: you spent your life up until three years ago refusing to believe in him, and then something changed and you were prompted to seek him. The psalms tell us "Blessed are those who love you, happy those who follow you. Blessed are those who seek you, O Lord."

            Maybe I am looking for the wrong things. Maybe you're a neophyte on the spiritual path and so God grants you honey and consolation now to draw you in, but I am in the "proficient" phase described by St. John of the Cross, and therefore it is my time for sensual and spiritual deprivation. I don't know. Hearing how Mother Teresa spent 50 years not sensing God doesn't exactly encourage me any more; in fact, it sounds crazy the more I think about it.

            Basically, while I would never want to consider God my cosmic vending machine, I feel disillusioned with his alleged paternal care because I have not been able to find a partner to love and who loves me yet, despite taking very seriously my practice of the virtue of chastity and looking for a similarly committed Catholic. I know that marriage isn't the ultimate fulfillment in life, but what I do know is that my youth is passing away, and I feel like a prisoner with Stockholm Syndrome unable to express my sexuality and therefore a prisoner in my own body.

            It's strange to me that in all other appetites, one is permitted to sate them in moderation, but in the realm of sexuality, there is no middle ground. You either live in complete continence or even something as negligible as masturbation constitutes a "grave" sin. I've basically given up on the ideal of waiting until marriage to exercise that faculty, but that doesn't mean I'm going out and sleeping with anyone. I still want to share that first experience (and subsequent ones) with someone whom I love, but now I'm not even sure I want the Catholic marriage I always envisaged.

            Anyway, if you know what I ought to be looking for in terms of finding God, feel free to elaborate. I'm just tired of promises of a far green country always over the horizon. It's almost like I can either be holy or I can be happy, but the less happy I am in this life, supposedly the greater happiness/glory I will enjoy in heaven, but I can't anymore.

          • Damon

            It's almost like I can either be holy or I can be happy, but the less happy I am in this life, supposedly the greater happiness/glory I will enjoy in heaven, but I can't anymore.

            Sounds like you're a Christian who has forgotten the foundational premise of your theology.

            Jesus didn’t climb up on that cross so that you could join him; he wasn’t looking for company! He suffered and died so that you wouldn’t have to!

            There is no need to sacrifice joy in this life to obtain joy in the next, there is no need to internalize your guilt and allow yourself to become a martyr. Your martyrdom is not wanted – the whole purpose of the Crucifixion was to allow you to go out and live your life, and let go of that guilt you can never repay!

            Christianity is not about living in a self-imposed hell, spending every waking moment thinking about what you deserve and how you ought to live. Open your heart, think about others for a change. Think about what others deserve from you - because chances are there is somebody who cares about you who deserves to see you happy.

          • heidi keene

            Hi Edward,
            There a couple of things I would like to suggest to you. I am in no way diminishing the extent of your Catholic education or devotion. However, you have (in all three of your statements) revealed a very imperfect grasp of Catholic teaching. This makes me wonder if you know the faith as well as you think you do.
            Let me address these 'red flags' so that maybe you will consider with humility that you could have been poorly catechised and this is the reason that you are having the difficulties you speak of.
            1. You can not be in the proficient age of the spiritual life and have any vestige at all of attachment even to venial sin. In this age, venial sins will come but the soul immediately recoils from them and repents. Mortal sin has been completely eradicated and the soul would be struck with absolute revulsion even at the thought of committing a grave offense against God. That being said, you have shared that you do not see the reason why masturbation is a grave sin- and indeed engage in this activity as a physical consolation for your manly needs not being met by a spouse. This immediately indicates that you are not even in the purgative way of the spiritual life (you are a baby).
            The spiritual life works just like the material life of the body- each stage (infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood) have their own challenges and if we do not successfully pass through those challenges then we remain in the age we are or even regress (if we behave recklessly toward grave sin).
            2. You indicate that you believe the promise is to be fulfilled beyond the grave and that misery is required in this life if we are to 'wear the crown' in the next. Not true. The ages of the spiritual life train us in the virtues which are habits making righteous behavior (which is ultimately right worship of God) easy and pleasurable. A person advanced in the spiritual life enjoys sacrifice and trials. That is the good news! Do not confound enjoying trials and suffering with bodily pleasure. The body will always feel according to its nature- but the spirit can be so elevated to God that the joy derived from exercising the virtue of religion (a type of justice) permeates the whole being and overcomes the physical pains/emotions of our natural body.
            Thus, Christianity's promise is for the only joy available in this life as well as the next. The promise is kept today as well as tomorrow.

            In summation, I would go back to the start. Learn the faith from those persons who can be trusted not to corrupt or dumb it down. Do not shoot for the stars and begin by reading St. John of the Cross or Therese of Avila before you can eat solid food.
            I would suggest you go to either an FSSP or Institute of Christ the King parish and get your instruction from those good and faithful priests.
            I would also suggest that you disavow the novis ordo all together (not because I am claiming the rite itself is corrupt or illicit) but simply because the caliber of preaching is got to be the all time low in church history. I believe you need to be disabused of some un-kosher notions you may have absorbed via the poor formation of your parish priests. Goodness knows I could floor you with the crazy heterodox teaching that I was suffocated with when I first entered the Church. But once I got into the right company (FSSP and the Christ the King), I go good spiritual directors who gave me solid orthodox books to read and who made sure I had a sound philosophical foundation for understanding the faith.

            Lastly, I beg you not to give up. I have a young friend who is in the same boat as you. She is lovely and just got her doctorate, yet single and without hope of marriage in the near future. She wishes for nothing more than a good Catholic husband and lots of kids. However, God's providence is reliable and we must stay true to our calling for salvation first. The first precept of wisdom is first things first.
            And all the rest will follow (all the rest meaning salvation)!

            You are in my prayers and recommendations to Our Lady.
            Pax my friend,
            Heidi

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You indicate that you believe the promise is to be fulfilled beyond the grave and that misery is required in this life if we are to 'wear the crown' in the next. Not true. The ages of the spiritual life train us in the virtues which are habits making righteous behavior (which is ultimately right worship of God) easy and pleasurable.A person advanced in the spiritual life enjoys sacrifice and trials. That is the good news!

            This smacks of doublethink. If it is enjoyable it is no longer suffering.

          • heidi keene

            That's reductionist thinking. Is it possible for a person who endures a 50k to raise money for their favorite charity to actually be simultaneously experiencing joy although 'feeling' suffering in their material body? Certainly, this is so. Because the joy felt is in the spiritual soul (the will) and not in the material body. Fundamentally, your reductionism stems from the ontological error that humans are matter only. If this were so, then the simultaneous experience of physical. pain and pleasure would be impossible. However, the 'joy' that Christian spirituality speaks of is the joy that is the emotional response to a good attained (like in the example of the marathon runner).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You indicate that you believe the promise is to be fulfilled beyond the grave and that misery is required in this life if we are to 'wear the crown' in the next. Not true. The ages of the spiritual life train us in the virtues which are habits making righteous behavior (which is ultimately right worship of God) easy and pleasurable.A person advanced in the spiritual life enjoys sacrifice and trials. That is the good news!

            This smacks of doublethink. If it is enjoyable it is no longer suffering.

          • Edward Carlin

            Heidi, I appreciate your apparently genuine concern for my spiritual welfare, so please don't take offense if my response seems snarky, but I have to speak frankly.

            I'll use an example of a current dilemma I'm facing in my life: My best friend's fiancee (whom I've only ever known as his girlfriend) recently revealed that since she met me, she has been attracted to me. I've always been attracted to her as well, but I never intentionally set out to win her affections. In fact, I had to stamp that out a while ago when it first became apparent it could be a problem. Well, they're engaged now, and I'm one of the major reasons for her cold feet, but much as I would like to be with her, I decided to do the honorable thing and limit my contact with her for the sake of my friendship with both of them.

            Interestingly enough, this is not the first time I've been forced into this position, though I did not reciprocate the feelings for the previous girl who put me in this bind, so it was easier that time, but I still refused to be a homewrecker-- even if only for the coldly logical reason that doing so did not augur well for the foundation of a romantic relationship, whatever the emotions surrounding it were.

            I had the power to crush my friend and take what I wanted, and he can never know because even if he knew that I fell on my sword for him, it would still cause problems. I'm relating this anecdote not to brag, but to illustrate the reality that whatever "joy" I experienced for doing the honorable thing is negligible in comparison to the pain I experience by giving up what I want most: someone who cares about me and is attracted to me for whom I *also* feel physical attraction and care for.

            Sure Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for a friend," but what has this availed me? I'm not convinced that Jesus himself was experiencing any joy on his trudge up Calvary, but I *am* certain that he said that we'd have to take up our own crosses and follow him (which Damon seems to have forgotten). You'll probably say I'm losing sight of the Resurrection for those who do follow this Via Dolorosa faithfully, and you'd be right; it's exactly the kind of "after death" reward I was decrying in my previous post.

            Regarding my masturbatory habits (a subject I'm still not sure how I ended up discussing in a public forum, but whatever), I have gotten to the point where I will go for weeks before "falling" once, at which point I promptly go to confession at the next opportunity because I *do* understand the Church's rationale for the proper exercise of the sexual faculty according to its telos. But I'll tell you that as much as philosophy appeals to my intellectual mind and as much as it sort of fulfills my perfectionist neuroses, it doesn't keep me warm at night, and I've now successfully associated the physical pleasure of orgasm with the spiritual agony of guilt enough times that I'm afraid I'm well and truly fucked up for any marriage I might find (pardon my French).

            I derive no joy from the thought that my near-constant wrestling with my own body gives some kind of honor or happiness to God. In fact, I feel rather like the older son in the parable of his prodigal younger brother who said, "All these years I have served you faithfully, and yet not once did you give me a goat to feast on with my friends." To which the father can only lamely reply, "My son, you are with me always. Everything I have is yours." Well gee, Dad, why did it take until now for you to say that?

            You yourself, Heidi, said I have certain "needs" which are not being met by a spouse-- despite the fact that I have always sincerely desired a holy, Catholic marriage open to many children and focused on honoring God. If our relationship to God is akin to a marriage, I've got a piss-poor one with an abusive spouse who strings me along and doesn't make much effort to communicate with me. I understand well that as a contingent being who owes my very existence to God, I ought to be happy for a few scraps from the table of the Master, but I'm telling you truly: this whole "relationship" with God isn't working out because it's been a one-way street for a long time.

            I have older friends who volunteered in my youth group who are now in good Catholic marriages yet cannot conceive their own children, while my atheist boss never even aimed to be married or have children but is now about to have her first daughter. I have another friend who gave of her time to the Church throughout my high school years who is now battling an incurable form of cancer. I've read of an abortion clinic sidewalk counselor my age who was shot by a 16 year old thug right before the birth of his first child.

            In sum, to quote Teresa of Avila: "If this is how you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few of them."

          • Heidi keene

            Hi Edward,
            Your response does not seem snarky in the least. It is honest and "without guile".
            If you will permit me, I would like to look at your post first through a moral theology lens and then through a spiritual theology lens.
            Your life is lacking 'peace'. Your current perspective is that if things could just 'go your way' then you would attain 'peace' and 'happiness' and you would be 'ok' with God.
            This you have summed up the perennial conflict between God and man. My will verses His. I will love Him if He obeys me and my will.
            What is peace? Peace is the tranquility of order. What is order? Order is that state wherein each created being is working toward its own perfection (an acorn 'seeks' the water and nutrition it needs for the perfection of being an oak tree/ water moves in a cycle to maintain its balance as water/lions hunt etc to perfect their lives.) All these examples do not mean an 'intentional and cognizant pursuit of perfection. The perfection seeking in irrational animals is the estimative sense or 'instinct'. They are programmed to an ordered existence with no freedom per se. Only rational creatures (angels and humans) must seek out their perfection freely.
            Perfection of man is his own salvation. Anything cooperating to bring this about is rightly ordered and will bring peace and anything not is disordered and will lead to conflict/strife etc.
            Who establishes this order? God- by His Will. Recognition of this order is called the 'natural law'.
            Therefore, our own opinions on how things should be ordered are irrelevant. Humility is the ability to see reality as it is. Pride is the failure to see reality as it is. Our minds do not create reality (subjectivism). God's mind creates reality and our perfection lies in freely conforming our minds and wills to reality- not vainly trying to order creation to our mind. This is the error you are engaged in which is the source of the emotional conflict you are engaged in. As paradoxical as this may sound, in giving into the urge to masturbate, or flirt with your friends fiance- you are fighting the natural law- not giving 'into your nature'. Certainly, our fallen nature struggles with obedience and against the submission of our bodies to our spirits- but the natural law has always-and still does demand such submission for right order and its consequent perfection (salvation) to be attained.

            Sin is rejection of the natural order with sufficient knowledge and deliberate consent. Looking at a pretty girl and desiring her is natural and is a morally good kind of act. However, when the circumstances change and that girl happens to be the fiance of another- the act of desire takes on a species of evil when done deliberately. Therefore, once you realized that your fiance's girl appealed to your appetites and that she was becoming in your estimation a 'bonum delictabile'- you had the moral responsibility to 'avoid the occasion of sin' which may have meant completely staying away from your friend until and if the desire in you had been subdued. Instead of complying with the Church's system of ethics, you repeatedly put yourself in the occasion of sin and apparently had a private conversation with this woman (an act of deception and a failure in justice to your friend) wherein you both revealed your mutual attraction. This sin, according to Christ, was as grave as actual adultery. Then you reward yourself with a badge of martyrdom for 'sacrificing' what wasn't yours in the first place to your friend. When in reality you already committed the crime against your friend by deliberately putting yourself in the occasion of sin. Are you so blind that you can't see the mercy in God not permitting you to get hooked up with such an adulterous woman?? Do you actually think a woman who is willing to flirt with her fiance's best friend, confide love to this 'friend' and live a lie with her 'fiance'. A woman who through these few acts has displayed a failure in the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, friendship, honor, religion, piety, truth, circumspection, wisdom, and reason- is this ACTUALLY the good that God is a tyrant for keeping from you? If this ill fated marriage takes place, talk to your friend in 20 years and see how 'blessed' he thinks he was to end up married to such a person.

            Giving into masturbation, especially after trying to hold out, is a sin of frailty and only God knows if it is even a mortal sin (because it depends on soooo many factors from your upbringing to your hormonal situation etc). However, the situation you described with this woman is grave matter. The only way to rectify the matter is to honor your friend with complete disclosure (which will require humility and justice) and commit yourself to never be in her presence except for perhaps in a large gathering where you yourself are with another woman and you deliberately maintain a safe distance from her. Any other contact needs to be between you and your friend privately or with other male friends.

            You asked why sins of the flesh must 'have no middle ground'. Garrigou Lagrange states "because they are like sticking your hand into a moving gear. It will drag your whole body into the danger".

            From the perspective of spiritual theology:
            You yourself, through a lack of humility (obedience to the positive law) and continuing acts of sin (whether venial (foul language) or grave (like putting yourself in the occasion of sin), are slamming the door in God's face and closing yourself in a 'through the looking glass world' that is full of conflict,strife and no peace. Then you stand on your side of that door- on which side the only door knob exists- and yell at God for shutting you out and not entering when you need Him. He is a loving Father, but He is also a Just Father. If you do not will to love Him, you can not be forced-even by God. God himself does not have the power to force someone to love Him. He- after all- has a nature just like you and I. His nature is Divine and it is a principle like any other principle. It does limit what He can do and what can be done to Him. He can not sin. He can not make a square circle. And He can not open the door to your heart and enter without your consent.
            It is not God who is treating you badly- it is you who are treating Him badly. And because you are made by Him, and ordered to Him, you will not be at peace and attain happiness without Him.

            I am more than happy to continue this dialogue with you. However, this disqus forum is not the easiest format for me as the sites loads excessively slowly and fails a good deal of the time when I'm typing. Please feel free to email me at cafecatechesis@gmail.com even if you do not want advise but just need an objective voice (outside the emotional ground zero of your relations) or a friendly ear.
            With a blessing,
            Heidi

          • Edward Carlin

            For the benefit of anyone reading this thread, while Heidi has presented some sound insights, she also presumes too much and has falsely accused certain parties of grave matter without knowing their souls.

            I appreciate her perspectives, though, and will be corresponding with her by email.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            My faith experience was/is perhaps similar to yours. I can certainly see some of myself in what you write. I was raised catholic, I took the faith pretty seriously, and held on to it throughout college and graduate school. I left a few years ago and things got better from there. At some point you have to let it go, when you are a few years removed it starts to look pretty silly.

            Before I left, I realized that most of the reasons I had for believing were not very strong and were easily countered, I had multiple reasons to not believe, the faith made me unhappy, and that I had only stayed in it as long as I had out of fear.

          • Michael Murray

            it occurred to me that the bodies of Sts. Louise Marillac and Catherine Labouré might very well just be wax mannequins underneath some religious habits.

            According to wikipedia with reference to the first of these

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

            She is mistakenly referred to as an incorrupt saint; the body enshrined in the chapel is actually a wax effigy containing her bones.

          • Damon

            Edward, suppose the concept of an all-loving, all-powerful God is nothing more than a pretty lie taught to you growing up to ground you and temper your impulses. Suppose that the religion you were immersed in was intended to facilitate your healthy emotional development and provide a sense of protective community, but beyond that none of it is true.

            Supposing all this, how would you live your life differently?

          • CatW

            I think it is quite fair for you to be an agnostic and also a person of faith, if that is of any help. Though some people claim it exists, I have never come across any satisfactory "proof" of God's existence, certainly not the Christian God's. However, to conclude that, in an apparently inconsequential and often apparently unfair world, Love is nevertheless real and ultimate, still seems possible to me. And that against all odds. Perhaps such a conclusion is irrational, perhaps supra-rational. Rational proof, in any case, will not resolve the puzzle. If you come to the same ir/supra-rational conclusion, however, you might further find that the mysterious character of Love seems to be infinitely unveiling itself in the character of Jesus and the words of the scriptures. A mystic sort of discovery, I admit, and not one you can wake up and will yourself to have (faith is a delicate thing, of tensile strength, if any.) But I will say that to the extent I have ever been able to be open to this faith, this mystic awareness, it is beautiful. If you cannot come by it but wish to, I suggest self-giving love of another person as a similar experience. The way that person will both frustrate and draw you, seem both unknowable and a part of your skin, provides a similar sort of endless unveiling in many senses. Forgive me the cheesiness, but I think there's a line from Les Miserables, "to love another person is to see the face of God." On some level, I'm certain that's true, though we love imperfectly, and see one another, as well as God's face, through a glass darkly, I suppose. Still, another person seems better evidence of God to me than the body of an incorruptible. Someday, assuming they exist, perhaps we'll be able to love the persons of the Trinity, to join them in their endless loop of loving, and never die. But up till then, I believe that to dwell and love in the nearer-to-hand mystery of other people is an inherently worthwhile effort, and can be taken as a sort of school of the divine.To encounter others with a truly open heart is not simply an ethical proposition. It is more than "being nice." There's something to it, whether you being to attempt it as a Christian-per-se or not. I cannot prove that, and I don't claim to be a theologian, or the sharpest tool in the shed. But I tell you what I think just to encourage you, if I can.

          • Caravelle

            "Knowing" is often defined as having a "justified true belief", which I think matches well with our intuitive understanding of what "know" means in vernacular English (if you believe something for bad reason we wouldn't say you "know" it, even if it happens to be true. If you believe something and it isn't true we won't say you "know" it either except sarcastically with air quotes. And if you don't believe something at all we don't say you "know" it either).

            That understanding of the word is obviously problematic as it implies some external POV of absolute certainty that can determine who "knows" things (i.e. whose beliefs are actually true) vs who just "believes" things. And absolute certainty is (almost certainly, lol Heidi) impossible.

            In practice however "know" is basically used to mean "confident enough that I'll round it up to 'certain' in this specific context". How else could the same person say "yes, I know where the keys are, they're in the top drawer", "We all know the Earth is round", but then "we can never know whether or not we're a brain in a vat" ?

            The reason is that "know" is referring to different levels of certainty each time. For example, the person might be 99% certain of the location of the keys (i.e. out of 100 such statements they could expect to be wrong once on average), 99.99% certain that the Earth is round, but not 100% certain that they aren't a brain in a vat. And they're using "know" to mean, say, 95% certainty or more in the first case (in everyday life we talk about "knowing" all kinds of stuff we aren't close to being certain about on a philosophical level), 99.95% certainty or more in the second case (nobody expects scientific facts on the level of "the Earth is round" to ever be overturned), but 100% certainty in the third case.

            "Know" is a very useful word in everyday language, it's basically the difference between "we need to account for the odds I'd be wrong" and "the odds I'm wrong are negligible and can be ignored", but in this kind of discussion it might be more useful to think in terms of levels of confidence. We don't know anything with 100% certainty, OK, that's settled - so how much certainty would you want to have to feel comfortable about these particular beliefs ?

            In those terms agnosticism wouldn't be so much about "I'm not 100% certain" (because that would make all sensible people agnostic about everything), but "I'm not certain enough on this question".

  • Gail Finke

    Excellent. It is difficult for me to put into words, but more and more I have come to see that being nice -- even being more than nice -- is not ENOUGH. That's not the point. God is the point.

    • David Nickol

      God is the point.

      In a forum like Strange Notions, saying that, or saying, "AMEN AMEN," seems to me to amount to saying, "Father Barron is right, I'm right, and everyone who disagrees with us is either stupid or evil." Saying, "God is the point," to atheist is worse than meaningless. It is offensive. Now, if you really mean something by it, then say what you mean. Make it your "topic sentence" or your conclusion.

      Where, by the way, does the notion of the "anonymous Christian" fit in here? And what about all the people who never had any chance of hearing the"good news" of Christianity?

      • "In a forum like Strange Notions, saying ["God is the point"]...seems to ammoung to saying, "Father Barron is right, I'm right, and everyone who disagrees with us is either stupid or evil.""

        I struggle to see how saying "Excellent...God is the point" is the equivalent of saying "I'm right, and everyone who disagrees is either stupid or evil." That's a monumental insinuation.

        If you really think that, then I don't know how you could possibly enter into fruitful dialogue with anyone who holds a different belief than you without assuming they believe you're "stupid or evil."

        Thankfully, I know you don't really think that which is why you've long been one of the best conversationalists at Strange Notions.

        • David Nickol

          If you really think that, then I don't know how you could possibly enter into fruitful dialogue with anyone who holds a different belief than you with you assuming they believe you're "stupid or evil."

          Haven't you noticed that a recurring theme in many comments is that atheists can't possibly really believe there is no God? They know somewhere in their heart of hearts that there is indeed a God, but they don't allow themselves to acknowledge him because to do so would require them to obey his commands, and there are commands they are just unwilling to obey.

          What is "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" supposed to mean?

          • William Davis

            The more I think about it, the more I agree with Einstein. Spinoza had it right, therefore reason is God's greatest gift to man, and our only path to understanding Him. Reason along with compassion are the only guides to morality. Atheists believe in Spinoza's God without realizing it usually.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What is "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" supposed to mean?

            Call me crazy, but I think it means "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'"
            It does not say "He who says in his heart 'There is no God' is a fool."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've always interpreted that along the lines of "I can do X because I'll never be held to account."

          • David Nickol

            It's always important to remember that in Old Testament times, the Jews did not believe in life after death, heaven and hell, eternal reward or punishment. So it seems to me that under their belief system, the "fools" were right. Christians believe they are "held to account" in the next life, not this one. So those who believed the good would prosper and the wicked would be punished in this life were wrong by Christian standards.

          • David Nickol

            Call me crazy, but I think it means "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" It does not say "He who says in his heart 'There is no God' is a fool."

            The footnote for the opening lines of Psalm 14 in the New American Bible says the following:

            [Psalm 14] The lament (duplicated in Ps 53) depicts the world as consisting of two types of people: “the fool” (equals the wicked, Ps 14:1–3) and “the company of the just” (Ps 14:4–6; also called “my people,” and “the poor”). The wicked persecute the just, but the Psalm expresses the hope that God will punish the wicked and reward the good.

            Robert Alter has a different translation, the pertinent lines of which are contained in his footnote to Psalm 14:

            The scoundrel has said in his heart, / "There is no God." The thrust of this line is more moral than theological. The concern is not a philosophical question of God's existence but the scoundrel's lack of conscience, his feeling that he can act with impunity, because he thinks he need not fear divine retribution. This psalm, then, is a "prophetic psalm, lacking any element of supplication because the speaker who denounces the society he observes does not put himself forth as a victim.

            The JPS translation is as follows:

            The benighted man thinks,
            "God does not care."
            Man's deeds are corrupt and loathsome;
            no one does good.

            A gloss to "God does not care" says "Lit. 'There is no God.'" A footnote says, in part, "The claim of this benighted individual would invalidate two of the basic assumptions of Psalms; the ability of God to hear prayers, and the ability of God to punish the various human wrongs that various psalmists lament."

            I take your point to be that the lines mean that while fools say in their heart that there is no God, it does not necessarily mean that all who say in their heart that there is no God are not fools. I think probably anyone who quoted the line today on Strange Notions would mean that on some level, atheists are fools. Since the claim is that the existence of God can be proven by reason alone, those who claim to be atheists are in some sense "unreasonable." It appears to me that the line in the psalm is not simple. But I think an atheist who comes across the line is unlikely to conclude that the psalmist was thinking to himself or herself, "Well this isn't really intended to say something bad about all people who say there is no God. True, the fool says in his heart there is no God, but it is certainly possible that many wise men say the same thing."

            So I won't call you, personally, crazy, but I think your interpretation is crazy. :P

      • randall young

        If there is no God, then why is it such a big deal for someone to say God is the point?

        • David Nickol

          First, I am not an atheist.

          Second, what I meant (and believe I said fairly clearly) was that the problem was not saying, "God is the point." The problem was saying, "God is the point," but nothing else! This is supposed to be a forum for dialogue, so in my opinion (and I am not the moderator) to weigh in with comments like, "God is the point!" or at the other extreme, "God does not exist!" is not dialogue; it's saying, "Hooray for my side!"

          As I understand Catholicism, it is a deep obligation of every Catholic to try to reach out to unbelievers and help them achieve eternal salvation. Jesus said, "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you." I think the intended purpose of Strange Notions is to reach out to atheists and try to draw them in, not to complain about what jerks they are! If Catholics alienate atheists rather than patiently engage with them in a spirit of good will, then the result may be to do more harm than good.

          From the Catholic viewpoint, one might think of atheists or members of "false" religions as somewhat analogous to people standing on a ledge with the intention of jumping and committing suicide. Certainly in a situation like that, one would be very careful not to say the wrong thing and wind up influencing the person to jump.

          • William Davis

            I like your attitude, I wish more had it, no matter what they believe. I have had no luck getting any Christian to try to explain the problems I have with Christianity. At this point, I could probably write a book on what is wrong with it. That said, you can probably tell I love the Gospel of Mark (I wish we knew who actually wrote it, but at least the author did not lay saying he was Mark when he really wasn't). Jesus said to judge the tree by the fruit, and the tree of Christianity has been mostly barren. The only good fruit is Christian compassion and helping the poor. I do try to be open minded, but what am I supposed to think when no one will really try to touch the problems I have (maybe I can't). This failure on the part of Christians (including my parents) has made me more and more certain I am correct. I'll make a quick list for the record

            1. Genesis creation, flood myths and the Jewish concept of a man like God who walked the gardens and wrestled with Jacob, all originated with ancient Sumerian. The Sumerians invented the wheel, irrigation, the plow, the use of scales for barter, and wrote the first Epic, the Epic of Gilgamesh (Nimrod and the tower of Babel were clearly based on Sumerian kings, Gilgamesh was the king of Uruk per the Sumerian king's list and Kish was the first city founed, Nimrod supposed founded Uruk, and his father's name was Cush, almost the same as Kish). Sumeria law codes were much more advanced than anything the Jews had, to me the Jewish law is a big downgrade from Sumerian. Sumeria was so old old that the writers of the Hebrew Bible had completely forgotten it, notice Daniel starts with Babylon. We rediscovered Sumeria in the 1800s looking for evidence to support the Bible, it completely blew up in Christian's faces.

            2. The fact that there is so much senseless suffering in the world that has no point (not redemptive, or because of judgement) indicates either God is evil, or doesn't meddle in the world (which is what I think). Think about what it says about God that he would have killed all those innocent 3 year olds, slaves, and women with the flood when he could have just made the wicked one's fall over dead. To the Jews they were all wicked, simply because they weren't Jews.

            3. Jesus promised to return in this generation, I can quote many verses to back it up. Paul clearly thought Jesus was the first fruits of the resurrection and the harvest was to be finished any day now.

            4. The prophecies of the Hebrew Bible are taken out of context and don't support Jesus as the messiah (no wonder only 1000 Jews converted to Christianity and the rest rejected the idea that he was the messiah)

            5. Christianity has been responsible for moral failures. European anti-jewish sentiment was fostered in Christianity, because they thought they were being judged by God for harboring the Jews who had rejected Christ. The Jews were forced into the very first Ghettos, a term we still use today. This culminated in the holocaust, and Nazi's were eager to use Christian books such as Martin Luther's "On the Jews and their Lies" as propaganda. Martin Luther used the New Testament to support the idea that Jews were of Satan.
            Christianity was used to support slavery for over 1000 years. It is clearly fine in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, I can quote verses. The Church even went so far as to say that dark skinned people had no souls, so killing Native Americans and enslaving blacks was no big deal

            There is more, but these are the big ones. As time passes Christianity seems to get more wrong, and less relevant. The fact that apologists mislead and engage in bad tactics almost to the point of lies makes it even works. Heck, almost all New Testament scholars are sure that the Patorals (First and Second Timothy, and Titus) and Second Peter (probably first too) were FORGED. They were written by straight up liars.

            I'm done, but at this point I'm about as confident that the Christian God isn't real as I am that we landed on the Moon (some people still think that was a hoax).

          • Papalinton

            "The only good fruit is Christian compassion and helping the poor."
            Apparently Fr Barron has just advised us in his OP that this is a misguided understanding of what a christian is, or should strive to be. Indeed he makes it clear there is no obligation on christians to be good/ethical.

            The balance of Fr Barron's piece is standard apologetics targeted at wavering believers on this site in order to comfort their somewhat bruised intellect. In today's unbounded marketplace of ideas his piece is little more than a retreat to bedraggled, age-weary and timeworn rhetoric.

            If religion cannot restrain evil it cannot claim to be a force for good.

          • Michael Murray

            So,what value christianity in today's world?

            Perhaps it can move on without God ?

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/yearwithoutgod/2015/01/26/the-courage-of-gretta-vosper/

          • William Davis

            I agree completely. The only redeeming quality of Christianity is Christ's compassion and it is only a redeeming quality if Christian's follow his example. Without that, it is better to cut down the dead barren tree and plant something else. If there is any truth to the synoptic gospels, that is what Jesus would do. Jesus was a Jewish Rabbi anyway, he wasn't a Christian.

          • Papalinton

            I like the pun William.
            Pure persiflage

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            the Gospel of Mark (I wish we knew who actually wrote it...)

            Then how do you know it wasn't Mark? Internal textual evidence points to someone whose primary source was Peter, and who better than his scribe? Certainly, the account was accredited to Mark from the earliest times; e.g., by Pappias, called by Irenaeus "a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time."
            And the presbyter [John] said
            this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied
            Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.

            Pappias wrote while some of the disciples like Ariston and John were still alive.

            Besides if you're going to just make that stuff up, why not call it the Gospel According to Peter or some other heavy hitter rather than a No-Name like John Mark?

            European anti-jewish sentiment was fostered in Christianity

            You are unfamiliar then with the attitudes of the pagan Romans? (e.g., Tacitus, The Histories, 5:1-13) Or what the Catechism of the Council of Trent (XVI cent.) had to say on the subject?

            The Church even went so far as to say that dark skinned people had no souls

            When, where, and by whom was this said? Or do you simply make up facts? Theologically, it makes no sense, since the word for "soul" in Latin was "anima," which simply means "alive."

            so killing Native Americans and enslaving blacks was no big deal

            Perhaps you are unaware of whence came the voices that disagreed with such Enlightenment sentiments?
            “In order to make your sins against the Indians known to you I have come into the pulpit, I who am a voice of Christ crying in the wilderness of this island… This voice says that you are in mortal sin, that you live and die in it, for the cruelty and tyranny you use in dealing with these innocent people. Tell me by what right or justice do you keep these Indians in such cruel and horrible servitude? On what authority have you waged a detestable war against these people, who dwelt quietly and peacefully on their own land?”
            -- Padre Antonio de Montesinas (Havana, December 1511)

          • William Davis

            I'm short on time, so I will only deal with Mark in this post (though you have a point about the Pope condemning the idea that the natives were animals). The Enlightenment did not start until 200 years later, so you can't blame this on the Enlightenment as you Catholics are apt to do. I need to do more research as you are a knowledgeable debater :)

            First, why did the author of the Gospel NOT claim to be Mark if he was Mark? Second, you forget someone before Papias, Justin Martyr. He was an admirable man, and he quotes from all the Gospels. He clearly calls them "Memoirs of the Apostles". He didn't name them because they hadn't been named yet. Third, there is no evidence that any of the Aramaic peasants who followed Jesus could read or write in their own language, much less fluent Greek.

            With regard to Papias, is he really reliable? This is something from him about Judas

            Judas did not die by hanging[45] but lived on, having been cut down before he choked to death. Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles makes this clear: Falling headlong he burst open in the middle and his intestines spilled out.[46]Papias, the disciple of John, recounts this more clearly in the fourth book of the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord, as follows:

            "Judas was a terrible, walking example of ungodliness in this world, his flesh so bloated that he was not able to pass through a place where a wagon passes easily, not even his bloated head by itself. For his eyelids, they say, were so swollen that he could not see the light at all, and his eyes could not be seen, even by a doctor using an optical instrument, so far had they sunk below the outer surface. His genitals appeared more loathsome and larger than anyone else's, and when he relieved himself there passed through it pus and worms from every part of his body, much to his shame. After much agony and punishment, they say, he finally died in his own place, and because of the stench the area is deserted and uninhabitable even now; in fact, to this day one cannot pass that place without holding one's nose, so great was the discharge from his body, and so far did it spread over the ground."

            Really? I doubt that happened. Many scholars think Papias lied to try to protect the Gospels credibility, such a thing is understandable. I prefer to trust the authors of the Gospels, who chose to remain anonymous, and Justin Martyr, who I think was a much better individual than Papias.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Enlightenment did not start until 200 years later

            Okay, the whole Renaissance-Enlightenment Thing.

            why did the author of the Gospel NOT claim to be Mark if he was Mark?

            Probably because he didn't think it was "all about me."

            Justin Martyr... calls them "Memoirs of the Apostles". He didn't name them because they hadn't been named yet.

            Where did he say they hadn't been named yet? He makes a passing mention to "the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them" in his Dialogue with Trypho as being the source for a particular event. The use of plurals indicate at least two accounts written by "apostles" and two accounts written by "followers" of the apostles. Since he was the mentor of Tatian, who famously produced a harmony of all four gospels (the Diatesseron), it may well be that he considered the gospels as a whole, not as four separate accounts.

            there is no evidence that any of the Aramaic peasants who followed Jesus could read or write in their own language, much less fluent Greek.

            Who says they were all peasants? Matthew was a tax collector, not a job for illiterates. John seems to have been friends with the high priest and was likely at least somewhat educated. Luke was a physician. Mark was a secretary and interpreter. The Jews put a premium on reading the scriptures, so it would not be surprising if they were literate in their own language, something remarked upon by others. Matthew's account was written in Hebrew (or Aramaic), though the version we have now is Greek (and contains passages explaining Jewish terms and practices and Palestinian geography to Greek readers) so the thought arises: translators like Sylvanus are quite sufficient to account for any literary accomplishments.
            Luke appears well-versed in Greek historiographical practices; but Mark's Greek is crude, rushed, a lot of present-tense; pretty much what you'd expect of a Jew who learned enough practical koine to get by, but not enough to be literary.

            With regard to Papias, is he really reliable?

            This is often said about writers who state something contrary to the speaker's theories. You do not give a source for your cut-and-paste - it has footnote numbers interpolated - so it is probably Wikipedia.

            Many scholars think Papias lied to try to protect the Gospels credibility

            Many scholars think Papias lied to try to protect the credibility of their own theories. Why someone who lives a couple millennia later, when all first-hand testimony and most primary documentation has been lost is more reliable than someone who lived in the generation after the events described has always been a mystery to me.

          • William Davis

            Probably because he didn't think it was "all about me."

            Interesting, that is not only a bad answer, but perhaps a veiled jab. I assure, you for me, this is all about the truth. The God I believe in doesn't care about humans more than anything else (caring is a human concept). It is human's who have made God "all about me" and we have built God in our image, it isn't the other way around.

            The idea that Justin considers the gospels as a whole makes perfect sense if they were not yet named. Don't take my word for any of this, check this out

            " Besides, as well pointed out by Prof. Bacon, "the historical books of the New Testament differ from its apocalyptic and epistolary literature, as those of the Old Testament differ from its prophecy, in being invariably anonymous, and for the same reason. Prophecies whether in the earlier or in the later sense, and letters, to have authority, must be referable to some individual; the greater his name, the better. But history was regarded as a common possession. Its facts spoke for themselves. Only as the springs of common recollection began to dwindle, and marked differences to appear between the well-informed and accurate Gospels and the untrustworthy . . . did it become worth while for the Christian teacher orapologist to specify whether the given representation of the current tradition was 'according to' this or that special compiler, and to state his qualifications". It thus appears that the present titles of the Gospels are not traceable to the Evangelists themselves."

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06655b.htm

            And this

            St. Matthew is identified with the tax collector called as an Apostle (Mt 9:9-13). Papias again attests to the saint's authorship and indicates that he was the first to compile a collection of Jesus' sayings in the Aramaic language. For this reason, the Gospel of Matthew, at least in a very basic form in Aramaic, is considered the first Gospel and placed first in the New Testament, although the Gospel of Mark is probably the first in a completed form. St. Irenaeus and Origen (d. 253) again support this authorship. Nevertheless, some scholars doubt the saint's direct authorship because we only have the Greek version, not the Aramaic, and no citations are made from the Aramaic version in Church literature. The version of the Gospel we have was probably written between 70-80.

            http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=6976

            Now consider the synoptic problem. The only place Matthew and Luke agree with each other is where they agree with Mark. So either they were copying Mark, or some other source Q was involved. Perhaps the sayings of the Apostles were written down in Aramaic, and the anonymous authors of the Gospels created beautiful peaces of fluent Greek literature based on those saying. Mark only involved the actual saying, adding nothing. Matthew and Luke synthesized the additional items. From the Catholic Culture site above "Sometimes the authors may have synthesized some of these events or teachings, or may have underscored parts or explained parts with a view to a certain audience." Of course, and this theory I propose explains the synoptics well. There is no way these were completely separate accounts, the passages all synoptics have in common are almost verbatim, only possible by copying.

            It was interesting you mentioned Peter, there was a Gospel of Peter, probably written in the mid-first Century. From Wikipedia (it's on you to prove Wikipedia is wrong, it is usually pretty reliable) "Origen also mentions[8] that the Gospel of Peter, together with "the book of James", was the source for the Catholic Church doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. It would appear that the former text to which Origen was referring is another Gospel of Peter, as evidenced to date: two papyrus fragments from Oxyrhynchus, both in the Ashmolean Museum: P.Oxy 4009 and P.Oxy 2949 contain no such reference and what is referred today as the Gospel Of Peter, discussed below, contains a Passion narrative only." Interesting that such an important doctrine was based on a book written by a liar.

          • William Davis

            Why someone who lives a couple millennia later, when all first-hand testimony and most primary documentation has been lost is more reliable than someone who lived in the generation after the events described has always been a mystery to me.

            Because, quite frankly, the early church was full of liars. Many people have no idea how many forged Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypses we have found, especially at Qumran (which is ironic that believers think the dead sea scrolls somehow help the case for Christianity...this is only through ignore the MASSIVE amount of evidence to the contrary). The case is worse than that though, forged documents made it into the New Testament. It is shame that these people would make up lies it Paul's name, Paul was a genuine believer, and a good man I think. Check out this Catholic link.

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

            The seven “Undisputed Letters” (a.k.a. the “Authentic Pauline Letters”).

            These can be put into three subgroups chronologically:

            The Earliest Letter (ca. 50-51 AD): 1 Thessalonians

            The Middle Letters (mid 50's): 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Galatians

            The Latest Letter (ca. 57-58 AD): Romans

            About 95-99% of scholars today agree that all of these letters were actually written by Paul himself.

            The six “Disputed Letters” (a.k.a. the “Deutero-Pauline Epistles”).

            For two of these, the scholarly divide is about 50/50 (that is, about 50% of scholars think they were written by Paul himself, while the other 50% think they are “pseudepigraphic” or written later by a follower of Paul):

            If 2 Thessalonians is authentic, Paul probably wrote it soon after 1 Thess (in order to correct some misunderstandings caused by 1 Thess itself), since it is so similar in form and content to 1 Thess.

            If Colossians is authentic, Paul probably wrote it near the end of his life (after spending several years in prison), since the theology expressed in it is rather different from Paul's earlier letters.

            If either or both of these letters are pseudepigraphic, then they were probably written in the last few decades of the first Christian century.

            For the other four letters, about 80% of scholars think they were not written by Paul himself, but by one of his followers after his death:

            Ephesians is almost definitely a later expansion of Colossians, since they are so similar in structure and theology, but quite different from Paul's earlier letters; Ephesians was probably written to serve as a “cover letter” for an early collection of Pauline letters.

            The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) were most likely written late in the first century by some member(s) of the “Pauline School” who wanted to adapt his teachings to changing circumstances.

            Note: Judging a particular letter to be pseudepigraphic does not mean that it is any less valuable than the other letters, but only that it was written later by someone other than Paul.

            All thirteen of the letters attributed to Paul are still considered “canonical”; all of them are still part of the Holy Bible and foundational for the Christian Church.

            Distinguishing the letters based on actual authorship, however, allows scholars to see more clearly the development of early Christian theology and practice.

            We not even talking about Second Peter, which was probably forged too, I like this quote from Daniel Wallace (a bright evangelic scholar from Dallas Theological Seminary)

            There has been much debate over the authorship of 2 Peter. Most conservative evangelicals hold to the traditional view that Peter was the author, but historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded that to be impossible. For example: Ksemann states that 2 Peter is “perhaps the most dubious writing” in the New Testament.1 Harris says, “virtually none believe that 2 Peter was written by Jesus’ chief disciple.”2 And Brevard S. Childs, an excellent rhetorical critic, shows his assumption when he says, “even among scholars who recognize the non-Petrine authorship there remains the sharpest possible disagreement on a theological assessment.”3

            https://bible.org/article/authorship-second-peter

            Whether you realize it or not, the authority of Scripture has crumbled from it's very foundation. If this much of the New Testament was written by liars, what else is lies. I really like Mark, and I think it is the only thing we have that is close to what really happened with Jesus.

            If you'd like I can get into how the religion of the early Jews was based on Sumerian mythology. The Jews just had one patron deity (henotheism is clear in the Hebrew Bible) who was very jealous over his people. The Sumerians were the inventors of western civilization, they invented the wheel, irrigation, the plow, using weights for barter, and western religion. The fact that the original form of western religion was pagan is ironic isn't it. Monotheism simply evolved as we slowly imagined God to be less and less like a man (the Sumerian deities actually had to eat and sleep, but recall God walked through the Garden of Eden and wrestled Jacob). The end of this evolution is that God has nothing to do with man, has no man-like intelligence, ect. This idea was always where God was headed. I really like Spinoza's philosophical proof of such, he was way ahead of his time, which is why Einstein wrote him a love letter (though a really bad one).

            I'll get back to you on the slavery and anti-semitism, out of time again.

            I appreciate you defending your views, I've learned from the challenge you represent already (debating most people presents little challenge on here). You are a bright man, and I respect that, even though we are at odds on many things.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Many people have no idea how many forged Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypses
            we have found, especially at Qumran

            There were no New Testament documents at Qumran; so the number is zero.

          • William Davis

            You are correct, those were Jewish non-canonical texts, my mistake. The Gospels were found elsewhere.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Gospels were found elsewhere.

            Where?

          • William Davis

            Looks like it was mainly slave owners in the Southern US and both English and Spanish colonialists who used the claim colored people had no souls to justify slaving. I've read this in history books, but an online source is evading me. If I impugned the Catholic church it was a mistake, and I'll go back and fix it when I'm down. These were "Christians" who also used the large amount of Scripture, especially in the Hebrew Bible, to justify what they were doing.

            Let's look at the Catholic Church's involvement

            "Augustine of Hippo taught that slavery is never a “natural” condition but one that has arisen as the result of sin. He argued that the institution of slavery derives from God and is beneficial to slaves and masters. However, he also characterized the granting of freedom to slaves as a great virtue."

            "Pope Gregory I in his Pastoral Care (c. 600), which remained a popular text for centuries, wrote "Slaves should be told ...[not] to despise their masters and recognise they are only slaves". In his Commentary on the Book of Job he wrote that "All men are equal by nature but .... a hidden dispensation by providence has arranged a hierarchy of merit and rulership, in that differences between classes of men have arisen as a result of sin and are ordained by divine justice".

            Even the Great Augustine (I have a great argument about how Original Sin is completely bogus and not in the Hebrew Bible at all. Psalm 51 was about a specific child born of David born of his adultery with Bathsheba, and there were only specific curses in Genesis, heck man did not get cursed, the ground did)

            "Thomas Aquinas taught that, although the subjection of one person to another (servitus) was not part of the primary intention of the natural law, it was appropriate and socially useful in a world impaired by original sin."

            Let's jump ahead to near the 15th century

            "Dum Diversas is a papal bull issued on 18 June 1452 by Pope Nicholas V. It authorized Afonso V of Portugal to conquer Saracens and pagans and consign them to "perpetual servitude."

            It was clear here that this Bull served to further the political interest of the Church. After 1517, the reformation had ruined much of the political power of the church, so now it was in the political interest of the Church to condemn what those were doing outside of it's thumb.

            What really freed us from slavery was technology. The industrial revolution turned inanimate objects into slaves, so now human slaves were not needed, and our morality changed. I really think it is that simple.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So what you're saying is that the Christians found slavery a universal secular institution of great antiquity and set about disparaging and ameliorating it when and where they could when they had the leverage; meanwhile counseling people to act with charity regardless in which station of life they found themselves?

          • William Davis

            Enslaving pagans isn't exactly ameliorating it. You forget the Catholic church had political dominance for 1000 years as the official religion of the Roman empire. They could have ended slavery, they had the power, but they didn't. Christians were no different than anyone else. They use their religion as a tool for their own ends. The only thing Christianity brings to the table is compassion, and when this article seems to dismiss that, I ask, what good is Christianity without that?

            I could make a long list, but this is probably the worst thing the Church did to Jews:

            "On 14 July 1555, Pope Paul IV issued papal bull Cum nimis absurdum which revoked all the rights of the Jewish community and placed religious and economic restrictions on Jews in the Papal States, renewed anti-Jewish legislation and subjected Jews to various degradations and restrictions on their personal freedom.

            The bull established the Roman Ghetto and required Jews of Rome, which had existed as a community since before Christian times and which numbered about 2,000 at the time, to live in it. The Ghetto was a walled quarter with three gates that were locked at night. Jews were also restricted to one synagogue per city."

            The right hand condemns the taking of native slaves because it doesn't help the Church, the left hand launches a massive Jewish persecution. We still use the word Ghetto to this day. So much for kindness. Looks like unwarranted religious persecution to me.

            Thanks for listening at least, if you want to pick apart more of my comments, feel free, but I'm trying to be factual. Obviously I make mistakes, that's why I need you to point them out ;) The exclusivity and arrogance is what I can't stand, so I'm bringing arrogance of my own. I also can't stand Richard Dawkins and his arrogance, but Dawkins doesn't claim I'm going to hell. I had Hell beaten into me as a child in the name of God, and sometimes that old demon flares up. I'm done venting now, regardless of our differences, I hope you have a nice weekend :) I'm going to take a break from all this stuff, and if I visit this site again, I'm going to try to have a better attitude. The last article which took down a scientific strawman (orthodox science has never claimed that the human behavior is deterministic by genes alone), and this article set me off. I do appreciate my being allowed to vent here :)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I had Hell beaten into me as a child in the name of God
            Nuns, right? Priests were generally more easy-going. Though I can't say the nuns in my school were especially fire-and-brimstone.
            +++
            Enslaving pagans isn't exactly ameliorating it.
            And this was done when and where?
            +++
            You forget the Catholic church had political dominance for 1000 years as the official religion of the Roman empire. They could have ended slavery, they had the power, but they didn't.

            You talking about the Byzantines? Technically, that was the Orthodox Church. The Byzantines found it harder to slough off the old Roman attitudes, true; and the Church there became a sort of department of the imperial State, the Patriarch being appointed by the Emperor. But in Latin Europe, slavery simply faded away. (They were not coming from a culture in which such things are "legislated".) The Empire in the West collapsed not too long after Theodosius made Christianity the official state religion.

            +++
            this is probably the worst thing the Church did to Jews:

            OTOH,

            A.D. 598, Gregory the Great decreed that the Jews were to be treated "equitably and justly," allowed to keep their own festivals and religious practices, and their rights of property, including synagogues, were to be respected (Greg. Mag. Regesta, M. G. H., II, 67 and 383)

            c. 1120. Callixtus II issued the bull "Sicut Judaeis," a papal charter of protection to the Jews. "We therefore, although they prefer to continue in their hardness of heart rather than be guided by the hidden meaning of the prophets to a knowledge of the Christian faith, do nevertheless, since they invoke our protection and aid, following in the footsteps of our predecessors and out of the mildness of Christian piety, extend to them the shield of our protection." The document then lays down several specific edicts forbidding such things as forced conversions. This bull was repeatedly reconfirmed throughout the middle ages.

            There were reasons why when "the 99%" went after the Jews, the latter typically turned to the Pope or local bishop for protection. E.g., when the People were attacking Jews from fear of the Black Death, Pope Clement issued two bulls denouncing the belief that the Jews were spreading the Plague and opened his palace at Avignon as a refuge to all Jews. Earlier, when the troops of Duke Emicho were looting Jews instead of heading to the Holy Land as promised, the Jews took refuge in the bishop's palace. Alas, this did not protect them, as Emicho and his men stormed the bishop's palace and looted it.

            This doesn't mean there weren't prelates who succumbed to their own prejudices. Another requirement of Cum nimis absurdum was that Jews keep their loan records in either Latin or common Italian rather than in a language the borrower does not understand; and a further requirement was that if after the mandatory 18 month waiting period a Jew sells the collateral on a loan for more than the balance owed on the load, he must return any excess to the borrower. There seems to have been some underlying political issues at play here, given the prologue of the bull and other wordings.

          • William Davis

            You are right, there was clearly a war inside the church between Satan and God (though I think these are metaphors for different parts of the mind). My upbringing was from fundamentalist protestants who thought very much like the puritans. It was a fire and brimstone cult that focused on hell, judgement and the apocalypse, plenty to keep a kid up with nightmares. They also thought everyone outside their own church and maybe a few at Bob Jones University (the pastor was a graduate from there) were going straight to hell, especially all apostate Catholics.

            I firmly agree that unguided Christianity based on a single persons interpretation of the Bible can become a disaster of epic proportions, at least I did not have the misfortune of being born into the Jim Jones cult or something worse.

            I also think that most of the bad things done by Christians were not done by "true believers" in Christ, though they may have been believers in Christianity. To this day, my Dad seems to completely ignore Christ, and focus on Paul on the Old Testament. The fact is, he has no desire to be like Christ, and doesn't seem to think anything Christ said is important. Paul's belief in the resurrection gives him a "cop out". I believe that, and I'm going to heaven, and I go about my life the same as I always would (I'm not saying he is an immoral man, but he is very selfish, and could have done a lot more if he really believed in Christ's teaching and ignored Paul's). I don't mind the idea of combining the two, but you agree where sola fide gets us. Martin Luther's book "On Jews and there Lies" does tell a bad tale about some things going on in his mind.

            I yet to get a Christian to get give me feedback on this idea, but if you take the later ending off Mark, hopefully you are aware that the two oldest copies of Mark end with verse 8, and the longer ending if different grammatically and thematically from the rest of Mark. I'm copying this straight out of my NRSV Bible:

            "Mark 16:8 Some of the most ancient authorities bring the book to a close at the end of verse 8. One authority concludes the book with the shorter ending; others include the shorter ending and then continue with verses 9–20. In most authorities verses 9–20 follow immediately after verse 8, though in some of these authorities the passage is marked as being doubtful."

            Anyway, without this entering the kingdom of God is about helping the poor, and this from Mark 12:

            One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

            Isn't this at odds with Paul? Isn't the resurrection supposed to be the greatest sacrifice? I'm not saying Jesus's death isn't important, but here he is saying love is MUCH more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. I could go on, and I do have one more thing I want to bounce off you about Paul, but what I'm trying to say is that my reason can't be in the same place as Christianity, but from this gospel, my heart surely can. We have essentially proven in psychology that our emotions drive our actions, we tend to think we are reasonable because we rationalize our actions, but this is mostly a delusion. I practice meditation and "meta-cognition" on a regular basis and sometimes I'm still amazed at how I can delude myself without realizing it. Anyone, Christianity got this one right, and that means something. What if the troubles in Christianity are due to bad men poisoning the message with lies, and if it were freed from those lies, it could really change the world. Why isn't it enough for my heart to be in the right place, couldn't the Holy Spirit be a metaphor for the spirit of agape love? I'll close with this, and this verse means a lot to me, from Mark 9 (the passage is also in Luke)

            38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone[j] casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

            If demons are a metaphor for mental illness or bad thoughts, isn't spreading kindness casting out demons. Kindness is contagious, so is hate. Buddhism help me cast out demons from my childhood, and Buddha and Jesus seem to be much on the same page in my opinion. It took Buddhism to allow me to come back to Christianity with an open mind, and what I see is very different from most Christians I have talked to.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            We have essentially proven in psychology that our emotions drive our action

            Psychology is hardly even a science, let alone one that "proves" things. What we have done since the Triumph of the Will is allow the will and its emotions and appetites free rein. There was no "proof," only letting it all hang out. The older thought, which we may call the Triumph of the Intellect, placed the intellect prior to the will for the eminently logical reason that you cannot want what you do not know. So knowing is prior to wanting. This was the basis for the two strengths "courage" and "temperance."

            Courage is the strength to do what I know I ought, even when I don't want to. Temperance is the strength to refrain from what I know I ought not, even when I want it. That is why we say too much chocolate is "bad" for you, or that plenty of greens is "good." The moral virtues are analogous to these physical virtues. So you ought to refrain from forcing yourself on a woman even though your emotions may drive you to want it.

            But the linchpin connecting the moral virtues of justice, temperance, and courage to the intellective virtues of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is the virtue of prudence: that of choosing proportionate means to one's ends. But to ensure the Triumph of the Will, prudence has to go, and without prudence there is neither courage, nor temperance -- nor even justice. Which I think is apt description of the Late Modern world.

          • William Davis

            I don't blame you at all for being distrustful of psychology. Of all the sciences, it has been, and continues to be the most prone to "pseudoscience". What of the more recent disasters of psychology was the epidemic of "repressed memories" about childhood abuse. At least the field turned on itself, and what was clearly happening was that these people were inventing false memories that actually sent people to prison, terrible.

            That said, when it sticks to evidence (making it actually scientific, no pseudoscience), it can be useful, though it will never be fully satisfying because, if done correctly, it is not allowed to be imaginative.

            I'm a firm believer in the idea that "All models are wrong, some are useful." Some models are more true than others, but our limited minds are incapable of grasping Truth. Einstein showed that Sir Isaac Newton's brilliant Principia was "wrong". Everyone knew this already, because of minor problems in predicting orbits, but Einstein had to reinvent physics to make it "more true". The fact modern cosmology thinks 96% or so of the universe is dark energy or matter is evidence that we are still "wrong". Einstein and other physicists quest for the "Grand Theory of Everything" is still fascinating to me. I strong disagree with Hawkins, and other scientists, however, about philosophy being irrelevant. They miss the fact that science can only exist within a certain philosophical framework, a framework that was clearly fostered in Christianity.

            Wikipedia defines emotion as "In psychology and philosophy, emotion is a subjective, conscious experience characterized primarily by psychophysiological expressions, biological reactions, and mental states. A similar multicomponential description of emotion is found in sociology. For example, Peggy Thoits[1] described emotions as involving physiological components, cultural or emotional labels (e.g., anger, surprise etc.), expressive body actions, and the appraisal of situations and contexts. Emotion is often associated and considered reciprocally influential with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation.[2] It also is influenced by hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, oxytocin, cortisol and GABA. Emotion is often the driving force behind motivation, positive or negative.[3] An alternative definition of emotion is a "positive or negative experience that is associated with a particular pattern of physiological activity."[4]"

            I will agree that saying "emotion" drives us is an oversimplification, but think about how a normally man is apt to kill his wife when he finds her cheating on him. Think about how drugs can affect emotional states and yield disastrous.

            One way of modeling the mind is to separate it into two parts, reason and emotion. Obviously there is always an interaction between the two, and prudence is the use of reason to temper emotion, and I completely agree it is critical. In fact, I think you've hit the nail on the head. I also see clearly that we are under the delusion that material things can make us happy, and this is clearly false. Buddhist philosophy also ends up in a very similar place with regard to the human condition, but I'll stop here (I clearly have the problem of being longwinded).
            Just note that anytime I say something is "proved" it is with error bars, and the error bars are extremely large in psychology. They may be even larger in climate science, lol.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The Scientific Revolution divided the world up into objective qualities like location, shape, etc. and subjective qualities like color, sound, pain, etc. Natural science was restricted to the former and the latter (to the extent considered) were either re-defined in quantitative terms of particles in motion (e.g., photons bouncing off a surface) or simply shoved into the closet of the mind as "the problem of the qualia." Later, when psychologists tried to study the mind itself as meaningless particles in motion, all the subjective stuff came tumbling out as from the closet of Fibber McGee. And this a century after the physicists had abandoned the naive mechanical model. (What is the "shape" of an atom? Where is an electron "located"?)

            A more nuanced model is:

            http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/WAW0010.GIF

          • William Davis

            That fits what we think we know about the brain from new neurology research fairly well. I'm not an expert on the subject by any means, but I find it fascinating. I've listened to some TTC lectures by a professor who has been studying the "religious experience" using brain imaging technology. Experienced meditators and nuns doing Rosary prayer seem to enter similar brain states. These states seem to affect large regions of the brain, not only in the frontal lobes but in areas responsible for perception. Many people do not realize that the brain constructs perception based on sensory input and that perception from one input such as vision can affect other inputs such as taste. Researchers can fool expert wine tasters into describing white wine as red, simply by coloring the wine red. I'm sure you've seen such things but here is a pretty recent diagram.

            http://blog.tauedu.org/anatomy-and-functional-areas-of-the-brain/

            I'm trained as an electrical engineer, but my career is in software engineering. The specific field is building automation, so I specialize in building human intelligence into machine (the future of slavery in a way). At the top level, most current systems use graphical programming, which looks almost exactly like what you posted. You end up with a live flow diagram that makes it easy for people without a lot of experience in specific programming languages to make the controllers do what they want. This stuff is pretty powerful when it comes to controlling heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, lighting, card access, event fancy pump control responsible for fountain effects at Las Vegas.

            Our current platforms only go from input to logic to output, however, obviously nothing even close to the human brain itself. I am personally doubtful that we will ever have true ai built on the current platforms we use, that basically amount to nothing more than a trillion switches.

            Here's an example of end user programming on Niagara AX I pulled from google images. Looks like they are doing some simple boiler control. Inside each block can be a lot of programming, and it let's you build blocks inside of blocks ad absurdum. I realize I'm veering off topic, but thought you might find it interesting. Even though it's at a simplistic level, we are modeling intelligence.

            https://www.google.com/search?q=niagara+program+example&rlz=1C1LENP_enUS504US504&espv=2&biw=1536&bih=716&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=w0jNVMymGIXVggSE9ILIBQ&ved=0CCoQsAQ#tbm=isch&q=niagara+ax+program+example&imgdii=_&imgrc=D2Zf3BwE8Ci9lM%253A%3ButfCABvTj_3t-M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.syxthsense.com%252Fimages%252FAXWorkbench-Large.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.syxthsense.com%252Fsedona_framework_controllers%3B800%3B486

          • William Davis

            This is mostly a repost to save time
            2 Timothy 3

            But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

            16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            When Paul wrote his letters, he didn't know he was writing scripture. So what is up with 16? The person writing this letter not only seems to think it is going to end up as scripture (something only a much later person would have known) and is on a rant since he thinks he now has "authority." Isn't it better if this isn't the Great St. Paul?

            1 Timothy 2

            11 Let a woman[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

            So women are to shut up and have babies. I say it again, isn't it better if this isn't Paul. This doesn't sound like the Paul I like.

            Don't think for a second I'm not trying to be responsible here. It isn't that I can't err, but after a while we see a pattern.

            http://evangelicaltextualcriti...

            This is an evangelic who believes that 1 Corinthians 14 was doctored to shut women up. He makes a good case. The evidence that scripture was doctored by later Christians is overwhelming. It is a travesty they did this to Paul.

            In the questioned letters are also verse that support slavery. I think think Paul really thought we were to be one in Christ. Isn't it reasonable to question "letters" that contradict that? By no means is this the only reason these letters are disputed, but I think if Paul did NOT write them, it is a boon to Christianity. Sure, it brings the rest of into doubt, but isn't it in doubt already?
            When questioning Papias, I remember reading him talking about snake handling or snake venom. Could he or his followers added the ending to Mark?
            I just wish questions would look at what people like Ehrman are saying. By no means does he get everything right, but he really believes what he is saying, and his heart is in the right place. He is an ex-evangelical who is attacking the political travesty that Evangelicalism has become, using their own methods against them. I'm surrounded by those who use the Bible to justify bigotry, and quietly, among themselves, to justify racism. The Jews were racist after all, out don't see how anyone can deny that Christianity is founded on a racist religion. I can't help but sympathize with the old heretic Marcion, if his view had become orthodox, maybe things would have gone better. Reduce Christianity to the synoptic gospels and the undisputed Pauline letters, I think it is better, but that is my humble (now that I'm not full of what feels like "righteous anger") opinion.

          • William Davis

            Just a note, the early Greeks that converted to Christianity did so because they believed that the Torah went back to the beginning of time. They also were impressed by Jesus's miracles. Today REASON has allowed us to heal more people than we ever imaged, has allowed us to feed billions (in comparison to the 5000) has allowed us to build sky-scrapers that make the tower of Babel look like a mole-hill. The early Christians believed that heaven was above the sky, well, we've been way past the sky, and we know what is really out there. REASON gave us the tools to find things much more ancient than the early Christians ever imagined was there. Those early Greeks would NOT have converted if they knew what we know now. What we do know is the power of belief to shape the world in our mind, and this explains the persistent of Christianity by itself (along with other psychological phenomena). I still talk to God sometimes though, and if feels good. I get profound religious experience from looking at images from Hubble, and from learning things in science (relativity and quantum mechanics generate religious experiences for some of us).

  • David Nickol

    Judas is given some interesting words in the song "Heaven on Their Minds" in Jesus Christ Superstar:

    Jesus! You've started to believe
    The things they say of you
    You really do believe
    This talk of God is true
    And all the good you've done
    Will soon get swept away
    You've begun to matter more
    Than the things you say.

    Even holding on to the belief that Jesus was God incarnate, I think there is something of possible importance to Christians in the warning of Judas: Jesus to some mattered or matters more than the things he said. This seems to have been the case with Paul, who is far more interested (from what we can tell) with the death and resurrection of Jesus than with anything Jesus taught.

    I do not pretend to be a New Testament scholar, but it has always seemed to me that in Catholicism, the actual teachings of Jesus are of secondary importance. If Jesus truly was God in human form, then wouldn't his teachings be astonishingly important? Instead, what seems to be important in Catholicism is the Church itself and its prescribed rituals, often claimed to be creations of Jesus, but seldom convincingly rooted in the Gospels.

    It seems to me that ethical teachings were at the heart of Jesus's message. I don't suppose Fr. Barron is suggesting that they weren't important, but he does seem to suggest they were secondary. And while it might be going too far to say Fr. Barron suggests that an "ethically challenged" Christian is better than, say, an extraordinarily virtuous Buddhist, there is certainly more than a hint of that in the OP.

    • James Hosler

      David Nickol, you said: "Instead, what seems to be important in Catholicism is the Church itself and its prescribed rituals, often claimed to be creations of Jesus, but seldom convincingly rooted in the Gospels."

      Would you be able to provide an example?

      • David Nickol

        In the Gospels, I don't find any justification for any particular arrangement of a Church hierarchy, any justification for the priesthood, any justification for the sacraments except baptism and the eucharist, or any requirement to attend mass or go to confession. On the other hand, the ethical teachings of Jesus seem very clear, many of which we would not think of taking too seriously, such as turning the other cheek or shunning riches.

        I am not suggesting that there is anything necessarily wrong with a particular church hierarchy, or the priesthood, or the sacraments. I am saying I don't see them as being required by Jesus.

        • James Hosler

          If one is looking only in the Bible, a lot of stuff Catholics do may seem strange. There are some biblical roots to the topics you mention, but a lot of the specifics are fleshed out later by means of the Magisterium. The Magisterium acts with the authority given by Christ to His Church, so, at least on our worldview, it's not putting words into Christ's mouth.

          I have not observed an either-or in my experience as a Catholic. If anything, I hear more about morals than riturals on Sundays.

          • David Nickol

            The Magisterium acts with the authority given by Christ to His Church, so, at least on our worldview, it's not putting words into Christ's mouth.

            In another forum, a committed Catholic much more knowledgeable about these things than I am said to me, "If you believe Jesus 'raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament' by attending the Wedding Feast of Cana, you'll believe anything."

            (To be fair, I am sure there are other justifications for the "discovery" over a thousand years after the time of Jesus that marriage was a sacrament.)

          • James Hosler

            Some practices of the Church were made official even more recently than that. Papal infallibility is always a fun one. From outside the Catholic worldview, such things seem silly. Of course they would. But to a Catholic, none of it is offensive, it all makes sense, it's all coherent.

            Arguing about these kinds of things with an atheist doesn't make much sense to me. The atheist must try to show how there is an incoherency in the belief system in order to undermine the system. The barrier to conversation is just so vast on topics like this. "Does God exist?" might be a better place to start.

            Unless you want to try and show an incoherency. I certainly haven't been able to find one yet.

          • David Nickol

            Unless you want to try and show an incoherency. I certainly haven't been able to find one yet.

            I am not an atheist, and I write as someone who takes Jesus very seriously, although whether he was God incarnate or not, I do not pretend to know.

            My point here is that if Jesus was God incarnate, then what he said about life in general and about ethics is the most direct "word of God" we have, arguably more direct than the Ten Commandments or anything else in scripture. It seems to me Jesus did indeed put heavy emphasis on living a moral life. For example, we have the two "greatest commandments," the second of which is to love your neighbor as yourself. For many, that is the absolute essence of leading a moral life. It just concerns me that Fr. Barron seems to be saying morality is really secondary. After all, the Church itself teaches that those who through no fault of their own do not know Jesus can be saved by leading good lives. Fr. Barron says the following:

            But only Christians witness to an earthquake that has shaken the foundations of the world and turned every expectation upside down.

            But there are billions of people who have no chance at all to either hear the Christian message or (realistically) to embrace it. One wonders why an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God would arrange for things to work out that some who heard the Christian message were privileged, and others who did not were "second class creatures" even if they followed all of God's commandments without knowing there was a God.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          "Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven. Whose sins you hold bound they are held bound." Who has this power? The apostles. How can they know what to forgive or not? By hearing the sins.

          Hence, the Sacrament of Confession.

          • David Nickol

            Yes, I was taught that in grade school, too. But it is not nearly that simple. Such reasoning makes it seem so obvious that one would assume the apostles heard confessions, and that the earliest Christian churches had confession booths. Reading into that quote (and a few others) from Jesus that his followers should confess their sins to a priest on some regular basis, receive a penance, and obtain absolution is entirely unwarranted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Who said they went into confessional booths? Who is assuming that the early Church practiced forgiveness of sins just like we do today? That is unwarranted.

    • William Davis

      One fascinating idea is that in the earliest gospel, Mark, Jesus clearly warned about pharisees and their taking the law too seriously. Paul was a Pharisee, and for him Jesus's resurrection fulfilled the law. Was he warning us about Paul? Take a couple of passages about how to enter the Kingdom of God
      Mark 10
      17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money[c] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

      Notice he says "No one is good but God alone." How can this NOT mean that Jesus did not consider himself God (note that David and Solomon were sons of God). Also notice their is nothing about the resurrection, only helping the poor.

      Now Mark 12
      28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

      So love is more important than sacrifice. What did Jesus's death replace? The sacrifice for atonement...Jesus says right here love is more important than atonement, therefore more important than his resurrection. Also notice the repetition about "God is One". Christians later ADDED verses to John to support the Trinity (I'm a with Marcion, that old heretic was right, the Hebrew Bible has no place in Christianity. I've seen evangelicals use it to justify bigotry and racism so much, it makes me sick). This is why the trinity makes no sense, and no one could agree in the early church about the nature of God.

      Mark is the oldest gospel, and most scholars think the other 2 synoptic gospels (matthew and luke) were either copied from it, or from a common source. Look up the synoptic problem for more info. The ONLY place in the gospel were there was a need to believe in the resurrection was at the very end where scribes ADDED VERSES later to FIX mark. Our two oldest copies of Mark end with 16:9 and all recent Bibles note that the ending was note part of the original.
      What does all this mean? Christianity was originally ALL ABOUT HAVING A HEART OF GOLD, and helping the poor. The other doctrinal mess came later. Mark is so damning to orthodox Christianity they they FORGED AN ENDING to FIX it. Christians have ruined Christianity, and this article is DEAD WRONG.

      • empathylouis

        At first glance, it may seem like Jesus is questioning why they call Him good. However, He never denies that he is good in this passage. He only affirms that God is good. He was trying to get the point across that if people recognize that He is truly good or that He is a good teacher, then they should already know that He is God. The correct emphasis then, for this event, would be 'why do YOU (rich man) call me good?", because Jesus is challenging the rich man to see Jesus for who He truly is.
        It should be understood like this, "I am not good, but if I am truly good, then YOU must tell me who am I/who must I be?". He is basically telling the rich man: “If you are going to call me ‘good’, let it be because you acknowledge my divinity, my true self, not because you think that by calling me good you can get something from me." Given that the Rich man does not want to sell his possessions to follow Jesus, we can assume that his greed has blinded him to the truth and that it was his greed that made him crave eternal life, not his love of the Father.

        Also, Jesus calls himself 'the Good Shepard' later in scripture, thereby indicating that he is truly good.

        • William Davis

          To be fair, you must take each author individually and understand their views. You are rewriting Mark in your head based on your preconceived notions of what is "true". In other words you are reading a bias into Mark That just isn't there.
          Mark started it, Matthew copied Mark, but added the virgin birth (Mark understands Jesus's divinity to start at his Baptism, just read the book yourself). Luke/Acts keeps the virgin birth (they understand Jesus's divinity to start with his miraculous conception) but adds the acts of the Apostles. Last is John, who ignores the virgin birth (never mentions it at all) and Jesus's divinity starting at the beginning of time. No more gospels were needed, because how can you embellish it further. If you take off the biases of orthodox Christianity, you can clearly see the pattern of embellishment, and adding to the story. Mark is the oldest, the other synoptics agree ONLY when they agree with Mark, and John is just out there in left field. Using historical method, the case is clear, Mark is closest we get to historical truth and should be the Gold Standard by which everything else is judged in Christianity.

      • Joel

        Hi William,

        I don't have much time right now, but I did to respond to one part I thought about while doing the dishes. :)

        If I understood you correctly, you seemed to be saying that any testament to the resurrection in the Gospel of Mark is only those of later redactors (corresponding to verses 16:9 and later) and not the original author. Also, the implication appeared to be that since Mark was written earlier than the other gospels, the notion of the resurrection wasn't originally part of (or an integral part of) Christianity. Please correct me if I've misunderstood.

        In answer, I would point out three things. First, in Mark 16:8, Jesus' resurrection is declared by an angel, so it's in there. Also, in Mark 10:32, Jesus foretells his resurrection. Secondly, although Mark is widely accepted to be the earliest written gospel, other New Testament books were written around the same time, including I believe 1 Thessalonians, which refers to the resurrection also (1 Thess. 1:10). Thirdly, there was an oral tradition which predated any written source. The books of the New Testament (including Mark, which affirms the resurrection) sprang out of that tradition. The Christian message from the beginning has not simply been one of good works, but of God's actions in Jesus: that Jesus' death and resurrection make possible the forgiveness of sins and our own salvation.

        • William Davis

          I thank you for your interest, and hope you understand that if I seem a bit angry, it is because of what I believe to be huge failures in Christianity.
          Paul believed in the resurrection, many other Jewish Christians did not. They called Paul's Christianity a "lawless" doctrine because it was only based on faith. Most of the New Testament is either Paul's letter's, or letters forged in the name of Paul. If you are Catholic, you will find this interesting (it is by a New Testament Catholic Scholar)

          http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

          You are right, 1 Thess is clearly by Paul. The problem is that we have found so many non-canonical writings that paint the picture of an idealogical war going on in early Christianity. What we now call "Orthodox" Christianity is simply the views that won the war, and history is always written by the winner. The winner is not necessarily correct, however. Paul had a huge advantage because he was the missionary to the Gentiles. Most Catholic scholars and historians believe only 1000 Jews converted to Christianity and they were kicked out of Jerusalem because Jesus did not fulfill the Messianic Prophecies (he was supposed to in the Second Coming, which was supposed to happen in the lifetime of the apostles, I can quote many verses to back that claim up). Therefore most Christians ended up being gentile converts who had no desire to be circumcised (can you blame them) so of course they sided with Paul.

          The resurrection is clearly in Mark, but there is no requirement to "believe in the resurrection". That is what they added. There were also no exploits of Jesus after the resurrection, the gospel ends with a mysterious man telling the women that Jesus was women. The last verse is "8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid."

          It is clear that Paul thought that Jesus was the "first fruits" of the resurrection, and it may have been troubling to him that not many have been living up to Jesus's expectations (people tend to be selfish and hateful) so their needed to be a way "out." Believing in the resurrection as a path for atonement was his way out for people with no compassion. The problem is that it has been turned into a cop out. Christians say "I believe in Jesus" and go about their way thinking these "belief" is somehow a "trade" for everlasting life. Most people don't really care about the truth, so they are more than willing to make that trade, it turns into believing in Jesus because of what they can get out of him. To make it worse, Christianity turned into a purely political tool used by the Roman empire. It is a political tool to this very day, being used and abused by those in power.
          I agree with the heretic Marcion, that the Hebrew Bible and God have no business in Christianity. Think about what it says about God that he would murder countless children and slaves in the flood, that he would order the genocide of Canaanites, not just their children, but also the darn animals. Judaism was also a racist religion, to the Jews anyone who wasn't a Jew was wicked and worthy of death. To this day, the Hebrew Bible is used to justify racism and bigotry, it is really sad.
          This article really hit a nerve with my because it dismisses THE ONE GOOD THING about Christianity. Without a Christian heart of gold, the religion is worse than useless, it is a blight used to control men's mind's. I think Orwell's concept of "Thought Crime" originates from Christianity and the burning of heretics who believe the wrong thing. Therefore the Church, to me, is Big Brother. Take away Christian compassion, and all the elements necessary for an Orwellian Totalitarian state are already developed. Obviously Orwell was primary targeting communism, but the opposite of communism is liberty, something that Christianity is not necessarily an ally of. If you've never read 1984, you should, it is a really good book :)

          • Joel

            Sorry for the delay. I didn’t have the opportunity to get online the other day.

            Thank you for the link to Fr. Just’s points about the Pauline and Deutero-Pauline letters. (And I am Catholic, though I’m not sure if that factors into my appreciation for the link!) Having a modern western mindset, I’ve struggled a bit with the notion of writing (falsely) in someone else’s name, whether to “honor them” (as I’ve heard), or other reasons. Even if it was common practice, it doesn’t feel right. But if there was no intentional deceit in the practice, I can start to accept the idea; it’s just hard, having the mindset that we do! In any case, the link was helpful, so thanks.

            I can understand the article hitting a nerve. I’m not sure I took it the same way, though. I don’t think Fr. Barron was dismissing the importance of the “heart of gold” – I think he was making the point that Christianity is not simply this, or fundamentally this. It is an essential part, but you can’t boil Christianity down to morality. So I don’t think at all that he is dismissing what you take as the one good thing about Christianity – he’s just saying there’s much more!

            As Fr. Barron said, “a central motif… is in fact Jesus Christ risen from the dead.” In the Gospels, the central focus is the person of Jesus. Mark’s Gospel starts with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” In a recent podcast, Fr. Barron pointed out that the word “gospel” (or “good news”) referred in Roman times to the good news of the victory of some general, or Caesar, the “son of God”. So here, we have instead, the victory of Jesus, the Son of God. Even in this earliest Gospel, the focus is on Jesus, who he is, and what he has done. The importance of faith features throughout the Gospel, on Jesus’ own lips. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mk 2:5) “Your faith has saved you.” (Mk 5:34 and again in Mk 10:52) And, conversely, “he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mk 6:5) The kingdom of heaven is likewise central -- and in this Gospel, it is usually the context in which exhortations to avoid sin and live a holy life are found. The “heart of gold,” – which I agree is essential – is featured most prominently in what Jesus does, even more than in what he says.

            Just as faith was essential to Jesus, it was essential in Paul’s Christianity (and that of the NT); Paul recognized that doing good works and following the law wasn’t enough (Gal. 2:16); one needed faith and God’s grace. This faith could not be divorced from good works, or else it was shown to be an insincere faith (see the entirety of James, for example). Undoubtedly, Paul was greatly disappointed in some of the churches (recall Paul’s “you foolish Galatians!” line). But he hardly saw faith as “a way out for people with no compassion.” Rather, he rebuked, corrected, and guided the churches away from sin and toward lives of love. Faith was essential, but it was by no means an “out”. There are too many examples of this to list, but a particularly eloquent example is found in 1 Cor. 13:1-13, in which one part reads, “if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” Or, even more powerfully, James 2:14-17 asks whether a “faith” which lacks love can save a person, and says that such faith is dead.

            In light of the Gospels and the epistles, I have a hard time seeing how early Christianity can be construed as being all about helping the poor / having a heart of gold, or how the “doctrinal” aspects could be seen as not being original to the message of Jesus. Again, see the focus on the kingdom of heaven, on faith, on the person of Jesus, and on what he accomplished – his victory over sin and death. Likewise, the message of love and morality is very clear not only in Jesus’ message, but also in the epistles. So I fail to see any transition away from “do good” to “have faith”.

            With regard to Judaism, there were many reasons for the Jewish leaders to oppose Christianity; I wouldn’t presume that the ejection of Christians was because Christianity was incompatible with Judaism. (Indeed, Judaism had its own sects. Not least among their differences was one as great as a difference in belief in life after death.) The actions of Jesus (and the authority he appeared to wield) threatened those holding religious power, as seen over and over again in Mark’s gospel. He disregarded their understanding of the Sabbath law (healing, eating grapes), he cleansed the Temple (Mk 11:15-18), he criticized the religious leaders (e.g, the parable of the tenants (Mk 12:1-12) and his rebuke over their disregard for God’s commands in favor of human tradition (Mk 7:6-13)), and he denounced the scribes (Mk 12:38-40). It is no wonder that his followers wouldn’t be welcome. And that’s not counting the fact that the Jewish leaders had Jesus put to death – and Christians claimed that this very same was the Son of God and was raised back up. That doesn’t reflect very kindly on those leaders!)

            Also (as a side note), as I understand it, Jewish Christians weren’t all ejected immediately. The expulsion came mostly after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., as the Jewish people were trying to re-group and redefine themselves. And that’s the reason for a lot of the strained relations between Jews and Christians in the late 1st century. Fr. Raymond Brown has some really good stuff in his “Gospel of John” CDs that I think you would enjoy listening to.)

            You’re absolutely right that human institutions can be used as a tool for evil. Jesus’ death was a result of Jewish leaders acting out of fear and jealousy. You also had mentioned the Catholic Church’s burning of heretics. These, and others, are grave evils. But it seemed that you dismissed Christianity because it could be used to evil ends, or at least ends that would serve those in power. But I don’t think you can dismiss an organization generally because some might abuse it. Any human institution is susceptible to abuse; we can call a religion, a government, an educational system, capitalism, or marriage “tools” of those who would use them for their own purposes. But I don’t think that susceptibility to abuse – which applies to everything – undermines the legitimacy of that institution or system. I think that instead we have to look at whether its purpose is good and whether it achieves that purpose by good means.

            With regard to thought crime… here are my thoughts. Theologically, Christianity is a revealed faith – we know things not because we were smart and figured them out, but because this is what God revealed to us. So while there is much room for speculation, those who would claim to be believers are not free to reject what has been given. (As children of God, of course, they have free will and can choose / believe whatever they want. But they can’t at the same time claim that they are a believer in what God has revealed.) Killing those with different views is of course a grave evil. But disagreeing with individuals and labeling certain views as being opposed to God’s revelation is completely consistent with a revealed religion. It should and must be done in love, as well as in truth. One of the many purposes of the church is to safeguard that deposit of faith – I think that is a good and necessary purpose, and it must of course be achieved only by good means.

            Also, I wouldn’t characterize the Church as some sort of proto-Orwellian state, or the definition of dogmas as “mind control”. It’s more like a “fact check”. “You can believe what you want to, but this is what was revealed by God.” No one is forcing people to be Christian. But if you claim to be Christian (which means holding certain truths (see 1 Cor. 15:3-7)), you’re not entitled to make up your own facts if God has revealed otherwise. In areas where there is no specific revelation, of course, there is liberty.

            And, by the way, I did really enjoy 1984 (more for its ideas than its plot). Great stuff. Along those lines, my favorite is probably Brave New World – ever read that one? I highly recommend it, if not. (The sad thing is how much we have emulated it.)

          • William Davis

            Having a modern western mindset, I’ve struggled a bit with the notion of writing (falsely) in someone else’s name, whether to “honor them” (as I’ve heard), or other reasons. Even if it was common practice, it doesn’t feel right.

            Thank you for the charitable response, I only have time to respond to one point right this minute.

            No one back then thought it was right, they thought it was lying. Read Bart Ehrman's Forged, he quotes all kinds of Greeks and Church Father's who clearly thought the practice was wrong. (There were theological wars going on in the early church, and people were using forgery to try to claim authority) I'm going to repost something arguing against the pastorals.

            2 Timothy 3

            But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

            16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            When Paul wrote his letters, he didn't know he was writing scripture. So what is up with 16? The person writing this letter not only seems to think it is going to end up as scripture (something only a much later person would have known) and is on a rant since he thinks he now has "authority." Isn't it better if this isn't the Great St. Paul?

            1 Timothy 2

            11 Let a woman[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

            So women are to shut up and have babies. I say it again, isn't it better if this isn't Paul. This doesn't sound like the Paul I like.

            Don't think for a second I'm not trying to be responsible here. It isn't that I can't err, but after a while we see a pattern.

            http://evangelicaltextualcriti...

            This is an evangelic who believes that 1 Corinthians 14 was doctored to shut women up. He makes a good case. The evidence that scripture was doctored by later Christians is overwhelming. It is a travesty they did this to Paul.

            In the questioned letters are also verse that support slavery. I think think Paul really thought we were to be one in Christ. Isn't it reasonable to question "letters" that contradict that? By no means is this the only reason these letters are disputed, but I think if Paul did NOT write them, it is a boon to Christianity. Sure, it brings the rest of into doubt, but isn't it in doubt already?
            When questioning Papias, (Papias is the first to claim which apostles had written which gospels, Justin Martyr calls them "memoirs of the apostles", we have other reasons to question Papias's truthfulness) I remember reading him talking about snake handling or snake venom. Could he or his followers added the ending to Mark?

            Could it be that many of the failures of Christianity are due to the message being poisoned by liars? You can tell I think Mark's Gospel is a brilliant work full of truth. I really wish we had the original Aramaic saying of the Apostles. I think Mark's Gospel was based on those (based on the synoptic problem and quotes by early Church Fathers, Mark may have been based on Peter's accounts).
            I'll look at the rest later when I have time to do it justice.

          • Joel

            If I may summarize your points:

            1. People back then thought that writing in someone else's name was lying (i.e., there is an attempt to deceive).
            2. This was done to advance a theological position (there was a theological war going on).
            3. Here are some theological positions in works purportedly by Paul, but which are at odds with what we know/believe about his beliefs.
            a. 2 Tim. 3
            b. 1 Tim. 2
            c. 1 Cor. 14 (doctored)
            d. apparent support for slavery
            4. So much of the NT was poisoned by liars. And this may be a reason for many of Christianity's failures.

            Hopefully this captures the main thrust.

            A few thoughts/questions:

            1. Some people did take the practice as intending to deceive the reader. Did these objectors live concurrently with the authors of the canonical works in question? Did all people take it this way, or was this an acceptable practice within any communities?

            2. It is a given that the Bible we have today is a result of a process -- the original writing, redaction, re-organizing. Is there room for God in this? Surely, there must be. It is also common knowledge that there were serious altercations in the early Church, some of which are even explicitly laid out in Scripture (e.g., whether it was necessary to be circumcised or to follow Jewish dietary law). Some of this stuff had to be worked through. If we believe that Jesus was the Son of God, sent by the Father to accomplish his purpose, wouldn't he guide his Church? God is there in the midst of the mess and can accomplish his purpose through men, even those who don't know him.* And God is there among those who argue out the theology -- even, perhaps, those who would claim the authority of another while writing a work that God intends to use to teach us.

            * See King Cyrus of Persia, in the OT, or even the role Judas and Pontius Pilate freely played in Jesus' death and our redemption.

            3. You mentioned 2 Timothy 3:16 ("all Scripture...") and inferred that the author knew this was going to end up as Scripture. I've always understood this passage to be referring, rather, to the Old Testament. It is true of the NT as well, but by extension. I think the author had in mind the OT, especially since there was no NT canon at the time.

            I don't have anything to add with regard to the other verses right now; I'll think about them, though.

            4. "Could it be that many of the failures of Christianity are due to the message being poisoned by liars?"

            I have no doubt that all of the problems originating in the Church are due to human frailty and sin (including that of lying). But I would like to better understand, what are the particular "failures of Christianity" that you keep referring to? Failure presupposes a purpose, so please let me know what you view to be Christianity's purpose, also.

            I look forward to hearing from you on this, but even more so in response to my earlier post. I'd like to hear your thoughts and reactions.

          • William Davis

            I'm familiar with Brave New World, it's about eugenics, and luckily we've abandoned that path for now, though I'm not so sure it won't be back in the future.

            I want to give you and other Catholics credit for being willing to talk about these issues, I have yet to encounter a protestant that will, though I'm sure some would (specifically liberal ones who aren't obsessed with inerrancy of scripture). That is probably part of the issue, I was raised by fundamentalists and so much of what they taught is clearly false, it is hard for me to escape the bias that Christianity is supposed to be "divine" and "perfect". Scripture was always supposed to make perfect sense as a whole, I've read the whole thing myself, and I see different authors with different views that can be "forced" together, but have conflicting views. It always has the tendency to make one suspicious when they believe they have been lied to about something, but I'm sure you can see I am trying to understand for myself. I'm highly trained in science, and I find I gravitate to Spinoza's God, like Albert Einstein, but that is whole different topic (suffice it to say I'm deeply suspicious of our "bias" to anthropomorphize God as it seems more like something we would "want" to believe as opposed to something actually true). Regardless, I still have a humanistic interest in Jesus and my heart is in a very similar place to Christianity.

            “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mk 2:5) “Your faith has saved you.” (Mk 5:34 and again in Mk 10:52) And, conversely, “he was amazed at their lack of faith.” (Mk 6:5) The kingdom of heaven is likewise central -- and in this Gospel, it is usually the context in which exhortations to avoid sin and live a holy life are found. The “heart of gold,” – which I agree is essential – is featured most prominently in what Jesus does, even more than in what he says.

            I agree that belief is extremely important in Mark, but for a somewhat different reason from Paul, it is to power his miracles. Take the whole context (I am always careful to take scripture "in context" you can take a few words out of any book and make it mean something it doesn't in context, Christians seem to do this all the time, and I don't think they are trying to be deceptive, but an interpretation of a statement taken out of context isn't "true", this is the problem I have with most of the prophecies that Jesus "fulfilled" and it is awfully suspicious that he is not going to fulfill the true messianic prophecies until the second coming) of Mark 6

            6 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary[a] and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense[b] at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

            I'll let Mark speak for himself here, but the situation seems to be pretty clear in this verse.

            Also take Mark 9

            14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16 He asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.” 19 He answered them, “You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy[e] to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy,[f] and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus[g] asked the father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.” 23 Jesus said to him, “If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.”24 Immediately the father of the child cried out,[h] “I believe; help my unbelief!”25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!” 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 He said to them, “This kind can come out only through prayer.”[i]

            Clearly this is case of epilepsy(grand mal seizure, coma afterward, started as a small child), but for some reason this "spirit" is different, and the disciples can't cast it out. Is it because it is a true neurological condition and not psychosomatic (mental illness due to thought is still "real" but can be healed by changing thought, such as depression, epilepsy cannot be "healed" this way)? Not only did the epileptic boy require Jesus himself, but it also required belief on the part of the father, and prayer to God above, was Jesus himself not "powerful" enough to cure epilepsy? I think these are genuine questions.

            Out of time for now, but look at this passage on the power of prayer, Mark 11:

            22 Jesus answered them, “Have[b] faith in God.23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received[c] it, and it will be yours.

            So the power of prayer is based on believing that you received your answer. This is absolutely correct. Experiments on prayer repeatedly demonstrate that they do not affect reality in noticeable ways, but prayer clearly affects the mind of the person who is praying. Confirmation bias is invoked where the believer only notice the people that get better when prayed for, and ignore those who do not. Statistically, there is no change, some studies find those being prayed for may have "slightly more negative outcomes" such as the templeton study of prayer, possible because of performance anxiety.
            Out of time, I'll try to get back to the rest today. Thanks for discussing :)

  • RobertOrmsbee

    ... 01-28-2015
    ● I've never heard or read of "any" atheist
    (rich, poor, famous, talented, smart or not)...
    who actually "cares for and loves" another
    or others with heart and soul "goodness."
    ● I have "never" heard of an atheist
    who dedicates the entirety of her or his life
    with devotion and such "giving" love...
    actually expressing and "giving" good...
    to and upon another or others...
    as do Catholic priests, nuns and
    all such lay and religious clergy
    (in all cultures, worldwide).
    cf., Mother Teresa; Little Sisters of the Poor;
    all priests, monks (brothers), lay assistants,
    and even parish organists.
    ____
    ● I don't believe that happens. :)
    ____
    ● If you choose to contest my statement,
    please provide accurate sources for
    proof of your own submissions...
    ● I will researched your information
    with due interest and respect.
    ____
    ● Even in this group,
    I notice angry contention in atheist-leaning
    contributors' comments.
    ● I'm 78. I studied for nearly three years
    before I converted (from nothing) to Catholicism
    when between ages 17 and 21.
    ● I've never stopped studying and learning.
    ____
    ● Today, I can truthfully say, that
    I have never met and discussed religious issues
    with any (alleged) atheist who was not belligerent
    against any "religious belief in God."
    ● Actually, most of the (alleged) atheists I've
    encountered simply enjoy arguing, bickering
    and squabbling over petty statements--
    as though to win an argument with one's
    (presumed) erudite and pompous philosophy
    of thought...they seem to always "assume"
    a position of superior education and knowledge.
    ● Today...I think to myself: "childish bunk."
    ● And we evidently have only
    one chance at life.
    ____
    ● Except for one's "thinker" (a person's mind)
    everything else can be found in a pig or a horse.
    (A. MacLeash)
    ● And it is clear, that each human
    is completely "separate" and individual
    from everyone else...
    "except" by means of reasoning and knowing
    of her or his "spiritual being."
    ● That's generally what I believe. :)

    • randall young

      Very well said!!

    • Luke

      Today, I can truthfully say, that I have never met and discussed religious issues with any (alleged) atheist who was not belligerent against any "religious belief in God."

      Hi, Mr. Ormsbee. I'm Luke. I'm an "(alleged) atheist" and I'm not anti-theist. Nice to meet you. There are some aspects of religious beliefs that I think can be harmful, but I can assure you that I am not belligerent against "any religious belief in God," though I concede that there are some atheists who are. In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that some religious beliefs are beneficial for some individuals.

      I notice angry contention in atheist-leaning contributors' comments.

      Might that be that believers have told us things like you just did above (e.g., you implied that atheists are incapable of loving others and behave childishly)?

      I've never stopped studying and learning.

      Neither have I, nor do I ever plan to.

      If you were to more clearly define the terms you used throughout (e.g., goodness, heart, love, good, giving) and specified why atheists cannot have these attributes, I would be happy to reply to your other points.

      • William Davis

        If he fails to respond, perhaps that is why he has never had a positive conversation with an atheist. Ignoring all the friendly atheists and only focusing on the angry atheists fits right into confirmation bias.

  • randall young

    Having a good heart and a kind spirit is only a side effect of being a Christian. The true believer is only forgiven of sin in God's eyes.

    • William Davis

      What about all of the non-Christians who have a good heart and kind spirit you condemn to hell? Hell is the biggest moral travesty (other than slavery and the holocaust) of the modern world. Good thing it not only doesn't exist, Jesus and Paul didn't believe in it. They believed in destruction by the fires of Gehenna, not everlasting torture (something only a vindictive angry man would come up with). Jesus's compassion is by far the greatest contribution Christianity has made to society.

      • KareemAbdul

        ?? Genhenna (or Jahannam) a s an everlasting fire:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8zhnooySk4

        • William Davis

          The fires may be everlasting, but the soul was to be destroyed.

          Mark 8:36 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

          Entering the Kingdom of God provides everylasting life, the alternative is losing it (not cruel everlasting torture)

          In Mark 9:43-48 there is a mention of hell, but these verses are missing from the oldest texts, scholars debate whether they should still be included in the book. It is clear the later Christians were rewriting Mark, they added the ending after 16:9.

          John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

          Perishing is not being tortured forever

          I like this passage by Paul from 1 Corinthians 15, I'll just quote an portion, but you should read the whole chapter

          12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

          20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.[f] 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end,[g]when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.27 For “God[h] has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

          29 Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

          30 And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? 31 I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters,[i] as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it?

          Paul only has an understanding of the resurrection, and Jesus's resurrection is the key to the resurrection of Christians. There is no hell, only perishing without Jesus. No undisputed Pauline letter has an understanding of hell, but without Christ, the dead perish. Not that we understand the brain, we can metaphysically prove that there never was a soul. So Paul and Jesus's concept of resurrection is the only possible path to an afterlife in this universe. If you still believe in souls, look up split-brain syndrome. People with split brains (usually done to help epilepsy) have a different personality on each side, both personalities give different answers to questions, ect. Does a split brain patient have two souls? No, because souls didn't exist, the idea came from Greek philosophy (which I love, but they definitely got things wrong) not Judaism.

        • Papalinton

          Comment on video: I'm sorry to say Fr Barron's rationalising is apologetic gobbledegook, disingenuous gibberish with no epistemological foundation. I cannot help but feel somewhat embarrassed for him and find his interpretive exegesis terribly disappointing. If his perspective represents the best of contemporary catholic thought then there is no surprise to the significant trend away from theology/religion as an explanatory system or mechanism.

          • thursday

            Your reply to this video is surprisingly hostile. It is clear you do not like Father Baron nor religion. Your dislike of both says nothing about the truth of what they assert. You have not given any substantive support for the accusations of intellectual ineptitude or insincerity.

          • Papalinton

            I'm disappointed you emote the way you do, thursday. I don't know Fr Barron so I'm in no position to know if I dislike him or otherwise. And for you to read this into my comment is disingenuous. In respect of a dislike for religion, I think you're correct. Apart from the very many believers who have done amazingly good and selfless work for community and people generally, to whom I dips my lid, these good people would do these good acts regardless of being religious or otherwise because it is in their inherent nature to do so. But if believers claim they only do good things for others because of their belief in an omni-max, ineffable, [putatively] live non-human entity that inhabits an invisible netherworld capable of intervening or interfering with the laws of physics of the natural world, then it speaks volumes of the weakness in their character and an abstruse denial of their intrinsic humanity.

            I do object to Fr Barron's unfounded assertion that believers don't have to have an ethical dimension to their character to be a christian. That is fundamentally antithetical to the christian message and the Jesus character in the narrative. And if Fr Barron's position is founded in christian doctrine then it is indeed a dangerous and seriously compromised position to hold.
            In assuming your implied agreement with Fr Barron on the proposition that christians do not require an ethical element to their character to be a christian, then equally, do I indeed question your intellectual stance and your sincerity

          • thursday

            Father Baron never said what you accuse him of so there really isn't anything more to say.

          • Papalinton

            What is it that Fr Barron never said that I accuse him of?

      • empathylouis

        If they are considered 'Good' by society, but don't believe in Christ, then, sadly, even though they are considered 'Good', all their 'good' deeds that make them 'good' could not be considered truly good, due to the deeds being done for themselves and their own ego, rather than in the name of Christ.

        • William Davis

          Mark is the oldest Gospel, and it solves the synoptic problem, in other words the other synoptic gospels were either copied from Mark or another source that has been lost. The synoptics only agree when they agree with Mark, so this makes an unbreakable historical case that this is the closest we can get to the historical Jesus. No where in the gospel does it say one has to believe in the resurrection to make it into the kingdom. Liars added a false ended to the gospel to "fix" it to match what became orthodox Christianity. The oldest copies all end with 16:9. Take this passage for instance from Mark 9:

          38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone[j] casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.

          Jesus just directly contradicted what you said. What does he say about entering the Kingdom?

          Mark 10
          17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money[c] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

          Notice he says "No one is good but God alone." How can this NOT mean that Jesus did not consider himself God (note that David and Solomon were sons of God). Also notice their is nothing about the resurrection, only helping the poor.

          Now Mark 12
          28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

          So love is more important than sacrifice. What did Jesus's death replace? The sacrifice for atonement...Jesus says right here love is more important than atonement, therefore more important than his resurrection. Also notice the repetition about "God is One". Christians later ADDED verses to John to support the Trinity (I'm a with Marcion, that old heretic was right, the Hebrew Bible has no place in Christianity. I've seen evangelicals use it to justify bigotry and racism so much, it makes me sick). This is why the trinity makes no sense, and no one could agree in the early church about the nature of God.

          We know there were liars in the early church. Almost all New Testament scholars believe the pastorals (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus) and Second Peter were written by FORGERS, people lying about who they were. Many more may also be forgeries, but scholarly consensus is less certain. I propose that what you believe about believing in the resurrection is also a lie, and the oldest, best Gospel clearly indicates it.
          Jesus and Paul did not believe in hell. They believed in destruction in the fire of Gehenna. This makes "hell" the most evil lie man has ever conceived, and probably the only reason why Christianity is still around.

          • heidi keene

            With all due respect WD, you don't have any real understanding of Catholicism. Your 'knowledge' is extracted from the outdated garbage that circulates through pop culture magazines and websites (like the National Geographic issue that denied the existence of the Davidic Kingdom).
            Spend a year or so following the Sacred Page. Those guys are serious scholars and know their stuff.
            Get educated on the subject and then evaluate the issue from an informed position.
            If you have specific questions that are not fueled by op eds in the Huffington post, then bring them up at the Sacred Page and they will be addressed.

          • William Davis

            You are way off in my understanding of history, I love history. I'm going to go full into debating Ye Old Statistician, as he is the brightest Christian I have yet met on the internet. You see, while everyone else has been wasting their time on pop culture I've been studying. Until recently I've mostly studied science, I'm an engineer, so that is relevant to my career. But more recently I've become more interested in art and history, especially in how it relates to human nature. I've met some Jews who deny the existence of Davidic Kingdom, interestingly enough. Evidence matters, and it is very reasonable to be suspicious of "Historical Events" that leave no evidence. I'm interested in history at this point, my theology is in agreement with Spinoza, God is not at all like a man. It is human arrogance that builds God in his own image, God did not build man in his image.

          • heidi keene

            Hello Mr. Davis,
            Please understand I was not denigrating your knowledge of history per se or pursuit of the truth in any way. I was pointing out, however, that your understanding of history as it pertains to Christianity and ancient Judaism is in error due to your acceptance as 'fact' many outdated and sufficiently refuted historical critical theories that are so pervasive today in pop culture.
            For instance, you will be hard pressed to find any reputable scholar who would make the claim that they possess historical certainty that Mark's gospel was written first. There are speculations and theories to be sure. But this claim has a substantial amount of scholarly refutation and counter claim on the balance. The dating of Mark's gospel is still inconclusive on both sides of the historical divide. However, you made the assertion with confidence of historical certainty in your post that Mark's gospel has been established as having the earliest dating. You made this statement without so much as an honest concession to the ongoing debate in this matter.
            Furthermore, you lack the proper education in the original languages and historical contexts of many of the quotations you were using as proof texts.
            Without a vigorous appeal to all the evidence on the table, your argument comes off as so much straw (to anyone with even a moderate education in the field).
            This is why I strongly suggest you learn from the sacred page because those professors make a very concerted effort to put forth a balanced presentation of the evidence and the arguments from both sides. From the perspective of strict exegesis you cant go wrong with TSP.
            I know Israel Finkelstein, by the way.

          • William Davis

            History is not the past. History is only the best we can do to with the information we have. NO ONE can no exactly what happened in the past without a time machine.

            Your pretense that the things I posted from current CATHOLIC sites has been refuted is completely ridiculous. You failed to address anything in my arguments, so your words are straw. Keep your head hidden in the sand, I don't mind if you do, but don't act like what you just said is any kind of rebuttal.

            Furthermore, you lack the proper education in the original languages and historical contexts of many of the quotations you were using as proof texts.

            So you are educated in the original languages? Yeah, right. A lot of what I've learned from a brilliant New Testament Scholar who DOES know the original language. His name is Bart Ehrman, and I live in the same area where he teaches. We have very good universities here in North Carolina. I don't need to know the languages when I can quote sources who do know the language. I didn't even use him as source for my arguments, I used CATHOLIC sources. Your special pleading and ad hominem don't affect me, I'm well educated in critical thinking and logic. In fact, Western Religion is based on the logical fallacy of Authority. Every time you talk about The Authority of the Church you are invoking a logical fallacy.
            How can you ignore the fact that so many CHRISTIAN SCHOLARS are confident that so many books are forged. If you don't want to actually debate, why bother saying anything?

          • thursday

            I think you need to recognize when you have been beaten. If you apply your critical thinking skills you will quickly see that there are some real holes in your knowledge and education. I always find it fascinating that people will argue for reason and fact and then readily abandon both when it does not further their agenda.

          • William Davis

            Says someone who is so ashamed of their own words they have to hide them from public view. Please enlighten me on what the holes are? I have no agenda but the truth. What is yours? Apparently you aren't a fan of transparency, that is all I can tell since you hide yourself.

          • William Davis

            Now that I think about it, you know what get's under my skin? The FACT that the Catholic church would never allow the Bible to be translated into English. It took the Protestant Reformation to make that happen, and men INVENTED THE PRINTING PRESS to make that happen. Now you have the GALL to pull "I don't have proper education" crap on me? Keep deluding yourself, I'm not taken in.

          • William Davis

            I'm going to repost my response to Ye Old, in case you are interested. These are things you should be aware of, and you'll see quickly, Huffington Post is not a source.

            Probably because he didn't think it was "all about me."

            Interesting, that is not only a bad answer, but perhaps a veiled jab. I assure, you for me, this is all about the truth. The God I believe in doesn't care about humans more than anything else (caring is a human concept). It is human's who have made God "all about me" and we have built God in our image, it isn't the other way around.

            The idea that Justin considers the gospels as a whole makes perfect sense if they were not yet named. Don't take my word for any of this, check this out

            " Besides, as well pointed out by Prof. Bacon, "the historical books of the New Testament differ from its apocalyptic and epistolary literature, as those of the Old Testament differ from its prophecy, in being invariably anonymous, and for the same reason. Prophecies whether in the earlier or in the later sense, and letters, to have authority, must be referable to some individual; the greater his name, the better. But history was regarded as a common possession. Its facts spoke for themselves. Only as the springs of common recollection began to dwindle, and marked differences to appear between the well-informed and accurate Gospels and the untrustworthy . . . did it become worth while for the Christian teacher orapologist to specify whether the given representation of the current tradition was 'according to' this or that special compiler, and to state his qualifications". It thus appears that the present titles of the Gospels are not traceable to the Evangelists themselves."

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathe...

            And this

            St. Matthew is identified with the tax collector called as an Apostle (Mt 9:9-13). Papias again attests to the saint's authorship and indicates that he was the first to compile a collection of Jesus' sayings in the Aramaic language. For this reason, the Gospel of Matthew, at least in a very basic form in Aramaic, is considered the first Gospel and placed first in the New Testament, although the Gospel of Mark is probably the first in a completed form. St. Irenaeus and Origen (d. 253) again support this authorship. Nevertheless, some scholars doubt the saint's direct authorship because we only have the Greek version, not the Aramaic, and no citations are made from the Aramaic version in Church literature. The version of the Gospel we have was probably written between 70-80.

            http://www.catholicculture.org...

            Now consider the synoptic problem. The only place Matthew and Luke agree with each other is where they agree with Mark. So either they were copying Mark, or some other source Q was involved. Perhaps the sayings of the Apostles were written down in Aramaic, and the anonymous authors of the Gospels created beautiful peaces of fluent Greek literature based on those saying. Mark only involved the actual saying, adding nothing. Matthew and Luke synthesized the additional items. From the Catholic Culture site above "Sometimes the authors may have synthesized some of these events or teachings, or may have underscored parts or explained parts with a view to a certain audience." Of course, and this theory I propose explains the synoptics well. There is no way these were completely separate accounts, the passages all synoptics have in common are almost verbatim, only possible by copying.

            It was interesting you mentioned Peter, there was a Gospel of Peter, probably written in the mid-first Century. From Wikipedia (it's on you to prove Wikipedia is wrong, it is usually pretty reliable) "Origen also mentions[8] that the Gospel of Peter, together with "the book of James", was the source for the Catholic Church doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary. It would appear that the former text to which Origen was referring is another Gospel of Peter, as evidenced to date: two papyrus fragments from Oxyrhynchus, both in the Ashmolean Museum: P.Oxy 4009 and P.Oxy 2949 contain no such reference and what is referred today as the Gospel Of Peter, discussed below, contains a Passion narrative only." Interesting that such an important doctrine was based on a book written by a liar.

          • William Davis

            Why someone who lives a couple millennia later, when all first-hand testimony and most primary documentation has been lost is more reliable than someone who lived in the generation after the events described has always been a mystery to me.

            Because, quite frankly, the early church was full of liars. Many people have no idea how many forged Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypses we have found, especially at Qumran (which is ironic that believers think the dead sea scrolls somehow help the case for Christianity...this is only through ignore the MASSIVE amount of evidence to the contrary). The case is worse than that though, forged documents made it into the New Testament. It is shame that these people would make up lies it Paul's name, Paul was a genuine believer, and a good man I think. Check out this Catholic link.

            http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

            The seven “Undisputed Letters” (a.k.a. the “Authentic Pauline Letters”).

            These can be put into three subgroups chronologically:

            The Earliest Letter (ca. 50-51 AD): 1 Thessalonians

            The Middle Letters (mid 50's): 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, Galatians

            The Latest Letter (ca. 57-58 AD): Romans

            About 95-99% of scholars today agree that all of these letters were actually written by Paul himself.

            The six “Disputed Letters” (a.k.a. the “Deutero-Pauline Epistles”).

            For two of these, the scholarly divide is about 50/50 (that is, about 50% of scholars think they were written by Paul himself, while the other 50% think they are “pseudepigraphic” or written later by a follower of Paul):

            If 2 Thessalonians is authentic, Paul probably wrote it soon after 1 Thess (in order to correct some misunderstandings caused by 1 Thess itself), since it is so similar in form and content to 1 Thess.

            If Colossians is authentic, Paul probably wrote it near the end of his life (after spending several years in prison), since the theology expressed in it is rather different from Paul's earlier letters.

            If either or both of these letters are pseudepigraphic, then they were probably written in the last few decades of the first Christian century.

            For the other four letters, about 80% of scholars think they were not written by Paul himself, but by one of his followers after his death:

            Ephesians is almost definitely a later expansion of Colossians, since they are so similar in structure and theology, but quite different from Paul's earlier letters; Ephesians was probably written to serve as a “cover letter” for an early collection of Pauline letters.

            The Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) were most likely written late in the first century by some member(s) of the “Pauline School” who wanted to adapt his teachings to changing circumstances.

            Note: Judging a particular letter to be pseudepigraphic does not mean that it is any less valuable than the other letters, but only that it was written later by someone other than Paul.

            All thirteen of the letters attributed to Paul are still considered “canonical”; all of them are still part of the Holy Bible and foundational for the Christian Church.

            Distinguishing the letters based on actual authorship, however, allows scholars to see more clearly the development of early Christian theology and practice.

            We not even talking about Second Peter, which was probably forged too, I like this quote from Daniel Wallace (a bright evangelic scholar from Dallas Theological Seminary)

            There has been much debate over the authorship of 2 Peter. Most conservative evangelicals hold to the traditional view that Peter was the author, but historical and literary critics have almost unanimously concluded that to be impossible. For example: Ksemann states that 2 Peter is “perhaps the most dubious writing” in the New Testament.1 Harris says, “virtually none believe that 2 Peter was written by Jesus’ chief disciple.”2 And Brevard S. Childs, an excellent rhetorical critic, shows his assumption when he says, “even among scholars who recognize the non-Petrine authorship there remains the sharpest possible disagreement on a theological assessment.”3

            https://bible.org/article/authorship-second-peter

            Whether you realize it or not, the authority of Scripture has crumbled from it's very foundation. If this much of the New Testament was written by liars, what else is lies. I really like Mark, and I think it is the only thing we have that is close to what really happened with Jesus.

            If you'd like I can get into how the religion of the early Jews was based on Sumerian mythology. The Jews just had one patron deity (henotheism is clear in the Hebrew Bible) who was very jealous over his people. The Sumerians were the inventors of western civilization, they invented the wheel, irrigation, the plow, using weights for barter, and western religion. The fact that the original form of western religion was pagan is ironic isn't it. Monotheism simply evolved as we slowly imagined God to be less and less like a man (the Sumerian deities actually had to eat and sleep, but recall God walked through the Garden of Eden and wrestled Jacob). The end of this evolution is that God has nothing to do with man, has no man-like intelligence, ect. This idea was always where God was headed. I really like Spinoza's philosophical proof of such, he was way ahead of his time, which is why Einstein wrote him a love letter (though a really bad one).

            I'll get back to you on the slavery and anti-semitism, out of time again.

            I appreciate you defending your views, I've learned from the challenge you represent already (debating most people presents little challenge on here). You are a bright man, and I respect that, even though we are at odds on many things.

          • heidi keene

            Mr. Davis,
            I will address this part of your post simply because your errors are so numerous that I would have to quit my day job and devote the remainder of my week to addressing the errors that I found just in this post. I believe that you have a genuine interest in the truth, soI have directed you to a website (Tsp) where you can ask for and get relevant facts and be pointed to the latest in biblical archaeology and scholarship to correct your crooked learning.

            From your post:
            "Because, quite frankly, the early church was full of liars. Many people have no idea how many forged Gospels, Acts, and Apocalypses we have found, especially at Qumran (which is ironic that believers think the dead sea scrolls somehow help the case for Christianity...this is only through ignore the MASSIVE amount of evidence to the contrary). The case is worse than that though, forged documents made it into the New Testament. It is shame that these people would make up lies it Paul's name, Paul was a genuine believer, and a good man I think. Check out this Catholic link."

            1. Your argument that 'the church was full of liars' can not be substantiated especially when you yourself give the evidence to the contrary: that the pseudepigrapha were named as fakes BY THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH AND WARNED AGAINST. If you read the earliest writings, you can easily see for yourself the recurrent warning that if the gospel did not come from an apostle it can not be trusted. Iraneaus, born in Asia Minor, traveled to Rome and Paris, gave a three fold guarantee (which Tertullian cites) that the truth which was being preached could be known because it was the same universally (everywhere he traveled). At any rate, this matter of 'liars' in the early church (outside the church to be sure) is fully covered in "Christ and the Critics vol. 1" by Hilarin Felder p. 53ff.
            I invite you to go over that material and if you can find any scholarly refutation against his arguments, then please let me know. This book can be attained by interlibrary loan at most universities. If your local librarian may even be able to secure a copy for you. I advise reading both vol. 1 and 2.

            2. What 'forged gospels..." were found at Qumran?!? DENY. The Essenes accepted a much larger canon than the Sadducees (5 books) or pharisees (27 books) because fragments of many more books were found at Qumran. However, NO SCHOLAR knows exactly which books of their library were considered inspired and which weren't. Among the books were OT pseudepigrapha- (like Jubilees and Enoch). But gospels??? Where on earth did you find that nonsense? Anyway, Professor Bergsma is well studied on Qumran (tsp contributor). Inquire of him and get some reputable sources.

            3. One of the reasons that Catholic's claim Qumran supports their canon is that all of the 7 "apocrypha' of the Catholic OT were found at Qumran. Additionally, 19th andn 20th ce historians trying to allege that religious community life and celibacy was a medieval Catholic invention were proved wrong with the discovery of an all male celibate religious community of Hebrews at Qumran. Lastly, essene documents provide a probable hermeneutical key into the apparent 'contradiction' of the date of the last supper in John's gospel (the essenes celebrated the feast apart from the sabbath).

            4. The Pauline authorship was only first questioned during the rise of the Tubingen school of historical critical scholarship. ALL OF THE SCHOLARS WHO REJECTED PAULINE AUTHORSHIP (especially of Hebrews) were German Protestants. The common consensus in biblical archaeology is that this position (which never did and still does not have one iota of evidence to support its claims) was motivated by a rejection of the advanced ecclesiology set forth in these letters. It is argued that the dating of these earliest letters does not allow sufficient time for such an elaborate ecclesiology to develop. Thus, they must be later forgeries. That is all fine as a hypothesis, but no evidence has ever been provided to back up such a claim. Therefore, the argument is not material but ideological. Again, this debate rages but now almost every reputable scholar has abandoned this position (although some still hang onto the rejection of Pauline authorship of Hebrews).

            Just as you have "lied' in your post by presenting these positions as "facts' of history- pop culture 'scholars' such as Bart Ehrman do the same (which is why I believe you are gathering your 'facts' from such 'scholars'. )

            In the name of truth, moderate your claims by suspending such rash judgements as "proven to be a FACT" when nothing could be further from the truth. Present your beliefs as beliefs and facts as facts. Otherwise you hold no higher middle ground than those early "Christian " liars you so recklessly call "the Church".

            Peace to you.

          • William Davis

            Good, you aren't insulting my intelligence anymore, I appreciate that :)

            What 'forged gospels..." were found at Qumran?!? DENY. The Essenes accepted a much larger canon than the Sadducees (5 books) or pharisees (27 books) because fragments of many more books were found at Qumran.

            You're right, my mistake (I'm not presenting my words as INSPIRED, I'm looking for a debate about what I think I know, a mistake is much different from a forgery. A lie is intentional, a mistake is not. On this forum it is the job of Christians to call out my mistakes for the sake of everyone's learning, good job here)

            The Pauline authorship was only first questioned during the rise of the Tubingen school of historical critical scholarship. ALL OF THE SCHOLARS WHO REJECTED PAULINE AUTHORSHIP (especially of Hebrews) were German Protestants. The common consensus in biblical archaeology is that this position (which never did and still does not have one iota of evidence to support its claims) was motivated by a rejection of the advanced ecclesiology set forth in these letters. It is argued that the dating of these earliest letters does not allow sufficient time for such an elaborate ecclesiology to develop. Thus, they must be later forgeries. That is all fine as a hypothesis, but no evidence has ever been provided to back up such a claim.

            Then why do 80% of CURRENT SCHOLARS

          • heidi keene

            Hi Mr. Davis,
            I want to reiterate that I am NOT insulting your intelligence with my statement about the original languages. St. Thomas Aquinas did not know Hebrew and his scholarship is par excellence. What I was referring to is having an adequate information source where you can check translations and meanings (historical context as well) of wording etc.
            Logos is a good tool for that and is free.

            Lastly, here is a link to a good article which addresses a post Dr. Ehrman made:
            http://www.thesacredpage.com/2014/12/were-titles-of-gospels-added-later.html#more

            Pax my friend!

          • William Davis

            Thanks for the link, I'll check it out :)

          • William Davis

            Not a bad article, but it doesn't deal with many of Ehrman's arguments. I enjoyed listening to a debate between Ehrman and Simon Gathercole, I like them both. I've seen most of Ehrman's debates, and the your side often makes good points. The issue is the sheer number of problems with scripture, many I've never seen addressed. There is no miracle of preservation, so why should I think there was a miracle of inspiration? Added an ending to Mark is pretty low to me, especially to fix it theologically. There is no requirement to believe in Jesus's resurrection in Mark, only that Love is more important than sacrifice, and helping the poor is required to enter the Kingdom. The theme that belief shapes reality is clearly there, something we know now from psychology. Mark 11:23-24

            23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received[c] it, and it will be yours.

            Jesus is clearly saying that the key to getting what you asked for in prayer comes down to simply believing you received it. I find it fascinating how religious people only recognized the things they pray for that come true, and ignore everything else, in the spirit of confirmation bias. One person miraculously recovers from cancer and it is a miracle, while we ignore the millions that are prayed for and die anyway.

            One other fascinating detail about belief in Mark is that Jesus's miracles would not work in his home town, because no one believed in him. Mark 6

            4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief.

            I can bring in more from Mark (these things are in other gospels too), but it is clear to me that the author is letting us in on the little secret that none of this was objectively real, but subjectively real. In so much as these beliefs cause us to do the right thing they are useful. That is why this article ticked me off, without Christian compassion, Christianity seems to be a complete waste of time and resources, but that is just my 2 cents.

            I was brought up in a Christian home, and have returned trying to believe more than once. It's over now, the truth has become clear. I rail against the Church because of it's exclusivity, and it's condemning of non-believers to hell. Such a lie as that is terrible.

            Buddha ran into the same problem as Jesus in India, but for a different reason. The Indians turned him into a god, but since they have so many gods, it made him irrelevant. Kinda funny how that worked out, Jesus is made important by monotheism.

          • William Davis

            2 Timothy 3

            But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.

            16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            When Paul wrote his letters, he didn't know he was writing scripture. So what is up with 16? The person writing this letter not only seems to think it is going to end up as scripture (something only a much later person would have known) and is on a rant since he thinks he now has "authority." Isn't it better if this isn't the Great St. Paul?

            1 Timothy 2

            11 Let a woman[b] learn in silence with full submission. 12 I permit no woman[c] to teach or to have authority over a man;[d] she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

            So women are to shut up and have babies. I say it again, isn't it better if this isn't Paul. This doesn't sound like the Paul I like.

            Don't think for a second I'm not trying to be responsible here. It isn't that I can't err, but after a while we see a pattern.

            http://evangelicaltextualcriticism.blogspot.com/2010/01/is-1-cor-1434-35-interpolation.html

            This is an evangelic who believes that 1 Corinthians 14 was doctored to shut women up. He makes a good case. The evidence that scripture was doctored by later Christians is overwhelming. It is a travesty they did this to Paul.

          • William Davis

            Oops, my comment posted prematurely

            Then why do 80% of CURRENT SCHOLARS think this is the case.

            I've seen the REAL EVIDENCE, especially for the pastorals

            Not only do they vary GREATLY from Paul's undisputed letters gramatically, they vary THEOLOGICALLY. They also understand things Paul could not have known. Did you not read the Catholic link about it? These Catholics act like it was ok that they are forged. Did you read what Dan Wallace wrote about everyone taking Second Peter to be forged for granted? 80% is a huge number for a Christian to admit, yet you sit here and act like it is settled. You also did not address how you propose to address the synoptic problem, something I see clearly from reading the Gospels. You did not address the fact that Genesis comes from Sumerian mythology. Christians always ignore these things and stick to their own facts. Your are no different. Are Dan Wallace and the people at Catholic-resources liars too? That is what you are saying.

          • Papalinton

            "With all due respect WD, you don't have any real understanding of Catholicism."

            On the contrary, Heidi, WD seems to have an extensive and very competent grasp of Catholic apologetics. When one prefaces their claim with the conditional, 'real', or 'really' in respect of 'understanding' then one is in emotive interpretive mode.

            One must also question whether a year at Sacred Pages would do the trick. If it were the standard bearer for Catholic apologetics, how is it that it remains cloistered there? I would suggest, its capacity to spread and diversify as a robust and substantive epistemologically-founded explanatory paradigm with global appeal, it would have already done so, by virtue of its own power of reason and intrinsic strength. Sadly for you, contemporary history informs us of a very different narrative; one in which theistic explanations are inexorably dwindling as their epistemic stocks plunge to ever new lows in the community at every new survey and research endeavour undertaken.

            That is not unexpected as the changing of the guard from the old and time-worn theological narrative is largely replaced by the new empirical scientific explanatory paradigm, one whose epistemological underpinnings are founded on a far more robust and veridical basis than simply religious faith.

        • William Davis

          Don't take my word about New Testament books being written by liars, check this out:

          http://catholic-resources.org/Bible/Paul-Disputed.htm

      • Kevin Aldrich

        You have just made up something that is not true. Catholicism does not condemn to hell non-Christians who have a good heart and kind spirit.

        • William Davis

          Good, some on this site seem to disagree with you. Can you site a resource that explains the orthodox Catholic point of view on this particular issue?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Aren't you the guy who presents himself as knowing just about everything about Christianity?

            Haven't you ever looked at the Catechism of the Catholic Church in regard to the principle "outside the Church there is no salvation?" Try CCC 1260.

        • William Davis

          First site I found didn't really explain who goes to hell. What was funny was that they used this verse to justify the existence of hell ""Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matt. 7:13–14)" Destruction is not hell, it is annihilation, ceasing to exist. Destruction was the view of Jesus and Paul (in the fires of Gehenna perhaps, but still the resurrected body was destroyed). I can definitely understand destroying evil, but not senseless torture. A good God would do no such thing, and only someone very vindictive would twist the early view of destruction into hell (Greeks believed in Hades, if that explains anything, it was not a Jewish view, or at least a mainstream Jewish view).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What convinces you that your definition of destruction is what Christ meant?

          • William Davis

            What they all were saying in the early days. The idea that the Catholic Church knows more about Christianity than Paul and the early Gospels is ridiculous. Here is your 1260 ""Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity."

            So I'm still condemned to hell, and at this point most people have heard the Gospel, so all rational people who think critically are also condemned to hell. Nice try, I was right.

            If you want to have some fun read the Apocalypse of Peter. Good thing that one didn't make it into the Cannon.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Are you seeking the truth and trying to do what is right as best you understand it? If the answer is yes, then why do you think you are condemned to hell?

          • William Davis

            The first answer is yes, but I can't help believe that Jesus was a great man, but just a man. I also find the jealous genocidal God of the Hebrew Bible repulsive. What kind of being tests a man by trying to get him to kill his own son? What kind of God drowns countless children in intentional floods, behaves like an angry jealous husband, and kills a man's children because of bet with Satan (in Job)?
            I'm ranting on this article, because for me, without the "heart of Gold", the whole thing seems negative. Without Christian compassion, I would despise Christianity, and I don't want to despise Christianity.
            Since I'm certain none of it real, I'm not actually worried I'm going to hell anymore. The issue is the psychological trauma this can cause for kids who find themselves in the same situation I am in, we just don't believe it, and we have good reason. I have given in a real try here lately, but it just isn't me. Love thy neighbor as yourself is me to a certain extent. I fix things for free for neighbors, help them best I can, but I wouldn't put them before my own family in a life or death situation, I am human after all.
            I suppose I am arrogant in that I think I see some of the major flaws in Christianity, and that if these flaws were removed, it would be much better. Here I am guilty, but Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers because they were making a profit off of God. This sort of feels the same to me, a sort of righteous anger. I try to make sure it is just, best as I am able. I think Hell is unjust, and I can't help but think that.

          • William Davis

            I'm reposting this for benefit of discussion

            Mark 8:36 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?

            Entering the Kingdom of God provides everylasting life, the alternative is losing it (not cruel everlasting torture)

            In Mark 9:43-48 there is a mention of hell, but these verses are missing from the oldest texts, scholars debate whether they should still be included in the book. It is clear the later Christians were rewriting Mark, they added the ending after 16:9.

            John 3:16 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

            Perishing is not being tortured forever

            I like this passage by Paul from 1 Corinthians 15, I'll just quote an portion, but you should read the whole chapter

            12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died[e] in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

            20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.[f] 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end,[g]when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.27 For “God[h] has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

            29 Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

            30 And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? 31 I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters,[i] as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it?

            Paul only has an understanding of the resurrection, and Jesus's resurrection is the key to the resurrection of Christians. There is no hell, only perishing without Jesus. No undisputed Pauline letter has an understanding of hell, but without Christ, the dead perish. Not that we understand the brain, we can metaphysically prove that there never was a soul. So Paul and Jesus's concept of resurrection is the only possible path to an afterlife in this universe. If you still believe in souls, look up split-brain syndrome. People with split brains (usually done to help epilepsy) have a different personality on each side, both personalities give different answers to questions, ect. Does a split brain patient have two souls? No, because souls didn't exist, the idea came from Greek philosophy (which I love, but they definitely got things wrong) not Judaism.

          • William Davis

            If I'm making you angry, that isn't really my goal. My goal is to get Christianity to take a hard look at itself and ask "What's the point?" Which doctrines are just, and which ones are relics of injustice. Which doctrines exist to coerce people to fall intellectually in line. Let us not forget that the Catholic Church became a political tool of the Roman Empire. How much corruption is still in there? I really like the Jesus of Mark, and I disagree with Paul on many things, but I think he was a great man. It bothers me where the Church went from their, so lately I haven't been pulling punches. To me pure Christianity was a beautiful thing, and that is embodied by the undisputed Pauline letters and the synoptics, primarily the earliest Mark. Do I hate Catholics? Absolutely not, but isn't this forum about disagreement? If it bothers you to admit the truth of the doctrine of hell, please change it. I would be very pleased (not that I matter but so much, but my opinions of course matter to me). I do my best to justify my opinions, but when it comes to early Christianity, most of what we have are opinions. I've developed mine using historical method, which is considered good enough for every other historical endeavor.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm not angry, WD.

            As far as what doctrines of Catholicism are just, my view is that ALL OF THEM are.

  • The early Fathers taught that the Son of God became a man so that men might become sons of God. The divinization of man through grace is what Christianity is essentially about. Father Barron touches on this point when he speaks of the "new creation," but an elaboration of this theme would have greatly enhanced this very good article. Yes, in a sense Christianity *is* all about being good—but being good with the goodness of God through participation in the divine Life. And that's where the Church and her sacraments come in.

  • ZMWT

    Last 7 commandments alone could make the world ethically flourishing place. A garden of peace. But only if humans were living in the vacuum and not in the universe full of life of every kind — the universe they know practically nothing about. 7 commandments would work only in a theoretical world where there are no influences beyond our understanding which can overturn our prospect within minutes — natural forces, powers and dominions. But they do exist.

    In that regard, last 7 commandments can never be sufficient, and something else is needed. Humanity needs a set of stars that clearly point to the originator of the idea of prosperity, to the reality from which all other 7 commandments come from that grant us life worth living — despite the influencing universe, powers and dominions.

    That is why we need those first 3 commandments. They triangulate the exact location of the originator. But they are scorned upon in today’s world, even among the churchmen who are more concerned with the "prospect of mankind", or, only the last 7 commandments. That's the problem Dawkins, Hitchens, John Shelby, Dominic Crossan et al also have.

  • Damon

    Father Barron's point seems to be that Christianity is not about ethics, it's about the Good News of our salvation through Jesus Christ. As silly as this sounds to non-believers, I think this is actually a pretty important point to grasp for anyone seeking to understand the raison d’etre of the Christian faith.

    Looking at the world through a Christian lens, the amount of good a person can do in their lifetime can never outstrip the evil already done. Even the simple clumsiness of day-to-day mistakes winds up harming those around us immeasurably. The amount of harm we have already caused in our lives is beyond repayment, to even attempt to repay it would only deprive our loved ones of our full devotion and wreak even greater emotional harm. The full accounting of all our crimes by the Old Testament standard of "eye for eye" would warrant no less than reparation for eternity.

    Therefore the Christ, the blood sacrifice of the only man who never did any harm to another, was the price of redemption for all of humanity - the price of balancing the moral accounts. Even if you question whether there was an historical Jesus, you can recognize the metaphysical certainty that a Christ needed to exist, at least according to this worldview. Otherwise, what would free us from the madness of our guilt?

    So Father Barron is right, Christianity is not about ethics and morality. Christianity is about how one man suffered and died so that humanity wouldn't have to. The whole purpose of Christianity is to allow people to get on with their lives, and let go of the guilt they can never repay. That's why Christ is hailed as Savior, not as Prophet.

    This is the ultimate raison d’etre of the Christian faith. To allow people to stop worrying about what they deserve, because we already know that what everyone deserves is Hell, and what everyone is going to get is Love and Grace, should they choose to accept it. And once people finally stop worrying about themselves and what they deserve, they can at last ask themselves about what others deserve from them.

    • From the atheist lens, there just isn't anything to be balanced, there is no price to be paid. Harm and good are not part of some mystical accounting and balancing. They are what they seem to be, actions and consequences. What seems silly to me is even on the Christian view the whole system seems abhorrent and inconsistent with a benevolent designer. It makes no sense to me that the blood sacrifice of Jesus would in any way balance these scales.

      • Damon

        That only holds if guilt is a culturally-impressed religious emotion, but I'm skeptical of this position. Taking into account the apparent universality of guilt among human beings, I'm inclined to think that guilt could be an evolved genetic trait, or at least something natural and universal to human beings. If this is correct, we must find a constructive way to deal with our guilt. Christianity offers freedom from the guilt all mankind feels, which is why I think Christ's sacrifice metaphysically needed to happen, regardless of whether it actually historically happened.

        • Well I can tell you that I don't feel a general guilt. Or a genetic guilt. I feel guilty for my misdeed. It is not too hard to deal with, I've never done anything that bad. I feel no guilt for Adam and Eves misdeeds. I also feel joy, fear, anger and sorrow at times.

          Nor do I see any reason to think Jesus' sacrifice was necessary. Was it not an excercise of his free will?

          • Damon

            My thoughts on guilt above are complete speculation based solely on anecdotal observations and historical idiosyncrasies, I'm not aware of any studies that either support or refute the idea that guilt is an innate emotion. That being said, if there is some truth to the notion that guilt is a natural response to performing a misdeed we need a constructive way for us as individuals to deal with it.

            There are plenty of extreme ways societies have invented to alleviate guilt and shame. The "harakiri" of the Japanese samurai is one way, Muslim honor killings are another way. And then there's the Western European way which expects you to live with your guilt, and attempt to make restitution for it.

            But it's impossible to make restitution for your misdeeds. Good may be stronger, but evil is faster. The amount of good you do throughout your life will never undue the harm you have already caused and will inevitably cause in the future. Trying to atone for that harm is a futile exercise in emotional masochism, and this masochism just causes more harm to yourself and to those who care about you.

            I think the people Paul of Tarsus and other early Christians preached to understood this, it's why they flocked to Christianity in droves. Christ's sacrifice offers freedom from the guilt mankind feels. You don't need to punish yourself or seek restitution for your misdeeds in Christianity. Christ has already punished Himself as restitution for everyone's misdeeds!

            But why can't we just realize that trying to redeem yourself for all your misdeeds and mistakes is self-destructive and move on from there? We can, but only if guilt is a learned response, and not an innate response to the realization that we've injured another. If it is innate, then rejecting it won't make it go away. You'll be walking down the street one day in a perfectly happy mood and then all of a sudden you'll think to yourself, "Hey, remembered that really stupid thing you did two years ago that you really regret..." and you'll be in terrible mood all of the sudden. The guilt will never fully leave until it's been atoned for.

            Ergo, the Christ. The freely given blood sacrifice of the god-man is the metaphysically necessary solution to atone for our guilt. Anyone who accepts this sacrifice as atonement for their past misdeeds need never again feel guilt, for they no longer bear the responsibility of atoning for it. Christ has taken that responsibility upon Himself, freeing you to live your life guilt-free.

            Again, this is all speculation. If guilt is really just a result of cultural upbringing then one can of course reject both guilt and Christianity, and live their life joyfully and guilt-free. But if not, I think Christ's atonement is metaphysically necessary. Even if there is no God, even if there was no historical Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ sacrifice is still metaphysically necessary. To think otherwise would be to embrace madness.

  • empathylouis

    Good Works can't be called Good without Good Faith in Christ.

    • Damon

      Let's say Sally, a Christian, opens up her home and provides shelter for a homeless family. Presumably this would be considered an example of Good Works, no?

      Now let's say Samantha, a non-Christian, also opens up her home and provides shelter for a homeless family. Is her act of charity no longer good, simply because she does not believe that Christ is Lord?

      • David Nickol

        And let's say Sally does her good works because she is taught that this is what she must do to get to heaven (and avoid hell) whereas Samantha does it out of pure compassion, expecting nothing in return (especially not some eternal reward).

        • thursday

          First I do not think it is wrong to expect a reward for good work. In school if you study hard for all the tests and do all your homework really well you expect an A. You too expect that the person who does good out of compassion should get a reward. We desire justice and God is perfect justice. God also knows our intentions and our hearts and we will all have to answer for those. I do not think God sends people to hell I think that choice is left to us. I do not spend any time thinking about Hell I only want to conform myself to Christ. Doing good out of love is not enough to enter the kingdom of God, entrance to that eternal kingdom is only had through Jesus.

      • empathylouis

        Samantha is good by society's standards (and, to us Catholics, everyone is duty bound to be good), but if she doesn't believe in Christ, she more then likely does good works in order to boost up her own ego or in order to feel emotionally or altruistically satisfied. Hopefully, a Christian, such as Sally, who does good works, should only do good works for Christ or in the name of Christ, not for herself or for her own wants, needs, or feelings, b/c it's only by her faith that her works can be called truly good. Therefore, I would say that Samantha's act of charity is good, but I would have to understand the reason behind the act of charity in order for myself to call it truly good.

        [Now, does that mean that Non-Catholics/Christians aren't saved? No. If a Non-Catholic doesn't know of Christ, but does charitable acts with a mindset that's similar to that of a Catholic, I would think that person has a great chance of going to Heaven. Christians and non-Christians can always collaborate in doing good, and find common ground there.]

        Also, as a Catholic, I don't do 'Good Works' b/c I fear Hell, I do 'Good Works', b/c I love and have gratitude towards Christ, I have 'Good Faith' in Him, and I want to abide by Him. God has supreme judgment, so if He decides that I must go to Hell (God forbid), I can only call his decision absolutely Just.

      • Peter

        St John of the Cross says that in the end we will be judged on love.

        The believer may be shocked at the last judgement to find they've been damned when they expected to be saved, while the unbeliever not expecting anything will be surprised to learn they have been saved.

        Love for our fellow man is deemed to be love of Christ whether done knowingly in the case of the believer or unknowingly in the case of the unbeliever. For the believer it is not enough merely to have faith. Those who do will be beaten to the finish by unbelievers who have shown love.

  • James Matthew

    Isn't the argument that Christians have united with Jesus and are mystically united with him, therefor it is not just them that act in the world but Jesus moving within them. If this is the claim then the question of do they behave like Jesus instructs becomes a valid measure. If such a large percentage fails to do so, is it not reasonable to question the whole premise?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Maybe you should go to a Catholic Mass some Sunday and then follow those folks for the rest of the week to see if they try to behave like Christ. I think you will see that they do.

      • Nelly

        Just pay no attention to what the priests are doing to the altar boys in the back of the church.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I'd advise you to delete your abusive comment.

          • Nelly

            More concerned about the light shining on the criminal nature of the church than the crime itself. Youre a very good catholic.

          • William Davis

            I downvoted that, such things are completely uncalled for. It is not constructive in the least bit. Perhaps celibacy is a mistake, however, and perhaps not as many as would like have Paul's gift, as he put it in 1 Corinthians 7.

      • James Matthew

        According to the Catholic Church Jesus reveals to humanity in both Natural Law and in revelation (as per John Paul II's "Theology of the Body") that manmade contraception is intrinsically evil and yet 98% of Catholic couples in the US admit to poll takers that they use it.

        It is unnecessary to follow Catholics around for a week when they openly admit to pollsters that they call good what the Catholic Church proclaims that Jesus calls evil.

        So again how can the claim be sustained that there is a mystic union with believers and Jesus if they do the opposite of what he is held to endorse? And how can it be said that priests or Bishops are so united with him that they are "epistemologically changed" by a rite of Holy Orders when they are silent on the subject?

        As an atheist I am telling you your Church is in open scandal and we outside of it can only determine what it stands for by what its members do, and what it looks like they do is say one thing and do another, to be hypocrites - which is even more odd because that is a state of being that your Jesus condemns in your own scriptures.

        The claim that Jesus mystically unites himself with his believers does not seem to have any visible evidence and in fact the evidence to the contrary seems to be all around. You even have a Pope who in a phone call tells a divorced and civilly remarried women to shop around for a different priest if the one in her own parish won't give her communion. This is suppose to be "the vicar of Christ"?

        Where is the evidence that Jesus mystically unites himself to his believers?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Among young women (18-34) who attend every week, 27 percent completely accept the Church’s teaching, and among those who both attend Mass weekly and have been to confession within the past year that figure rises to 37 percent. Just 24 percent of the women who go to Mass every week completely reject the teaching on contraception, and for those who have been to confession that figure drops to 12 percent.

          Even among the dissenting majority, however, not all are closed to the Church’s message on this subject. Hasson and Hill point out that about a third of these women mistakenly believe that the Church itself gives them the right to make up their own minds about which methods of family planning are morally acceptable. Many do not reject the Church’s authority out of hand.

          http://catholicexchange.com/160259

          If you are baptized, JM, you can answer for yourself how someone mystically united to Christ can behave the way you think is right--you have freedom.

          • James Matthew

            As far as I can gather Catholicism declares that mystic union with Christ leads you towards the beatific vision increasing your virtue because he infuses you with his grace, while conversely those who knowingly do intrinsic evil have committed a mortal sin which cuts them off completely from the face of the Christian god.

            Under the Catholic system of morality "following your conscience" is not a "get out of jail free card" as humans according to the Church have a duty to inform their consciences by learning what Jesus is held to have handed down through the ages by way of the Majesterium or that the Holy Spirit is held to have clarified to popes or councils. Therefore a conscience can be incorrect and questions of culpability remain.

            The "dissenting majority" are therefore in open schism and continue to make the claim that their conscience is the very voice of Jesus within them which seems to render their "Sovereign King of the Universe" into a Disney cricket out of Pinocchio that tells them its okay to follow their urges and use contraception.

            Meanwhile the authors of the catechism endorsed by John Paul II and compiled by men like Fr John Hardon and future Pope Benedict XVI, based their claims that contraception is an intrinsic evil hated by the Christian god by pointing to the historic Catholic position that this god in the person of the Holy Spirit guided Popes and Councils through mystical union with them to lead the Church to Truth to condemn contraception's use.

            The idea that a Perfect and therefore Unchanging god can mystically unite with Catholics to declare that contraception can be a good thing and that this same entity can mystically unite with other Catholics to tell them it is an irredeemable evil is a violation of the logical principle of non-contradiction (a principle laid out by Aristotle and his admirer Thomas Aquinas).

            Therefore as its impossible that an unchanging god could both endorse and condemn a thing at the same time in the same respect. The claims that it is he who by mystic union allows these competing Catholic factions to assert that their position is the truth renders the whole claim of "mystic union" suspect.

            Further the fact that the hierarchy who give lip service to the claim that there is an unbroken Majesterium that justifies the very existence of a Catholic Church (as compared to Protestantism or even the "Spiritual but not religious" position) but who say next to nothing on this matter, throws the claims of mystic union further into doubt.

            If "saving people through Christ" is a good, then saving them from "the intrinsic evil of contraception" if he is held to declare it such should also be a good - yet we see 99.9999% silence on the matter by Catholic clergy of any rank. How would this be possible if they are mystically united to an entity that wants to save people from evil?

            From the outside of Christianity there is no evidence that there is this "mystical union" not only are there thousands of different Protestant Churches (or "ecclesiastical communities" if you prefer) claiming that they likewise are lead to their different positions on doctrine by "mystic union with the one and only unchanging Jesus Christ" but even a close examination of the Catholic Church proves that their is no unity there either.

            How then is the biblical claim that Jesus mystically unites with believers and leads them to the Truth not merely a talking point people use to declare a divine endorsement on their own human thought? Anyone must admit that at least some of these people are doing that, which leaves the real possibility that all of them are doing it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            JM, the Church does not base its teachings about contraception on "mystical union" but on her claim to be able to interpret the natural law in so far as it effects people's salvation.

            The claim that 98% of Catholic couples use contraception is bogus. The study this is based on actually alleges that 98% of Catholic women have used some form of contraception at least once. However, the survey “was restricted to women who are (a) between 15 and 44, (b) sexually active, (c) not pregnant or postpartum and (d) seeking to avoid becoming pregnant.” (http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/fudging_the_figures_on_contraception#sthash.67244663.dpuf)

            You are right, though, that many pastors and bishops have been silent on this since the 1960s sexual revolution began.

            Thank God that is changing dramatically now.

          • James Matthew

            John Paul II in Theology of the Body expressly linked the Church's ban against contraception to the bible, or as Catholics would say he proved, guided by the Holy Spirit, that contraception was an evil not merely by natural
            law but by its condemnation by a correct reading of holy scripture – so not just natural law but revelation.

            The papacy even in its "ordinary magisterium" is held
            by Catholicism, when teaching to the universal Church on faith and morals to be prevented from error by the action of the Holy Spirit. Unless you are saying that there is some way that the "Holy Spirit" is held to operate other than infusing people with grace from within, I don't see how this is not a claim of mystical union (it certainly isn't a physical union or process).

            If this is correct than the opponents of contraception are indeed basing their position on claims of mystical union while the people who say the Spirit is speaking through their consciences to assure them that birth control is okay are making the same claim of mystical union.

            Both sides are saying it is not they alone who speak to present their truth but that the Spirit speaks through them guiding them to their position. Both cannot be correct at the same time, throwing both claims into question.

            Please qualify how you think there has been any "dramatic change" among clergy and bishops condemning contraception. I see nothing, I admit one or two might be saying something that I haven't seen, but this hardly would qualify as "dramatic change".

            The American bishops with national media placing them in the spotlight could've condemned birth control as an intrinsic evil during the legal cases around the HHS mandate, instead they cast it not as a fight against
            intrinsic evil but as a question of religious liberty, basing their argument not on their duty to their god but as an appeal to their fellow Americans. They had the national stage to blast contraception as an intrinsic evil condemned
            and hated by Christ himself, they went not with the arguments of Tradition, magisterium and Bible – but with interpretation arguments over a secular Constitution.

            Yes they continue to blast abortion, but one can't help but wonder (if they hold that the pill is an abortifacient which most pro-life Catholics seem to maintain) if the bishops are not being selective here as well - in the name of preserving unity and advancing the political cause. Certainly the ranks
            of Protestants and "Liberal Catholics" in the anti-abortion cause would drop to next to zero if they realized that their cause would affect them and their own use of contraception and not just some unwed pregnant inner-city
            girl. This strikes me as deception by omission.

            More people are involved in the "mortal sin" of
            contraception then abortion, why is it that the bishops can only be vocal on one instead of both? According to Catholicism's logic more people are damning themselves by dismissing the encyclicals and teachings of the papacy against birth control and the bishops wave them past, letting them go further down the path.

            While those who pay little attention to religion in the US
            may think Catholicism is in a legal crisis concerning some bad actors within its priesthood, those who look closely will see that its real crisis is an existential one, why is there a Catholic Church int he USA at all when it doesn't stand for anything?

            With bishops silent on contraception, known political
            supporters of abortion-rights receiving communion in violation of your canon law, and people divorced and civilly remarried able to point to a phone call from the Pope (telling a woman to priest-shop until she will find one that will give her the Eucharist) – it doesn't look like your Church has any consistency.

            All one can see are a lot of people claiming that they were led to their contradicting opinions by mystical union with the Holy Spirit – which logically throws the whole claim of mystical union into question.

            And this isn't even counting the Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists, et al who claim mystical union with the Holy Spirit moves them to proclaim Catholicism is a fraud.

            If all these Christians do not have unity in either thought or
            behavior how is the claim that the Christian god unites himself with those who believe in him maintained? They can't even agree amongst themselves on what He
            approves and what He hates/ what is good and what is evil. Yet they all claim to have obeyed Philippians 2:5 "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". With Christians putting forward competing definitions of
            morality and claiming divine sanction to do so – is it not reasonable to hold all their claims as suspect?

          • David Nickol

            The papacy even in its "ordinary magisterium" is held by Catholicism, when teaching to the universal Church on faith and morals to be prevented from error by the action of the Holy Spirit.

            John Paul II's talks that make up his "theology of the body" were not even remotely a matter of a pope "teaching to the universal Church on faith and morals." To the extent that John Paul II drew on already declared infallible teachings of the Church in formulating his "theology of the body," then to that extent it contains infallible teaching (according to the Church). Any new teachings in the talks might or might not be true, but since they were not infallibly taught—that is, since the pope did not speak ex cathedra—no one is obliged to assent to them.

          • James Matthew

            According to the endorsed doctrines of the Church, Catholics are required to follow the teaching of the Pope's even when they are not speaking ex cathedra.

            As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it at 2034-2035:
            "The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are 'authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.' The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for. The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed."

            The ordinary magisterium is exercised when the pope teaches a doctrine of faith and morals, this extends to bishops as well when they teach in accord with what the papacy has taught.

            For example there is no ex cathedra statement that polygamy is wrong but this does not mean that it has not been condemned as an evil by the Catholic Church. We know this because many popes have blasted the practice by use of the ordinary majesterium, nor is it up for grabs/a matter of private conscience or a thing of prudential judgment it is infallibly condemned as an intrinsic evil that can never be viewed as good.

            In the same manner the use of contraception is declared infallibly by the papacy to be intrinsically evil.

            So according to Roman Catholicism if you want to call yourself a Catholic you have to follow the ordinary magisterium as an infallible guide to the way Jesus wants you to think and behave.

            Returning to my point in this discussion thread, American Catholics (yourself apparently included) reject this and hold their consciences are the more reliable infallible measure of "the truth of Jesus Christ". Thank you for offering a living example of my point.

            Both sides declare that they know they are right because they both claim to be mystically united with the Holy Spirit that is showing them that the position they advocate is the true one, as these sides are in direct contradiction the whole concept of mystical union is rendered suspect.

          • Michael Murray

            My understanding is David's an ex-Catholic. Also he is not an atheist.

            I'm interested in this idea though of whether Catholics can use contraception and not be in a state of sin. Please keep discussing.

          • David Nickol

            According to the endorsed doctrines of the Church, Catholics are required to follow the teaching of the Pope's even when they are not speaking ex cathedra.

            Not every word that comes from the mouth (or pen) of a pope is magisterial teaching. For example, in March 1991:

            Pope John Paul II delivered a scathing denunciation of the Persian Gulf war today, calling it a "darkness" that he said had "cast a shadow over the whole human community."

            "A choice was made of aggression and the violation of international law, when it was presumed to solve the tensions between the peoples by war, the sower of death," he said in his Easter Sunday message, "Urbi et Orbi" -- "To the City and the World."

            In March of 2003, John Paul II spoke out publicly and privately against the war in Iraq:

            A Vatican envoy who met with President Bush
            Wednesday said he "clearly and forcefully" conveyed a message from Pope John Paul II that a war against Iraq would be a "disaster."

            The Pope's message in both cases was crystal clear. Were Catholics obliged to oppose both of these wars? Were Catholic members of the military obliged to refuse fighting in these wars?

            Returning to my point in this discussion thread, American Catholics (yourself apparently included) reject this and hold their consciences are the more reliable infallible measure of "the truth of Jesus Christ". Thank you for offering a living example of my point.

            First, get off your high horse.

            Second, the matter under discussion was John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Catholics are no more obliged to assent to it than they are to the volumes in Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth volumes (except insofar as these works of John Paul II or Benedict XVI restate previous magisterial teaching). I do not claim to write as a Catholic, but since you do, you had better do some research to discover exactly what makes something a magisterial teaching that Catholics are obliged to assent to. Otherwise you will be misleading people into believing things about the teaching authority of the Church that are untrue.

          • James Matthew

            You are confusing prudential judgement with doctrine, the question of whether this or that war is a just war is a matter of prudential judgement (for instance what qualifies as legitimate authority, what constitutes a good chance at success - necessities under just war theory).

            Whether this or that war is just or injust does not diminish the claim that their can be just wars which is what the doctrine of just war theory asserts. Prudential judgement is not held to be infallible, statements of doctrine are.

            In contrast to his judgement on the particular war in Iraq, John Paul II in his writing against birth control is presenting anew to his generation the doctrine that contraception is an intrinsic evil that is always wrong in every respect.

            There is no statement handed down by the apostles, popes and bishops that the war in Iraq will be/is/was unjust, there are such statemenst or rather there is a doctrine that war can be just in some cases. Yet in the case of contraception the continual declarations of the popes and bishops is that its an intrinsic evil (just as murder is) so they are saying every use of man-made contraception in history will be/is/was unjust.

            There are continual statements against birth control throughout the history of the Catholic Church made by popes and bishops (this includes condemning the use of ancient abortifacient herbs), so when John Paul II adds his voice to that of his predecessors he is indeed held by Catholicism to be making an infallible statement by means of the ordinary majesterium and anyone who desires to be a Catholic is called to follow him "the vicar of Christ" (the physical Steward of Christ's kingdom while he is bodily in heaven).

            In other words if you want to have a Catholic conscience you have to follow what the Catholic Church teaches. If you want to be a law unto yourself, then you embrace situational morality - where a thing is good for everyone except for those who feel its bad.

            The perplexing thing today is that those who embrace situational morality are declaring they are doing so under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and that this overrules the pope and the bishops, and yet the bishops and the pope (who hold the ancient doctrines are promoted by the Holy Spirit) do nothing in the face of this. So from the view point of those outside the Church, or "the world" as Catholics would say - the very claim that there is a thing called the Holy Spirit is highly suspect.

          • David Nickol

            In contrast to his judgement on the particular war in Iraq, John Paul II in his writing against birth control is presenting anew to his generation the doctrine that contraception is an intrinsic evil that is always wrong in every respect.

            I fully acknowledge that the Catholic Church teaches that contraception is an intrinsic evil. However, my point is that John Paul II's Theology of the Body creates no new Catholic doctrine. Not every utterance from a pope creates new doctrine. You don't need Theology of the Body to tell you the Church opposes contraception. You don't need anything further than Humanae Vitae, which John Paul II had nothing to do with.

            If you insist that there are new doctrines that were expounded by John Paul II in Theology of the Body to which Catholics must assent as magisterial teachings, perhaps you could identify a few.

            Prudential judgement is not held to be infallible, statements of doctrine are.

            Statements of doctrine by popes are infallible only if they meet the criteria for infallible pronouncements. By most accounts, since infallibility of the pope was defined, only two papal pronouncements are universally agreed to be infallible—the Immaculate Conception and the Bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. You are confusing doctrine and dogma. Catholics are obliged to assent to both, but only dogma is infallible.

            So what new dogmas or doctrines are defined in Theology of the Body?

          • James Matthew

            The question at issue is not about "new doctrine" but whether John Paul II was speaking infallibly when he condemned contraception in Theology of the Body and
            therefore must be obeyed by Catholics.

            In fact according to the Catholic doctrine on papal use of the ordinary magisterium if he had said anything new it would not be infallible. Within Catholic thought the only thing that John Paul II did that was new in his condemnation of contraception in Theology of the Bible was to prove that the basis of it being an intrinsic evil wasn't just in Natural Law but was also to be found in Revelation/Scriptures.

            But even if he had not done this, his condemnation of contraception would still be held as infallible and commands the obedience of anyone claiming to be Catholic. This is because in any system asserting there is a Natural Law there has to a divine lawgiver who assigns the nature of things to them so when Christians invoke natural law theory, that lawgiver is Jesus. Under Catholicism one of the major accomplishments of Jesus'
            death and resurrection was to deliver a means for human beings to recover their true natures, instead of the corrupted nature inflicted upon them by Adam's sin. By this means then humans are held to be able to discover what it means to be truly human and what the purpose of their lives was intended to be from the beginning.

            As questions of human nature are therefore a key part of Catholicism, the papal ability to speak about them infallibly with the aid of the Holy Spirit is a doctrine of the Church. The Church holds that if this was not possible then knowledge of one of the key purposes of Jesus mission would be muddied and eventually lost to all mankind (the gates of hell would prevail against the Truth).

            So thus we find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
            2034-2036 "The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are 'authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.' The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for. The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed. The authority of the Magisterium extends also to the specific precepts of the natural law, because their observance, demanded by the Creator, is necessary for salvation. In recalling the prescriptions of the natural law, the Magisterium of the Church exercises an essential part of its prophetic office of proclaiming to men what they truly are and reminding them of what they should be before God."

            John Paul II's statements in Theology of the Body are infallible (and therefor command
            obedience by all Catholics) precisely because they are not new doctrine. Unlike
            the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who is held
            by Mormons to be a living prophet, the Pope does not have the ability to change
            doctrine, according to Catholicism your King Jesus left a physical steward/vicar here on earth to run his "Kingdom of God"/the Catholic Church while he was bodily in Heaven - as the head steward of the King's household the pope does not have the ability to counter the commands of his Lord but only to see that they are proclaimed and enforced; nor is he free to invent his own commands and claim they came from your Dread Sovereign King. As the human steward of Christ's household is being opposed by beings of unimaginable power - Satan and his angels, Jesus sends his Holy Spirit to assist the Pope and assure that His commands are clearly proclaimed and not messed with - the gift of infallibility.

            So while the man called the Living Prophet of the LDS can claim to have visions from Jesus to change that Church's doctrines (such as the 1970s opening the priesthood to
            black men when before it could only be whites) the Pope - as steward/vicar has no such power so even if he doesn't like the doctrine he can't do anything about it but work to bring his own mind into greater conformity with Christ.

            The ordinary magisterium makes a statement of the pope infallible when it is concerning faith and morals and is in agreement with previous statements of the teaching authority of the Church. This is because the Pope is merely repeating the doctrines held to be handed down to the Church by Jesus to the Apostles through their successors the bishops down to our own day. He is held to be merely applying them to the situation we find ourselves in today. So while the birth-control pill as an object did not exist before the 1950s the use of methods or things to prevent birth have been around longer than recorded history and the Church has spoken about them so the Pope's job is to examine these teachings and apply them to the new situation.

            Further even if some object or procedure is radically new and has no historical precedent, the Church declares as settled the nature of what a human being is supposed to be about and the purpose of human beings (to reach the beatific vision with and through Jesus) so the Pope's job in such instances is to examine if the new thing interferes with what is held to be Jesus' desire for human beings and if it does to condemn it, if it doesn't to be silent on the matter or if it is seen as assisting humanity understand its nature and purpose to promote it. So for example only recently has space travel been a thing, and the Vatican has come out in favor of it seeing it as an expression of humanity trying to better know "the Creator" by better knowing "His Creation" - so this declaration is not because there is any consideration of space travel
            in the magisterium before the invention of rockets, but because the nature of humans is held not to change and knowledge of that is in the magisterium.

            To understand Catholicism on this issue, think of statements from the ordinary magisterium as similar to a new Bible translation. The creator of the new Bible translation is not held to be the author of the Bible but as making the Bible accessible, understandable, and more easily applicable to today's readers (few people speak ancient Greek and Hebrew). In the same manner John Paul II's writings against birth control present the ancient condemnation of contraception anew and afresh to this age, making it more understandable, more accessible, and more easily applicable. Like the commands in the Bible, this doctrine is held as commanding obedience because its
            ultimate source is not the person bringing it to a modern audience its ultimate author is held to be the divine Jesus - Sovereign Master of all who would call themselves
            Christian. So ignoring the Papacy's pronouncements within the ordinary magisterium isn't held to be thumbing your nose at John Paul II or some other pope but as giving the finger to Jesus.

            Of course not every statement of a Pope is infallible, only those that are made in agreement with the ordinary magisterium or those made ex cathedra, so if Pope Francis said "I think it would only be just if Argentina won the World Cup due to all their hard work and sacrifice to improve their skills," this would just be an opinion as there is nothing in the magisterium about victory in sporting contests.

            So for your question "what new dogmas or doctrines are defined in Theology of the Body" the answer is none, which is why John Paul II's teaching in it is held to be infallible and must be obeyed if one calls oneself a Catholic.

            Also in light of this your statement "the Catholic Church teaches that contraception
            is an intrinsic evil…You don't need anything further than Humanae Vitae" is a bit perplexing here as that document proclaimed no new doctrines either but merely applied the Church's ancient condemnation of birth control to all the modern methods
            including the pill. And it is held to have done so infallibly not because it was the first document to "newly" apply the Church's doctrine to a new object in human history, but because it is in perfect consistence with the Church's timeless doctrines on human nature and the intrinsic evil of using any contraception to separate the procreative aspect of sex from the unitive.

            Of course today we see that question of what demands obedience is contested by Catholics dissenting from the truth claims about the Catholic magisterium, as they hold Popes can't be more infallible than the Spirit within themselves telling them they are free to reject any papal teaching they disagree with.

            In previous ages these people would've be denounced by bishops as deluded by soul killing error and the spirit they claim to be listening to would be denounced as a worldly spirit that conforms them to "the world" rather than to "the mind of Christ" but now even a majority of America bishops either support their position or feel the matter is of such little importance that it doesn't bear talking about (indicating their belief that it's not an intrinsic evil that must be fought everywhere). So the American bishops do not agree that contraception is an evil violation of moral norms, thus putting in question the whole claim that baptism and the sacraments of the Church metaphysically change people into "new creations" (2 Corinthians 5:17) mystically united with the mind of Jesus. How if they are not of one mind on what is evil can they be said to be united with one mind (the mind of Jesus)?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            JM, I find your thinking and reasoning pretty incoherent and all over the place. If you will articulate one issue, I'll be glad to address it as best I can.

          • James Matthew

            Christians base their claims on an untestable axiom, that there is a supernatural realm with an entity named Jesus who mystically unites with the believer.

            But some of their assertions seem testable, mystical union with Jesus is held to move the believer away from what Jesus holds as evil and towards what he holds as good.

            As Christians can not even agree what Jesus holds as good and what is evil, they can not all be mystically united with him.

            As each side declares the others claims to be false it is rational to hold all their claims as suspect and question the entire concept of mystical unity.

            In short its the problem with disunity.

            Its not just that some are "sinners" (not being able to hold up to the standard) its that Christians can't even agree on the definition of what constitutes a "sin"/an offense against their god (they vehemently disagree on what are the standards).

            To use the measure your scriptures use Paul says: 1 Corinthians 3:3 "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"
            and Jesus is held to have prayed to his other person: John 17:21 "That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

            Christians have no unity over the very definitions of good and evil, you all look like people "behaving only in a human way" and this throws the entirety of the claims about the Jesus of the Bible into question by the Bible's own logic - if you had mystic union with Jesus you would at least be united with each other on what he likes and hates, yet you don't even have that.

            Why should anyone believe your stories are true, or as the stories say that your YHWH sent your Jesus. You don't even have unity in the single denomination of Roman Catholicism, which is exactly what one would expect from a purely human group - which (holding that Jesus is your mystical head) you're claiming you're not. Your claims are suspect.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Church is the mystical body of Christ. Other than that, your way of referring to the relationship between Christ and the individual Christian as a mystical union is one I have never heard before.

            You may be thinking of grace, either sanctifying grace or actual grace. It does help the Christian do God's will. It does not make anyone do anything.

            The possibility of disunity and division was foreseen from the very beginning, so that should not be a problem.

            No individual Christian (except the pope in very specific circumstances) is infallible in defining Catholic faith and morals. Only the Magisterium has this guarantee, so again it should not be surprising that people hold different beliefs. People are prone to errors when they decided to pick and choose what they like.

            As far as contraception goes, the whole Christian world was united in rejecting it until 1930 when the Anglican Church began the erosion process. It did not become common among Catholics until the mid-1960s when a concerted effort was launched by dissident priests who were mad as hell that Pope Paul VI did not do what they wanted. Then we entered the relative insanity of the post Vatican II era which is now subsiding.

            I don't think your argument is valid because there is or should be no expectation that things should be as you expect. Your own scriptural citations support what I'm trying to argue.

          • James Matthew

            Concerning personal mystical union, passages from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            "2014 Spiritual progress tends toward ever more intimate union with Christ. This union is called 'mystical' because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the sacraments - 'the holy mysteries' - and, in him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with him, even if the special graces or extraordinary signs of this mystical life are granted only to some for the sake of manifesting the gratuitous gift given to all."

            So according to Catholicism believers are brought into mystical union with Jesus at the rite they call the sacrament of baptism. Jesus is held to bring them every towards more perfect union with him through his grace which is especially present in the sacraments.

            Special graces here may mean having miraculous powers such as Padre Pio is held to have exhibited and likely also is about the powers held to be possessed by Catholic priests in performance of their duties such as consecrating the bread and wine, administrating confession, and fulfilling their roles in the other sacraments.

            The Catechism also speaks of this union elsewhere:
            "2074 Jesus says: 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.' The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of his mysteries, and keep his commandments, the Savior himself comes to love, in us, his Father and his brethren, our Father and our brethren. His person becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity. 'This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'"

            So from this Jesus is said to be mystically united with the believer at baptism (which as the Catholic Church recognizes any baptism that uses the Trinitarian form as valid includes most of the Christian world). This union is held to make a person "fruitful" by making him "the living and interior rule of our activity." Which would mean you don't do things that he holds as intrinsically evil. The difficulty arises in that there is no agreement between Christian groups on the limits of what is holy and what is evil - the obvious example being the use of contraception.

            You point out that "The possibility of disunity and division was foreseen from the very beginning", you neglect to mention it was condemned as an evil that must be avoided.

            1 Corinthians 1:10-13 10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. ...Is Christ divided?

            But today's Christian's answer is "Yes Christ is divided. He is of divided mind, sometimes he says contraception is a good and sometimes he says it is a bad thing." Its all relative to the Christian you ask and even the bishops of the Catholic Church are as divided on the matter.

            According to your scripture your god in one person prayed to his other person (at John 17:20-23) : "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

            How is this suppose to be true if its an all-powerful god praying for a favor from himself, how does it not come about? Is his self not good enough to be granted this prayer from himself, is his intent not in perfect accord with his other self? How can this story be true if the thing utterly failed everywhere?

            In this system the failure of believers in Jesus to live up to his standards is understandable and predicted, the failure of them to know what he holds as good and evil isn't. There are just thousands of voices all claiming by "mystic union" they know his will yet all is division even within the Catholic Church.

            Even your Pope tells a woman in a phone call to shop around for another priest if her current priest is too stringent on giving communion to those previous popes have declared to be living in a state of mortal sin (divorced and civilly remarried). So even the Popes are at odds with the definition of what is or is not intrinsic evil.

            And on the matter of love (John 13:35), a quick look at the comment section of "Liberal" and "Conservative" Catholic on-line newspapers will show you no one, not even Martin Luther, hates Catholics more than Catholics of one camp hate the other side on this issue (and that's not even bringing up other questions like married clergy, the abuse crisis, extending the definition of marriage to same sex couples, or allowing women priests).

            So Christians today can be identified by their disunity and hatred of one another both of which by the standards of the Bible disqualify their own truth claims. Thus raising serious skepticism to their claims that they are united by the same Spirit who is the being of love and truth itself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Again, you are all over the place. You seem to be scandalized that there is Christian disunity and that some people claim contraception is moral.

            I doubt the pope ever said what you think he said. And there are some bad bishops. So what? What you object to has been the case from the very beginning. Baptism does not take away freedom nor does it erase ignorance.

          • James Matthew

            Christianity proclaims that through mystical union it brings people to unity in Christ. There is no unity among Christians, raising the question of is there no Christ.

            In Christianity baptism is held to cause mystical unity with the mind of Christ, to cause the believer to desire to do what Christ wants, but as different groups of believers want to proclaim different and opposing moral norms of behavior how is the claim of mystical unity maintained as true? Unless it is asserted that Jesus has ever-changing wild and random ideas about what is good and evil, the facts on the ground can be reasonably presented as a challenge to the claim baptism does what it claims to do, and as the rite is central to the faith it raises the question if Christianity is true.

            Again this is not a question of sin/failing to live up to the standard, let me be clearer - there are no moral norms across Christianity on many important issues. It is this lack of moral norms that is the issue not whether people live up to the norms.

            You seem to have a mistaken view on Christian freedom, it is not the freedom to choose to sin or not that you are held to be given at baptism, but the freedom from the bondage of sinning (overcoming concupiscence) - you are given the freedom of obedience; when before it was not possible to do as Jesus wanted (as apart form "grace" you could do nothing and it was impossible to please him). Now with his "indwelling Spirit" your will and your "soul" direct you to do as he wishes and to look for ever more opportunities to serve him. Christianity is held to give the freedom of walking away from the chains of sin forever, not the freedom to decide if you want to shackle yourself up to sin again if you so desire.

            The way the Catholic Church puts it is that at Baptism the believer receives sanctifying grace which is what makes the soul holy and gives it supernatural life. Unlike actual grace (which is held to motivate you to seek holiness), sanctifying grace is held to remain in the baptized, elevating them above their nature to the divine son-ship of YHWH through union with Christ. As Paul puts it in Galatians 2:20 "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God". Because the flesh has yet to be redeemed until the second coming it presents temptations and Paul wasn't always able to live up to the standard of Christ (Romans 7:19) - but he doesn't present confusion on what the standard is.

            If this is the case all the baptized should agree on how Jesus wants humans to live, but they don't. There is no evidence of a sanctifying grace that shepherds them up the same narrow path by leading them to accept the same definitions of what is good and should be done and what is evil and should be avoided.

            The disagreement over moral norms when they all have the same baptism throws into question the claims that the rite supernaturally alters human beings. The claim that Baptism does things to people is a cornerstone of Christianity. Due to this lack of unity both the efficaciousness of Baptism and the Christianity that proclaims it to be capable of producing the desired effect of mystical union with the supernatural embodiment of Truth and Justice Itself are therefor reasonably thrown into question.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Your basic claim seems to be that the Catholic Church teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism infuses in the person baptized an infallible knowledge of the moral law.

            Your claim is false. Therefore, anything you think can be implied about the Catholic Church or Christ due to baptized people holding different moral beliefs is also false.

          • James Matthew

            I am not saying Catholicism teaches that their is an infusion of infallible knowledge I am saying that it claims Jesus' grace indwells inside you and leads you to his truth on questions of what he hates/holds as evil and what he loves/ holds as good. It teaches that people due to his grace are moved to embrace the good and state that evil is evil and avoid it.

            But I see that this is not happening. Adult converts to Catholicism who are "liberal" maintain their liberal positions on contraception, gay marriage, civil divorce, pre-martial sex, etc. Seemingly giving evidence that the rite does nothing but make people wet.

            Your writing makes me curious. What do you think baptism is suppose to do? Do you hold that its just a physical initiation rite like getting hazed to enter a fraternity?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If an adult convert to Catholicism receives deficient catechesis he will have a deficient understanding of Catholicism, which may include a deficient understanding of the moral law.

            If a would-be convert gets good catechesis and realizes there is a difference between his understanding of the moral law and the teachings of the Church, he will either change is views or end the process. Unless he is a cad.

          • James Matthew

            Does an indwelling of the Spirit of Christ happen at Baptism and if so does it do anything?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My view of Baptism is exactly the view presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Code of Canon Law.

          • James Matthew

            As I have quoted the Catechism directly and yet you hold that I am in error please further explain your position.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In brief:

            CCC 1279: "The fruit of Baptism, or baptismal grace, is a rich reality that includes forgiveness of original sin and all personal sins, birth into the new life by which man becomes an adoptive son of the Father, a member of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. By this very fact the person baptized is incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made a sharer in the priesthood of Christ."

            Not "leads you to his truth on questions of what he hates/holds as evil and what he loves/ holds as good. It teaches that people due to his grace are moved to embrace the good and state that evil is evil and avoid it."

          • James Matthew

            What do you think "birth into the new life" and being "a temple of the Holy Spirit" mean if they do not mean that people have an indwelling of the Holy Spirit that mystically changes them, leading them to a "new life" where they are led to avoid evil and pursue the good?

            What does "new life" mean if there is no interior change, what's the difference between being a regular sinner and being in a state where you can be truthfully called a "temple of the Holy Spirit" if no interior change occurs?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "New life" does NOT mean that a baptized person is not capable of saying black is white and white is black, either out of ignorance or because he wants it to be so.

          • James Matthew

            How can "he want it to be so [evil to be declared good]" if baptism does what it says it does? His very nature is held to change and he is held to be infused with power to know and do the good thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

            Catechism of the Catholic Church
            1265 Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte "a new creature," an adopted son of God, who has become a "partaker of the divine nature," member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.

            1266 The Most Holy Trinity gives the baptised sanctifying grace, the grace of justification:
            - enabling them to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him through the theological virtues;
            - giving them the power to live and act under the prompting of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Holy Spirit;
            - allowing them to grow in goodness through the moral virtues.
            Thus the whole organism of the Christian's supernatural life has its roots in Baptism.

            I have spoken to "Liberal Catholics" who were recent converts who maintain the documents from the majesterium are just reflections for believers that the popes make with no binding power.

            They were convinced that contraception and gay marriage were a good before they were baptised and retained the same positions afterwards. There was no change other than now, rather than calling themselves Protestants, they declare themselves Catholics in good standing.

            The issue is further compounded in that the Catholic Church claims all Protestants who get baptised under the Trinitarian formula, despite having no intent of following "the vicar of Christ" in "His one and only true Church" and "the teaching authority given by Christ to the Catholic Church alone" are somehow legitimately baptised.

            Not only is there no observable change in their behaviour when they are baptised, they go into it with no intent of conforming to "the will of the Holy Spirit" as the Catholic Church declares its teachings to be.

            How are these rites of Trinitarian baptism held to do anything when neither effect is visible nor proper intent even necessary.

            Not only do these people not change but they have no intention of changing (which under the RC system invalidates any other sacrament) but somehow even Protestant baptism is held to do something? How is this claim maintained?

            In your scriptures Saul of Tarsus wanted to murder Christians, struck blind he is then baptised by Ananias and no longer wants to murder Christians.

            Despite an entire life of absolute conviction and dedication to annihilating opposition to Judaism to the point of desiring to butcher people - his will is conformed to Jesus' by "grace".

            Paul says:
            Gal 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God"
            By what means did he mystically unite with Jesus and his death to be able to say "I am crucified with Christ"?
            Romans 6:3 "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?"

            So the change in his will from "Murder away Christianity" to "Spread Christianity" occurs not because of falling off his horse, but because of baptism.

            Seems like a totally different outcome than what is actually observable today.

            You will also note that in Acts 9 that Saul does not receive catechesis before baptism but his will is conformed immediately:
            "Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
            At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God."

            In this story Paul is mystically united with such an awesome and amazing supernatural force that he is overwhelmed to the point of desiring to do what it would have him do - rather than just go about his regular life that is indistinguishable from any other human life. Why if this the same rite today are those who receive it in disagreement over even the basics of what Jesus holds as good and evil when with Paul it killed his old life and remade him in conformity with Jesus?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You've got your theory and you won't let it go.

            If your understanding of baptism were correct, there would be no third section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

            Neither would Paul have to have to advise or correct any of the Christians he wrote to.

          • James Matthew

            I agree that perfect knowledge is not and has never been held to be delivered at baptism, but how can there be the same embrace of evil before and after baptism.

            Do you or do you not think that their is an interior change at every baptism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Consider the following to see that orthodoxy in beliefs and actions does not automatically follow from baptism:

            1. What is catechesis?

            Catechesis is sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ in such
            a way that a person comes to know about God, to believe
            in him and his teachings, to enter into a relationship with
            God, and to be transformed by him. Catechesis involves
            teaching about doctrine as well as about the living practice
            of the faith. Catechizing and being catechized are lifelong
            responsibilities for every Catholic.

            2. Is “catechesis” another word for “teaching”?

            Yes and no. While catechesis does involve instruction about
            God and what he has told us, it also involves helping us to
            become the type of people the Lord intended us to be when
            he created us. Through catechesis, we learn more about our
            faith and also deepen our relationship with God—Father,
            Son, and Holy Spirit.

            http://www.archsa.org/acc/documents/FAQ%20about%20the%20NDC.pdf

          • James Matthew

            You keep repeating what baptism is not, but will not plainly answer the question of does baptism cause an interior change? And if so what does that do?

            Many Protestants hold that baptism just causes a legal change in the court of YHWH changing that person's status in His eyes but nothing happens in the interior of the person. Perhaps this is a view you agree with.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Read the CCC beginning with point 1213. You'll see that it does cause a change but not the change you think it does.

          • James Matthew

            You say "it does cause a change" but you seem to avoid saying "it does cause an interior change".

            This gives the impression that your definition of "freed from sin" is more akin to the doctrine of imputation advanced by some protestant groups (thanks to the works of Jesus the believer is saved by Him erasing the negative balance on their accounts), rather than the Catholic doctrine of infusion: unshackled from the urge to sin by means of the Holy Spirit making an interior change on the individual restoring them to the original human nature intended at the creation (allowing them to live for Him and do His will on earth by good works - thereby cooperating to move further down the path towards salvation).

            If you did mean to say "interior change" please lay out what you hold this includes.

            If you don't think it does cause an interior change you should know that Catholicism condemns imputation as a heresy.

            Council of Trent
            Canon 11.
            If anyone says that men are justified either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains in them, or also that the grace by which we are justified is only the good will of God, let him be anathema.

            Again my question is not whether Baptism gives perfect knowledge - I recognize that it is not held to.

            Nor is my question whether Baptism prevents future sin - I recognize that it is not held to.

            My question is does Baptism at the point the ritual is immediately performed have any effect?

            As one can observe "Liberal" converts to Catholicism whom "Traditional Catholics" and "Conservative Catholics" would hold are in a state of unrepentant sin, maintain the exact same lack of obedience to the Church (and often prideful defiance of the Church) even right after receiving the rite - the efficacious of the rite is thrown into drastic suspicion. Despite all the claims it doesn't seem to do anything.

            An additional issue is that not having the correct intent is held to invalidate the other sacraments.

            For example refusing to admit all your sins in Confession when you should have the intent to restore your supernatural life with Jesus makes it an invalid sacrament and you are still in your sins. Secretly not intending to have children when you are getting married annuls the sacrament as invalid and you are not actually married. Only taking Holy Orders so you can infiltrate the Catholic Church in Soviet Russia, invalidated any claims of priesthood the KGB agents doing so might have and they were not actually priests.

            The difficulty I am presenting would be ended if the sacrament of baptism worked in the same way, these people who refused to submit to the will of "Christ in his one true Church" would be said to have invalidated their baptism due to bad intent - but for some reason the Church doesn't apply such considerations to baptism.

            Thus making people who despise all the Catholic Church teaches and are baptized into what are held to be the heretical sects of Protestantism (which often declare the pope as the anti-Christ) are equal in their baptism as someone receiving it from Peter himself.

            How can this be when they have no intent to obey "Christ in his one true Church" and actually intend to work to try and bring about its downfall?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I notice that your core idea

            the Catholic doctrine of infusion: unshackled from the urge to sin by means of the Holy Spirit making an interior change on the individual restoring them to the original human nature intended at the creation (allowing them to live for Him and do His will on earth by good works - thereby cooperating to move further down the path towards salvation).

            has not quotation marks or a source.

            I don't know of anyone alive today who does not have the urge to sin, since that is what concupiscence is, and Baptism certainly does remove concupiscence.

            If you have further questions about the effects of baptism and the Catechism does not answer them, you should consult a good sacramental theologian.

          • James Matthew

            You seem to have no problem with the charge that you believe in the protestant doctrine of imputation, and ignore my quotation of the Council of Trent.

            Here is a quote from The Catholic Encyclopedia on their page about baptism:
            http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Baptism

            Another effect of baptism is the infusion of sanctifying grace and supernatural gifts and virtues. It is this sanctifying grace which renders men the adopted sons of God and confers the right to heavenly glory. The doctrine on this subject is found in the seventh chapter on justification in the sixth session of the Council of Trent. Many of the Fathers of the Church also enlarge upon this subject (as St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, and others), though not in the technical language of later ecclesiastical decrees.

            The Catholic Encyclopedia is not some crowd sourced object but was compiled by Catholic scholars and
            received the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur of Archbishop Farley in 1907; thereby it is part of the Ordinary Magisterium and proclaims the truth according to the Catholic Church.
            http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Original_Copyright_%26_Imprimatur

            You do not seem to care if the Church teaches infusion of grace and condemns imputation as a belief that places you in anathema ("a thing hated, or execrable, devoted to public abhorrence or destruction").

            I am curious, do you hold that your conscience is the final judge on the truthfulness of this doctrine?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Troll somebody else.

          • James Matthew

            A video by Father Barron talking about the Holy Spirit and Baptism:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ1pLyLdnhM

            You disregard all my quotations of Church sources, will you also dismiss the author of the page you are commenting on?

          • James Matthew
  • Peter

    Correct me if I'm wrong but I get the impression that the author is conflating having a heart of gold with moral uprightness such as tolerance, inclusiveness and justice. One can be a scoundrel with little moral uprightness and still have a heart of gold.

    I would agree that Christianity is not necessarily about moral uprightness, but I would think that a heart of gold is essential for salvation for both Christians and non-Christians alike.

  • I would also say, as an atheist that i believe that Christians are not necessarily immoral either.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Christians are, or are supposed to be, sinners trying to do good.

      • Doug Shaver

        I tried to do good when I was a Christian. I didn't stop trying when I quit being a Christian. I don't know if I did any better afterward, but I certainly didn't do any worse.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Did your criteria of what is good and evil change when you quit?

          • Doug Shaver

            Not really. I had moved away from fundamentalism some years earlier. When that happened, my ethics became more or less humanist. I still believed that something was right or wrong because of the divine will, but I thought humanist principles were the only ones we had work with in trying to figure out what the divine will was.

  • meredithk

    As Father Stephen Freeman at Glory To God for All Things has so eloquently reminded us in recent weeks, morality has very little to do with being Christian. Not an easy lesson to absorb!

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Very little?

      • meredithk
        • Loreen Lee

          Thank you for this. "What is moral" is I believe the most difficult of all questions to answer. There are many theories through history from Aristotelian Virtue Ethics, to Deontological ethics to the more external criteria within utilitarianism.

          But in considering that Jesus is The Word, or reason, I offer this atheist opinion within current appraisals, (with no condemnation, hopefully) of distinctions regarding Islam and Christianity. I regret however, that I have not been able to find or present some considerations I made with respect to will and reason with respect to another post. There is for sure, both an upward movement from beauty and truth to Goodness, and of course the downward movement as presented in the Creed.

          But as this blog is a dialogue between 'a-theists and Catholics), I thought it would be interesting to share a positive perspective from an unbeliever regarding what I hope will be interpreted as a recognition of the value of reason, as exemplified by 'the living truth' we associate with Jesus, and also that an overall perspective as what is offered in religion, ideologies, etc. can indeed be considered of paramount importance.

          http://thefederalist.com/2015/01/27/why-islam-is-more-violent-than-christianity-an-atheists-guide/

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Please explain. I thought Paul said, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12). There is God's grace and our grace-assisted response. We do not do nothing.

    • David Nickol

      One wonders why the Church claims to speak infallibly on faith and morals if "morality has very little to do with being Christian."

      I think Fr. Barron is inadvertently leading some people astray. I think I understand what he is trying to say. The Church does, after all, believe that morality is a matter of natural law. Even the Romans, according to St. Paul, should have been able to know right from wrong. Christianity—basically, the Incarnation—was not necessary to teach people morality. But it is just crazy to imply that morality is somehow unimportant or peripheral to Christianity.

  • cminca

    "One can find “ethics” in the writings of Paul, but one would be hard pressed indeed to say that the principal theme of Romans, Galatians, Philippians, or first and second Corinthians is the laying out of a moral vision. The central motif of all of those letters is in fact Jesus Christ risen from the dead. "

    Interesting Fr. Barron--especially since the Catholic Church uses Paul's alleged condemnation of homosexuality as the basis for its position on the alleged immorality of homosexuality.

    And here you are saying that the moral vision ISN'T the point of those letters at all. Glad you have that cleared up. Can you now inform the Vatican and the USCCB?

    • David Nickol

      I think in fairness to Fr. Barron, clearly Paul's principal theme is not a moral vision, but the Resurrection of Jesus. If you check a good commentary, you will find that when Paul gives laundry lists of sins, he isn't breaking any new ground at all. He's just listing what anyone else might have listed.

      Paul doesn't so much condemn homosexuality as assume it is wrong. The wrongness of homosexuality is not Paul's message in Romans. In fact, it's described more as the punishment for the sinfulness of the Romans than the sin itself. ("Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.") The heading in the NAB for the section that follows is Punishment for Idolaters, not The Evil of Homosexuality.

      While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

      It is interesting that nobody ever cites Romans to condemn gossip or rebelliousness toward parents!

      • Kevin Aldrich

        That is because nobody is claiming that gossip or rebellion is an essential part of their identity!

        • David Nickol

          That is because nobody is claiming that gossip or rebellion is an essential part of their identity!

          It would seem to me that to whatever a part of a heterosexual person's identity a heterosexual orientation is, to that same extent a homosexual orientation is a part of a homosexual person's identity. The Church will now not ordain men with a homosexual orientation, and I understand the reason to be that such men are not "husband-like" and "father-like." So it seems to me even the Church acknowledges that there is something very fundamental about sexual orientation.

          In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question[9], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture"[10].

          Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

          The Church sees "homosexual persons" as having something profoundly wrong with them. Gay people see themselves as being in some way significantly different from straight people. In some sense of the words, I think both agree that homosexuality is an "essential part of . . . identity." Why this should be difficult to understand for anybody is a mystery to me.

          You seem to approach the issue as a culture warrior, not as someone who is particularly concerned with how real people deal with the sexual orientation they are more or less stuck with.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > You seem to approach the issue as a culture warrior, not as someone who is particularly concerned with how real people deal with the sexual orientation they are more or less
            stuck with.

            That is an unwarranted personal judgment.

            I think identity refers to things like human being and man or woman.

            What do you make of this:

            In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice hooking up, present deep-seated promiscuous tendencies, or support the so-called "hooking up culture".

            Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated promiscous tendencies.

          • David Nickol

            One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated promiscous tendencies.

            There is no equivalence between homosexual tendencies and "promiscuous" tendencies. Homosexual tendencies involve no more of a risk that an ordained homosexual would break his vow of celibacy (or chastity) than heterosexual tendencies would be a risk for an ordained heterosexual. The Dicastery is declaring that a homosexual orientation in and of itself disqualifies a man for being ordained because he is not a "real" man. That is, he has not attained "affective maturity," and he is not a "father type" or a "husband type."

            Although I doubt the Vatican would ever use such language nowadays, their view is that homosexual men and women are emotionally crippled or stunted, because men are supposed to be "heterosexual father and husband types," and women are supposed to be "heterosexual mother and wife types."

            That is an unwarranted personal judgment.

            I will modify my initial comment by saying that your response was a culture-war response. Despite the complete laundry list of sins Paul mentions, you found it necessary to say, in effect, "We really do need Romans as a bat with which to beat gay people." (Metaphorically, of course.) One might reflect on gossip for a moment. Our whole culture has become one in which there is no privacy, and the press will dig up any dirt it can use on public persons no matter how old or irrelevant. Our governments are monitoring our phone conversations and e-mails. We have the new problem of "revenge porn." I do not think it is much of a stretch to categorize our "discover all, expose all" culture as one of gossip gone insane.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            How do you know that your definition of "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" means simple SS attraction?

            I take it to mean a tendency which has become deep-seated because it has been acted up repeatedly.

            A man may be attracted to lots of women, but if he never acts upon it, there is no reason to assume he will act upon it in the future. If a man has SSA and has often acted upon it, it would be very hard for him to stop acting upon it in a seminary or as a priest.

            We don't need Romans as a bat to beat up anyone. You brought the subject up.

          • David Nickol

            You brought the subject up.

            No, I was responding to cminca, who said:

            Interesting Fr. Barron--especially since the Catholic Church uses Paul's alleged condemnation of homosexuality as the basis for its position on the alleged immorality of homosexuality.

            And here you are saying that the moral vision ISN'T the point of those letters at all. Glad you have that cleared up. Can you now inform the Vatican and the USCCB?

            I was defending Fr. Barron (something I am rarely inclined to do). Fr. Barron did not say a moral vision isn't the point of Paul's letters at all. That would be absurd. Fr. Barron said:

            The central motif of all of those letters is in fact Jesus Christ risen from the dead. For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is the sign that the world as we know it—a world marked by death and the fear of death—is evanescing and that a new order of things is emerging./

            That is quite different from saying a moral vision isn't the point of Paul's letters at all! Having a central motif of "Jesus Christ risen from the dead" still leaves Paul with plenty of opportunity to present a moral vision.

            And as I pointed out, Paul's intention in Romans is not to condemn homosexuality. That homosexuality is to be condemned is his presupposition. And as I pointed out, the section I quoted from Romans is titled (in the NAB) Punishment for Idolaters. It is crystal clear that Paul abhors homosexual relations. However, that is not the point he is making.

          • David Nickol

            How do you know that your definition of "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" means simple SS attraction?

            I am not sure why the document is so vague, and I am sure it is being interpreted differently by different bishops and others who have control over the ordination of seminarians. It seems to me if "deep-seated heterosexual tendencies" were a bar to ordination, St. Augustine would never have become a bishop.

            It is my own personal view of sexual orientation that if it is not "deep-seated," there is probably something wrong. For the vast majority of people, I would suppose, their orientation is either homosexual and heterosexual, and the number of times they have acted on it has nothing to do with how "deep-seated" it is. I think sexual orientation, like gender identity, is strongly rooted in personality.

            If a man has SSA and has often acted upon it, it would be very hard for him to stop acting upon it in a seminary or as a priest.

            Don't you believe in free will?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I believe in free will but I also believe in virtues and vices. Deep-seated to me means deeply ingrained as a habit. If it is a good habit, it is a virtue. A deeply ingrained bad habit is a vice. Vices are hard to overcome.

          • Doug Shaver

            I take it to mean a tendency which has become deep-seated because it has been acted up repeatedly.

            I've had a few homosexual friends over the years. From what they've told me, your take is in error. Their tendency to be with their own sex is deep-seated because they were born that way.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Born that way? Babies are born with the tendency to be with their mothers.

          • Doug Shaver

            We are born with lots of traits that are not expressed immediately upon birth. My sister can't grow a beard because her genes won't allow it. My genes do allow it, but I wasn't born with a beard.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            But no one has ever found a SSA gene or any other physiological condition that would determine SSA.

          • Doug Shaver

            But no one has ever found a SSA gene or any other physiological condition that would determine SSA.

            So what? There must be hundreds of genetically determined traits for which the gene has not been found. Genetic science has not gotten to the stage yet where it can identify every gene for every trait.

            Furthermore, for a great many traits, there is no single gene that produces it, and sexual attraction could well be one of them.

            Consider our thumbs, for instance. Nobody denies that they're the result of our genes. But there is no thumb gene. There is not even a finger gene. Each of our five digits is made by a whole bunch of genes working together.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The "so what" is that atheists demand evidence for theistic claims (not that thinking SSA is disordered is necessarily a religious claim) but in this instance you appear to think it is enough to assert that people with SSA are born that way with the promise that evidence someday might be found.

          • Luke

            And you're suggesting otherwise, that being gay is a choice? If so, when did you choose to become heterosexual?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Luke, I was objecting to Doug's claim that persons with SSA are born that way.

            I'm not suggesting that anyone's initial attraction to anything is a choice.

            However, I think that implicit in both your arguments is that if someone does not choose something but just discovers a desire for it or finds a pleasure in it that it must be natural and therefore good.

            The choice is in what you do with that desire. Do you have any desires you have not chosen to have that you don't think you should act on?

          • Luke

            I was objecting to Doug's claim that persons with SSA are born that way.

            I know, and I challenged you on it. If SSA is not a choice, then it is innate, correct?

            I'm not suggesting that anyone's initial attraction to anything is a choice.

            So SSA is not a choice, but inborn? I thought that this is what you're trying to argue against? What do you mean by "initial"? Do you think that everyone is born innately with opposite sex attraction (OSA), but that something goes "wrong" with those who experience SSA?

            I think that implicit in both your arguments is that if someone does not choose something but just discovers a desire for it or finds a pleasure in it that it must be natural and therefore good.

            Definitely not implicit in our arguments. For example, I don't think that acting on sexual attraction with anyone who is unable to consent is "good" and I don't know how "natural" some sexual fetishes are. If two consenting adults find pleasure in something that in no way negatively affects themselves or anyone else, why shouldn't it be considered "good"? As far as SSA being "natural," I'd need a clearer definition. Some have theorized that SSA in men can be "natural" (as in naturally selected for; see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691850/pdf/15539346.pdf ).

            The choice is in what you do with that desire. Do you have any desires you have not chosen to have that you don't think you should act on?

            If a person with SSA chooses to act on his/her sexual "desire" with another consenting adult and no harm is done, what's the problem? Of course I've had desires I've chosen not to act on! I'm human. We often have knee-jerk reactions that we inhibit in favor of more constructive ones.

          • Michael Murray

            Of course I've had desires I've chosen not to act on! I'm human. We often have knee-jerk reactions that we inhibit in favor of more constructive ones.

            The Catholic Church will argue though that homosexuals should never act on their desires. That is a little more dramatic of course than choosing not to act on some of your desires as we all do. Mind you priests are celibate and what harm has that done?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Priests who have lived the virtue of chastity have never done anyone any harm in that regard. Priests and other persons who have not lived the virtue of chastity have done plenty of people plenty of harm.

          • Luke

            Okay--I'll bite: Why should I believe that chastity is a virtue?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Chastity is the habit of moderating--that is, saying yes or no--to acts that promise sexual pleasure. If you have chastity you have a certain self-mastery--you rule your sex drive instead of your sex drive leading you. That is why it is a virtue, a good operative habit.

            You don't have to believe it, either. It is not a matter of faith but of reason. Just ask Aristotle.

          • Luke

            Chastity, as I understand it commonly used, is usually synonymous with celibacy and abstinence, not the moderation of sexual activity. I agree with you as you have defined the term as moderation, but I disagree that you're using the term as most do (but I wasn't raised Catholic, so maybe it has a different assumed meaning among Catholics).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Every Christian is called to chastity through baptism. Marriage persons live marital chastity whereas unmarried ones live celibacy. I think it was Tertullian who said, "Christians share their board but not their beds."

          • Luke

            unmarried ones live celibacy.

            Ha! 95% of adults in the US have premarital sex: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1802108/ It's fun to pretend, though :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That means 95% have failed at some point to live the virtue of chastity.

            They say everyone lies, too. Does that mean it is fun to pretend that honesty is a virtue?

          • Luke

            No, it means that almost no one takes your the premarital part of the "virtue of chastity" seriously. Why? Because, compared to honesty, the potential negative effects of dishonesty are far greater than the potential negative effects of consensual, protected, premarital sex.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This could be a whole other debate, but just because 95% of Americans have had premarital sex before they are 40 years old (if the poll is valid) does not mean that no one takes chastity seriously. The vast majority of married people does not want their spouse committing adultery. Many parents do not want their children fornicating. Nobody wants pedophiles acting out.

          • Luke

            The vast majority of married people does not want their spouse committing adultery.

            It's a problem, I agree. The problem is that we have yet to progress past this silly Victorian-era morality about sex. We're taught to think it's bad, but 95% end up doing having premarital sex, anyway, which leads to unnecessary guilt. Religion is in the business of guilt, so I shouldn't be surprised.

            Nobody wants pedophiles acting out.

            Are you purposefully conflating issues?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Unnecessary guilt? I don't see much of that. But if premarital sex is wrong, then guilt is a good thing.

            Do you think pedophiles are not motivated by lust?

          • Luke

            Unnecessary guilt? I don't see much of that.

            You never feel guilt for not living up to an impossible standard? You never feel guilty for not going to confession often enough or mass often enough?

            But if premarital sex is wrong, then guilt is a good thing.

            The key word being: IF

            Do you think pedophiles are not motivated by lust?

            I have only ever been talking about premarital sex between consenting adults. Please stop attempting to derail the conversation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sorry. I've been talking about the virtue of chastity as a whole, which precludes any kind of lust (properly understood).

            I don't think chastity is an impossible standard. It is hard for some, especially if they have already gone down the other road. A lot of young men and adult men have gotten themselves addicted to pornography, so yeah, it is pretty hard for them. But no one ever died from not having sex.

            I think just about everyone thinks some sexual desires should not be acted out on. It is a question of where to draw the line. Right?

          • Luke

            No worries. We're definitely using the term chastity in different ways, which may be why we're having trouble communicating (I was raised protestant, so maybe the Catholic definition implies more than I'm aware).

            I think just about everyone thinks some sexual desires should not be acted out on. It is a question of where to draw the line. Right?

            I think we can both agree there. Thanks :)

          • Michael Murray

            It's worth remembering exactly what we are talking about with Catholic sexual morality. It's not just no pre-marital sex. It is no sexual activity of any kind that cannot potentially lead to contraception. That limits severely the activity of the happily married Catholic couple.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Moderation is not the same thing as celibacy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is like saying moderation in eating is not the same thing as dieting (or feasting). Celibacy is how unmarried people are called to live chastity.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In the Aristotelian conception of virtue, virtue is the mean between two extremes. Never having sex and being completely obsessed with sex would both lack virtue in the Aristotelian sense. I don't think Aristotle would agree with the Catholic conception of Chastity as a virtue. That is what I was trying to get at.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What I'm trying to get at is that moderation means saying yes and no.

            The opposite of being completely obsessed with sex is not never having sex: it is being completely uninterested in sex.

            The virtue of chastity is having sex when it is proper to and not having it when it is not proper.

            I don't know enough of Aristotle to know where he would draw the line. I know he condemned adultery. I doubt he would want his children having sex before they were married.

          • Doug Shaver

            However, I think that implicit in both your arguments is that if someone does not choose something but just discovers a desire for it or finds a pleasure in it that it must be natural and therefore good.

            I would never try to defend the claim that everything natural is good. For just one counterexample, I think most of us are naturally at least a little bit racist. I think getting over it is what requires careful teaching, South Pacific notwithstanding.

            But we do often hear the claim that homosexuality is wrong because it is unnatural. If it is, as a matter of fact, not unnatural, then that argument, even if it is valid, is rendered irrelevant, but if it's irrelevant, then we needn't argue over its validity.

          • Michael Murray

            Isn't the Catholic claim though that homosexuality is disordered with respect to "natural law". As I understand it natural law isn't nature.

          • Doug Shaver

            Properly educated Catholics may get the difference between nature and natural law. I don't think everybody who says homosexuality is wrong because it's unnatural understands the difference or has even heard about it.

          • Doug Shaver

            I did not just assert it. I said we have testimony. Specifically, some people say they were never attracted to anyone of the opposite sex. From the time they first had any sexual feelings of any kind, they have had those feelings only for people of their own sex.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. I respect that and have no reason to think they are not telling the truth about their desires from the beginning.

            I'm still objecting to the claim that they were born that way and the implications of being born any certain way.

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm still objecting to the claim that they were born that way and the implications of being born any certain way.

            OK, so what is your problem with it? The scientific evidence that we are born with certain skills and inclinations is becoming more abundant all the time. Consider language, for just one example, There is now a consensus among authorities in the relevant disciplines that the only reason we're able to acquire and use a language is some genetic mutation, or set of mutations, that occurred among our ancestors, and nobody suspects that this is falsified by the fact that no newborn baby is able to speak any language.

          • David Nickol

            I'm still objecting to the claim that they were born that way and the implications of being born any certain way.

            As I understand your position, it makes no difference whether a homosexual orientation is genetically determined or not. That's an issue for science to resolve, not religion. So I am not quite sure why you seem to balk at the suggestion that homosexuality may be genetically determined. It may be, or it may not be. Nobody knows at the moment. But since it makes no difference to your position either way, why argue about it?

            Once again, it is a culture war question, which is why politicians are asked about it. Most culture warriors argue that gay people are not "born that way" because they deny the fact that a homosexual orientation is not a choice. Or, apparently, they believe there is no such thing as a homosexual orientation, and that gays and lesbians choose to have same-sex relations because they are wicked. But that is not the Catholic position as stated in the Catechism (2357-2359).

            Even if homosexuality is genetically influenced or even genetically determined, it does not make a great deal of sense to say someone is born gay. Height is no doubt genetically influenced, but nobody is born tall. But the point is that sexual orientation, whether or not it is genetically determined or genetically influenced, is not a matter of choice for either heterosexuals or homosexuals.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      When Paul was under arrest the governor Felix wanted to hear what he had to say about Christianity. So Paul spoke of "justice and chastity and the judgment to come," which freaked out Felix (Acts 24:25).

  • heidi keene

    I have to say I am surprised at the straw man attacks on Barron's post here. He is not saying morality per se is unimportant (ridiculous) - he is saying that the "central motif" of Christianity is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And in saying that he is quite accurate.
    For example, one can be a rascal throughout their entire life and still have a miraculous death bed conversion (Fulton Sheen tells such a story from first hand experience)- and still go to heaven. This is not the 'norm' to be sure- the Church teaches us through doctrine and dogma how to practice Christianity so that we may be certain of attaining salvation.
    However, following the moral law isn't enough. Leading a moral life is not a necessary condition for salvation (the thief on the cross) nor is it a sufficient condition ("there will be those who say to me Lord, Lord..Mt7:23 ff).
    Leading a moral life clears the natural way so that Grace can work in the soul (grace works through nature). The virtues are simply good 'habits' that make doing the right thing in any given situation easy and pleasurable. The vices do the opposite.
    However, nothing is impossible with God and Jesus came to inform us of the "one thing that matters"- faith in Him.
    St. Paul makes this abundantly clear and Barron is simply restating Paul's message.

    • Loreen Lee

      Thank you for confirming that grace comes through nature. This distinction is usually not clearly made. Is revelation considered an aspect of grace?

      • heidi keene

        No, grace is the gradual divinization of the human nature. Revelation is the supernatural knowledge of God and His plan that could not be found strictly through human reason, so God in His Mercy 'revealed' this necessary truth to His rational creatures. We start with reason and then revelation gives up a 'supernatural' boost of knowledge (faith). Dead faith is when a person believes through their own human power- without grace. A person in mortal sin has 'dead faith'. Supernatural love of God- charity- is not possible through human power alone because it requires supernatural knowledge.

        • Loreen Lee

          I believe there is some contradiction in this reply. But I do not wish to 'argue' the case. I for one, feel I could never assume that my knowledge of God was actually a supernatural knowledge based on faith. But thank you so much for your reply and concern.

        • Loreen Lee

          Quote: Revelation is the supernatural knowledge of God and His plan that could
          not be found strictly through human reason, so God in His Mercy
          'revealed' this necessary truth to His rational creatures. We start with
          reason and then revelation gives up a 'supernatural' boost of knowledge
          (faith).

          I might be able to relate to this presentation of concepts. I still don't understand for instance how you conceive of faith being related to 'grace' and/or 'knowledge'.

          Are you saying that our human capacity for love, perhaps for mankind as well as God, is limited? As in Corinthians: We see through a glass darkly. Is this capacity even limited within the context of 'the golden rule' - love your neighbour as yourself for the love of God?.

          • heidi keene

            Yes, our human nature is limited and so we do not have the power to act Divine (action follows being). Therefore, to love as God loves, we must be given a supernatural boost to our nature. This is what grace is. Grace in heaven will be 'tranformed' into glory. That is why our bodies will be glorified (made like God) so we will be able to see God (beatific vision) .
            It works like this (and there have been thousands of volumes of works written on this so please understand the extreme limitations of a short post): we make an act of the will toward God (the ability to do even that comes from a type of grace called prevenient grace). When we make that act of the will, God showers us with actual grace (faith/hope/love) and the Holy Spirit enters into us and begins to act , think, and love through our actual body/spiritual soul. So when I wake up and love God, it is actually the Third Person of the Trinity loving God through me. If I see someone hurting and offer a prayer for them out of compassion, it is the HOly Spirit acting- not me. My act is that of 'cooperation'. It can be understood better by thinking of the act of dancing. The man leads and the woman follows the lead. She let's go and the lead actually makes her dance well. So the two form a perfect harmony of movement and grace. Humanity is the 'woman' (St. Paul mentions this) and God (through Grace) is the 'man' in the dance. Am I able to dance without my partner leading me? Not at all.

            The Golden rule makes this especially apparent. It is human to not love someone as ourselves. It is human to be hurt and remember the hurt and be angry. It is human not to let go of hurt because of the danger of being hurt again if our defenses (via memory) aren't there to protect us. The Golden rule can only be practiced by God acting through us. In loving God as He loves Himself (the Trinity), we can love all creation because it is a reflection of His truth, beauty, goodness, and oneness. The grace of God enables us to begin to love God as He is (because it is actually God loving Himself through our wills). With grace we are given 'supernatural eyes' to see God's trancendentals in everything- this makes us able to see all as 'good'. When we see that everything is 'good' then we can desire and love everything in as much as we can see God in it.
            These statements referring to the good are ontologically speaking - not morally speaking.

  • thursday

    I don't think Father Barron said that a moral life doesn't have anything to do with being a Christian nor did he imply that sin doesn't matter. I think what he did say is that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the key to the kingdom of God. It is meant to change us. Everything we feel, think, desire and hope for is transformed. This transformation can only come through Jesus, through grace. Our focus then is not on this world which is passing away but on the kingdom of God which dwells in us now but can never be realized in this fallen word because it is not of this world. I do not know what unbelievers, even those who do good out of compassion and love will choose when confronted with a will and love more perfect than their own but I do think they will have a choice, and if history repeats, I think some will choose to prefer their own will and concepts of love to Gods. It seems to me that all good done without God is just a shadow of what is perfectly good.

    • Loreen Lee

      How does one 'know' the will of God?

      • thursday

        I don't think we always do. We pray, we read his word, we consult what has been revealed to others who seek Him. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we use our reason and I think we get a pretty good idea. The important thing is that we say yes, like Mary did. We give ourselves over to God even though we may not have all the answers or see Gods will completely. We trust in and we ponder the ways of God and he leads us to understanding.

        • Loreen Lee

          Thank you so much for giving me some insight into your understanding of what I consider to be a question most difficult to answer. I believe that you may be referring to the example of Jesus (on the Cross) as well as Mary. 'Thy Will be done"."On earth as it is in heaven". Thank you.

      • Doug Shaver

        How does one 'know' the will of God?

        By deciding whom one will believe. Lots of people will tell you they know it. When you've decided which of those people you will trust, then you know it, too.

        • Loreen Lee

          I don't expect you to believe me. :)

  • Loreen Lee

    'Having a heart of gold' would seem to be more related to a morality based on sentimentality, such as that found in Hume, rather than to a love which is based on a reasoned relationship to the will, as I believe understood both within Catholic teaching, as well as in Kant's Deontological ethics.

  • Loreen Lee

    A comment written for the SN website, within the language context of modern philosophy, and perhaps atheism/nihilism, or even as a 'test of faith'.

    .o

    May I offer a suggestion of a possible basis why Father Baron is
    saying that the Second Coming is more essential to Christianity than
    morality. We have all heard of Augustine's City 0f God, and the Jewish
    New Jerusalem. We also have Immanuel Kant's Kingdom of Ends which
    within many contexts speaks of relationships between individuals based
    on treating each as an end rather than a means.
    If there is one
    thing, I am beginning to realize is how much Catholics cling to the
    Aristotelian Principle of Non Contradiction. Although I realize that
    this is probably true within the scientific community as well, my
    understanding is that this principle is being tested at the level of
    Quanta, at least in one? interpretation.. True?
    As an example of
    paradox, Kierkegaard, in his Fear and Trembling shows the contradictory
    nature of the faith relationship within the Father of Faith. His
    analysis, or you may prefer to call it a narrative, ends up with his
    placement of Faith as the highest study, instead of Philosophy as in
    Hegel, and Morality as in Kant, although in Kant this is actually only
    expressed as grounded on the principles of reason, as is similar to the
    Catholic Natural Law.. However, Kierkegaard calls his 'heroes' Knight
    of Faith, because they live with the acceptance of paradox. (I have
    found this thought within Buddhist philosophy/psychology as well).
    Please
    understand that I continually attempt to make correlations between the
    different conceptual schemes. This might strike you as being a rather
    simple task, but I assure you it can be quite confusing, at least to me,
    to line up all the categories, following the 3 C's.
    For instance in
    the case of Kierkegaard, where the movement of morality proceeds from an
    aesthetic life, (lots of pleasure and sex there, may be allowed, - wish
    I could give some encouragement from the experience of what any woman
    has been through in menopause understands, can be a basis from which to
    recognize as plight of hormones as with the problem of testosterone to
    Edward Calin). through the dutiful stage of raising a family, and things
    like that, his examples, to the possibility that some reach the
    paradoxical state of religion/faith- call it what you will.
    What I am
    suggesting here, is some sort of acceptance of the possible reality of a
    state of mind, in which moral judgment is often made. Not really
    knowing what to do, might be a good way to describe it. (Father Abraham
    speaking to himself, or God, or however you geneticists are going to
    interpret this one. Anyway there is some problem that is bigger than
    the 'self's' ability to 'solve' it. . It's like not being able to prove
    God's existence or non-existence, but one is very happy when the
    conflict is ended, and the son is not sacrificed on the altar). Hope
    you don't mind me using a kind of parable here!!! But if we think of
    this within the precedents of law and order, and change of governance,
    and within different legalities such as Christianity and Islam as in
    another article I posted, I believe you will understand why law and
    morality are still very much related.
    So until we are at the point
    where we can 'see each other face to face' (I simply assume that a lot
    of you are ex-Catholics out there), we generally fall back on a
    pragmatic judgment, considering our self interest, utilitarian
    consequences, rather than the 'golden rule' or what not. We go to war.
    We kill babies. Although the Pope is more lenient with respect to the
    former.
    Perhaps, it has just occurred to me, this could be
    interpreted as a will-full interpretation of Nietzche's beyond good and
    evil, which if you read the atheist artificial of Isis, describes Islam
    as not recognizing cause and effect, (just the associations of mind
    within Hume's philosophy) as an ordered rational system. Has science,
    may I ask found a general principle in relation to cause and effect? I
    have read enough writing of Neitzsche however, that counter a
    description of him as a Voluntarist, in the idea often 'unfairly'
    attributed to him, and which perhaps, within that article I posted,
    Isis too could be categorized. You understand that these are all moral
    references, although I hope you do not consider that I am making a
    judgment. After all I have no 'power'.
    That's what happens at the
    End Times. The final judgment, which many people in Catholicism and
    even in a secular context, treat as the 'idea' of a final justice, for
    the victim within the court of law (in Canada anyway) to a satisfied
    punishment of those toward which one can not find forgiveness. There is
    of course doctrinal difference in that Greek Orthodoxy 'believes' that
    all will be saved. An explanation of this, is beyond the limits of
    space in a comment box..
    So with respect even to Kant, the 'as if'
    can be expressed as a Faith relationship to the possibility of choice,
    even within the rational contexts of universality and necessity.
    If
    you accept the system of Spinoza, his ideas of morality are indeed
    grounded on the concept of a logical necessity, and they are most
    convincing. Like the Buddhist karma, a continuity of consciousness.
    Christianity,
    may I suggest, could perhaps be interpreted as a Realist inclusion of
    the concept of God, within the Golden rule based on the relation between
    individuals:, a kind of 'necessity' rather than an 'as if' within the
    context of a Kantian morality, (his moral proof until I believe he
    decided that the Categorical Imperative itself was perhaps all that was
    necessary. The German -was he an Emperor, had to clamp down on Kant in
    his doddering years, for becoming quite pragmatic about the acceptance
    of some of his ideas which resembled Plato's rule of the state by the
    philosopher kings., just a side story).
    The thing about Christianity
    is that that there is always 'the possibility of receiving grace, etc.
    etc.) which could be translated as an explanation for how we become
    closer to 'God' (I promised I wouldn't use that word), or how we develop
    in our capacities of a Buddhist awareness, - or perhaps altruism, over
    self interest. (I don't know your ethic or personal morality, perhaps
    you have worked out an individual interpretation or a morality of
    empathy, or commitment, or consequence of utility).
    But hopefully, I
    have explained, although not very precisely, how the Parousia could be
    considered as primary to 'morality' even on the possibility that if we
    look around us we will not see many signs of such a 'phenomena'!!!
    waiting to become a 'thing in itself' perhaps or a Real Good Will, call
    it what you like. See Corinthians, for instance, as you possible know,
    for a Christian interpretation.. But I don't think the final logical
    or lawful definition of good and evil has been found within either the
    nihilism of the present age or as expressed either by church or state. :

    The only way I feel I feel any 'justification - by faith?' that you may
    consider it acceptable to conclude with this thought, is because I
    cannot be as precise as I would wish to be - and rather than being
    thought a nihilist, i is to adapt what I have faith you will hopefully
    regard as satirical humor: Thus may I conclude: I am a 'Realist'
    enough to accept this this proposal will not be accepted as an Idealist
    Metaphysic,and that I am sure to be condemned for possibly suggesting
    that there is 'no morality' but I I leave to you the paradox of
    language that either way it is possible to call me a liar within this
    context of subjectivity but with the hope if not the expectation that
    you will find a better expression of love than what governs the 'moral
    order' within this world, .
    Hallelujah!

  • Wesley Brock

    So you move away from the moralistic argument for your religion. Fine but an issue still abounds.

    You have no proof for the existence of your god or the divinity of Jesus. This whole

    "But only Christians witness to an earthquake that has shaken the foundations of the world and turned every expectation upside down."

    Is a statement you fail to quantify. Demonstrate this please. Is there some way we can infer this is not directly observe it? That's what the claims of moral superiority have always been about for Christians. To infer their religion is true. That it makes a change in a person. In fact the word "metanoiete" means to be changed after being with. Thus you should be changed by being with Jesus yes? So what can we observe to back this up?

  • FreemenRtrue

    after perusing many comments I am grateful to be a person of simple faith. Faith, it seems to me must be simple, it cannot be rational basically since reason can only point us toward accepting the gift of faith.