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Would America Be Better Off without Religion?

“Too much religion is bad for a country,” asserts Max Boot in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Boot cites a number of indicators—average GDP per capita, unemployment rates, poverty rates, homicide rates, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, and degree of political liberties—that suggest that “less religious nations are much better off.” Indeed, Australia, Sweden, Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Japan, some of the least religious nations in the world, rank best in the aforementioned categories, while many of the most religious nations in the world (the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, Thailand, India, Nigeria) are among the worst. America represents a unique case in this regard, being both wealthy and developed, but more religious than her Western counterparts. Would she be better off if her religious practice were to decline to levels found elsewhere in the developed world?

An Incomplete Narrative regarding Developed Countries

At first glance, given the stats cited above, one might be inclined to think that religion represents yet one more archaic element of society worthy of being cast off into the dustbin of history. Generally speaking, the most developed, successful, and prosperous nations on earth are the least religious. Moreover, in many areas—such as life expectancy, the rate of children living in single-parent households, and the rate of homicides by firearms—the United States, whose church attendance rates are similar to what they were in 1940, is doing worse than other developed nations that are less religious.

Yet such comparisons need to account for other factors as well. For example, almost every developed country cited as an exemplar for America to follow is suffering from catastrophically low birth rates that endanger each country’s economic viability and socio-cultural stability. And low birth rates are attributed to lifestyle choices associated with economic affluence, accessibility to contraception, and a lack of religious observance (practicing religious families tend to have more children). Those who argue that immigration can solve the economic problem find that it can further aggravate the socio-cultural stability problem, and that once immigrants settle, their birth rates soon decline to that of their host country. This in turn can become a serious political and security issue, as rising violence and radicalism in the United KingdomFrance, and Sweden demonstrate. Having high life expectancy and low unemployment and poverty doesn’t do a nation much good if it’s on the way to a population collapse.

Besides a demographic crisis, developed countries are experiencing unprecedented levels of social isolation, depression, and loneliness. South Korea, Belgium, and Japan have some of the highest suicide rates in the world. In contrast, some of the most religious countries rank as some of the least suicidal in the world: Papua New Guinea (119th), the Philippines (159th), and Pakistan (169th), for example. In Japan, in turn, there is an increasing phenomenon of “Kodokushi,” where elderly people die alone and remain undiscovered for long periods of time. Elsewhere, former British Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 established a “minister for loneliness,” because more than 9 million people in the UK—about 14 percent of the population—“often or always feel lonely.” Government research found that about 200,000 older people in Britain “had not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month.”

These trends are compounded by the proliferation of socially isolating, addicting forms of entertainment like pornographyvideo games, social media, and smartphones that affect rising numbers of Westerners. Between 5 to 8 percent of the adult population in the United States is either addicted to pornography or engages in what the medical community assesses as excessive porn use. Numbers are estimated to be similar in the United Kingdom. Millions of Americans are classified as having compulsive video-game behavior, while there is increasing scientific consensus that handheld digital technology is similarly dangerous in its addictive qualities. Being well-educated and living longer may not be so great if one lives depressed and suffering from compulsive addictions, then dies alone and forgotten.

Religion Isn’t Just Good for the Soul

Many are familiar with the plethora of scientific research that demonstrates that those who engage in religious or spiritual activities have better health than those who do not. As researchers at the Mayo Clinic concluded: “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Several studies have shown that addressing the spiritual needs of the patient may enhance recovery from illness.”

Yet religious observance also has significant beneficial effects across a host of sociological categories. University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox has argued:

On average, religion is a clear force for good when it comes to family unity and the welfare of children—the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives. Research, some of it my own, indicates that, on average, Americans who regularly attend services at a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque are less likely to cheat on their partners; less likely to abuse them; more likely to enjoy happier marriages; and less likely to have been divorced.

Data collected by the National Opinion Research Center’s General Social Survey, in turn, demonstrate that Americans who regularly attend religious services are more likely to report that they are “very happy” in their marriages when compared to those who rarely or never attend.

Research also indicates that religious parents spend more time with their children, including eating dinner with their children, doing chores together, and attending events with their children. Religious parents also more frequently praise and show affection to their school-aged children. Children from religious families, presumably as a consequence, are “rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills, and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents,” according to a nationally representative study of more than 16,000 American children.

It’s likely that these many positive indicators have something to do with the nature of much religious teaching itself, which promotes faithfulness, sacrifice, and care for one’s family. It’s also just as reasonable to conclude that religious experience acts as a social adhesive, binding people to one another both in families and in larger social networks and communities. Indeed, scientific research indicates that those who are involved in social activities, regardless of whether or not those activities are explicitly religious in nature, have longer lives, better physical and mental health, and a lower risk of dementia. One study, which examined data from more than 309,000 people, found that a lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50 percent. This is comparable to the increased mortality risk caused by smoking up to fifteen cigarettes a day. It’s no real surprise, then, that those whose piety possesses a social component are generally healthier, happier, and better contributors to positive familial and social outcomes.

A Successful West Was Not Always Areligious

The secularization of the developed world must also be placed within a broader historical narrative. For centuries before the Enlightenment, anti-clericalism, modernity, and postmodernity took their toll on Western religious faith and practice, European nations were both highly pious and successful across many indicators. Beginning in the medieval era and quickening after the Renaissance, medical, educational, and technological developments in the West outpaced those in the rest of the world by significant margins. Indeed, the European colonial powers that dominated the globe beginning in the sixteenth century—England, France, Spain, and Portugal—all aggressively sought to extend their faiths to the peoples they conquered. Moreover, church attendance and explicitly Christian political movements remained strong in many Western countries (e.g. Germany, Canada, Ireland) into the post–World War II era.

Certainly the West has become less religious since the Enlightenment, though that narrative can obscure significant periods of religious revival in the West since the French Revolution. There were revivals in Victorian England, in Le Réveil and the post-Napoleonic revival of German Catholicism on the European continent, and in the Second and Third Great Awakenings in the United States. It is more accurate to speak of the acceleration of that secularization process across the West in the last two generations, which is several centuries after Western nations and their culture came to dominate the globe.

Rather than perceive some Western nations as increasingly better off as they shed the last vestiges of religious practice, I propose an alternative perspective. Increasingly secularized Western nations continue to enjoy the many benefits of their religious inheritance, such as consciences informed by Judeo-Christian beliefs about justice and atonement, and civic participation informed by Judeo-Christian teachings about personal obligation. Counter-intuitively, these transcendent qualities of faith, which eschew utilitarian aims for a greater purpose, are what create the circumstances for greater material well-being. Yet the West is exhausting that religio-socio-political capital, rejecting transcendent reality in favor of materialistic decadence and self-absorption, as Ross Douthat has argued in his recent book.

This is the great irony of the Jewish and Christian faith traditions. One must be willing to accept suffering and sacrifice for a greater purpose that transcends one’s particular material and sensual needs and desires. As Christ declared: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24–25). Dostoevsky begins his literary masterpiece The Brothers Karamazov—a tale of suffering, sacrifice, and repentance—with this verse precisely because he perceived in its promise a mysterious redemptive power capable of changing the world.

Driven by the popular chant “Hey, hey, Western Civ has got to go!” Americans have increasingly forgotten that it was the Church that fostered the very best of our civilization and culture. This includes its greatest art, architecture, and music; its economic and civic vitality; its intellectual curiosity and scientific method. Moreover, as Fulton J. Sheen argued, “Religion’s service to democracy is secondary and indirect; that is, by concentrating on spiritualizing the souls of men, it will diffuse through political society an increased service of justice and charity rooted in God.” Only a return to the “First Things” of religious faith and practice can prevent the West—and especially America—from confronting the same dilemmas that face less religious Western nations.

Originally appeared at The Public Discourse. Reposted with permission.

Casey Chalk

Written by

Casey Chalk is a student at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Theology at Christendom College, and a regular contributor at The American Conservative and New Oxford Review. He received a B.A. in history and a masters in teaching from the University of Virginia.

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  • God Hates Faith

    Religion is far too broad of a term.

    A better question: Would America be better off without superstition (including the superstition taught by religion)?

    • Mark

      Baseball without superstitions? That's un-American. You obviously don't know the value of a wearing a woman's garter to extend a winning streak.

      Maybe you don't know Catholics teaching on superstition from the Catechism:

      Superstition:

      2111 Superstition is the deviation of religious feeling and of
      the practices this feeling imposes. It can even affect the worship we
      offer the true God, e.g., when one attributes an importance in some way
      magical to certain practices otherwise lawful or necessary. To attribute
      the efficacy of prayers or of sacramental signs to their mere external
      performance, apart from the interior dispositions that they demand, is
      to fall into superstition.

      Not a better question. It's a false equivocation of God as and superstition as Catholics understand the terms.

      • God Hates Faith

        Definition of "superstition" -- every religion other than mine ; )

        • Art Davison

          Har Har! Absolutely true.

          • Art Davison

            It's annoying that these Xtians quote chapter and verse from the Holey Babble as if it were true, instead of the collection of myths, contradictions and historical impossibilities that it is.

          • Ben Champagne

            Very astute and on topic observation!

            The irony.

    • OMG

      A religion is not the church a man goes to but the cosmos he lives in.
      ~ Chesterton

      • Joseph Noonan

        The same holds true with superstition. Superstitions can define the way people see the world around them and are often directly connected to beliefs about the cosmos.

        • OMG

          I'll leave you to fear the black cat owned by a nag, a full moon bearing down on you, under a ladder, on a sidewalk crack, looking for a pot of gold at rainbow's end. All the best to you too!

          • Joseph Noonan

            I don't think you understood my comment. I wasn't endorsing superstition - I was criticizing your comment in defense of religion.

          • OMG

            I understood your comment perfectly well. You said that superstition 'holds true' the same as religion, that both define the way people see the world.

            The cosmos of the Catholic faith is completely comprehensible, realistic and reasonable, offering love and hope and everlasting life to humanity.

            Young children recognize superstition as nonsense. It even lacks a sense of humor. No other redeeming quality recommends it.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I did not say that superstition "holds true". I said that Chesterton's quote holds true for superstition just as much as it does for religion.
            The cosmos of superstitious beliefs is perfectly self-consistent, despite having no evidence for it and being contradicted by evidence whenever there is any. That's more than I can say for Catholicism. Catholicism is not comprehensible - even the Church admits that many of its doctrines are "mysteries" beyond human comprehension, and some doctrines, like the Trinity, are flat-out logical contradictions. Catholicism isn't realistic - I'd hardly call someone rising from the dead, all of God's other alleged miracles in the Bible, or all humans coming from one first couple realistic. No explanation that has ever been put forward to explain why God allows so much suffering, why Hell exists, why God doesn't just reveal himself to everyone to make sincere non-belief impossible, or why the crucifixion was necessary for God to forgive humanity is even close to realistic. None of the events that religions claim have occurred or the things that religion claims exist are anything like what we encounter in real life, so they aren't realistic. Catholicism is not reasonable either. Catholicism makes many extraordinary claims but provides virtually no evidence for any of them. And of course, it is never reasonable to believe in a contradiction.
            Not all children recognize superstition as nonsense. For most children, it seems like they'll believe in whatever superstition their parents tell them, like Santa, the Easter bunny, etc. Even many adults don't recognize superstition as nonsense. Otherwise, I wouldn't see shops that advertise psychics and magic salt lamps when I go downtown. But even if everyone recognized non-religious superstitions as nonsense, I would hardly say that puts religion in a better position. That would just mean that the difference between religion and superstition is strength in numbers.

            Religion doesn't seem to have a sense of humor, either. As for other redeeming qualities, religion can make people feel better about death and daily stressors, and it can give them social support, but none of those are reasons to believe in it.

          • OMG

            Of course you now say that you did not say what you earlier said. Got it.

          • Joseph Noonan

            No, I now say that I didn't say something because I never said it. Read my earlier comment, and tell me where it says, "Superstition holds true." It doesn't. It says, "The same holds true for superstition," referring to the quote about how religion defines someone's world.

          • Art Davison

            The Catholic Faith is completely realistic? Bread and Wine turn into the flesh and blood of a man dead for 2000 years, and his mother is a demi-god who was a virgin when she bore her son. (a theme coincidentally found in numerous older religions)

          • OMG

            First, the Catholic faith does not teach that Mary is a demi-god. She is purely human.

            The person Jesus Christ who rose from the dead said that the bread he took, blessed, broke and gave to his disciples to eat was His flesh. He told us to do the same in His memory. His life history is filled with good deeds and many miracles. Disbelieve at your own risk and may God bless you.

          • Art Davison

            nd we know Jesus said this because someone wrote it down 30 or 40 years after it supposedly happened. The only verification for any of his utterances is the Holey Babble, which is full of errors, contradictions and historical impossibilities.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Disbelieve at your own risk

            Threatening me isn't a good way to get me to believe in something, especially when the threat is something I don't believe in either. I assume the same holds true for Art.

          • OMG

            Perceiving that sentence as a threat shows who has reason to fear. HINT: It isn't me.

          • David Nickol

            Perceiving that sentence as a threat shows who has reason to fear. HINT: It isn't me.

            If "Disbelieve at your own risk" isn't a threat, it's something very close—a warning, I suppose. The question is, What motivates the giving of such a warning? Is it genuine concern for others motivated by Christian charity? Or is it a way of saying, "I'm right, and even if I'm not winning this argument, I have the satisfaction of knowing you will pay for daring to disagree with me"?

          • OMG

            It is a genuine concern for others motivated by Christian charity. Everlasting happiness is at risk.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I never said that you have reason to fear. But saying things like, "Disbelieve at your own risk," is obviously an attempt to invoke fear to get your point across. I'm just telling you why it doesn't work.

          • OMG

            Fear requires an object or reason. Obviously the words in my post were interpreted as "an attempt to invoke fear." I see no reason and no object (person, place or thing) to fear.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I didn't say you had a reason to fear. Quite to the contrary, I said that no one has a reason to fear, despite your attempt to invoke fear in nonbelievers.

          • Art Davison

            Mary is revered in Catholicism as more than mere a saint,and prayed to.
            How do we know all these things that Jesus supposedly said and did? It's recorded only in the Holey Babble, written down by unknown scribes decades afterward, so how is it possile to know exactly what transpired?

          • Art Davison

            Your Gawd is going to sentence me to eternal damnation because I don't believe in him? Nice guy. If believing in him is the criterium, it makes him an egotist.

          • OMG

            Art - I'll respond to your three comments in one.

            How do you know what "Gawd" is doing to do? Do you know what you or I will do tomorrow?
            If I believe in you, are you an egotist? Where's the logic?

            God is the final object of prayer. Mary is an intercessor. Assume you've just finished a long day's labor but finally settle down in the family room to read the newspaper but you've forgotten to retrieve the paper from wherever your wife has left it. You ask your child to ask your wife to give the paper to the child to give to you.

            We know the things that Jesus did and said because of the great significance and miraculous nature of his life. He healed people with lifelong hemorrhages, those without sight or hearing or speech, leprosy, those crippled and those suffering obsession by demons or mental illness. He fed over 5000 people from 7 loaves and 2 fish. He restored the ear of the soldier which Peter had sliced.

            Thucydides, Herodotus, Livy, and other historians recorded the lives of leaders and of nations prior to the time of Jesus. The thinking of philosophers and mathematicians who lived prior to Jesus is recorded; we don't discount the thought of someone simply because their history was written after they passed. That is the nature of biography and memoir. History is by nature a record of something after its occurrence; otherwise, it isn't history, right?

            Can you give a couple examples where the Bible contradicts itself?

            A virgin bearing a son is a physical impossibility. Therefore, its occurrence signals a highly unusual, 'super' natural event. The Old Testament had predicted that and many other occurrences so that the Hebrew people would have hope and would believe in their God fulfilling His promise, sending a Messiah, coming from the ranks of the Chosen people.

          • Art Davison

            According to the Holey Babble, which is the source of your beliefs, "Believe in Me" is absolutely necessary to be saved. Sounds like egotism to me.

            Mary is a cut above your average saint, so I called her a demi-god.

            You say "We know the things Jesus said and did because of the great significance and miraculous nature of his life." but the only souurce of your information is the "Bible", and the stories about him were not written down for 30 or 40 years after they supposedly took place; we don't know the true identity of the authors; and the stories about him are different in all four gospels. Except for a couple of minor mentions by other historians who merely repeated stories they had heard, there is no mention of Jesus anywhere except in the "Bible".

            "A virgin bearing a son is a physical impossibility." Right! Since we have no proof, it obviously never happened.

            The historians you mention are well known and the information they present is confirmable. Also, they don't quote others verbatum or relate stories that are impossibilities (miracles)

            I've read compilations of errors and contradictions found in the "Bible", but the only one I remember is early in Genesis. In one place Gawd creates Adam and Eve at the same time from dust of the earth. Elsewhere he creates Adam first, then later decides he needs a companion, so makes Eve from Adam's rib.

            Also, Cain killed Able, then went to the land of Nod, married, had a son, and founded a city. If Adam and Eve were the first people and the progenitors of all humans, where did the people in Nod come from, and how come there were enough of them to fill a city?

          • OMG

            Art - I see no contradictions in the Biblical accounts you cite. I do see problems with inaccurate statements about the writing of ancient history and mention of Jesus.

            Creation of Adam and Eve: Both Genesis accounts say that God made man. The first states the basic fact; the second repeats the first then adds details as to how and why God created Eve.
            Genesis 1:27 - God created man in his image....Male and female he created them.
            Genesis 2:7: Then the Lord God formed man out of the dust....and 2:18-24 - The Lord God said, "It is not good that the man is alone;...

            Cain in Nod: Scripture does not describe Nod as a populous city at the time Cain wandered there. The word "Nod" in Hebrew means "wanderer" or "wandering" so the name likely derived from Cain, and the city developing from Cain's descendants. Cain's wife was likely a descendent of Adam and Eve, a cousin, a sisters, or a niece to Cain.

            Jesus in History: The argument that Jesus is not mentioned in other contemporaneous historical documents besides Scripture is simply not true. The Jewish historian Josephus records facts about Jesus. Roman historians Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Plutarch all wrote about him. Paul wrote his letters a mere 25 years after the time of Christ; plenty of people would have been alive and contemporaneous with the life of Jesus to have informed Paul and the Gospel authors.

            Finally, the statement that facts mentioned by other ancient historians can be verified is not true. Words and speeches of many figures quoted by Herodotus are paraphrased after passing through oral tradition. The words and speeches are not direct quotes. As with the words of Jesus, they derive from oral tradition and memories of people who had lived contemporaneously.

          • Art Davison

            It's certainly easy to say that the second biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve is simply a clarification of the first but why was that necessary?
            Here's another contradiction:-
            The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples (Matthew 28:8).
            When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others (Luke 24:9).
            Or did they? Mark has a different ending.
            Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)

            Historical references to Jesus (Wikipedia account):-

            Scholars differ about the beliefs and teachings of Jesus as well as the accuracy of the biblical accounts, and the only two events subject to "almost universal assent" are that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate. Jesus scholars typically contend that he was a Galilean Jew and living in a time of messianic and apocalyptic expectations.
            The portraits of Jesus that have been constructed in these processes have often differed from each other, and from the image portrayed in the gospel accounts.[18] These portraits include that of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, Cynic philosopher, Jewish messiah, prophet of social change,and rabbi but there is little scholarly agreement on a single portrait,
            (Nowhere are there any direct quotations of Jesus' utterances, the lack of which is what I was referring to)

            As for Cain's marriage, you are readinng things into the Babble that aren't there. The biblical account is as follows:-
            "And Cain went out from the Lord's presence and dwelled in the land of Nod east of Eden. 17And Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch. Then he became the builder of a city and he called the name of the city like his son's name, Enoch." There is no indication as to where Cain's wife came from , so it must have been Nod. And nothing about where enough people came from to populate a city.

          • David Nickol

            While you may be able to unsettle some of the more "conservative" believers on this site by pointing out discrepancies and contradictions in the Bible, some of the best sources to discover such "problems" are good translations and commentaries, including ones by major Catholic scholars. The New American Bible (Revised Second Edition), which is the official Bible for American Catholics (approved by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops), while not the most "liberal" of commentaries, doesn't try to hide or explain away discrepancies. As others have often pointed out on this site, "Catholics are not fundamentalists." While some here have "fundamentalist tendencies," the more informed a person is about modern biblical scholarship, the less unsettled they will be by the kind of discrepancies you are endeavoring to point out.

            Peerhaps some people who actually heard Jesus speak were still alive when the gospels were written, but to rmember exact words for 30 or 40 years and repeat them verbatim is too much to expect - we know how notoriously unnreliable the human memory can be.

            I certainly believe the stories about Jesus were passed down orally and were subject to modifications, but remember that we today live in an entirely different culture than the Jews of first-century Palestine. Studies have been done of cultures in which important information is passed along orally, and oral transmission can be quite accurate. It occurs to me at this moment that I can still remember (decades later) the words to silly or grotesque songs we sang as kids that I am quite sure I never saw written down.

          • BTS

            Studies have been done of cultures in which important information is passed along orally, and oral transmission can be quite accurate.

            Hi David,
            I can recall Bart Ehrman in the last several years came to the opposite conclusion in one of his books. I can't recall which one now, but I've seen several videos/debates/podcasts where he states he went in to his research thinking he'd come to the same conclusion you posted, but he essentially was surprised to find that oral cultures are not that concerned with accurate transmission but rather with conveying merely "the gist."

            I need to get you a source for this...I'll dig around in my bookmarks and notes.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks for the links. My subscription to Bart Ehrman's blog expired some time ago, but I agree that it is worth the money (which goes to charity anyway), so I signed up again.

            The point I wanted to make to Art Davison was not so much the degree of accuracy of transmission in oral cultures, but rather that we don't today live in an oral culture, so one has to remember that something like the teachings of Jesus would have been passed on differently back then. If contemporary scholars are correct, the Gospels weren't written based on the decades-old memories of evangelists. They were written based on oral tradition passed on from generation to generation. Of course it's not the equivalent of videotapes or contemporary written records. But it's not as if a handful of people forty to seventy years after the fact decided to search their memories and write down what they had scarcely thought about for decades. Jesus was remembered by a community,not by a handful of evangelists.

          • BTS

            David, you make good points and I agree that "They were written based on oral tradition passed on from generation to generation."

            Ruminations...
            I do wonder about that "generation to generation" aspect...I was not at Woodstock (not born yet), but if my parents did attend and then attempted to pass on their memories to me...how might I describe Jimmie Hendrix's entire performance or perhaps merely his rendition of "The Star-Spangled banner" having never actually heard it? I would probably be telling a story that did not match up well with the actual event.

          • Art Davison

            Well, we've likely all played the parlor game where you whisper a phrase to the person next to you, and it continues around the room, person to person, and when it gets back to you, it's usually unrecognizable. Same thing with passing exact wordings from generation to generation.

          • Rob Abney

            The only difference is the parlor game likely involves alcohol and flirting, whereas the generational transfer of knowledge involves serious life preserving information and it doesn’t have to be whispered.

          • Art Davison

            Before passing Jesus' sermons verbatim to the next generation, some time must pass, perhaps 10 or 15 years, during which memories tend to fade and become distorted, and then the act of passing itself causes errors. We know how unreliable human memory is - just think of the differing versions of a crime or accident that different witnesses can swear to.

          • OMG

            Wikipedia's scholars do not agree on a single 'professional' portrait of Jesus because he was the supreme being, all good, all perfect in all professions. He was simultaneously prophet, healer, philosopher, Messiah, and rabbi. Savior. God. People fill multiple roles and professions. Why can't God?

            As for memory of words spoken verbatim, people distinctly remember words and deeds which are unusual, significant, and filled with meaning. Think about your child's first phrases or first smiles, your first love's words and settings and how she looked, the last words and deeds of relatives who have passed. Jesus performed a multitude of miracles. The religious and secular leaders of his day intensely feared and detested him and his teachings. His teachings were such a threat to their power they KILLED him. Then he went and arose from their death. Had any other man done such a thing? No. The words of Jesus were like our coronavirus for which there is no cure. His words, like our coronavirus, continue to resurface in waves of multitudes of disciples. Of course people remember his words and deeds, and that is why we repeat them today.

            The resurrection accounts do not contradict one another. All mention that the fearful women fled in haste from the tomb. Mark's account meshes with Matthew's and Luke's if we consider that the women told no one ON THE WAY to the disciples and the other believers.

            Finally, you say, "There is no indication as to where Cain's wife came from , so it must have been Nod." Scripture does not say she came from Nod. She could have easily come from wherever Cain had been prior to Nod. Scripture says only that Cain knew his wife in Nod. "Knew" in the OT sense means they had sexual intercourse. There is no evidence for Cain's wife having come from Nod.

          • Art Davison

            The Holey Babble is the only place that Jesus' miracles and resurrection are mentioned. No historians living at that time recorded anything about them. If you insist on believing that everything written in it is the truth, then we have nothing further to discuss.

          • David Nickol

            As for memory of words spoken verbatim, people distinctly remember words and deeds which are unusual, significant, and filled with meaning.

            Let's not forget that we have no verbatim quotes of Jesus, because Jesus spoke Aramaic, and everything we have is in Greek.

            His teachings were such a threat to their power they KILLED him.

            Then why did they not kill the apostles?

          • OMG

            Tradition says that except for John, all the other apostles were martyred.

          • David Nickol

            That would be tradition with a lowercase t, which is not necessarily historically accurate.

            Implicit in my question was why didn't "they" (those who killed Jesus) round up and kill his closest followers? I am no expert on the stories about the apostles, but I believe for the most part they are alleged to have been martyred in countries where they went as missionaries, outside the grasp of either the Romans or the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem.

          • OMG

            As something handed down, handed on to future generations, tradition is the raw material of Church Tradition.

            After the arrest of Jesus, prior to the crucifixion, Peter is accused of knowing or of being a follower of Jesus. Peter denies knowing the man. (Matthew 26:69ff, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:19-27). We aren't told why, but it seems reasonable to assume that Peter hoped to avoid a similar fate of imprisonment and sentencing to a more fearful fate.

            Prior to the dispersal of the disciples to other areas, as you note, they remained in Jerusalem as Jesus had instructed, awaiting the 'paraclete' he said he'd send. They gathered in the upper room with the doors locked, in fear, presumably in fear for their lives. Only after Pentecost were they bold enough to speak and to travel beyond their locked doors, out into Jerusalem and beyond. Whether the reach of the Roman Empire factored into their choice of destination is not mentioned as anything the disciples considered. Rather, they did as Jesus had instructed and as the Holy Spirit led them.

            For details, sources and notes on trustworthiness, see http://www.overviewbible.com/how-did-the-apostles-die

          • Art Davison

            I believe the Romans were in the habit of killing the charismatic leaders of unwanted cults, which usually eliminated the seriousness of the problem

          • BTS

            Even Sean McDowell, superhero apologist, puts the numbers of Apostles for whom we can ascertain certain martyrdom very low. The traditions to which you refer are not verifiable. Peter and Paul get a high probability score and the rest of the gang's scores fall off from there.

            https://youtu.be/9CHV6dXZRUc

          • Rob Abney

            Isn't James' martydom documented in the bible? (couldn't watch the hour long video right now) Acts 12:2

          • BTS

            Watch the video. Paulogia and McDowell have some disagreements on the definition of martyrdom and they disagree on James. He was murdered but it may have been political, not religious. Gospels are unclear. Was he murdered for preaching about Jesus and given a chance to recant? Unclear. Like I said, Peter and Paul get the highest probability, then I think there's two more who are reasonably high scores, then the rest get lower and lower.

            The overall point is that it is not even close to 12/12 apostles "getting murdered for preaching about Jesus, having been given a chance to recant and then having refused that chance."

            McDowell admits it is not a great argument to use for apologetics, but rather "one data point..."

            Edit: here is the podcast that started off the entire debate for these two guys, who, by the way, have a very cordial relationship:

            https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Episodes/Unbelievable-Are-martyred-apostles-good-evidence-for-the-resurrection-Sean-McDowell-vs-Paulogia

          • OMG

            I don't know Sean McDowell but I doubt he is a superhero!

            We cannot specifically and positively verify many things, and that is why we believe or we doubt. I listened to only a small part of the debate between Paulogia and McDowell posted by Biola U. on YouTube, but McDowell still posits reasons for belief in apostle martyrdom despite the dearth of evidence. Both the OT and the NT have persecutions or death sentences because of religious beliefs or practices at odds with the ruling authorities or the established religion held by the majority. The Macchabees, John the Baptist, Jesus, James. Crucifixions in the Roman Empire were not unusual. For the first three centuries after Christ, Christians were persecuted, martyred, and blamed for things not provably their fault. It seems reasonable to assume apostle martyrdom probably occurred.

            We believe much of what we cannot verify, and so we listen to the experience and evidence of others. Did the Greeks really fight the Trojan War? What happened at Pompei? What about Atlantis? Aristotle has reportedly said (so I believe as it comports with all else I've heard about him): "He who wishes to learn must believe." We cannot know much of anything totally, completely, positively.

          • BTS

            Speculation...
            Count me among those who believe it is very likely that the sin of Judas was cutting some sort of deal with the Sanhedrin to save the lives of the apostles in exchange for Jesus. Doing it for the 30 pieces of silver doesn't ring true, and "the devil made him do it" is a cop-out. Ehrman did a slew of posts on Judas in May or June and they were fascinating.
            Ehrman thinks the sin of Judas was revealing the Messianic secret.

          • Rob Abney

            That's interesting, what does he/you mean when you label that act "sin"?

          • BTS

            the sin = the bad thing that Judas did, the act that earned him condemnation

          • Rob Abney

            That's vague, surely Ehrman is more precise. Was it "bad" because it was illegal by Roman or Jewish standards? Was it bad because Jesus was betrayed by a friend. Was it bad because Judas knew he betrayed trust that was placed in him? Was it truly a sin because it was contrary to the truth of God?

          • BTS

            Well, I was not sure what you meant. I presumed you were digging at my use of the word "sin." Now I have a clearer understanding of what you are asking.

            Ehrman's favorite Gospel is Mark, which portrays the most "human" Jesus and keeps the divinity claims to a bare minimum. Jesus is constantly telling people to keep the miracles under wraps.

            Jesus told his disciples the secret plan (they'd all be rulers of the new kingdom) but had them keep it a secret.

            Now, Jesus was technically and officially killed for insurrection, so it stands to reason that someone spilled the beans about his insurrection plans. Naturally, that fits well with the Judas narrative.

            Ehrman is speaking strictly historically and not from a religious point of view and trying to answer the question "What was Judas betraying?"

          • Rob Abney

            It seems pretty clear that Judas was paid to hand Jesus over to the authorities that wanted to kill Him.
            I agree that it was a sin, I'm just engaging you because I suspect that you are not one who believes that sin exists!

          • BTS

            not much in the catechism on Judas. Only 4 hits and nothing of substance.
            http://ccc.usccb.org/flipbooks/catechism/455/#zoom=z

            Judas is shrouded in mystery. St. Paul never mentions him.
            Nothing about Judas is "pretty clear."

            Evan as a child I could tell the story is fishy. There's way more to it than silver.

            We cannot talk about sin without knowing Judas' motivation, which no one knows. Some have even speculated he was trying to keep Jesus out of trouble in the big city. Perhaps he wanted Jesus thrown in prison during the passover festival to keep him out of trouble.

            Perhaps Judas felt like he was faced with the classic "trolley" problem in philosophy. Should he "pull the lever" to change the train to a different track to kill one person instead of 13?

          • Rob Abney

            Have you read St Thomas or other church fathers regarding Judas?
            St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “To save Judas would … be contrary to [God’s] foreknowledge and disposition, by which He prepared for him eternal punishment; hence it is not the order of justice [as such] that renders impossible Judas’s salvation, but the order of eternal foreknowledge and disposition” (In IV Sent., dist. 46, qu. 1, art. 2, qa. 2, ad 3), and says matter-of-factly:
            As the use of grace is related to the final effect of predestination, so the abuse of it is related to the effect of reprobation. Now, in the case of Judas, the abuse of grace was the reason for his reprobation, since he was made reprobate because he died without grace. Moreover, the fact that he did not have grace when he died was not due to God’s unwillingness to give it but to his unwillingness to accept it—as both Anselm and Dionysius point out.

            That’s funny that you consider killing one to save 13, but your not the first to recommend that:
            But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” John 11:49–50

          • BTS

            St. Thomas needs to mind his own business when it comes to the salvation of others. His writing on this topic is churlish, presumptuous hogwash. The church proclaims no one officially is in hell. And the catechism itself (which I often disagree with but which I presume you don't) says that Judas' salvation is a matter between him and God. And Thomas was proclaimed wrong about other things. (Immaculate Conception, for example, or one of those Big Mary doctrines, if I recall correctly).

            Regarding the trolley problem, I never said I was considering the trolly problem from my point of view.
            I said perhaps Judas realized he was facing said issue. He may have thought he was saving his friends by turning Jesus in. The bottom line is that we don't know anything at all about the man and to speculate about his eternal destination is nothing more than judgmental speculation.

            I am beginning to lose my patience with your complete lack of charity in reading my posts carefully and often misrepresenting what I say. It is impossible to have a discussion with you and disagree man-to-man without you slinging mean spirited arrows. It is precisely the kind of Catholic attitudes you promote that are driving good people like me away.

          • Rob Abney

            Why should St Thomas mind his own business but Bart Earman, Sean McDowell, the cartoon guy, and you don’t have to!
            Ultimately Judas did save his friends (and the rest of us!) by turning Jesus in but unless your a consequentialist then you can’t do evil to obtain a good.
            Don’t forget that this is a public forum so I’ll keep responding to your comments, you don’t have to respond to me though especially with your pusillanimous attitude.

  • Art Davison

    "It was the Church that fostered the very best of our civilization and culture." Yeah, like slavery and the subjugation of women. And, of course suppressing ideas like the Earth circling the sun.

    Interesting that areas of the U.S. with the lowest levels of religious belief, such as New York and California, have lower levels of teen pregnancy, murder, etc. than the more religious areas (the South)

    With the world overpoulated as it is, encouraging higher birth rates is wrong, even if it tends to increase some desirable things.

    • Ben Champagne

      The world is not overpopulated. The entirety of the worlds population could fit in texas, with 40 feet between each person. For reference, with careful planning and 100% usable land for farming, this would be enough room to both feed and shelter that population as well based on low end estimates of landmass needed per person with modern basic agriculture.

      The rest is just antitheist garbage as baseless assertion.

      • David Nickol

        The entirety of the worlds population could fit in texas, with 40 feet between each person.

        Sounds great, especially during a pandemic.

      • The entirety of the worlds population could fit in texas, with 40 feet between each person.

        Your numbers are a bit off. With 40 feet between each person means that I can draw a circle around each person with a radius of 40 feet, so each person is getting about 5026 sq ft.

        7.7 billion people x 5026 sq feet means 38,704,420,832,000‬ sq ft.

        There are 27,878,400 sq ft in each square mile, meaning that we'd need 1,388,330 sq mi for all of the people in the world.

        The land area of Texas is approximately 261,000 sq mi. You're out by about a factor of five. The number actually works out to just over 17 feet between each person.

        The statistic is rather meaningless anyways because the earth is overpopulated not in terms of density of humans, but in terms of resources used. We're already overshooting the earths resources, and as the rest of the world industrializes it will only become worse.

        https://www.overshootday.org/

        • mmac1

          Ever heard of Julian Simon?

          • Do you have some specific point of his you want to bring up?

            Regardless of his position, our entire planet's eco-system is showing signs of collapse under the pressures of human activity. The oceans in particular are warming significantly, and more acidic. Between environmental damage, and over-consumption, 90% of the fish stocks have been used up.

            On land, bird populations have significantly declined over the last few decades, as we continue to remove wildlife habitat for agriculture and other human uses. Other species like bees are also suffering.

            The cumulative effects of billions of humans, behaving in ways that destroy the planet, means that the world is effectively overpopulated.

          • mmac1

            In the 1970s the Club of Rome said we would be out of resources years ago- Ehrlich claimed billions would die in the 80s of famine- many said petroleum would run out in the 2020s( but then we invented fracking). The greatest resource we have is the human mind and Malthusian claims have failed for centuries. Fish stocks are replenishable and new resources are found on a regular basis. The problem in the future is more likely to be a dearth of births. While this isn’t a license for stupidity confidence about our ability to feed & sustain our population is warranted- unless we adopt socialism which produces scarcity everywhere it has been implemented.

          • In the 1970s the Club of Rome said we would be out of resources years ago

            That's nice, but I make no such claim. There's plenty of oil reserves, but that's not the problem.

            Fish stocks are replenishable and new resources are found on a regular basis

            Fish stocks do replenish, but we're over consuming them, and poisoning the very environment they need. If we stop over fishing, and stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere at the rate we are, fish stocks can survive. It does means we have to shift away from the Western lifestyle though, and be more conscious of the effects of our choices on the environment.

            The problem in the future is more likely to be a dearth of births

            I suspect that this will be true for about the next 20-30 years. Our environment has an incredible capacity to absorb our bad choices. That said, If we don't get our act together, and actually do something about the 40+ gigatonnes of carbon we're currently dumping into our atmosphere, because that picture isn't sustainable.

            unless we adopt socialism which produces scarcity everywhere it has been implemented.

            While Communism has largely failed everywhere it has been implemented, socialism has not. Just look at much of Europe, and virtually every other Western society except the US.

            Regardless, even unfettered capitalism cannot realistically expect to get continuous exponential growth, year over year, without running into realistic limits to what our environment can support. Eventually the system will not support any more.

            As I've said, the problem is billions of people acting in ways that are destroying the planet (because the practices cannot be sustained.) Even our modern food production is terribly inefficient - every calorie of food that is commercially produced generally uses between 10-100 calories of fossil fuels, just to get it to your plate. Literally everything about our modern society depends on being able to use increasingly large amounts of fossil fuels that we really cannot sustain over the long term. That needs to change!

          • mmac1

            1) Europe isn't socialist- even the nordic countries are mostly capitalist. Nobody believes in unfettered capitalism & it doesn't exist anywhere.
            2)I agree with you things will change. Our energy sources will no doubt evolve to be less dependent on fossil fuels-I am sure they will change but I doubt it will be mainly due to government fiat- more likely market forces and consume preference. No government has demonstrated the ability to control the market in an efficient way, but almost no one wants an unregulated market either.

          • cosmonow

            There are no socialist countries in Western Europe. The Nordic nations are either

          • Art Davison

            Exactly! I've read that a world population of 2.5 billion is the most the Earth can safely hold.

          • I don't know if there's a specific carrying capacity of the Earth for humans simply because there's such a vast difference between how the poorest and the richest live. It partly depends on how wasteful/destructive those humans are.

            If everyone lived, and consumed, like Americans that number would be much lower than if the world lived like most people in India, or sub-Saharan Africa.

          • cosmonow

            @Art Davison There is no limit to the growth of the human population. The more the merrier. Fifty years ago the population doomsayers predicted that a growing population would cause poverty and global famines that would wipe out most of humanity. Their predictions were wrong. Developments in agricultural science led to an abundance of food. We have the capacity to feed the world many times over and future developments should enable us to do so with ever greater ease. Nuclear power and better fossil fuel usage - and other sources of energy - enable human populations to grow and thrive indefinitely. Developments in materials science, nanotechnology and genetic engineering, and many other fields, enable humanity to exploit the resources of the planet with ever greater effectiveness. We are not running out of any major resource and we never will as long as we continue to make scientific and technological progress and free markets and liberal democracy become the norm. The environmental issues we face are real but relatively easily solved. Indeed, in many ways we are in better shape environmentally now than one hundred years ago. And we are not limited to the resources of this planet. Meteorites are packed full of valuable minerals and rare metals. Solar power becomes useful in space in a way that it probably never will be on earth. We will colonise the solar system and eventually move on to other star systems. There is no limit to the expansion of human civilisation - and the richest possible ecological diversity of all life - as long as we are true to the Catholic principles that liberate humanity to the fullness of our being in Christ.

          • Art Davison

            There are already too many humans on Earth. We can only feed the current population if we switch to a completly vegetarian diet, and we are destroying our planet with global warming and turning it into garbage dump with the oceans filled with plastic and all our major rivers polluted.

          • cosmonow

            Your assertions are not supported by the facts on the ground. Agricultural output continues to rise globally; including meat production. The food shortages predicted by the population doomsayers have not materialised. In the near future it is likely that we will ‘grow’ meat in factories. But even before then, advances in agricultural science continue to meet the growing desire for meat of our increasingly prosperous global population. Climate change is a minor problem. Whether it is mostly a natural phenomenon or predominantly man-made, we know the solutions: a massive increase in nuclear power, cleaner fossil fuel use, rapid economic development in less developed areas to increase urbanisation and therefore free-up wilderness areas. Economic development is essential to enable us to ameliorate the effects of flooding or anything else that may occur if the climate rises significantly. Most rivers in the developed world are much cleaner than they were 150 years ago. The Thames was effectively dead at the beginning of the 20th century; now many fish species thrive in the cleaner waters of the Thames and even whales make occasionally sortes into its lower reaches. Plastic waste is a problem - mostly caused by China - but it is hardly an insurmountable problem. Prosperity is the key to a cleaner environment. Prosperity enables societies to deal with waste and pollution effectively. Urbanisation and prosperity increases educational attainment, empowers women and leads to lower birth-rates ( but family planning doesn’t require artificial contraceptives and certainly not the killing of pre- born children). The only population problem facing the world today is under-population. Many countries are dropping below replacement levels and almost the entire developed world has an unhealthily low birth rate.

          • Art Davison

            Well put, Herald. And, of course, the consumption of almost 100 million barrels of crude oil daily, to fuel one billion automotive vehicles, tens of thousands of aircraft and ships, construction machinery and to heat buildings, won't decrease much any time soon.

          • Art Davison

            Exactly what I'm saying Herald

        • Art Davison

          You've hit the nail on the head! Overpopulation is destroying the Earth, by consuming resources faster than they can be replaced, and making it a garbage dump.

        • Art Davison

          Sorry Herald, but with a circle with radius of 40 feet around everyone, people would be 80 feet apart. A diameter of 40 feet would be correct.

          • Yes, I pointed this out in a later reply. Brain-fart on my part.

        • Raymond

          Radius of 20 feet. A radius of 40 feet gives you 80 feet between individuals. Your numbers are a bit off.

      • Actually, I'll grant that your numbers are pretty close. A circle of radius 20 feet would put 40 feet between each person. A mistake on my part. That said, it's still completely irrelevant to the problem.

      • Art Davison

        I don't understand how fitting the entire population of the Earth inside Texas has anything to do with the problem. Yes, we curently have enough arable land to produce enough food, except too much of it is used for producing meat. We'd have to switch to a vegetarian diet, which would upset a lot of people. And we're still despoiling the Earth with plastic and other garbage, and affecting the climate with our use of fossil fuels. Arable land is shrinking annually, due to depletion of mineals, salinization and desertification. We are in deep doodoo.

        • Ben Champagne

          No, we wouldn't have to go vegetarian. All necessary farmland, including meat production, housing and all necessary infrastructyre would fit. Including parks etc.

          And plastics/waste may be legitimate. But that is a far separate issue from overpopulation. Poor management can destroy land from plastics waste regardless of population size.

          The other three issues are also nonfactors when considering population.

          So no actual rebuttal. Got it.

    • mmac1

      Slavery’s origins go back to at least 6800 BC therefore it is impossible the Church fostered it. It is in fact the influence of Christianity that ended it- note no other region other than the Christian West put an end to slavery- in fact it is still practiced in the Islamic world. As to birth rates, murder etc by region your premise is clearly unproven- no region is monolithic in belief so you’d have to dig into the data to separate out who is responsible for such activities. As to overpopulation, perhaps you have missed the birth dearth we are currently in...

      • Art Davison

        Foster doesn't mean to originate. It means to support or encourage, which the Christian church did for centuries. In the U.S., the Southern states used the Holey Babble as the basis for the acceptabilty of slavery. And the Earth as a whole, with a population of 7.8 billion, far exceeds its sustainable capacity, so we should be doing everything posible to reduce the birth rate world-wide.

        • mmac1

          You still overlook that it was Christianity that lead to the end of slavery. Slavery was common as well as ubiquitous thruout the world- what was unique was that the Christian world ended it. As for the earth’s population- even learned atheists think we have a ways to go:

          https://www.livescience.com/16493-people-planet-earth-support.html

          • Art Davison

            Britain was the first Western country to outlaw slavery. Even if the church was an influence, you must admit it was about bloody time. The Holey Babble wholeheartedly condons slavery, as you can read in many chapters in both old and new testaments.
            And I don't know of any atheistic organization that doesn't think we are overpopulated.

          • mmac1

            Better late than never & the British anti-slavery movement was explicitly religious. The Bible does't condone slavery-in fact Paul's letter to Philemon can only be reasonably interpreted to seek the manumission of Onesimus. The New Testament states "there is neither slave nor freeman" ie all are equal. The fact that this wasn't done for many years isn't an indictment of religion-but of sinful men. There is no doubt that many Christian precepts were not honored in practice-but as Chesterton said "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried." We live in a fallen world & that many, even Christians, do not live up to the Christian ideal is to be expected-for that we have confession, penance & grace.
            Even EO Wilson (no friend of religion) admits we can support more people i think we can be confident that we can support the present population.

          • Raymond

            Many Bible scholars are not in agreement with this interpretation of Philemon. One of the biggest problems with Paul's letters is the lack of context.

        • cosmonow

          You are simply mistaken. The Catholic Church abolished slavery in Christendom and mitigated it’s pernicious effects in the New World before eventually pushing for the total eradication of the evil that is slavery. In Britain and the U.S evangelical and reform Christians joined Catholic Christians in the campaign to abolish slavery. Western civilisation was unique in getting rid of slavery precisely because of the intrinsic value that Christianity recognises in human beings.

          • Art Davison

            The Holey Babble clearly supports slavery and slave owners in the southern U.S. used it as justification for the practise

          • cosmonow

            The slave owners’ misinterpretation of the Bible is an example of the pitfalls of reading the sacred scriptures outside of the wisdom of Christ’s One, True, Holy Catholic Church. One of the central motifs of the bible is that slavery is bad. God leads the chosen people out of slavery in Egypt and Babylon. The Bible returns again and again to the terrible fact that humanity is enslaved to sin and in need of redemption. Christ conquers death and frees humanity from the chains of sin. Slavery is always understood to be a bad thing in the Bible. Of course, it was assumed to be a normal part of society by the sacred authors - because it was normal in almost every culture and civilisation until the Christian West abolished slavery.

          • VicqRuiz

            The Catholic Church abolished slavery in Christendom and mitigated it’s pernicious effects in the New World

            What did the Catholic church do about hereditary serfdom, which was arguably as bad as slavery?

          • cosmonow

            The Medieval order was in many ways glorious. Certainly better than chattel slavery. When it worked well, the hierarchical order of medieval society provided safety, purpose and community to all. Feudal peasants worked considerably fewer hours per year than the average white-collar worker today.

          • VicqRuiz

            Would you like to see it return, with yourself in the role of a serf?

          • VicqRuiz

            I'm inclined to suspect that most of those who look back upon the pre-industrial era as a lost Golden Age imagine that they would have been knights or abbots or master masons or perhaps even hangers-on at the royal court in those halcyon days. A scant few would have loved the life of a peasant bound to lord and land. Perhaps you are among them?

          • cosmonow

            Haha I’ll settle for Sir Robert of Riverton; A humble knight and wayward pilgrim. I do think the European High Middle Ages were one of peaks of world history and a good time to live in many ways but I’m not suffering from any illusions as to them being an unmitigated golden age. You are absolutely right that they were difficult, precarious times especially for the lower orders but they were also a time of tremendous intellectual, artistic and spiritual depth - and lots of fun by all accounts when things were going well.

        • cosmonow

          To reiterate, there is no immutable ‘sustainable capacity’ for humanity on earth. The sustainable capacity of earth changes depending on scientific, technological and social developments. So, if a stone-age hunter gatherer required a land area of perhaps 15 km squared to sustain himself and family, a Bronze Age agriculturalist required only 3 km squared or whatever; the industrial revolution increased the sustainable capacity of the earth per-person many times over. And this process of ever more effective utilisation of the resources of the earth - and now the entire solar system - will continue indefinitely as long as we continue to make scientific / technological progress.

          • VicqRuiz

            Now here, we agree one hundred percent.

          • Art Davison

            Perhaps there isn't a fixed number for the limiting capacity of Earth, but the rate at which we are consuming non-renewables, like oil, gas, coal and metals, plus destroying natural animal habitat and polluting our environment, we are rapidly approaching a non-sustainable population limit, if we are not already there.

          • VicqRuiz

            Personally, I am in favor of fully-automated luxury environmentalism featuring things like next-gen nukes, orbiting solar power arrays, offshore hydro power, geothermal, carbon capture. More and cheaper power and clean water for all.

            Instead we get hair-shirt, queue for the trolley, compost-toilet forced austerity. Nope, not signing up!

          • cosmonow

            We are not even close to consuming all of the available oil, gas, coal and metals. New extraction methods make more of these resources available all the time. We have hundreds, if not thousands, of years of gas, oil, metals to go. Plenty of time to shift to nuclear power & other forms of energy and to start exploiting the almost unlimited metal & mineral resources of the meteorite belt and other parts of the solar system.

          • Art Davison

            Well, from what I've been able to discover on Google, we have proven oil reserves of 1.73 trillion barrels, and with a consumption rate of almost 100 million barrels/day, that will last another 50 years. Even if unproven reserves are another trillion or so, we will run out in 100 years. But global warming will hit us hard before then.

          • cosmonow

            There are more optimistic estimations of oil reserves (and 100 years is optimistic enough). But I wasn't just referring to oil. We also have enormous global reserves of natural gas to draw upon and we have hardly scratched the coal reserves. With carbon capture, all of these fossil fuels can continue to enhance the well being of humanity and the environment for many centuries to come. But remember, they are only stepping stones to nuclear power in all of its current and future forms. We will never run out of power as long as we continue to make scientific & technological progress.

        • VicqRuiz

          And the Earth as a whole, with a population of 7.8 billion, far exceeds its sustainable capacity,

          That is a political position, not a scientifically established principle.

      • VicqRuiz

        no other region other than the Christian West put an end to slavery

        True, but it took them about 1700 years to get around to that.

        • cosmonow

          No it didn’t take 1700 years. Slavery was abolished in Christendom soon after the Roman Empire collapsed. But it was widespread in Africa, the Islamic world and Central America for many centuries after the Church ended slavery in Europe. It’s true that European colonists subsequently exploited the pre-existent African / Arab slave trade as part of the colonisation of the New World but the Church usually opposed or at least tried to mitigate the evil of the slave trade triangle. Looking back with modern eyes we wish that the Catholic Church had unequivocally called for an immediate, universal end to all slavery from the very beginning but all things are obvious in hindsight. Unfortunately, it took many centuries for the objective truth on the issue of slavery to be fully recognised.

          • VicqRuiz

            I don't think it's so much that the church was pro-slavery, rather that it was comfortable sitting at the power table and therefore unwilling to rock the boat.

          • cosmonow

            The Church was anti-slavery from the beginning. She tried to abolish slavery in Christendom and over time extended that principle to all people. There were ambiguities, lack of clarity and legal nitpicking at times and some bishops even supported some forms of slavery but the guiding principle of the Catholic Church has always been to recognise the intrinsic equality of all people and therefore to oppose slavery or at least minimise its cruelty.

  • Besides a demographic crisis, developed countries are experiencing unprecedented levels of social isolation, depression, and loneliness. South Korea, Belgium, and Japan have some of the highest suicide rates in the world.

    This is cherry-picked data. According to some reports, those least religious countries are actually the happiest. Highly secular countries seem to be able to be able to engender social cohesion and well being pretty well.

    In contrast, some of the most religious countries rank as some of the least suicidal in the world: Papua New Guinea (119th), the Philippines (159th), and Pakistan (169th)

    Though I wouldn't exactly cite these countries as models to follow. Furthermore, this is still cherry-picking. Vietnam is an explicitly atheist country, but it has a lower suicide rate that Papua New Guinea, and Lesotho has the second highest suicide rate on earth despite having rather high religiosity.

    These trends are compounded by the proliferation of socially isolating, addicting forms of entertainment like pornography, video games, social media, and smartphones that affect rising numbers of Westerners.

    It is not my experience that religious people make less use of video games, social media, or smartphones than non-religious people. I also have my doubts about religious people using less pornography, regardless of the restrictions against it.

    • Raymond

      "This county will stay dry as long as the Baptists and the bootleggers can stagger to the polls."

  • Corey Max

    I'm wondering what life would be like if there was no religion. I'm an atheist and I'm only a teenager, but I still have many pros of there being no religion. There wouldn't have been a World War II or The Crusades. There also wouldn't have been the KKK in America and our world would be so much more advanced. how to create a wikipedia page for a business

    • Ben Champagne

      Nope. Time to study actual History. WW2 wasn't religiously motivated, nor was the KKK (political democrats). The Crusades also had little to do with religion in and of itself, certainly at first, though by the Third if memory serves, religious motivation may have played more of a role, but for maintaining tradition, not some holy jihad.

      And on basic logic, purporting hypothetical counterfactuals as necessarily true revisions of the present is never a good look.

      • Joseph Noonan

        The Second Klan was explicitly motivated by Protestantism, hence their heavy anti-Catholicism.
        The Crusades were literally declared by the Church and had the purpose of taking back the Holy Land from Islamic rule. They had everything to do with religion, and going to war to maintain religious traditions means the same thing as "some holy jihad" - you're just describing it euphemistically.
        Anyone who has studied actual history will tell you both of these things, but it seems that by "actual history", you really meant historical revisionism designed to make religion appear spotless. No serious historian affirms attempts to completely detach the Crusades from religion or the claim that the KKK were just "political democrats" without any religious motivation.

        • BTS

          Interestingly enough, I was on a reactionary Catholic blog the other day and one of the ill-informed fox news viewers was foisting a conspiracy theory that the KKK was started by the democrats.

          • Ben Champagne

            Truth is a conspiracy theory now. Hilarious.

          • cosmonow

            No conspiracy; the KKK was effectively the terrorist wing of the segregationist Democratic Party for decades. The Democratic Party is indisputably the party of slavery, segregation and contemporary racism of low expectations.

        • Art Davison

          Let's not forget the Inquisition. You cannot dispute the fact that it was entirely religiously based.

          • Ben Champagne

            Actually, the inquisition had a lot to do with law and order and a lot less to do with 'burn the heretics!' Than your hollywood education would have you believe.

          • Joseph Noonan

            "Law and order" is an interesting way of saying "identifying heretics to maintain Catholic orthodoxy". And the fact that they only sometimes burned heretics isn't much of a justification.

          • cosmonow

            The inquisition saved many thousands of lives. It’s main function was to provide a more tolerant, rational way of adjudicating when people were accused of infractions against the social / religious order. The secular courts tended to be ad hoc in their judgements and brutal in punishments, so there was a need for better educated men in the clergy to weigh the evidence. The vast majority of cases involved drunkenness or other minor infractions by members of the clergy themselves, and most were resolved with an act of penance.

        • Ben Champagne

          Terribly inept. But what should I expect. Notably absent, any substantiation of your view. Religion certainly isn't spotless. Try reading for content next time.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Another non-response from you? I guess that was to be expected.

        • cosmonow

          Multiple factors motivated the Crusades but I agree that they were to a large extent religious Holy War(s). In many ways the Crusades were a justified response to five hundred years of often brutal Islamic imperialism. Did the Crusaders sometimes commit what we now call war-crimes? Yes. But was their cause, on balance, justified? Yes.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Islam hadn't even been around for 500 years when the Crusades began, so there were not "five hundred years of often brutal Islamic imperialism". Obviously, there was Islamic imperialism at the time, but the Crusades weren't merely Christians trying to defend themselves against brutal Islamic oppressors, as some historical revisionists have tried to repaint it. The main purpose was still to take back the Holy Land, and I don't think that's a just cause for war, let alone war crimes.

          • cosmonow

            If we count Islam as beginning with Muhammad’s first ‘revelations’ and preaching in 610 and the first crusade in 1095 then we get nearly 500 hundred years. But I’m willing to acknowledge that the Islamic conquests began with the Ridda Wars of 632 so can we settle on 463 years of Islamic imperialism?

          • cosmonow

            I said that there were multiple causal factors for the Crusades; defending Byzantium against the Seljuk Turks and protecting Christian pilgrimage routes to Jerusalem being initial causes. I do not think the war crimes of the Crusaders - or any contravention of Catholic Just War principles - were morally justified; perhaps I didn’t make that clear in my first comment. But I stand by my claim that the Crusades in the Holy Land were morally justified in defence of Christian rights and to liberate the Levant from Islamic imperialism.

          • Joseph Noonan

            If we count Islam as beginning with Muhammad’s first ‘revelations’ and preaching in 610 and the first crusade in 1095 then we get nearly 500 hundred years.

            I don't count Islam as beginning at that time because I don't believe that there actually were revelations then.

            But I’m willing to acknowledge that the Islamic conquests began with the Ridda Wars of 632 so can we settle on 463 years of Islamic imperialism?

            I'm not that interested in arguing over exact start dates of historical processes, so, fine, we can say that this was when Islamic imperialism started and that it had been around for close to five hundred years at the time of the First Crusade. The major point, though, is that even granting this, it doesn't make the Crusades justified.

          • cosmonow

            //’...I don't believe there actually we're revelations then’ // I agree that Muhammed’s religious experiences were not genuine revelations from God if that's what you mean. But why do you think the Crusades were not justified?

          • Joseph Noonan

            Because the end that the Crusades were trying to obtain was to take back the Holy Land, which isn't enough to justify a bloody war. The people who fought in the Crusades weren't just defending themselves, and I don't think they did anything to stop violence or oppression.

    • mmac1

      it is difficult to be sure of counterfactuals- but the world before Christianity wasn't pretty. Life was cheap & people were killed as a form of entetainment. Women & children in public were fair game to exploited (a proper Greek women was not seen in public- her slaves did the shopping-in fact one never mentioned the name of a friend's wife-to do so implied too much familiarity). Christianity advanced the novel idea of the dignity of all men & women b/c we were all made in the image of God & since we called God our Father we were all brothers & sisters. This idea slowly but surely lead to the emancipation of not only of women but of slaves. It wasn't immediate but it changed our world. Furthermore, science only really arose in areas of Christianity- b/c the Christians believed a mind created an intelligible universe and they believed b/c God created the universe it wasn't itself divine so it could be questioned & investigated w/o being blasphemous. Many religions believe that God and the universe were the same- so one couldn't investigate it or question it w/o being a heretic. Other religions believe in a voluntaristic God (ie he can & will do whatever he wills so there are no laws of nature) so that studying the universe is a waste of time-it is neither predictable nor intelligible. There are many other consequences of Christianity - but here is a starting point.

      • Raymond

        since we called God our Father we were all brothers & sisters.
        So you're saying it wasn't until the Reformation that Christians began slaughtering people in different strains of Christianity?

        Still happens today.

        • mmac1

          People have used religion for their own ulterior motives since the 1st medicine man. Same in the Christian world- much of the so called wars of religion in Europe had nothing to do with religion-remember the Swedish pro-Protestant forces were financed by France a Catholic kingdom-because the French did not want a unified Germany allied to Spain on its border. What was unique with Christianity was that spread the concept of the dignity of all people. As I said the implications didn’t sink in right away but the germ was planted. It is why the west was the leader in women’s rights, ending slavery etc.

    • Art Davison

      I agree. Perhaps you've heard the saying " Good people do good things and bad people do bad hings, but for good people to do bad things takes religion"

      • mmac1

        for good people to do bad things is to fail their faith. But we are far from perfect-all stumble and God calls us to perfection-so we have confession & grace to strengthen us for the journey.

        • Art Davison

          Religion was the basis of the Spanish Iinquisition, and religion today wants to take away a woman's rights to control her own body and to treat LGBT people as sinners, when it's all about LOVE.

          • cosmonow

            A pre-born child is not the mother’s body. She has no more right to murder it than she has to murder her three year old child, for example.

          • Art Davison

            When is a foetus preborn? At conception? When it has a heart beat? A functioning brain? When it can survive outside of the Mother's body without assistance? Is a husband at fault for not impregnating hs wife when she is fertile? What about all the spontaneous abortions? Finally, you can believe whatever you wish; about a fictitious Gawd, Heaven, souls, and all that other nonsense, but just leave the rest of us to believe differently - but, of course, you cannot keep from pushing your beliefs on others.

          • Rob Abney

            What does the murder of a living being in the womb have to do with religion, other than that the Catholic religion acknowledges the secular right to life?!

          • Art Davison

            You're doing just what I predicted you'd do - pushing your beliefs on everyone else. Some perfectly rational humans don't believe abortion is a crime, that's just your definition.

            By the way, define "Life"

          • Rob Abney

            Basic non-religious questions for you: Have you sired any offspring? When did that life begin? What caused it?

          • Art Davison

            Actually, I've been married three times, and none of my wives was able to conceive. But I believe life starts when an infant is capable of surviving outside of its Mother's womb. (including with medical assistance) If its life is terminated before then, intentionally or otherwise, it was never fully alive.

          • Rob Abney

            If its life is terminated before then, intentionally or otherwise, it was never fully alive

            So you determine if there was a life if the baby doesn't die, that's some deep thinking. Search the internet for some scientific basis for your position, you won't find it.

          • cosmonow

            So according to your definition, advances in pre-natal care change the definition of what it is to be a human? Why do you think that a foetus is not a human being before extrauterine viability? What fundamental change occurs at, currently, about 24 weeks that transforms the foetus into a human being in your view? After all, an infant cannot survive on her own for long after birth. So the mere capacity to survive briefly post-birth can’t be the defining characteristic of a human being can it?

          • cosmonow

            Your comment about - “a woman’s right to control her own body” - started it. It is a dog-whistle for the anti-life brigade. Weren’t you pushing your opinion on others in making that comment? By the way, I fully support the right of every woman to control her own body. But that right doesn’t extend to the killing of the other human being temporarily dependent upon her care in her womb.

          • cosmonow

            They can’t be perfectly rational when they are so wrong on this issue.

          • cosmonow

            Human life begins at conception. That is the most reasonable scientific and philosophical conclusion. Do you agree that murder of any innocent human being is morally wrong? All your other comments are red-herrings. I was opposed to abortion when I was an atheist. Many secular folk are Pro-Life. Standing up for the Right to Life of the most vulnerable human beings is the central human rights issue of our age. It is not a specifically religious issue. All people of good-will should oppose the murder of pre-born children. https://www.secularprolife.org/

          • cosmonow

            //What about spontaneous abortions ?// Do natural bush fires make arson permissible?

          • Art Davison

            Well my friend, regardless of when life begins, I still believe that a woman should have the right to terminate her pregnancy. An unwanted child has two strikes against it from the start, and too many women die from botched back alley abortions. Assuming we are both men, we don't know what a woman suffers when carrying an unwanted pregnancy. So I geuss we beg to differ.

          • Rob Abney

            If your okay with termination of life at any stage of the pregnancy, why are you against termination after birth? Is your position only political?

          • Art Davison

            I never said that I was okay with it, just that I believe it is the woman's decision only, my opinion is not relevant. Certainly, I would be definitely against it in the 3rd trimester, but again, not my decision to make.

          • cosmonow

            Why do you believe that it is okay for women to kill innocent pre-born children? On what possible grounds can that be correct?

          • cosmonow

            Of course it is your decision. We are all human beings - men, women, pre-born children - we have a moral duty to protect all human life. Your argument is like saying, “I’m a free white man. I’m not a black slave. I have some doubts about this slavery business but it’s not my decision. It’s up to the slave owner what he chooses to do with his property.”

          • Art Davison

            Literally millions of innocent children die horrible deaths every year that the all-powerful Christian Gawd could prevent if She chose. Compared to that, an abortion is a petty offense.

          • cosmonow

            So you think it is okay to murder innocent pre-born children because many children die by natural causes? Remember this is a human rights issue in my opinion. It is not a specifically religious issue. I take it from your comments that you are a non- theist. But in your ethical worldview do you think that murder is wrong?

          • Art Davison

            My point is that I will try to prevent the death of a child if it's within my power to do so. All-mighty Gawd has the power, but doesn't do so.

          • cosmonow

            Why do you keep bringing God into it? It's a red herring. We can discuss the problem of evil for theism as a separate discussion if you like, but at the moment we are discussing abortion. My anti-abortion arguments do not require anything more than a broad agreement about universal human rights. I was pro-life when I was an atheist. I remain pro-life since reverting to Catholicism. But there is nothing specifically religious in the pro-life position in my view, unless we get into deeper philosophical questions about the ultimate foundation for all human rights. For practical purposes, I think it is better to view the pro-life issue like any other struggle for universal human rights. It is something that all people of good will can ascribe to.

          • cosmonow

            // "My point is that I will try to prevent the death of a child if it's within my power to do so." // Good. So you support pro-life principles. It is within your power to join a pro-life campaign if you like. As a non theist, you may prefer to join https://www.secularprolife.org/

          • Rob Abney

            Your opinion is relevant if you want to protect the innocent from injustice, and to clothe the naked, to befriend the stranger, to visit the sick and imprisoned, and care for the hungry and thirsty - all of these are represented by the baby in the womb. And if you do this you will know Jesus Christ Himself.

          • Art Davison

            Being an atheist doesn't mean that I'm less moral than a Christian. When I was younger, I spent many an evening canvassing for a number of charities, and at one time gave over $5000/year to a wide variety of others. But at 91 I'm not able to walk the streets any longer, and being on a fixed income, my contributions have dropped to around $2000/year. None of us unbelievers require some fictitious Gawd looking over our shoulders to behave compassionately towards our fellow humans

          • Rob Abney

            That's an impressive age! If you don't require a gawd to behave compassionately then what is the foundation for your charitable behavior? And why do you not include unborn babies as being in need of your compassion and charity?

          • Art Davison

            Morals are the rules we establish so that we can live together safely and profitably. I need to be able to trust that my neighbour won't rob me or kill me, that we will help each other when needed, and that I can be assured that he won't lie to me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            So your "morals" are based on pure self-interest?

          • Art Davison

            A zygote is not a "preborn" baby, but a potential one, and only the woman can decide whether or not to allow taht potential to be realized.

          • cosmonow

            Why do you think a human zygote is not a human being?

          • Art Davison

            Same reason as an acorn is not an oak tree. A zygote is a potential human.

          • cosmonow

            An acorn IS an oak tree. It is an oak tree in an early stage of development. Likewise, a human zygote is an early stage human being.

          • Art Davison

            If I see a child drowning in a swimming pool, my instinct is to attempt to rescue it. Your Gawd sees millions of children dying, has the ability to stop it, but does nothing. All He/She /It is concerned with is having humans "Believe in Me! Me! Me!" What an egotist!

          • Rob Abney

            Wouldn’t it be none of your business, wouldn’t it be the mother’s choice to save the child? What if the mother were robbing you, would you still save the child?
            You seem very confused in your rationalizations.
            God isn’t asking us to believe in Him, He’s only asking us to not decide that we are God.

          • Art Davison

            According to the Holey Babble, I can be a totally evil person, but if I repent my sins and 'believe in Him' I'll be saved. On the other hand, I can be a great philanthropist, making life better for thouands of people, but if I don't 'believe in Him', I'm toast.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Sorrow for one's sins is not genuine unless it is accompanied by a firm resolution to stop committing them. Hence, real repentance cannot leave one "totally evil."

            You seem to assume that all believers are hypocrites. They are not. But you would never know that unless and until you become a sincere believer yourself.

            As for philanthropy, it is easier to do good than to be good.

          • Art Davison

            You're splitting hairs. I'm saying that someone who has been evil, sees the light and truly repents, will be admitted to Heaven. Take Saul/Paul foar example.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What is the point of having a free will, if one cannot change one's ways for the better? The whole point of human life is to use one's free will for the attainment of the ultimate good, which is God in heaven.

            I would hate to have you for God, since you would never forgive anyone who repents of his evil ways! Do you treat all your relatives and friends this way?

            Thank God we have a just and loving God who does forgive the sinner who repents!

          • David Nickol

            Is that somehow unfair? Remember there is purgatory is the person who repents still merits punishment after death.

          • Art Davison

            Oh yeah! I forgot Purgatory . Another weird place that only Catholics believe in. Since we are supposedly going to spend Eternity in Heaven, then how long in Purgatory? How about 10% of Eternity? But that's stiil Eternity, isn't it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You did not forget about Purgatory. You clearly never studied it. Purgatory ends with the General Judgment at the end of the world. Its duration is not commensurable with Eternity.

            .

          • David Nickol

            Oh yeah! I forgot Purgatory

            The idea of a place called Purgatory may seem weird, but the idea of a state like Purgatory makes a great deal of sense to me. The pain of Purgatory could be to learn exactly what you did in life (and what you didn't do) that caused harm or suffering to others. I imagine that for most of us, such knowledge would be devastating.

            Since we are supposedly going to spend Eternity in Heaven

            Almost everybody seems to think that, including most Catholics, but remember the Resurrection of the Body. Christianity is really all about eternal life in a physical body, with heaven being only a temporary stopover. N . T. Wright had a good article titled Heaven Is Not Our Home in Christianity Today, which now is unfortunately mostly (but not entirely) behind a firewall.

          • Art Davison

            Resurrection of the body? I wonder what chronological age I'll be, and where the matter comes from to rebuild it. If I'm born blind will I regain my sight? And since my original brain has decomposed, with all of my memories stored in it, the new body won't be me at all.

          • David Nickol

            There are answers to most of your questions, believe it or not. The belief is that resurrected bodies will be in their prime (33 years old). They will be without defects, so persons born blind will be able to see. Presumably you will have all your memories. If Good created the universe, then surely he will have to problem with the matter needed to re-create your body.

            I generally self-identify as agnostic, but I have no problem acknowledging that if the Christian God exists, he can do anything, There is a hilarious short story by Philip Roth called The Conversion of the Jews that I urge you (and everybody) to read, not for its "theological" content but because it is so enjoyable. (The link will take you to the text of the story.)

          • Art Davison

            33 years old, without defect, with all my memories. Huh! Where did those ideas come from, surely not the Holey Babble.

          • Art Davison

            I've always been curious as to where the soul comes from and when it arrives in the developing fetus. And since we know that the memory is contained within the brain, and damage to parts of the brain can cause the loss of some memories, then when death occurs and the brain decays, all memories are lost, so there is no more 'ME'

          • Rob Abney

            YOU are much more than just your stored memories, you are fundamentally a person with intellect and will, the intellect is for pursuing truth, the will is for loving the good.

            The developing fetus has a soul from the moment of conception, if it didn't it wouldn't be alive and it wouldn't be called a fetus it would be called a potential fetus. But a fetus is not a potential baby it is a developing baby.

          • Art Davison

            A soul from the moment of conception? Where does it come from? Is it in the sperm or the egg? Or is Gawd standing in an assembly line and popping them in at the instant of conception?

            How do you know we are more than our memories, plus, of course, our habits? I'm basically a self-aware, intelligent animal. I certainly don't need a 'soul' to exist, any more than dolphin does, but I can still enjoy my brief time on Earth and .the glories of the Universe.

          • Rob Abney

            It seems that you have no idea what a soul is. It is the animating power of any “living” thing, generally a plant, an animal, or a human. No it doesn’t come from the male or the female wouldn’t be needed or vice versa. So yes it comes from outside of the two parents, from what all men call God.

          • Art Davison

            Realisticly, since I cannot see, feel, smell, hear or taste a soul, I find it impossible to believe that one exists, except in the imagination of the religious.

          • Rob Abney

            Do you consider Aristotle religious then? Are you really 91 or 9, because this is pretty elementary stuff.

          • Art Davison

            Are you saying that the soul, and belief therein, is "elementary stuff?" If so, then you and I are not on the same planet. Belief in the soul is totally based on Faith, as is Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. (Stay Safe)

          • Rob Abney

            I said that Aristotle described what a soul is and he was not religious. He was Greek and on the same planet I am on.

          • Art Davison

            (From an article in Skeptical Inquirer on disbelief by Jefferson M. Fish, professor emeritus of psychology at St. John’s U.):-
            In short, psychologists are inclined to view religious experiences as interesting subjective phenomena unrelated to the existence of a god or any other supernatural phenomena. For Example, out-of- body experiences,-which are rare but well-documented phenomena- have been used as evidence for the existence of a soul. Believers contend that whatever entity it is that leaves the body during one might be able to continue an existence after death. Early in this 21st century however, it was discovered that out-of-body experiences result from a disturbance in functioning of the temporo-parietal junction in the brain. That is, they are subjective experience s, but there is no entity that actually leaves the body.

          • Rob Abney

            Why are you focusing on religion and belief when I’ve said that the soul is described by Aristotle who is not religious?

          • Art Davison

            As a really old engineer, I've little knowledge of philosophy, but I do know that Aristotle was a great philosopher in ancient Greece, and that he wrote a treatise on the soul. However everything he postulated about the soul is merely conjecture; there is no way to verify anything he claims.

            I believe that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is circling the Earth, and no one can prove otherwise.

          • Rob Abney

            I've little knowledge of philosophy

            Yes, that is obvious. But you also have little knowledge of how faith and belief work as you consider all beliefs to be blind faith. Which explains why you have chosen to believe that there is no God, you are only following your own almighty will.

          • Art Davison

            Faith and belief are not proof.
            By the way, if you were born in Saudi Arabia, you'd be arguing just as sincerely for Islam and Allah.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, that is not quite true. Avicenna and Averroes were the most outstanding Islamic philosophers. But their reasoning so departed from Islamic religious doctrine that they came up with the concept of the "double verities," whereby the truth of reason could be different than the truth of revelation -- just so they would not get into trouble with the religious authorities.

            This is quite different from the Catholic position on the harmony of faith and reason. Faith is not blind, but reasonable, especially since Catholicism has the doctrine of the "preambles to faith," which maintains that there are truths known by natural reason, such as God's existence and veracity, which are logically presupposed for religious revelation.

            The Catholic Church teaches that nothing that is authentically revealed by God contradicts what right reason can demonstrate, although some doctrines, such as the Trinity, can exceed what natural, unaided reason would have discovered on its own.

          • Art Davison

            "there are truths known by natural reason, such as God's existence and veracity, which are logically presupposed for religious revelation."
            WoW! Then you must believe everything in the Holey Babble, including Genesis - the Universe created in 6 days, Noah's Ark and the Flood, the Virgin Birth,the Reserrection, and so on.
            I find it imposible to believe any of those stories, particularly when you realize that the "Sacred" texts of all the major religions were wriitten thousand(s) of years ago, when people generally were superstitious and completely ignorant of the workings of the natural world.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I just wrote above, my field of competence is philosophy. I don't aim to answer every possible skeptical thought that has ever gone through your mind. I know that Thomistic philosophy comports very well with Christian revelation, which to me is a very strong argument in favor both of Thomism and Catholicism.

            And I know that not everything written in the Pentateuch must be read literalistically.

            Being 81 years old myself, I am well aware that I need to get the facts about reality straight before i run out of time to investigate them. I can already see that you have many rational errors in your worldview and, frankly, am appalled that this is still the case in someone who is ten years older than myself!

          • Art Davison

            I certainly cannot argue philosphy with you, but I am unaable to believe in anything that doesn't have a measurable physical existence. If there were a God, and if He/She/It were truly kind and loving, the fact that my mental inclinations and education lead me to disbelieve in God's existence would not exclude me from any reward.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Perhaps, you could begin by deciding whether your disbelief in God is merely agnosticism or outright atheism. We have agnostics on this site who no longer positively believe in God, but who are undecided whether he might exist. On the other hand, one may absolutely deny even the possibility that God exists. Which are you? Those who are dogmatic atheists go beyond the evidence, since there are arguments for God's existence and the coherence of his nature (even though I realize that atheists would deny this).

            But you say you are "unable to believe in anything that doesn't have a measurable physical existence." Is that really "unable," or "unwilling?"

            In any event, since you are not that familiar with philosophy, let me offer you a rational argument that absolutely proves the reality of something that "doesn't have a measurable physical existence,"

            Since you appear to have some time available and since it could change your entire view of what is real, please take the time to read this with an open mind:
            https://www.hprweb.com/2020/06/materialisms-unnoticed-achilles-heel/

            It is NOT a proof for God or the spiritual soul of man or of any religion. But it does show that something not extended in space and not having "measurable physical existence" absolutely must exist.

          • Art Davison

            My feeble old engineer's mind cannot grasp the convoluted reasoning of this proof of the existence of the immaterial, but assuming that it does, then, as you admit, it doesn't prove there is a god. If there were a god, and It was the all-powerful loving, creator of the universe, then it's difficult to understand why It created viruses that cause suffering and death to millions annually.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You did not say whether you were the kind of engineer that drives trains or the ones that have university degrees. If the latter, you should have no trouble following my "convoluted reasoning" that clearly shows that not everything can be physically measurable, especially since it entails concepts about the physical nature of sensing devices that any engineer should be able to understand.

            And again, it sounds to me like you are putting forth the "problem of evil" argument against God, which itself entails "convoluted," even if erroneous reasoning. And If you can follow your own type of reasoning on this problem of evil, then you should be able to intelligently comprehend and discuss my responses to that very same issue that I have already published on this web site. See these:

            https://strangenotions.com/how-to-approach-the-problem-of-evil/

            https://strangenotions.com/hell-and-gods-goodness/

          • Art Davison

            Chemical Engineer. I'll do some thinking about your statements

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We have something in common. I was initially working on an undergrad major in chemistry that became a minor. I am no chemist, but I do have some empathy for the scientific method as result. At the same time, it has helped me to understand the limits of natural science. Philosophy is a quite different way of using our same mind on the same reality we all experience.

          • Jim the Scott

            None of what you said logically follows. But at least you own the fact you don't understand philosophy. Which I am afraid renders yer species of non belief intellectually no better than Fundamentalism without god belief.

            In short it is like showing up on a blog or message board that discusses the scientific basis of evolution with a 4th graders' knowledge of biology. By definition none of yer objections can be at all impressive.

            My advise ANSWERS IN GENESIS is over here.

            https://answersingenesis.org/

            Have at them. They sound like more yer speed. We are not fundamentalists here. We are Catholics and Thomists. We in general accept Theistic Evolution and whatever lame polemics you learned attacking Protestant fundamentalism is meaningless to us.

            Go learn some philosophical Atheism then get back to us. Good luck.

          • Art Davison

            Why is not being a theist an unacceptable position?

            And what does 'Answers in Genesis' have to do with anything? I get a chuckle out of it, as I'm sure you do too,

          • Jim the Scott

            Who says it is an acceptable or unacceptable position?

            You can believe what you want but if you are gonna argue about it then you need to be informed. You are not informed by yer own admission. So discussion with you on the issue would not be interesting.

            >And what does 'Answers in Genesis' have to do with anything?

            Based on my readings of yer posts thus far that is about the level of theism you are competent to polemic IMHO. Any theism more sophisticated then that (like Classic Theism and all philosophical theism) is clearly outside of yer competence.

            This is not an insult anymore that it is an insult to tell me I lack a graduate student in physics understanding of quantum physics.

          • Art Davison

            It seems very suspicious that many of the ancient religions that preceeded Christianity contained stories of virgin births, deaths and reserrection of the hero, Creation myths and Floods.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There are others far more qualified to respond to your "suspicions" in this area of apologetics. Your errors in philosophy fall more into my field of competence.

            Nonetheless, logic requires that claims that these elements of Christian revelation were actually copied from ancient myths must be shown to be true.

            Moreover, as for Christ's life, many of the events that took place were prophesied centuries before those myths appeared.

          • Art Davison

            Of course, one can never 'prove' that any story was deliberatelyy copied from an earlier one, I'm just saying that it's an odd coincidence.
            As for prophesies concerning Christ's life, assuming they can be found in the Bible, can you tell me exactly where, so I can look them up?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not a theologian, and therefore do not have the research at hand. I am sure you can find plenty of them through an internet search, since they are abundant.

            Here is one link for starters: http://www.jesusfilm.org/blog-and-stories/old-testament-prophecies.html

            And I am glad to see you have finally learned how to spell "Bible."

          • Art Davison

            Exactly how is somehing "authentically revealed" by Gawd? I haven't seen giant signs in the sky proclaiming his word.
            Surely you aren't referring to the Holey Babble as your source.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            See my comment immediately above this one.

          • Rob Abney

            What’s your proof that I would be a Muslim?

          • Art Davison

            Okay, the odds are overwhelmingly in favour of you being a Muslim if you were born in Saudi Arabia. There is no logical reason to be anything else, unless your parents believed a different religion.

          • Rob Abney

            So, you parents were atheists?

          • Art Davison

            No, my parents attended the Baptist church, where I went to sunday school, belonged to the young peoples' club, and became a baptised church member. But going to University and becoming an engineer also taught me critical thinking,, which led me to atheism. And there was no punishment hanging over me for leaving religion.

            Of course, being raised by Muslim parents does't guarantee that you will follow, but I'm only quoting odds, and any muslim who changes his/her beliefs is in deep trouble in most Muslim countries.

          • Rob Abney

            Your baptist faith was a blind faith, easy to reject even with materialistic thinking. Too bad your university education taught you to think small.

          • David Nickol

            Your snippy condescension and Catholic triumphalism can only serve to drive skeptics and nonbelievers (and Protestants!) farther away from the Church than they already are.

            I don't think that's the aim of Strange Notions.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Not to mention disparagement of university education. I'm always repelled by belief systems that are threatened by education.

          • Rob Abney

            I prefer this snippy style to your smug condescension style that prefers to promote indifference with legalistic interpretations of reality.
            And I agree that you don’t know the aim of SN, you think it is only dialogue, but you miss the fact that the purpose of dialogue is to know the truth.

          • Art Davison

            From my viewpoint, all religions require blind faith. You know every major civilization in history has had its religion, with all-powerful Gods, sacred texts, priests and temples. The populace believed in these gods, prayed to them and offered sacrifices to them, and where are they now? Thousands of religions then and now, and at most only one can be true. The odds are against your being that one.

          • Rob Abney

            This is the point, no other god can be known through pure reasoning, only the one true God can. I don’t think your former baptist religion teaches that.

          • Art Davison

            Even assuming that there is an immaterial realm, I don't see how that proves the existence of a Gawd, and even if it did, that can't necessarily be your particular Gawd, and again even that wouldn't matter if there isn't a human soul.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, as a philosopher, I have already addressed all these sorts of questions in previous articles on this web site. Just go to drbonnette.com and click on "Strange Notions," and all my articles are right there before your eyes!

            So, don't claim that these things are untrue or cannot be rationally demonstrated unless, and until, you are carefully examined some of the arguments that support them.

            Yes, we have agnostics and atheists on this web site, but most of the most active such commenters have done their homework and read at least some of the materials from the theistic side of things. They may still disagree, but they are not merely blindly rejecting everything without even examining the evidence and reasoning supporting the theistic position. What are you doing?

          • Rob Abney

            If you will admit that the human soul is not a religious invention then I’ll give you some evidence. Interested?

          • Art Davison

            Of course. Can't guarantee I'l comprehend it ,but I'll try.

          • Art Davison

            (didn't I already reply to this? Maybe in my dreams.)
            Sure. I'd be interested in evidence, trouble is I'll probably need a dictionary for the philosophical terminology

          • Rob Abney

            Good, you admit the soul is not a religious invention. Here’s an argument that uses no philosophical jargon but presents evidence that something is present.
            Consider what philosopher Peter Kreeft fittingly named the “Dead Cow Argument”: you come across two cows — one that is alive, and one that has just died. What is the difference between these two cows? Craig Payne, quoting Kreeft, explains:
            There appears to be no material difference (e.g., in size or weight or color) between the two cows. Yet something is clearly missing. What is it?” The obvious answer is that the cow is “clearly missing” its life – its “soul” or anima, in other words, its animating principle or form, that which causes the cow to live and develop as a cow.
            So the living and the dead cow, at this point, are still materially identical. Nevertheless, we can immediately observe that an immaterial difference exists, and a radically important one. As Kreeft notes, both cows have air in their lungs, but only one can breathe. This distinction is, as noted above, the “animating” principle of the matter: the form enabling a particular material substance to live. It is from this that we have the simplest understanding of what a soul is: the animating principle of a body.
            Certainly, this is only the beginning of a discussion on the soul, not the end. We’re still left to determine what sort of a thing the immaterial soul is, whether a human soul is like a cow soul, and so on. But this line of reasoning does dispel the absurd notion that the material is all that there is. https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/does-the-immaterial-exist/18321/

          • Art Davison

            Interesting ideas Rob.
            There is a difference between the 2 cows - the living cow has all its critical parts working, while the dead one has had a necessary component damaged to the point that it can't function, so the cow dies. The brain of the living cow receives input from the environment, decides the necessary reaction, and sends signals to the muscles to carry out the required movement . No soul needed.

            I believe you are saying that all living things have souls, including mosquitos and house flies, and of course snails and worms and jellyfish.

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, all living things including plants.

            What are you referring to, what does it mean for a necessary component to stop functioning? Since every part of the body is informed by the soul, any critical part that becomes separated from the soul means death.

          • David Nickol

            In autumn, does a tree's soul withdraw from individual leaves, causing them to be dead and fall off? If so, does the shape of the tree's soul change from that of a leafy tree to that of a leafless tree?

          • Rob Abney

            You've been in lockdown too long if that's how you understand trees and souls. Please provide the legalistic interpretation for us poor Catholics who don't understand our own texts.

          • Rob Abney

            Art, what makes one of the cows go “moo”?

          • Art Davison

            Its brain telling the lungs to expell a burst of air through its mouth. Don't tell me its soul does. Then assuming my soul guides my actions also, thenI have no need for such a large brain, as my soul can perform all my conscious actions.

          • Rob Abney

            You are correct about the cow brain function, but what makes that critical organ be categorized as alive?

          • Art Davison

            You can't convince me that some undetectable soul is the difference. All the cow's critical components are in working condition and functioning properly, converting oxygen, water and food into energy to fuel the cells of the body and enable it to move as the brain directs. If some essential part becomes inoperable, the animal dies. It doesn't matter if the 'soul' is still in the cow.

          • Rob Abney

            I’m not asking you to “detect” an immaterial power only to acknowledge that there is something that animates the parts of the cow that lead you to recognize that it is either dead or alive.

          • Art Davison

            I don't believe that an immaterial, undetectable something can interact with material objects. How could this be possible?

          • Rob Abney

            In the same way that the immaterial roundness of a ball “interacts” with the ball, it makes it what it is. At some point you’ll have to consider why you believe or don’t believe rather than know or don’t know.

          • Art Davison

            The roundness of a ball is not immaterial since I can detect the shape wih my eyes. Taking a handful of clay and molding it into a reconizable shape hasn't added anything to it.

          • Rob Abney

            What makes the shape recognizable? You can detect the ball in front of you is round but where did you get the notion of roundness. Are some balls less round?

          • Art Davison

            A quantity of matter occupies space, which means it must have a shape. Humans may deliberately modify this shape, but the result doesn't have any particularl significance except to the human.

          • Jim the Scott

            Nice dodge! Yer answer can be summed up as "just because" which is no answer at all.

          • Art Davison

            Stating that 'roundness' is anything more than a geometric shape is ridiculous.

          • Jim the Scott

            Except the question was "where did you get the notion of roundness"?

            So you either dodged it or you don't understand the question.

          • Rob Abney

            Are you claiming that roundness only exists in your mind, maybe you are a god.

          • Art Davison

            Roundness is a geometic shape that I can recognize. I cannot comprehend how it can be some mysterious quality.

            Unlikely that I am a gawd, as I don' t believe in them.

            I no nothing of Philosophy, which I know is obvious to you. However, Christopher Hitchens was a philosopher and he never espoused your beliefs.

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry, I don’t think I can change your thinking at this stage of your life, so we can end the discussion.
            Hitchens was not much of a philosopher, but if you liked him then you might also like his brother Peter, the only difference between the two was that Peter worships God.

          • Art Davison

            Okay Rob. I guess we can agaree to disagree, so to speak.
            Reminds me of my favourite t-shirt saying:-
            'I'm not arguing, I'm just explaining why I'm right.' lol
            Stay Safe!

          • Jim the Scott

            >However, Christopher Hitchens was a philosopher and he never espoused your beliefs.

            That is not a convincing statement(Hitchens philosophical incompetence not withstanding).
            Prof Stephen Barr is a physicist & a PhD and a Catholic who espouses our beliefs.

            Now what?

            Art seriously dude go read some Jack Smart or Graham Oppy (Atheists of substance) and you might present us an interesting challenge. Or not. Please yerself.

            Cheers.

          • Art Davison

            My Mommy taught me about roundness.

          • Rob Abney

            Ask her to explain it again, pay more attention!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just as a side note, may I respectfully suggest you read carefully my article here that demonstrates this exact point -- and does so through something you can check yourself without doing terribly sophisticated philosophy arguments?

            https://www.hprweb.com/2020/06/materialisms-unnoticed-achilles-heel/

            It uses something that even dumb bunnies can do. :)

          • Art Davison

            In your article you state "And yet, sense experience can do something that mere matter cannot do, that is, unify the whole of what is sensed in a single act of apprehension."
            An intelligent robot can 'see' objects and react appropriately. It can see humans and distinguish between individuals, and tell the diference between different objects and different animals. Sounds like sight to me. Without a soul.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This just tells me that you did not read my article carefully, since it tells you precisely why no purely material thing can apprehend a sense object as a whole.

            Forgive me if I am not overwhelmed by the "intelligence" of a computer of any type. They are essentially a pile of junk assembled by very smart people who program its functions to imitate human cognition and thought processes. As an early programmer at Ford Division when we had an IBM 705 and a 1401 computer, the eternal lament was that the computers did what you told them to do, not what you wanted them to do. I realize AI establishes "self-learning" programming within the newest computers, but the problem is that a computer could still make audible sounds of "Cogito ergo sum," and it still would not be thinking nor even know that it existed at all. Computers know nothing at all. If you think they do, this just proves you do not understand how they work.

            But i still stand behind the reasoning in my article, which you clearly do not understand.

          • Art Davison

            I never claimed that a computer controlled robot was intelligent, just that, if it could detect and identify objects without a soul, why can't a huuman, using the biological equivalent of the robot's sensing system, do the same, wiithout a soul?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Two points:

            First, I did not say that animals' ability to experience sense objects as a whole proved that they had a soul. Read the article carefully. What I said was that to sense physically-extended objects as a whole requires a non-material sense power, that is, a power that is not itself extended in space.

            The article does go on, later on, to suggest that a world in which living things have substantial forms we call souls would complete the picture. But that was a separate issue.

            Second, the issue is not intelligence. Dumb bunnies, which have no intelligence at all, still can have sense experience of their carrots as a whole -- because, like with us humans, their sensory powers are not extended in space.

            Robots may "detect" and "identify" objects because they are programmed to react that way in the presence of objects. But, what they cannot do is to have the subjective sense experience of "seeing" and "feeling" the objects to which they physically react.

            There is a whole world of difference in the way the physical world must be understood once you realize that animals have immaterial sense experience, since that immaterial factor now enters into understanding all things that exist.
            This is the aspect that materialists simply miss about the world -- and you do NOT need to prove God's existence or that of a spiritual human soul in order to see this truth.

            That is why my article focuses on a simple act that even a dumb bunny can do, namely, subjectively experience a sensed object as a whole.

            I know you are not used to thinking of things in these terms, since once conditioned to think of everything in terms of natural science and physical reality, one automatically reinterprets all data in those terms.

            But the problem for such thinking is that it simply cannot explain how something as simple as seeing a physically-extended object as a whole is simply impossible for a physically-extended "receiver." That is why you have to real the argument in the article very slowly and carefully.

          • Art Davison

            But you danced around my question. Why cannot humans have the biological equivalent of the robot's object sensing system?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, because your robot does not have a "sensing" system. It has a "reaction" system. It has no subjective experience at all, since a pile of physical objects is merely an accidental unity with no ability to have subjective experience of wholes. That was the point of the article.

            Second, because even if the biological "equipment" does the same things as the robot's parts and programming does, that is not sufficient to explain how animals have subjective experience of wholes.

            The whole point of the article is that it takes more than physically extended parts in space to explain how experience of unified wholes can take place.

            You really need to set aside your preconceived notion that the physical robot somehow can just automatically have this "experience of wholes" and reason your way through exactly how this is possible in purely physical terms. It simply cannot be done. That is what my article explains in detail.

          • Art Davison

            Okay Dennis, if I accept your argument that humans have souls, where does that lead? If the soul survives death, what happens to it?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            But you do not see what I am driving at. I don't want you to just "accept for the sake of argument" that humans have souls -- and then we go off debating all the possible rational and religious consequences of that fact.

            Please come back to the article itself. It does NOT primarily prove that humans have SPIRITUAL souls, or souls at all.

            Rather, it aims to open the reader's eyes to an astonishing fact. That is, that even dumb bunnies, lowly animals, must have something not at all physical in their make up. That it takes something immaterial in a living, sensing thing to enable it to know whole things in its perception.

            This does not apply just to humans. It applies to chimps, rabbits, snakes, and cock roaches!

            Philosophy is not about learning what others have said about the world. That is history of philosophy.

            You will have no philosophy at all unless you yourself understand the truth of what you discover about reality.

            I am trying to pry open the epistemic lid and get readers to see that this reality we live in cannot be just a physical cosmos. It has a provable non-material aspect to it.

            If a reader can just begin to see the force of this argument into the reality of some non-material things existing, then -- just maybe -- he will begin to reexamine his whole worldview and begin to see the whole of reality in a different light.

            That is why I don't want you to skip over my argument and just go on debating over things where each side stakes out positions to defend -- but no one has discovered something really new and really true about all creation.

          • Art Davison

            What animates a live animal? The lungs and digestive tract fuel it. The circulatory system distributes the resulting energy to the cells of the muscles. The brain decides on an action, and the nervous system sends the appropriate signals to the muscles. No soul needed.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe you forgot but we’ve already been over this.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Of course there is something that animates the parts of a cow, causing me to recognize that it is alive. It's called the nervous system, and it's completely physical.

          • Rob Abney

            Brilliant. What’s animating the nervous system?

          • Joseph Noonan

            Do you actually need me to explain the biology to you, or are you just being difficult? You can't possibly believe that biologists don't know how the nervous system works, can you?

          • Rob Abney

            I am trying to be difficult to the materialistic way of thinking. So if you can do it then tell me what makes the nervous system work, not how it works.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I am trying to be difficult to the materialistic way of thinking.

            You know very well that that's not what I meant by "difficult".

            So if you can do it then tell me what makes the nervous system work, not how it works.

            "What makes it work" and "how it works" mean the exact same thing.

          • Jim the Scott

            >"What makes it work" and "how it works" mean the exact same thing.

            So programing my old VCR or DVD player is the same as building one from scratch?

            Who knew?

          • Joseph Noonan

            That has nothing to do with what I just said. Neither you building a VCR nor you programming one is "what makes it work" in this context. What makes it work is the actual process going on inside it that causes it to do the things it does.

          • Jim the Scott

            >That has nothing to do with what I just said.

            Would that you would treat us with the same curtesy?

          • Rob Abney

            What makes it work" and "how it works" mean the exact same thing.

            Then why do we use different words?

          • Joseph Noonan

            Have you never heard of a synonym?

          • David Nickol

            In the case of a heart transplant, when the heart is still in the donor (braindead but on a ventilator), it would seem that the donor's soul has already left his body, yet the heart is alive. Does it somehow have a soul of its own? And what about when the heart is transplanted into the recipient? Does the recipient's should take over the job of animating the heart?

          • Rob Abney

            You are getting repetitious, you've presented the same gotcha scenario many times.
            Do you know if a heart keeps beating if it is ripped from the chest as a sacrifice to the sun-god?
            I have no information about a recipient's shoulder animating a heart, that seems nonsensical.

          • Art Davison

            By definition, all faiths are blind (belief with no proof)

          • BTS

            I couldn't resist:
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/803c344e2d3757d7724eef70bc86c259a850fdf1511aa46c5d3d01a53b97f5b3.jpg

            Here's hoping Brandon has a sense of humor, or I may be riding off into the sunset.

          • Rob Abney

            Now use your words to describe what you mean.

          • BTS

            Now use your words to describe what you mean.

            I cannot do better than David N. already did.

          • Rob Abney

            I didn’t think you could Mr Popularity.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Because you are an engineer and not a philosopher, I can understand why you do not understand (1) that what you think are the mere "conjectures" of Aristotle entail a good number of carefully reasoned arguments leading the mind to truths about human nature, and (2) that not all knowledge is natural scientific knowledge, and therefore, not all truths about human nature must be (empirically?) verified.

            For example, how do you empirically verify that you are experiencing love for another human being? How do you empirically verify that all truths must be empirically verified?

          • Art Davison

            I've read Aristotle's treatise on souls, and as far as I can determine, it's simply conjecture. He also believed that the world consisted of 5 elements - earth, air, fire water and ether.
            As for love, IMHO, it's a strong feeling of wanting to be with another person because you enjoy their apppearance and personality, and you have a desire to offer him/her your support and in many cases have a sexual interest, etc. I could go on.
            Happy Canada Day.
            '

          • Philip Rand

            Art Davison

            The subjective experience you refer is simply a consequence of the practical reasoning of Fish's placebo psychotherapy model, i.e. circularity.

            Fish's placebo psychotherapy model is provably wrong; similar to your Flying Spaghetti Monster.

          • Art Davison

            So you're saying that dolphins, chimps and rabbits have souls, as do my potatoes and the dandelions in my lawn.
            Seems criminal to eat a carrot.

          • David Nickol

            If God created the universe, then surely even if human beings are made only of matter, God could re-create a human body with the necessary brain configuration to preserve a lifetime of memories. If it's possible to imagine the transporter on Star Trek disassembling a human body and beaming it to another location precisely reassembled, then surely it's possible to imagine the creator of the universe doing basically the same thing (except the reassembling is done at a distant place and time).

          • Art Davison

            "Imagine" is the key word. Recreating human bodies is just as imaginary as the Star Trek transporter.
            With 2 Trillion galaxies in the Universe, each with 1 billion stars, most of them with a number of planets, there must be a great many with intelligent life, otherwise, as the science fiction character said "It's an awful waste of real estate" So why would the Gawd of this vast creation, consider giving eternal life to the semi-intelligent primates on a mediocre planet orbiting a small star in an insignificant galaxy?

          • David Nickol

            Sorrow for one's sins is not genuine unless it is accompanied by a firm resolution to stop committing them. Hence, real repentance cannot leave one "totally evil."

            But imperfect contrition (fear of punishment) is sufficient for absolution if the evil person makes a good confession. There would have to be a true resolve never to sin again, but in the case of a deathbed confession, that might not be so difficult to muster.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are correct, of course. I deliberately did not try to get into the distinction between imperfect and perfect contrition, since it was not necessary in order to show that one could not be "totally evil" after repentance. As you may know, the Church urges the penitent to try to evoke sentiments of sorrow for offending the goodness of God as well as fear of just punishment for sin. While a deathbed confession may sound easier to have purpose of amendment, it is also easy in ordinary circumstances, since the fear of just punishment and love of God may indeed deter the will to sin at that time. Human nature being what it is, of course, will frequently start the process all over again. That is why salvation for most people is probably not a matter of never sinning, but rather, never giving up on oneself or on God's mercy.

          • Rob Abney

            Based on your age then you better figure out if you need to repent soon!

          • Art Davison

            You actually believe that Hell exists, with fire and torture, wailing and gnashing of teeth for infinity? I'm on the same level as Adolph Hitler or Pol Pot? That idea is used to scare litle children.

          • Art Davison

            All I said was abortion was the mother's choice. Of course once a child is born killing it is murder. You're deliberately
            muddying the waters.

          • cosmonow

            Why is it murder five minutes after birth but morally permissible to kill a child five minutes before birth? What about one hour before birth? A day? A month? In your view, what exactly makes it permissible to kill a human being before birth, but not afterwards?

          • Art Davison

            My moral code would require me to try to save the drowning child.
            As an aside, I find it significant that almost all the major religions are based on "Sacred Writings" compiled over a thousand years ago, when humans were superstitious, and ignorant of how the universe was constructed and how it worked.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I am not so sure that last paragraph works so well. The greatest Greek mind, Aristotle, held that the world was eternal and mocked the Greek anthropomorphic gods -- yet he still rationally argued to a first mover unmoved that moved all things through final causality.

            You refer to what you call "my moral code." The problem with your moral code is that it is yours. Since you do not receive it from a transcendent God, you can change it any time you want to -- in which case, your morality may not even be stable, since it is the product of your own will.

          • Art Davison

            Of course I could change my moral code, but why would I? I want to first do no harm and improve life for others when possible.
            I assume the 10 Commandments are the basis for your morals. The first four have nothing to do with anything except stroking God's ego -

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I want to first do no harm and improve life for others when possible."

            Unless you understand the nature of man and the metaphysical context of his existence, you have no objective criteria by which to determine what actually causes harm and improvement to a human being.

            As a mere animal, we might seek only pleasure. But reason tells us that pleasure alone is not sufficient. The science of ethics is determined by a rational understanding of human nature adequately considered. That is the basis for natural law ethics.

            Ethics should not be confused with the Ten Commandments, even though the findings of natural law ethics will comport with the implications of the Ten Commandments, because the same God is the Author of both reason and revelation.

            There is a bit more to all this than what you describe, since you first have to know whether we are creatures of God or merely the end result of blind evolution. That is why ethics presupposes both philosophical psychology and metaphysics. Otherwise, you are just guessing and have no rational basis for establishing moral obligation.

          • Art Davison

            morality is basically a set of laws that enables civilization to function. No Gawd needed

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Maybe you think that God is not needed. But if you are wrong and God is real, then your ethics had better take his role in the creation of human nature into consideration.

            That is why ethics is not a "stand alone" science. It cannot be intelligently studied without first studying philosophical psychology (since that is where one determines whether man has a spiritual and immortal soul) and metaphysics (since that is where one determines whether God exists and is the author of human nature). You cannot determine what is right or wrong for man until you know what kind of being he is and what is the ontological context of his life.

            If God does exist, trying to do ethics without consulting his input into the structuring of human existence would be like buying a new car and then failing to look at the manufacturer's maintenance book they put in the glove compartment.

          • cosmonow

            Catholic Christianity is not locked in the past as you assume. The bible is indeed the inerrant word of God but it isn't our only source of sacred truth. The Lord lives on in His apostolic church by way of the holy sacraments and the ongoing teaching authority of the Magisterium. The Catholic Church emphasizes the unity of all truth. There can be no real contradiction between the truths of science, philosophy and authoritative Church teaching. The Church is perfectly up to date with how the universe was 'constructed' and how it works; in fact many of the essential breakthroughs in modern science were made by Catholic clergy scientists (not to mention lay Catholic scientists) - Roger Bacon, Gregor Mendel and Georges Lemaitre (priest, astronomer and professor of physics, who first proposed what came to be known as the 'Big Bang' theory of cosmic origin) being just a few. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_clergy_scientists

          • Art Davison

            Funny, isn't it that Gawd supposedly wants us to believe in him and act in certain ways, yet his instructions are contained in a book that is so confusing that there are thousands of different Christian sects, each with their own interpretation of the Holey Babble, and to make matters worse, if you had been born in Saudi Arabia, or India, odds
            are that you wouldn't be a Christian of any description

          • cosmonow

            An ‘unwanted’ child is desperately wanted by thousands of people keen to adopt children. Is it better to be dead than to be adopted into a loving family? Or, at worst, is it better to be dead than to be raised in difficult circumstances by a mother who didn’t want you? People are resilient. They can overcome difficulties and go on to lead happy, productive lives. It’s not up to us to unilaterally decide to kill them just because they might not be raised in ideal circumstances.

          • mmac1

            The Spanish Inquisition is called the Spanish Inquisition b/c it wasn’t run by the Pope (then it would be a Papal Inquisition)-local inquisitions often had local motivations underlying them. It is a little known fact that the Papal Inquisitors were much more friendly to defendant’s than local inquisitors-people if charged would literally run to the nearest Papal inquisitor to try to get the trail in his court. An interesting lecture on this is available on a Great Courses about the Middle Ages IIRC by a professor from William &Mary.

      • cosmonow

        A demonstrably silly phrase. One need only look at the genocidal history of totalitarian socialism to see that the secular world is replete with evil frequently committed by quite good people who, at least sometimes, were motivated by good intentions.

        • Joseph Noonan

          I'd hardly call that evidence that "the secular world is replete with evil", given that totalitarian socialism is not what most secular governments subscribe to, and in many cases, it isn't secular at all (state atheism is just as anti-secular as theocracy). However, you are right that both religious and nonreligious ideologies can motivate good people to do bad things.

  • Joseph Noonan

    These trends are compounded by the proliferation of socially isolating, addicting forms of entertainment like pornography, video games, social media, and smartphones that affect rising numbers of Westerners.

    Even if you think all these things are bad, are they really worse than low life expectancy, gun violence, children living in single-parent households, and all the other problems correlated with religion? Also, since when does religiosity lower the use of video games, social media, and smartphones? Does America use these things any less than other developed countries? Even when it comes to pornography, it remains to be seen whether religion actually decreases the use of it. Sure, most religions discourage pornography, but this usually just leads to people feeling guilty over using it, rather than people refraining from using it. And that's sure to lead to a lot more emotional problems than using pornography with the understanding that this doesn't make you a sinner or mean that you could go to hell.

    • cosmonow

      Which religion is in favour of low life expectancies, gun violence or broken families?

      • Joseph Noonan

        I am referring to a fact mentioned in this article, that all of those things occur more often in religious countries (in particular, they are much more common in the U.S. than in other developed countries). The author seemed to be arguing, "Sure, religion might have something to do with those things, but look at all these bad things that religion discourages," while pointing to things that are not nearly as bad.

        • cosmonow

          I’m sure you know that correlation doesn’t always entail causation. And since every religion I can think of actively supports good health, gun safety and sound family life, - we cannot in fairness blame religion for any of those problems.

          • Joseph Noonan

            And that would have been a good argument for the article to make. However, it wasn't the argument the article made. Instead, the article seemed to grant that these things are caused by religion and then tried to turn our attention to other things and argue that they are caused by nonreligion.

  • Joseph Noonan

    Population growth follows a logistic curve, so lowering birth rates are inevitable, and this isn't such a bad thing, like you make it out to be. If birth rates didn't decrease, population would increase exponentially, and this would lead to catastrophic overpopulation that would just get worse and worse with each generation. I don't think we have any good reason to try to avoid the natural result of population growth, which is population becoming stable near the carrying capacity of a region. If this leads to economic problems, there isn't really any way to avoid them, since overpopulation would lead to just as many problems, so it seems like the better course of action is to find ways to deal with the resulting economic issues, rather than try to get people to have more babies than they want. You mentioned that one of the reasons birth rates are declining is because of access to contraception. Do you really think that it would be a good idea to increase birth rates by getting rid of or discouraging the use of contraception? That would just lead to people having children they don't want and in many cases aren't able to take care of, and I don't think anything good will come out of that. What about simply encouraging people to reproduce, through religious or other means? Even that is a bad idea - if someone is going to be happier without children or with fewer children, should we really encourage them to have more children just because we are worried about an aging population, which is inevitable anyway?

  • Joseph Noonan

    Indeed, the European colonial powers that dominated the globe beginning
    in the sixteenth century—England, France, Spain, and Portugal—all
    aggressively sought to extend their faiths to the peoples they
    conquered.

    I thought you were trying to demonstrate why religion is a good thing. What you said here is true, and the success of Western society can be attributed at least in part to imperialism, but that came at the cost of oppressing non-Western societies. It certainly wasn't in line with the liberty, self-determination, and human rights that Western societies now value.

    • Ben Champagne

      Do you do live gigs? I would love to pay to have your comedy stylings done live. So good!

      • Joseph Noonan

        Why not just admit that you don't have a response to this argument rather than making yourself look foolish with a nonsensical comment? If you disagree with what I said, do you have an actual response?

        • Ben Champagne

          I'm sorry, do you think any volume of factual information would make a difference to you? Hilarious.

          • Joseph Noonan

            do you think any volume of factual information would make a difference to you?

            Seeing as it has already done so in the past, yes. However, given your comments, I seriously doubt that you are actually able to present any factual information or even have any kind of serious discussion at all. So far, every comment I have seen from you is simply you trying ineptly to ridicule people you disagree with without providing a single counter-point (and even making hilarious excuses for why you won't present any). Exhibit A: the comment you just made!

    • VicqRuiz

      We don't know that those indigenous societies would have over time experienced Enlightenments of their own and come to value liberty, self-determination, and human rights. Maybe, maybe not.

      I do know that Cortes managed to conquer the Aztecs largely because the latter had so viciously oppressed their Mexican neighbors, and that coastal African nations were more than happy to sell captive members of inland nations to the white slave trader.

      The difference between the Western conquerors and those they conquered was largely a difference of technology rather than ethics.

      • Joseph Noonan

        I'm not trying to argue that the conquered people were more ethical than the conquerors. I'm simply arguing that the conquerors were acting unethically. The article presents it as a good thing that imperialist powers aggressively spread their religions, but it isn't.

        • VicqRuiz

          Human beings are inclined to act unethically, especially when they see something which they may be able to get away with taking from somebody else.

          Although I am not a Christian, one thing in Christianity's favor is its assumption that humans are generally weak and corruptible. Tends to result in governments that have a strogn rule of law with checks and balances. The philosophy that man is naturally virtuous and perfectible tends to dysfunctional or totalitarian states.

          • Joseph Noonan

            It seems to me like quite the opposite is true. Philosophers who think that humans are naturally good tend to endorse high levels of freedom. After all, you don't need a totalitarian regime to keep people in line if they are already good to begin with. On the other hand, if you believe that humans are corrupt and weak, then you probably endorse a very controlling government to prevent life from being "poor, nasty, brutish, and short". The governments that have allowed for the most personal freedom are almost always secular ones. Christian governments and other religious governments always impose unjust restrictions on their subjects. I think this refutes the idea that it is Christian philosophy that allows for the type of government we have in the modern day.

          • VicqRuiz

            It's the philosophy that says we can create a New Humanity, free of all the dross of the past, which leads to guillotines, gas chambers and firing squads. Because humans just can't be manipulated in that way. We are often a disobedient lot, and that's a feature, not a bug.

            When you start with the idea that humans are subject to the temptations of power, and should never entirely be trusted in positions of authority, you get better governments just about every time.

            Personally the only countries I would want to live in are those which have a blend of both Christianity and Enlightenment thinking in their cultural makeup.

          • Joseph Noonan

            It's the philosophy that says we can create a New Humanity, free of all the dross of the past, which leads to guillotines, gas chambers and firing squads.

            I don't think Christianity is the only way to avoid this outcome or even the best way. My point still stands that secular governments have the most personal freedom, and secularism is an idea that is in many ways at odds with the way Christianity operated for centuries. The governments of Christendom for most of its history were officially religious, and many imposed religious restriction on people. Although these governments didn't use guillotines, gas chambers, or firing squads, that was just because those methods hadn't been invented yet. Plenty of people have been painfully executed over religion.

            When you start with the idea that humans are subject to the temptations of power, and should never entirely be trusted in positions of authority, you get better governments just about every time.

            That's not a fundamentally Christian idea. Christianity says that humans are subject to temptation, but it definitely doesn't say that they can't be trusted with authority. It's quite open to interpretation on that point. Christianity has been used to justify the exact opposite of this idea - think of how the divine right of kings was used to justify absolute monarchy. On the other hand, Enlightenment values, which developed in large part in opposition to the Christian hegemony of the day, are very clear on this point.

            Personally the only countries I would want to live in are those which have a blend of both Christianity and Enlightenment thinking in their cultural makeup.

            I think the only reason you can say this is that the Enlightenment occurred in the West, where Christianity is the dominant religion, so most countries that have Enlightenment values also have Christian influences in their culture. To me, it's clear that the elements of Western culture that make it so great to live in a Western country are Enlightenment values, not Christian values. Just look how many problems Christian influence is causing in American culture right now - we have a large bloc of people who explicitly oppose separation of church of state, seem determined to force their religion into the government, don't want basic science taught in schools, treat Trump with the same kind of fervor that I'd expect from North Koreans towards Kim Jong Un, support discrimination against atheists, LGBT people, and Muslims, etc., etc. Obviously, I'm not saying that all Christians are like this, but they are a significant and very influential portion of the U.S. population, and they are making America a worse place for all of us. All of the things I just mentioned are caused by their religion. In less religious countries, fundamentalism and dominionism don't have much influence on most people's lives. And currently, America is falling behind those less religious countries on nearly every measure of wellbeing. If America became less religious, we would be one step closer to becoming one of the most prosperous countries and to emulating the values of the Enlightenment.

          • Joseph Noonan

            It's the philosophy that says we can create a New Humanity, free of all the dross of the past, which leads to guillotines, gas chambers and firing squads.

            How is a culture based on Christianity the only way to avoid that? Or even the best way? Besides, you say this like Christianity hasn't been used to justify executing dissentors, totalitarianism, or genocide, but it has been.

            When you start with the idea that humans are subject to the temptations of power, and should never entirely be trusted in positions of authority, you get better governments just about every time.

            Christianity only assumes that first part. Some might interpret Christianity as saying that humans can't be trusted with power, but that's not how the absolute monarchs who used Christianity to justify the divine right of kings interpreted it. Or how the Church has historically interpreted it.

            Personally the only countries I would want to live in are those which have a blend of both Christianity and Enlightenment thinking in their cultural makeup.

            I think the only reason you can sag this is that most countries with Enlightenment values happen to have a blend of Enlightenment and Christian values. But that has nothing to do with Christianity being good - the reason for this is that the Enlightenment occurred in Christian countries, largely as a reaction against Christian hegemony. Currently, the countries that measure highest on basically all ratings of prosperity are also the ones that are the least religious. In America, we see all kinds of problems being caused by religion - whether it's discrimination against atheists, LGBT people, and Muslims, dominionists trying to force their religion into the government and public schools, creationists denying science and trying to prevent basic biology and geology from being taught, or opportunists using religion to manipulate people. We wouldn't have these problems if we were a less religious society. So I would much rather have that "blend of both Christianity and Enlightenment thinking" skew as much toward Enlightenment thinking as possible.

          • VicqRuiz

            I think we'll have to cordially disagree. Although I find Christianity to be logically unsustainable, I also find that Christendom, although flawed, has produced more of what I value than other cultures.

          • Joseph Noonan

            We may not disagree as much as you think. I don't dispute that Christendom has produced many things that I value - I simply don't give the credit to Christianity for this. Liberal democracy and secularism, for example, are a product of the Enlightenment more than anything else, and I don't give Christianity credit for that movement even though it occurred in Chistendom.

          • VicqRuiz

            My take is that during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries, the powers that be in Western Europe took a hard look at the bloody conflicts from ~1500-1680 and came to the conclusion that "We can't have any more of this. We can't have people killing each other in large numbers over whether Christ is bodily present in the communion wafer, or whether priests can take wives, or whether infants should be baptized."

            The upshot was that although there was still discrimination against minority denominations (Huguenots in France, Catholics in England) the idea that the state should have a religion to which all its subjects were compelled to adhere on pain of death evaporated over the period of a few decades, and that's when real freedom of thought began to be possible.

            The reason why I see Christianity as a prerequisite is that unfortunately this only seemed to have happened in (Christian) Western Europe and its dependencies (and Israel). The Islamic world in particular has been desperately in need of a reformation or an enlightenment for quite a while now.

          • Joseph Noonan

            But there wouldn't even have been a need to stop bloody religious conflicts if Christianity didn't exist as a motivation for those conflicts. The Enlightenment was, in part, a reaction to Christianity, but I don't give Christianity credit for a movement that sprung up to oppose Christianity's bad influences. I agree that the Muslim world is in need of a reformation, but I don't think the fact that the Enlightenment happen to occur here and not there is a justification for giving Christianity credit. Christianity had already been around for 1700 years when the Enlightenment happened, so it's hard to claim there's a direct causal link there. The Islamic world hasn't even been around for 1700 years yet, so this can't even work as an argument that Christianity is better than Islam.

          • Mark

            Wow, care to cite the history books you gathered these assertions from?

          • Joseph Noonan

            Which assertions are you disputing? Many of the things I said in my comment aren't even directly about history, but about the logical consequences of certain philosophies.

      • Raymond

        Don't forget the smallpox.

    • cosmonow

      Empires are not entirely good or bad and some empires were better than others. Although I agree that the European empires sometimes oppressed non-Western societies, in other ways they liberated them from evil superstitions such as human sacrifice. If you live in a free, prosperous country today it was probably lucky enough to have once been part of the British Empire; Canada, the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, most of East Africa - all thriving liberal democracies based on British principles of Christian virtue, parliamentary democracy, equality before the law, free markets & free trade. Above all, the British Empire led the world in abolishing the evil of slavery. I realise that the British Empire was also guilty of much wrong-doing but, on balance, I think you can make a strong case that it was a force for good in world history. The same might be argued for the Mughal Empire in India, the Buddhist Maurya Empire, the French Empire, possibly even the Roman Empire. Imperialism always involves an imposition on the right to self-determination but it is absurd to imagine that all empires are bad in all ways, at all times. In the immortal words of Monty Python, “what have the Romans ever done for us?”

      • Joseph Noonan

        in other ways they liberated them from evil superstitions such as human sacrifice

        In rare cases, yes, but, on the whole, it was much worse for these countries under colonial rule than it had been before. Besides, you are getting dangerously close to a simplistic view of the enlightened Europeans versus the barbarous rest of the world, where the Europeans are "civilizers" who actually had the subjugated people's best interests at heart. Hopefully we can agree that that vision is outdated and inaccurate.

        If you live in a free, prosperous country today it was probably lucky enough to have once been part of the British Empire; Canada, the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India, most of East Africa

        These countries only prosper now because they were liberated from the British empire. Under British rule, they were oppressed. Besides, you've given examples of some prosperous countries that were once part of the British empire, but those aren't the most prosperous countries anyway. Here's one example of a firm that actually created an index of prosperity, with the rankings of the highest countries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legatum_Prosperity_Index
        Former British colonies are on there, but they don't top the list.

        all thriving liberal democracies based on British principles of Christian virtue, parliamentary democracy, equality before the law, free markets & free trade.

        Some of those are true, but the most prosperous countries today are also the least religious.

        Above all, the British Empire led the world in abolishing the evil of slavery.

        Britain was not the first place to come up with abolition of slavery, even among the countries that had slavery in the first place. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_abolition_of_slavery_and_serfdom And I hardly feel that abolishing a horrible practice is a point worthy of commendation when the practice never should have existed in the first place. Britain may have abolished slavery, but Portuguese imperialists were the ones who started it in the first place.

        Imperialism always involves an imposition on the right to self-determination but it is absurd to imagine that all empires are bad in all ways, at all times.

        I never claimed that all empires are bad in all ways at all times.

        • cosmonow

          ‘In rare cases ...’
          Human sacrifice was far from rare in Meso-America. Thankfully, the Conquistadors brought an end to that evil practice. Similarly, the British stopped suttee - or widow burning - in India. Many indigenous customs were indeed barbaric and Christian civilisation brought great moral improvement.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Human sacrifice was not rare in Meso-America.

            Compared to the number of the people the Conquistadors killed, it was. Besides, I'm talking about all societies, not just one.
            We don't know exactly to what extent sati was practiced, but opposition to it was not led solely by Christians. Hindu reformers opposed sati as well.

            Many indigenous customs were indeed barbaric and Christian civilisation brought great moral improvement.

            Some indigenous customs were horrible. So were some Christian customs. Overall, colonialism wasn't good for any of the societies that were colonized - it only benefited the imperialists.

        • cosmonow

          That is not to say that indigenous people were intrinsically evil or that there was nothing of value in their cultures. All human beings are capable of discerning the good by way of natural law.

          The index of prosperity you posted is based on debatable criteria. But even by its own lights it confirms my thesis that Canada, the U.S, New Zealand, Australia and other ex. members of the British Empire are among the most prosperous and free countries on earth. The Nordic countries listed are almost all liberal parliamentary monarchies that were often deeply influenced by the UK - the Mother of Parliaments - in their democratic development. Furthermore, those Scandinavian countries are all Christian to the core. Their contemporary secular humanism is the dying gasp of their Protestant rebellions. Humanism is the incoherent legacy of the catastrophic rejection of Catholic Christendom. And British / Nordic style humanism is as good as secularism gets! It chugs along on the fumes - or the poignant wisp of incense - of Christian civilisation. But at least it is still in many ways Christian in its moral principles. Huge swathes of the ‘enlightenment’ project took a much darker road in the French Revolution and it’s various genocidal socialist descendants.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Any index of prosperity is based on debatable criteria, but what other criteria are you going to use? You didn't use any criteria when you originally claimed that the countries of the former British empire were the most prosperous.
            The index doesn't confirm that ex-members of the British Empire are the most prosperous countries on Earth. It confirms that they are prosperous, but they aren't the most prosperous. You originally said, "If you live in a free, prosperous country today it was probably lucky enough to have once been part of the British Empire," but that is demonstrably false. Also, do you notice something about the former British colonies that you list as confirming your thesis - Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia? None of these countries are populated primarily by their indigenous populations. The majority of all of these countries is made up of the descendants of the people who did the colonizing. Imperialism increased the prosperity of the imperialists - that is not in question - so it's no wonder these countries ended up being prosperous. The problem with imperialism is what it does to the indigenous people, who end up being oppressed and exploited for the welfare of another nation.

            The Nordic countries listed are almost all liberal parliamentary monarchies that were often deeply influenced by the UK - the Mother of Parliaments - in their democratic development.

            Even if they copied the idea of liberal democracy from the UK, that has nothing to do with imperialism, so it doesn't justify imperialism. The UK doesn't get sole credit for the idea of liberal democracy, though, so this entire argument makes no sense.

            Furthermore, those Scandinavian countries are all Christian to the core.

            Seriously? They're the most secular countries in the world. Christianity is still the most common religion, but it plays an extremely minuscule role in society there.

            Their contemporary secular humanism is the dying gasp of their Protestant rebellions. Humanism is the incoherent legacy of the catastrophic rejection of Catholic Christendom.

            Secular humanism isn't a Protestant idea, and it has nothing to do with rejection of Catholicism specifically. It rejects all forms of theocracy, regardless of what religion they're associated with. Also, given that the most prosperous countries all embrace secular humanism, it's not "catastrophic". Far from it.

            It chugs along on the fumes - or the poignant wisp of incense - of Christian civilisation. But at least it is still in many ways Christian in its moral principles.

            This is a No True Scotsman fallacy. When you find out that all of the most prosperous countries are secular, you assert that their values aren't truly secular and that they're actually Christian values in disguise. I have yet to see any evidence for such assertions.

            Huge swathes of the ‘enlightenment’ project took a much darker road in the French Revolution and its totalitarian descendants.

            Totalitarianism is antithetical to Enlightenment values. And the reasons that the French Revolution failed have nothing to do with secularism.

        • cosmonow

          // Those countries only prosper now because because they were liberated from the British Empire. Under British rule, they were oppressed.// Most of the countries I mentioned were never oppressed by or liberated from the British Empire ( except arguably the indigenous minorities in those countries ). Canada, Australia and New Zealand, for example, had no need to be liberated from the empire. They were, for the most part, enthusiastic and loyal participants in that empire. They became sovereign independent nations in gradual, mutually agreed steps. There was never any harsh rupture from the empire and they remain close allies with the UK to this day. Indeed we all share the same monarch as the Head of State in all four countries. We are all happy to be members of the Commonwealth. But my main point is that the empire left in place principles of governance such as parliamentary democracy, equality before the law and free market economies that enabled Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong and the U.S etc. to become free & prosperous nations (albeit the historical events concerning the empire and our American cousins in the US. was much more fractious and less clear-cut at least until recent times).

          • Joseph Noonan

            ( except arguably the indigenous minorities in those countries )

            That's the oppression I was talking about. Oppressing indigenous populations is what imperialism refers to.
            You mentioned India and East Africa in your original comment, both of which suffered under British imperialism and had to be liberated from it, which is what I was referring to. You also mentioned the U.S., which fought a war to get rid of British control. You'll also notice that the colonists in the U.S. who threw off British rule created a form of government that resembles modern liberal democracy much more closely than what Britain had at the time, which makes it hard to say that Britain is solely responsible for introducing these ideas.

        • cosmonow

          // Britain was not the first to abolish slavery ... // True, there had been piecemeal attempts to abolish slavery in the past but the British Empire was the global power that did most of the heavy lifting to bring it to an end in modern history.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Britain was the only nation that had the power to cause a significant change throughout the entire world at that time. That doesn't make Britain morally better than any other nation that abolished slavery. And it certainly doesn't justify imperialism or prove that Christianity is good. Note that there is a difference between imperialism and empire. Imperialism is a specific form of policy. An empire is a type of country (usually referring to one that implements imperialism). An empire does much more than just imperialism, so the empire can still do good things, or even be good overall, even if imperialism is evil. The world isn't black and white.

        • cosmonow

          // Portuguese imperialists were the ones who started it in the first place.// I presume you meant the Atlantic Slave Trade. You realise, of course, that slavery predated European imperialism by thousands of years and was commonplace in many indigenous societies, almost all of the ancient world, Africa, the Islamic world and the Americas - long before Europeans got involved in the horrible business of slavery.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I presume you meant the Atlantic Slave Trade.

            Yes, I meant to say the Atlantic Slave Trade there, not slavery as a whole. Putting the word "it" there was a blunder on my part - I should have been clearer.

            You can't give Christianity or imperialism credit for abolishing slavery just because Britain was one of the first countries to do so unless you are also going to give Christianity and imperialism the blame for the Atlantic Slave Trade, since it was started by Christian imperialists. When you focus solely on the fact that Britain abolished slavery within its empire, you are trying to have your cake and eat it too.

  • George

    Well personally I can think of some religious leaders who would turn the United States into a living totalitarian nightmare if they got their way. Christian Dominionists like the domestic terrorist Matt Shea want to turn back the clock and make America a religious theocracy. He's an elected official, and felt emboldened enough by the popularity of Trump to share a manifesto with associates, one of whom bravely blew the whistle on its existence.

    I thought I should add that wrinkle to this discussion. If the religious conservatives on this site got their way, how could they stop, say, The Handmaid's Tale from becoming a reality? Would they want to stop it?

    • BTS

      I thought I should add that wrinkle to this discussion. If the religious conservatives on this site got their way, how could they stop, say, The Handmaid's Tale from becoming a reality? Would they want to stop it?

      I think an argument can be made that "Handmaid's Tale America" is in its nascent stages.

    • Mark

      I have no desire to be a politician. I was raised a dipped in blue democrat, my Father was a union member. That pro-labor party of the worker no longer exists. Now I tend to lean right on most matters, so I feel I'm qualified to answer your question. First, I think it is imperative to understand that Catholics that know Catholic teachings believe in the principle of subsidiarity. There are also teachings on what justifies war. A protestant personal interpretation of the Bible and it's basis for just war would be rejected outright.

      Lastly regarding the Handmaid's tale, I admit I've not read nor watched any of the series running. Wiki says it, "explores themes of subjugated women in a patriarchal society and the various means by which these women resist and attempt to gain individuality and independence." So, I can say I wholeheartedly think the Susan B Anthony version of feminism is close to Catholic's hearts. She refused to secularize the movement, "I have worked 40 years to make the [women's suffrage] platform broad enough for atheists and agnostics to stand upon, and now if need be I will fight the next 40 years to keep it Catholic enough to permit the straightest Orthodox religionist to pray and count her beads upon." She was a Quaker fwiw.

      The presupposition of the question seems to treat women's issues as though western religion was the pervading issue source of struggle for rights of women. I deny that, as women's rights, properly understood didn't arise vacuously from secular enlightenment ideals but from Christian religious ideals that go back to the teachings of Christ and 1st century Christianity.

      • BTS

        Hi Mark,
        Some thoughts.
        Read the Handmaid's Tale. Brilliant and creepy.

        I have no desire to be a politician.

        Me either.

        Human rights arose from Catholic religious ideals that, for women, go back to the teachings of Christ and 1st century Christianity. Women have played much more a central role in the Catholic church than the written word of men suggest or historians have admitted it seems:

        I don't feel particularly motivated to quibble with any of the above. My main contention is that the Church is completely stuck in neutral on the women's issues. All the progress is in the past. They're not going any further with it, and I think they need to. To me it is utterly confounding why women cannot be ordained as priests. Deacons, at the very least. I am not in the least uncomfortable with strong women. I enjoy their company very much. And my conscience tells me they are right about many things, including the misogyny of the patriarchy in the past and present.

        Your comments are fine, but stuck in the past. The Church needs to go the final mile and ordain women. There's no genuine reason not to. As David Nickol has pointed out, the Church heirarchy has deemed women "ontologically different" than men, but never once defined what these differences are.

        Other than sex organs, what are the characteristics that all men have and no women have, and conversely, what are the characteristics that all women have and no men have? (a paraphrase of David N)

        I know a lot of nuns, and I hear them talk about stuff. Many of them have quietly rebelled. They are done with the patriarchy. They need a priest for mass only, and that's it. They do fine on their own.

        • Mark

          I think you're on the right track looking for the ontological differences. This commentary by Dr. Hatlery touches on why modern feminism is incompatible with natural theology and family unit as being the building block of a moral society and self-giving as the model of every Christian. She is going to treat the subject better than I could.

          https://www.ewtn.com/catholicism/library/commentary-catholic-feminism-vs-equality-feminism-2640

          • BTS

            I have lots of complementarian literature. The article you pointed me to is no different. Still doesn't explain what the ontological differences are. What are they?

          • BTS

            Here is a good read on why the complementarian view supports patriarchy.

            The term: ‘Complementarian’ was a softer term and it was hoped to attract Christians since they thought that this term would have more appeal than rigid Traditional Patriarchy.

            One of the key phrases that this group is known for saying is:

            “Women are EQUAL to men, BUT . . .”
            https://www.churchexiters.com/2016/08/women-in-the-church-a-deeper-look-at-patriarchy/

          • Mark

            Long winded read BTS. I agree with a great deal of the exegesis. Some is bad, i.e. taken out of context or hyperliteral. Getting to the point, I don't agree with the notion that complementarianism is sexism. Here taken from blog referenced:

            The reality is that true complementarianism practiced with the best intentions, at its pure base, is still sexism.

            Howso? At it's pure base.

            Individualization prioritized over the family unit is, with it's best intentions, at it's pure base, is immoral and anti-Christian.

          • BTS

            Individual rights/individualization prioritized above the family unit is, with it's best intentions, at it's pure base, immoral and anti-Christian.

            The author is not doing that. She's saying that unless men can reliabily identify, define and justify the ontological differences, then said differences don't exist and the basis for complementarianism then vanishes. She's in no way arguing for priortizing the individual over the family but she also refuses to accept bogus reasons for complementarianism. Each married couple should be free to come up with its own system for making the family a top priority.

          • Mark

            Each married couple should be free to come up with its system for making the family a top priority

            No, imitation of Christ is the top priority and how sexes do that in the context of a marriage to raise children to imitate Christ is the only priority that matters. There is nothing bogus about being gendered beings.

          • BTS

            imitation of Christ is the top priority

            Well, whatever words you want to use, I don't care have a preference.

            You're dancing around my ontological question :)
            Physical differences exist. What ontological reality for a woman does that point to?

            Why can't a single woman become a priest? Why can't a widow who hears the call become a priest? What ontologically marks her as unfit? You keep pointing to gender but that is not a real answer.

          • Mark

            "What ontological reality for a woman does that point to?" Motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage.

            "Why can't a single woman become a priest"? 1st it's cannon law. It's like asking why licensed drivers need to stop at stop signs. It's part of being a part of a society that follows rules made for the common natural good.

            But it should be obvious the ability to bear children and the commitment to motherhood is deemed a priority over ordination. It's why Mary is the supreme model of Christianity. No man can ever do that because men are unfit ontologically to make a commitment to a child in their womb. Joseph wasn't assumed into heaven and that doesn't make God sexist.

          • BTS

            Thanks for the answer. I appreciate the dialogue. I still feel like you mostly side-stepped the question, but you've given me more than most would.

            Still, I find it a massively unsatisfying answer.

            Apparently it all boils down to motherhood. A woman's entire essence is distilled down to being a child-producing machine? So a woman past her child bearing years, or a woman who for medical reasons cannot bear children, has lost her primary ontological reason for existence?

            it should be obvious the ability to bear children and the commitment to motherhood is deemed a priority over ordination.

            Then we should not have any orders of nuns/sisters. If motherhood is so important then women should be denied by the church the path to become a nun.

            No man can ever do that because men are unfit ontologically to make a commitment to a child in their womb.

            I'm not sure how you'd ever demonstrate this it an ontological truth until you list out the ontological differences between men and women.

          • Mark

            I'm not sure how you'd ever demonstrate this it an ontological truth until you list out the ontological differences between men and women

            Not having a womb is an ontological difference BTS.

          • BTS

            I think the presence or absence of a womb is a biological difference.

            Are there any other ontological differences or is the totality of the difference comprised of the ability to carry and deliver children?

            If a woman has a hysterectomy does the ontological difference disappear? (That may sound flippant but is not intended to be).

            If a person is born with both sex organs and the parents choose a sex for that person, has the person changed ontologically? or just physically?

          • Mark

            Ontology:<i>
            1/ the branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
            2/

            a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the relations between them.

            Women have the property of having female biological markers. Having said that motherhood doesn't reduce to a biologic ability to bear children and "the female genius" goes way beyond motherhood. But it seems you don't even want to agree having a womb is a basic ontological difference.

            Intersex beings are only going to muddle the conversation from where I believe it should begin. Intersex have ontological differences from both sexes unique to those individuals that don't enter into the complimentary conversation about sexes.

            The conversation should flow from the family unit being the ontological building block of a moral society. This is Catholic (universal). The power-struggle analysis you seem to want to get into is turned on its head when the family unit (principle of subsidiarity) is given primacy. The state and society and the Church depend on the family to bringing up moral children. This power inequality that is focused on earning power, career ladders, etc is misplaced in reference to what is of value (ontologically) for human beings. The natural family identity (as it's own being) is persuasively dismantled in some liberal thought experiment where you can put a BMW hood ornament on a Pinto and shame your neighbors and your vehicle registration office into agreeing you drive an import.

          • David Nickol

            Why not actually cite the teachings of the Church on ordination being limited to men?

          • Rob Abney

            Mark, That is a fantastic explanation!

          • David Nickol

            Nonsense. There are plenty of official Church documents that are accessible to lay people that lay out the reasons why the Catholic Church doesn't ordain women. You see no hint of any of them in any of the attempted explanations to BTS and Joseph Noonan. None of them have anything to do with wombs. I really don't understand why some Catholics feel their own (fallible) interpretations of Church teaching are a substitute for the Church's teachings themselves. The Catechism, papal documents, and CDF documents are primary sources of Catholic teaching and should be quoted in such discussions.

          • Rob Abney

            That's an odd assessment of a purely subjective statement that I made. Why would we need to use Church teachings when all the skeptics involved in this discussion reject nearly every thing about the Church anyway.

          • David Nickol

            Why would we need to use Church teachings when all the skeptics involved in this discussion reject nearly every thing about the Church anyway.

            In order to discuss Church teachings with skeptics (or atheists, or anyone else), the first step must always be to make sure the teachings are correctly presented, otherwise, there is really nothing to discuss. You will just have people stating their uninformed personal opinions, not the teachings of the Church. It seems to me it is the duty of Catholics in a forum like this to accurately present the teachings of the Church while or before trying to defend them.

            In my view, there can be two approaches. For certain teachings, the best a Catholic can do with a skeptic is to explain—given what the Church claims about itself—why the teaching makes sense to those within the Church. I believe the ordination of men only is such a topic. Jesus established the priesthood, and it was his intention that only men should be priests. (That, and the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has always and everywhere maintained that only men should be priests.)

            What the Church has not said is that no woman has the skills to perform the role of priest adequately. It is the latter that seems to be the argument being put forward here. Boiled down to its essence, it is that men are father-types and women are mother-types, and that mother-types should only be called upon to fill mother-type roles. In my opinion, that is a very weak argument, and it is sometimes a Catholic argument, but it is not the argument the Church makes to justify excluding women from the priesthood.

          • Rob Abney

            From my reading there were two different discussions occurring, one was how are men and women really different, and the second was if you cannot explain how men and women are actually different then women should be priests also.
            I thought that Mark's explanation described the real difference between men and women very well although it is a subject that much more could be written about. The skeptics here prefer the popular thought that men and women are not different except in appearance, especially if their genitals are visible.
            I accept the church teachings on the priesthood. It seems to me the explanation is in some ways arbitrary but it is unchangeable just as the real difference between men and women is arbitrarily made by God and is unchangeable.
            But those who choose not to believe will reject those teachings even if the Church justifications are clearly expressed. Why would skeptics believe the Church when they reject even Almighty God and Jesus Christ?

          • BTS

            The skeptics here prefer the popular thought that men and women are not different except in appearance, especially if their genitals are visible.

            For the umpteenth time, please tell me what these differences are! What characteristics do all women have that no men have, and all men have that no women have?

            But those who choose not to believe will reject those teachings even if the Church justifications are clearly expressed. Why would skeptics believe the Church when they reject even Almighty God and Jesus Christ?

            I was under the impression that this site existed to discuss, in part, if and why the Church teachings make sense and are justifiable when subjected to critical analysis.

            I cannot speak for all skeptics but I participate here in order to give tangible road-testing to the doubts I've been having my entire life. This type of online discussion was not really possible 20-30 years ago. I don't come here to be lectured, but rather to poke and prod.

            It's not about rejecting god out of hand as you state. It's about searching and coming up empty and attempting to explain that to oneself.

            There is also something to be said for the demeanor in which a message is delivered.

          • Rob Abney

            You are looking for the immaterial difference between men and women, of course we can only infer the immaterial essential nature through the material part of the world. In this case the sex organs are terrific material signs of the essential differences that exist.

            God actually knows that spiritual dimension, we don’t, and He chose males to be ordained priests.

            Sorry that your feelings are so easily hurt during so many of the discussions you engage in, but I think that is a clue to your doubts, you trust your feelings to inform you and you seek out confirmation of those feelings.

          • BTS

            You just keep saying the same thing over and over and over. My feelings are not hurt. I have plenty of open-minded friends to discuss this with. A brick wall here is pretty much the norm. I'm done for this discussion.

          • Rob Abney

            What response do you expect to get if you discuss this with an open minded female, Will she agree that there is no difference between men and women, does your wife agree with that?

          • David Nickol

            Will she agree that there is no difference between men and women, does your wife agree with that?

            The question is not whether there are physical differences between men and women. It is whether those differences disqualify women from certain professions or roles that should be open only to men. For example, should a young woman attending a university be barred from any fields of study that young men are allowed to pursue? Here is a passage from the old online Catholic Encyclopedia that I have cited a number of times:

            The second branch of the woman question, which of necessity follows directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fénelon expresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has of late years spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encourage it. This has led in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There is no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.

            In the medical calling, which next to teaching is the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there are at the present time in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.

          • Rob Abney

            The question is not whether there are physical differences between men and women. It is whether those differences disqualify women from certain professions or roles that should be open only to men.

            Everyone agrees that there are physical differences between men and women. Not everyone agrees that immaterial differences exist and these differences are manifested partly through the physical differences. Then a related issue is do those differences qualify or disqualify a particular sex from a particular job/profession/role. The only criteria that is applicable is regarding ordination is that while the unity of man and woman cannot be imitated with any other combination so the unity of Christ the man and His bride the church also cannot be imitated with another combination.

          • BTS

            Expecting women to get equal pay for equal work is definitely not misplaced effort. People can have a loving stable Catholic family unit while at the same time thumbing their noses at patriarchy. I know many who do and they are good people. Maybe not necessarily good Catholics as you would define it, but very good people. Can you explain exactly how the female genius goes way beyond motherhood?

          • Joseph Noonan

            Motherhood isn't an ontological difference between the sexes because it isn't even an inherent property of any sex. Not all women are mothers. Not all women can even become mothers. Therefore, neither motherhood nor even the potential for motherhood are essential properties of womanhood. And if those aren't even essential properties of womanhood, then nothing else connected to motherhood is an essential property of womanhood either.
            Sure, there are biological differences between men and women. But none of these differences have anything to do with one's ability to perform the duties of priesthood, so they can't justify the male-only priesthood.
            Please clarify what on Earth you're talking about by "female genius". Is this just the stereotype of women having good intuitions? Even if the stereotype was true, it wouldn't constitute an ontological difference between the sexes because, even if women tended to have better intuitions than men, that wouldn't be true for all women or all men. And that means you can never hope to use it as a justification for excluding all women from the priesthood.
            Even if I believed in the principle of subsidiarity, your argument doesn't make sense. No one is saying the family isn't important. Excluding women from the priesthood, giving different career opportunities to different sexes, and paying them unequally do nothing to improve the family. And since these problems exist on a societal level and can only be addressed on the level of society, the principle of subsidiarity doesn't even apply.
            Also, you say, "Society (the Church, the state) depend on the family for bringing up moral children," but the reverse is also true. The family depends on society for bringing up moral children. No one raises children in a vacuum, and no one could.

          • BTS

            @disqus_UdrEJovLRd:disqus pretty much covered what I was going to say, but I wanted to add:
            a) how many of the official church documents were actually written by women?
            b) how many were officially approved by women?
            c) how many even had input from women?
            d) I wanted my wife's opinion of your posts on this thread and she said "They are very patronizing. I don't know why you want to get into these arguments with people..."

          • Mark

            Not to go definitional again with you, but patronizing doesn't mean being a male and having a rational conversation about females. If I come across condescending I apologize, but it is off topic and probably baseless. Truth is whatever it is regardless of which sex produces it. I don't disqualify truth statements made by a woman because no man has validated it. I'm not sure what your point is with all that.

            So you agree with this statement from Joe:

            "Motherhood isn't an ontological difference between the sexes because it isn't even an inherent property of any sex"

            I will say I stopped reading his comment after that, but now you made me read the rest of it so Joe owes you a upvote. Again, Joe (like you) begins with the individual woman outside the context of a sacrificial marriage to begin the conversation about the nature of female beings in society. AT thought entails a focus on final causes, that is a natural goal towards which a sex is inclined. It is the final cause that is the basis for natural law. I'll leave it at that for now because there is no sense in going any further if you dismiss natural law and final causes.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Neither BTS nor his wife claimed that "being a male and having a rational conversation about females" is what was patronizing in your comment. It was the content of your comment that was patronizing. I would certainly be patronized if someone told me that I am misplacing my focus when I try to counter injustices against me. If I were a woman, I would be extremely patronized if someone told me that motherhood is an ontological difference between me and men and that it is so important that I should focus on being a mother rather than make my own choice about what path to take in life. Women don't have to become mothers if they don't want to, and they should be free to choose whatever path they want in life, regardless of what Catholics living millenia ago thought about female priests.

            I will say I stopped reading his comment after that

            I don't know what it is with people proudly declaring the fact that they refused to continue reading a comment as soon as they encountered one statement they disagree with (especially when it was the first sentence of the comment). But I also don't even see how you can honestly disagree with that statement, unless you didn't understand what it meant. You realize that, in order for something to be an inherent property of womanhood, it has to be true of all women, right? That's part of what "inherent property" means. Not all women are mothers, so, by definition, motherhood is not an inherent property of womanhood.

            Again, Joe (like you) begins with the individual woman outside the context of a sacrificial marriage oriented toward the rearing of children to begin the conversation about the nature of female beings in society.

            Did you really post this without understanding how you're being patronizing to women? Women aren't just baby factories, which is what your idea of the nature of women being all about child rearing leads to. Any conversation about the nature of women absolutely must be "outside the context of a sacrificial marriage oriented toward the rearing of children" because not all women get married, and not all women raise children (nor is there any moral obligation to do either). You can't start a conversation about the nature of all women with things that only some women do. By definition, the nature of womanhood is something that all women have, and therefore, it cannot include properties like being married or being a mother. It cannot even include the potential to become a mother since some women can't have children. I don't know why you seem so perturbed by this - it's just a simple fact of logic.

            AT thought entails a focus on final causes, that is a natural goal towards which a sexual being is inclined.

            So, do you think that the purpose of women is to have children, and that this makes it wrong for them to choose some other vocation? Aside from being incomprehensibly sexist, that isn't even consistent with Catholic teaching, since the Church allows women to be celibate. And it certainly can't justify the male-only priesthood because any reason you try to give for the conclusion that motherhood is the purpose of women will also lead to the conclusion that fatherhood is the purpose of men.

            I'll leave it at that for now because there is no sense in going any further if you dismiss natural law and final causes. It is the foundation for what can be known as "good" by Catholic moral standards.

            So you won't even discuss morality unless we assume from the start that you're right about what makes things moral? You said you were having a rational conversation, but this isn't how rational conversations work. You don't get to insist that what you believe is indisputable with no justification.

            If you deny that, I'd have to know how you define "good" outside a relativistic mindset, which essentially is to say good doesn't really exist.

            I can tell you my thoughts on morality if you really want, but I don't have to defend an alternative theory of morality to tell you why yours is untenable. And no, denying your theory of morality doesn't lead to moral relativism either- there are many alternative theories.
            There simply is no entailment between, "The intended purpose of X is to do Y," and, "X ought to do Y." The purpose of a nuclear bomb is to kill thousands of people, most of them innocent. Does that mean it's morally good when it does so? Even if you say, "that nuclear bomb is good at doing its job," we certainly aren't talking about a moral "good" there. I don't believe that humanity was created with a purpose, but even if it was, that wouldn't mean we ought to follow this purpose. A powerful and malevolent being could create a world just like ours for the purpose of watching humans kill each other - that wouldn't make violence right in that world.

          • Mark

            If I were a woman, I would be extremely patronized if someone told me that motherhood is an ontological difference between me and men.

            All this tells me is that you would continue to be irrational if you were a woman. It's not condescending to define ontological differences between men and women via final causes.

            and that it is so important that I should focus on being a mother rather than make my own choice about what path to take in life. Women don't have to become mothers if they don't want to, and they should be free to choose whatever path they want in life,

            I never said that you did. It's a non-sequitur I didn't make. So strawman tactics are fallacious.

            But I also don't even see how you can honestly disagree with that statement, unless you didn't understand what it meant. You realize that, in order for something to be an inherent property of womanhood, it has to be true of all women, right?

            I never made the statement you think I did. I didn't say I didn't agree or disagree with the statement. I'm not going to respond to an arguments I didn't make. I never once mentioned womanhood. If by inherent property you mean essential property you are correct, it is an accidental property of female beings. Having said that it is an essential property of a female in a family, which was the argument I made. It is also an essential property of society because society ceases to exist if motherhood ceases to exist. So if you are dismayed I didn't dialogue maybe try and respond to arguments I actually make than arguments I didn't make and I'll take the critique seriously.

            Aside from being incomprehensibly sexist, that isn't even consistent with Catholic teaching, since the Church allows women to be celibate.

            I don't think celibate and sexist means what you think they mean.

          • David Nickol

            I don't think celibate and sexist means what you think they mean. All people are called to be celibate, including single, ordain, and married for the good of society.

            I think you mean that all people are called to chastity, not celibacy. For a married person, chastity requires fidelity to one's spouse.

            complimentarianism

            complementarianism

          • Mark

            There are occasions married people in a Catholic marriage who do not want to have a child (or have more children) mutually decide to not have sex. Also called a Josephite Marriage after the holy family. But I've also seen the term used interchangeably with prolonged abstinence in NFP. I think I meant both, but I was using his term. Thanks for the spelling correction.

          • David Nickol

            So you reaffirm the following?

            All people are called to be celibate, including single, ordain, and married for the good of society.

          • Mark

            Those are the three vocations of the baptized. Members of all three vocations (not all) are spiritually called to celibacy. Some ordained are called to make a vow of celibacy at their spiritual union with the Church.

          • Joseph Noonan

            All this tells me is that you would continue to be irrational if you were a woman. It's not condescending to define ontological differences between men and women via final causes.

            But it is condescending to tell women that the purpose of their existence is to raise children. That's not any different from saying, "women are just baby factories," even if you're phrasing it more politely. It would also be condescending to tell me that you know the meaning of my life better than I do and that you know this solely based on my sex. Remember, you are trying to defend the male-only priesthood here, so your argument only works if you are saying that all women have to be mothers, regardless of any personal factors or other circumstances. It is extremely condescending to tell a woman, "Because you're a woman, you have to follow this vocation in life. If you think some other path would be better for you, you are wrong." But that's the logical conclusion of everything you said in your comment.

            I never said that you did.

            You most definitely did say that. When we asked you why women can't be priests, you responded with the ontological differences between men and women. That means that you are saying that the ontological differences between the sexes justify the male-only priesthood, i.e., they justify preventing women from taking whatever path in life they want to take by excluding them from priesthood. You also referred to the focus on career ladders and inequality in earnings as "misplaced." But those inequalities prevent women from pursuing the paths they want to in life, and if you not only don't want to talk about them, but also don't want others to address them (since you think that is "misplaced" focus), you are not respecting women's rights to be able to choose the same careers that men do. But the biggest problem of all is that every time we mention women who are not married or don't have children, you keep trying to pivot to talking about women "the context of a sacrificial marriage oriented toward the rearing of children". You won't even talk about the nature of women if it's not in this context, even though that's not the path that all women choose. That implies that you either don't think there should be any women who aren't married mothers or that you don't think that these women deserve to be included in "the conversation about the nature of female beings in society."

            I never made the statement you think I did.

            Yes you did. You made it very, very explicitly. When BTS asked, "What ontological reality for a woman does that point to?", you responded, "Motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage." (and you even quoted his question so that we know for sure that this is the one you were answering). So you have explicitly claimed that "motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage" is an ontological difference between the sexes. The statement I made that I was saying you disagreed with is literally just the negation of that statement - I said that, "Motherhood isn't an ontological difference between the sexes".

            I never once mentioned womanhood.

            What? That's what this entire conversation is about.

            If by inherent property you mean essential property you are correct, it is an accidental property of female beings.

            Great, so you agree with me that motherhood is not an inherent property of womanhood. And that is the same thing as saying it's not an ontological problem of womanhood.

            Having said that it is an essential property of a female in a family, which was the argument I made.

            We're not discussing essential properties of "a female in a family" (although even then, motherhood isn't one - my sisters aren't mothers, but they are females in my family). Even you, earlier, mentioned the nature of "the nature of female beings in society," rather than female beings in a family. And in the first comment where all of this business about motherhood being an ontological property of females came up, BTS asked you, "Physical differences exist. What ontological reality for a woman does that point to?", and you responded, "Motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage." That means that you said that, "motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage" is an ontological property of "woman", meaning that both "motherhood" and "the context of a sacramental marriage" are ontological properties of women. Now, from what you are saying in this comment, it sounds like what you meant to say is that "motherhood" is an ontological property of "a woman in the context of a sacramental marriage." That's not what you actually said in your other comment, since that wouldn't be an answer to BTS's question, but I can accept that it is what you meant to say, even if you didn't actually manage to get it across correctly the first time. But if that's what you meant all along, it's completely irrelevant to this conversation. No one is arguing that married women should be allowed to become priests. Since married men aren't allowed to become priests either, there would be no gender inequality involved in barring married women from the priesthood, and the Catholic Church actually has reasons that make sense for disallowing married people from becoming priests. So, if you are really only pointing to an ontological difference between married women, specifically, and men, rather than an ontological difference between all women and all men, you are completely missing the point. Why can't unmarried women become priests? Motherhood is not an ontological property of unmarried women, so they should be able to become priests.
            So, to make sure everything is perfectly clear, which did you mean when you responded to BTS's original question? A. "Motherhood in the context of sacramental marriage" is an ontological property of "woman".
            or B. "Motherhood" is an ontological property of "woman in the context of sacramental marriage".
            If you meant A., then all the criticisms I already gave apply, and your statement is incorrect. If you meant B., then you pointed out something completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand, and you have been wasting our time. B. is also not true anyway, since not all married women are mothers.

            I don't think celibate and sexist means what you think they mean.

            Seriously? Please explain how I misused these words then. The Church allows women to become nuns or confirmed singles, both of which are supposed to abstain from sexual relations (which is the definition of "celibate"). And someone who is celibate cannot have children. So the Church allows women to refrain from having children, meaning that the Church certainly doesn't think that it is wrong for women not to have children, which is exactly what I was saying there in my comment. As for "sexist", yes, it would be incomprehensibly sexist to claim that women are morally obligated to have children simply because of their sex. No one should be required to do something so life-altering if they don't want to.

          • Joseph Noonan

            All this tells me is that you would continue to be irrational if you were a woman. It's not condescending to define ontological differences between men and women via final causes.

            The patronizing thing here is someone else telling you what the final cause of your existence is. If a woman doesn't want to be a mother, but you tell her that the final cause of womanhood is motherhood, and that this is an ontological property of women (which would make it true for all women), you are telling her that her purpose is to be a mother, whether she likes it or not.

            I never said that you did. It's a non-sequitur I didn't make. So strawman tactics are fallacious.

            Your argument only makes sense if you are requiring all women to be mothers. Otherwise, some women can be mothers, and others can be priests, just like what we do with men. Also, you keep trying to insist that, "The conversation should flow from the family unit being the ontological building block of a moral society," thereby ignoring women who want to take a different path in life, and you said, "This power inequality focused on earning, career ladders, etc is misplaced in reference to what is of value (ontologically) for human beings," implying that these other paths are not valuable.

            I never made the statement you think I did.

            Yes you did. BTS asked, "What ontological reality for a woman does that point to?" You responded, "Motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage." And participating in a conversation that is literally all about the supposed ontological differences between men and women means that you have been talking about womanhood.

            If by inherent property you mean essential property you are correct, it is an accidental property of female beings.

            Great. Then you concede that my argument is correct and that motherhood isn't an inherent propoerty of women. Which also means it's not an ontological property of women because "ontological property" and "essential property" are synonyms.

            Having said that it is an essential property of a female in a family, which was the argument I made.

            That's not the question BTS was asking when he asked for an ontological difference between men and women. BTS very explicitly asked, "what are the characteristics that all men have and no women have, and conversely, what are the characteristics that all women have and no men have?" And when he finally got you to answer this question, you started talking about motherhood. You can't back out now and say, "Actually, I just meant that motherhood is an essential property of a female in the family," (which still isn't true by the way - my sisters aren't mothers, but they are part of my family) because, even if that is what you meant to say, it doesn't answer BTS's question at all. In fact, it's entirely irrelevant to this discussion. We were discussing why women can't become priests, which is specifically a discussion about unmarried women who aren't raising a family (since only unmarried people are allowed to become priests in the Latin rite anyway).

            It is also an essential property of society because society ceases to exist if motherhood ceases to exist.

            This still has nothing to do with whether or not women can be priests. You are shifting the goalposts to something completely different from the original conversation. No one is disputing that we need mothers. We are simply saying that some women should be allowed to become priests instead.

            I don't think celibate and sexist means what you think they mean. All people are called to be celibate, including single, ordain, and married for the good of society.

            Well, isn't that ironic? You accuse me of misunderstanding the word when it is actually you who doesn't know what it means. Here's the definition of celibate:
            1. Abstaining from sexual relations.
            2. Remaining unmarried, especially for religious reasons.
            The Church does not require all members to fit either of these definitions.

            The moral justification for this is the family being the building block of society.

            That doesn't justify barring women from the priesthood. It doesn't even come close to doing so. And it doesn't justify motherhood being the final cause of women either because that implies that all women have to be mothers. So what exactly do you think this is a moral justification for?

            I've never once justified priesthood with that argument. Again, it is a non-sequitor I didn't make and straw man arguments are fallacious. (You getting the theme here yet?)

            Have you forgotten what this conversation is about? It's about the male-only priesthood. So pointing out that arguments you are trying to make don't justify the male-only priesthood isn't a strawman - it means that your arguments are at best irrelevant.

            Natural law from De-vitori to Maritain in the tradition of AT has been used to philosophical rationalize equality and stop justice to indigenous, servile slaves, and women.

            Is this seriously your justification for natural law? A couple of obscure, cherry-picked figures used it to justify good things, and therefore...what exactly? That certainly doesn't prove that it's true. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, but you've presented me with a clock being right twice in a millennium as if this is a good argument.

            Let's throw it out because it doesn't justify modern feminist thoughts and hyperindividualism.

            I never made that argument or anything even remotely resembling it. I gave you actual objections to a moral theory based on final causes, and you ignored them. Funny that you would do something like this right after accusing me of making a strawman. By the way, I'm very curious as to what you mean by "hyperindividualism" and what things you consider to be hyperindividualistic.

            These aren't my theories and for them to be deemed untenable you'd actually have to show them to be so by showing the premise or presupposition is untrue or show the fallacy of argument.

            You didn't even make an argument for your moral theory - you just asserted that natural law based on final causes is how you define "good" and then said that "there is no sense in going any further" if I disagree with this. How am I supposed to show a fallacy in an argument when you didn't even make one? Also, refuting an argument for a theory is not how you show one to be untenable anyway (after all, there could still be sound arguments for a theory even if one argument is refuted). You show that a theory is untenable by giving an argument against that theory, proving that the upholding the theory leads to insurmountable problems. I already gave such an argument against natural law theory based on final causes.

            If BTS wants to call something a "moral good" and it is not via natural law/theology, I'd need to know how he came to find rationalize said good.

            This is a conversation about applied ethics, not meta-ethics. It's unreasonable to ask someone to set out and justify an entire moral theory every time they say anything about morality, especially when you won't even do so yourself.

          • David Nickol

            The reason the Catholic Church claims not to have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood is set out in several major documents, one of the main ones being Ordinatio Sacerdotalis by John Paul II. You can read it for yourself. My take on it is as follows:

            First, Jesus chose only men for the priesthood. He was free to choose whomever he pleased, and even if choosing only men for such a role might be expected for a man of his times and location, Jesus was not limited by the culture of his times. If he had wanted to "ordain" women, he would have not hesitated to do so.

            Second, the Church has always ordained men only. This is an argument from precedent or tradition (or whatever you want to call it) that the position of the Church over two millennia is an affirmation that following the precedent set by Jesus has been correct.

            Another major document, which i admit I have only skimmed is Inter Insigniores,But I think I am not wrong in saying it presents essentially the same argument.

            In an article about Fr. Wojciech Giertych, Pope Benedict XVI's personal theologian (in 2013), we have the following:

            According to Giertych, theologians cannot say why Jesus chose only men as his Apostles any more than they can explain the purposes of the incarnation or the Eucharist.

            "In the mystery of faith, we need to be on our knees toward something that we received," he said.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Jesus certainly never claimed that only men could be priests. How can one make the leap from, "The twelve people Jesus chose were men," to, "Jesus wants us to only choose men." If Jesus was free to choose whomever he wanted, then he had no expectation on him to choose women, so we can't infer anything from the fact that he didn't. We most certainly can't conclude that he believed that no women can ever be priests - even if he intentionally chose only men, he might just think that most priests should be men, or that it was best for priests in this particular time and place to be men (you say he wasn't limited by culture, but he certainly would have to base some of his decisions on how best to get his message across in the culture he lived in).
            An argument from tradition is a fallacy, so it's obviously not a good justification either.
            Appealing to "mystery" is just a cop-out to me. It's an admission that the practice can't be justified.

          • David Nickol

            We most certainly can't conclude that he believed that no women can ever be priests

            I was only trying to present authentic Church teaching, since the Catholics were failing to do so. For those skeptical about the Catholic Church's claims, a good question would be whether Jesus the Jew intended for there to be priests at all.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Oh, I see.

          • VicqRuiz

            For those skeptical about the Catholic Church's claims, a good question would be whether Jesus the Jew intended for there to be priests at all.

            Very well said, and marked here by me for reference.

          • BTS

            Thank you, David. I am familiar with these arguments but perhaps not these particular primary sources and perhaps not to the level of detail that you are. I'm thinking that you are trying to clarify the Catholic position but do not necessarily agree with these arguments. Correct? The wall that I keep hitting with Catholic conservatives is that I am willing to use my critical thinking skills to follow the facts to wherever they lead, while many others will follow the facts only where the church says they may go.

          • David Nickol

            @@disqus_UdrEJovLRd:disqus

            I'm thinking that you are trying to clarify the Catholic position but do not necessarily agree with these arguments. Correct?

            You are correct. As I understand it, the arguments against the ordination of women are quite separate from Catholic views about the complementarity of the sexes, and the latter are what we are getting from Mark and Rob Abney.

            Now, assuming the Catholic Church speaks with the authority it claims to have, the argument against the ordination of women is difficult or impossible to answer. It is basically, "We have been given the authority to do these things our way, so we can't be wrong for 2000 years and do an about-face." Of course, that is convincing only to Catholics.

            Catholic views on the complementarity of the sexes, on the other hand, should be open to rational argument. I have never been in a discussion here or in any similar forum where I thought someone did a good job of defending Catholic thought.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I just found this argument on a Catholic web site:

            "The ordained priest is a sacramental sign who acts in persona Christi (“in the person of Christ”), not merely in his name. To be able to act in this way a person needs to have a natural resemblance to Christ, who was a man." Its own source appears to have been from St. Thomas Aquinas.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Why isn't being human enough to be considered to resemble Christ? And why is being a man the only additional form of natural resemblance required to act in persona Christi? Priests come in many shapes and sizes - they don't all resemble each other.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I did not say this was my personal argument, but merely that I had come across it.

            Still, despite the recent confusions over subjective sexual identities, the biological fact is that we are either male or female, a physical division that is so basic that it is found in the x or y chromosome specific to each type of person. So, it is more than the differences in shape or size that is accidental to both sexes. Aside from our immediate awareness of our being individual persons, the most basic sense of identity we have seems to be our sexual identity.

            That is why the first thing we notice about anyone we encounter is which of the two sexes they belong to (contemporary nonsense about self-asserted sex identity notwithstanding).

            Therefore, it may be that having a woman act in persona Christi would interfere with the priest assuming the role of Christ in a very dynamic and personal way. Just a thought.

            Also, I could be wrong since, but I recall that the Church has forever been understood in the theological imagery as the Bride of Christ. To say the least, it would be difficult to reconcile such perpetual understanding with the priest, acting in persona Christi, being a most evident woman -- since women do not take brides in Catholicism.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I did not say this was my personal argument, but merely that I had come across it.

            That's fine. I'm just saying why I disagree with the argument, regardless of who made it.

            Still, despite the recent confusions over subjective sexual identities, the biological fact is that we are either male or female, a physical division that is so basic that it is found in the x or y chromosome specific to each type of person.

            Actually, the biological fact is that some people, called intersex people, don't fall into either biological classification. And biological sex is not just defined by the chromosomes - it is also defined by gonads, genitals, hormones, etc. That being said, I'm not sure how this is relevant to the all-male priesthood anyway.

            Aside from our immediate awareness of our being individual persons, the most basic sense of identity we have seems to be our sexual identity.

            I thought you said subjective sexual identities were "confusions." Although you don't explicitly mention them, it is obvious that you are trying to imply something about transgender people here. If you think that gender is "the most basic sense of identity we have," why would you want to deny transgender people their basic identity?

            Therefore, it may be that having a woman act in persona Christi would interfere with the priest assuming the role of Christ in a very dynamic and personal way.

            But the priest doesn't have to identify in the same way as Christ in order to act in persona Christi. The priest, for example, wouldn't identify himself as God, and I would argue that that's a much more important part of Christ's identity than the sex of his human incarnation. After all, Catholics hold that God is sexless, or at least, he was sexless until he came to Earth as a man. So sex doesn't seem to be a part of God's identity.

            I could be wrong since, but I recall that the Church has forever been understood in the theological imagery as the Bride of Christ. To say the least, it would be difficult to reconcile such perpetual understanding with the priest, acting in persona Christi, being a most evident woman -- since women do not take brides in Catholicism.

            Yes, but I don't think you can take that imagery literally. It's not as if the Church is actually a woman, even though Catholics often refer to the Church with female pronouns and compare her to a bride. The Church is still an organization that doesn't literally have any sex.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Actually, the biological fact is that some people, called intersex people, don't fall into either biological classification."

            I was quite aware of intersex states. But the original use of the term is manifest by its etymology, "Inter," meaning "between," and sex. That is, it is a biological deviance that falls between the two biological sexes: male and female.

            "If you think that gender is "the most basic sense of identity we have," why would you want to deny transgender people their basic identity?"

            You said "gender." I said " the most basic sense of identity we have seems to be our sexual identity."

            You may not like it, but biological sex is either male or female -- or, at least it was until people decided to redefine it as what a person thinks or claims he is. All that I was saying is that in the context of the Catholic discussion about female priests, the faithful would primarily immediately notice that the celebrant is either a male or female person. This is, in fact, how we first view the physical presence of other persons -- and that was the point of my statement.

            "The priest, for example, wouldn't identify himself as God, and I would argue that that's a much more important part of Christ's identity than the sex of his human incarnation. After all, Catholics hold that God is sexless, or at least, he was sexless until he came to Earth as a man. So sex doesn't seem to be a part of God's identity."

            But Catholic dogma defines Christ as both truly divine and truly human. And the priest is "another Christ," not "another God." And sex is an essential part of being human.

            "Yes, but I don't think you can take that imagery literally. It's not as if the Church is actually a woman, even though Catholics often refer to the Church with female pronouns and compare her to a bride. The Church is still an organization that doesn't literally have any sex."

            The problem with this may be that imagery often becomes interwoven with the very substance of theological truth.

            Besides, look at my entire comment. I said at the outset that this citation I gave was not my personal argument I am a philosopher, not a theologian. I am simply speculating on why this argument is offered.

          • David Nickol

            The problem with this may be that imagery often becomes interwoven with the very substance of theological doctrine.

            Taking what are essentially metaphors literally can lead to some bizarre interpretations. The Church is the Bride of Christ, but it is also the Body of Christ. Would anyone argue that Christ is married to his own body? What would that even mean?

            Isn't a perennial theme in Christianity that we are to look for and see Christ in others? I found this while searching the web:

            "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me."

            Mother Teresa always remembered these words of Jesus. She said that she saw the face of Jesus in the face of each sick and dying person she helped. She asked the whole world to look for Jesus' face there, too.

            Surely you would not suggest that to see Christ in others, or to see Christ in the poor, they must be men. So it seems to me that if women were ordained to the priesthood, it would be just as easy to see a woman representing Christ as a man. This is not an argument for the ordination of women. It is just a response to the idea that a priest must be a man to represent Christ.

          • Rob Abney

            Taking what are essentially metaphors literally can lead to some bizarre interpretations

            Sacraments are signs, real things not metaphors. Christ performs the sacrament of Eucharistand He is part of the substance of the sacrament. He performs it for us, he gives Himself completely for us, as only a husband and wife can give themselves completely to each other. The image of the male Christ manifests His form/essence. The only way to change it is to embrace nominalism and say that form and matter don't matter, only what we say matters.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As usual, you make some solid points here. Still, the notion that we should see Christ in our neighbors, or, as Mother Teresa said, in the faces of the sick and dying she helped, is a bit different than the immediate physical apprehension of the person saying the Mass. Your references are correct, but they involve a more spiritual and intentional desire to apprehend the image of Christ in someone meant to be loved by Christians. The actual and immediate physical presence of someone obviously of a certain sex is a different matter.

            Please recall that, from what I have read on this thread, the main argument is based on who Christ chose to make the first priests and on the solid and indisputable tradition of the Church from its inception.

            There may be supplementary arguments, but they may not be as definitive as the main one.

          • OMG

            Regarding metaphors of Bride of Christ, Wikipedia: A major analogy is that of the body. Just as husband and wife are to be "one flesh",[Eph. 5:31] this analogy for the writer describes the relationship of Christ and ekklēsia.[Eph. 5:32] Husbands were exhorted to love their wives "just as Christ loved the ekklēsia and gave himself for it.[Eph. 5:25] When Christ nourishes and cherishes the ekklēsia, he nourishes and cherishes his own flesh. Just as the husband, when he loves his wife is loving his own flesh.[Eph. 5:28] Members of the ekklēsia are "members of his own body" because it is written in Genesis 2:24 "and the two shall become one flesh". In [Eph. 5:31] Paul quotes the Genesis passage as what has been called a "divine postscript".

            The Body of Christ is similarly analogized. Christians strive for transformation into Christ's likeness as we imbibe his flesh and blood. He claimed to abide in us and we in Him. He described himself as the vine and we the branches. These words denote unity, do they not?

            In the Incarnation, Christ appeared as a man. You suggest that it is just as easy to see a woman representing Christ as a man. None of the disciples, not John the Baptist, not in Scripture EVER even once does anyone refer to Jesus as anything other than a man. No one.

            Mother Teresa suggests that we see the idea of a suffering person as Christ, and we should do for ANY PERSON what we would do at seeing the suffering Christ. She does not suggest that we look at one person and see him/her as a person of a different sex. Looking at a priestess will not bring to mind Christ who was Incarnate male.

          • David Nickol

            I am having trouble following your argument here. Why is it possible (basically commanded) to "see Christ" in a woman who is poor, or suffering, or otherwise in need, but impossible to "see Christ" in a (hypothetically) validly ordained woman saying Mass?

            I understand the very clear argument that Jesus chose only men to be priests, and the argument that two thousand years of the Church ordaining only men counts as a strong precedent for the future, But that argument in the Vatican documents I have examined is that only men can be priests because Jesus chose only men to be priests. The argument is not that only men can be priests because Jesus was himself a man.

            A quote from Galatians 3 comes to mind:

            For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

            You say, "Looking at a priestess will not bring to mind Christ who was Incarnate male." Then why could I not say, "Looking at a poor, sick, abused woman cannot bring Christ to mind, because she is a woman, and Christ was a man"?

            Now, people are certainly free to speculate why Jesus chose only men as priests. I earlier quoted from an article abouFr. Wojciech Giertych, Pope Benedict XVI's personal theologian, saying the following:

            According to Giertych, theologians cannot say why Jesus chose only men as his Apostles any more than they can explain the purposes of the incarnation or the Eucharist.

            "In the mystery of faith, we need to be on our knees toward something that we received," he said.

            However, he went on to say the following:

            Nevertheless, he said, theology can help illuminate the "internal coherence and beauty of the mystery which has been offered to us by God."

            "The son of God became flesh, but became flesh not as sexless humanity but as a male," Giertych said; and since a priest is supposed to serve as an image of Christ, his maleness is essential to that role.

            Reflecting on differences between the sexes, Giertych suggested other reasons men are especially suited to the priesthood.

            Men are more likely to think of God in terms of philosophical definitions and logical syllogisms, he said, a quality valuable for fulfilling a priest's duty to transmit church teaching.

            Although the social and administrative aspects of church life are hardly off-limits to women, Giertych said priests love the church in a characteristically "male way" when they show concern "about structures, about the buildings of the church, about the roof of the church which is leaking, about the bishops' conference, about the concordat between the church and the state."

          • OMG

            I've got bits of time here and there, so I'll answer small bites.
            You ask: Why is it possible (basically commanded) to "see Christ" in a woman who is poor, or suffering, or otherwise in need, but impossible to "see Christ" in a (hypothetically) validly ordained woman saying Mass?

            What is the source for the information that we are commanded to see Christ in everyone? We honor saints, but their words are not authoritative and are not binding upon us.

            It is not impossible to "see Christ" in a woman since we can imagine all sorts of things. But the argument, repeated here ad infinitum ad varietum, is basically that Jesus did not indicate that be done in choosing his followers. He did not commission men to preach and teach and do in his memory. He clearly was at all liberty to choose women, but He did not. As his followers, the church has chosen to do as He did.

          • David Nickol

            He did not commission men to preach and teach and do in his memory. He clearly was at all liberty to choose women, but He did not. As his followers, the church has chosen to do as He did.

            I have maintained from the beginning of this discussion that the reason the Church gives for the all-male priesthood is that Jesus chose only men to be priests, that he did so freely as God incarnate (not as a man bound by his time and location), and that the unwavering practice of ordaining only men by the Church for 2000 years is a binding precedent for continuing the practice. I have cited the CDF document Inter Insigniores (On the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood) and Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, both of which make the case that the reason the Church ordains only males is that Jesus chose only males to act as his priests.

            Furthermore, I can quote the Catechism:

            1577 "Only a baptized man (vir) validly receives sacred ordination." The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry. The college of bishops, with whom the priests are united in the priesthood, makes the college of the twelve an ever-present and ever-active reality until Christ's return. The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.

            This is authoritative Catholic teaching, which I am not arguing against. Why did you feel the need to set out what seems to be an argument against me and restate what I have been affirming all along?

          • David Nickol

            What is the source for the information that we are commanded to see Christ in everyone? We honor saints, but their words are not authoritative and are not binding upon us.

            Matthew 25:40 reads as follows:

            ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

            The theme of seeing Christ in others is so familiar in Catholicism and Christianity in general that I am surprised you seem to be unaware of it. Try reading Jesus in His Most Distressing Disguise by Brandon Vogt, the founder of Strange Notions.

          • OMG

            Good day! Doing for the least of our brothers is not the same as imaging a male when we look at a woman. Further, there is no COMMAND that we image Christ in any part of creation. Christ was perfect, but on earth people are not. The greatest commandment is to love God, and the other is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. No command of God suggests we 'image' Him in anything or anyone He has created.

            As for my ignorance of themes and memes in agnostic presumption? I suggest my penance be a re-read of Pope Pius XII's Mystici Corporis Christi. With all due respect to Br. Vogt's writing skill, his words do not carry equal authority. I wish Mr. Vogt God's blessing, as I do to you.

          • Mark

            No command of God suggests we 'image' Him in anything or anyone He has created.

            Except the command to "Do this in memory of Me." which is quite pertinent to the conversation.

          • OMG

            Yes. I had hoped the last two sentences of the earlier post would have suggested exactly that.

            There are two equivalences between the person (not his mere image or idea) of Christ and His creation. He has said that consecrated bread and wine are His flesh and His blood. Image that!

          • OMG

            Then why could I not say, "Looking at a poor, sick, abused woman cannot bring Christ to mind, because she is a woman, and Christ was a man"?
            I'm not being at all flippant when I say that you certainly free to say whatever you have said.

            If you do see Christ in people, why are you not Christian?

          • David Nickol

            I am not sure I see your point here, but in any case I am attempting to argue my understanding of why the Church claims it can ordain men only and not women. I am not stating my own position on ordination of women. I am trying to get at what the Church officially teaches. I have cited several authoritative sources. So far I have not found any official teaching that priests must be men because they represent Jesus, and since Jesus was a man, only a male priest can represent him.

            The issue as I see it is that the Church teaches that since Jesus chose only men for the priesthood, the Church must do the same. Certainly theologians and others are free to speculate why Jesus chose only men. It may be the case that one of the reasons Jesus chose only men was because he was a male and he thought it best that his representatives (priests) should be men as well. However, in all of the official Church documents I have seen so far, the argument is about what Jesus did, not about his reasons for doing it.

            I am more than happy to examine any authoritative teaching source that contradicts what I am saying. So far, strangely, I am the only one in this discussion who has actually cited an official Catholic source. Nobody else has even cited the Catechism. I don't understand what is going on here.

          • OMG

            The point I did not make was because I copied the wrong quote and was careless in proofing.! I was short of time. Perhaps I can edit or re-post. I'll let you know.

            Regarding the only male priesthood, there is the concept of 'in persona Christi.' It has many dimensions and much milk has been drunk to it. One start could be consideration of woman (Eve) being tempted by Satan but man (Adam) being tempted by a mere woman. Jesus was man born of woman but also God born of a mere woman. That's enough for many women and men too. I'd be interested to know what you learn about the 'in persona Christi' concept in Catholic sacramental theology.

          • David Nickol

            I'd be interested to know what you learn about the 'in persona Christi' concept in Catholic sacramental theology.

            This is supposed to be a dialog. Why don't you tell me what the relevance of in persona Christi is to the ongoing discussion here?

          • OMG

            If one is interested in theological explanations for the male priesthood, this concept is relevant.

          • David Nickol

            If one is interested in theological explanations for the male priesthood, this concept [in persona Christi] is relevant.

            In what way?

          • OMG

            The idea is founded on Christ's revelation as male. Jesus chose men to continue His work of sanctification (in addition to teaching, preaching, going forth) just as The Father chose Him to sanctify by sacrifice which redeemed, atoned, and justified humanity. As Jesus was the giver of gifts, so is the priest God's instrument through which His grace is given for the benefit of the Church and humanity.

          • David Nickol

            1548 In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis:

            It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).

            Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well Christ could have conceivably made a woman a Priest but if He wanted to do so He would have made His own Mother one. She is more worthy than any mere man who has even been one and will be one. But He didn't so there you have it.

            I heard Priesthood is spiritual Fatherhood and there are no such things as female Fathers. There is a concept of spiritual motherhood but it is never associated with Priesthood. Specifically this applies to the ministerial Priesthood. The Priesthood of all believers is a different thing and obvious baptized women believers are Priests in that sense.

          • OMG

            Yes! Great!

          • David Nickol

            One start could be consideration of woman (Eve) being tempted by Satan but man (Adam) being tempted by a mere woman. Jesus was man born of woman but also God born of a mere woman.

            I am unclear as to your point here. Are you trying to say that men are superior to women? The Church teaches they are equal:

            369 Man and woman have been created, which is to say, willed by God: on the one hand, in perfect equality as human persons; on the other, in their respective beings as man and woman. "Being man" or "being woman" is a reality which is good and willed by God: man and woman possess an inalienable dignity which comes to them immediately from God their Creator. Man and woman are both with one and the same dignity "in the image of God". In their "being-man" and "being-woman", they reflect the Creator's wisdom and goodness.

            What is implied by you use of "mere woman" twice? Does the Catholic Church describe Mary the Mother of Jesus as a "mere woman"?

          • OMG

            I did not want to say that men were superior. My use of the word was to convey irony. The actions of 'mere' women Eve and Mary have influenced humanity in extraordinary, powerful, and far-reading ways. Enough people accept enough Scripture to be convinced that Mary and Eve had power. Plenty of women and plenty of men accept power. Plenty want more. Enough.

            In 2018, the Vatican claimed 1.2 billion members. I am one. I do not speak with the authority of the official Magisterium of the Catholic Church which is infallibly done by all bishops in union with the Pope or by the Pope speaking 'ex cathedra.' My comments are my own and reflect my knowledge and beliefs. If I go against dogma, I am open to correction by the Church, those with greater credentials, or any other capable of convincing me of error.

          • David Nickol

            Enough people accept enough Scripture to be convinced that Mary and Eve had power. Plenty of women and plenty of men accept power. Plenty want more. Enough.

            I am still not totally sure what your point is. Am I correct in assuming that you are arguing that women have (and have had) plenty of power, and somehow discussing the possibility of women priests is supporting a "power grab" on the part of women? If so, I would point out that (for the purposes of this discussion) I am accepting and affirming what I understand to be the teachings of the Church on the all-male priesthood and have quoted the'Catechism, a CDF document, and an apostolic letter to support my contentions.

            I do not speak with the authority of the official Magisterium of the Catholic Church . . . .

            But you and any literate person here has the ability to cite and quote a wealth of authoritative documents which explain Catholic teaching in detail in clear and comprehensible terms. Determining what is magisterial teaching has been my focus in this discussion. I agree (for the purposes of this discussion) that the Catholic Church is obliged to maintain a male-only priesthood. What I am trying to do is separate magisterial pronouncements from certain people's opinions. Surely that is a worthy goal.

          • OMG

            Surely your goal is worth consideration. As you have said, here you are getting opinions. The teachings are, as you have shown, readily available in many online resources, particularly the Catechism and many Vatican documents http://www.vatican.va. So long as the Internet operates, we can search and learn when inclined.

            Faith is both a given gift as well as a lived experience, so we believers with generalist perspectives offer what we've got. Barring the expertise of our Thomist philosopher, most of us are average Joe Pew-sitters with differing degrees of knowledge, understanding, and ability to express ourselves. Yet we give what we've got. I don't know what else we can offer.

          • Mark

            I am the only one in this discussion who has actually cited an official Catholic source. Nobody else has even cited the Catechism.

            Actually I mentioned canon law (1024: "A baptized male alone receives sacred ordination validly.") Of course, if you're not Catholic, you're not bound to the rules of a Catholic society.

          • David Nickol

            I stand corrected. But I would have to say that quoting Canon 1024 merely states the position of the Church without explaining or justifying it.

            Of course, if you're not Catholic, you're not bound to the rules of a Catholic society.

            It is not necessary to be a Catholic to understand (or at least try to understand) what is official Catholic teaching and what is someone's opinion.

          • OMG

            I agree that an important argument is that Jesus chose males as his first disciples and sent them forth. But it is also important that He revealed Himself to humanity as a man. He created man before he created woman. He created woman to be man's helper and companion. He did not first create a woman.

          • Joseph Noonan

            That is, it is a biological deviance that falls between the two biological sexes: male and female.

            The fact that intersex people don't fall into either of the two biological categories of male or female means that they are neither of those two sexes. Which means your claim that "the biological fact is that we are either male or female" is false. Intersex people are not "either male or female".

            You said "gender." I said " the most basic sense of identity we have seems to be our sexualidentity."

            I said gender because it is less ambiguous and seems to be what you were talking about anyway. Presumably, you weren't talking about sexuality or sexual behavior, but about how one feels about themselves and identifies themselves when you said "sexual identity".

            You may not like it, but biological sex is either male or female

            How can you say this right after acknowledging that there are people who don't fit into either of those two categories?

            or, at least it was until people decided to redefine it as what a person thinks or claims he is.

            No one has ever tried to redefine biological sex as "what a person thinks or claims he is." You seem to be confusing biological sex with gender, but that's not even what gender is defined as.

            All that I was saying is that in the context of the Catholic discussion about female priests, the faithful would primarily immediately notice that the celebrant is either a male or female person.

            But that's not a good reason to bear females from the priesthood. We also immediately notice what race a person is, but we would never prevent people from becoming a priest because of their race. Physical characteristics like height, body type, hair color, and facial features are also immediately noticeable, but they have no effect on someone's ability to become a priest or act in persona christi.

            But Catholic dogma defines Christ as both truly divine and truly human. And the priest is "another Christ," not "another God." And sex is an essential part of being human.

            "Truly divine and truly human" doesn't say anything about having a particular sex. Sex may be an essential part of being human, but maleness is not. Also, given that Christ is defined as truly divine, acting as Christ also means acting as God.

            The problem with this may be that imagery often becomes interwoven with the very substance of theological doctrine.

            If you disagree with what I said about taking "the bride of Christ" literally, you'll need a straight answer to the question of why we can take the "bride of Christ" imagery so literally that we would consider ordaining a female priest to be the same as marrying two women. The response you gave here is so vague that it's almost meaningless.

            I said at the outset that this citation I gave was not my personal argument I am a philosopher, not a theologian.

            As I said in my previous comment, that's fine. But that's not going to stop me from explaining why I disagree with the argument and with the reasons you gave for it. If you also disagree with the argument, I don't see why you have a problem with me expressing why I, too, disagree with it. If you agree with the argument, then I don't know why you're making a big deal of the fact that it's not an argument that you came up with yourself.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I was quite aware of intersex states. But the original use of the term is manifest by its etymology, "Inter," meaning "between," and sex. That is, it is a biological deviance that falls between the two biological sexes: male and female.

            Not sure what your point is here. Intersex people are neither male nor female, so you are wrong to say that everyone is either male or female.

            You said "gender." I said " the most basic sense of identity we have seems to be our sexual identity."

            There are multiple meanings of the word "sexual identity, but it was clear from the context that you were talking about an immediate sense of identity related to sex, which sounds to me like the same thing as, or at least something very similar to, gender identity.

            You may not like it, but biological sex is either male or female -- or, at least it was until people decided to redefine it as what a person thinks or claims he is.

            No one has redefined biological sex that way, and, as was just explained by the existence of inetersex people, it is not "either male or female".

            All that I was saying is that in the context of the Catholic discussion about female priests, the faithful would primarily immediately notice that the celebrant is either a male or female person. This is, in fact, how we first view the physical presence of other persons -- and that was the point of my statement.

            There are lots of other things we immediately notice upon seeing a person - their facial features, race, age, and other physical characteristics like height and weight. None of these prevent people from becoming priests.

            But Catholic dogma defines Christ as both truly divine and truly human. And the priest is "another Christ," not "another God." And sex is an essential part of being human.

            Sex may be an essential part of being human, but maleness is not. So being "another Christ" would not require being male under this definition. Also, this doesn't get around the objection about priests not identifying themselves as God. By this definition, being Christ requires being God, and yet priests, who are not God, can still act as Christ. So, even if being Christs required being male, which it doesn't according to this definition, there is still no reason women couldn't act in persona christi.

            The problem with this may be that imagery often becomes interwoven with the very substance of theological doctrine.

            This isn't really a response to my objection. It's too vague to really mean anything. The only way the argument from the Church being "the bride of Christ" could work if if you were to say that the Church is literally female and that priests who act in persona christi are literally married to it. Aside from the apparent absurdity, that would mean that the Church is polyandrous. Surely, if the Church's teachings on gay marriage prevent women from becoming priests due to the "bride of Christ" image, its teachings on polygamy would also prevent multiple men from becoming priests.

            I said at the outset that this citation I gave was not my personal argument I am a philosopher, not a theologian.

            Why does that matter? You're acting as if I shouldn't be disputing this argument in my replies to your comments simply because this is an argument you got from somewhere else rather than your personal argument. I am still going to explain why I disagree with the argument, regardless of its source.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hope you will forgive me, but I just cannot get too excited about this whole issue and don't have the time to parse each part of the arguments.

            The primary argument, as others have noted, is that Christ chose only males and the Church has from its founding chosen only males to be priests. The only Christian sects allowing females such roles are some of the Protestant ones. So, at least the Catholic Church has shown no inconsistency here.

            I still think some of the other points have validity, but since they are ancillary to the primary one, I shall happily cede them to you for purposes of ending the interchange.

          • Rob Abney

            not these particular primary sources...I am willing to use my critical thinking skills to follow the facts to wherever they lead, while many others will follow the facts only where the church says they may go.

            Since you claimed, just yesterday, to be well read in support of your falling away, I would have expected that you would be very familiar with these basic Catholic sources.

          • BTS

            I should have been clearer and stated that I have not read them in their entirety. I tend to read more discussions of the primary sources, generally, than the entire sources themselves. But I have read a lot of the catechism itself. Essentially you can trust that I have read enough to at least understand your point of view. Believe it or not I used to teach religion at a Catholic high school.

          • Joseph Noonan

            "What ontological reality for a woman does that point to?" Motherhood in the context of a sacramental marriage.

            And what about fatherhood? If the fact that women can be mothers excludes them from the priesthood, why doesn't the fact that men can be fathers exclude them from the priesthood? Besides, not all women become mothers, so this isn't even an ontological difference between the sexes anyway.

            "Why can't a single woman become a priest"? 1st it's cannon law.

            You might as well just say, "The Church won't ordain women because it won't ordain women." "It's in canon law," is really just the same thing as saying, "the Church won't do it?" The problem is that there is no justification for it being in canon law.

            But it should be obvious the ability to bear children and the commitment to motherhood is deemed a priority over ordination.

            This doesn't make sense. If you're saying, "Women can't be priests because they have to be mothers instead," then 1) that is extremely sexist, and 2) it's not even true because the Church doesn't force women to be mothers. On the other hand, if you just mean that the Church considers mothers more important than priests, or wants motherhood to be a more common vocation, or anything like that, there's still no reason why women can't be priests.

          • George

            And both men and women have brains. They have minds. The differences between men and women's minds is a fascinating field about a real phenomenon, but what is so different in an average woman's mind that prevents her from comprehending and re-articulating catholic theology to a level sufficient to be a deacon? Are there words she is incapable of saying, are there ideas she cannot grasp?

          • Mark

            If you want to agree with the argument that having brains, having minds, and having the capability to comprehend and re-articulating catholic theology is the sufficient criteria for ordination Catholic preisthood I won't. Because it's not sufficient criteria regardless of your sex.

          • mmac1

            You mistake being a priest with a higher rank in the Church. The highest rank is sainthood and many saints are females & Mary is held up as the best example of humanity. Additionally, the Church has more female ministers than any Protestant church. There are a number of theological speculations as to why no female Priests but the number one reason if that all the apostles (who were chosen by Christ) were male. The Church cannot change what Christ did nor commanded- hence no female Priests, no divorce etc.

          • BTS

            You mistake being a priest with a higher rank in the Church.

            Not at all. Many women feel called to serve in a manner commensurate with:
            a) their calling
            b) their abilities
            c) local community's needs

            It is utterly patronizing for men to assume that all women will serve best as parish secretaries, lectors, cantors and RCIA ministers.

            The argument that women who want to be priests are power hungry egomaniacs is a tired, pathetic cliche.

            all the apostles (who were chosen by Christ) were male.

            This weak argument has already been addressed multiple times in this thread by others.

          • mmac1

            Women best serve as Saints- which is the highest calling for all

          • Joseph Noonan

            No, imitation of Christ is the top priority and how sexes do that in the context of a marriage to raise children to imitate Christ is the only priority that matters.

            Jesus didn't raise children or even have a wife. How can gender roles related to raising children possibly have anything to do with imitating him?

          • Mark

            It's called self-sacrifice.

          • Joseph Noonan

            It's called self-sacrifice.

            And what's the priesthood supposed to be then? Becoming a priest requires making sacrifices, too. Besides, even if it was meant to be a sacrifice to have a family rather than become a priest, why would this sacrifice only be demanded of women? No matter how you slice it, it's still sexist to say that only one sex can be ordained.
            And this still doesn't answer anything about gender roles. Sure, parents should imitate Jesus by sacrificing for their kids, but that doesn't have anything to do with gender roles. Why can't the father make sacrifices that are traditionally made by the mother and vice-versa?

        • Rob Abney

          Other than sex organs

          Other than the main difference what is the main difference?! Good question.

          • Joseph Noonan

            He's looking for a difference that would actually cause only one sex to be qualified for priesthood. "They have different sex organs," doesn't make any sense as a reason that women can't be priests. And more broadly, for complimentarianism to be a successful philosophy, there would have to be some sort of inherent difference between men and women that has such a big impact on who they are as a person that it justifies completely excluding certain sexes from certain roles or forcing them to play certain roles. I see no possible way that strictly enforcing gender roles, like completely disallowing women to be priests, can be justified, and simply pointing out that there are differences between men and women is a non-sequitur.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe BTS and you are looking for the spiritual difference between men and women, of course we can only infer the spiritual nature through the material part of the world. In this case the sex organs are terrific material signs of the spiritual differences that exist.
            God can actually see that spiritual dimension that we cannot, and He chose males to be ordained priests, He also chose men and women to be part of the royal priesthood of all believers.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I am looking for any difference that would justify barring women from the priesthood or forcing men and women to conform to specific roles, as complimentarianism does. Sex organs don't justify that, nor do they point to the existence of any other sort of difference that would justify that. The only thing sex organs are a sign of is that humans reproduce and require two sexes to do so.

          • OMG

            Jesus didn't invite women to be priests, but neither were the priests of the OT women. Jesus himself followed longstanding tradition in calling only men to the priesthood.

          • Joseph Noonan

            That still does nothing to justify the male-only priesthood. All it does is change the question from, "Why didn't Jesus choose female priests?" to, "Why didn't God allow female priests in the OT?" And there is still no good reason for Jesus to continue the tradition of barring women from the priesthood. He already shook up plenty of old OT traditions - why not change this one, too?

          • OMG

            Thanks for sharing in your other reply a few minutes earlier. I'd like to ask more questions based on that, but another day if that would be okay.

            I do not claim to know the fullness of God's mind, but scripture does in many ways speak to God's eternity, not being restricted by any boundary such as man's sense of time. Jesus choosing not to change any tradition suggests an inherent goodness or truth in it. God Himself and his truth do not ever change despite many societal practices, ideas, and customs which do change.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I don't really find any answer to the question of all-male priesthood that essentially boils down to, "Jesus made it this way, and we have no idea why, but it must be good," very satisfying. Such answers still don't ultimately give any justification for the practice. Here, the question become shifted to, "Why didn't Jesus choose to change the tradition of a male-only priesthood?", and there seems to be no good answer to that. Also, Jesus never stated that priests had to be all males - the group he chose was originally just a group of close friends/followers, not priests, and he never claimed that no one except them and the ones they later ordain can be priests, nor did he say that all priests have to be male.

          • OMG

            You've probably seen the question stuck on bumpers of cars, written on teen's wrist bracelets, pasted or colored on student notebooks and pencils, on plaques on kitchen walls: "What Would Jesus Do?" Sometimes it takes the form of WWJD?

            Jesus instructs (Matthew 5:48) "Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." How can we be perfect? By doing as Jesus did and as He said. That is reason enough for a believer to whom God's teaching is eternal, without change, not subject to cultural whim and not open to man's understanding of feminine-masculine equality. As Mr. Nickol has admirably quoted the CCC on the image of Christ, all persons' are made in the image of Christ, and all are equal in dignity before God. One's dignity before God is not less because one is a woman.

            That said, we do as Jesus did. He was male, He calls men to the priesthood, and His Church ordains men so chosen to be priests.
            The dignity of those not chosen or ordained is nonetheless intact, and all people are called to sanctity, to eternal life in the Lord.

            Jesus did break down certain socio-cultural practices of his historical time in relation to women. He clearly could have chosen women for his priesthood, but He did not. He clearly could have appointed His mother as a priestess, but He did not. Instead, from the cross, He gave her unto the care of a disciple, and neither the disciple nor his mother found fault.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I understand that Christians want to do what Jesus would want them to do, but that still leaves two problems unresolved:
            1. "Jesus did it," still isn't a justification for a practice. Jesus doing it doesn't make it right - it had to have already been right beforehand. When I am asking for a justification for the all-male priesthood, I am looking for an actual explanation of why it is right to exclude women and what differences between men and women justify this. But the appeal to Jesus doesn't do this - it simply asserts that it must be right even though we can't understand why.
            2. Jesus never told anyone that only men should be priests. Even the idea that we can infer that he only wanted men to be priests because he only appointed men is not a very good argument because A. he might have had other reasons for choosing this particular group that had nothing to do with an absolute ban on female priests, and B. he never actually specifically appointed them as priests - Christians later decided that only they were priests, and Jesus's female followers were not.

            As Mr. Nickol has admirably quoted the CCC on the image of Christ, all persons' are made in the image of Christ, and all are equal in dignity before God. One's dignity before God is not less because one is a woman.

            Which is exactly why the doctrine of male-only priesthood is so baffling. If men and women are considered equal by the Church, why does the Church only allow men to perform the most important clerical function?

            The dignity of those not chosen or ordained is nonetheless intact, and all people are called to sanctity, to eternal life in the Lord.

            This isn't just about the dignity of those not chosen - it's about the dignity of those who aren't even allowed to be considered simply because of how they were born. Barring one sex from being priests implies that there is something lesser about them, and even the complimentarians who try to get around this by saying that both sexes have strengths and weaknesses run into problems. First of all, while there are differences between the sexes, the differences in abilities are minor and not absolute (meaning that there is nothing that all males are better than all females at, or vice-versa), so it doesn't make sense to completely bar one sex from having a certain position based on these differences. Secondly, the roles of men and women in the Church are not "complimentary, but equal" when one sex is given the most important role (priesthood and even popehood) with no female equivalent, but all the female roles have male equivalents. Nuns are often given as an example of either a female equivalent to priests or as a female role with no male equivalent, but nuns do have a male equivalent, male monks, and they are not equivalent to the priesthood, since they can't perform the functions priests can perform. And there is certainly nothing that even comes close to being a female equivalent of a bishop or the pope.

            Jesus did break down certain socio-cultural practices of his historical time in relation to women. He clearly could have chosen women for his priesthood, but He did not.

            As I mentioned earlier, he didn't explicitly appoint anyone to the priesthood - his followers could have interpreted his actions and words as choosing some female followers as priests, but they did not. And even if he had explicitly chosen priests, and all of them were male, that still wouldn't mean he is mandating that all priests be male for all time.

            Instead, from the cross, He gave her unto the care of a disciple, and neither the disciple nor his mother found fault.

            I'm not sure how that is meant to express support for the male-only priesthood. I would probably do the same thing in his situation - I wouldn't want my old mother to be left to try to support herself in a society where women aren't allowed to do much - but that doesn't mean I endorse barring women from the priesthood.

          • Joseph Noonan

            That is reason enough for a believer to whom God's teaching is eternal, without change, not subject to cultural whim and not open to man's understanding of feminine-masculine equality.

            But that's not an actual reason to justify the male-only priesthood. Even if Jesus had explicitly said that only men can be priests, that would be quite different from actually giving some justification for why only men can be priests.

            One's dignity before God is not less because one is a woman.

            That's exactly why the male-only priesthood is such a problem. Women, being equal in dignity to men, should not be barred from playing the most important roles in the Church on the basis of their sex.

            The dignity of those not chosen or ordained is nonetheless intact, and all people are called to sanctity, to eternal life in the Lord.

            Maybe the dignity of those not chosen is intact, but what about the dignity of those who aren't even allowed to be considered solely because of their sex?

            He clearly could have chosen women for his priesthood, but He did not.

            That still doesn't mean that he was trying to establish an absolute prohibition against women being priests. Also, he didn't explicitly choose anyone to be a priest.

            Instead, from the cross, He gave her unto the care of a disciple, and neither the disciple nor his mother found fault.

            At this point, his mother had to be pretty old, especially for that timr period, and, since ancient Rome was a patriarchal society, it would be pretty hard for an old woman like her to support herself. So it makes perfect sense for him to do this, and I don't see any connection at all to the male-only priesthood. You don't have to support the male-only priesthood to try to do what's best for your mother before you die.

          • OMG

            Tradition has Mary as a teenager at the Annunciation so she was likely in her mid 40s at the Crucifixion. Scripture has her standing at the cross while the younger Magdalene lay prostrate.

            Surely Jesus didn't discriminate on the basis of age as well as sex? Could he not have killed two birds with one stone? He could have called his mother to the priesthood, thereby teaching non- discrimination on the basis of sex or age. Did his (non)action decrease her dignity? No. Dignity inures to human nature no matter the circumstances of fate, God, or man.

            Dignity does not rest upon age, sex, or the jobs we are allowed or necessity requires we do. Peter was a fisherman; Paul made tents. Jesus gave the keys to Peter and built his Church on him. Did Jesus thereby discriminate against Paul? Was Paul's dignity less? Paul was gifted with a vision of the third level of paradise. Did Peter's dignity suffer because God denied Peter that gift? No. Every person is unique, and all are uniquely gifted. See Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4.

            Do you contend that the Church, Jesus Himself, or both deny woman their dignity by denying them the priesthood?

            Actually, googling around, I found a group of 'Roman Catholic' women who have ordained themselves. Surely liberty is at work. Does that help their dignity? I'm interested to know what you think.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Tradition has Mary as a teenager at the Annunciation so she was likely in her mid 40s at the Crucifixion.

            Which was pretty old for the time. Also, given that Jesus was 33 at the time of the crucifixtion, according to tradition, this would put Mary in her late 40s, unless she was really young at the time of the Annunciation.

            Surely Jesus didn't discriminate on the basis of age as well as sex? Could he not have killed two birds with one stone? He could have called his mother to the priesthood, thereby teaching non-discrimination on the basis of sex or age.

            Sure, he could have done this, but why would you expect him to? Mary was probably a widow at this point, since we don't hear anything about what Joseph was doing at the time, and, in that society, sons would take care of their mothers after the father died. So it makes sense that the top priority for Jesus was to find someone to take care of his mother after he's gone.

            Did his (non)action decrease her dignity?

            No, but extrapolating from this nonaction to the conclusion that all women should be barred from the priesthood doesn't respect the dignity of women.

            Dignity does not rest upon age, sex, or the jobs we are allowed or necessity requires we do.

            And that's exactly why I think the Church should allow either sex to be priests. Men and women have equal dignity, so they should have equal opportunity.

            Do you contend that the Church, Jesus Himself, or both deny woman their dignity by denying them the priesthood?

            Only the Church. I don't think that barring women from the priesthood respects their dignity. Jesus never said that women can't be priests. He never ordained any, but he also never ordained any men, at least not explicitly. The Great Commission is often interpreted as Jesus ordaining the Apostles as priests, but Jesus doesn't actually say that they are priests now. The Great Commission can just as easily be interpreted as a command to all of Jesus's followers, not just the Twelve.

            Actually, googling around, I found a group of 'Roman Catholic' women who have ordained themselves.

            The Church doesn't recognize their ordinations as valid. In fact, the Church excommunicates any woman who is ordained and anyone who tries to ordain a woman.

          • OMG

            Mary was really young at the time of the Annunciation. Tradition puts her at 13-15.

            JN says: Sure, he could have done this, but why would you expect him to?

            I do not expect Jesus to have done anything but what He is revealed as having done. The obverse of what he did do is of value too. He is not shown to have hurt anyone, for example. So I would find it difficult to believe He ever hurt anyone. Jesus did not call women to join his inner circle of discipleship. None of his female friends complained. The Church follows His example.

            I do not agree that limiting the priesthood to men does anything to decrease a woman's dignity. The woman still maintains her God-given dignity and He will not take it from her. It would take a fragile sense of dignity for a woman to be offended at the loss of a job opportunity. Not even all men who apply are allowed ordination. Ordination is a gift, a privilege, a call and not all are able or blessed to receive it.

            As a small child, St. Therese, Little Flower, wanted to be a missionary priest. Further, she was denied entrance into the convent when she felt ready to join. She petitioned the Pope! He asked that she wait. The Church has the right to organize and operate its member organization as its members agree. People who see certain Church practices as discriminatory may experience a trial, but they either pray about and accept the discrepancy, or they opt out. No one was promised a rose garden here on earth, in the Church Militant.

            Yes, the Church doesn't recognize their ordinations. Neither do the woman priests recognize the Church's practices of ordination. So that seems to even the score.

            Hoping you have a great day.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I do not expect Jesus to have done anything but what He is revealed as having done. The obverse of what he did do is of value too.

            But you can't conclude that Jesus was condemning something just from the fact that he didn't do it himself. Jesus never ordained women, but that doesn't mean he was against ordination of women.

            Jesus did not call women to join his inner circle of discipleship. None of his female friends complained.

            I'm not sure why it matters that the women didn't complain about Jesus's closest friends being men. That's not the same as barring one gender from the priesthood. Besides, even if women had been explicitly barred from the priesthood and didn't complain about it in the Bible, that still wouldn't make it right.

            I do not agree that limiting the priesthood to men does anything to decrease a woman's dignity. The woman still maintains her God-given dignity and He will not take it from her.

            By this, do you mean that the woman still has inherent dignity, or do you mean that the the woman is being treated with dignity? I obviously don't think that restricting the priesthood does anything to lessen one's inherent dignity, the dignity that someone has whether others recognize it or not. However, barring women from the priesthood certainly isn't treating women with dignity.

            It would take a fragile sense of dignity for a woman to be offended at the loss of a job opportunity.

            It's not a loss of the job opportunity that would offend a woman. It's the fact that she won't even be considered, no matter what she does or how skilled she is, just because she has the wrong genitals. And it's the fact that all of the highest positions in the Church are restricted to men. The Church's hierarchy gives men all the power, which puts men in a position of superiority over women. The Church can claim that it respects men and women equally, but actions speak louder than words. Treating women as unfit to hold the positions that men can hold doesn't respect their dignity.

            Not even all men who apply are allowed ordination.

            But at least they're allowed to apply. And when they're denied ordination, it's not because of their sex. Would you argue that a law against Congresswomen is okay because "Not all men who run are allowed to become Congressmen"?

            The Church has the right to organize and operate its member organization as its members agree.

            Not all members agree. Plenty of women want to be priests.

            People who see certain Church practices as discriminatory may experience a trial, but they either pray about and accept the discrepancy, or they opt out.

            "Agree with the practice or leave the Church," isn't a justification, especially when leaving the Church is considered a mortal sin. And, if the only reason "its members agree" is because the people who disagreed were either kicked out, left, or changed their mind just so they could stay in the Church, then there isn't actually any real agreement there.

            Yes, the Church doesn't recognize their ordinations. Neither do the woman priests recognize the Church's practices of ordination. So that seems to even the score.

            I'm not sure what you mean by "even the score", but, whatever you mean, the fact that some women tried to ordain themselves as Catholic priests and were subsequently excommunicated doesn't justify the all-male priesthood.

          • OMG

            JN says: you can't conclude that Jesus was condemning something just from the fact that he didn't do it.

            OMG: I don't conclude that Jesus condemned women. Neither does the Church. The Church offers women the opportunity to live consecrated lives of service to the Church. There are a great variety of approved orders and apostolates, roles and ministries, all different while giving honor to the glory of God and helping their fellow men (and women).

            JN: even if women had been explicitly barred from the priesthood and didn't complain about it in the Bible, that still wouldn't make it right.

            OMG: The correct order of 'right' flows from the most perfect to the least. God, being greater in perfection, is the authority on justice, not man. What He does by nature is always right. Giving Peter the authority to bind and to loose gives the Church the authority to rule and order the Church as it sees fit for the greater glory and honor of God and for the benefit of man.

            JN: barring women from the priesthood certainly isn't treating women with dignity.

            OMG: Again, this judges the Wisdom of God and of His Church and is not up to the snuff of one man or woman..

            A woman (Mary), at the request of God, delivered the Messiah to mankind - this reflects the highest bestowal of dignity to the female sex, particularly since a woman first brought sin to man. God bears woman no grudge. Your mother delivered you. God honors all women by gifting them the ability to carry, bear, and raise children. Is the dignity of men somehow less because they lack the ability to do the same job? Neither do women lack dignity because they are not called to the priesthood.

            Women bear the love of a soul inside their bodies and then deliver that soul-- created and loved by God-- to the world for the common good of man and for the greater glory of God. Men cannot deliver souls to the world. Yet men participate in the process and indeed are essential in initiating it. They have a distinct, essential, and dignified part to play.

            Likewise, all women and all men may participate in the common priesthood of Christ. As Christians receive and share God's grace, their faith, hope and love further the priesthood of Christ, there for all who desire it.

            1Peter4:10-11.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I don't conclude that Jesus condemned women.

            That's not what I was saying. I'm talking about your conclusion that Jesus condemned female priesthood. You are using the fact that Jesus never personally ordained female priests to argue that Jesus didn't want women to be priests.

            The Church offers women the opportunity to live consecrated lives of service to the Church.

            But none of these positions are equivalent to priesthood, let alone bishophood or popehood. Why is it that women are banned from the most important positions in the Church? It's a clear case of discrimination.

            The correct order of 'right' flows from the most perfect to the least. God, being greater in perfection, is the authority on justice, not man. What He does by nature is always right.

            Is it right because God does it, or does God do it because it is right? If omnibenevolence means anything, you have to go for the latter option, which means that, in order for something to be right, there needs to be some justification other than that God did it.

            Giving Peter the authority to bind and to loose gives the Church the authority to rule and order the Church as it sees fit for the greater glory and honor of God and for the benefit of man.

            Merely saying that the Church has the authority to do what it wants on this issue doesn't justify the position it holds. Congress has the authority to pass laws. That doesn't mean that every law passed by Congress is right.

            Again, this judges the Wisdom of God and of His Church and is not up to the snuff of one man or woman.

            Yes, I am judging the wisdom of the Church here. I don't think the Church has acted wisely in discriminating against women.

            A woman (Mary), at the request of God, delivered the Messiah to mankind - this reflects the highest bestowal of dignity to the female sex

            Aren't you forgetting the part of the story where the Messiah himself is male? Making the Messiah himself male bestows a lot more dignity on the male sex than making his mother female bestows on women. I know that Catholics hold Mary in very high regard, but that doesn't have any bearing on whether the practice of all-male priesthood is sexist, or whether it can be justified.

            particularly since a woman first brought sin to man.

            This kind of undermines everything you were just saying.

            God honors all women by gifting them the ability to carry, bear, and raise children.

            Not all women. And this doesn't really have anything to do with whether the Church's position on female priesthood is justified.

            Neither do women lack dignity because they are not called to the priesthood.

            You're comparing biological abilities with the ability to hold positions whose duties either sex has the capability to perform. And, most importantly, women are barred from any authority position as high as, or higher than, priesthood. That is why I say that the Church doesn't treat women with as much dignity as it treats men. There is no female equivalent to priesthood, let alone bishophood or popehood.

            Yet men participate in the process and indeed are essential in initiating it. They have a distinct, essential, and dignified part to play.

            The same cannot be said for women in the Church. There are no roles for women that are as essential to the Church as the priesthood, nor are there any Church positions for women that are as dignified as the priesthood. Men are given all the control over the Church.

            Likewise, all women and all men may participate in the common priesthood of Christ.

            That's not an equivalent to the actual positions of authority held by ordained priests. It's an equivocation between two different ways the Church uses the word "priest".

          • David Nickol

            He could have called his mother to the priesthood,

            The office of "ministerial priest," it seems to me, evolved some time after Jesus was no longer on the scene. Of course, to (most) Catholic believers, the idea is that the apostles were the first priests, and the ministerial priesthood can be traced back to them. But that seems to me to be theology or ecclesiology or something like that—not historical fact.

            What happened to the "Jesus movement" in the first century is pretty much what would have been expected at that time and in that place. It was taken over by his brother, James. To have made Mary a "priest" would pretty much have had to be to make her one of the apostles. I think it would have been unthinkable for a mother to become one of the principal leaders of a movement started by her son.

            This is, of course, purely my opinion.

          • Rob Abney

            This is, of course, purely my opinion

            I'm glad that you attached that caveat since your statements are often considered to be well-researched and based on close readings of various official documents!

          • David Nickol

            I always try to make it clear whether I am speaking infallibly or not.

          • OMG

            Okay! No, Jesus would not have called his mother to the priesthood if there had not been a priesthood! Of course not! But the teaching of Jesus to a select few disciples, the sending forth of those same disciples was the incipient priesthood.

            Where do you get the idea that Jesus had a brother named James? What was the nature of the relationship?

            You are so right-o on the opinion piece! Good one, DaveN.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Here is an explanation of the reference to Jesus's "brother," which is consistent with Catholic, Orthodox, Assyrian, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox who believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, as did the Protestants Martin Luther, Zwingli, Wesley and their sects:

            " It’s possible that ... James was really a cousin. ... More likely, though, James was a half-brother, the son of Joseph by an earlier marriage," who was probably a widower when he married Mary.
            https://wordbytes.org/faqs/Jesus-brother-James/

          • OMG

            Yes. The word today is often used toward one of like-mind, a friend in sympathy with our own views. In OT-NT times, its meaning similarly extended beyond blood ties. Many Protestants believe that Jesus had genetic siblings because of the word in scripture.

            https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/brother

            Any kinsman, and not a mere brother; e.g. nephew, ( Genesis 13:8 ; 14:16 ) husband, ( Solomon 4:9 )
            One of the same tribe. ( 2 Samuel 19:13 )
            Of the same people, ( Exodus 2:11 ) or even of a cognate people. ( Numbers 20:14 )
            An ally. ( Amos 1:9 )

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Correct, sister!

          • OMG

            Right on, Bro!

          • David Nickol

            Where do you get the idea that Jesus had a brother named James? What was the nature of the relationship?

            See Matthew 12:54-56:

            He came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished* and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?”

            Also Mark 6:3

            Is he not the carpenter,* the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

          • OMG

            Do you believe that Jesus had a brother, a person related to him genetically as a sibling? I know many Protestant Christians who claim this is what the word means.

          • David Nickol

            I agree with what I believe to be the opinion of John P. Meier (A Marginal Jew, Vols. 1-5), which is that if it were not for the Catholic dogma of the perpetual virginity of Mary, the most natural reading of the Gospels (and Acts) would be that Jesus had brothers and sisters.

            I will offer the unwelcome opinion that somewhere along the line, some in the Catholic Church became too obsessed with a literal interpretation of Mary's virginity. Mary is said to have been a virgin ante partum, in partu, et post partum, that is, before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. (From previous experience, I know people are touchy about discussing intimate details of Mary's anatomy, so I am walking on eggshells here.) That belief, it seems to me, goes much too far in deriving an alleged physical fact from what allegedly must have been from a theological point of view. Why is it necessary to posit a miraculous and inexplicable birth process (not conception—birth process) for Mary's continued physical virginity? I believe Raymond E. Brown once said that "virginity ante partum, in partu, et post partum," was not supposed to be a gynecological statement, but to the best of my knowledge, that is the "official" position.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            From Catholic Bible 101:

            "First off, one has to realize that in the Greek that the New Testament was written in, there is no specific word for “brother,” but rather a generic word that could mean brother or cousin or nephew. That Greek word is “adelphos.” This word “adelphos” is used numerous times in the New Testament to describe “the brothers of Jesus.” Specifically, in Matthew 13:55-56, four men are named as the brothers (adelphos) of Jesus – James, Joseph, Simon, and Jude. But if you cross reference Matthew 13:55-56 with John 19:25, it says that at the cross were present the mother (the Blessed Virgin Mary) of Jesus, and her sister Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary of Magdala! That is 3 Mary’s at the foot of the cross! Why is this significant? Because in Matthew 27:56, we learn Mary the wife of Clopas is the mother of James and Joseph, the cousins, not brothers, of Jesus. Tradition has it that St. Jude is also the cousin of Jesus."

            https://catholicbible101.com/jesushadbrothers.htm

          • David Nickol

            Researching this could take a lifetime! For the moment, I'll just say that John P. Meier would disagree with most of the above. More to come (maybe) later.

            Meier makes a clever observation which, while far from conclusive, is something that I have never seen in print before and would never have thought of myself. He points out the following passage (Matthew 12:46-50):

            While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. [Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.”] But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

            If we take the meaning of the original Greek translated brothers and sisters to mean "male cousins"" and "female cousins," then we have the following:

            “Who is my mother? Who are my cousins?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my cousins. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my male cousin, and female cousin, and mother.”

            The idea that the family looking for Jesus was not his mother and brothers and sisters weakens the "punchline" of the story.

          • Rob Abney

            Or from the other possibility:
            “Who is my mother? Who are my half-brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my half-brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my half-brother, and half-sister, and mother.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are quite right about it weakening the punchline.

            Still, if most people then referred to their cousins in the same terms they spoke of their siblings, what other metaphor could be made? Especially on the premise that Jesus had no actual siblings.

            Jesus would still be making a good and coherent point in telling the people that they should regard all others who do the will of God as if they were their blood relatives.

          • David Nickol

            See also this from the Introduction to James in the New American Bible:

            This designation most probably refers to the third New Testament personage named James, a relative of Jesus who is usually called “brother of the Lord” (see Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). He was the leader of the Jewish Christian community in Jerusalem whom Paul acknowledged as one of the “pillars” (Gal 2:9). In Acts he appears as the authorized spokesman for the Jewish Christian position in the early Church (Acts 12:17; 15:13–21). According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 20, 9, 1 ¶¶201–203), he was stoned to death by the Jews under the high priest Ananus II in A.D. 62.

            The whole introduction is fascinating, and although the NAB doesn't take a stand on authorship, the reasons given for thinking James the Brother of Jesus was not the author of James are very convincing.

          • Mark

            I don't think there is going to be a satisfying answer if you believe that gender/sex based qualities of masculinity and femininity pertain to the concepts of fatherhood and motherhood. (I mean gender based in the traditional sense not the modern fluidity nonsense.) Where are the egalitarians in warfare and custody disputes?

          • Joseph Noonan

            I don't think there is going to be a satisfying answer if you believe that gender/sex based qualities of masculinity and femininity pertain to the concepts of fatherhood and motherhood.

            I don't know what you mean by this or what you are trying to say I believe.

            Where are the egalitarians in warfare and custody disputes?

            Do you really think there are no egalitarians in these issues? Don't you realize that there was a long fight to grant women the right to serve in the military? Today, there is still some inequality in that only men can drafted, but many feminists want to change this so that women can be drafted, too - I would agree with them except that I think that no one should be drafted, which is still an egalitarian position. The same thing goes with custody disputes. I don't think that either parent should be granted custody just because of what sex they are.

          • Mark

            My apologies Joe, I meant the gender based qualities don't translate to qualities of fatherhood and motherhood. I'm glad you are consistent in your position that the judicial system is terribly sexist against males and there should be more dead female soldiers on the memorials is DC.

          • David Nickol

            I'm glad you are consistent in your position that the family law judicial system is terribly sexist against males and there should be more dead female soldiers on the memorials is DC.

            How low can you go? Just because someone supports the right of women to volunteer to put their lives in danger in the military doesn't mean they want "more dead female soldiers." The same goes for police officers.

            The problem with certain theories of the "complementarity of the sexes" is that even if it is true that men tend to do better in area X and women tend to do better in area Y, that doesn't mean that some men will not excel in area Y and some women will not excel in area X. Excluding women from predominantly male professions merely because they are women is just as discriminatory as excluding black people or Jews based solely on ethnicity or religion.

            Why is it an honor and a privilege for men to fight and die for their country but a sign of barbarism to let women do so? (This does not mean that men and women in the military are completely interchangeable.)

            In custody battles, it would be ludicrous for the courts always to side with women. In married couples, not every mother is the better caregiver.

            Here is yet again a passage from the old online Catholic Encyclopedia that I have cited a number of times:

            The second branch of the woman question, which of necessity follows directly after that of gaining a livelihood, is that of a suitable education. The Catholic Church places here no barriers that have not already been established by nature. Fénelon expresses this necessary limitation thus: "The learning of women like that of men must be limited to the study of those things which belong to their calling; The difference in their activities must also give a different direction to their studies." The entrance of women as students in the universities, which has of late years spread in all countries, is to be judged according to these principles. Far from obstructing such a course in itself, Catholics encourage it. This has led in Germany to the founding of the "Hildegardisverein" for the aid of Catholic women students of higher branches of learning. Moreover, nature also shows here her undeniable regulating power. There is no need to fear the overcrowding of the academic professions by women.

            In the medical calling, which next to teaching is the first to be considered in discussing the professions of women, there are at the present time in Germany about 100 women to 30,000 men. For the studious woman as for others who earn a livelihood the academic calling is only a temporary position. The sexes can never be on an equality as regards studies pursued at a university.

            Is this an unchanging Catholic truth? I would say it is an embarrassment, but maybe it fits with your views of gender roles even today.

          • Rob Abney

            What is your position on the actual issue that was addressed, that all women should be eligible to be drafted into military service? I agree that it is discriminatory, but for the right reason.

          • David Nickol

            We have an all-volunteer army. I'd like it to stay that way.

            In discussing issues like the alleged complementarity of the sexes, I don't think it is helpful to jump to the most extreme possibilities. ("Hard cases make bad law.") We can discuss whether women can be professors, lawyers, surgeons, engineers, CEOs, pilots, movie directors, police, and even priests without deciding whether or how they should serve in the military in time of national emergency.

          • Mark

            If something is ilicit, the extreme cases are ilicit as well unless it qualifies as double effect. This would not.

          • David Nickol

            Exactly what is the "something" you are claiming to be illicit?

            Women in the military? "According to the Defense Department, women now make up 20 percent of the Air Force, 19 percent of the Navy, 15 percent of the Army and almost 9 percent of the Marine Corps."

            Women registering for the draft when there is no draft? That would hardly qualify as "illicit."

            The Catechism says the following:

            2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
            - the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
            - all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective
            - there must be serious prospects of success;
            - the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
            These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

            The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

            2310 Public authorities, in this case, have the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense.

            Those who are sworn to serve their country in the armed forces are servants of the security and freedom of nations. If they carry out their duty honorably, they truly contribute to the common good of the nation and the maintenance of peace.

          • Mark

            I claimed, according to egalitarian standards, infantry deaths and front-line warfare deaths being predominantly male is sexism. Nothing you responded with defends your position unless you're suggesting only men volunteer to die outside of drafts. They now have women infantry. It is going to be an interesting military and social experiment.

          • David Nickol

            I claimed, according to egalitarian standards, infantry deaths and front-line warfare deaths being predominantly male is sexism.

            What you said was, "If something is ilicit, the extreme cases are ilicit as well unless it qualifies as double effect. This would not."

            And I asked you, "Exactly what is the 'something' you are claiming to be illicit?" What is the answer? What is illicit?

            Disincluding military roles seems rather arbitrary. Why not just disinclude Catholic priests.

            I take it his is sarcasm of some sort, but I haven't the vaguest idea what your point is. Please explain.

          • Mark

            Egalitarian norms should require no vocation or role be denied based upon sex. This would include front line infantry. This would include a secular draft. My point was if you think it is moral to not include egalitarian commitments you need to explain why you hold a double standard in application of the distribution of societal roles.

          • David Nickol

            Egalitarian norms should require no vocation or role be denied based upon sex. This would include front line infantry.

            You have caught on to our secret agenda. We will not rest until all infantries are half men and half women, NFL players are half women, and women have equal opportunity to compete for the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Women must be able to use men's rooms, including urinals, and bras should come in men's sizes. Women's special privileges should be abolished, such as the ludicrous requirement that ballerinas be female.

          • David Nickol

            My point was if you think it is moral to not include egalitarian commitments you need to explain why you hold a double standard in application of the distribution of societal roles.

            15 "Societal Roles" Closed to Women
            Priest
            Infantry (Wo)Man
            Any Military Role
            CEO
            Commercial Airline Pilot
            Psychotherapist (except perhaps for other women)
            President/Prime Minister
            Legislator
            Voter (down with the 19th Amendment!)
            Judge
            Juror
            Engineer
            Physicist
            University Professor
            Orchestra Conductor

          • Joseph Noonan

            Egalitarian norms should require no vocation or role be denied based upon sex. This would include front line infantry.

            And the problem with that is...? Why shouldn't women be allowed to fight on the front lines?

          • Rob Abney

            Not many countries have the luxury that the US has to have an all-volunteer military. But in nearly every country the draft is discriminatory against men, women have the privilege of not registering for the draft even in the US.
            This is because society recognizes that men and women are different and women should be protected, not because they are weak or less competent but because they are needed in greater numbers than men to continue producing and educating the next generation. This is a societal decision not an individual decision.
            It’s similar to the reason that a ban on abortion should be a societal decision. Both are issues that legislators representing society should decide;
            on both issues most legislators in US have protected women.
            An individual woman is much more than a baby producer, but when you consider women in general then that is one of if not the primary gift they provide for humanity.

          • David Nickol

            . . . . they [women] are needed in greater numbers than men to continue producing and educating the next generation. This is a societal decision not an individual decision.

            Might I point out that according to "natural law," if there are a greater number of women than men, the number of "excess" women must remain childless, unless polygyny is permitted. The rule for sex and marriage is one man to one woman, and one woman to one man.

          • Rob Abney

            Good point, but the issue is not to have more men than women.

          • Mark

            How low can you go?

            I notice being called incomprehensibly sexist isn't low brow: "So, do you think that the purpose of women is to have children, and that this makes it wrong for them to choose some other vocation? Aside from being incomprehensibly sexist, that isn't even consistent with Catholic teaching." I'm only affirming his consistency that women should be sacrificed on a battlefield or be put into a war torn area where it is concievable if captured, she would be raped, enslaved, and possibly impregnated because the "purpose" (not my word but indeed a final cause) of women is or should be ignored for the sake of strict egalitarian equality. Joe is consistent here. How you replied: "(This does not mean that men and women in the military are completely interchangeable.)" is not. David but that sounds as if you're in the complementarian camp. What ontological differences precludes a woman from fulfill any military role?

            In custody battles, it would be ludicrous for the courts always to side with women. In married couples, not every mother is the better caregiver.

            Again, Joe is consistent with his egalitarian perspective that family law is sexist. I affirm that. 1 out of 3 children grow up in home without a father. 40% of children are born to unwed mothers. When a child is born to an unmarried mother, the mother is automatically granted sole custodianship. The father has no legal right to see their child without a court order. So your "it would be ludicrous" would account to 40% of children born in the US every year. From a natural law, complementarian perspective it would be because the family is the moral building block of a society and divorce and premarital sex are illicit. I'm not sure how you are justifying it from an egalitarian perspective other than ignoring sexism egalitarian-wise against men. It seems you dodged that question as well.

            As far as your old Catholic encyclopedia, I've seen you cut and paste it several times before. Maybe the best defense is a good attack so if you're trying to attack the Catholic church on education of women and the equal dignity of them as rational creatures we can have that discussion. But if you want to pull up women's rights literature from 100 years ago, lets also include literature published by Margaret Sanger so we can get some perspective on racist eugenics and the roots of Planned Parenthood. I actually got the digital form of the encyclopedia and read the above quote in context. "As regard to the first branch of the woman question, feminine industry, the opinion has constantly gained ground that "notwithstanding all changes in economic and social life the general and foremost vocation of women remains that of the wife and mother, and it is therefore above all necessary to make the female sex capable and efficient for the duties arising from this calling. How far the opportunities for woman's work for a livelihood are to be enlarged should be made to depend upon the question whether the respective work injures or does not injure the provision for motherhood." For those that want to read it in it's entirety it is available for free on Google play. It seems, without things existing such as federal laws requiring maternity leave and other such protections for women that didn't exist in 1913, it is perfectly reasonable that a woman's primary concern is of her family, the moral building block of society according to Catholic teaching. She is free to peruse any any "economic calling" so be it doesn't injure the family. In 1913 it isn't irrational to conclude it would given the social conditions. After reading the entirety of the chapter I'm not only not "embarrassed" at all, but proud how forward thinking Catholics have always been.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I notice being called incomprehensibly sexist isn't low brow: "So, do
            you think that the purpose of women is to have children, and that this
            makes it wrong for them to choose some other vocation? Aside from being
            incomprehensibly sexist, that isn't even consistent with Catholic
            teaching."

            I was calling the view that having children is the purpose of women incomprehensibly sexist. You are taking it personally, but it was a criticism of that view, not of you as a person. Also, the reason it is phrased as a question there is because I was asking if it really is your view or not - the argument I was making is that it's an incomprehensibly sexist view that is inconsistent with Catholicism, but it's required for your argument to work, so either your argument fails, or your argument requires you to hold sexist positions that aren't compatible with Catholicism.

          • Mark

            It is sexist according to you because you deny the natural law that a family unit is the fundamental building block of a society. That is Catholic. Families are made up of a male and female that are sexually united and bond for the benefit of their offspring that perpetuates humanity and society. Therefore society has a dependency on both male and female in the form of motherhood and fatherhood for its natural end. Motherhood or fatherhood are seen as the perfection of the sexes. This in no way way requires individual men or women to fulfill those roles, which is what you tried now twice to interpret me saying. There are rational reasons where those roles should be avoided even in married couples.

          • Joseph Noonan

            It is sexist according to you because you deny the natural law that a family unit is the fundamental building block of a society. That is Catholic.

            No, it's sexist because it assumes to know what the entire purpose of someone's life is merely on the basis of their sex, and because such an idea, if adopted, would force women into a role that they may not want to be in.

            This in no way way requires individual men or women to fulfill those roles, which is what you tried now twice to interpret me saying.

            If you agree that individual men and women don't have to fulfill these roles, then you simply don't agree with the statement that I was calling an "incomprehensibly sexist" one. I never said that you agreed with it - that's why I phrased it as a question. However, if you don't agree with it, then you are no closer to justifying the all-male priesthood (the original thing BTS brought up that started this whole conversation), and you also haven't answered his question about the ontological differences between all men and all women that supposedly justify this practice.

          • Mark

            I see, so it seems you changed the clear meaning of my argument to make it sound sexist and phrased it as a question. I just thought I was being called sexist because you didn't understand my position.

            I'm no closer to justifying the all-male priesthood because it seems you reject the premises of the family being the fundamental building block of society and the principle of subsidiarity. There is no reason to go forward on an argument that denies either one of those premises.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I see, so it seems you changed the clear meaning of my argument to make it sound sexist and phrased it as a question.

            No, actually, you changed the clear meaning of BTS's original question when, instead of giving an ontological property of all women, you gave a property that only some women have, and you didn't make your meaning clear until much later. If your argument isn't talking about a property that all women have, then it doesn't even make sense as an argument.

            I'm no closer to justifying the all-male priesthood because it seems you reject the premises of the family being the fundamental building block of society and the principle of subsidiarity.

            Even if I accept these principles, you'll still be no closer to justifying it because you apparently haven't even said a word about the differences between all men and all women. The Church doesn't just bar mothers from the priesthood - it bars all women from the priesthood.

            There is no reason to go forward on an argument that denies either one of those premises.

            Again, why do you keep insisting that I uphold certain premises just because you can't make your argument without them? If your argument requires these premises, then you must justify them, or your argument is unfounded. You can't get out of having to justify your claims by insisting that your opponent accept them without reason.

          • Mark

            I gave the ontological difference of motherhood because that is the complementary role to fatherhood. The priesthood is a marriage to the Church and a complementary role of father to mother Church.

            Prior to Christianity, it was only virtuous to be chaste if you were a woman. Men were free to have sex with their male or female slave, it was a benefit of being male in patriarchy societies. Christ changed that, and chastity became a strict requirement for both men and women. In short Catholicism made itself into a feminine role by giving the central theme of feminine virtue (chastity) a central role in schemes of values. That is, she (the Church) also made the benevolent roles of the beatitudes a central theme to salvation for all: compassion, mercy and self-sacrifice. These are all feminine qualities. Fatherly priests represent a juxtaposition to every patriarchy society in which Christians came into contact to spread the Gospel message. Here are men, who vow chastity and celibacy toward a divine society God Himself ordained and promised to keep the gates of hell from prevailing against. They renounced what was universally seen as a right of patriarchal power for the gospel message everywhere they went. The Church was their bride. The Church is the mother of her adopted children (the baptized). It is the feminine qualities of the church that makes her a divinely ordained matriarchal living being. Her complement is a Father who lays down his life to her and her adopted children. Priestly fatherhood, properly understood, can never be priestly motherhood.

            More pragmatically, women would never be acknowledged by the patriarchal societies that the Gospel encountered as having authority. God/Christ knows human's natural inclinations and fashioned His church as to ensure it would perpetuate His Gospel to the four corners of the world so that every knee bends and every tongue confess the Good News. The Good News is also that motherhood is the perfection of humanity. The Good News is authority is given not taken.

            My refusal to start anywhere but fatherhood and motherhood is deliberate because doing so is intellectually antithetical to the historical Church. I don't insist you hold these premises but you seem to refuse to understand why She is the way She is. You refuse to begin anywhere but the priesthood involves nothing more than the mere ability to hold a wafer up in the air while chanting. No, Priesthood has everything to do with a devotion to the feminine genius and a Catholic's love affair with Her maternal femininity and Her authority over him.

          • David Nickol

            [chastity] . . ..compassion, mercy and self-sacrifice. These are all feminine qualities.

            Would you care to list the masculine virtues (or qualities) and also the feminine ones? Is this actually Catholic teaching—if so, sources?—or something you have thought up yourself? I have just scanned the Catechism on the topic of virtues,and I see nothing on male vs female virtues. (Disclaimer: It's a big topic, so I certainly might have missed something. I would be glad to be corrected if I have said something in error.)

            I think the idea of masculine and feminine virtues is rather bizarre. The four cardinal virtues are prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and charity. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. None of these sound either masculine or feminine to me.

            Fatherly priests represent a juxtaposition to every patriarchy society in which Christians came into contact to spread the Gospel message.

            What does that even mean? Represent a juxtaposition?

            It seems to me that the Catholic Church is ultimately about God, who is neither male nor female. Focusing solely on male and female, as if everything could be classified as one or the other, is g getting hung up on metaphors. I can't pretend to fully understand what Paul meant when he said,

            There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

            But it does seem to me not in the spirit of the saying to see virtually everything in terms of motherhood and fatherhood, female and male.

          • Rob Abney

            Would you care to list the masculine virtues (or qualities) and also the feminine ones?

            Here's the difference between males and females fundamentally in spirit and biology, one asserts the other receives. It should be clear which is which. Those basic qualities can be evident in differing ways or completely hidden in some people but that is where the difference begins.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Wow, that is an...extremely outdated view of the sexes. Sorry, but being assertive or passive is not a fundamental characteristic of either sex - it's a personality trait that varies much more between individuals than it does between the members of either sex, and the variation between sexes is caused by a combination of biology and culture, not just by biology.

          • Rob Abney

            So the culture could shape a man or a woman to be a man, or shape a man or a woman to be a woman? I don’t agree with that trans-ideology.
            The man is fundamentally made to assert or give, the woman is fundamentally made to receive (not to be passive, that was your term). Biology is only the physical manifestation of maleness or femaleness. True enough, men and women can assume many varied characteristics but fundamentally each starts as a male or a female.

          • David Nickol

            The man is fundamentally made to assert or give, the woman is fundamentally made to receive (not to be passive, that was your term).

            Is giving birth receiving? Is breast feeding receiving?

            It sounds like you want to define the sexes based on the mechanics of sexual intercourse. Sure. Like in the "oldest profession," where women charge money to "receive." Or in rape, where men insist on "giving" and women are forced to "receive."

          • Rob Abney

            Is giving birth receiving? Is breast feeding receiving?

            Yes, both occur because of the act of one giving and one receiving.
            I don’t think that you can dispute that male and female anatomy is the preeminent distinction between the sexes and that the anatomy is a manifestation of that person’s maleness or femaleness. Using examples of abuse of those traits doesn’t show it to be untrue.

          • Joseph Noonan

            So the culture could shape a man or a woman to be a man, or shape a man or a woman to be a woman?

            That's not even close to what I said. Try not to make a ridiculous strawman next time.

            I don’t agree with that trans-ideology.

            You don't seem to have any clue what "trans-ideology" even is, but it has nothing to do with the argument in my previous comment.

            The man is fundamentally made to assert or give, the woman is fundamentally made to receive

            Again, that's a ridiculous and outdated view of the sexes, and simply asserting it a second time doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

            (not to be passive, that was your term)

            What do you think "receive" means? It's something you do passively. And if you claim that a difference between men and women is that men assert, that implies that women don't.

            True enough, men and women can assume many varied characteristics but fundamentally each starts as a male or a female.

            Being male or female doesn't entail being assertive or "receiving". Unless you think that an assertive woman is no longer a woman or that a man who "receives" is no longer a man, then your idea that these are fundamental characteristics of the sexes is nonsense. They are traits that vary much more widely between individuals than between sexes.

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you accept your own assertions but reject mine? Is it because you have some experience of men and women being interchangeable?
            Every single person has both a mother and a father, one gave and one received to create life. I’m not interested in what a person can change himself into only with where he starts.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Why do you accept your own assertions but reject mine?

            What assertions are you even talking about here? You seem to be reading things into my comments that aren't even remotely related to what my comments are about.

            Is it because you have some experience of men and women being interchangeable?

            When did I say that men and women are interchangeable? And what do you even mean by "interchangeable" in this context?

            Every single person has both a mother and a father, one gave and one received to create life.

            Both the father and the mother had to give something to create life. You realize that there's a sperm and an egg, right? Perhaps even more importantly, what the sexes do during intercourse has absolutely no bearing on any fundamental differences between them that go beyond intercourse, especially since not everyone will even have sex in their lifetime. There's more to life than having sex.

            I’m not interested in what a person can change himself into only with where he starts.

            My previous comment has absolutely nothing to do with what a person can change himself into.

          • Rob Abney

            “You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end“. -Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton

          • Joseph Noonan

            This is a silly quote in the first place because it presents turning into a different kind of thing as being the same thing as dying. Does a caterpillar's life come to a lamentable end when it transforms into a butterfly? Obviously not. Nor would a tiger die if you dyed it to remove it stripes, or a camel if you surgically removed its humps, or a triangular being if it became a square.
            However, even if we ignore the silliness of the quote, it doesn't even make sense to apply it in this situation because the idea that male assertiveness and female "receiving" are "the laws of their own nature" is precisely what is in question here. It's a patently absurd idea for reasons I already explained.

          • Rob Abney

            Sorry if that was over your level of understanding.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Given your non-response, if there's any participant in this conversation who can't understand what the other is saying, it's you.

          • OMG

            You are right when you say that the Catholic Church is ultimately about God. The God of the Catholic faith did reveal Himself as a biological male and Son of a Father, born of a human virgin. In the beginning God made all people male and female. It is a primary distinguishing feature for God and for man.

            The Catholic Church does not delineate virtues according to sex, and this idea is something to which you agree, seeing it as "rather bizarre." Mark listed some qualities and did not equate them with virtues. Why have you tried to equate them with one or another sex?

            Most Catholics on this site have absolutely no problem with the male-only priesthood. Others (Joe N. specifically) found it a problem, so we've offered him and others the reasons we've drawn from our faith formation together with those the Catholic Church has developed as "official." You too joined by sharing the results of your research.

            I am unclear about your last sentence. If I have understood correctly, are you taking Mark to task for focusing on distinctions on the basis of sex? Do you see his approach as problematic because you see Paul's words as evidence for your idea that Christians should be somehow 'sexless' by virtue of our being Christian? Is that it??

          • David Nickol

            Mark listed some qualities and did not equate them with virtues. Why have you tried to equate them with one or another sex?

            Mark specifically identified chastity as feminine:

            In short Catholicism made itself into a feminine role by giving the central theme of feminine virtue (chastity) a central role in schemes of values.

            Mark also said:

            compassion, mercy and self-sacrifice. These are all feminine qualities.

            It does not matter so much to my thinking whether these are virtues or "qualities," but they do happen to be virtues. For example, Thomas Aquinas takes up the question in the Summa and concludes, "And since it is essential to human virtue that the movements of the soul should be regulated by reason, as was shown above (I-II:59:4 and I-II:59:5), it follows that mercy is a virtue."

            According to the entry for Compassion in Wikipedia, "Ranked a great virtue in numerous philosophies, compassion is considered in almost all the major religious traditions as among the greatest of virtues.

            Do I really have to provide citations to argue that self-sacrifice is a virtue? (I would say, to be precise, that selflessness is the virtue, and self-sacrifice would be a virtuous act.)

            And could it be more clear that it is not I, but Mark, who is trying to classify these qualities (or virtues) as feminine? I certainly do not think that mercy, compassion, chastity, and selflessness are feminine. This is what Mark said. Do you really agree with him?

            Do you see his approach as problematic because you see Paul's words as evidence for your idea that Christians should be somehow 'sexless' by virtue of our being Christian?

            I see his approach as problematic first because I think it is just plain wrong. I see nothing in contemporary (orthodox) Catholic thought that divides virtues into male virtues and female virtues. All the virtues under discussion are ones that both males and females are called to cultivate. As I said, I do not claim to be an expert on Paul, and certainly Paul was not advocating sexlessness in earthly life. But he was de-emphasizing lesser divisions or affiliations as irrelevant when people "put on Christ." Mark emphasizes gender as the singular most important characteristic. He sees everything as depending on gender. I think he takes metaphors too literally. The Church is the bride of Christ, but that is a metaphor. The Church is also the mystical body of Christ. That is a metaphor, too.

            Just to throw in a quick thought about gender, motherhood, and fatherhood, Jesus said there would be no marriage after the resurrection. We could all be like the angels. Our ultimate destination is not heaven (where there are no physical gender differences) but a life after the resurrection of the body where there will be no marriage, no child bearing, and no motherhood or fatherhood. Current "earthly" metaphors will be irrelevant.

          • BTS

            Fatherly priests represent a juxtaposition to every patriarchy society in which Christians came into contact to spread the Gospel message. Here are men, who vow chastity and celibacy toward a divine society God Himself ordained and promised to keep the gates of hell from prevailing against. They renounced what was universally seen as a right of patriarchal power for the gospel message everywhere they went. The Church was their bride. The Church is the mother of her adopted children (the baptized). It is the feminine qualities of the church that makes her a divinely ordained matriarchal living being.

            I've been following along. So much to unpack there and I don't have the time currently that others do. I would just like to point out that I have a hard time seeing the Catholic Church hierarchy as "renouncing patriarchal power." The entire century of Constantine saw a Romanization of the Catholic Church in which imperial structures were adopted.

            Mark, I'm giving an honest, genuine effort to seeing things from your point of view, even trying to steelman your argument as best I can in my head to see if I am missing anything.

            At the end of the day I guess I still just see your argument, after we strip away the flowery metaphors, as "Women cannot be priests because the Church has defined men and women in such a way that women cannot be priests."

            Also I still don't think you've given the actual ontological differences. You've defined these vague, cosmic theological roles but have not listed actual ontological differences.

            And listing compassion, mercy and self-sacrifice as feminine values is...weird? old fashioned? wishful thinking? Where does that come from? The Latin language maybe, where nouns are male, female or neuter?

            Edit: I didn't see David's comment about masculine virtures until after I wrote this. Disqus is out to get me.

          • Mark

            I'd say, at the end of the day, if you truly believe the Church has defined the masculine and feminine qualities of man and women in such a way she stacked the deck to define herself as maternaly feminine my argument is without merit.

            I'd also say it's rather easy to view her as misogynistic through the lens of modern philosophical commitments. Personally I'm excessively skeptic you can get to modern day philosophical commitments without Christian commitments. I'm open to counterfectual conditions/arguments, but speaking poignantly most post-enlightenment povs are historically revisionist and to their defense they can't help it. Luke cannot wrap his brain around Vader being his father.

            "And listing compassion, mercy, and self sacrifice as feminine qualities..
            is wierd." I thought you were married. I can only contectualize my wife's superpowers I don't posess. She sees relationships and these particulars as a fundamental qualia of human nature, for reasonsI I can only ascertain is feminine. If you deny a spiritual difference between genders that is probably where we should begin.

          • BTS

            If you deny a spiritual difference between genders that is probably where we should begin.

            Denying a spiritual difference between men and women would be tantamount to denying there are ontological differences between men and women, which would...
            Put us right back where we began the discussion! :)

            At that point we will have but retrod old sod.
            I'll keep following along to see if anything new pops up.

            I do, however, want all credit due for coming up with "retrod old sod." A quick google search reveals no prior usage of that idiom.

          • Rob Abney

            Does this meet your criteria for ontological difference:
            Here's the difference between males and females fundamentally in spirit and biology, one asserts the other receives. It should be clear which is which. Those basic qualities can be evident in differing ways or completely hidden in some people but that is where the difference begins.

          • Mark

            And to retrod old sod, it isn't the spiritual differences between men and women per se, it is the spiritual differences between men and women in their relationship to each other.

          • David Nickol

            She sees relationships and these particulars as a fundamental qualia of human nature, for reasonsI I can only ascertain is feminine.

            Could you please explain the above, particularly "as a fundamental qualia of human nature"? What did you mean by qualia (which, by the way, is plural)?

          • Mark

            The conscious experience of the world is different. There is an essence to being female; femininity is the expression of that essence. The point in question would be, is the Bride of Christ an expression of that essence? I would say without any doubt in my mind she is. Of course, some view her as a fraternity of misogynist power hungry men in black drunk with authority. They are entitled to their opinion. I would say when you look at her commitment to meaningful unconditioned relationships, her benevolent institutions (education, hospitals, etc), her commitment and openness to life, her compassion and sensitivity for the poor and marginalized, her intuitive sense of inner beauty of natural perfections; those suggest, at her core, a feminine conscious. They square with consciousness (interests, attitudes, beliefs) of my wife. They square with the consciousness of the virgin Mary, a perfection of humaness, the ark of the new covenant.

          • David Nickol

            The conscious experience of the world is different.

            Already I see problems. If the conscious experience of women and the conscious experience of men is different—particularly at the level of qualia—how can they agree about the world? And which experience is the experience of the real world? one do neither males nor females see the world as it really is? Do women see through female "colored" glasses and men through male "colored" glasses? If so one would think the view of the world as it is must be a combination of the two.

            I would say when you look at her commitment to meaningful unconditioned relationships, her benevolent institutions (education, hospitals, etc), . . . .those suggest, at her core, a feminine conscious.

            It seems to me you identify all virtue as female. I think, for example, of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Was that about female goodness? Perhaps the Good Samaritan should have been a woman to make the point clearer.

            They square with the consciousness of the virgin Mary, a perfection of humaness, the ark of the new covenant.

            The consciousness of Mary the mother of Jesus, aside from one momentous act and two or three small ones, is purely a matter of conjecture. What would a woman conceived without original sin be like? Would you care to give us, citing scripture, a picture of what Mary was like and how she embodied all the virtues you claim are feminine? It can't be done. There is simply not enough to go on. Marys perfection as affirmed by Catholicism is more about theology than about anything having to do with her consciousness and how she saw the world.

            Again, you seem to equate virtue and all good qualities with femininity. Didn't Jesus exhibit every single virtue and good quality we associate with Mary, and more?

          • Mark

            "If the conscious experience of women and the conscious experience of men is different—particularly at the level of qualia—how can they agree about the world?" Sometimes they don't in regard to values: attitudes, interests, beliefs, foci. Unless you deny they do, which seems bizarre.

            "It seems to me you identify all virtue as feminine." Clearly you've taken a historical point I made about chastity being a female only virtue in hyperpatristic societies of 1st century and how those hyperpatristic men would view Christ and the apostolic church to mean something other than what it was meant to mean.

            "Mary's perfection as affirmed by Catholicism is more about theology than about anything having to do with her consciousness and how she saw the world." Are you claiming the theology of Mary's and her conscious choices have nothing to do with moral knowledge or her feminine essence?

          • Joseph Noonan

            You are really exaggerating what critics think about the Church. I don't think that the Church is a "fraternity of misogynist power hungry men in black drunk with authority," and I don't know of anyone who does. However, it is undeniable that the Church is male-dominated. The Church's benevolent institutions again have nothing to do with masculinity or femininity - you're acting like benevolence is an essentially feminine trait. The Church most definitely does not have a feminine consciousness, whatever you mean by that, given that it is not a conscious being at all.

          • Mark

            I see for the second time disqus has ate the coversation today. My frustrations are such that I'm not inclined to reply now Joe. Please don't take this as a personal slight or desire to quit the dialogue. If you want to reply with reposts of my my responses feel free.

          • Ficino

            Disqus seems to be acting up more on this blog than on other blogs that use Disqus.

          • Mark

            I think there is an article on Strange Notions "Does the Catholic Church hate women" and scroll down to find a poster named susan and then you'll know someone who does.

            I deny the Church is male-dominated. Ordained members of the Church is obviously male-dominated. The ordinary priesthood is probably female dominated.

          • Joseph Noonan

            "Male-dominated" doesn't mean that most of its members are male. It means that males have all or nearly all the positions of authority. This is undeniable for the Church, since the most important positions of authority can't even be given to women. The people who declare doctrines, determine canon law, and determine all other Church policy are exclusively male. The people who say Mass, which is meant to be the center of Catholic life, are exclusively male. That's pretty male-dominated if you ask me.

          • Mark

            "It means that males have all or nearly all the positions of authority" No, it doesn't. This is an exaggeration of critics. The principle of subsidiarity means that authority is given to the most local or immediate level of a society. This is the family unit. Catholic, spiritual authority is generally exercised most frequently at that level. There are 1.2 billion Catholics and most generally the spiritual authority they have "lord over them" is in their home. Does a pope have the ability to exercise ex cathedra over the whole chuch and is he always male - Yes. The last time he did that was 1950; most Catholics alive have never had this authority used upon them. Mostly these "important positions of authority" are rarely exercised and only to reiterate what any Catholic who can read can easily access is the articles of their faith.

            "The poeple who say Mass, which is meant to be the center of Catholic life are exclusively male." The mass isn't the center of Catholic life; the Eucharist is the source and summit. And Christ ordained exclusively 11 males after his resurrection with the power to "lose and bind sin" and "do this in memory of me". That is, to act in persona Christi for the society of initiated believers to preside over the sacrifice of Mass.

          • David Nickol

            The principle of subsidiarity means that authority is given to the most local or immediate level of a society. This is the family unit.

            You are misinterpreting the principle of subsidiarity. It does not mean that all authority is given to the family unit.

            Say we are dealing with the United States and we recognize authority at the federal, state, county, city, neighborhood, block, and (household) family level. All levels have authority, but subsidiarity would dictate that the higher and more distant authority—say, the federal government—should not interfere with the lowest authority competent to do the job—say the city. Obviously the federal government must deal with national defense, interstate commerce, and foreign affairs. These are not appropriately left to the individual states or to the family!

            From the Catechism:

            1883 Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co- ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."

            1884 God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

            1885 The principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism. It sets limits for state intervention. It aims at harmonizing the relationships between individuals and societies. It tends toward the establishment of true international order.

          • Mark

            I know exactly what the principle is. Do you think it only applies to secular governments or do you agree it applies to Catholic Church? If you agree it applies to the Catholic Church but yet you seem to deny the authority (equivocated to power) to carry on the Church's mission is given to the most local level of society at which it can be done? (The family and the parish level) This is exactly what I've been saying. It is opposite of some wealthy cardinals "wielding power" over the family and parishes levels. Are you playing devil's advocate here or are you really convinced this is how Catholic society functions?

            Lastly, no Catholic is asked to go against his/her well formed conscious. So even if some evil pope or cardinal decided to wield his power over me to teach or profess or do something illicit I'm not morally culpable, He is. If it goes against my well formed conscious I am compelled to follow my conscious. If that is in opposition to the truth the church teaches I can hope the Divine Mercy lives up to his name.

          • David Nickol

            Do you think it [subsidiarity] only applies to secular governments or do you agree it applies to Catholic Church?

            It seems to be a matter of some debate, actually. Read Subsidiarity in the Church. It is too long to quote, but here's a snippet:

            Some theologians have claimed that Vatican II's enunciation of an ecclesiology of communion have rendered the teaching of subsidiarity in the Church redundant. By insisting on the Church as the People of God, the council abandoned the older theology of the Church as a societas inaequalium,i.e., a society based on the distinction between the "hierarchy" (higher) and the "faithful" (lower) founded in the will of Christ. Another group of scholars, however, pointed to Vatican II's continued teaching on the Church as societas. Though the Church is a mysterium, the category of societas emphasizes its genuine historicity and social location or concreteness.

            You say:

            If you agree it applies to the Catholic Church but yet you seem to deny the authority (equivocated to power) to carry on the Church's mission is given to the most local level of society at which it can be done? (The family and the parish level) This is exactly what I've been saying.

            I don't know you were a—gasp!—Protestant. The reason the Catholic Church even calls itself a Church—and says the Protestant Churches are not really Churches at all—is because of Apostolic Succession through the bishops and popes. The teaching authority of the Church resides in the pope and the bishops. Without bishops to ordain priests, there would be no local (parish) level at all, because there would be no priests. So the pope and the bishops are absolutely essential to "carry on the Church's mission." A huge and essential amount of what goes on at the parish level is at the direct order of the Magisterium (pope and bishop). Of course one should not slight priests, brothers, and nuns, or deny the role of t he family, but everything in the Church that makes it Catholic is done under the direction of the pope and the bishops.

            I would also note that the term subsidiarity doesn't even appear in the old online Catholic Encyclopedia. It seems to have originated in the 19th century and was "put on the map" by Pius XI in his 1931 encyclical Quadragesimo anno. The organization of the Church into dioceses and parishes predates the formulation of the principle of subsidiarity by centuries. So certainly no one ever invoked the principle of subsidiarity and said, "We must implement this principle b having the work of the church take place at the level of the parish and the family.

            If you want to argue that the organization of families into parishes overseen by pastors is consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, I won't object. But to claim the parish is the lowest level of organization in the Church as a consequence of the principle of subsidiarity strikes me as unwarranted.

          • BCE

            hello

            I read a few of the comments.
            Sorry if I'm intruding, and misunderstanding.

            If I understand what you have said ...the natural order ( family ) kin and nearby members (parish) preceding the law.
            The Church (not as much gives) but recognizes the natural law.

          • David Nickol

            And Christ ordained 11 exclusively males after his resurrection with the power to "lose and bind sin" and to "do this in memory of me".

            The institution of the ministerial priesthood—and the "ordination" of the apostles—took place at the Last Supper when Jesus said, "Do this in memory of me." That was before the resurrection, as I am sure you are aware. The power to bind and loose was given at the time Jesus said, "You are Peter, and upon this rock . . . ." (See Matthew 16.) This was well before the Last Supper.

            what the Jews called anamnesis

            The Jews???

          • Mark

            Thanks for the correction. I cut and pasted and didn't read back through. Anamnesis is/was associated with the Passover. Catholics now associate it with Eucharist.

          • Joseph Noonan

            "It means that males have all or nearly all the positions of authority" No, it doesn't.

            Yes, it does. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/male-dominated

            This is an exaggeration of critics.

            The entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church is made up of men. It's not even possible to be more male-dominated than that.

            The principle of subsidiarity means that authority is given to the most local or immediate level of a society.

            No, it means that the smallest level of competent authority is the one that should handle an issue. That doesn't mean that smaller authorities have more authority - that would be contradictory. Higher levels of authority still have the most authority, since their decisions affect more people and because they are the ones who have authority over the lower levels.

            This is the family unit. Catholic, spiritual authority is generally exercised most frequently at that level. There are 1.2 billion Catholics and most generally the spiritual authority they have "lord over them" is in their home.

            This is like saying that it would be okay if all officials in the government were required to be men as long as the government obeys the principle of subsidiarity and doesn't interfere with the family. Too often, the principle of subsidiarity is used as a method of looking the other way and essentially saying, "Well, those higher-ups aren't actually that important, so we can just ignore the any problems in the hierarchy that puts them in authority." (I should note that I know that's not how the principle is supposed to be used, but that's how it is often misused).

            Does a pope have the ability to exercise ex cathedra over the whole church and is he always male - Yes. The last time he did that was 1950; so most Catholics alive have never witnessed this authority.

            The pope does a lot more than just make ex cathedra statements.

            The mass isn't the center of Catholic life; the Eucharist (the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ) is the source and summit.

            And where do Catholics receive the Eucharist (aside from extreme scenarios)? And who consecrates the Eucharist? Surely, the authority to say Mass, which the Church says is Heaven on Earth, and to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of God's incarnation are pretty significant things, right? Why is it that the Church only considers men worthy of doing these things?

            And Christ ordained 11 exclusively males after his resurrection with the power to "lose and bind sin" and to "do this in memory of me".

            There seem to be a lot of different interpretations of when exactly Jesus supposedly ordained the Apostles. It's easy to read in to the Bible what you already believe, but there's no place in the Gospels where Jesus says that only men can be priests. In fact, he doesn't even explicitly say that he ordained his Apostles as priests - that too is something that is now read in to the Bible, but not actually stated. But even if Jesus had said that only men can be priests, that wouldn't do much to get around this criticism. That would only work as a way of getting firm Catholics to say, "Oh well, I don't understand why, but if Jesus said it, it must be right." It won't do anything to stop criticism from those outside the Church, nor will it be convincing to people who are on the fence about whether to join or leave Catholicism.

            So we're left with the question if Christ fully understood the intent of this sacrament and should it involve a woman or a man and is that important to those receiving the sacrament.

            Receiving the Eucharist from a man rather than a woman never seemed very important to me when I received it. It was about receiving the body of Christ, not about the gender of the person that consecrated it.

          • David Nickol

            There are 1.2 billion Catholics and most generally the spiritual authority they have "lord over them" is in their home. Does a pope have the ability to exercise ex cathedra over the whole chuch and is he always male - Yes. The last time he did that was 1950; so most Catholics alive have never witnessed this authority. Mostly these "important positions of authority" are rarely exercised and only to reiterate (with authority) what any Catholic who can read has easy access to regarding the articles of their faith.

            This strikes me as very badly mistaken and perpetuates the myth that the only time the pope speaks with "real" authority is when he speaks ex cathedra. By the way, there is an ongoing debate as to whether Humanae Vitae (1968) is infallible. But whether it is or not, it is binding. This link goes to what looks at first glance to be a better explanation of the issues than I can give—especially at this hour!

            Suffice it to say (for the moment, at least) that the pope, as the vicar of Christ, and the bishops, as successors to the apostles, are men of great authority which they do indeed exercise. And there is a reason why cardinals are sometimes known as "princes of the Church." They wield great power and many of them also are very wealthy. (Granted, the latter is no doubt an abuse rather than the carrying out of authentic Catholic teaching.)

            So men most definitely do wield most of the power (both spiritual and material) in the Catholic Church.

          • Mark

            "So men most definitely do wield most of the power (both spiritual and material) in the Catholic Church." I'm not sure why, but it was a sleight of hand to substitute power for authority. They are not the same. It doesn't seem you're talking about the sacred power of Christ entrusted to the apostles and their successors. That's the only power wielded over any Catholic. Equivocating the sanctifying power of confessional forgiveness and material wealth strikes me as very badly mistaken and perpetuates the myth of priestly power hunger men.

          • David Nickol

            One quick response, with more to come . . . .

            December 22, 2014

            Pope says Vatican administration is sick with power and greed

            Philip Pullella

            VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican’s top administrators would have been expecting an exchange of pleasantries at their annual Christmas meeting with Pope Francis on Monday.

            Instead, he chose the occasion to issue a stinging critique, telling the priests, bishops and cardinals who run the Curia, the central administration of the Roman Catholic Church, that careerism, scheming and greed had infected them with “spiritual Alzheimer’s”.

            Francis, the first non-European pope in 1,300 years, has refused many of the trappings of office and made plain his determination to bring the Church’s hierarchy closer to its 1.2 billion members.

            To that end, he has set out to reform the Italian-dominated Curia, whose power struggles and leaks were widely held responsible for Benedict XVI’s decision last year to become the first pope in six centuries to resign.

            “The Curia needs to change, to improve ... a Curia that does not criticize itself, that does not bring itself up to date, that does not try to improve, is a sick body,” he said in a somber address.

            He listed no fewer than 15 “sicknesses and temptations”, from the “spiritual Alzheimer’s” of those who had become enthralled by worldly goods and power to the “existential schizophrenia” of those who had succumbed to a joyless, hard-hearted mindset.

            Francis said some in the Curia acted as if they were “immortal, immune or even indispensable”, an apparent reference to retired cardinals who remain in the Vatican and continue to exert influence.

            He told his audience that too many of them suffered from “rivalry and vainglory”; superiors favored proteges and underlings fawned on bosses to further careers; others fed gossip or false information to the media.

            But the pope did finish on an upbeat note. Before wishing them all a Happy Christmas, Francis urged the Vatican’s administrators to be more joyful, saying how much good a “dose of humor” could do.

          • Mark

            So what? You're still equivocating sin with the genuine authority of Christ's sacred power.

          • David Nickol

            At all levels of the Church, but it would seem to me particularly at the higher levels, some members of the hierarchy take advantage of their positions of authority to exercise "worldly" power for their own benefit or the benefit of some faction they have aligned with. This has been the case since Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and since Peter denied Jesus three times. Did Jesus pick Judas and Peter so that they could commit these acts of betrayal? Of course not. But were they both hand-picked to be leaders of the Jesus movement? Certainly. And it was by reason of the fact that they were privileged insiders that they committed their offenses.

            In the abuse scandal, it was often precisely because certain priests were regarded as authority figures that they were able to groom young people as victims and get away with crimes of abuse. Was this what Jesus intended when he instituted the ministerial priesthood (as Catholics believe)? Of course not. But that does not make it false that some priests have taken advantage or their position as authority figures. Such men have used their position of authority to exercise power over their victims.

            Similarly, men in higher positions such as bishops, archbishops, and cardinals are often in positions where they are expected to handle large sums of money. They occasionally become greedy and use the money for their own selfish pleasure (here's a flagrant example.) Is this the bishops are supposed to do? No, but it is not unknown for people in high office in the Church to be corrupt, or to become corrupted, and use the money available to them because of their positions of authority for the good of themselves, or their associates, or some political faction they align themselves with.

            Why this should be a controversial statement I cannot imagine.

            And setting aside abuses of power, the Catholic Church is a huge, worldwide organization. I took a look at the financial statements of the Archdiocese of New York, and while I am not an expert at reading such documents, it's clear to me that Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, is in charge of a $700+ million operation. The net worth of the Catholic Church worldwide is basically impossible to calculate. (And no, I don't believe the Church should sell off everything and give it to the poor!) Presiding over all that takes more than spiritual authority.

          • Joseph Noonan

            "It means that males have all or nearly all the positions of authority" No, it doesn't.

            Yes, it does. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/male-dominated

            This is an exaggeration of critics.

            The entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church is made up of men. It's not even possible to be more male-dominated than that.

            The principle of subsidiarity means that authority is given to the most local or immediate level of a society.

            No, it means that the smallest level of competent authority is the one that should handle an issue. That doesn't mean that smaller authorities have more authority - that would be contradictory. Higher levels of authority still have the most authority, since their decisions affect more people and because they are the ones who have authority over the lower levels.

            This is the family unit. Catholic, spiritual authority is generally exercised most frequently at that level. There are 1.2 billion Catholics and most generally the spiritual authority they have "lord over them" is in their home.

            This is like saying that it would be okay if all officials in the government were required to be men as long as the government obeys the principle of subsidiarity and doesn't interfere with the family. Too often, the principle of subsidiarity is used as a method of looking the other way and essentially saying, "Well, those higher-ups aren't actually that important, so we can just ignore the any problems in the hierarchy that puts them in authority." (I should note that I know that's not how the principle is supposed to be used, but that's how it is often misused).

          • Joseph Noonan

            Does a pope have the ability to exercise ex cathedra over the whole church and is he always male - Yes. The last time he did that was 1950; so most Catholics alive have never witnessed this authority.

            The pope does a lot more than just make ex cathedra statements.

            The mass isn't the center of Catholic life; the Eucharist (the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ) is the source and summit.

            And where do Catholics receive the Eucharist (aside from extreme scenarios)? And who consecrates the Eucharist? Surely, the authority to say Mass, which the Church says is Heaven on Earth, and to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of God's incarnation are pretty significant things, right? Why is it that the Church only considers men worthy of doing these things?

            And Christ ordained 11 exclusively males after his resurrection with the power to "lose and bind sin" and to "do this in memory of me".

            There seem to be a lot of different interpretations of when exactly Jesus supposedly ordained the Apostles. It's easy to read in to the Bible what you already believe, but there's no place in the Gospels where Jesus says that only men can be priests. In fact, he doesn't even explicitly say that he ordained his Apostles as priests - that too is something that is now read in to the Bible, but not actually stated. But even if Jesus had said that only men can be priests, that wouldn't do much to get around this criticism. That would only work as a way of getting firm Catholics to say, "Oh well, I don't understand why, but if Jesus said it, it must be right." It won't do anything to stop criticism from those outside the Church, nor will it be convincing to people who are on the fence about whether to join or leave Catholicism.

            So we're left with the question if Christ fully understood the intent of this sacrament and should it involve a woman or a man and is that important to those receiving the sacrament.

            Receiving the Eucharist from a man rather than a woman never seemed very important to me when I received it. It was about receiving the body of Christ, not about the gender of the person that consecrated it.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I can only contectualize my wife's superpowers I don't posess. She sees relationships and these particulars as a fundamental qualia of human nature, for reasons I can only ascertain is feminine.

            Why do you assume that the differences between you and your wife can be chalked up to "feminine" reasons? The psychological differences between men and women are very small, and the differences only exist at all when you look at the averages. There is always significant overlap between individual men and individual women when it comes to any psychological characteristic.

            If you deny a spiritual difference between genders that is probably where we should begin.

            I don't believe in "spirit" at all, but it seems like whenever someone is talking about something "spiritual", they are actual referring to something psychological. As I explained above, there are no essential psychological differences between the sexes. To claim that there are essential spiritual differences (and they must be essential differences if this argument is to justify the all-male priesthood) is completely unjustified since these differences aren't based on any observable characteristic of men or women. And even if there are essential spiritual differences between men and women, that still doesn't justify the male-only priesthood unless these differences somehow make only one sex fit to be priests.

          • Mark

            If you deny spiritual relationship you deny the priesthood, which is a fatherly spiritual relationship to the baptized and a spiritual bridegroom to the church. It's both a metaphorical and a real spiritual non-biological relationship. 1Cor4: 14-15, "I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel."

          • Joseph Noonan

            Well, yes, I don't believe that priests actually have some type of spiritual authority. But they do have authority in the Church, and it is wrong to give this authority only to men. And, if they actually did have some sort of spiritual authority, it would be wrong to give that authority only to men.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I gave the ontological difference of motherhood because that is the complementary role to fatherhood. The priesthood is a marriage to the Church and a complementary role of father to mother Church.

            This doesn't make sense for multiple reasons:
            1. Define "motherhood" and "fatherhood". If you mean literal motherhood and literal fatherhood (i.e. literally having children through biological reproduction), then priesthood is not fatherhood. On the other hand, if you mean some sort of metaphorical versions of motherhood or fatherhood, there is no reason women couldn't fulfill the metaphorical version of fatherhood. Other than being the biological father to a child, there is nothing related to fatherhood that women lack the capability to do.
            2. You haven't given any reason why priests have to act as mothers rather than fathers.

            Prior to Christianity, it was only virtuous to be chaste if you were a woman. Men were free to have sex with their male or female slave, it was a benefit of being male in patriarchy societies. Christ changed that, and chastity became a strict requirement for both men and women.

            Just because Christianity was less sexist than its societal predecessors doesn't mean you can ignore the sexism that currently exists in Christianity. Pointing out the sexist practices of societies long ago when trying to justify the all-male priesthood is whataboutism.

            In short Catholicism made itself into a feminine role by giving the central theme of feminine virtue (chastity) a central role in schemes of values.

            Since when is chastity a feminine virtue? Didn't you just argue that a major improvement the Church made was making chastity a universal virtue, rather than just a feminine one?

            That is, she (the Church) also made the benevolent roles of the beatitudes a central theme to salvation for all: compassion, mercy and self-sacrifice. These are all feminine qualities.

            Benevolence, compassion, mercy, and self-sacrifice are not "feminine qualities". Anyone of any gender can have them.

            Fatherly priests represent a juxtaposition to every patriarchy society in which Christians came into contact to spread the Gospel message.

            Having "fatherly priests" be the ones in control of spreading this message (and in control of everything else in the Church) is the definition of patriarchy.

            The Church was their bride. The Church is the mother of her adopted children (the baptized). It is the feminine qualities of the church that makes her a divinely ordained matriarchal living being.

            I hope you realize that the Church is not literally a woman, despite the imagery often used to describe it. It's not very feminine either, given that it's an organization run by men that bars women from holding any significant positions of authority in the organization. If you really want to take the imagery literally, you're going to have a hard time squaring the imagery of the Church as female with the imagery of the Church being the body of Christ.

            Her complement is a Father who lays down his life to her and her adopted children.

            Do mothers not lay down their lives for their family?

            More pragmatically, women would never be acknowledged by the patriarchal societies that the Gospel encountered as having authority.

            First, you argued that the Church is meant to be feminine to overturn the ideas of authority in patriarchal societies, but now you're arguing that the patriarchal hierarchy of the Church is actually pragmatic because it was necessary in order for those same societies to recognize its authority? Make up your mind - did the Church subvert patriarchal notions of authority, or did it conform to them out of pragmatism?

            God/Christ knows human's natural inclinations and fashioned His church as to ensure it would perpetuate His Gospel to the four corners of the world so that every knee bends and every tongue confess the Good News.

            Well, God certainly hasn't succeeded at that and won't be succeeding in it any time in the foreseeable future. And if the all-male priesthood was a pragmatic decision to ensure that the Gospel message should spread, then there is no reason to continue the practice. In modern times, the all-male priesthood is a large detriment to the spread of the Gospel message, since modern Western society values gender equality. The pragmatic decision would now be to allow female priests, since this would remove a major impediment to people becoming Catholic.

            The Good News is authority is given not taken.

            But apparently, this good news only applies to men, since they are the only ones to whom the authority of priesthood can be given.

            My refusal to start anywhere but fatherhood and motherhood is deliberate because doing so is intellectually antithetical to the historical Church.

            In this forum, the goal is to defend or criticize the Church's intellectual traditions. You can't just assume them as an unquestionable starting point.

            I don't insist you hold these premises but you seem to refuse to understand why She is the way She is.

            It sounds like you're implying that the Church's practices regarding the all-male priesthood are a result of its intellectual positions and not the other way around. The all-male priesthood is one of the Church's oldest practices - it has been around for much longer than the current theology trying to justify it has been codified. I think it is much more plausible that the all-male priesthood is a consequence of the patriarchal society in which the Church was born, and that the Church has spent a lot of effort since then trying to justify the obviously sexist practice.

            You refuse to begin anywhere but the priesthood involves nothing more than the mere ability to hold a wafer up in the air while chanting.

            I never said that that was all the priesthood is. What I said is that there are no differences between the sexes that would justify only allowing one sex to become priests.

            No, Priesthood has everything to do with a devotion to the feminine genius and a Catholic's love affair with Her maternal femininity and Her authority over him.

            I don't think you ever answered my original question on what this "feminine genius" is supposed to be. What are you even referring to there? The only thing I can think of is that is refers to some sort of stereotype about women, like women having better intuitions, or maybe that women are emotional geniuses. But if this is what is meant by "feminine genius", then it is obviously sexist and doesn't refer to a genuine difference between all women and all men. Also, you don't get to argue that the Catholic Church isn't sexist or patriarchal just because its theology labels an organization that has authority over men as "She". Actual women are still not allowed to have actual authority in the Church, which means that the Church is discriminating against actual, flesh-and-blood women. It can't make up for this just by labeling itself as "feminine".

          • Joseph Noonan

            Disqus has indeed eaten my reply, but I still have the original reply because I type all of my long comments in Google docs due to Disqus problems. Your next reply seems to have been eaten as well, but I have an email from Disqus containing the reply, so I can reproduce it if you want.

            I gave the ontological difference of motherhood because that is the complementary role to fatherhood. The priesthood is a marriage to the Church and a complementary role of father to mother Church.

            This doesn't make sense for multiple reasons:
            1. Define "motherhood" and "fatherhood". If you mean literal motherhood and literal fatherhood (i.e. literally having children through biological reproduction), then priesthood is not fatherhood. On the other hand, if you mean some sort of metaphorical versions of motherhood or fatherhood, there is no reason women couldn't fulfill the metaphorical version of fatherhood. Other than being the biological father to a child, there is nothing related to fatherhood that women lack the capability to do.
            2. You haven't given any reason why priests have to act as mothers rather than fathers.

            Prior to Christianity, it was only virtuous to be chaste if you were a woman. Men were free to have sex with their male or female slave, it was a benefit of being male in patriarchy societies. Christ changed that, and chastity became a strict requirement for both men and women.

            Just because Christianity was less sexist than its societal predecessors doesn't mean you can ignore the sexism that currently exists in Christianity. Pointing out the sexist practices of societies long ago when trying to justify the all-male priesthood is whataboutism.

            In short Catholicism made itself into a feminine role by giving the central theme of feminine virtue (chastity) a central role in schemes of values.

            Since when is chastity a feminine virtue? Didn't you just argue that a major improvement the Church made was making chastity a universal virtue, rather than just a feminine one?

            That is, she (the Church) also made the benevolent roles of the beatitudes a central theme to salvation for all: compassion, mercy and self-sacrifice. These are all feminine qualities.

            Benevolence, compassion, mercy, and self-sacrifice are not "feminine qualities". Anyone of any gender can have them.

            Fatherly priests represent a juxtaposition to every patriarchy society in which Christians came into contact to spread the Gospel message.

            Having "fatherly priests" be the ones in control of spreading this message (and in control of everything else in the Church) is the definition of patriarchy.

            The Church was their bride. The Church is the mother of her adopted children (the baptized). It is the feminine qualities of the church that makes her a divinely ordained matriarchal living being.

            I hope you realize that the Church is not literally a woman, despite the imagery often used to describe it. It's not very feminine either, given that it's an organization run by men that bars women from holding any significant positions of authority in the organization. If you really want to take the imagery literally, you're going to have a hard time squaring the imagery of the Church as female with the imagery of the Church being the body of Christ.

            Her complement is a Father who lays down his life to her and her adopted children.

            Do mothers not lay down their lives for their family?

            More pragmatically, women would never be acknowledged by the patriarchal societies that the Gospel encountered as having authority.

            First, you argued that the Church is meant to be feminine to overturn the ideas of authority in patriarchal societies, but now you're arguing that the patriarchal hierarchy of the Church is actually pragmatic because it was necessary in order for those same societies to recognize its authority? Make up your mind - did the Church subvert patriarchal notions of authority, or did it conform to them out of pragmatism?

            God/Christ knows human's natural inclinations and fashioned His church as to ensure it would perpetuate His Gospel to the four corners of the world so that every knee bends and every tongue confess the Good News.

            Well, God certainly hasn't succeeded at that and won't be succeeding in it any time in the foreseeable future. And if the all-male priesthood was a pragmatic decision to ensure that the Gospel message should spread, then there is no reason to continue the practice. In modern times, the all-male priesthood is a large detriment to the spread of the Gospel message, since modern Western society values gender equality. The pragmatic decision would now be to allow female priests, since this would remove a major impediment to people becoming Catholic.

            The Good News is authority is given not taken.

            But apparently, this good news only applies to men, since they are the only ones to whom the authority of priesthood can be given.

            My refusal to start anywhere but fatherhood and motherhood is deliberate because doing so is intellectually antithetical to the historical Church.

            In this forum, the goal is to defend or criticize the Church's intellectual traditions. You can't just assume them as an unquestionable starting point.

            I don't insist you hold these premises but you seem to refuse to understand why She is the way She is.

            It sounds like you're implying that the Church's practices regarding the all-male priesthood are a result of its intellectual positions and not the other way around. The all-male priesthood is one of the Church's oldest practices - it has been around for much longer than the current theology trying to justify it has been codified. I think it is much more plausible that the all-male priesthood is a consequence of the patriarchal society in which the Church was born, and that the Church has spent a lot of effort since then trying to justify the obviously sexist practice.

            You refuse to begin anywhere but the priesthood involves nothing more than the mere ability to hold a wafer up in the air while chanting.

            I never said that that was all the priesthood is. What I said is that there are no differences between the sexes that would justify only allowing one sex to become priests.

            No, Priesthood has everything to do with a devotion to the feminine genius and a Catholic's love affair with Her maternal femininity and Her authority over him.

            I don't think you ever answered my original question on what this "feminine genius" is supposed to be. What are you even referring to there? The only thing I can think of is that it refers to some sort of stereotype about women, like women having better intuitions, or maybe that women are emotional geniuses. But if this is what is meant by "feminine genius", then it is obviously sexist and doesn't refer to a genuine difference between all women and all men. Also, you don't get to argue that the Catholic Church isn't sexist or patriarchal just because its theology labels an organization that has authority over men as "She". Actual women are still not allowed to have actual authority in the Church, which means that the Church is discriminating against actual, flesh-and-blood women. It can't make up for this just by labeling itself as "feminine".

          • Joseph Noonan

            I see, so it seems you changed the clear meaning of my argument to make it sound sexist and phrased it as a question.

            No, actually, you changed the clear meaning of BTS's original question when, instead of giving an ontological property of all women, you gave a property that only some women have, and you didn't make you meaning clear until much later. If your argument isn't talking about a property that all women have, then it doesn't even make sense as an argument.

            I'm no closer to justifying the all-male priesthood because it seems you reject the premises of the family being the fundamental building block of society
            and the principle of subsidiarity.

            Even if I accept these principles, you'll still be no closer to justifying it because you apparently haven't even said a word about the differences between all men and all women. The Church doesn't just bar mothers from the priesthood - it bars all women from the priesthood.

            There is no reason to go forward
            on an argument that denies either one of those premises.

            Again, why do you keep insisting that I uphold certain premises just because you can't make your argument without them? If your argument requires these premises, then you must justify them, or your argument is unfounded. You can't get out of having to justify your claims by insisting that your opponent accept them without reason.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I meant the gender based qualities translate to qualities of fatherhood and motherhood.

            Well, in that case, I think you're right. There is no satisfying answer to why women can't be priests if motherhood and fatherhood aren't inherent properties of the sexes, and, since they aren't, that means there is no satisfying answer. Of course, I don't think there could be a satisfying answer even if you considered motherhood and fatherhood to be inherent properties of the sexes, since there is no reason that motherhood would prevent women from becoming priests without fatherhood also preventing men from becoming priests.

            I'm glad you are consistent in your position that the family law judicial system is terribly sexist against males and there should be more dead female soldiers on the memorials is DC.

            That's not what I said in my previous comment.

    • VicqRuiz

      The Handmaid's tale is a dystopian fantasy. The treatment of women in most majority Islamic countries is a grim reality.

  • Rob Abney

    Unfortunately and probably unintentionally, this article seems to promote the heresy of Religious Indifferentism.
    From Wikipedia:
    In the Catholic Church, the belief that one religion is as good as another, and that all religions are equally valid paths to salvation, is believed to be obviously false, on the grounds that nobody honestly believes that, for instance, a religion based on human sacrifice and the subjugation of rivals is as good, true, and beautiful as one based on heroic love of God and neighbor.

    Since the vast majority of all men have been religious since the beginning of mankind, which cannot be disputed, then all societies should fare equally as well on the criteria the author chose.

    • David Nickol

      Unfortunately and probably unintentionally, this article seems to promote the heresy of Religious Indifferentism.

      The author does not make the case that "one religion is as good as another" and most definitely does not say or imply "all religions are equally valid paths to salvation." He says nothing at all about salvation. He is basically making an argument that when significant numbers of people practice the world's major religions, there are individual benefits (e.g., better health) as well as benefits to society.

      .

      . . . then all societies should fare equally as well on the criteria the author chose.

      Again, the author does not say or imply all religions are equally good or equally beneficial to the individual and to society.

      • Rob Abney

        If it’s not because all religions are equally good or true then what is the common denominator that makes religion good for society and individuals?

        • BTS

          This is unscientific and just a guess, but an educated guess. I'd say social cohesion is the common denominator. The thesis behind books like "Bowling Alone," for example, point to the loss of this bonding in the last 50 years.
          http://bowlingalone.com/

          The Catholic church is a giant club, a tribe. Belonging to it confers benefits.

          • Rob Abney

            That is a good guess and probably as relevant as being religious. But following any religion to improve your health and well-being is as pertinent as say, being in a M-13 gang improves your well-being through the mechanism of social cohesion.
            The benefits that are conferred from being a devout Catholic is the privilege of knowing the God-man Jesus Christ and accurately spreading His message, this may or may not improve your health and well-being.

          • BTS

            The benefits that are conferred from being a devout Catholic...is the privilege of knowing the God-man Jesus Christ

            I think that should be revised to "The benefits that might be conferred to some...

            I generally get the sense that you don't like me. That's too bad. If you knew me personally as a neighbor or a friend you'd probably enjoy my company and have a high opinion of me. I'm 46. I'm a cradle Catholic, maybe still clinging to a shred of hope that some modicum of it all is true. I've been a good person with a few lapses. I have a hyper-active conscience always nattering away in the background. I've been a godfather to several children, attended Church regularly until about age 42, served on the Church technology committee to build the Church website. I was an altar boy, attended Catholic grade school, high school AND college! I've been on retreats and I've been to the mountains. I've been to weddings and funerals.

            And not once have I ever had a spiritual experience that I would link to Jesus. Not once have I had a conversation with Jesus where he answered. It has all been a grand silence. And not for my lack of trying.

            So please recognize it's not that simple and have a little compassion. Try going to Church and looking around and having a panic attack because you realize you don't hear the voice of god, you hear a different voice telling you you don't belong any more, you don't believe it any more.

            There's probably more of us than you think. Maybe pray for us instead of judging.

          • Rob Abney

            The only judgement that I make about you is just what you describe, you are in the process of becoming a fallen away Catholic. Contrary to your assessment I have no dislike of you at all, I will/desire the good for you.
            I know Jesus although I’ve never heard Him speak and I know He loves you and me. And I’ll be glad to pray for you as requested.
            My main point for commenting on this article is to differentiate the Catholic Church from all other religions since It is the one true church.

          • BTS

            Sigh. I would say that even using terms like "fallen away" is judgmental.

            What would you do in my case? If one day you wake up and realize that despite all of your best efforts, you now believe that Jesus was probably just a charismatic man who unwittingly got himself killed and started a religion that grew by leaps and bounds?

            I would wager that my efforts have been far more serious than the typical Catholic layperson who just floats on through life...I know more now about religion than probably 95% of the people in the three major parishes in my city. Would Jesus want me to fake it? Or would he want me to exercise my critical thinking skills to their full potential?

            And why does god talk to you and not me? and how shall I tell the difference between imagining he's talking to me and the real thing? I was asking that very same question when I was a child.

            It seems so gosh darn arrogant, this one true Church business, especially when that Church has caused so much pain. (Yes, I know it's done good stuff, too). Maybe god doesn't really care how people get to him, as long as they find their way. What difference does it really make?

          • Rob Abney

            Fallen away is not pejorative unless you feel like you shouldn't have fallen away.
            I think the best way to have God talk with you is for you to keep seeking him, it doesn't seem like you are doing that right now.
            One true Church is based upon one truth, it's consistent with the PNC, there cannot be two truths that contradict each other. And it does make a difference, the most important matter in your life, more important than health and well-being.

          • David Nickol

            At the parish where I grew up (but after I moved away) there was a Catholic priest who had been a Lutheran priest (with a wife and family) who converted to Catholicism. Would anyone have called him a "fallen away Lutheran"?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, those who were still devoted to the Lutheran errors. Just as one day, I hope, you will be referred to as a fallen away atheist!

          • Joseph Noonan

            Just as one day, I hope, you will be referred to as a fallen away atheist!

            I've never heard an atheist call someone who becomes religious "fallen away". Atheists tend not to believe that there's something wrong with having different beliefs or with following a different path than they do.

          • OMG

            Hey Joseph, I'm curious about whether atheists tend to come from certain religious or no religious backgrounds. Would you care to share what is your personal situation? If you have other general thoughts (anyone else please also feel free to chime in) about why people are or have become atheist, I'm interested. Thanks.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I'm not really sure for most atheists, but generally the most vocal atheists seem to usually come from religious backgrounds. Often, the reason they are so vocal is because religion was once an important part of their life. However, I know there are also many lifelong atheists - I think they tend to talk about religion less because it has never been an important part of their lives.
            I come from a Catholic background. I stopped believing near the end of high school. Ironically, it was theology class (I went to a Catholic high school) that caused this, at least in part, since the more I learned about Catholic doctrine, the more problems I had believing it. I knew that, if even a single doctrine was wrong, then the Church wasn't the infallible authority it says it is, and my religion was false. At the same time, I found philosophy very interesting, and I thought about philosophical issues using my own reasoning, but this sometimes came into conflict with what the Church says. For a while, I tried to push the conflicts I saw in Catholic beliefs out of my head, force myself to believe the doctrines that I didn't really believe, and convince myself that Catholicism must be true. But I wasn't able to get myself to believe in the doctrines, and eventually I decided I didn't believe any of them.
            One other factor that I think also contributed to my eventual change of opinion is that one of my best friends in high school was an atheist, despite going to a Catholic school, and he would often point out things that didn't make sense, which made it a lot harder to just accept whatever we were told was true by the Church. He would often debate points of doctrine, and it was generally obvious that his arguments were better than mine or any of my other Catholic friends'. He also would sometimes ask what I think about a particular question and then, after I gave ed an answer based on my own reasoning, show me passages from the Catechism or other Church documents saying that official Catholic doctrine said the opposite.

          • BTS

            It would appear that priest was "working the system." You could say he found a "Luth-hole."
            I'll be here all week, folks.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "One true Church is based upon one truth, it's consistent with the PNC,"

            People often do not grasp the force of this insight.

            From natural reason, we can know that God exists and that he is the foundation for any authentic revelation. Being truth itself, whatever he reveals must be true.

            This means that any church which presents God's truth to the world cannot teach as true things that are not true.

            But we have some tens of thousands of Christian sects teaching doctrines that conflict in matters of faith and morals.

            For example, is contraception morally evil or not? If not, then those who fail to rationally limit procreation are sinning. But if it is morally evil, then those who practice it fall into sin. You cannot have it both ways and still be teaching the truth of God.

            And so it is with the countless other doctrines on which churches differ. It isn't good enough to say, "Just have faith," when you don't know which content of faith is true and which is false. And God is truth itself.

            Thus, logically, since truth is one, there can be only one true Church, teaching all the truths that God has commanded it to teach. Were there two such churches, they would actually be the same church! Even differing as to which one is true, would make one of them false.

            This means that logically there must be only one single true Church. And the evident contenders would appear to be among the great revealed religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

            But then, which church is the true one? Is it a small local church with only a thousand members? Or, since it is God's own work, will be be like a city built on a mountain for all the world to see?

            Among all the churches of the world, the only one is universally attacked for insisting that it is the one and only true Church is the Catholic Church. Oddly enough, it just so happens that of all the world's religions, the largest segment is Christian -- and of that over half are Catholics.

            I would suggest that this makes a good rational initial case for the Catholic Church to be exactly what she claims to be -- the one true Church of Jesus Christ and of authentic divine revelation.

            And we must remember that the principle of non-contradiction stands at the root of this insight -- that one and only one claim of divine revelation can consistently contain all that is essentially true -- with all the conflicting claims of other contenders essentially disqualifying themselves by their very contradictions in doctrines of faith and morals.

          • VicqRuiz

            You are correct that there are Christian churches who differ on points of morality. But there are many churches which agree with one another, and with the Catholic church, upon moral issues but who disagree on fine points of theology.

            Points of theology which did not emerge fully formed with the advent of Catholicism, but were the result of centuries of dispute and debate among Catholics themselves.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "... but who disagree on fine points of theology."

            God, who is the source of all truth, does not teach through his revelation errors even in "fine points" of theology, such as the existence of Purgatory, the divine and human nature of Christ, the sacramental means of grace, and so forth.

            "Points of theology which did not emerge fully formed with the advent of Catholicism, but were the result of centuries of dispute and debate among Catholics themselves."

            A correct understanding of the development of doctrine is crucial here. Many points of Christian revelation were not fully defined at the outset, even though they were implicitly revealed by the death of the last Apostle.

            For example, leading medieval theologians, including Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas, rejected the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was not defined as Catholic dogma until 1854 by Pope Pius IX. This did not mean that the Church's teaching was divided or incorrect up to that point. It merely meant that the official Magisterium had not yet decided the point so that individual Catholics were free to hold various opinions until that dogma was declared.

            The same truth was always true, but simply was not declared until a certain point in time -- after which all faithful Catholics would adhere to it.

            It is not a matter of the Catholic Church itself teaching and holding various diverse doctrines, but rather that the fullness of divine revelation was not made manifest until the Church herself spoke definitively on it. That is why dogma can never be reversed in its formal content.

          • Joseph Noonan

            God, who is the source of all truth, does not teach through his revelation errors even in "fine points" of theology

            I think you are missing the point of VicqRuiz's comment. Since the only disagreements between the Catholic Church and these churches are fine points of theology that weren't even doctrines until long after the original alleged revelation that started Christianity, it could be that all of these churches have the same revelations from God and that the points in theology on which they differ are not actually revelations from God, but disagreements based on fallible human reasoning. Yes, I know that the Church claims that all of its doctrines, even the more recent ones, were revealed by God, but I don't think there is any way to support this claim, and it is one of those fine points of theology that other churches disagree with.

            A correct understanding of the development of doctrine is crucial here. Many points of Christian revelation were not fully defined at the outset, even though they were implicitly revealed by the time of the death of the last Apostle.

            This is not a plausible claim at all. Many points of theology were not believed by anyone until long after the Apostles were dead. Others were disputed for a long time. You yourself give the example of the Immaculate Conception. If this was "implicitly revealed" by the time the Apostles died, it would have been a point of agreement of the early church members. Even if we accept the Catholic claim that all its teachings are divinely revealed, this one wasn't revealed until much later.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, what you are developing here yourself is a theory of theology that will admit some things as revealed and some just the work of reason, some things revealed at the time of the Apostles and some things "invented" by various churches later on.

            I am making a simple philosophical point. If religions claim to teach various doctrines as revealed by God, the conflicts between such doctrines logically require that only one set of them can be true revelation, while all those sects claiming other teachings as from God which deviate from that set, must be false revelations.

            While you may think you know the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not implicit in the original Christian revelation, still, what I said about the development of doctrine IS the Catholic theological position on the matter.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Yes, I am developing a possible theology that, in my opinion, is more plausible than what most churches claim, which is that every single one of their teachings is revealed, while all the other churches are just wrong. I think it's more plausible that all churches have made some mistakes due to fallible human reasoning, even if some of their doctrines originate from revelation.
            And yes, you are correct, that, if there really is some church that got every single doctrine right, there can only be one such church. However, it is possible that there are multiple churches that have all received the complete revelation from God but have simply added to that revelation some false teachings due to human misunderstanding. This is possible because the churches agree on many things - it could be that the things they agree on were revealed while the things they diverge on were not revealed to anyone.
            It is the official Catholic position that such doctrines were implicit - I just don't find this position plausible.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Yes, I am developing a possible theology that, in my opinion, is more plausible than what most churches claim, "

            Rather than develop my own theology, I prefer to follow God's theology as he has revealed it.

          • Joseph Noonan

            You can't know that the theology you believe in was revealed by God unless you can rule out possibilities like the one I mentioned. If you can't rule out the idea that many churches know about God's revelation, but they have all erroneously declared false doctrines on top of them, then you certainly can't know that Catholic doctrine contains only God's revealed theology and not also some errors added by fallible men.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If God actually exists, I don't think he is about to allow His own church to be teaching false doctrines of any type.

            Knowing "about God's revelation" is not the same thing as being founded by and guided by God directly. That is why you have many Christian sects teaching conflicting doctrines. This is proof that no more than one of them can be actually founded by and guided by God.

            This logical principle does not tell us for sure which church, if any, is actually founded by God as his revelation. That is why there is a lot more to the topic of discerning God's actual revelation, if any, that lends itself on this and similar websites to endless debate and discussion.

          • Joseph Noonan

            If God actually exists, I don't think he is about to allow His own church to be teaching false doctrines of any type.

            I agree that this seems unlikely a priori - however, we already know that, if God exists, he is allowing the vast majority of churches on Earth to teach false doctrines and the majority of people to believe false doctrines. This includes the majority of Christian churches, which all supposedly originate from Jesus's founding of Christianity. So God clearly has allowed churches that teach false doctrines to spring up out of the "one true church" even if you are right. Is it really going too far to suggest that maybe all the churches that sprung up out of Christ's original revelation have fallen into small errors?

            Knowing "about God's revelation" is not the same thing as being founded by and guided by God directly.

            But how do you know that any of the currently existing Christian sects were founded by God and are still being guided by him directly?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Is it really going too far to suggest that maybe all the churches that sprung up out of Christ's original revelation have fallen into small errors"

            I think we have to recognize that any divine revelation and church establishment will take place according to God's plans, not ours. He sets the rules. I don't want to get into the details of Scripture and history and doctrines, if, for no other reason than that I don't have time to go down that path.

            But if you think of some of the major differences in Christian positions, there is plenty of division on material that is not all that minor. For example, just think about the divisions regarding papal primacy, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Confession, the role of Mary, Apostolic succession, providence, grace, and so forth unendingly. Think about the fact that Christianity had seven sacraments for 1500 years, and then, the Reformation reduced them to 2 or 3. Think of the divisions over interpretation of Scripture, the role of tradition, the role of the Catholic Magisterium. And then we have the little fact that Ott lists over two hundred defined dogmas in the Catholic Church. How many and which of them are kept by the many Protestant sects?

            And then we think of Christ's Great Commandment to "go forth and teach all nations -- all things --- whatsoever I have commanded you."

            The Devil (if you forgive me mentioning him) is in the details. There are enough seemingly "big" errors to make no need for divisions over "small" ones!

            "But how do you know that any of the currently existing Christian sects were founded by God and are still being guided by him directly?"

            That is the work of investigation that every honest person must consider his obligation to find out -- just in case God DID found "one, true Church."

          • Joseph Noonan

            I think we have to recognize that any divine revelation and church establishment will take place according to God's plans, not ours.

            Exactly. And how do you know that God's plan involves making one of the Christian churches infallible? How do you know that his plan involved establishing one church as the true one?

            just think about the divisions regarding papal primacy, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Confession, the role of Mary, Apostolic succession, providence, grace, and so forth unendingly

            Many of those differences are quite minor. Papal primacy has nothing to do with theology - it has to do with the authority of a particular person. I don't know what specific differences with regards to Confession, Mary, providence, or grace you're referring to, but they could easily be minor differences. And some churches are quite similar even on these issues, like the Eastern Orthodox Church.

            Think about the fact that Christianity had seven sacraments for 1500 years, and then, the Reformation reduced them to 2 or 3.

            There are churches that are similar to Catholics than Protestant churches that changed the number of sacraments.

            Think of the divisions over interpretation of Scripture, the role of tradition, the role of the Catholic Magisterium.

            Many of which are quite minor

            That is the work of investigation that every honest person must consider his obligation to find out -- just in case God DID found "one, true Church."

            That's not actually an answer.
            And we must remember the point I made earlier that the fine details of theology were not set in stone until centuries after Jesus's death. Even something as major as the Trinity wasn't developed for centuries. How can you be so confident that these are really the true revelations from God?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The basic problem is that you are trying to figure out what God wanted without consulting him.

            Assuming a revelation has already taken place, your real task is to find it -- not to try to guess its content before you find it.

            Your a priori reasoning about what is important or not is your own thinking. That does not mean it is God's. If he differs from you, guess who wins! :)

          • Joseph Noonan

            I have consulted God, and he never answered, so it seems that I'm left to my own devices. The reason I'm giving possibilities for what might have happened to God's revelation is specifically because I don't want to base an belief about what was revealed on something as blind as a guess. I am not trying to say that this is what really happened to God's revelation - I'm just saying it's a possibility that hasn't been ruled out.
            When I mentioned a priori reasoning, I wasn't saying that I have come to a conclusion a priori - quite the opposite actually. I was pointing out that, although it seems unlikely a priori that God would allow his church to fall into error, the evidence suggests that, if there really was any true revelation at all, this has in fact happened.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The complexity of this topic makes clear discussion difficult. So one is prone to oversimplify. And then you lose context.

            The assumption that true revelation has fallen into error itself entails two problems: (1) If it really is from God, how can it fall into error? Surely God has the power to prevent that. (2) Since a church can be divinely guided, but is composed of fallible humans, the humans can make grave personal errors, yet, at the same time, the doctrine may be preserved. For instance, the Catholic Church would say its dogmas remain true and unchanged, even though its members and clergy may cause scandal by their personal sins. Remember, Christ tells us he came to save sinners -- not those who needed no correction. And yet, he promised that he would remain with them all days, even until the consummation of the earth.

            Even here, there are many more logical alleys and byways one can go down than I have time to discuss.

          • Joseph Noonan

            If it really is from God, how can it fall into error?

            In this hypothetical scenario, it's not the original revelation that was erroneous, but the current reporting on it. Through misinterpretation, adding things that weren't in the origin, leaving out details, or unintentional changes due to a generations-long game of telephone, a revelation could be altered.

            Surely God has the power to prevent that.

            But evidently, he hasn't. Even if you are right about Catholicism being the one true religion, God hasn't prevented half of all Christians from believing in erroneous doctrines through churches that teach doctrines that come from the same source of revelation but have also fallen into error. It is quite strange that God would allow this, but, given that it must have happened if there is indeed true revelation, this constitutes an argument against God's existence, not an argument against revelation having fallen into error given that God exists.
            Besides, Christian theology holds that humanity itself is not only from God, but in the image of God, and yet it has fallen into error. God's entire world is filled with evil. Theists have come up with many excuses for why this is possible, but I'm not sure how a theist can simultaneously argue that God allows all sorts of horrendous evils, but that he would never allow churches that began with his revelation to have false teachings.

            Since a church can be divinely guided, but is composed of fallible humans, the humans can make grave personal errors, yet, at the same time, the doctrine may be preserved.

            The key word here is "may". That may be the case, but how do you know it's the case?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "God's entire world is filled with evil. Theists have come up with many excuses for why this is possible, but I'm not sure how a theist can simultaneously argue that God allows all sorts of horrendous evils, but that he would never allow churches that began with his revelation to have false teachings."

            Actually, I have myself an article on Strange Notions addressing the problem of evil. So, how I would handle this objection can be read here: https://strangenotions.com/how-to-approach-the-problem-of-evil/

            The existence of evil does not prove either that God does not exist or that God is himself evil. Nor does it follow that God has allowed "churches that began with his revelation to have false teachings." You assume the Church itself has false teachings here. But what if, as Catholicism insists, the Church's teachings are infallibly true, and so, it does not have false teachings. Those who fall into heresy come to believe false beliefs, but that does not mean the Church taught them those errors.

            Human beings are fully capable of falling into error on their own. And just as some on this site have told us that they were raised as believers, but no longer believe, so too, an authentic revelation is perfectly able to retain its authentic teachings, even though many lose their faith in those teachings and either start their own human-founded sects, or else, simply cease belief in God completely. There is no great mystery here.

            Again, the task for every human being is to discern whether God has revealed a true religion to mankind, and if so, where and what is it.

          • Joseph Noonan

            The existence of evil does not prove either that God does not exist or that God is himself evil.

            I disagree, but I think I'll save that discussion for a different thread because that's not the point I was making here. The problem is that, you have argued that God's church won't fall into error because God has the power to prevent that. By the same token, it can be argued that, if God existed, he would prevent horrendous evils because he has the power to do that as well. But you clearly must reject the second argument if you accept the existence of a 3O God. You must believe that there is some morally sufficient reason for God to allow all the suffering in the world. But if that's case, there is no basis whatsoever to claim that God wouldn't allow his Church to fall into error. It might seem like he wouldn't, but only in the same way that it seems like God wouldn't allow evil, and yet he does anyway. If there can be morally sufficient reasons for God to allow something like the Holocaust to happen, then there can also be morally sufficient reasons for God to allow the churches based on his revelation to fall into error.

            You assume the Church itself has false teachings here.

            No, I'm just refraining from assuming that it doesn't have false teachings. There's a difference. The only way you can justify the claim that God has not allowed his Church to fall into error is to appeal to the Church's doctrines, but that's clearly circular, since you can't trust Church doctrine unless you already know that the Church hasn't fallen into error.

            But what if, as Catholicism insists, the Church's teachings are infallibly true, and so, it does not have false teachings.

            In a similar fashion to your previous comment, the key phrase here is "what if". You can't refute one hypothetical situation by bringing up another one. Unless you can demonstrate that Catholicism is actually right about it's own infallibility, rather than merely positing that it could be, you haven't ruled out the possibility that the Church has fallen into error.

            Those who fall into heresy come to believe false beliefs, but that does not mean the Church taught them those errors.

            But it does mean that members of the Church can still come to sincerely believe in erroneous theological doctrines, and, in some cases, they form rival churches with officially declared doctrines that are incorrect. And yet these erroneous churches still originate from God's true revelation, if Catholicism is true, since these churches originate from the Catholic Church. If God allows something like this to happen, how do you know that he doesn't also allow the Catholic Church to teach false doctrines?

            an authentic revelation is perfectly able to retain its authentic teachings, even though many lose their faith in those teachings and either start their own human-founded sects, or else, simply cease belief in God completely.

            It may be able to, but how do you demonstrate that it actually has? It is not enough to say that the true revelation could have been authentically passed down. If you want to justify Catholicism, you must give us some reason to think that it actually has been authentically passed down.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are illogically conflating two entirely distinct orders of reality:

            (1) the fact that in giving creatures the dignity of personal freedom inherently entailed the possibility of misuse of that freedom, thereby introducing into God's creation moral and physical evils, and

            (2) the fact that if God chose to make a divine revelation through a singular church to which he chose to grant the gift of doctrinal inerrancy, then that church's doctrine will be inerrant, whether or not some members misuse their free will to dissent from those doctrines, even to the point of starting their own heretical sects which do not have that divine gift of inerrancy..

          • Joseph Noonan

            You're making the same circular argument that I just mentioned in my previous comment. You are assuming the doctrine of inerrancy, while I am saying that God might have revealed himself to someone without giving any church the gift of inerrancy. After all, according to Christianity, God's first revelation was to the Jews, but they weren't given inerrancy despite being God's chosen people.

            Also, the Church's doctrines are declared by people. If you think that heresies and evil are caused by people using their free will to disobey God, then the people who declare Church doctrines could use their free will to declare doctrines that are incorrect. In order for the Church to really be inerrant, God must restrict free will by making it impossible for Church officials who can declare doctrines to declare false ones.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The simple fact remains that, if God wants his revelation to be inerrant, he can do so. Determining whether he has done so or not is a matter of determining the truth about divine revelation and whether he established such a church.

            "In order for the Church to really be inerrant, God must restrict free will by making it impossible for Church officials who can declare doctrines to declare false ones."

            God need not restrict free will in order to preserve inerrancy. All he need do is make sure the teaching authority teaches no errors. There is more than one way to do this.

            Pope Sixtus V, 1585 - 1590, was not a Latin scholar. Nevertheless, he re-translated the Vulgate, resulting in a Bible full of errors, despite concerns by many scholars. But the night before the defective text was to be officially issued, Sixtus V suddenly died of natural causes. St. Robert Bellarmine then produced a corrected text, which was subsequently issued properly under the authority of the following pope.
            https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14033a.htm

          • Joseph Noonan

            The simple fact remains that, if God wants his revelation to be inerrant, he can do so.

            I'm not disputing that, but I could just as easily say, "The simple fact remains that if God wanted to eliminate all evil, he could do so." You wouldn't accept this second argument, which is structurally exactly the same as the one you are giving. You need some reason that the argument you are giving can still be accepted even when you reject similar arguments.

            God need not restrict free will in order to preserve inerrancy. All he need do is make sure the teaching authority teaches no errors.

            Which means he has to restrict the free will of those in the teaching authorities. Otherwise, he would have to allow them to teach false doctrines if they freely chose to do so, or if they freely and sincerely believe in those doctrines and want to freely teach them, just like he allowed Hitler, Stalin, Mao, King Leopold II, Mussolini, etc., to freely commit genocide. Or at least, this is what he would have to do if we accept the free will defense.

            Pope Sixtus V, 1585 - 1590, was not a Latin scholar. Nevertheless, he re-translated the Vulgate, resulting in a Bible full of errors, despite concerns by many scholars. But the night before the defective text was to be officially issued, Sixtus V suddenly died of natural causes. St. Robert Bellarmine then produced a corrected text, which was subsequently issued properly under the authority of the following pope.

            Why didn't God allow Pope Sixtus V to freely continue in his endeavor to translate the Vulgate? If this was divine intervention to prevent the Church from falling into error, then God certainly was restricting the Pope's free will by killing him before he could do something that God didn't want. Besides, if God is willing to intervene like this to stop his Church from teaching error, why didn't he also intervene to make sure one of the attempts to assassinate Hitler succeeded? Or to stop any figure in history who committed great atrocities? You cannot simultaneously accept free will as an explanation for evil, while rejecting the possibility that God allows the teaching authorities to teach error because of their free will. Even if you believe in inerrancy, you need some other justification or some explanation for why God is willing to allow some evils due to free will, but not the specific evil of erroneous doctrine.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Even if you believe in inerrancy, you need some other justification or some explanation for why God is willing to allow some evils due to free will, but not the specific evil of erroneous doctrine."

            You are confusing free will with divine providence.

            God gives us free will because that power is inherent in possession of an intellectual soul. He allows us to use our freedom so as to allow us to freely choose our last end in heaven through virtuous acts. Should we refuse our last end by misuse of our freedom, that is another story.

            God did not restrict Pope Sixtus V's free will by providentially taking him from this earth at a critical moment in the history of the Magisterium, but rather confirmed his promise that the Holy Spirit would guide the teachings of his Church. We all die sometime. The Pope was free to will as he choose. God was free to ordain events in accordance with divine providence so that it worked out that his promise to protect Church doctrine from error was fulfilled.

          • Joseph Noonan

            You are confusing free will with divine providence.

            That doesn't make sense. There is no place in my comment where I have interchanged the two or used one term to mean what the other means. And if that's not what you mean by "confusing" the two, then I have no idea what you mean.

            God gives us free will because that power is inherent in possession of an intellectual soul. He allows us to use our freedom so as to allow us to freely choose our last end in heaven through virtuous acts.

            But if free will is the reason God allows evil, then we don't have to use this free will to choose virtuous acts. The pope has free will, and he could use his free will to declare a false doctrine. God could stop this, but only by restricting the pope's free will by making it impossible for him to choose to declare a false doctrine, or impossible for him to carry out his will if he so chooses.

            God did not restrict Pope Sixtus V's free will by providentially taking him from this earth at a critical moment in the history of the Magisterium, but rather confirmed his promise that the Holy Spirit would guide the teachings of his Church.

            God interfered with his free choice to write a translation of the Vulgate by making him unable to do so. Describing this euphemistically doesn't change this. God "confirmed his promise" to keep the Church inerrant by restricting the free will of Pope Sixtus V.

            The Pope was free to will as he choose.

            But he was not free to do as he willed. If someone wills something but is prevented from carrying out their will, then they don't have free will to do that thing. You have already committed yourself to that if you use free will as an explanation for evil - otherwise, God could simply "ordain events in accordance with divine providence so that it worked out that" Hitler never killed anyone by "taking him from this earth at a critical moment in history". If your explanation for that is that doing so would restrict his free will, then you have to accept that taking Pope Sixtus V from the Earth did the same thing. On the other hand, if you don't accept that doing this would restrict free will, then God allowed the unnecessary horrendous evils of the Holocaust when he could have done something about them without restricting free will.

          • VicqRuiz

            If religions claim to teach various doctrines as revealed by God, the conflicts between such doctrines logically require that only one set of them can be true revelation

            It's also logically possible that none of them could be true revelation.

            As a wise Christian said to me on another forum: "I guess at the end of the day arguing about doctrine, and getting others to sign up to a list of doctrines we then police, is more fun than actually doing what Jesus said." And I would add only that most Protestants are as susceptible to this as are most Catholics.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "It's also logically possible that none of them could be true revelation."

            I already made that same point myself in some other comment.

            " getting others to sign up to a list of doctrines we then police, is more fun than actually doing what Jesus said."

            But Jesus said, "Going therefore teach ye all nations, all things, whatsoever I have commanded you." For full text, see Matthew 28:18-20

            Sounds like Jesus said to do what churches do, that is, teach doctrines.

            The only challenge for all of us is to find out which one is the right Church teaching the right set of doctrines, after all.

          • Joseph Noonan

            From natural reason, we can know that God exists and that he is the foundation for any authentic revelation. Being truth itself, whatever he reveals must be true.

            For the sake of argument, let's accept this. That still doesn't get you very far at all unless you have some way of telling whether an alleged revelation is really from God or not. How do you that the teachings of the Church aren't just what various people mistakenly thought was revealed by God? Or even lies? After all, since we cannot accept all religions as true simultaneously, we know that most people who think they know what God has revealed are wrong.

            Among all the churches of the world, the only one is universally attacked for insisting that it is the one and only true Church is the Catholic Church.

            What are you talking about? Almost every single religion in the world claims to be the one true religion, and all of them are attacked for this. Maybe you need to listen more to what non-Catholics are actually saying.

            Oddly enough, it just so happens that of all the world's religions, the largest segment is Christian -- and of that over half are Catholics.
            I would suggest that this makes a good rational initial case for the Catholic Church to be exactly what she claims to be -- the one true Church of Jesus Christ and of authentic divine revelation.

            That's not a rational way to determine which religion is right at all. How does the number of adherents provide any evidence that a specific church is right? We've already established that, no matter what, a sizable majority of the world population has to be wrong about what they think are true revelations, but now you expect me to trust an alleged revelation because a plurality of this same population believes in it?
            This argument is even worse, however, because the only way you got the Catholic Church to come out on top was by first splitting the religions into broader groups (the major religions, like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc.), even though each of these groups includes mutually inconsistent belief systems, and then decided to focus on the largest sect of the largest major religion, rather than just looking for which sect is the largest, period. The largest religious sect is Sunni Islam (1.5 billion members), not the Catholic Church (1.2 billion). So based on your own argument, you should be a Muslim. Or at least, you should consider the initial case for Sunni Islam to be better than the initial case for Catholicism. And if current trends continue, Islam will overtake Christianity as the most common world religion anyway. Will this suddenly make it more rational to believe in Islam than Christianity? Would you change your argument for Catholicism into an argument for Islam if this happens?

            And we must remember that the principle of non-contradiction stands at the root of this insight.

            No, the root of this argument is an argumentum ad populum. The LNC is incidentally involved, but only because it's used implicitly in essentially every argument there is. Don't try to make it sound like anyone who accepts LNC ought to accept your argument.

          • George

            >This means that logically there must be only one single true Church. And
            the evident contenders would appear to be among the great revealed
            religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

            It is also logical to accept the possibility that those 3 religions are not true, and that there is currently no True Church.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Sure, it is logically possible. But way back BTS made this comment:

            "It seems so gosh darn arrogant, this one true Church business, especially when that Church has caused so much pain. (Yes, I know it's done good stuff, too). Maybe god doesn't really care how people get to him, as long as they find their way. What difference does it really make?"

            So, I am responding to the frequent claim that "maybe God doesn't really care how people get to him." Since churches teach doctrine, the fact that God can reveal only truth means that any church he actually founded must teach only the truth.

            That is the foundation for my logical argument above.

            IF one believes that divine revelation has actually taken place, then it logically follows that only one Church will possess all the truths that God has revealed -- and that those whose doctrines differ from it must not be the one true Church he gives his revelation through.

            In the early part of the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas offers several reasons why God would have given mankind divine revelation, including the fact that men need to know how to live so as to reach their last end (Heaven), the fact that truth about God is difficult for most men to attain, and the fact that even when such knowledge is obtained, it is easily lost or becomes mixed with error.

            Therefore, there is need for God to have given mankind supernatural revelation. And if it was needed, God would surely have given it. Therefore, there must now be some one true religion on earth. That is the unstated basis for my earlier remarks.

          • BTS

            IF one believes that divine revelation has actually taken place, then it logically follows that only one Church will possess all the truths that God has revealed

            You're leaving out the possibility that god will allow mankind to make mistakes for eons and then finally, one day, get it right.

            So, your use of the future tense "will possess" may be true but not yet. God may be chuckling while we we stupid humans fumble around for the next hundred thousand years, assuming we live that long.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            God is not some demonic deity relishing the pain of his subjects.

            God created man with a spiritual soul whose last end is attainment of complete happiness in union with Himself.

            It would be irrational of the omniscient God to make man with this last end and then fail to provide the means for him to attain it -- even from its beginning.

            Even though this is not a philosophical argument, it is interesting to note that Genesis places God's interaction with man at the very beginning of man's appearance.

            I fully realize that none of this makes any sense from an atheistic perspective, but that is not the context in which these questions arise.

          • BTS

            God is not some demonic deity relishing the pain of his subjects.

            You got all that that from "chuckling?"

            It would be irrational of the omniscient God to make man with this last end and then fail to provide the means for him to attain it -- even from its beginning.

            If it is so obvious I find it curious that we label a certain philosophical topic "the probem of divine hiddenness."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            God's ways may be inscrutable, but he is certainly not hidden to those who have eyes to see.

          • BTS

            Got it. It's all my fault.

          • mmac1

            Only the trolling is your fault

          • BTS

            That is nonsensical. I've been posting here for years without issue.

          • mmac1

            obviously trolling- why else use ridiculous names for the Bible? The fact that you aren't banned is a testament to the site-not to your posts. If you are sincerely interested in dialogue drop the disparaging names for things like the Bible-it adds nothing to your argument (in fact it detracts from it).

          • BTS

            You must have me confused with a different poster. No idea what are you talking about. I'm pretty sure you have me mixed up with someone else. Please double check and then apologize.

          • mmac1

            if it wasn't you than i apologize.

          • BTS

            I figured it out. You confused me with Art Davison who made the "Holy Babble" comment. That was not me.

          • Joseph Noonan

            God's ways may be inscrutable, but he is certainly not hidden to those who have eyes to see.

            Do you think that there are no nonresistant nonbelievers, then? Do you think anyone who searches for God will find him? Because that is demonstrably not true. Also, it doesn't sound like God's ways are inscrutable in your previous comment when you say that it would be irrational for God to do certain things.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are trying to be a bit too literal for my remark's intention.

            And yes, it is easier to understand something that is true if you first believe that it is true.

            There is an old dictum in Christianity that "fides quaerens intellectum," meaning "faith seeking understanding." It was advanced by St. Augustine who maintains that one begins with faith in God and on the basis of that faith moves on to further understanding of Christian truth.

            That is the insight which is the basis for the metaphorical suggestion I was alluding to that those who have faith have a better access to understanding the ways of God, even though one always has to realize that God's wisdom may yet exceed human wisdom, and hence, ultimately may be inscrutable to us.

          • Joseph Noonan

            You are trying to be a bit too literal for my remark's intention.

            How so? If you didn't mean that anyone who searches for God will find him, then you haven't provided a solution to the problem of divine hiddenness, and I don't even know what your remark could mean.

            And yes, it is easier to understand something that is true if you first believe that it is true.

            Believing in a proposition isn't necessary to understand the proposition or what would likely be true if the proposition was true. I don't think believing in God makes you any more able to understand God's ways than an atheist - atheists can make reasonable judgements about what God would do if he existed, based on the characteristics attributed to him. In fact, I think atheists are actually better at judging what God would do because atheists don't have to make up ad hoc reasons to make their ideas of what God would do if he existed fit what has been done in the actual world. Logically, a God who is all-loving and all-powerful would eliminate evil, and a God who is omnipotent and wants humans to know him would reveal himself to everyone. However, theists have to make excuses for God and reject these inferences because they would falsify theism if accepted. A common way to do so is with the "God's ways are inscrutable" argument, which I don't buy, but even if I did buy it, you can't have it both ways. You can't argue that God's ways are inscrutable whenever an objection to theism is brought up but then try to infer what God would do in other contexts.

            There is an old dictum in Christianity that "fides quaerens intellectum," meaning "faith seeking understanding." It was advanced by St. Augustine who maintains that one begins with faith in God and on the basis of that faith moves on to further understanding of Christian truth.

            "Faith seeking understanding" is not rational. It isn't rational to believe in a proposition first, and then come to understand why it's true. In order to rationally believe something, you have to already have some reason to believe it. And it is certainly not reasonable to demand that people believe something that seems contradictory on the grounds that, once they believe it, they will eventually reconcile the contradiction. That seems like nothing more than an attempt to take advantage of confirmation bias.

            That is the insight which is the basis for the metaphorical suggestion I was alluding to that those who have faith have a better access to understanding the ways of God, even though one always has to realize that God's wisdom may yet exceed human wisdom, and hence, ultimately may be inscrutable to us.

            A God who wants people to believe in him wouldn't withhold information crucial to the issue of his existence to people who don't believe. He would reveal his ways to people who don't believe so that they would understand how belief in God is reasonable in light of the evidence. This is especially true given that, if theism is true, the inscrutability of God's ways is the main obstacle to belief.

          • Joseph Noonan

            God created man with a spiritual soul whose last end is attainment of complete happiness in union with Himself.

            It's certainly possible that this is not the case, even if God exists. In fact, I think the problem of divine hiddenness gives us good reason to think that, if there is a God, he doesn't care whether humans know about him.
            Besides, all of the major world religions, including Christianity, say that God revealed himself at a particular time. Before God revealed himself to Abraham, there was no true church yet even if one of the Abrahamic religions is true. And if you believe that the Catholic Church is the one true church, then the true church didn't exist until the first century AD. In other words, the true church has only been around for 1% of human history. So, if you are a Catholic, you already believe that there was a time when the true church hadn't been revealed yet. So why is it so hard to believe that we might actually still be in this this time, and that the one true church is yet to be revealed?

            I fully realize that none of this makes any sense from an atheistic perspective, but that is not the context in which these questions arise.

            Why can't they arise in an atheistic context? Isn't that the context they just arose in?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Why can't they arise in an atheistic context? Isn't that the context they just arose in?"

            You are entering the thread without grasping its context.

            BTS made this comment some comments above:

            "It seems so gosh darn arrogant, this one true Church business, especially when that Church has caused so much pain. (Yes, I know it's done good stuff, too). Maybe god doesn't really care how people get to him, as long as they find their way. What difference does it really make?"

            So all my comments were made in the context of BTS's comment.

            BTS is questioning the "one true Church" claim of the Catholic Church and BTS is allowing that "maybe god doesn't really care...", which means that he is assuming God's existence.

            MY comments then proceed from the postulation of God's existence. And, I am explaining why God, in the context of the God of classical theisim, would care because he makes the human soul with a last end that consistency would require him to care about and help to reach that last end.

            And since the context is one of Christian revelation, we can say that God made himself known even to the very first true human beings in the Garden of Eden according to Genesis.

            So all the rest of your speculations, while licit in the abstract, do not fit the context of my exchange with BTS.

            I am responding to BTS who made his comment before you entered the thread. My comments make sense in that context, not the different one that you inject to the discussion.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I suppose you're right that we have been assuming God's existence for the sake of argument in this thread. But in this comment, it seems like you are trying to assume even more. We haven't been assuming classical theism (otherwise, BTS wouldn't have argued that God might not care about humans), and we most certainly haven't been assuming Christian theism (originally, you were trying to justify Christian theism with the argument from plurality). Moreover, if classical theism does entail that God would reveal himself to humans (and we seem to both agree that it doez), I would argue that this falsifies classical theism because God clearly hasn't done a very good job revealing himself.
            Even if God made himself known to the first human beings in the garden of Eden (an idea that doesn't jive well with modern science anyway), this revelation was apparently lost to the ages until God revealed himself again to Abraham, as our actual historical records of early humans show that they had completely different religions and didn't believe in the Abrahamic God. There was a time before Judaism emerged when no religion worshipped Yahweh - that point still stands. And, either way, if the Catholic Church is the one true church, then the one true church has only existed for 1% of human history.

            So all the rest of your speculations, while licit in the abstract, do not fit the context of my exchange with BTS.

            I have read the full thread, and my arguments about the Church only being around for 1% of human history, and that we may still be in a time before the true church has been revealed, definitely fall within this context. You stated in an earlier comment, "Therefore, there must now be some one true religion on earth," and the arguments I put forward here are directed against that claim. Even if we accept everything else you have said about divine revelation, you either cannot infer this claim, or you could have inferred it 3000 years ago and therefore could conclude that Catholicism isn't the true religion since it wasn't around back then. And the claim that there must already be a one true religion is absolutely central to the original comment you made on this thread, since you are attempting to show which religion is the one true one, out of the religions that already exist.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "And the claim that there must already be a one true religion is absolutely central to the original comment you made on this thread, since you are attempting to show which religion is the one true one, out of the religions that already exist."

            Well, you forced me to go back and look at my original entry into this thread, one which was based on a single, simple insight expressed in its final paragraph:

            "And we must remember that the principle of non-contradiction stands at the root of this insight -- that one and only one claim of divine revelation can consistently contain all that is essentially true -- with all the conflicting claims of other contenders essentially disqualifying themselves by their very contradictions in doctrines of faith and morals."

            It is still correct. "... one and only one claim of divine revelation can consistently contain all that is essentially true...."

            God cannot teach conflicting truths through simultaneous authentic revelations.

            It is also logically correct to note that, if God does not exist, then this whole problem disappears! But my conditional statement assume that there is a God to give a "divine revelation."

            The rest of the debate you offer pertains to whether the Catholic Church offers this unique, true revelation. That part of the argument pertains to demography and timing and the nature of the revelation.

            I am perfectly happy to let others take the time to figure that out. For my part, I know why I believe the Catholic Church is what she claims to be -- and it does not depend on the kind of arguments in this thread that are outside of my initial philosophical comment.

          • Joseph Noonan

            I wasn't talking about the part where you conclude that there can be at most one true religion - I'm talking about the assumption that there is at least one, which you make when you say that the major world religions are the contenders for being the one true true. This assumes that the one true religion has already been revealed.

          • BTS

            But it makes sense from Chardin's perspective....

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is interesting to note that Teilhard de Chardin's entire works were placed under a Monitum (warning) by the Church in 1962 -- and that condemnation has never been lifted. It says that his works are "swarming with theological ambiguities and downright errors...."

          • Joseph Noonan

            Since churches teach doctrine, the fact that God can reveal only truth means that any church he actually founded must teach only the truth.

            This assumes that there is a church which he actually founded. It also assumes that all teachings of this church were revealed by God - there could be a church that received revelation from God but also had some doctrines that were not from God. After all, isn't this already what you think all non-Catholic Christians are? And what Judaism and Islam are?

            IF one believes that divine revelation has actually taken place, then it logically follows that only one Church will possess all the truths that God has revealed

            It doesn't logically follow that any church will have all of the truths God has revealed.

            In the early part of the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas offers several reasons why God would have given mankind divine revelation, including the fact that men need to know how to live so as to reach their last end (Heaven), the fact that truth about God is difficult for most men to attain, and the fact that even when such knowledge is obtained, it is easily lost or becomes mixed with error.

            The first reason assumes that the last end of mankind is heaven. I'm not sure how you can justify this statement without appealing to divine revelation, but appealing to divine revelation would be a circular argument. The fact that truth about God is difficult to obtain and easily becomes lost or erroneous seems to me to be an argument against divine revelation. If God really was supernaturally revealing the truth about himself, it should be obvious. Everyone would know which religion is true. Instead, people spend years seeking God but don't find him, people end up believing in the wrong religion by no fault of their own, and, even if you are right that Catholicism is the right religion, only 1/7 of the world follows the true church. Apparently, God's supernatural revelation hasn't helped much, since it is still just as difficult to obtain the truth about him. In fact, it is impossible to know the truth about God because, even if you happen to be right about which religion, if any, is true, there is no good argument for accepting one religion over the others.

            Therefore, there is need for God to have given mankind supernatural revelation. And if it was needed, God would surely have given it. Therefore, there must now be some one true religion on earth.

            If this argument is sound, then Catholicism cannot possibly be true. Why? Because the argument would be equally sound if it was made 3000 years ago, long before the Catholic Church existed. But if it was true before the Catholic Church existed that, "there must now be some one true religion on earth," then clearly the Catholic Church can't be that one true religion.

          • Joseph Noonan

            This means that any church which presents God's truth to the world cannot teach as true things that are not true.

            Sure, but it doesn't mean that any church which claims to present God's truth is actually doing so. Unless you have some way of testing whether a church has received authentic revelation, the point is moot.

            This means that logically there must be only one single true Church. And the evident contenders would appear to be among the great revealed religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

            Why are these the only contenders? What about Eastern religions? What about smaller religions? What about no religion? The PNC doesn't rule out the possibly that none of the churches are the "one true church" - it only rules out the claim that multiple are.

            Among all the churches of the world, the only one is universally attacked for insisting that it is the one and only true Church is the Catholic Church.

            That's not true at all. Every church that claims to be the one true church (which is just about every church, period) is attacked for doing so. Perhaps you haven't noticed this, since you are a Catholic and pay more attention to what critics are saying about your religion than about other religions, but this is a common criticism leveled at Protestant churches, Islam, and religion in general.

            Oddly enough, it just so happens that of all the world's religions, the largest segment is Christian -- and of that over half are Catholics. I would suggest that this makes a good rational initial case for the Catholic Church to be exactly what she claims to be

            That doesn't sound like a good reason to believe in a religion at all to me. Besides, the only way you even got the Catholic Church to come out on top was by by first picking the largest religion and then picking the largest sect within that religion. Why not just pick the largest sect, period? After all, you are trying to figure out which "one true church", i.e., which specific religious sect, actually has the truth from God. However, the largest religious sect is not the Catholic Church - it is Sunni Islam. Also, this method of trying to figure out the one true church gives different results when used in different time periods, so it can't possibly be reliable. What if you used this same method before Christianity began or before it had spread as far as it has today? Then you would have to conclude that some other religion, either some form of paganism or an Eastern religion, is true. Islam is likely to overtake Christianity as the largest world religion in the future. When this happens, your reasoning will tell us that Islam is the correct religion. Clearly, this line of reasoning doesn't yield consistent results.

            And we must remember that the principle of
            non-contradiction stands at the root of this insight

            The root of your reasoning was an argumentum ad populum. Yes, your argument uses the PNC, but just about every argument uses the PNC at least implicitly - I'd hardly say that is sufficient to make the PNC the root of an insight. Much more than just the PNC is required to make your argument work.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "This means that any church which presents God's truth to the world cannot teach as true things that are not true." DB

            "Sure, but it doesn't mean that any church which claims to present God's truth is actually doing so. Unless you have some way of testing whether a church has received authentic revelation, the point is moot." JN

            But your observation still fails to address my point, since I am talking about a "church which" DOES "present God's truth."

            "This means that logically there must be only one single true Church. And the evident contenders would appear to be among the great revealed religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." DB

            "Why are these the only contenders? What about Eastern religions? What about smaller religions? What about no religion? The PNC doesn't rule out the possibly that none of the churches are the "one true church" - it only rules out the claim that multiple are." JN

            Note that I am talking about the major "revealed" above. The major Eastern religions do not claim to be revealed.

            Of course, it is logically possible that there be no religions at all and no God at all. But if there is revelation (and I have argued earlier why God would in fact offer revelation to mankind), then there can logically be only one true religion -- and that remains the truth. If I am correct in arguing that God does offer revelation, then there can only one true one.

            "Oddly enough, it just so happens that of all the world's religions, the largest segment is Christian -- and of that over half are Catholics. I would suggest that this makes a good rational initial case for the Catholic Church to be exactly what she claims to be."

            Despite your excellent analysis of the various proportions of the world's religions might make contentious my statement about the Catholic Church being the one, true faith, please note that I only said that my reasoning makes an "initial case" for the Catholic Church. What you say about Sunni Islam appears to be correct. But my main point is not exactly which church is biggest, but more importantly, that it seems unlikely that the true religion would have very few members. And obviously, far more than mere membership numbers would still need to be examined before knowing which is the true revelation of God.

            "Much more than just the PNC is required to make your argument work." JN

            You are matching the wrong insight to the wrong argument.

            I used the PNC merely to show that only one revealed religion can logically be true.

            I did not use the PNC when talking about which church might be a likely candidate for that one true church. That last argument was based on relative demographics.

            You are right about all religions logically presenting themselves as being the "one, true, church," since otherwise why join them? But the Catholic Church IS the one usually attacked for this claim among Christians, since you will hear Protestants often claiming that "many roads can lead to Rome" and that, though they have some 30,000 different sects, the common key to salvation is "faith alone" and "Scripture alone."

          • Joseph Noonan

            But your observation still fails to address my point, since I am talking about a "church which" DOES "present God's truth."

            That's because I wasn't trying to dispute that point. All I was saying is that it doesn't really matter that a church which teaches God's revelation must be teaching the truth because we have no good way of knowing which, if any, religion teaches the true revelation.

            Note that I am talking about the major "revealed" religions above. The major Eastern religions do not do not clearly claim to be revealed.

            Hinduism claims that Shruti (one class of holy texts) were divinely revealed, so you should have considered it. Even Eastern religions that don't explicitly claim to be revealed still could have been revealed - maybe Buddhism is true and was revealed by God to Buddha as he meditated under the fig tree - so you can't rule them out either.

            Of course, it is logically possible that there be no religions at all and no God at all. But if there is revelation (and I have argued earlier why God would in fact offer revelation to mankind), then there can logically be only one true religion -- and that remains the truth. If I am correct in arguing that God does offer revelation, then there can only one true one.

            You argue for revelation later in this thread, but you don't argue for it in this comment, which is your first in the thread, and you never argue in this thread for classical theism, which is required for your argument to even get off the ground. And even if you could prove that God exists, that still wouldn't mean he reveals anything. A deist God is a possibility, and, in my opinion, a more plausible one.

            Despite your excellent analysis of the various proportions of the world's religions might make contentious my statement about the Catholic Church being the one, true faith, please note that I only said that my reasoning makes an "initial case" for the Catholic Church.

            Yes, I realize that you aren't saying that it's the only or the best argument for Catholicism, but, based on this "initial case", we should conclude that Sunni Islam is more likely to be true than Catholicism. So it seems to me like, even if this argument worked, it would be an argument against Catholicism.

            But my main point is not exactly which church is biggest, but more importantly, that it seems unlikely that the true religion would have very few members.

            I would go farther and say that, if there really is a God who wants us to believe in him and revealed himself to us with one true religion, that it seems very unlikely that this religion have anything less than the vast majority of the world's population as members. But no religion has that many members. Doesn't it seem strange that, even if there is one true religion revealed by God, this religion is at best on equal footing with the other world religion in terms of the number of followers?

            And obviously, far more than mere membership numbers would still need to be examined before knowing which is the true revelation of God.

            True, by I was responding to your comment in which you provided a case based on membership numbers.

            I did not use the PNC when talking about which church might be a likely candidate for that one true church.

            That's actually exactly what I was pointing out. Right after you presented the argument based on demographics, you said, "And we must remember that the principle of non-contradiction stands at the root of this insight," which kind of makes it sound like the PNC was at the root of the relative demographics argument when it obviously wasn't.
            The Catholic Church may be the one that is most often attacked by Protestants (that's what the name "Protestant" refers to, after all), but in the original comment, you said it was "universally attacked" and that it was the only one being attacked in this way. But all religions who make the claim to be the one true Church are attacked for doing so, and I don't even see any evidence that the Catholic Church gets attacked harder for this than other religions - one example (the example of Protestants criticizing Catholicism especially harshly) isn't enough to demonstrate that.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "...we have no good way of knowing which, if any, religion teaches the true revelation."

            This sort of ends the discussion before it begins.

            Sorry if I did not more clear that the PNC pertained solely to the argument that there can only be one set of truths, but that was indeed the insight I initially defended.

            As for some of the other lacunae that you perceive in some of my claims about classical theism and human origins, you will find them presented in detail in some of the 26 other articles I have written for Strange Notions (listed under my heading in "main contributors").

          • Joseph Noonan

            This sort of ends the discussion before it begins.

            Okay, I guess I should have been clearer and said, "No good way of knowing which, if any, religion is true has been given."

            The problem I have with your ideas on human origins is the idea that there was a first human couple at all. This is not consistent with our modern understanding of human evolution. Here is one example of a scientific paper that explicitly states that the human population could not have come from a few founding individuals:
            https://academic.oup.com/mbe/article/10/1/2/1030040

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That paper was published in 1993. Much has been published since then. My own book, Origin of the Human Species -Third Edition (Ave Maria, 2014), deals with many aspects of human evolutionary origin. I have a number of papers directly addressing the "bottleneck problem" you mention, including three peer reviewed ones. But the most recent of my papers was published on Strange Notions and contains reference to a recent genetic model that resolves this genetic question by showing the problem does not arise if you date Adam back more than 500,000 years ago, which is not theologically problematic.
            https://drbonnette.com/the-scientific-possibility-of-adam-and-eve/

          • Joseph Noonan

            That paper I sent you is a little old, but you haven’t given me any good reason to consider it outdated. All the research done since then seems to agree with its findings. The only differences are that some papers give population estimates that are a little higher or a little lower - however, none of them give anything that is even close to a founding population of two. I am certainly going to trust an objective, peer-reviewed scientific paper that seems to agree with the consensus among evolutionary biologists than the article you have linked me to, which is not scientific at all, given that it very rarely cites actual scientific articles (and sometime the ones that it does cite say things that contradict what you say in the article - for example, one of your citations gives an effective population size of 104, rather than 2, when you were attempting to use it as a refutation to an article claiming that the population size cannot go as low as 2), except to attempt to refute them, shows a very heavy Christian bias and almost exclusively cites Christian sources, and cites a couple of pseudoscientific sources like the Discovery Institute and “Evolution News”. This is especially true given that your article doesn’t even mention the paper I cited, nor does a single one of the scientific papers it cites ever claim that it is scientifically possible that all humans came from a first pair. I also find it funny that, whenever you want to refute something said by actual biologists, you suddenly switch to using Christian, non-scientific sources (including using the aforementioned anti-scientific “Evolution News” as your source that the claims of heliocentric certainty weren’t based on evidence).
            I cannot find any information on the three peer-reviewed papers you said you wrote on the topic, but something tells me that they either are not published in science journals or don’t make the claim that there was a population bottleneck down to two individuals.
            Since you didn’t like the year of my other article, here is a more recent article, from 2012, which explains that there likely was no population bottleneck coinciding with the emergence of humans, and even if there was one, it was only a mild one (a less than three-fold population reduction), nowhere near as extreme as a reduction to only two people. https://academic.oup.com/mbe/article/29/7/1851/1070885
            The lowest estimate for the effective population size of early humans is 1000, based on the idea that there was a bottleneck at that time - however, the most common estimate is 10,000 humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1832099/
            Another paper estimates the human effective population size as being 18,000 for the last one to two million years. This means that the population has been in the thousands since long before it even developed into modern homo sapiens. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9409852/
            The first article I cited estimates the effective population as being in the tens of thousands (the estimate is around 12,000 or around 32,500, depending on the mutation rate). However, all the estimates mentioned here are only estimates of effective population size, which is different from census population size (the actual population). Census population size is about 10 times bigger, meaning that estimates of the early human population range from the 10,000s at the lowest to the 100,000s. You will not find any scientific source claiming that there was a bottleneck so severe that it brought the hominid population down to just two individuals, let alone that this bottleneck coincided exactly with the emergence of modern humans. In fact, such a bottleneck is not even possible - it would lead to human extinction because two is far lower than the minimum viable population of humans.
            Even if you try to push the supposed Adam and Eve back in time so that some population estimates don’t apply, that doesn’t make the idea of an entire population of humans coming from two individuals any more plausible given the impossibility of a viable population being that small, and it also just seems like an attempt to make the Adam and Eve hypothesis unfalsifiable by pushing back the time that they lived to a time where the uncertainty in the human population is high enough that you can dismiss most estimates. However, even then, there are estimates for the population at that time, such as the one I gave above, and they are much, much higher than two.
            One of the main criticisms you give in your article of the claim that having two first humans is scientifically impossible due to genetic data is that these models make false assumptions like random breeding, constant mutation rates, etc. In some cases, these assumptions are actually what is used to calculate the effective population size, as opposed to the actual population size. This doesn’t invalidate the results that there can’t be two first humans because, as I have mentioned above, the census population size is actually larger. Other assumptions are made to simplify models, but they are always made to be as close as possible to the actual truth, and assumptions that will have an impact significant enough to invalidate the model aren’t made. As one of your own sources points out, even when a population violates the assumptions of a model, it can still behave just like the model in all relevant aspects. This is how all scientific modelling is done - if you don’t accept the methods, you’re going to have to reject huge chunks of basically every field of science because science depends on making models of the world.
            Also, your criteria for when a human being with a “true soul” exists are completely arbitrary. Why on Earth does the existence of hand axes not demonstrate the existence of the soul, while the existence of particularly symmetric hand axes does? And why does the controlled use of fire demonstrate a soul, but not the controlled use of other tools? It seems that all you are doing is cherry-picking a couple of developments that occurred at around the same time in human evolution and claiming that these developments are the ones that show the existence of a soul. It doesn’t make any sense.
            It seems like the only defense that could actually work to get around the argument from population sizes is the interbreeding solution - however, one must wonder how this works from a Christian perspective. Wouldn’t a human with a soul breeding with a human with no soul essentially be bestiality from a Christian perspective? And why would the resulting child be a human with a full human soul? It certainly raises a lot of weird theological questions. But even this solution only works if you assume that the soul doesn’t really have any significant observable effects. We see that human cognitive capabilities and the sophistication of human technology increased gradually - it’s not as if there was some moment when humans went from beings with the same capacities as other animals to the modern homo sapiens we are today. And if that had happened, the implications about humans with human souls breeding with their subhuman relatives become even worse. One has to wonder why God would choose to give two first people human souls, while allowing their immediate parents and other close relatives to either have no souls or to have some lower type of soul no better than that of other animals. Their parents were only one generation away, so that had to be basically indistinguishable from their children in terms of evolved cognitive capacities, so it seems rather unfair of God to give them souls that are so much lower. Allowing the soul to gradually evolve along with the mind would be much more just, don’t you think?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Yes, the first paper you sent me is a little old: 1993.

            But also the second paper you reference here is a little outdated, since the what I cite in my paper is from work done by Dr. Joshua Swamidass in 2016.

            I am not going to get into the very extensive literature on this subject, since I quit publishing on most of it years ago and I am sure you realize its complexity.

            But the point is that when Swamidass and others were debating this question of a possible bottle neck of two first human beings, they knew the literature all said "no" for most periods of the expected past. All models are based on retrospective calculations of vast distance in the past and computer models fed by many, sometimes wrong, assumptions.

            So, it was somewhat surprising to him and others to find that if you go back before 500 kya, it is possible to find a model in which a bottleneck of just two is possible. I did NOT say PROVEN. The question is only whether an Adam and Eve couple of two first true human beings is POSSIBLE in the past, NOT whether they can be proven to have existed. The question is solely whether the Christian belief in Adam and Eve is rationally credible, NOT demonstrable.

            And this was Dr. Swamidass's conclusion:

            "“A very recent bottleneck (say 50 kya) seems impossible, but a more ancient bottleneck of our ancestors (if very brief) at 500 kya might be consistent with the evidence. Sometime before 500 kya, this couple would not be Homo sapiens, but they might (exact dates debatable) be the common ancestor of Homo sapiens, Denisovans, and Neanderthals.”"

            And the source here is not the Evolution News article that you find unimpressive, but Swamidass's own blog at https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/heliocentric-certainty-against-a-bottleneck-of-two/61 You are welcome to work your way through its complexities!

            I am not going to get into the extensive debate as to whose scientific explanations to believe or whose peer reviewed work is more impressive. All I can say is that Swamidass and the other researcher that Gauger mentions are themselves evolutionists and not ID theorists. What you want to believe is up to you.

            As you point out, there is an alternate way to defend theological monogenism, that is, the belief that there were only two first true human parents of the entire human race. That is through an interbreeding hypothesis, which allows the required genetic material we find in modern man to have been introduced through mating of Adam and Eve's children with subhuman hominins.

            Whatever you think of the theological problems associated with this, I do treat them extensively in my peer reviewed Spanish philosophical journal, Espiritu, article, published a couple years ago. If God wants to infuse a human soul into a union between a true man and a subhuman hominin, are you going to stop him?

            Your last point regarded the detection of human intellective activity based on artifacts and controlled use of fire. This is a purely philosophical problem. And I do not have to say exactly which artifact was the first one that required an intellect to produce in order to know that intellection is required at some stage and that lower animals lack the intellect needed to produce those artifacts of a certain sophistication. Because you either have an intellect or do not, there is no such thing as a "gradual" development of having an intellectual spiritual soul. Natural scientists as such do not know this. This is a philosophical issue.

            All this is extremely complex and requires knowledge of such scientific disciplines as paleoanthropology, genetics, physics, biochemistry, and so forth, as well as philosophy and theology. This is why much that is written captures parts of the puzzle but not the whole picture. It is also why I wrote an entire book, Origin of the Human Species - Third Edition (Sapientia Press, 2014). dealing with these issues.

            The genetic "bottleneck" problem, which you probe, is but a small, although important, part of this wide-ranging topic.

            And remember, even if what you claim about a population bottleneck of two first true humans not being possible is scientifically correct, the alternative scenario of interbreeding easily avoids this objection and brings the discussion back into the realm of philosophy and theology which is immune to your scientific objection.

          • Joseph Noonan

            But also the second paper you reference here is a little outdated, since the what I cite in my paper is from work done by Dr. Joshua Swamidass in 2016.

            Is your only criterion for the reliability of something the date it was published? You’re dismissing the peer-reviewed scientific papers because they weren’t published as recently as a blog. Maybe this is justified for a paper from 1993, but not for one from 2012. Also, the blog doesn’t even support your case. The author makes it very clear that, “The consensus of population genetics is solidly against any notion of a bottleneck of a single couple,” and, “It is generally thought that the evidence against a bottleneck of one couple in our ancestors is overwhelming.” In fact, it is so overwhelming that he says, “Most of my work takes this for granted”. So Dr. Swamidass is not trying to dispute the claim that there was no population bottleneck to a single couple, nor is he even trying to argue that the claim of a 2-individual bottleneck is plausible. The only thing he is trying to do is explain why he doesn’t think we can have as much confidence in this claim as many other biologists do. He is arguing that we don’t have “heliocentric certainty” against such a bottleneck, which is an extremely low bar to meet. Most of the post is spent disputing a specific line of evidence that he thinks is not quite as strong in ruling out an ancient bottleneck as some other biologists believe. He has hardly made a two-person bottleneck plausible, nor did he intend to. Also, I think it is quite telling that any biologist at all would say that we have heliocentric certainty against the two-person bottleneck. Even if that claim is overconfident, you still need very strong evidence for something in order for scientists to claim that type of certainty, or anything close to it.

            All models are based on retrospective calculations of vast distance in the past and computer models fed by many, sometimes wrong, assumptions.

            A common adage in science is, “All models are wrong, but some models are useful.” Of course no scientific models can determine everything or account for every single possibility, but that is no reason to dismiss them. We can’t do science without them. And when all models are converging on a population size of at least thousands (and Swamidass points out in the blog that this is the case, even for the distant past), it is not very plausible to claim a bottleneck of just two, even if it is technically possible.

            So, it was somewhat surprising to him and others to find that if you go back before 500 kya, it is possible to find a model in which a bottleneck of just two is possible.

            That’s not what he said in the article. On the contrary, he said, “no mathematical theory of a bottleneck has been put forward yet that explains the full range of data. The only theories offered right now validated on the data do not include a bottleneck.” He didn’t put forward a plausible model of a two-person bottleneck in his blog - in fact, he didn’t put forward any model of a bottleneck at all. He only showed that certain arguments against a bottleneck don’t rule it out with absolute certainty.

            The question is only whether an Adam and Eve couple of two first true human beings is POSSIBLE in the past, NOT whether they can be proven to have existed.

            The question is whether it is plausible. Anything is possible if you make enough ad hoc assumptions or find a way to make sure the data doesn’t quite rule it out for certain. But a two-person bottleneck is not plausible - aside from having no evidence for, there isn’t even a plausible model, and there is evidence against it. The idea is also highly unlikely on its face - you need a situation to be just perfect so that the population is reduced to exactly two (which coincidentally happens at the same time that they get souls if we’re still going by Catholic theology), no more, no less, and that these two happen to meet and reproduce, and their offspring survives for many generations to eventually become today’s homo sapiens, despite the fact that the population will have to be so inbred that the beginning of humanity is like a Game of Thrones episode. That is highly implausible, especially given that the minimum viable population for humans should be much higher.

            The question is solely whether the Christian belief in Adam and Eve is rationally credible, NOT demonstrable.

            Merely being possible doesn’t make a belief rationally credible. Even being plausible doesn’t make a belief rationally credible. It’s plausible that there is a teapot-shaped asteroid orbiting between the Earth and Mars, but it would be irrational to believe in it. In order to rationally believe in something, especially something as unlikely as a two-person bottleneck, there has to be at least some evidence for it. And Swamidass, as well as every other biologist in the field, is quite clear on this point: There is absolutely no evidence for it.

            And this was Dr. Swamidass's conclusion:
            "“A very recent bottleneck (say 50 kya) seems impossible, but a more ancient bottleneck of our ancestors (if very brief) at 500 kya might be consistent with the evidence. Sometime before 500 kya, this couple would not be Homo sapiens, but they might (exact dates debatable) be the common ancestor of Homo sapiens, Denisovans, and Neanderthals.”"

            That paragraph doesn’t appear in Dr. Swamidass’s blog. I even used the Ctrl+F function to make sure I hadn’t missed it, and no matches were found. Even if it had appeared, “might be consistent with the evidence” doesn’t mean it is consistent, and all those “might”s aren’t a good case for it being rationally credible.

            As you point out, there is an alternate way to defend theological monogenism, that is, the belief that there were only two first true human parents of the entire human race. That is through an interbreeding hypothesis, which allows the required genetic material we find in modern man to have been introduced through mating of Adam and Eve's children with subhuman hominins.

            Yes, and this is consistent with the scientific evidence. However, there are a few caveats to this:
            1. Although it’s consistent with the scientific evidence, this is only because there is no scientific evidence of souls at all. Science can’t say that there was a large population of humans with human souls at the time only because science doesn’t say we have a soul at all. Taking this route only gets around the scientific problems by making the doctrine unfalsifiable, which diminishes its rational credibility.
            2. The Catholic Church explicitly rejects polygenism in Humani Generis. It is vague enough on this point that you might be able to argue that it is only rejecting polyphyletic polygenism, since “polygenism” is often used to refer specifically to that. This would make it consistent with modern science, since the monophyletic version is what is now accepted. However, that doesn’t seem to be how most interpret it:
            “Referring to Rom. 5.12 and the teaching of Trent, Pius maintained that ‘Christ's faithful cannot embrace’ either form of polygenism”
            https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/monogenism-and-polygenism
            “The doctrine that the human race derived from one original human being, identified in Scripture with Adam. This is the Church's constant traditional teaching.”
            https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=34944
            It would also seem quite strange if the Church didn’t mean to reject all forms of polygenism, even monophyletism in which humanity originated from a population of more than two whose members had to interbreed to all become fully human. The reason this would be strange is that, if such a situation is allowed under Catholic doctrine, there would be no reason for the Church to officially reject any form of polygenism.
            3. You seem to think that we can tell if someone has a soul based on cognitive activity. But the supposed “subhumans” without a human soul who interbred with humans would have to be essentially identical in cognitive capacities to humans, since they evolved as part of the same population (and we do know that cognitive abilities evolved gradually). So accepting the interbreeding hypothesis would force you to give up your ideas about the soul and intellectual activity.
            4. The strange philosophical problems associated with this view should at least give you some pause. Is beastiality intrinsically immoral? The Church would say “yes.” But this means that if you accept the interbreeding hypothesis, you must accept that God created the human species by giving two first humans souls and then having them commit intrinsically immoral sins (and grave sins at that) with the subhumans around them. But if God is all-good, and Catholic teachings on morality are correct, this couldn’t have been God’s plan for humanity. This couldn’t have even been God’s revised plan after the Fall - even if God needed the human species to populate the Earth, and relations between humans and subhumans were the only way to do this, Catholic moral teachings hold that you can’t perform intrinsically immoral actions, even if a greater good will be brought about by them, and you cannot even do something with the intent that it will lead to an evil which brings about a greater good.

            If God wants to infuse a human soul into a union between a true man and a subhuman hominin, are you going to stop him?

            No, but this is a pretty weird way for an omnipotent God to bring the human species into existence, especially if he sees reproduction between humans as a sacred thing.

            Your last point regarded the detection of human intellective activity based on artifacts and controlled use of fire. This is a purely philosophical problem.

            Which makes it appropriate for a philosophical discussion. I am just wondering what reasoning led you to come up with these as things that only beings with souls can do, while you rejected similar technologies as possible for beings without souls to create.

            And I do not have to say exactly which artifact was the first one that required an intellect to produce in order to know that intellection is required at some stage and that lower animals lack the intellect needed to produce those artifacts of a certain sophistication.

            Of course you don’t have to, but in the article you linked me to, that was what you attempted to do. In that article, you said, “Complex sentient behaviors of irrational animals enabled early primates to produce primitive stone tools, even including early Acheulean stone hand-axes exhibiting some symmetry — wrought by Homo erectus hominins dating back 1.4 million years. Still, it wasn’t until the early Middle Pleistocene period, some three-quarters of a million years ago, that later hand-axes appeared having a congruent, three-dimensionally symmetrical shape that apodictically demonstrates true human intellection.” My question is why you think that a three-dimensionally symmetric handaxe demonstrates true human intellect, but an axe with slightly less complex symmetry doesn’t. It seems like a completely arbitrary criterion, but you used it to try to demonstrate that the first true humans arose around this time. And no one is saying that lower animals have the same cognitive capacities as humans - the issue here is that our capacities evolved gradually - humans didn’t just suddenly become super smart compared to other animals. They gradually developed into the species we are today.

            Because you either have an intellect or do not, there is no such thing as a "gradual" development of having an intellectual spiritual soul.

            Intellect is not an all-or-nothing quality. For just about any intellectual capacity that humans have, there is another species that has this capacity, though usually to a lesser degree. Even the evidence you mentioned on your blog shows that human intellectual capacities developed gradually. You can still say that the soul is something else and that it didn’t evolve gradually, but I don’t find this believable. Like I said before, it doesn’t seem very fair for God to give a full human soul to one generation of humans but give nothing better than an animal soul to their parents. It becomes even less fair if there are contemporary “subhumans” who don’t get human souls despite other members of their generation, whose cognitive faculties aren’t more developed than theirs, getting souls.

            Natural scientists as such do not know this. This is a philosophical issue.

            Natural scientists know a lot about the intellect and its evolution. More than anyone else, in fact. The study of the mind is a place where science and philosophy overlap, which means that, “This is a philosophical issue,” is not an appropriate response to scientific concerns.

            And remember, even if what you claim about a population bottleneck of two first true humans not being possible is scientifically correct, the alternative scenario of interbreeding easily avoids this objection and brings the discussion back into the realm of philosophy and theology which is immune to your scientific objection.

            Yes, but that doesn’t mean that it is immune to all objections. It is immune to this scientific objection, but certain versions of it could still be susceptible to other scientific objections, and there are many philosophical and theological objections to it.

          • Joseph Noonan

            Fallen away is not pejorative unless you feel like you shouldn't have fallen away.

            Which is what the implication of calling it "falling away" is. It implies that something went wrong and that it is unfortunate that a person has strayed from the correct path.

            I think the best way to have God talk with you is for you to keep seeking him, it doesn't seem like you are doing that right now.

            Did you not read his comment? He spent more than 40 years seeking God. The only reason he's not doing it any more is because he came to the conclusion that God isn't there after his extensive search.

            there cannot be two truths that contradict each other.

            The arrogance isn't in asserting that only one religion can be true - the arrogance is in claiming, "We're right, we know we're right, and everyone else is wrong," without much justification.

  • Why would you call low birth rates catastrophic compared to "unemployment rates, poverty rates, homicide rates, life expectancy, infant mortality, education, and degree of political liberties"?

    If we didn't have lowering birth rates we would have much worse problems. I am sure people would trade their infant mortality and poverty problem for a fertility problem.

    “Most studies have shown that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes, including greater longevity, coping skills, and health-related quality of life (even during terminal illness) and less anxiety, depression, and suicide. Several studies have shown that addressing the spiritual needs of the patient may enhance recovery from illness.”

    But the very story you cite shows the US, the most religious western country tops the scale in terms of suicide, whereas virtually atheist Japan is at the bottom. So that kills this theory.

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/jun/04/what-is-depression-and-why-is-it-rising

    Sure, people in religion in developed countries may have slightly better outcomes in some metrics than atheits. But that is not the topic. The topic is comparing the US to less religious countries.

    Also sure, the west used to be more religious. It probably reached its height in the middle ages. Say the year 900? or 1400? And the same problems of infant mortality, constant war, rampant disease were common. The west thrives and excels with the Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, but really in the late 19th and particularly 20th centuries. Epochs distinguished from ealier ones by the advent of secularism, rationality, and science as opposed to monasticism and religious influence in society and governance.

    Moreover, you haven't accounted for religious harm, discrimination, and abuse. Honor killings, genital mutilation, protecting religious child molesters, witch burning, dying or killing your kids for refusing medical treatment on religious grounds, discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, denying abortion, slowing same sex marriage, the fear of hell, and the splitting of families on religious grounds are all instances of harms only religion can provide.

    By contrast, none of the goods from religion are unavailable without it.

  • BTS

    An observation of competing narratives in the current Christian (specifically Catholic) worldviews: the importance of this world vs. the next. This article is placing a strong emphasis on this world, not the afterlife. If we accept the author's premise, based on the data he presents, that religion makes the current physical world a better place, we can assume the author places a high value on working for a just, peaceful, nonviolent world.

    I wonder then, why so much pushback from Catholics and others on Pope Francis's emphasis on making things better (social justice, environmental issues, etc.) in this world rather than the next. Isn't Francis pushing forward exactly the agenda for which the author is taking so much credit but for which Francis is catching endless flack for espousing?

  • BTS

    One other musing...I think the world is in a giant transition state currently...Things are changing so fast. This will be a completely different discussion in 50-100 years. I think the picture of the benefits of holding on to religion will be much clearer then. I just hope we are not, as one poster noted, living in the world of the Handmaid's Tale.

  • Art Davison

    Yes, the world would be better off without teaching our children the fiction that is religion. Instead, we should teach them such things as honesty, compassion, love, self-sufficiency, and the other features that make us better humans. No need for religion..

  • Art Davison

    The Xtian Gawd is the biggest egotist in the universe. If you believe in him, you will be rewarded with eternal life, no matter how evil you may be. If you don't believe, it doesn't matter how good you are, you're doomed to Hell.

  • OMG

    Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there! - Dr. B., Jim the Scott, Hillclimber, and all others so blessed.

    • Jim the Scott

      Thank you ! God the Father Bless you!

    • Dennis Bonnette

      This father of seven, grandfather of twenty-five, thanks you, too!

  • ClayJames

    Everything you said could be true and yet we could still conclude that America would be better off without what most Americans describe as their religion. One based on a narrowminded cultural ideology that is more often expressed in a political form. About half of American Christians believe that Donald Trump is himself religious and therefore, without doubt, America would be better off without this significant subset of Christianity.

  • VicqRuiz

    Regardless of whether we'd be better off without religion, the "religious gene" in most people seems to be un-suppressable.

    Take away the traditional theistic faith to which this gene adheres, and we get substitutes like the current "climate change" movement, with its doctrine of the Fall of Man, its catechism, its indulgences (oops, "carbon credits") its rituals of confession and hair-shirttery, and its eschatology. We don't yet have a Savonarola for this religion, but if St. Greta of the Sailboat can convince her acolytes to throw their air conditioners and lawnmowers on the bonfire, we might just get there.

    The current Black Lives Matter movement has skipped the preliminaries and moved right to the stage of self-abasement, with white people kneeling to and washing the feet of black people. Can self-flagellation be far behind? Still too early to tell though whether it will have the staying power of the carbon cult.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      A late friend and former colleague of mine, Fr. Vincent P. Miceli, S.J., wrote a book, entitled, The Gods of Atheism (1971), in which he showed how major atheists all replaced atheism with a new god and a new religion of their own making.
      https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Atheism-Vincent-P-Miceli/dp/0870000993

      The clearest example was that of Auguste Comte, who was influential in the founding of the science of sociology and the philosophy of positivism. He created his own religion of Humanism. It was a parody of the Catholic Church, with its own pope (Comte himself!), priests (the sociologists), a set of sacraments, and even a woman, the Lady Clotilde de Vaux, for whom he had a one way passion, who played the role of the Blessed Virgin. His final sacrament made one a saint of Humanism and was conferred five years after one's death. Despite being an atheist, he would spend hours in prayer in Lady Clotilde's honor each day. He wrote to John Stuart Mill, demanding Mill and his followers support him, since he knew Mill was a closet atheist. And yes, Comte was periodically hospitalized for mental illness.

      • VicqRuiz

        There certainly is a tendency toward religious belief in the vast majority of humans. We are a pattern-finding, coincidence-rejecting lot, and desire strongly to think that the good and bad which happen to us are not just rolls of the dice.

        A few of us have no sensus divinitatis, though, just as some are albino, and some have hairy backs. We're probably the lot that Doctor Calvin would call the unelect.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          You may think you were not born with a sensus divinitatis, but you were born with a mind that can explore this finite world we live in and which just might possibly see the need for some ultimate explanation that transcends this world.

          I am always stuck by the thought that nothing takes more blind faith than to think this cosmos has just always been here and there is no reason why other than its dumb self.

          • VicqRuiz

            I am always stuck by the thought that nothing takes more blind faith than to think this cosmos has just always been here

            I'm not sure why you would include that comment when replying to me. I'm open to the idea of a caused cosmos and have been for the last twenty years. I just see no indication that the cause of that cosmos has a personal interest in me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If my assumption does not apply to you, I apologize for the inference. It is just that most people I encounter who do not accept God's existence do so because they thing the material world has no extrinsic cause.

            As for that cause of the cosmos having any personal interest in us, it seems to me that you may be thinking of the possible cause of the cosmos as existing at the time the cosmos came into existence, but then having nothing further to do with creation. This would be the philosophy of deism. It arises because deists fail to grasp that, if the world depends on God for its coming into being, it must continue to depend on God for its continued existence. "When the cause ceases causing its effect ceases." Several of my articles on Strange Notions deal with this topic.

            But, when one realizes that the First Cause cannot just "walk away" from its creation, it becomes evident that this creative causation must continue to keep the world in existence all the time going forward. Now this makes everything presently in the cosmos to be there because the First Cause is presently still causing it.

            But nothing can give what it does not have. This second causal principle means that, if there are intelligent persons in this world, then the First Cause must also be an intelligent person, which is why we call him "God."

            But if God is a person and we are persons, we immediately have some sort of interpersonal relationship -- for better or for worse! And it would seem that if, as an intelligent person, he decided to create you, then he does have some sort of personal interest in you.

            That is the good news. But, of course, if it is true, it is only the beginning of the story, not the end of it.