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Coming to Our Senses: The Moral Sense of Scripture

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Filed under The Bible

Bible - Moral Sense

NOTE: Over the past several months, we've had lots of combox discussion about how Catholics read and interpret the Bible. To help us all make sense of this question, we began a multi-part series on the topic. Once a week, for the next several weeks, Mark Shea will unpack how Catholics authentically read the Bible. He began with a general introduction, then he outlined three specific guidelines. Last week he launched into the three main spiritual senses (or lenses) through which Catholics interpret the Bible by focusing on the allegorical sense. Today, he'll cover the moral and next week conclude with the anagogical.


 

Discussing the moral sense of Scripture should seem easy. After all, we’re talking "The Good Book" here. Even when many Americans abandoned Christianity as supernatural revelation from God, they for the past couple generations still tended to treat the Bible as a solid moral code with some lingering respectability. Martin Luther King, Jr. could still appeal to it and not get hooted off the stage as recently as 40 years ago.

But the cultural consensus about the goodness of the Good Book is rapidly decaying and, for many people, it is no longer taken for granted that “the moral sense of scripture” is even a good thing. But whether they approach the Bible as the Good Book or the Bad Book, there’s one thing most of our fellow post-moderns can agree on it: it is primarily a Rule Book.

That’s just one of the many ways in which contemporary culture demonstrates its misunderstanding of Scripture. For it is not too far off the mark to say that Christ came into the world specially to destroy the notion that salvation is predicated on following the Rules and Morality.

So if the Bible is not all about law and morality, why the Ten Commandments and all the rules and regs? The basic answer of the Tradition is that laws and morality are sort of like x-rays. They are part of the healing process, but they do not heal anything. The laws and morality side of the Bible are the x-ray equipment of the Divine Physician. The law says stuff like “Don’t covet. Be generous.” and then, when you act like the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, covetous old sinner you are, you find you are breaking the law. But that’s all the law can do: tell you what’s wrong with you. It’s can’t get you an inch nearer to healing the problem with your soul once you’ve looked at the x-rays. Only Christ can do that—which is why the Bible is actually all about him, not about rules and regulations.

This does not, of course, mean Catholics say “Whee! New Testament, New Covenant! No rules! Go nuts!” It means that for us Christ is the reality while the laws, rules, and regulations of the Old Testament were, so to speak, just the shadow pointing to him. The lesson of the Old Testament, in a hundred ways, is that purity matters. And the Old Testament gets this across by making no specially strong distinctions between the “ick” created by our revulsion to sin and the “ick” created by our revulsion at eating foods that gross us out. The moral is not “God hates bacon”. The moral is “God hates sin the way you, O Israel, hate the thought of eating pork.” Eventually, once the central lesson has been learned about the sin business, Christ will make clear that we are not defiled by anything that enters the belly, but only by the evil that comes out of the heart. His solution is not “Down with rules!” but rather to give us the power to obey God and keep the law. So faith in Christ does not “free” us from obeying God, just as love does not “free” us from binding ourselves to our spouse. Rather, faith “establishes” the law of God by making us both desire to do it and able to do it.

That’s why the New Testament still commands us to do various things (starting with keeping the Ten Commandments). The point is not that the Ten Commandments will save you, but rather that saved people live as God wants them to live so that they can experience the fulness of the life of the Trinity. Living out the commands to love God and love neighbor, they will find themselves keeping the whole of the law and the prophets.

Because of this, the Church has always looked to Scripture to convey a “moral sense”: that is to communicate ways in which an authentic follower of Jesus Christ should live. This includes not merely the standard didactic moral teaching of the Judeo-Christian tradition (“Love your enemies, pay your taxes, don’t gossip, avoid impurity” etc.), but also various ways in which Christ is again “hidden” in the Old Testament.

What this presumes is that Christ teaches by means of icon as well as word. The reason the Church believes this is because Christ does, in fact, give us an example of iconographic teaching when he strips, ties a towel around his waist, and proceeds to wash the feet of the disciples on Maundy Thursday. He offers us a picture rather than a preachment and tells us to do likewise. The Church, following this clue, does what we all do when reading a familiar tale and starts seeing moral lessons elsewhere. For instance, she (like every first grader on planet earth) sees a moral lesson about courage in the face of overwhelming odds in the tale of David and Goliath. Reading the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, we see a moral image of the faith required by a disciple of Christ when we too are surrounded by lions of fear, despair, doubt, and discouragement. When we look at the Temple, Paul tells us that we are looking at an image of our own body and that we must not defile it. He gets that connection from his Master, who likewise said of his body, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

Scripture is more or less a bonanza of this sort of imagery and, again, we can ransack it at will just so long as the moral teachings we see illustrated there do not contradict what the Church teaches about, you know, morals.

Which, of course, raises a question since morals in both Scripture and in the history of the Church develop. Psalm 137 pronounces a blessing on anybody who would smash a Babylonian babies brains out on a rock. Christ? Not so much. Slavery used to be sort of reluctantly okay for Christians (cf. Philemon). Now? No.

Of course, a postmodern who is simply mining Scripture for “contradictions” will often dismiss the whole thing as rubbish. However, those in our culture who still retain something like an historical imagination will consider the possibility that precisely the problem facing the Christian description of revelation is that it involved eternity breaking into time and the Perfect revealing himself to the radically imperfect. Among other things, this means that our grasp of what God is saying to us could well take all of human history and beyond to fully see what is going on. So it would seem to me quite on the cards that when God reveals himself to a bunch of Bronze Age savages, he will likely be understood in Bronze Age savage terms involving such matters as herem—the ancient Semitic practice of slaying everybody and everything in a village as, ironically, a pious act (“See Lord! I’m keeping nothing for myself!”). One need not, I think, believe that God desires such things to see that he could use such cultural flotsam in a long-term effort (a successful one, by the way) to move Israel away from such barbarism and ultimately to the revelation of Christ, who offers Himself as a sort of burnt offering to save us from our sinful barbarism.

Because of all this, I don’t think we can embrace any of three simple solutions to the moral complexity of Scripture. That is, we cannot simply: 1) deny the inspired character of those texts of Scripture we happen to find distasteful or troubling; 2) explain away the literal sense of Scripture by allowing some symbolic reading of it to predominate; or 3) simply affirm wholesale all Old Testament morality from hamstringing horses to stoning rebellious adolescents to butchering Canaanite babies as “the will of God.” Rather, we must be very cautious in searching through Scripture for its moral sense because the morality taught by Scripture is not a static thing.

Consider a human embryo. At one point it has a tail. But the adult human doesn’t. Is it really accurate to say humans are creatures with tails? No, even though at one stage in the womb we were. The same principle applies here. Revelation progressed like a developing embryo from the Old Testament to the New. God permitted divorce under the Mosaic Covenant, for instance. Yet Jesus would later make clear that this was a permission, not “God’s will” (Mark 10:5). Similarly, God condescended to the practice of the culture to which He first revealed Himself when He “stooped down” and submitted Himself to the practice of “cutting a covenant” with Abraham by passing between the severed halves of the animal carcasses (Genesis 15). But though God blessed forms of sacrifice and covenant which were perfectly acceptable in Abraham’s day, His ultimate goal was always to lead us to the final and full sacrifice and covenant offered by Christ. In the same way, there were moral, ethical, and philosophical insights in Abraham’s day which were good as far as they went, but they have since been fulfilled and completed by the final and full revelation offered by Christ

Consider also the Jewish understanding of the afterlife. Ecclesiastes tells us that “life is vanity” and speaks in a despairing tone about the futility of earthly existence. That is because Ecclesiastes is unaware of the resurrection of the Body which was not fully revealed until later. The author is right as far as he goes. Earthly life is futile. He simply doesn’t (and can’t) go far enough without further revelation.

Bottom line: Much Old Testament morality and theology regarding war, marriage, the afterlife, justice, and so forth is true as far as it goes, but often the author has not yet gone far enough because the Holy Spirit has not yet revealed it. In the Old Testament, the Chosen People were not yet the recipients of full revelation. That full revelation was Jesus Christ, who definitively clarified all that went before and fulfilled what was not complete. This is the idea of the development of doctrine. We understand this idea completely when we contemplate our own children. There are things we permit of (and punishments we inflict on) three year olds that are appropriate for their stage of development which would be absurd to permit of (or inflict on) a 20-year-old.

In short, in revealing himself “in time and on earth” God is obliged to work through and with a people with faults, idiosyncrasies, blind spots, and errors resulting from their being as fallen as the rest of the human race. Yet he is obliged to do so, not in order to ratify the Fall, but in order to mend it. This meant, as all teachers know, making allowances for the weaknesses of the student till the student matured further. It meant facing the fact that the world into which Israel marched out of Egypt was a real world, not an ideal one, and that facing that world (a world where idolatry, wars of extermination, child sacrifice, polygamy, and other such complicating features were the norm for all participants) would mean a long, hard road to building a civilization and an even longer road to the day when the human race was ready to hear the (at the time) unimaginable truth of Christ.

Thus, to complain that God did not immediately introduce the full moral and ethical teaching of Christ into the diet of Israel is like complaining that a parent does not immediately force feed a baby sirloin steak and a bottle of wine. It is like finding fault with a kindergarten teacher for neglecting to introduce the kidlets to the inner mysteries of integral calculus, algebra, and quantum physics. As Christ taught of divorce, so it may be said of many of the moral imperfections permitted in the Old Testament: “For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment” (Mark 10:5). It was not that God changed from the Old Testament to the New. It was that we had to grow up enough to bear the full truth about him and his demands on us. Our eyes have to get used to the Light.
 
 
Originally posted at Catholic Exchange. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: St. George's)

Mark Shea

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Mark Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. He has written more than ten books including his most recent works, The Heart of Catholic Prayer: Re-Discovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012) and The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ (Servant, 2012). Many of Mark's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Mark currently lives in Washington State with his wife, Janet, and their sons. Follow Mark through his blog, Catholic and Enjoying It!

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  • David Nickol

    Thus, to complain that God did not immediately introduce the full moral
    and ethical teaching of Christ into the diet of Israel is like
    complaining that a parent does not immediately force feed a baby sirloin
    steak and a bottle of wine.

    Aside from his teaching on divorce, it does not seem to me that Jesus changed or contradicted anything from Old Testament "morality." And it should be noted that Jesus appeals not to his own authority but to Genesis 2:24 in saying that marriage is indissoluble. And nowhere in the Old or New Testament is slavery condemned. So the "full moral and ethical teaching of Christ" is apparently incomplete.

    I don't think the whole rationale presented here works. It is one thing for the understanding of those being brought along by God to develop gradually. It is quite another thing for God to command primitive people to do things that are immoral and appalling in his name and have those commands recorded in a divinely inspired text with authority for all ages. What you are left with, then, is a divinely inspired text that is deeply contradictory and incomplete, and a Church that claims the text is fully authoritative but means whatever the Church says it means.

    And the Old Testament gets this across by making no specially strong
    distinctions between the “ick” created by our revulsion to sin and the
    “ick” created by our revulsion at eating foods that gross us out.

    This is terribly oversimplified. It is doubtful that an elaborate set of dietary laws was given to the Jews to keep them from eating what they already found repulsive. And of course if Jesus made all foods clean, his followers did not know it, otherwise there would have been no need for the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), and the Council of Jerusalem would not have left standing the prohibition (now universally ignored) against eating meat with blood in it.

    This whole approach to the Bible allows the Church to have its cake and eat it, too. The Bible is the authoritative word of God, but it is filled with "moral lessons" which must be ignored, because they were directed at a people who, at the time, were not ready to receive "good" morality, so God gave them "bad" morality.

    • Vasco Gama

      I would say that the entire article clearly contradicts your claim that

      «The Bible is the authoritative word of God, but it is filled with "moral lessons" which must be ignored, because they were directed at a people who, at the time, were not ready to receive "good" morality, so God gave them "bad" morality.»

      Although you don’t have to agree with the author, I would advise a second reading of what is actually written.

      Or it maybe the case that I failed to understand what Mark meant.

  • Sqrat

    Which, of course, raises a question since morals in both Scripture and in the history of the Church develop. Psalm 137 pronounces a blessing on anybody who would smash a Babylonian babies brains out on a rock. Christ? Not so much. Slavery used to be sort of reluctantly okay for Christians (cf. Philemon). Now? No.

    The question is raised, and rightly so, but Mr. Shea's answer seems rather inadequate. Shea is saying, in effect, that God himself once deliberately created the misleading impression that certain behaviors that are immoral, are not immoral. Indeed, (although Shea tiptoes delicately around the issue and refuses to confront it squarely), God is said to have explicitly commanded immoral behavior from time to time. God is portrayed as having said that some things that were "sins" (to use the religious terminology) were not sins, and in some cases he actually demanded that people sin.

    And God did it because, you know, those Jews, and those early Christians -- well, boys will be boys.

    • Vasco Gama

      Is it an atheist commandment that Catholics should read and interpret the scriptures as if they were lacking reason and incapable of searching and grasping their true meaning?

      If it is so, I am sorry but we are no match for your poor and deluded expectations

      • Sqrat

        Given that it's not possible to ask God what the scriptures mean, and expect to get an answer, I suppose it is true that Catholics such as yourself have little choice but to try to do whatever you can to grasp their true meaning. I would argue, however, that any attempt to do so on your part is badly compromised by the false dogma of divine inspiration.

        Atheists, when confronted with moral questions, need not trouble themselves with trying to puzzle out the "moral sense of scripture" -- they can skip that unnecessary step and get to the matter at hand.

        • Vasco Gama

          «Given that it's not possible to ask God what the scriptures mean, and expect to get an answer, I suppose it is true that Catholics such as yourself have little choice but to try to do whatever you can to grasp their true meaning.»

          It is possible to ask God what the scriptures mean. Catholics rely on faith and reason to grasp their true meaning.

          «any attempt to do so on your part is badly compromised by the false dogma of divine inspiration.»

          Why (besides your impression that God doesn’t exist and whatever derives from that impression)?

          « Atheists, when confronted with moral questions, need not trouble themselves with trying to puzzle out the "moral sense of scripture" -- they can skip that unnecessary step and get to the matter at hand.»

          Why do you think it is different with those that are not atheists, morality is subject to reason (just because it is described in the scriptures it is not an irrational code, as you seem to suggest).

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          But Sqrat, does atheism really get you off the hook on this? Doesn't any full and informed discussion of modern morality naturally involve reflections on what our forebears considered to be moral behavior? Aren't you still left asking, "How did humans convince themselves that genocide was moral?" And doesn't that question lead to similarly nuanced answers, along the lines of: "Well, maybe it wasn't the genocide per se that they recognized as moral, but rather it was the courage to join the fight and not be a passive bystander that they recognized as moral" (or something like that)?

          • Sqrat

            I would argue that one good nuanced answer is there is a widespread tendency among human beings to divide the world into two groups: "us" and "them". This is very often accompanied by two different sets of moral rules, the rules that apply to "us" and that specify what "our" moral obligations are to "us", and the rules that apply to "them" and specify what "our" moral obligations are to "them." Not infrequently, our moral obligations to "us" are more rigorous than our moral obligations to "them." And sometimes, "we" get it into our heads that "we" have no moral obligations to "them" at all, such that the only rule that applies to "them" is "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, I agree. That "us versus them" tendency is there even in non-human primates and it is still with us today, to a greater or less degree, in the way that we all interact with the world.

            So the question, which persists for both the believer and the unbeliever is: "What do we do about that tendency? Is there some core of goodness in our longstanding 'us versus them' mentality that can and should be affirmed, or are we so rotten to the core that we have to somehow float away from our animal nature?" To me, the obvious goodness that does exist in a 'us versus them' worldview is that that worldview at least entails an 'us'. 'Us' is good! If someone is thinking in terms of 'us', they are no longer just in terms of 'me'. They have moved out of themselves and they see at least the others in their tribe / nation as extensions of themselves. That much is to be affirmed and that, in my reading, is at least one part of what God is affirming in some of those otherwise ugly Old Testament stories.

            We need to move past 'us versus them', but without losing sight of 'us'. Maybe some of these Old Testament stories can at least remind us of what 'us' feels like.

          • Sqrat

            From where I sit, one thing that might help is to stop dividing the world between "us" who are going to heaven and "them" who are going to hell, and who must assuredly deserve to do so, for God is just....

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Agreed!

          • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

            You are moving the goalposts. Atheism has nothing to say on morality at all. We are talking about whether a book that explicitly contains a God ordering the murder of babies is consistent with an interpretation of that book that this same God would never do such a thing.

    • Jonathan Brumley

      Where in scripture does God command immoral behavior?

      • Sqrat

        The classic case is God's alleged commandment to wipe out the Amalekites, as recounted in 1 Samuel 15:

        1 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. 2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

        Here, God is portrayed as ordering Saul to commit what we would now call a war crime. But Saul failed to carry out the instructions precisely, since, while he had all the women and children put to death, and almost all the men, he spared the Amalekite king, and also spared the livestock. For that, God rejected Saul as king over Israel.

        You might also wish to consider, in this regard, God's command to Abraham to kill his son Isaac in Genesis 22:

        1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 2 Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

        True, God (through an angel), later told Abraham NOT to sacrifice Isaac, but it was because of Abraham's very willingness to carry out the immoral act of killing his own son as an offering to God that he was rewarded:

        15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

        • Jonathan Brumley

          OK. In both of these cases, what is commanded is immoral. Especially the case of God asking Abraham to kill his son.

          I have read various explanation of 1 Samuel 15 (including one by Mark Shea) - and so far, I haven't found a completely satisfying interpretation.

    • Moussa Taouk

      Sqrat, let's assume for a minute that God exists. And that the scriptures are in fact God's revelation to the people of Israel. How do you imagine God would have "commanded" those "immoral behaviours"? Is it possible that God's command was in effect the author's interpretation of their history as to how it came to pass that Saul lost his throne?

      • Sqrat

        No, let's instead assume for a minute that God does not exist, and that the scriptures were not in fact God's revelation to the people of Israel.

        It would follow from those assumptions that God did not command those immoral behaviors, only that someone said that he did.

        • Moussa Taouk

          If we assume that God doesn't exist, then I would only agree with your conclusion. There is no question to be settled under that assumption.

          But the article assumes God does exist, and you called into question the plausibility of the article's claims because it didn't address the idea of God "commanding" certain immoral behaviours. I was merely proposing a thought that might answer your question.

          • Susan

            But the article assumes God does exist, you called into question the plausibility of the article's claims because it didn't address the idea of God "commanding" certain immoral behaviours

            Yes. It's quite an assumption without evidence. Most of the articles here assume that a particular interpretation of a particular catholic deity exists without demonstrating the existence of that deity.

            you called into question the plausibility of the article's claims because it didn't address the idea of God "commanding" certain immoral behaviours

            Of course. Because the article is trying to make the case that there is a particular deity that exists and that that deity is the ultimate moral arbiter and that this particular book among all books is that deity's attempt to communicate morality to humans.

            What do you expect? It relies on the assumption that this deity exists and is omnibenevolent, a case that is not made in the least. It should be held accountable for this assumption and some very good people here are holding it accountable.

            Why should anyone (including you) assume that this deity exists and has the attributes you claim it has?

          • Moussa Taouk

            Hi Susan.

            I actually did expect that the question of immoral commands would be raised because I that very question in my mind as I read the article. I'm nt in a position to defend the article, but I do imagine that such a topic needs much more than an article to be able to justify every single assumption (omnibenevolence being one of those).

            There are good reasons to suppose that God exists. I guess that is one point of this website: to demonstrate the answers to various questions (and hence the existence of God) that people might have as to how such a thing could be possible.

            I hope you enjoy New Year's celebrations.

          • Susan

            I do imagine that such a topic needs much more than an article to be able to justify every single assumption (omnibenevolence being one of those).

            Yes. I'm not sure how one would justify "omnibenevolence".

            I've made several attempts here since the beginning of Strange Notions to ask what goodness is and how we would define it, let alone what omnibenevolence could possibly mean and how we would recognize it or what evidence would support it and it was mostly met with crickets. To be fair, it's disqus running a catholic site and a perfectly fair (I would say key) question like that doesn't really stand much of a chance.

            There are good reasons to suppose that God exists.

            By "God", (a vague term that I have never been able to pin down, though "God" knows I've tried), I'm forced to assume that you're talking about your particular view on a particular catholic deity among tens of thousands of deities across the world and throughout human history and if there are good reasons to believe your choice of deity exists outside of human assertions, I would be grateful if you provided your best reason.

            I guess that is one point of this website: to demonstrate the answers to various questions (and hence the existence of God) that people might have as to how such a thing could be possible.

            That would be nice. But most of the articles and discussions on this web site have piggybacked themselves off the assumption that your particular choice of deity exists.

            Calls for evidence are met with inadequate responses, vague terminology and claims that your choice of deity is beyond evidence.

            Those claims are described as "metaphysical" as though attaching the label "metaphysical" to something means you don't have to demonstrate it in any real sense. The catholic definition of "metaphysics" seems sort of like the catholic definition of "anthropology". It doesn't bear any resemblance to the terms as I have grown to understand them,which are endeavours that can't free themselves from evidence on some level.

            No. Most of this site is dedicated to articles that proceed from premises that have not established themselves through evidence. As effectively as members on both sides have engaged in dialogue, it was slanted from the get-go towards proselytizing, not towards "reasoning together".

            I hope you enjoy New Year's celebrations

            I sincerely hope you do too. Thank you for your response. :-)

          • Moussa Taouk

            Agreement on the definition of terms (benevolence, God, metaphysics etc) is ofcourse necessary for any communication to take place. Unless we're agreed to what words mean we're obviously never going to conclude anything meaningful. So I sympathise very much with that direction of thinking.

            I'm afraid I'm only a little fella without any education in philosophy, so I'd do a bad job trying to define those things very well.

            But I'd sure give it a go (apart from anthropology with which I'm not familiar enough to attempt to explain) given the right forum. Maybe at some stage someone (you?) can post an article titled "the search for meaning" regarding the definitions of words such as God and His qualities.

            For now though I feel this isn't the right moment for investigating these things because they don't relate directly to the subject of the article. And one thing that makes me shudder is when threads go way off the original purpose of a question.

            I understand what you're saying about premises. But I can see the difficulty in establishing all the premises for every article. So I think it's only fair enough to challenge premises that are specific to a particular article (such as this article... challenging the premise that "God is obliged to work through and with a people with faults, ideosyncracies..."). But it would be impractical to expect that each article can give a full explanation of every premise it makes (such as in this article... that God exists).

            Hey, how do you quote someone?? You know, when in your reply there is a vertical line, an indent, and then what the other person said... hos do you do that?

            Thanks.
            MT

          • Susan

            Agreement on the definition of terms (benevolence, God, metaphysics etc) is ofcourse necessary for any communication to take place. Unless we're agreed to what words mean we're obviously never going to conclude anything meaningful. So I sympathise very much with that direction of thinking.

            I'm glad you do. Thank you. It's fundamental.

            I'm afraid I'm only a little fella without any education in philosophy, so I'd do a bad job trying to define those things very well.

            You don''t have to be a big fella (I'm a little fella myself) to explain what you meant when you said there are good reasons to believe in "God". We're supposed to be reasoning together. That's the claim of the site but mostly it's been the same old arguments that are based on vague definitions Unconvincing "proofs".

            What do you believe in and for what reasons?

            I can see the difficulty in establishing all the premises for every article. So I think it's only fair enough to challenge premises that are specific to a particular article (such as this article... challenging the premise that "God is obliged to work through and with a people with faults, ideosyncracies...").

            But the fundamental premise is that something exists which all these articles take for granted without the site having established it. Without explaining what "God" is and supporting the claims about all the attributes assumed about it, it's like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It seems like a pointless exercise.

            What is this "God" that is supposed to exist? What is the evidence for it?

            It's fundamental. It's not your job specifically to reply to that. But it's not exactly off-topic.

            Thank you for your courteous and thoughtful reply.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Ok, check this out. I'm going to attempt my first quote.What "God" do you believe in and for what reasons? ok. Let's see if it works.

            I believe in God as professed by the Catholic Church. I suppose that it ultimately comes down to trust in the teachings of the Church, reason (that appeals for and even demands an explanation of existence of "stuff" and more specifically the existence of human beings), miracles, spiritual experience. But right at the core of the fulcrum of the balancing tipping point of the focal point of the centre of the centroid of the core? I find that ultimately it's a choice. And then the evidence lines up behind what choice one makes. Evenly distributed and defensible evidence for and against. Then one freely chooses what they want to be true.

            I never could figure why anyone in that situation would choose against believe in God. Forgive me if I'm insulting anyone, but objectively speaking the only reason I could think of is the fear of the loss of freedom to live as one pleases, and pride (i.e. the rebellion of the person to be willing to submit to a higher authority than one's self).

            Ok I'm getting carried away here. You see? Now I've gone off topic from the original article. And I'm shuddering. Oh Susan, I'm shuddering like I'm naked in the snow! Haha.

            So you know, I've submitted a "Question" to the site administrators asking that it would be a good idea to file an article about definitions of God and His traits so that we can have an appropriate forum to discuss such things.

            You're a "little fella"? Haha. Good stuff. Are you a philosopher? I mean, I'm little both in stature and in philosophical training. Pleasure to chat with you little friend :)

          • Moussa Taouk

            hmmm... the quote didn't work. I gotta try and get the hang of this thing. No spaces, and you just copy paste the stuff you want to quote in between some words, right?

          • Susan

            you just copy paste the stuff you want to quote in between some words, right?

            Yes. Specifically ...

            and

            but put the "c"s in where they belong.

            And don't forget the the forward slash on the closing

          • Moussa Taouk

            " and ".

          • Susan

            Geena explains this so much better.

            Sorry. I'm not used to explaining it.

            But try it again. Pick any phrase... "naked in the snow" for instance. :-)

            And place (but put a "c" between the "o" and the "k") before it and follow it with with a "c" between the "o" and the "k".

            Try it. There's a disqus tutorial somewhere. Anyone got a link?

          • Moussa Taouk

            I love being:

            naked in the snow

            .

          • Susan

            I love being: naked in the snow

            Perfect. :-)

          • Moussa Taouk

            WOOHOO!! Man, what an effort. Alright, thanks for that Susan.

          • Susan

            thanks for that Susan.

            You're welcome. I ain't no Geena but I'm learning.

            It's not you. It's disqus. It's not really conducive to discussions. And it takes a while to learn links and quotes and such.

            But we muddle through. If you don't stay in the discussion on a constant basis, you disappear. It's not exactly an accurate document of the discussions that actually happen here.

            It's the dog's breakfast. But it's what we've got. Don't take it personally.

          • Moussa Taouk

            < and >.

          • Moussa Taouk

            'Yes. Specifically ...'.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Ok, I think I'm polluting the internet. I give up!

          • Susan

            I believe in God as professed by the Catholic Church

            Which is what and why? (I was raised on catholic teachings and I don't). You believe that a deity exists (why?) and a sort of specific deity (what and why?) exists.

            I find that ultimately it's a choice.

            Our choices don't dictate reality. They can affect reality but only in a local sense. But what does reality care about our choices beyond our local (including planetary) impact? I am trying to distinguish here between my choice of kicking a puppy which AFFECTS reality in a horrible way and oh... say... the universe... black hole horizons and big bangs and such...

            And then the evidence lines up behind what choice one makes.

            Beware of confirmation bias.

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

            Then one freely chooses what they want to be true.

            "True" doesn't have much to do with what we want to be true. Entirely different path.

            I've submitted a "Question" to the site administrators asking that it would be a good idea to file an article about definitions of God and His traits so that we can have an appropriate forum to discuss such things

            Brilliant. Thank you. That should have been there from the beginning. I hope they take take that "question" seriously. All the discussions based on the assumption that this deity exists are half-baked without addressing this primary issue.

            I'm little both in stature and in philosophical training.

            I'm 5'8" which is neither little nor big. I was speaking about philosophy. I do know that definitions of terms are fundamental or philosophy can just make stuff up. Beware of equivocation.

            Pleasure to chat with you little friend.

            Pleasure to chat with you too, Moussa. :-)

          • Moussa Taouk

            Lots of Questions!

            You believe that a deity exists (why?) and a sort of specific deity (what and why?) exists.

            Why: Miracles, material (and human) existence doesn't explain itself, Really the human mind and its relationship with beauty, goodness and particularly truth is something that I find totally incredible if viewed with a purely materialistic sense. Also, my spiritual experiences.

            specific deity: The one preached by the Catholic Church (One God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, of all things visibile and invisible; and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord...).

            Why that one specifically: Resurrection of Jesus, The "either a liar or a lunatic or He's telling the truth" argument, subsequent catholic miracles (e.g. Tilma from Mexico, documented appearances of our Lady, Eucharistic miracles (esp Lanciano), miracles attributed to all those saints. Actually the saints are also intense reasons (if that makes sense haha). The saints are neither nuts nor deceptors. Surely some of the most amazing examples of humanity aren't just a bunch of insane people. But to worship a bit of bread is indeed insane. Their conviction is beyond your average person's conviction. And that conviction is what makes them so able to die to themselves for love of God and therefore for love of others. That correlation surely must mean something.

            That's probably the meat of it I guess.

            I accept completely your distinction between experience and choice on the one hand, and reality and truth on the other. I guess I'm saying that after having investigated the data available to me I get to a point where the scales are balanced with evidence, and there is no way to proceed except to make a choice as to which one (or I, in this case) prefers. I mean... we're talking about things that we can debate until we die. At the end of the day we must choose one or the other. The evidence is balanced and I think because of the nature of our limitted minds, and the questions that are beyond our capacity to explain them, we simply don't have the facilities to uncover the truth with a certainty that eliminates the other option.

            So with the nature of the human mind that is available to us, I can only think that it comes down to a choice.

            I'm aware of the confirmation bias. But I just think that's what naturally happens once a person has made their choice. At the bottom of it and at the end of the day, it all comes down to a little tiny choice.

            Who knows, huh? For the moment, I hope God exists. I love Him to bits. And I hope that death is indeed NOT the end. I hope life is brought to its final glory in Heaven. And my dear Susan, I swear I hope to meet you there. How good would it be to meet you?! You're cool. Haha.

          • Susan

            I swear I hope to meet you there

            What a lovely sentiment Moussa.

            How good would it be to meet you?!</blockquote?

            It's been very nice to meet you. That's the lovely thing about the internet. We have the opportunity to meet wonderful people.

            You're cool.

            Thank you. You're cool too.

            As to the other subjects, it's late. I'm fighting a cold and I must get some sleep but I intend to ask about "miracles" (which are just another subject that gets discussed but has not been defined here, nor criteria given) and all your other points.

            I promise to get started tomorrow.

          • Sqrat

            Regardless of which of those two sets of assumptions we make, it would seem that the conclusion is not entirely dissimilar. If God doesn't exist, then all of the things the Bible says about God are false. If, on the other hand, God does exist, then perhaps it's possible that at least some of the things the Bible says about God are false.

          • Moussa Taouk

            That makes sense.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    In short, in revealing himself “in time and on earth” God is obliged to work through and with a people with faults, idiosyncrasies, blind spots, and errors resulting from their being as fallen as the rest of the human race.

    In what sense would an omnipotent God be obliged to work within mundane human constraints? Gradual, fitful development of better moral systems through social struggle as societies grow, compete, and prosper is already entirely expected given naturalism. Do Catholics mean to imply that God literally can't do any better? If you meant something else, can you clarify?

    Thus, to complain that God did not immediately introduce the full moral and ethical teaching of Christ into the diet of Israel is like complaining that a parent does not immediately force feed a baby sirloin steak and a bottle of wine.

    Oh, come on. I can think of a vastly better solution in under five seconds: Inspire two books, one of which is permanent and expresses the ideal, and one of which periodically receives new chapters containing the best attainable moral advice for a social group where they are at that moment in history. To believe God supposedly settled for inspiring books that permanently express horrifyingly wrong ideals should be scandalous to an honest theist, even if they think the interpretive authority of the church is ultimately adequate to stop those dys-ideals from being acted on. This post from Mark really feels like he's sweeping the scandal under the rug.

    ...an even longer road to the day when the human race was ready to hear the (at the time) unimaginable truth of Christ.

    Isn't it rather condescending to suppose that the ancients (who science tells us had the same mental capacities as us moderns) were too morally stupid to be taught better?

    • David Nickol

      Isn't it rather condescending to suppose that the ancients (who science
      tells us had the same mental capacities as us moderns) were too morally
      stupid to be taught better?

      Not only that, but the Old Testament is full of commands from God that make no sense. The Jews of the Old Testament didn't have to understand. They just needed to obey. It is perfectly conceivable that there could have been a command against genocide in the Old Testament or slavery in the New Testament. What were the Jews or the followers of Jesus going to do? Say, "We don't understand"?

      • Vasco Gama

        Even if it is not clearly stated that genocide or slavery is morally wrong in the scriptures that is the Catholic understanding of the content of the scriptures and it is also the common moral understanding of modern humans (including Jews that don't accept the NT, it is not exclusive of Catholics).

        • David Nickol

          Even if it is not clearly stated that genocide or slavery is morally wrong in the scriptures . . .

          But the problem is more serious than no clear prohibitions. God commands genocide in the Old Testament. Why should God, in a divinely inspired text, be depicted as commanding something that almost anyone in the 21st century would condemn?

          And by the way, while most Christians would argue that genocide would be immoral for humans to commit today, many Christians are perfectly prepared to argue that God commanded genocide in the Old Testament and that it was his right to do so, and those who would not obey him and carry out genocide were committing the sin of disobedience.

          Many Christians claim that anything God is claimed to do must be good and just—like consigning people to eternal punishment in hell.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am a faithful believer, and as much as I can fail to understand some of Gods deeds or commandments that are described in the Bible I can’t disagree with them, but blame myself for my lack of understanding.

            But one thing He made clear for us today genocide and slavery are wrong and must not happen (as something we arbitrarily may choose to do).

          • David Nickol

            But one thing He made clear for us today genocide and slavery are wrong and must not happen . . .

            Exactly how did God make it clear for us today that genocide and slavery are wrong?

            We can quote the very words of God commanding genocide. Can we quote the very words of God to disregard his earlier commands to commit genocide?

            Exactly when and how did God declare slavery wrong. We can quote divinely inspired texts saying things like, "Slaves, obey your masters." Where can we find divinely inspired denunciations of slavery?

            I am a faithful believer . . .

            What do you believe? Where is the source that states explicitly what you believe in? No doubt you will say "the Church," but when you say slavery and genocide are forbidden, can you tell me exactly where the Church says that?

          • Vasco Gama

            I can't tell you where it is stated (I don't remember), but I am sure I have found it a variety of times in different places.
            I don't even understand your doubts about that.
            About slavery, one clear sign is that for the Church never was any distinction between slaves and free man, and they were treated as equal (within the Church).

          • Nicholas Escalona

            I am no expert in these matters, but... slavery is not always a well-defined concept in these kinds of discussion. When most Americans think of slavery, they think of a sick and twisted thing, full of abuse and hate. Well, the parent-child relationship is also one of master and dependent, and yes, it can be sick, twisted, abusive and hateful. But it is not normally so. Take all that I'm saying with a grain of salt - I know next to nothing about what the Magisterium has said on the issue (except that I don't think it's said much at all), and am proposing these notions a little more on my own. Again, it is very hard for the modern mind to think rationally about these questions, but we will try.

            Aristotle thought slavery was nothing more than government on the micro-scale, and as he puts it: "For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule." This was all pretty non-controversial until the Enlightenment ruined everything. You find that Scripture commands, not to abolish slavery, but that where there are masters and slaves, there be justice between them. For just one example:

            "Servants, be obedient to them that are your lords according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the simplicity of your heart, as to Christ. ...And you, masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatenings" (Eph. 6:5)
            It says very parallel things about rulers and subjects, indicating that Aristotle was probably right that slavery is just another kind of that relation.
            "Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God." (Rom. 13:1)
            "Be ye subject therefore to every human creature for God's sake: whether it be to the king as excelling; Or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good." (1 Pet. 2:13-14)

            My own conclusion is that slavery is not intrinsically wrong, and that it may even be the best condition for some people in this life (as Aristotle also argues). Unsurprising, since very few men are given to be rulers: almost all of us are given to be subjects.

            I hope, if anyone disagrees, they will engage with me rationally! I am eager to be refuted by the Church or by a good argument.

          • David Nickol

            The basis for calling slavery intrinsically evil is that a slave is the property of his or her owner, but humanbeings are not objects and can't be bought and sold. Some try to argue that slavery in the Bible wasn't really slavery, since there were some rules that minimally safeguarded some rights of slaves, but it is clear from reading the rules about the treatment of slaves (say, for example, Exodus 21) that slaves were indeed the property of their owners. For example,

            20 When someone strikes his male or female slave with a rod so that the slave dies under his hand, the act shall certainly be avenged. 21 If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

            That is, if an master delivers a fatal blow to a slave, he is guilty of wrongdoing. However, if the master beats the slave, and the slave survives a day or two and then dies, the master has done no wrong.

            Pope John Paul II clearly calls slavery intrinsically evil without explicitly using those words in Veritatis Splendor:

            . . . . the Church teaches that "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object" [that is, they are intrinsically evil]. The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: "Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons . . . . .

            Here's what the Catechism says:

            2414
            The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason—selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian—lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce
            them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord."

            It is difficult to understand why the Catechism includes the reference to St. Paul. The only way to treat a slave as not a slave is to free the slave. A humanely treated slave is still a slave. St. Paul is not condemning slavery.

          • Vasco Gama

            When St. Paul says to the Christian to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother"

            Is he not condemning slavery? It sure appears to be the case (at least to me).

          • Jay

            Would you say that 1st world countries escape treating many within 3rd and 2nd world countries like slaves? Simply because an individual is not property in name does not necessarily mean that an individual or a group of individuals have for all practical purposes become indentured servants due to their financial position and/or social class. There is a reason why such a large amount of our goods come from 3rd and 2nd world countries... The working conditions and pay are such that those within 1st world countries would not work in them, and the legal systems found within 1st world countries would not permit them to even exist (legally speaking anyway). From the JPII quotation you put above, I would definitely correlate "slavery" with "work which treat labourers as mere instruments of profit"

            This might come across as a little extreme, but as far as I'm concerned while the USA and other first world countries condemn slavery, they continue to benefit quite a bit from countries that have slave-like working conditions. The quality of life found within 1st world countries is simply not attainable unless others within the world bend over to offer their support.

            Could it be that Paul does not explicitly condemn slavery because it is such that in one form or another, there is going to always be some type of slavery and potentially within his cultural context, the slaves that he interacted with did not have the worst lives in the world? It wouldn't surprise me one bit if some of the slaves found within the Bible had a better quality of life than some of the Chinese people that helped build my apple computer.

            Of course, it does appear that we seem to have some significant different thoughts on what "slavery" is specifically.

            Take care

          • Vasco Gama

            «My own conclusion is that slavery is not intrinsically wrong, and that it may even be the best condition for some people in this life (as Aristotle also argues).»

            That corresponds to the way things were understood a long time ago, say until two thousand years ago, were the ownership of slaves was not though as immoral, but then it was immoral to treat unfairly the slaves, and the common understanding was that the masters should provide a human and fair and proper treatment to their slaves. Christianity was a movement that flourished between the lower ranks of society (it was popular among the poor and slaves) and defended an equal treatment to slaves and free man. In the western countries (let us say in Christianity) slavery was essentially inexistent however slavery existed elsewhere (such as in the Muslim world) and slavery became an issue in the western countries (in the XVI century) as a result from the discoveries and colonization of Africa and the Americas, and was justified by the wrong notion that other races were somehow inferior, but in the end slavery was almost totally abolished in the XIX century. Today it is quite clear that slavery is offensive to the dignity of the human person and it is not acceptable on those terms, and is an abomination (I beg to differ from you and consider that slavery is intrinsically wrong, although, apparently that was not so obvious in the past, such as for Socrates, or the early Christians, or others).

          • Sqrat

            That corresponds to the way things were understood a long time ago, say until two thousand years ago, were the ownership of slaves was not though as immoral, but then it was immoral to treat unfairly the slaves, and the common understanding was that the masters should provide a human and fair and proper treatment to their slaves.

            This is the way things were understood much more recently -- for example, in the slave states of the United States in 1860.

          • Vasco Gama

            and your point is?

          • Sqrat

            My point was simply as stated -- this was not just something that people thought two thousand years ago, but something people thought not more than a hundred and fifty years ago.

            The position of the Catholic Church on slavery a hundred and fifty years ago was somewhat difficult to pin down, but I think it's fair to say that it probably did not differ much from that "two thousand year old" understanding. The Church did not come out clearly and unambiguously against slavery until the last slaveholding Catholic country, Brazil, abolished it in 1888.

          • Vasco Gama

            Not really. In the west slavery was an abomination for a long time (such as in the Middle Ages) and the only reason it was accepted more recently was due to the wrong notion of racial superiority from white people (which justified slavery and segregationism in the US until quite recently), but, to be fair, not everyone though that slavery was moral, not the Church and many people didn’t saw slavery as morally acceptable. The modern slavery that you are referring to wasn’t introduced by the Church but by secular governments, such as the US, Great Britain, France, Spain,… In spite of your peculiar notions the western countries were not theocracies, and many times the states opposed the views of the Church, as they saw fit. Brazil also, such as the US, in the XIX century was a secular state, which was not under the guidance of the Church and had no obligations to the Pope.

            It seems to me that you are trying to pin every wrong doing as a responsability of the Church, in spite of the poor opinion you seem to devote to it (or is it because of it)

          • Sqrat

            The reason why slavery became widespread in the America's was not because of a notion of white racial superiority, but because slave labor was perceived to be necessary to profitably grow sugar and cotton, and to mine gold and silver. The cheaper the labor, the greater the profit, and slave labor was the cheapest labor possible. A belief in white racial superiority only entered into it to the extent that it established a modern racial rule about who could and who couldn't be enslaved ( a rule not all that different from the Old Testament rule about whom a Jew might enslave and whom he might not enslave). Black slavery had a dubious Biblical justification in the legend of the so-called "curse of Ham," in which the black descendants of Noah's son Ham were fated to be the slaves of the descendants of Noah's other (non-black) sons; in 1873, Pope Pius IX prayed for the "wretched Ethiopians in Central Africa that almighty God may at length remove the curse of Cham from their hearts".

            What you say about secular governments in the modern period is true, but beside the point. The fact is that the Catholic Church of the day did not clearly insist that individual Catholics were not allowed to hold slaves. Who was excommunicated for being a slaveholder? Consequently, many Catholics held slaves in apparent good conscience. For example, Archbishop John Carroll of Baltimore had two black servants, one a slave, one not. If the Church had declared that Catholics could not hold slaves, Carroll seems to have been unaware of it.

            While individual Catholics (including some leaders of the Church such as Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati) were certainly hostile to slavery, in the end, it was the same secular governments that had allowed slavery, under law, that banned it, under law.

          • Vasco Gama

            «While individual Catholics (including some leaders of the Church such as Archbishop Purcell of Cincinnati) were certainly hostile to slavery, in the end, it was the same secular governments that had allowed slavery, under law, that banned it, under law.»

            The Church, according to the doctrine and the pronunciations of the hierarchy was always critical in what concerns to slavery. The Church as such didn’t play any part in the institutionalization of slavery, but opposed to it the best she could and contributed to the end of slavery, of course the Church had no power to terminate slavery. Only the secular states had the power to do that, which was what happened, but to claim that the Church took no part in it is delusional.

            All you can claim is that the Church could be more firm in the opposition to slavery, I would agree with you, but to criticize the Church on this matter is unfair, because if there was a consistent opposition to slavery throughout history, it surely came from the Church.

          • Sqrat

            Catholic opposition to slavery throughout history was not consistent, but inconsistent. Ultimately, the Church could have condemned slaveholding as a sin. In practice, however, that would have been quite difficult, not just because so many Catholics profited from it, but especially because there was essentially no scriptural warrant for such a position.

          • Vasco Gama

            That is your opinion that is warranted by your disagreement with the Church (it is not like you have no bias on the subject).

            The position of the Church is consistent with the opposition to slavery throughout history. This doesn't invalidate that some people had wrong and erratic views on the subject, but taking this vies as representative is not objective.

            In spite of there is no scriptural warrant to explicitaly counter slavery that is a clear consequence of the doctrine of the Church. In spite of some people have shown to disagree with it, and found reasonable to condescend with immorality

          • David Nickol

            The position of the Church is consistent with the opposition to slavery throughout history.

            This is simply and demonstrably false. As the saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. Here is the beginning of the Wikipedia entry Catholic Church and Slavery.

            The issue of slavery was one that historically did not see a consistent position by the Catholic Church, but was a subject of a long debate that began early in the history of the Church, and which gave increased support toward abolition in the 19th century. In 1965 the Second Vatican Council declared without qualification that slavery was an "infamy" that dishonored the Creator and was a poison in society.

            Throughout most of human history, slavery has been practiced and accepted by many cultures and religions around the world. Certain passages in the Old Testament sanctioned slavery and the New Testament gave no clear teaching to indicate that slavery was now prohibited. Throughout Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages, theologians generally followed St. Augustine in holding that although slavery could not be justified under natural law it was not absolutely forbidden by that law. As a consequence the Roman Catholic Church, up until the modern era, came to accept certain types of slavery as a social consequence of the current human condition, connected by some with original sin, but teaching that slaves should be treated humanely and justly.

            You do Catholicism no good by inventing a history of opposition to slavery that did not exist.

          • Vasco Gama

            If someone opposed to slavery that was consistely done by the Church throughout.history. plus that was a clear distinction between Christian nations and the rest of the world, and a clear influence of Christianity in the humanist culture of the western countries.

          • MichaelNewsham

            As I've pointed out in other threads his is,as a simple matter of fact, false. The Church owned slaves through the Middle Ages; slavery was endorsed in several Papal Bulls; the Church finally condemned the slave trade in 1839 and even then many Catholic bishops in slave-owning countries continued to support it without pushback from the Church.

            But then,in 1866, came this from Pius IX:

            . . slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law,and there can be several just titles of slavery and these are referred to by approved theologians and commentators of the sacred canons. For the sort of ownership which a slave-owner has over a slave is understood as nothing other than the perpetual right of disposing of the work of a slave for one's own benefit - services which it is right for one human being to provide for another. From this it follows that it is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or donated, provided that in this sale, purchase, exchange or gift, the due conditions are strictly observed which the approved authors likewise describe and explain. Among these conditions the most important ones are
            that the purchaser should carefully examine whether the slave who is put up for sale has been justly or unjustly deprived of his liberty, and that the vendor should do nothing which might endanger the life, virtue or Catholic faith of the slave who is to be transferred to another's possession." [111][112]

            It being okay to buy and sell people as long as you don't have sex with them.and let them remain members of the Church.

          • Vasco Gama

            Well that means that the Church existed in the real world and was made of real people (not angels, aliens, or other perfect beings you might imagine). Being people they were able to error and in this case to be mistaken about the morality of slavery and the Church is not imune to wrong views and interests that came from the society. However the doctrine of the Church is clearly incompatible with slavery, or other secular institutions that offend human dignity.

            Even today some priests and Catholics find reasonable to condescend with immorality in debate in modern morality issues that are offensive to human dignity (that is really no novelty in the Church).

          • Nicholas Escalona

            These seems to resolve the point pretty clearly for me.
            MORE THAN ONE KIND OF THING HAS BEEN CALLED SLAVERY.
            The later documents of the Church, when condemning slavery, do not detail what they are condemning. They use essentially only the word "slavery." This imprecision is typical of the recent Magisterium and careless, for it gives the impression of having contradicted itself.
            Note how very similar Pius IX's words about the proper conditions for slavery are to the proper conditions for government! My earlier words fit right in to this understanding. For God's sake, drop the Enlightenment errors from your mind, and don't presume to overrule the teachings of the past with misinterpretations of the teachings of today.
            Pope Pius IX's vision of slavery given here is not the same thing condemned by the later Magisterium. Our way is clear: Pius IX is right, and slavery is not intrinsically wrong. Later confused teachings are using a definition of slavery as slavery which does not fulfill the sort of conditions laid down by Pius IX. Words shift in meaning over time. Certainly the word "discrimination" has had a similar shift lately. Discrimination, of course, is not intrinsically wrong; but when we use the word, often we mean "unjust discrimination."

          • David Nickol

            Pius IX is right, and slavery is not intrinsically wrong.

            I disagree. Slavery is intrinsically wrong. I think Pius IX give a rather good definition of one essential characteristic of slavery when he says:

            For the sort of ownership which a slave-owner has over a slave is understood as nothing other than the perpetual right of disposing of the
            work of a slave for one's own benefit—services which it is right for one human being to provide for another.

            In point of fact, a person's work (or labor) belongs to that person and only that person. No one else can own or sell a human being's labor except the person himself. Pope Leo XIII said in Rerum Novarum:

            Is it just that the fruit of a man's own sweat and labor should be possessed and enjoyed by any one else? As effects follow their cause, so is it just and right that the results of labor should belong to those who have bestowed their labor.

            Slavery is intrinsically wrong. Buying and selling people is wrong, even if you claim you are only buying and selling their labor. It is foolish to split hairs and say, "This kind of slavery is wrong, but that kind of slavery is not really slavery in the sense of that other kind of slavery, so not all kinds of slavery are wrong." It is like arguing that torture is wrong, but waterboarding them and claiming that waterboarding is not slavery.

          • Nicholas Escalona

            We are forced to split hairs to have a discussion on the matter because "slavery," today, is an equivocating word. It signifies a wide swath of social arrangements, including indentured servitude and the slavery of prisoners of war and convicts. But it also, by a different usage, signifies chattel slavery alone.

            So what do you make of Pius IX's words? The moral truth can't change over time. You can't interpret one teaching in a way that opposes another.

            How will I reconcile Leo XIII and Pius IX? Well, one possibility is to clarify Leo's words by pointing out that a man may give up the dominion he has over his labor to another. This happens, justly, to convicted prisoners, who gave up their dominion by violating the law. It happens in indentured servitude. Then we may connect this to Pius's requirement that the slave has been "justly... deprived of his liberty."

            I haven't been precise in talking about slavery. I suppose my conclusion is that chattel slavery is inherently unjust (it was condemned centuries before Pius IX, anyway), but that other forms of slavery are not.

            This has a parallel with the fact that rulers must treat their subjects justly, and not in any way they please.

        • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

          And even though the wearing of mixed fibres IS explicitly prohibited, this doesn't mean it is wrong. Again and again the source of the actual rules is human, not the divine text.

  • David Nickol

    So here we have two commandments within a few verses of each other. The first is still quoted as moral law. The second, while still binding in Judaism and Islam, is considered totally without moral content by Christians.

    Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.

    Leviticus 20:18 If a man lies with a woman during her menstrual period and has intercourse with her, he has laid bare the source of her flow and she has uncovered it. The two of them shall be cut off from the people.

    Also, of course, many Christians would quote Leviticus 18:22 or 20:13 as an argument against homosexuality or same-sex marriage, but according to the argument that God led humanity gradually to an understanding of what is good, there is no reason (it seems to me) to argue that the harsh commands against "sodomy" are just as culture-bound and time-bound as the prohibition against intercourse during menstruation.

    Almost anything in the Bible can be explained away or made irrelevant by the commonly used principles of "biblical interpretation." For example, in Matthew 23:9 Jesus said, "Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven." Yet this is not interpreted to mean what it says, and Catholics not only call their biological fathers father, but call priests and popes father as well.

  • Renard Wolfe

    When the bible agrees with you, its the word of God. When the bible disagrees with you it needs to be "interpreted".

    What's left is YOUR idea of morality. No more. No less. Another human being, the same as anyone else without any divine mandate to fall back on.

    You are not being guided bible the bible, you are guiding it. Its kind of like gerrymandering for religion...

  • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

    Objective morality depends on God, but God isn't willing to tell us what it is? That's the conclusion I draw from the blog's theist authors. And it completely contradicts the notion promulgated here that atheists can only rely on subjective morality while Catholics have access to objective moral truth.

    Further, since we can't know whether we've reached the point where God has revealed the last of His teachings, it's possible that God is still commanding us to do things that He will later reveal to be immoral.

    For instance (just to use one of my favorite topics), perhaps God decided we haven't been ready for the Truth that same-sex marriage is moral and good, but after 2000 years of us mulling over Jesus' teachings of love and acceptance, He's decided the time is now right for our enlightenment.

    • Margo

      Except that God specifically designed marriage to be between a man and a woman for the purposes of coming together as ONE to create new life. He created two genders and made them complementary on purpose. Otherwise, God probably would have stuck with just one gender. Also, God's plans involve doing what is right and not about doing whatever gives you pleasure. So, nope, same sex marriage will NEVER be moral in God's eyes. He wants us all to be pure, which for some people means lifelong celibacy. Thank God there is so much more to life than sex! :)

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Unless, of course, God has decided we're ready for a more enlightened view of this matter, as happened with genocide, slavery, and the question of whether to "smash a Babylonian babies brains out on a rock."

        (Also, when you write, "God's plans involve doing what is right and not about doing whatever gives you pleasure," I don't see what that has to do with same-sex vs. opposite sex marriage).

        • Margo

          No procreation is possible with two men or two women and the sexual act hence becomes about the pleasure received from it.

          In God's eyes, marriage is about unity and procreation (children).

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Which is why the infertile and elderly are forbidden to marry?Also, you seem to be reducing marriage to just the sex act and nothing more. Trust me, when a gay person supports their partner for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, pleasure is not the fundamental motivation.

            But I can see that I'm on the verge of derailing my own subthread, so I'll step away from this topic (feel free to reply, though) and get back to my original point:

            This post contradicts the notion promulgated here that atheists can only rely on subjective morality while Catholics have access to objective moral truth.

          • Margo

            Actually, all people have access to the objective moral truth. And Catholicism is open to all people (Catholic means "universal"). Ultimately, it comes down to individual choice, whether you put your faith, hope, and love in God or in something else. Atheists always have the option of becoming Catholic and will be welcomed with open arms :)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            If God is the source of objective moral truth, how can we access it if God is not revealing it to us -- if in fact He's doing just the opposite? Because that's an inescapable conclusion of this article: that God may not necessarily always reveal full truth, and that He may command things that are later shown to be immoral (like genocide).

          • Margo

            I think you might have missed this sentence, "That full revelation was Jesus Christ, who definitively clarified all that went before and fulfilled what was not complete."

            God has already given us the fullness of His revelation through Jesus Christ. Life now is about growing in love with Jesus, with the love helping us to desire His Will above our own. It's about not wanting to hurt your relationship with Christ by sin.

            And if you think through God's teachings logically, they truly do make sense. Are they difficult? Yup! But who said life was supposed to be easy? Jesus said that we "must take up our cross to follow Him".

            Jesus has already done everything He can to win us over -- including dying on a cross out of complete love for each person. Now, it's up to us, to choose to love or deny God. Especially in this digital age, learning about Him is quite simple, with a plethora of resources available to guide us closer to Him.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Margo, if Jesus definitely clarified everything, then why were some Christians so successful at using the Bible to defend slavery for centuries and centuries? Eventually a more enlightened view of Scripture provided an antidote but it took centuries, so the clarification and fulfillment must not have been very definitive at all.

            As for whether God's teachings as presented by the Catholic Church are logical, many would disagree (me among them).

          • Margo

            Which do you find to be illogical? Note I'm strictly speaking of logic, not whether or not you agree with the teachings or if they're bad/good.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            The teaching on same-sex relationships, for one, and more broadly, the natural law teachings I've seen on sex in general.

          • Margo

            Where's the lack of logic? If you look at the issue through the perspective of sex ONLY being about unity and procreation, then doesn't it follow that any sexual acts that exclude either aspect (or both aspects) would be considered wrong?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I don't see any reason to say that sex is ONLY about unity and procreation. Further, even if it is, I certainly see no reason to say that any sexual act that excluded one but included the other should be considered wrong.

          • Margo

            Well, think about it as a matter of respect. Should people be treated as objects for pleasure? Or should every person be loved and honored for who they are as a whole?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Many problems here, Margo:

            1. I often talk to people just because I enjoy it. Am I treating them as objects for pleasure, and if so, is that wrong?

            2. If my partner and I take mutual pleasure in a sexual act, pleasure that depends in part on the other's pleasure, and if I'm treating them with dignity and care, in what way have I reduced them to an object for pleasure?

          • Margo

            Well, are you talking to people out of genuine love and concern for them? It's not that pleasure is evil, per se, it's more that pleasure should not be the reason for our actions. Catholics view life as being completely about genuine love for God and all people. That we do EVERYTHING out of love and to glorify God.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Margo, sometimes I'm talking to people just because I like it, not because I feel love or concern.

            On the other hand, if that's your benchmark, then of course you can have non-procreative sex -- even gay sex! -- with someone in a spirit of love and concern. So you seem to be defeating your own position here.

            As for the notion that "we do EVERYTHING out of love and to glorify God," that seem utterly illogical. If God is perfect and complete, why should he desire or even care that any creature glorify him -- much less live their lives completely around that end?

          • Margo

            Because He loves us! He created each and every one of us (including you) out of love. And He has our BEST interests at heart and since He loves us, He naturally desires us to love Him. Now, even if we deny Him, He will still love us. Yet, He gave us free will so we would be free to choose to love Him. Being God, He could have made us robots who were forced to love Him, but alas, He gave free will to all humans. It is in our best interest to choose Him, even if that means giving up certain pleasures in life. "No greater love than this to lay down one's life for one's friends". Living for God is so amazing, I highly recommend it ;)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            But if He is perfect and complete, why did He need to create creatures to love Him?

          • Margo

            He did not need to. He did so out of LOVE!

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I assume then that you do not believe in Hell as a place of eternal punishment and torment.

          • Margo

            Hell is a natural consequence of our rejection of God. He will not force us into Heaven. So the choices we make now do affect how we spend eternity. Hell is the absence of God.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            There is no such thing as a "natural consequence" when it comes to matters of God. God created nature and all consequences. He is free to set up the consequences any way He likes. There is no "logical" reason why we cannot accept God after we die or why a 70-year mistake here on Earth would justify an eternal punishment.

            Surely a God who loves us would not deny us redemption at ANY point in our existence, even after our death.

          • Margo

            Think of it this way. What does redemption mean? What does it mean to want redemption? If a person truly wanted to go to Heaven, wouldn't that person do whatever it takes to go to Heaven?

            I hate to burst your bubble, but humans can't just do whatever pleases them and then just expect Heaven. No one is entitled to Heaven. We all must cooperate with/obey God. But, if you don't want God, He will respect that and not force Himself on you. You get to choose your eternity, right now, even! You can choose to love God and follow Him on the narrow path to Heaven or you can take the wide road that leads to despair.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            But Margo, why should I accept that the Catholic Church (or even the teachings of Jesus) explain "whatever it takes to go to Heaven"?

            humans can't just do whatever pleases them and then just expect Heaven

            Why not? Even if you're right, though, you've promised to give logical reasoning for these statements, but again and again all you do is assert them.

          • Margo

            Because Jesus loves you! Do you need more of a reason?

            What kind of loving relationship allows a person to do whatever they want? How would that work out on a practical level? What if humans were allowed to do whatever they desired with zero consequences/punishments?

            Heaven is being with God for all eternity, but if you don't want to be with Him now, why would you want to be with Him later? Oh and love is not about avoiding punishment. It is about genuinely loving for the sake of love, not to avoid Hell...

          • CPE

            How does a fictional character love me?

          • Margo

            What if God is indeed real? Can you imagine how amazing His love for you could be? :)

          • CPE

            What if, indeed. Sounds like a nice story but, alas, no evidence at all.

          • Margo

            No evidence?!?? Oh there's plenty of evidence, but each person must decide to accept or reject the evidence. But, it is a fallacy to claim that there is zero evidence. Try again :)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            What kind of loving relationship end with eternal punishment? And is there no middle way between eternal punishment and "zero consequences/punishments"?

            Why do you assume I "don't want to be with Him now"? Many atheists are also seekers of Truth and would want very much to be with any God they can believe in. Disbelief in your God is not to be equated with, "Eh, don't want to be with God."

          • Margo

            Okay, if you want to be with God, then follow Him. Read about Him. Place all of your faith, hope, and love in Him and be willing to give up anything and everything that goes against His Will.

            Jesus has said that the path to God is NARROW, so not much wiggle room. You either obey Him out of love or you don't. Once again I ask, why do you think you know better than God does?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Why do you think you know better than I do what God wants?

          • Margo

            I've read and studied God's teachings in depth and spend several hours a day in prayer with His True Presence in the Eucharist. I've gotten to know Jesus pretty well; He's my best friend :)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            But you promised me logical explanations and instead delivered circular reasoning.

          • Margo

            Well, I'm not going to deny Christ just to appease you. I'm sharing the Catholic perspective here...

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I understand that you're sharing the Catholic perspective. That's the problem. You promised to provide logical explanations for that perspective but all you're doing is telling me what that perspective is.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Well, I'm not going to deny Christ just to appease you.

            Huh?

          • Vasco Gama

            It appears that you don't have a clue about what God wants, in fact as an atheist you specifically deny to have a relationship with God.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            The point of atheism, of course, is that atheists have a clearer picture of what God wants than theists do, if only because atheists don't make the error of thinking God wants anything.

          • Vasco Gama

            that is amusing

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            That is condescending and adds nothing to the exchange of ideas except condescension.

          • Danny Getchell

            As I conceive of God, he would, like the Mikado, let the punishment fit the crime.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Hold on. I should accept Jesus' teachings because Jesus loves me, and I know Jesus loves me because that's one of his teachings?

            That's more circular reasoning, on top of all the circular reasoning you've provided before. In fact, you haven't even responded to my complaints that your reasoning is circular, if only to show me why it isn't.

            You promised to provide me with a logical explanation of "God's teachings." But each of your explanations starts with and depends on the prior acceptance of "God's teaching" as true. That's the same logical flaw repeated again and again, and I'm afraid I've had enough of it. Thanks for your time and effort, but if you want to convince people you can provide logical explanations, you'll have to avoid the circular fallacy.

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

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I was checking out the comments listed in your profile and saw that you wrote, "sex is really only for a husband and a wife to come together as one to create new life."

            Do you consider that God's teaching? That word "only" seems unjustifiable to me.

          • Margo

            Yup! His teaching is about self-sacrificing love, which means respecting the sexual act for what it is and not reducing it to pleasure or recreation.

          • Vasco Gama

            «then why were some Christians so successful at using the Bible to defend slavery for centuries and centuries?»

            Who are those Christians (that clearly oppose to the Church teachings anyway)?

            «As for whether God's teachings as presented by the Catholic Church are logical, many would disagree (me among them).»

            God's teachings are logical and consistent (you might disagree with them, but that is another issue).

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai
          • Vasco Gama

            The erratic notions that some believers might have have from the Catholic doctrine can't be dismissed, but those mistakes can't be confused with the practise, tradition and doctrine of the Church that is quite solid and consistent in the last two thousand years, with no parallel in human history (or anything remotely comparable). And you can compare it it other well intentioned reformative movements that a number of people tried to propose (many times in oposition to the Church), that rather commonly revealed to end in abominable humanitary disasters.

          • MichaelNewsham

            "Who are those Christians (that clearly oppose to the Church teachings anyway)?"
            Popes. Thomas Aquinas. To name but a few

          • Vasco Gama

            So there must be an explanation to the fact that until the XVI century slavery in fact nearly disappeared in the western countries (Christian), while kept in existence in rest of the world (and Christians in southern Europe were in fact kidnaped and enslaved by Muslim pirates, it was not at all like something not existing, Christianity always had to deal with slavery).

            You might try to suggest that slavery magically vanished in the west, but I might disagree.

            Aquinas did saw slavery as contrary to natural law, and consider it as a punishment (attributing its existence to the original sin).

          • David Nickol

            "That full revelation was Jesus Christ, who definitively clarified all that went before and fulfilled what was not complete."

            See my earlier messages. These are really just words, words, and more words. Jesus did not definitively clarify all matters of faith and morals. With all due respect, you are repeating catchphrases without thinking about what they mean and apparently feeling self-satisfied in doing so.

          • Margo

            Name a teaching and I'll explain it using logic and reason.

          • David Nickol

            Actually, all people have access to the objective moral truth.

            If all people have access to the objective moral truth, why is it being argued that God had to tolerate such things as genocide in the Old Testament, or slavery in the Old and New Testaments, because he had to bring people slowly to an understanding of right and wrong? I think it would be foolish of people who find that view credible to claim that now we have access to the full range of objective moral truth. It cannot be argued that the truth became crystal clear in the New Testament, since the Church has continued to develop and refine both faith and morals over the past 2000 years.

            So what does it mean to say that all people have access to the objective moral truth? Are you telling us you can give a definitive answer to any moral question? Even the Church can't do that. There are many moral questions that remain open to this day. We have touched on some of them on Strange Notions, such as whether it would have been permissible to say to the Nazis, "Anne Frank is not hiding in the attic" when in fact she was.

          • Vasco Gama

            When you claim that

            «Are you telling us you can give a definitive answer to any moral question? Even the Church can't do that.»

            It makes no sense (although you may have that impression)

            or

            «There are many moral questions that remain open to this day.»

            What are you talking about?

          • David Nickol

            What are you talking about?

            I am talking about the fact that there is not an answer to every moral question, not even from the Church. As I said previously, one well known unanswered question is whether or not it is acceptable to tell an untruth to a person who may use the truth to do harm. For example, suppose you are hiding Anne Frank in the attic to keep her safe from the Nazis, who want to kill her. The Nazis knock on your door and say, "Are you hiding Anne Frank here?" If you say, "Yes," or if you say, "I can't answer that question," they will know she is there and take her away and kill her. If you say, "No," you will be telling a lie, but if they believe you, they will go away and you will have saved her life.

            What does the Catholic teach definitively and infallibly is the answer to this moral question? It teaches that some people (including moral theologians) think it is okay to deliberately mislead the Nazis and other think it is not.

            The Church does not have, and does not claim to have, the answer to every moral question. And since we are supposed to be talking about the Bible here, it should be clear to everyone that the Bible does not contain, even implicitly, the answer to every moral question.

          • Vasco Gama

            Really is that what you think is something puzzling for the Church on morality.

            If the life of Anne depended on me telling a lie, I would lie with no major concern about that (how come this is puzzling?).

          • David Nickol

            If the life of Anne depended on me telling a lie, I would lie with no major concern about that (how come this is puzzling?).

            What is puzzling is that you say you are a Catholic, and you would tell a lie to save a life, but the common teaching of the Church is that it is never permissible to tell a lie. That is the view of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and it is what the Church teaches, although as I have noted, the common teaching of the Church is not final and not infallible.

            You might try reading Why Lying is Always Wrong in The Public Discourse. It is one of a number of articles that arose in a debate about an anti-abortion group that used deceptive tactics to show some of the inner workings of Planned Parenthood. Several "big name" Catholic scholars wrote essays criticizing the anti-abortion group on the grounds that deliberate deception (lying) is always wrong, not matter how good the motives. Several other "big names" weighed in on the other side. Edward Feser's piece

            Smith, Tollefsen, and Pruss on Lying gives his own opinion (lying is always wrong) and gives links to his own writings on the subject and a number of other essays on both sides of the debate.

            An interesting fact is that the first edition and second editions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church defined lying differently. The first edition said

            To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead into error someone who has the right to know the truth.

            In the second edition, the definition was changed to the following:

            To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error.

            The first definition leaves a giant loophole, allowing any would-be liar to say, "Well, I said something false to him, but he didn't have a right to know the truth, so it wasn't a lie." The second edition removes the loophole and is in line with Augustine and Aquinas in condemning all lies.

            It is very common in certain situations to lie for a trivial and benevolent purpose. For example, in the office where I worked, birthday parties, baby showers, retirement parties, and so on were almost always surprise parties. The person who was to be surprised was generally called to a "meeting" or in some other way deceived into showing up for his or her surprise party. According to Augustine and Aquinas (and the Church, although not infallibly and a bit tentatively), deceiving someone to get him or her to a surprise party is a sin, although a small one. But even small sins must never be committed. Likewise, telling the boss's wife the dinner she cooked was delicious, or telling your girlfriend or wife, "No, that doesn't make you look fat," is lying and therefore sinful.

          • Vasco Gama

            That is not puzzling at all (at least not for me). Moral rules don’t exist for their sake (their content has a purpose) and the Catholic view about morals is not irrational as you seem to suggest.

          • David Nickol

            I did not say the Catholic view about morals is irrational.

            If there is something that puzzles me, it is that you always defend the Catholic Church, which is fine. But I have told you that the Catholic Church teaches it is always wrong to tell a lie, even to save a life, and yet your position seems to be you would lie to save a life, and what's the problem?

            The problem is that the Catholic Church teaches that it is never to do evil that good may come of it. According to the Catholic Church, telling a lie is evil. But you say you would tell a lie to save a life and that "moral rules don't exist for their sake (their content has a purpose.)"

            Perhaps you could answer some questions.

            1. Do you believe it is a teaching of the Catholic Church that it is always wrong (sinful) to tell a lie?
            2. If you believe that truly is the teaching of the Church, do you agree with the Church?
            3. If you agree with the Church, would you tell a lie (commit a sin) to save a human life?

            4. If you believe it is a sin to tell a lie, even to save a human life, and yet you would tell a lie to save a human life, are you saying that sometimes you have to commit a sin to do the right thing?

          • Vasco Gama

            The fact that Church says that lying is wrong it is because it is understood that the lie is meant to lead someone who has the right to know the true into deception (away from truth).

            This clearly doesn’t apply with the same rigor to someone who wanted to harm Anne Frank, in this case the purpose of the required information is to do evil, which ultimately will harm not only Anne, but also whoever profited from the information in order to do evil.
            Anyway it would be absurd to expect that one should neglect to consider the possible consequences of providing this type of information, and that the only criteria to take under consideration would be to avoid lying. To me that would be irrational and immoral. The sense of morality is not to protect ourselves (that is something that we are good at), but to protect others (which in some sense can be looked as protecting ourselves while protecting others).

            But to answer your questions
            1 (in abstract) lying is always wrong (in the sense that it would be in our benefit and against the benefit of the deceived person)
            2 Yes
            3 of course (as I explained before)
            4 in abstract I would agree with you “that sometimes you have to commit a sin to do the right thing?”, if it is unavoidable and clearly justified.

          • Nicholas Escalona

            There is only one Catholic answer to the question. Lying is intrinsically wrong and no situation can ever justify it. There are encyclicals against this false moral theory of consequentialism, there is the witness of St. Augustine in a number of writings, and the consistent teaching of moral theology in the Church before the 60s.
            The Church does not teach an answer to every moral question, though. You are right about that.

          • David Nickol

            There is only one Catholic answer to the question.

            I disagree. I would say there is a "traditional" view or "common teaching," but there is no final or infallible answer. We had a whole thread devoted to this question on Strange Notions (Lying and Truth-Telling: A Question for Catholics and Atheists) which might be of interest if you were not checking out the site back then.

            I gave a number of links in my last message to Vasco Gama. The whole debate around the tactics of Live Action and whether or not lying is always wrong could not have taken place (or so it seems to me) if there was only one Catholic answer to the question of whether lying is always wrong.

            I would point out that if lying is always wrong nobody abides by the teaching. Spying, undercover drug operations, diplomacy, and maintaining relationships with family and friends all require some level of deception. If everyone was always required to tell the truth, then an undercover FBI agent, drug enforcement agent, or spy could be discovered just by asking a few simple questions. Do you really consider law enforcement personnel infiltrating terrorist groups or drug smuggling rings to be sinful liars?

          • Nicholas Escalona

            The Live Action debate could take place because of the poor state of catechesis. There is only one answer in that debate: Live Action's actions were wrong. This teaching is infallible through the ordinary magisterium. Speaking loosely, the very fact that a thing is "common teaching" MAKES IT infallible. That's more-or-less what the ordinary magisterium IS.

            (The fact that a debate on an issue exists among Catholics does not entail that both sides are legitimate opinions. For instance, there is only one correct answer regarding female ordination.)

            Now, it is a careful thing what counts as a lie and what does not. "You must not lie" does not entail "You must say what you know." The point is discussed here:
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-counts-as-lie.html

            And if you're in the mood for a little Nazi-at-the-door discussion:
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/11/murderer-at-door.html

            In both cases, "Scholastic/classical natural law theory" is nothing other than the normative ethical theory of the Catholic Church.

          • picklefactory

            I hear a lot about "the objective moral truth" but it seems to me what Catholics really have is the argument from authority, and apparently hope springs eternal, since they continue to use it.

          • Geena Safire

            Which is why the infertile and elderly are forbidden to marry?

            Actually, since 1917, infertile people who are potent can get married in the Catholic church. For the woman, she must have a vagina that can receive an erect penis to the point of ejaculation and the man must be able to generate an erection, penetrate and ejaculate semen (though it can be free of any sperm).

            If a woman has had surgery for cancer or has a birth defect that cannot be surgically altered to generate a functional-for-intercourse vagina, or if the woman is too physically fragile to handle intercourse, then she is considered impotent.

            So a postmenopausal woman is not considered impotent. A woman who has had a normal hysterectomy is not considered impotent. An elderly man who may have had a period of impotence, but where it considered that he 'conceivably' might be able to perform his conjugal duty at least once in the future may be allowed to marry.

            (Not that I think any of this makes any sense. It's just their rules.)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Hey Geena, I was being a touch ironic there.

          • Geena Safire

            Hey Rob, I kinda thought you might be, but I find the thinking process here fascinating. I bet you didn't know, for example, that married Catholic man-woman partners are allowed to practice "incomplete sodomy." that is, as long as the session ends with PIV E.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Geena, I wish I didn't know that, but spent far too much time delving in the mind of Robert P. George, et. al. It's a fascinating but alien world to me.

          • David Nickol

            No procreation is possible with two men or two women and the sexual act hence becomes about the pleasure received from it.

            It is interesting to note that the Old Testament condemns only "men lying with men," not "women lying with women." Also, as far as I know, the Bible does not condemn masturbation. (The sin of Onan is not masturbation.) Also, the Old Testament does not condemn married men having sex with unmarried women. There is also no blanket prohibition against prostitution in the Old Testament. Tamar is a heroine for posing as a prostitute and sleeping with her father-in-law to conceive a child by him.

            In God's eyes, marriage is about unity and procreation (children).

            In God's eyes? What does that mean?

          • Margo

            In God's eyes means from His perspective, which can be logically deduced. God did not give us life to do whatever we wanted or whatever feels good/pleasurable. He gave us life to love & follow Him. Sex is NOT for pleasure (pleasure is just a nice bonus part). It is only for a husband and wife to come together as ONE and create new life. So, anything outside of that is indeed sinful. Infertility is not necessary always permanent; there is still the possibility of procreation. And the elderly can complete the marriage act (penis in vagina), whereas two men or two women cannot. It ultimately comes down to always being open to life and not reducing sex to pleasure.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            "And the elderly can complete the marriage act (penis in vagina), whereas two men or two women cannot."

            But what does that matter, since they're incapable of procreation?

          • Jay

            mmmm... Considering natural law coupled with the church's teachings on human dignity, I believe the answer would involve what should potentially happen during sex. Simply because two individuals cannot procreate due to something not functioning the way it is supposed to (e.g., unable to procreate due to age, disease, disability, etc.) isn't a justification to deny them the ability to get married and have sex. There very well might be an openness to having children within the relationship, but because of some type of infirmity they are unable to have children.

            In the case of same-sex relationships, even if the two individuals were perfectly healthy, they would not be able to procreate with one another because two sperms do not equal an embryo nor do two eggs. In the first example, the individuals cannot procreate because something is not functioning the way it is supposed to. In the second, procreation is not possible because of biological realities.

            I believe this is why you see an opposition to same-sex marriage within the church but not some other types of unions where there is little to no likelihood of procreation. I hope that is helpful.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Thanks for taking the time to put this together but it still makes no sense. Either couples can procreate or they cannot. Or, to use Margo's words, either they are capable of "coming together as one to create new life," or they are not. Everything else seems like post hoc justification by people desperate to explain why infertile couples can marry but same-sex couples cannot.

          • Jay

            Sorry it wasn't too helpful. From what you said, the only thing that I can think to add to is the statement: "Either couples can procreate or they cannot." There have been numerous cases of individuals who were declared to be infertile by a doctor and then later ended up getting pregnant and having children. Also, very elderly individuals have been able to conceive as well. So... even though there is an unlikelihood of procreation for many of the individuals who enter into a heterosexual marriage, there is still a slim possibility...

            I doubt that is going to be much help either, but that was the only thing that I could think of. Do take care.

          • Ben Posin

            I think you know this is silly. Sure, some people who appear infertile are actually not. But no woman who has had a hysterectomy is bearing children. Would you bar such a woman from getting married, or annul her existing marriage? If not, be honest and admit that marriage is not dependent on fertility. To think in terms of natural law, perhaps the purpose of gay marriage is to create stable and loving families with the ability to adopt and provide for orphans. The percentage of the population that is gay is small enough that this does not threaten our survival as a species, it does the opposite, really. This makes much more sense, it seems to me, than the claims that gay marriage violates natural law. So let's all get on board with this new moral development God is leading us to!

          • Jay

            Thanks for your thoughts Ben.

            As I said to Rob, simply because an individual is unable to engage in procreation because something is not working properly does not mean that they should be denied the ability to be married. I believe that balancing natural law with the teachings of human dignity would lead one to the conclusion that simply because there is an issue that prevents one from having children, they should not be denied the ability to get married. Please look at the first post I wrote to Rob T to see what I said more specifically.

            While there are many purposes to sex, the church does not say that the only reason for sex is to make babies. Yes, there always needs to be an openness to procreation, but one does not need to have sex with the intent of making a baby. If this were the case, then I do not see why natural family planning would be suggested by many within the church and the Catechism would say

            "2370 Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality.158 These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom..."

            Outside of Catholic Church teachings...

            You say, "The percentage of the population that is gay is small enough that this does not threaten our survival as a species, it does the opposite, really."

            Please explain this quotation. I'm not sure I totally understand what you are saying.

            In regards to adoption by gay parents, I'm somewhat doubtful that gay couples are going to provide much alleviation for the number of children in need of adoption. Also, when one considers medical advances that have been made, I think it is somewhat questionable how many gay couples are going to want to adopt instead of having their own children in the future (i.e., children with both of their biological information). When one considers the medical advances that are occurring with the three-parent baby, I don't see why gay couples wouldn't want to implement this to have children with the DNA of both partners. The whole three-parent thing is being done for the sake of preventing mitochondrial disease, but I think it is very likely that it could be used in the future for gay partners looking to have a child with their own DNA.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-parent_baby

            Take care.

          • David Nickol

            The marriage to each other of a man and woman one or both of whom is infertile is permissible not because there may be a mistake and they might be a fertile couple, or because God might work a miracle and grant a child to an infertile couple. It is permissible because a man and a woman are the two kinds of beings who can reproduce together, and they may marry as long as they have the kind of sex that would result in pregnancy if they were fertile, even if they most certainly are not. To the Church, the "conjugal act" (also called the "marital act") is the only permissible sex act not because it results in pregnancy, but because it is the kind of act that results in pregnancy.

            To perform any other kind of sex act aside from sexual intercourse that is "open to life" (in form, if not in reality) is considered a misuse of sex. Sex must be done only one way even when it does not matter. If some terrible disease were to befall humankind and all men and women were rendered infertile, the Church would still forbid anything but sex in which the husband and the wife "went through the motions" of having procreative sex.

            If two 98-year-olds have been married for 80 years, and they still enjoy physical contact (kissing, cuddling, caressing), but the man is incapable of having an erection, they must not perform any sexual activity that "risks" the wife having an orgasm, because they cannot form the kind of act that would result in pregnancy. However, if the husband is still capable of performing sexual intercourse but his wife has no sexual feelings at all and is willing to accommodate her husband, then they are permitted to have sex, not because God might work a miracle and make a 98-year-old woman pregnant, but because they can perform the kind of act that makes babies.

            One of the reasons why I think this makes very little sense to most people is because, as far as I know, there no other moral reasoning that is analogous to it. For example, if the purpose of eating is to obtain nourishment, then taking sex as an analogy, eating non-nutritive substances would be sinful. Would it be a sin, then, to drink a diet soda? It gives you the pleasure of drinking a sweet, high-calorie beverage but without obtaining any nutrition, which is a good thing if you are overweight. Why is this not a sin? Why is it not a sin to chew something and spit it out? Or what if there are two primary purposes to eating. Must they both always be present, and at the same time, to make every act of eating moral?

            If someone can come up with something other than sexual intercourse that the Church applies reasoning to that is similar to the reasoning it applies to sexual intercourse, it might be very illuminating.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            David, you may not believe this, but Robert George (the church's intellectual point man on natural law and same-sex marriage) does in fact talk about the immorality of eating or drinking solely for pleasure.

            His natural law theory actually does require him to write scholarly passages about whether chewing gum is immoral. He works hard to come up with an argument that it's not (as long as it's done as part of some larger, beneficial activity), but is forced to admit that:

            a person could, we imagine, pursue pleasure in eating or chewing gum in a way divorced from larger projects such that his activity could only accurately be described as “pleasuring himself” in a way analogous to the masturbator or psychedelic drug-tripper …In that case, we would say that eating and gum chewing damage personal integrity insofar as those acts effect an existential alienation of the body from the conscious self by simply using the body as an experience-inducing machine. Thus, such behavior should, for moral reasons, be avoided.

            http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1880&context=law_faculty_scholarship (page 318)

            In fairness, I should note that despite George's intellectual prominence, some Catholic natural law theorists do not agree with his approach to natural law (though I don't know their stances on chewing gum).

          • Jay

            Well goodness gracious, you learn something new everyday! I think I need to go chew some gum now :)

          • David Nickol

            Thanks for calling this to my attention. I watch Robert George pretty closely on First Things and Mirror of Justice, but I was unaware of this paper.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            David, as a gay activist (an odd term for a centrist, consenus-building person like me), I got pulled into Robert George's orbit when I wrote a 14-part rebuttal of his article "What is Marriage?" As I read it, I kept wondering, Can you really mean this? and that kept leading me deeper into his work. As I read his theory I kept wondering, Have you ever masturbated? Have you ever had sex?.

            It's troubling when someone's reasoning leads them so far away from what we know by direct experience, and even more troubling when they don't seem to realize it.

          • Jay

            "One of the reasons why I think this makes very little sense to most people is because, as far as I know, there no other moral reasoning that is analogous to it."

            Why would that strengthen or weaken an argument?

            Also, on a spiritual level, what would be on the same level as sex? Yes there is a spirituality to eating and yes there is a spirituality to sex, but I would not put them into the same category.

            Ronald Rolheiser, a Catholic priest, states in "The Holy Longing," "...energy, especially creative energy which contains the sexual, must have some mediation, some filters, and some taboos surrounding it or it will destroy us." (pg 23)

            Rolheiser definitely understands the spiritual power of sexuality. Gluttony and chewing gum for pleasure just don't fit into the category of the powerful spirituality of sexuality.

            On the side, The Holy Longing is an excellent book. You might enjoy reading it.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Why would that strengthen or weaken an argument?

            It weakens the argument because a moral theory should be grounded on basic principles that permeate all of its teachings. When I discover that a theory comes up with a set of principles that it applies only to sex, then I begin to suspect that the teaching on sex is not grounded in basic principles but is instead an ad hoc rationalization for a position that isn't grounded in reason.

            This happens with the Church and homosexuality all the time. It's a matter of RELIGIOUS LIBERTY that Catholic adoption agencies be allowed to discriminate against same-sex parents, but no similar outcry is heard over the fact that they can't discriminate against Jewish couples -- couples who would by definition lead the child away from the Church's path to salvation!

            That makes me wonder: is it really about religious freedom, or just about being anti-gay?

            Obviously, this sort of inconsistency is not by itself evidence that one specific position is wrong. But it sets up a red flag that the proponent is not applying fundamental principles but is instead merely justifying positions they hold because, well. because.

          • Jay

            Can you please explain why you believe a moral theory should be grounded on basic principles that permeate all teachings? Why does not grounding something on basic principles indicate "an ad hoc rationalization for a position that isn't grounded in reason?" I'm not drawing the connection you are making...

            Simply giving a child to a couple that is not Catholic does not mean that the child will not attain salvation. This is likewise with giving children to a homosexual couple (also, simply because someone is in a homosexual relationship does not mean they will not attain salvation). With that in mind, giving a child to Catholic parents does not mean that the parents are not going to lead the child away from the church. My guess would be that the adoption agencies pray for the salvation of all children, regardless of who the child is given too...

            The whole issue with not wanting to give children to homosexual couples but willing to give it to non-Catholic couples such as Jews boils down to the question of "What is marriage?"

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Can you please explain why you believe a moral theory should be grounded on basic principles that permeate all teachings?

            Because since St. Thomas, the Catholic Church (and this is a Catholic site) has made this claim.

            Why does not grounding something on basic principles indicate "an ad hoc rationalization for a position that isn't grounded in reason?"

            Because when an institution like the Church which claims to have a comprehensive code grounded on First Principles (that's actually the name of an influential Catholic intellectual publication) suddenly invents new principles just to deal with sex, the intellectual integrity of the entire edifice is called into question.

            The whole issue with not wanting to give children to homosexual couples but willing to give it to non-Catholic couples such as Jews boils down to the question of "What is marriage?"

            No, you've got some circular reasoning at play in that statemetn. The Catholic rationale is all about procreation and the good of the next generation, and the question of "What is Marriage" is based on that. So when Church policy is upset at giving children to same sex couples (who may believe in Jesus) but is fine with giving them to Jewish couples (who will lead children away from Jesus, which is the ultimate ungood), then the entire procreation/good-of-the-children argument falls to pieces and is revealed to be nothing more than anti-gay for the sake of being anti-gay.

          • Jay

            Ok... I'm familiar with the term first principles... I just studied it in my ancient philosophy class last semester. I'm going to be taking medieval philosophy next semester... Maybe I will be able to add something to this after I learn more about first principles...

            So... we have principles to deal just with human life and not with the life of animals. For example, voluntary euthanasia can be done on animals but it can't be done on humans. Does this call into question the integrity of the Catholic Church the way rules concerning sex do?

            Different issues indicate the use of different principles... As I said in my first post, concerning the powerful spirituality found within sexuality, I don't see why different rules for sexuality are necessarily bad.

            Yes, the good of the child is extremely important. This is clear on the social teaching on the formation of family:

            "The human person is not simply an individual but is also a member of a community. Failing to acknowledge the community aspect leads to a radical individualism. A full understanding of the person considers the social.aspects of the individual. The first social consideration, in order and importance, is the family. It is the basic unit of society, and it predates and in a sense surpasses all other societies in a community. Catholic social teaching emphasizes the importance of the family, in particular the importance of fostering stable marriages where children are welcomed and educated."

            A child has a right to a family and needs a family. The salvation of the child is very important. With the rationalization that you are using, then Catholics really couldn't give children away even to Protestants!

            Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes: All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way.(31) For, since Christ died for all men,(32) and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery" (Link to this document at the end of this post)

            There are some Protestants who are closer to God than some Catholics. This is probably also the case for Jews and some who might not describe themselves as religious such as agnostics.

            I'd also guess there are quite a few homosexuals who are closer to God than some heterosexuals. With all this said, I do not believe the position that giving children for adoption to non-Catholics and being unwilling to give children to gay couples is a contradictory position.

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            With all this said, I do not believe the position that giving children for adoption to non-Catholics and being unwilling to give children to gay couples is a contradictory position.

            That's pretty confounding, given everything else you wrote. Can you explain why you hold this belief?

          • Jay

            For the above two replies:

            Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes: All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way.(31) For, since Christ died for all men,(32) and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery"

            God can work through many different types of relationships, including protestant, non-Christian, as well as homosexual. While I have never worked within the adoption agency, I believe a potential rationale would be the above quote for not having an issue with putting children into non-Catholic homes.

            We then go back to the issue of "What is marriage," and we find the churches teachings on what marriage constitutes.

            I doubt this will be very convincing to you, but I continue to not see a contradiction within these two positions.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            With the rationalization that you are using, then Catholics really couldn't give children away even to Protestants!

            That's exactly my point. And yet Catholic adoption agencies don't consider it a violation of their religious freedom that they can't discriminate against Protestant couples. Why is that -- given your statement that I quoted above?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            we have principles to deal just with human life and not with the life of animals. For example, voluntary euthanasia can be done on animals but it can't be done on humans.

            Are you sure these are different principles? Doesn't the reasoning for why we can't experiment with human life also have implications for why we can experiment with animal life? If you believe these are two separate sets of reasoning, I think you're mistaken.

          • Jay

            There are underpinning principles concerning the views on life that do affect both, but with that said we are dealing specifically with the topic of life. When we are dealing specifically with the topic of sexuality, we have underpinning principles that deal specifically with the topic of sexuality...

          • David Nickol

            The whole issue with not wanting to give children to homosexual couples but willing to give it to non-Catholic couples such as Jews boils down to the question of "What is marriage?"

            Catholic adoption operations, usually run by local Catholic Charities organizations, will not place children with same-sex couples, but many of them will place children with single parents. I am not sure I would object if an adoption agency insisted that they felt the best place to raise a child was in home with a stable heterosexual marriage so that the child could have a mother and a father. But if the argument is that marriage is about raising children, and every child deserves a mother and a father, then placing a child with a single parent is at least as objectionable as placing one with a same-sex couple. If the question is "What Is Marriage?" we can debate whether a same-sex couple can be married. But no one can argue that there is such a thing as a one-person marriage.

          • Jay

            Agreed

          • MichaelNewsham

            Reminds me of the Fundie adoption outfit in Mississippi that rejected Catholic parents on Scarlet Woman/Whore of Babylon grounds.

            http://planetpreterist.com/news-2516.html

          • David Nickol

            Why would that strengthen or weaken an argument?

            It wouldn't necessarily strengthen or weaken the argument, but it might clarify it. The same basic principles that are fundamental to making the Catholic argument against homosexuality and same-sex marriage are also fundamental to the Catholic argument against contraception, and it is well known that somewhere over 90% of married Catholics of childbearing age use "artificial" contraception. The arguments against it make no sense to people. And who should we expect to know more about marital sex—celibate popes, bishops, and priests, or married couples?

            Also, on a spiritual level, what would be on the same level as sex?

            When making analogies, it is not necessary to have things on the same "level." In fact, generally you don't want to. You want to explain something complex by making an analogy to something simpler.

            My point is that the Catholic arguments about sexual intercourse and marriage are extremely intellectual and highly "technical"—they are metaphysical arguments. On the other hand, having sex is very physical and "instinctual." When reading Catholic arguments about sex, one begins to wonder if in order to do it right you need an advanced degree in moral theology!

            What I believe is that the arguments have been made more and more abstruse and technical so that they yield a predetermined result—no contraception, no homosexuality, etc. The "rules" were made first, and then the rationalizations for the rules followed, which is why neither the rules nor the rationalizations make sense.

          • Jay

            "The arguments against it make no sense to people. And who should we expect to know more about marital sex—celibate popes, bishops, and priests, or married couples?"

            Does one need to commit crime to know how crime affects an individual or a society? Does one need to have sex to know how sex affects a relationship or a society? What are your thoughts on Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae and his predictions on how contraception would affect society?Would you say his thoughts were true or false?

            "When reading Catholic arguments about sex, one begins to wonder if in order to do it right you need an advanced degree in moral theology!"

            Amen to that :P I'm taking sexual ethics in the spring. Should be fun... sort of... kind of... maybe not...

            "The "rules" were made first, and then the rationalizations for the rules followed..."

            Can you provide me with something that says that the rules were made first and then the rationalizations followed. This is not an area of expertise for me. While I'm confident there are many who do not understand the church's teachings, I think many do understand the rationalizations and simply reject them.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Does one need to have sex to know how sex affects a relationship?

            Yes.

          • David Nickol

            Can you provide me with something that says that the rules were made first and then the rationalizations followed.

            I can come very close.

            It was widely anticipated, before Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae, that the Catholic Church was going to approve birth control, at least in the form of the pill. There was formed a 72-member Pontifical Commission on Birth Control given the task of making a recommendation on the issue. It had among its members 16 theologians, 13 doctors and 16 bishops. The report of the commission, by a large majority, recommended to the pope approving the use of "artificial" contraceptives. I am having a problem at the minute finding the exact numbers. Wikipedia says there were 7 out of the 72 who did not endorse the report. Another source says, "The final votes included 'yeas' from 30 of 35 laypeople, 15 of 19 theologians, and 9 of 12 bishops (3 bishops abstained)."

            I think it is not too crazy to imagine, based on the fact that the commission was made up of experts, that if you asked any group of Catholics to study the issue and come up with a conclusion of their own, the vast majority would conclude what the vast majority of the commission concluded—that it was okay to use "artificial" birth control. It is no surprise, then, that the vast majority of Catholics who actually have to make a decision (married Catholics in their childbearing years) do not accept Humanae Vitae and go ahead and use contraceptives.

            Now, I anticipate you are going to say something like, "Truth isn't determined by the vote of a committee," and of course that's right. But I think one has to explain why such large majority of the committee thought one way and the pope thought another. This is, after all, not a matter of divine revelation. Moral decisions are (or are supposed to be) arrive at by reason. So you have to explain why the reasoning of Pope Paul VI was so superior to the reasoning of the majority of experts. How do you decide, when making reasoned arguments, whether a particular reasoned argument is conclusive and when it isn't? I would be very tempted to go with the majority of a panel of experts than with the reasoning of one man, even if that man is the pope.

            I think many do understand the rationalizations and simply reject them. . . .

            The arguments over contraception are so highly technical that I don't think it is necessary for people to understand them in order to make the right decisions of conscience. I don't think God (if there is one) would have created people who need to engage in complex metaphysical reasoning to make decisions about what to do in bed after they marry. I am not anti-intellectual, and I think there are many decisions one might be called on to make (such as how long to try to prolong the life of a terminally ill loved one) that involve very carefully weighing complex metaphysical arguments. But those tend to be once-in-a-lifetime choices. I believe there are basic decisions the majority of people are called on to make that shouldn't require a degree in moral theology to make. The Church, it seems to me, should trust married people to make the right decisions for themelves instead of the pope in effect making the rules for exactly what a man and his wife must do each and every time they have sex.

          • Jay

            Thanks for the sources David. I was well aware of the whole thing with the pope going against the majority of experts in Humanae Vitae, but those sources are very helpful.

            Historically speaking, when one considers decision making in the church, one can make the argument that the earlier church was much more likely to listen to multiple voices (e.g., laity) to determine the will of God rather the voice of one person, in this case the pope, so the whole fact that such a large number of experts were in favor of the use of contraception is quite powerful. Many scholars, including Catholic scholars such as some of my profs at Catholic Theological Union, are scornful of Humanae Vitae.

            With all this said, the majority does not always speak the voice of God (yes, I am bringing up what you said I would bring up :). Also, I'm a firm believer in the proof is in the pudding. If

            a) There is a God and

            b) God believed contraception was perfectly fine then

            c) Why would God grant Pope Paul VI the insight that he had with his predictions on what would happen on a societal level with the introduction of contraception?

            To answer your question, "So you have to explain why the reasoning of Pope Paul VI was so superior to the reasoning of the majority of experts," I would say history has shown that Pope Paul VI's reasoning on how contraception would negatively affect society has been correct. If his views had been incorrect, I do not believe God would have given him the insight he demonstrated in Humanae Vitae.

            http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/07/002-the-vindication-of-ihumanae-vitaei-28

          • David Nickol

            I disagree with you about the pope's "prophecies" coming true, but even if it were possible to make a very good case that they did, what you still seem to be saying is that while the reasoning of Humanae Vitae was not compelling enough to convince a majority of experts, you believe it must be true because God inspired the pope to predict the future in a way that seems miraculous to you in the same encyclical in which he condemned birth control. So God must have (a) given the pope the power to predict the future and (b) told the pope at the same time to go with the minority view on contraception. This, of course, is not reasoning that will convince those who do not believe that the pope gets special messages from God.

            Even if one believes Humanae Vitae was in some way "prophetic," which I don't, it was not miraculous to extrapolate in 1968 trends that were already well underway. The sexual revolution did not start with the pill, and the pill had been in use for eight years by the time Humanae Vitaewas written. The predictions were also vague.

            This, of course, gets us way off topic, since it has nothing whatsoever to do with biblical interpretation, so I will put off further discussion until there's an appropriate thread.

          • Jay

            Take care

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            [Sex] is only for a husband and wife to come together as ONE and create new life.

            That seems contrary to the direct experience of virtually everyone, so I don't see how you can build a logical case on a faulty foundation.

          • Margo

            Not everyone. Let's try to avoid generalizations :) It might shock you, but there are many many people who go their entire lives never having sex and they're usually quite joyful (Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa come to mind)

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            No, not everyone. That's why I said "virtually" everyone. Nor did I say that a person cannot be joyful without sex. I don't know where you got that.

            Nevertheless, your statement is contradicted by the direct experience of many, many people who do find sex fulfilling even when new life is not created.

          • Margo

            There are many things can be found to be fulfilling, while actually being wrong.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            There are many things can be found to be fulfilling, while actually being wrong.

            Yes, and in those cases one can generally point to a greater harm that follows from doing those things. But you've been unable to point to the greater harm that follows from non-procreative sex.

          • Margo

            Well, you're harming your soul for one thing. Not to mention making sex more important than God. And you're missing out on the all-consuming, completely fulfilling love of God. A romantic relationship between two humans is nice, but falls short of what it's like to be in love with the Lord. Sex may bring short-term/temporary happiness, but Jesus brings eternal happiness :) So why settle for anything less than perfect love?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            You're harming your soul for one thing

            You've promised to provide a logical reason behind the Catholic vision of God's teaching, but this reason only applies if you already accept that vision to be true. That's not logic, it's circular reasoning.

            Making sex more important than God

            See above.

            you're missing out on the all-consuming, completely fulfilling love of God

            See above.

            A romantic relationship between two humans is nice , but falls short...why settle for anything less than perfect love?

            Apparently we don't have to choose between the two. If opposite sex couples can have both, then why can't same-sex couples?

          • Margo

            Why stop at mere romance? Why not take the relationship and make it about unity? Why settle for less??? And I'm referring to logic from a specific perspective (that of God's vision of sex). I suppose it doesn't quite fit with the 21st century vision of "it feels good, do it". That's ok. Following God means conforming to HIM instead of this world.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I do not understand how this reply relates t my comment at all. It seems completely unconnected.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Margo, you've promised to provide logical reasoning for things like "God's vision of sex" but you're not doing that. Rather, you're building a case based on "God's vision of sex" instead of building a case for "God's vision of sex."

          • Margo

            God's vision of sex is based on the sexual complementarity between men and women. It is also based on the virtues of chastity and purity, not to mention, genuine love. I'm waiting until marriage to have sex because I desire a man who loves me for who I am as a whole, as a beautiful child of God and who will respect my sexuality. And if I never get married, I will be overjoyed to offer up my celibacy for God's glory. I am in love with Christ and only want what He wants.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Is God's vision of sex based on the sexual complementarity between men and women? Or is sexual complementarity between men and women based on God's vision of sex?

            I see some logical circularity there.

            And as for "genuine love," please tell me you don't think same-sex couples are incapable of genuine love?

            Finally, why can't a man who has sex with you before marriage also love you for who you are as a whole and respect your sexuality?

          • Margo

            Two men (or two women) can genuinely love each other as friends. But martial love is based on the sexual act, coming together as one to create new life. That's how it is. What? You know better than God?

            If a man has sex with me before marriage, that says that he is not willing to wait until marriage, that he is not willing to practice self-sacrifice out of love.

          • Renard Wolfe

            -What? You know better than God? -

            Why does this work for the biblical gods opinion on violence and sea food but not homosexuality?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            What? You know better than God?

            This is always an invalid reply because it assumes that you know what God actually wants -- and that I agree that you know what He wants (if He exists).

            Instead of "What, you know better than God?" it would be more honest to ask, "What, you know better than me?" and the answer to that is: Yes, on this topic I do believe I know better than you. That's why I disagree with you.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            So when an elderly couple finds sex fulfilling even when they know they can't procreate, they are doing wrong?

          • David Nickol

            In God's eyes means from His perspective, which can be logically deduced. . . .

            Please note that the topic is "the moral sense of scripture" (scripture being, of course, the Bible) and none of your messages in this thread say anything about the Bible.

          • MichaelNewsham

            "And the elderly can complete the marriage act (penis in vagina),"
            My grandfather couldn't, for medical reasons, when he remarried ( a woman who had had a hysterectomy) after my grandmother died. Is it Catholic teaching that that was not a legitimate marriage?

            Another question, off-topic, for the knowledgeable Catholics out there. If a couple has decided to live chastely (no sexual intercourse) can they still get married according to Catholic teaching?

          • Jonathan Brumley

            "Marriage is about unity and procreation".

            The function of marriage is unity and procreation, but marriage is most fundamentally about the conjugal act, which joins the two together as one flesh. The conjugal act is ordered to procreation, but it's not always procreative in every couple. That's why the elderly and infertile couples can truly marry as long as impotence isn't the cause of infertility.

          • David Nickol

            marriage is most fundamentally about the conjugal act, which joins the two together as one flesh . . .

            It is nice to see a reference to the Bible (even if inadvertent) in a thread on interpreting the Bible. :P

            If "the conjugal act" is what joins two together as one flesh, then it joins unmarried heterosexual couples together as one flesh and adulterous couples together as one flesh with three or possibly four (or more people). I don't think it is PVI (penile-vaginal intercourse) that joins a man and a woman together as one flesh. If so, they are only "one flesh" when having intercourse. I think it is marriage. Note the following from McKenzie's Dictionary of the Bible:

            Hebrew has no word which literally designates the living body, and "flesh" in may contexts comes nearer to this meaning than any other word. Flesh and nepes (cf soul) designate the whole living man, sometimes as the seat of emotions. The totality is also expressed by flesh and heart; in this phrase the emotional totality is emphasized. The flesh, like nepes, sometimes means the conscious self.

            Flesh designates kindred in a very concrete sense; all the members of a single kinship group have one flesh, which is conceived as a collective reality possessed by all. The community of flesh is a motive why kinsmen should not harm one another, for they harm their own flesh. Man recognizes that woman is flesh of his flesh; this does not express kinship, but community of species. Woman is unique, appearing nowhere else in nature, a help "corresponding to man." When a woman marries she becomes one flesh with her husband; she is now a member of his kinship group.

            I have modified the above quote by leaving out long strings of biblical references. Also, nepes has an accent (called a caron) on the final letter which I can't reproduce here. The word is often given as nepesh when spelled without an accent.

            Jesus says

            But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother (and be joined to his wife), and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate."

            He was talking about marriage, not "the conjugal act."

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            marriage is most fundamentally about the conjugal act

            To be more blunt, you're saying that marriage is more about the insertion of a penis into a vagina than it is about anything -- anything -- else.

            I've never seen an argument for that which holds up, and I doubt many long-time married people would agree with it.

          • David Nickol

            Hippopotamuses (among thousands and thousands of other living things) have penile-vaginal intercourse. And among humans, so do rapists (both forcible and statutory), "fornicators," adulterers, and prostitutes.

            If there is anything special about a man and a woman having sexual intercourse, it is certainly not solely the act of doing so, but the circumstances and intentions with which it is done. Certainly the vast majority of heterosexual couples who marry today, including Catholics, have had sexual intercourse with each other before they get married. It is difficult for me to imagine the first act of sexual intercourse following the marriage ceremony is fundamentally different from the many acts that came before it.

            A technical question has occurred to me, probably of no significance, but I am wondering if a couple who has cohabited and had sexual intercourse before marriagebut who (for some reason) do not have sex after their wedding ceremony are eligible for an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation.

          • Vasco Gama

            «A technical question has occurred to me, probably of no significance, but I am wondering if a couple who has cohabited and had sexual intercourse before marriagebut who (for some reason) do not have sex after their wedding ceremony are eligible for an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation.»

            Probably not (that is my guess)

          • MichaelNewsham

            I'll repost my question above here, Dave,with your clarification tagged on (this stuff is tricky)- can a couple who have NOT had premarital sex decide to enter into a chase marriage, or is intent to commit conjugal relations a necessary part of the act of marriage?

          • David Nickol

            . . . or is intent to commit conjugal relations a necessary part of the act of marriage?

            To get married in the Catholic Church, a man and a woman must be capable of having sexual intercourse with each other at least once. There was a case in Italy not too long ago in which a bishop denied a Catholic wedding to a man who was an impotent paraplegic, even though his wife-to-be was fully knowledgeable of the man's situation and wanted to marry him anyway.

            However, a couple does not have to intend to have sexual intercourse in order to get married. They may enter into what is sometimes called a "Josephite marriage," in which they mutually pledge never to have sex. As is noted frequently in these kinds of discussions, the Catholic Church teaches that Mary and Joseph were truly married, although (again, according to the Catholic Church) Mary remained a virgin her entire life.

            Some of us, of course, think that it is ironic that a couple who cannot have sexual intercourse also cannot get married (in the Church), which a couple who can have sexual intercourse can get married and then never have sexual intercourse.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            By "conjugal act", I mean an act of sexual intercourse, ordered towards procreation, and shared by two persons who have undertaken the vows of marriage.

            When I say marriage is "fundamentally" about the conjugal act, I mean that the conjugal act is the act which is most unique to the marriage relationship. It is an impossible act in other relationships - for instance, friendship or parent/child. The conjugal act expresses and completes the vows of marriage. It consummates the marriage relationship as a one-flesh union of persons.

            But marriage is not _only_ about sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse can take place outside of marriage, and marriage doesn't "happen" simply because sex has taken place. When people fornicate, but do not intend to give themselves permanently, faithfully, and fruitfully to each other, they do join their bodies together, but they do not join their persons together. If they wanted to join their persons together, they would express that intent with the vows of marriage. But people fornicate because they want to join their bodies together without the vows. (Yes, in premarital sex, they may intend to take vows, but they don't intend to take vows yet). The act of fornication has no intent to unite persons; therefore it is incapable of uniting two persons as one flesh. Without the personal intent found in the conjugal act, fornication distorts the conjugal act and turns it into an act of bodily lust rather than an act of personal communion.

            I agree that there's a lot more to marriage than the conjugal act, but without sex there is no _need_ for the permanency and fidelity of marriage - for multiple reasons. The most obvious reason not to marry is that there is no possibility of biological children. Another reason not to marry (if the conjugal act is intended) is that the people may wish to marry in the future, giving themselves completely to somebody else.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            And yet elderly and infertile opposite-sex couples marry all the time. Do you go up to them and say, "Why on earth would you want to do that? Don't you understand there's no need for marriage for people like you?"

          • Jonathan Brumley

            When you say this happens "all the time", what do you mean? How many couples marry even when they _know_ absolutely, positively, that they are infertile?

            According to the news, a 70-year old woman in India had a baby recently.

            Even if fertility were known to be 100% impossible, it would still be marriage if the conjugal act can take place. This is because the conjugal act between a man and a woman is ordered towards procreation even when health, disability or age makes procreation unlikely or impossible. In cases where a couple is unable to have biological children, a man and woman can choose to adopt and still provide a child with a mother and father.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            How many couples marry even when they _know_ absolutely, positively, that they are infertile?

            1,736,383 couple this year alone.

            Seriously the number does not matter because whether the number is high or low you don't oppose such marriages. And you can talk all you like about "the conjugal act," but your argument about the need for permanence and fidelity actually requires the possibility of children, not a going-through-the-motions of the conjugal act. Your argument inexorably leads the conclusion that there is no reason for infertile or elderly couples to marry.

            Oh, and by the way:

            How many couples marry even when they _know_ absolutely, positively, that they are infertile?

            Ever heard of hysterectomies?

            Also, that 70-year-old woman may not have even used her own egg and definitely did not conceive the child through "the conjugal act."

          • Jonathan Brumley

            The conjugal act requires permanence and fidelity because of the possibility of children, but not only because of the possibility of children - also because of the intimacy of the act.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Two problems. First, you don't get to jump from "the intimacy of the act" to "requires permanence and fidelity."

            Second, if you're going to talk about the intimacy of the act, you're going to have explain why same-sex sex isn't just as intimate.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            The conjugal should take place under vows of permanence and fidelity, and this is absolutely prudent because of the physical intimacy and emotional intimacy of the act.

            Physical intimacy occurs because the couple participates in the same function, which is the act of reproduction. Their bodies must actually be joined together to perform this function. They share bodily fluids with each other. Virginity beforehand and lifelong monogamy afterwards is, therefore, highly prudent. Without monogamy, the spread of disease is very likely. Even if physical intimacy is diminished by the use of a condom, spread of disease is likely. Studies have shown that condom use is, in practice, only 80% effective in preventing the spread of AIDS and only 50% effective in preventing the spread of some other sexually transmitted diseases. (over the course of 1 year of sexual activity). Virginity before and the promise of permanence and fidelity is the only known way to make sex "safe" from venereal disease.

            Emotional intimacy occurs because sexual stimulation and orgasm release high amounts of oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. (This same hormone is released by a breastfeeding mother). When we have sex with someone, we rewire our brain to be joined with that person. This means it really, really hurts if, after having sex with a person, that person leaves for someone else.

            Because of the effects of physical and emotional intimacy, if we have sex without the promise of permanence and fidelity, then we're actually hurting the person rather than loving that person.

            You asked what's the difference between same sex acts and the conjugal act. Regarding the level of intimacy, it seems that a similar level of intimacy occurs with same sex couples.

            The main thing that distinguishes the conjugal act from a same sex act (or from masturbation) is that the conjugal act is ordered towards reproduction. In the conjugal act, two people join their organs together in the manner in which children are conceived. The conjugal act will not always lead to reproduction, and in some couples, reproduction may be impossible; but nonetheless, the act itself is the unique and amazing act of reproduction.

            The conjugal act is more physically unitive than any other sexual act. It involves both sexes and unites them in a way that only people of the opposite sex can be united. The act unites the bodies in the reproductive function. It is a dance of hormones, bodily fluids, and sensation that is unique to the joining of man and woman. The hormones, fluids, rhythms, and chemistry are an entire fulfillment of the sexual urge in a way that no act of masturbation can be.

            In Catholic marriage, the spouses vow to be "open to life" and express this vow physically through the conjugal act. If a woman with a hysterectomy, or even an elderly couple marries, they will still make this vow of openness to life.

            If a couple can perform the conjugal act, but if they cannot successfully reproduce through that act, then there are other ways they can express the vow to be "open to life". Maybe they will adopt. If an elderly couple cannot have more biological children, then they can still be "open to life" by caring for children from previous marriages. If neither of these is possible or desirable, then there are other ways to bring fruitfulness to the vow to be "open to life". The couple can be godparents, serve as foster parents, or help care for the children of other couples.

            I'll go on to say that it is this critical role of parenthood which makes marriage an institution which should be supported by the state. Two people having sex together is mostly a private affair. But two people who share a mission in creating new life and in the care of children form the center of a family unit. The state has an interest in children and their care, and we know that children are best cared for by parents. Families form the most fundamental building block of society. In short, the state has an interest in marriage as a public institution, and not the same level of interest in relationships not ordered towards the creation and care of children.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            in some couples, reproduction may be impossible; but nonetheless, the act itself is the unique and amazing act of reproduction

            No. It's not. That statement is a self-evident contradiction.

            If a couple can perform the conjugal act, but if they cannot successfully reproduce through that act, then there are other ways they can express the vow to be "open to life". Maybe they will adopt. If an elderly couple cannot have more biological children, then they can still be "open to life" by caring for children from previous marriages. If neither of these is possible or desirable, then there are other ways to bring fruitfulness to the vow to be "open to life". The couple can be godparents, serve as foster parents, or help care for the children of other couples.

            Wow. That's a lovely explanation of why same-sex couples deserve the same marriage rights as infertile opposite sex couples -- because they can all be "open to life" in exactly the same way.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            > No. It's not. That statement is a self-evident contradiction.
            I'll try again... the act of reproduction is the act of reproduction regardless of whether conception is achieved. A man and a woman do exactly the same thing for a successful act of reproduction and for an unsuccessful act of reproduction. If they did something different, it would be a different act. (e.g. if they contracepted). But in the case of an infertile couple, only the circumstance is different; the act is the same. It is the act of reproduction.

            And I don't agree that same-sex couples can be "open to life" by caring for children in the same way as a heterosexual couple.

            A same-sex couple cannot be a mother and father, because there is either no mother, or there is no father in the relationship. A second father cannot become a mother, and a second mother cannot become a father. Therefore, there's no way that a same-sex couple can be a mother and father in the same way as a heterosexual couple.

            If two lesbians adopt a child, there are similarities to a household with a mother and father. But you can't say it's equal. If you want to show it's equal, then you need to show how a situation with two mothers is equal to a situation with a mother and a father, or you need to show how the state has equal interest in the two families even though one family has a second mother in place of the father. Furthermore, you should show why an adoption agency should place a child in a home with two mothers, when there is a home with a mother and father available.

            Heterosexual couples can give a child a mother and a father. But when an adoption agency places a child with a homosexual family, they take away the opportunity for the child to have a mother or a father, and this is for life, because parents are permanent.

            If a widow remarries another woman, the second woman cannot be a father to the widow's children. If a widow marries a man, that man can act as a father to her children.

            Rob, do you think children don't need mothers? Or do they not need fathers? Do you think "Parent 1" and "Parent 2" is an adequate replacement for "mother" and "father"? Or, if mothers are important, and if you and your partner adopt children, how will you provide a mother to them?

            When it comes to adoption, it is not a question of the right to a child, but a question of what is best for the child.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Jonathan, if a couple is infertile, no act they take together is a reproductive act.

            As far as same sex parenting is concerned, all research points to a child's need for a stable home with two loving parents. As I wrote in another reply to you, opponents of same-sex marriage have worked hard to prove that same-sex parenting is bad for kids. They've done studies and poured money into the effort, and they've come up empty.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            > Jonathan, if a couple is infertile, no act they take together is a reproductive act.

            You are conflating the consequence of an act with the act itself. I am making a statement about the act itself, whereas you are making a statement about the consequence of the act. The reproductive act is the reproductive act, whether the couple is fertile or infertile. But yes, the possible consequences are different depending on whether the couple is fertile.

            And, yes, there is a similarity between a infertile couples and same-sex couple in that neither couple can act in a way such that the consequence is conception.

            But that similarity doesn't change the fact that same-sex couples can't perform the reproductive act, and infertile couples can perform this act. Same sex couples can perform other acts: fellatio, etc, but not the reproductive act, which at minimum requires a penis, a vagina, and the ability to ejaculate.

            Natural marriage is defined by a sequence of actions, not the consequence of those actions. Marriage occurs when there is a first act (the vows), followed by a second act (consummation through the conjugal act).

            Whether or not children are conceived by the conjugal act doesn't change the status of the couple as being married. For all practical purposes, a couple can't wait until conception to be married. The conjugal act, by itself, requires fidelity and permanence because of the physical and emotional intimacy of the act.

            I understand you don't agree that this definition _should be_ the definition of marriage. For instance, why shouldn't an act of oral sex consummate a marriage? But we should be able to agree that this definition _has been_ the definition of marriage for the duration of western civilization.

            In any case, I propose we don't need to argue about what the definition of marriage _has been_.

            The relevant question, and I think you would agree - is the other thread - whether a same-sex relationship is good for or harmful to the participants, whether it is good for or harmful to society, and whether a same-sex couple _can_ and _should_ replace a mother and father as parents to a child. If it's all good, then, by all means, change the definition of marriage. But what proponents of traditional marriage (including myself) are saying, is that we think same-sex marriage fails on all three counts.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            But what proponents of traditional marriage (including myself) are saying, is that we think same-sex marriage fails on all three counts.

            But when asked for evidence you cannot provide it.

          • David Nickol

            But what proponents of traditional marriage (including myself) are saying, is that we think same-sex marriage fails on all three counts.

            I am a proponent of traditional marriage. However, I don't think proponents of traditional marriage need to be opponents of same-sex marriage.

            A great many so-called proponents of traditional marriage expend a great deal of time and money opposing same-sex marriage but otherwise fiddle while Rome burns. In the African American community today, which makes up about 13 percent of the population (and that percentage is increasing) over 70% of children are born outside of marriage. For women of all races, the out-of-wedlock birth rate is over 40%, and for women under 30 it is over 50%. Meanwhile "proponents of traditional marriage" are wringing their hands over the imagined fate of the children of same-sex marriages, in a population where gay people make up about 4% or 5% of the population, most of whom will probably never choose to marry, and of those who do, it is difficult to predict how many will raise children.

            The problems with "traditional marriage" in the United States are so dire that it is difficult to imagine why anyone pays the slightest bit of attention to same-sex marriage. As I noted elsewhere, as more and more social science data mounted showing the ill effects of divorce on children, no-fault divorce spread to every state in the country.

            The question in my mind is what proponents of traditional marriage are doing to strengthen traditional marriage among the 95% of heterosexuals in the population? It is very easy to argue that gay people should not be allowed to marry, because that does not restrict the freedom of heterosexuals to do anything they please. How about a campaign to make divorce significantly more difficult to obtain when children are involved? How popular would that be? I am guessing not very popular, because a great many supporters of traditional marriage would say, "But what if I want to get divorced some day?" This is what bugs me about the anti-SSM and anti-abortion activists. They are very intent on restricting the freedoms of other people, but the restrictions they want to see enacted leave them untouched in any way. Make some stab at cleaning up the traditional marriage mess in the United States and lowering the out-of-wedlock birth rate and the divorce rate, and then you might be able to speak with some credibility about your concern for marriage as an institution. Put some limits on your own ability to use assisted reproductive technology like in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, and then you might be credible when you express concerns over how same-sex couples might make use of the technology.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Hi David,

            I agree with you that traditional marriage is in bad shape in this country (and even worse shape in Europe), and in terms of numbers, there is a much bigger issue going on than the issue of same-sex marriage.

            BTW, I just read some awesome good news from Pew research that the teen pregnancy rate has dropped by about 50% since 1992. In addition to this, the teen abortion rate has fallen by an even greater amount.

            http://www.catholicvote.org/teen-pregnancy-rate-reaches-a-record-low/

          • Jonathan Brumley

            David,

            I'd be very interested to hear your thoughts or any links you have concerning the root cause(s) of the current problems with traditional marriage.

            Why are so many children being born out of wedlock? Why is the rate increasing among adults - and yet, teen pregnancies are decreasing? Why is the rate of cohabitating non-married couples increasing? Why is the divorce rate so high?

          • David Nickol

            I wish I knew the answers to these questions! Certainly government has made it easier to get divorced, did that increase the divorce rate (in which case maybe it was bad policy) or did it merely ease the burden on people who would inevitably divorce (in which case it was acknowledging the inevitable)?

            It seems to me that there are things that can be done even if causes are not known with great certainty. It seems reasonable to me, for example, that because better educated people tend to be more likely to marry (and stay married), a concerted effort to get people to finish high school and obtain a college education (or perhaps some good quality vocational training) would be one way to support "traditional" marriage, and of course a better-educated populating, even if it doesn't have a significant impact on marriage is still a worthwhile goal.

            I think there are many economic factors, too, some of which can be partially controlled, but many of which are beyond control for political and cultural reasons.

            But I can't pretend even to scratch the surface. I do follow with some interest the work of David Blankenhorn and the Institute for American Values. Blankenhorn had been a defender of "traditional marriage" and an opponent of same-sex marriage, but he changed his mind (and caused somewhat of a furor in ant-SSM circles) by dropping his opposition to SSM as an ineffective effort in promoting "traditional marriage." I think he is correct that doing something about the disastrous state of "traditional marriage" in no way requires opposing same-sex marriage. It will probably be far in the future (if ever) that significant percentages of gay people choose to marry, and it just seems like nonsense to me to fear that same-sex marriage will in any way diminish the inclination of heterosexuals to marry each other. It seems to me it is impossible to pin any of the problems of "traditional" (opposite-sex) marriage on the campaign for same-sex marriage, or on same-sex marriage itself where it has been legalized.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            The hormones, fluids, rhythms, and chemistry are an entire fulfillment of the sexual urge in a way that no act of masturbation can be.

            Please explain what your repeated references to masturbation have to do with same sex marriage.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Oops, the 70-year old woman used IVF, so that doesn't count. Apparently, the oldest woman to give birth, according to Guinness Book of World Records, was 59.

            Not including Abraham's wife Sarah, but that was miraculous.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Sorry, didn't see this post. I made the same point elsewhere.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            But I do appreciate your integrity in pointing it out yourself.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            And incestuous! You're wise not to use it as a precedent. :)

    • Vasco Gama

      Moral can be objective without the appeal to revelation (or to God), as with Natural Law that was proposed by the Greek pagans. You may choose to defend a subjective notion of moral, but that is your choice.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        Vasco, that's not my point at all. My point, rather, is the contradiction laid out in my first paragraph, which deals entirely with the positions laid out by the theists here, not positions expressed by atheists, pagans, or subjectivists.,

        • Vasco Gama

          I see what you mean. I don't agree that atheist have to be subjectivists (although my perception is that most tend to be consequentialists, which is still subjectivist).

          But my point is that although not all Catholics defend Natural Law, which a purely rational approach to morality that corresponds to the orthodox view of the Church (which is generally quite consistent with revelation).

      • Renard Wolfe

        Natural law is just as subjective as any humans opinion, or as these articles show, biblical interpretation. You can't appeal to it for any opinion. Its practically the appeal to nature fallacy.

        • Vasco Gama

          It seems to me that you don't understand the difference between objective and subjective.

          • Renard Wolfe

            Seriously?

            You can't defend the objectivity of "natural law" so you need to insult me like that? GIve an argument or give over.

          • Vasco Gama

            I didn’t pretend to be offensive, but your comment clearly suggests that you are confused.

            At this point you only stated that natural law is subjective, without supporting your assertion on any argument. But you might try to show that natural law is subjective (and here you don’t need to refer the scriptures or to God as natural law was proposed and defended by Greek pagans).

          • Renard Wolfe

            No, it clearly suggests that I don't see natural law the same way you do. Its a difference of opinion, not an indication of ignorance or a mental defect on my part..

            You are asserting that natural law is objective.

            "Moral can be objective without the appeal to revelation (or to God), as with Natural Law that was proposed by the Greek pagans"

            You did not provide any argument for your position to refute.I know it can be tempting to lump non christians together, but just because some pagans and I don't believe in your deity doesn't mean that I believe in their philosophy. Its rather hard to prove a negative (but I did make a start with calling it an appeal to nature fallacy) If you want to outright insult me you need to do better than passing the epistemic hot potato onto someone else for proving your points.

          • Vasco Gama

            I don't mean to insult you, I just think you fail to understand correctly what natural law or objective morality are (so you are just wrong, probably because you don't have enough information, I do not claim that you are ignorant). So I would advise you to try to see what those terms really mean, and avoid to advance unsupported statements on things you don't understand.

            I would say that probably (but I may be wrong) you support some sort of subjective morality (that are quite popular these days) and fail to understand that morality can be objective (not that you have to agree with any objective concept of morality, that is your personal choice).

            Plus what you mean by "nature fallacy" or "naturalistic fallacy" doesn't apply in this case as natural law, unlike what you seem to think, doesn’t depend on an appeal to nature to define what is good or bad (or moral/immoral).

          • Renard Wolfe

            And yet you keep insulting me without any basis.

            Demonstrate that natural law is objective. If your case for it is good enough to so rudely suggest that anyone that disagrees with you doesn't know what subjective and objective mean then surely you can articulate SOME case for it.

          • Vasco Gama

            Do you now what natural law is?

          • Renard Wolfe

            the use of reason to analyze human nature and deduce binding rules of moral behavior from it.

          • Vasco Gama

            Do you agree with me that it is possible to define what is human nature, which is what makes us what we are and that distinguish from non human natures.

            Human nature, as such, is something that is objective and unique. Even if we may disgree on what exactly is human nature.

            When I said that natural law is objective it is because it's content can be deduced rationaly by our understanding about what is to be a human being (that is objective). However you must note that asserting that it is objective it doesn't necessary mean that it is undisputable or cristal clear, because it is not the case.

          • Renard Wolfe

            -Do you agree with me that it is possible to define what is human nature-

            No. Humans are too diverse and too full of competing desires for that. The term "nature" is also rather vague. By and large the one doing the analyzing gets out exactly what they put in.

            Can you define human nature? Is it whats in 50% of the species? 100%? 75%

            - However you must note that asserting that it
            is objective it doesn't necessary mean that it is undisputable or crystal clear, because it is not the case.-

            There is a vast difference between something being less than crystal clear and something being an absolute bucket of horse feathers that reflects nothing but the personal whims of the person doing the allegedly objective analysis.

          • Vasco Gama

            Despite the fact that each human by itself is unique, and that is undisputable, we can say that there is something objective that is human nature that is distinct from a gorilla nature, form the nature of rabbit or form the nature of an eucalyptus. Despite these are all living creatures (and even if each individual is distinctive from all the other members of its species) when we speak about eucalyptus, rabbits, gorillas or human beings were refer to very distinct beings that while sharing the quality of possessing life are clearly distinguishable from each other and what distinguishes them is their specific nature that is something quite objective, in spite of your (or mine) inability to address or characterize what specifically constitutes the nature of each of those species.

            If there was no objective nature of beings we could not speak or refer to a human, a gorilla, a rabbit or an eucalyptus, as it would have no meaning. Eventually all the dialogue about objective things (even objects as pencils or rocks) would be impossible and meaningless just because any particular thing is unique (as there are no pairs of pencils or of rocks completely alike, and each individual object is ultimately unique).

          • Renard Wolfe

            -there is something objective that is human nature that is distinct from a gorilla nature, form the nature of rabbit or form the nature of an eucalyptus-

            And all that means is that those things have some similarities and some differences. It doesn't create some independent, platonic quality of "humanness", much less one that can be appealed to as an ought question.

            If we look at human nature its VERY easy to come to the conclusion that humans are a right nasty piece of work. Clannish, brutal, sex crazed fiends that easily form groups and then treat people outside of those groups with sociopath indifference. If we decide that rape is in human nature, do we then decide that not only is it ok but that its a virtue?

          • Vasco Gama

            I don't agree with you that human are as nasty as you seem to suggest.

            Morality consits in determining what is reasonable to consider as good in respect to our rights and duties.

            Rape is considered wrong in all cultures, within the same group (in Muslim societies it seems to be tolerated with enemy or infidel females).

          • Renard Wolfe

            **-I don't agree with you that human are as nasty as you seem to suggest.-***

            Well that's a bit of a problem now isn't it? You can say I don't agree with you, but you can't say that I' wrong: i have waaaaay too much of history on my side.

            Humanity has some bright spots, sure. It also has a really dark side. You can't arbitrarily declare that one is human nature and one isn't and then try to base morality off of that.. its circular.

            Its human nature because its moral and its moral because its human nature.

            ***Morality consits in determining what is reasonable to consider as good in respect to our rights and duties.***

            And shouldn't that be independent of what humans are really like?

            ***Rape is considered wrong in all cultures, within the same group (in Muslim societies it seems to be tolerated with enemy or infidel females).***

            No more than the US tolerates it when its soldiers rape say the Vietnamese.

            Like i said, its bad when it happens to you. But when its someone outside of your tribe? Sociopath.

          • Vasco Gama

            I don't want to give the impression that moral is easy or straightforward, if fact human society keeps discussing it forever, moral and ethics are areas of knowledge that exist in philosophy since it was recognized to exist. Every human as a strong sense of morality, as much as his rights (or those from the people he cares about) can be violated, and is able to extrapolate that sense to others.

          • Renard Wolfe

            -in fact human society keeps discussing it forever,
            moral and ethics are areas of knowledge that exist in philosophy since
            it was recognized to exist-

            Without coming up with any answers. Objective philosophy is pretty much an oxymoron. The fact that its been argued to death for three thousand years without any real answers is a pretty good indicator that its subjective,.

            [quote] Every human as a strong sense of morality,
            as much as his rights (or those from the people he cares about) can be
            violated, and is able to extrapolate that sense to others.[/quote]

            Someone CAN I just don't think its particularly natural for humans to do so outside of their monkeysphere.

            And how, pray tell, do you go from the above to homosexuality is bad? You're willing to tie biblical interpretation into knots when it comes to violence, rape, shellfish and picking up sticks on the sabbath but for something you personally don't like its back to the fire and brimstone.

          • Vasco Gama

            Are you trying to say that there is no moral (and that our search for a better definition of moral is meaningless), that it is an illusion, that it is subjective, that you are unable to say if something is good or bad, that we are unable to decide that harming innocent is bad and immoral, that we don't know that killing without cause a person is wrong, that theft is wrong, that killing a baby is wrong?

            That people are unable to agree on morality, or that agreement is hard to get?

            What exactly is your point in this discussion?

          • Renard Wolfe

            My point in this discussion is that you have no more moral standing than anyone else. Any moral statement you make has to stand on its own merits and arguments.

            You cannot appeal to the Bible because your functional interpretation of the bible is that the bible says whatever you think is moral. You have "re interpreted" what the bible "really" says on killing, justice, slavery, and the treatment of women to the point that the bible is not steering your ideas on morality: your ideas on morality are steering the bible.

            You cannot appeal to "natural law" because natural law itself isn't a thing. Its merely another argument. Saying natural law says is like saying "my argument says that my argument says so I'm right". If you appeal to objectively existing human nature then you run into the argument from nature fallacy.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am not claiming that I have more moral standing than anybody else.

            I think it makes no sense to apeal to the Bible, unless it was the case that I would be arguing with someone who accepted it as a source of morality.

            I defend natural law as it is objective to my understanding of what is human nature, then it just makes sense to do it with people that accept that human nature is an objective criterea (and with whom I could have a minimum understanding about what human nature is). The other alternative would be to define morality in a subjective maner, which doesn't make much sense to me, as it can turn to be quite incoherent and senseless (such as the utilitarian aproaches are).

          • Renard Wolfe

            -I defend natural law as it is objective to my understanding of what is human nature-

            Your understanding is incredibly subjective. A subjective understanding of something that, if it exists at all, is vague, fuzzy and ill defined is going to be horribly subjective. Any argument you make from it will be just as incoherent and senseless as arguing subjectively.

            Its also an appeal to nature. Just because humans ARE some way doesn't mean they SHOULD be that way. You're presuming some inherent goodness or rightness in humanity that I don't think exists. Its also problematic for dealing with non human sentients (either animals that have risen to that level or meettng up with aliens)

          • Vasco Gama

            How is it that my understanding is incredible?

            I didn't claim that natural law theory would solve all the problems and questions.

            In some sense you are right that it makes an apeal to nature, but the consideration of human nature is what makes sense, as morality is supose to regulate relashionship between humans, not monkeys or penguins, if it was the case we hould consider the nature of penguins, lions or whatever.

            I am presuming the goodness of humans because that my opinion about humans is that they search to be fair and good in relation to others, and they are very sensitive to the fact that others may not treat them accordingly.

            Natural law encompasses fairness to the way we treat animals, it doesn't have to be limited in that way.

            Do you have any alternate response that is better than natural law, which doesn't lead to the justification of arbitrary actions?

          • Renard Wolfe

            -How is it that my understanding is incredible?-

            Your understanding is not remotely well evidenced enough to be considered a fact. You are arbitrarily selecting the good parts of human nature to consider good which means that your real selection criteria is good, not human nature.

            -In some sense you are right that it makes an appeal to nature, but the consideration of human nature is what makes sense, as morality is supose to regulate relashionship between humans,-

            So is it immoral to kick a puppy?

            -I am presuming the goodness of humans because that my opinion about humans is that they search to be fair and good in relation to others,-

            And how do you come to an objective system over something as subjective as an opinion?

            -Natural law encompasses fairness to the way we treat animals, it doesn't have to be limited in that way.-

            How? If its supposed to be about relations between humans.

            -Do you have any alternate response that is better than natural law, which doesn't lead to the justification of arbitrary actions?-

            Just figure out the right thing independent of human nature. Its largely what you're doing anyway

          • Vasco Gama

            Your response, about morality,

            «Just figure out the right thing independent of human nature»

            That is what humans usually do (regardless of their view on morals), unless they are psychopaths, that is the common understanding that humans are moral creatures, people try to act according to what they consider is good (to do the right thing) and avoid doing evil (to do the wrong thing), that is what moral is all about. And humans have a strong sense of moral that they are aware by reason and by a large number of sources they have along their lives, such as education (as by what is transmitted by their family and close friends) and by society at large, in respect to social moral culture, and by reason, as in evaluating different novel situations one as to face, or to solve conflicts of interest and moral dilemmas. And the social understanding of morality is in some extent translated into laws, such as those that rule human societies.

            Plus humans are inclined to do good, insofar as even while trying to justify wrong deeds, people try to justify those deeds as good (or acceptable), in a sense that we are able to convince ourselves that the evil things we do are somehow good, and fooling ourselves in turning what is bad to good is what makes doing those things justified for us. Only psycopaths don’t need to justify what they do as good.

            In terms of morals, my personal view is that I must seek for a rational approach to morality (I don’t claim that it is perfect or that you must share my concerns), as a purely subjective perspective seems to open space to every kind of arbitrariety, and ultimately could justify any thing one could see as admissible.

            About your questions:

            « So is it immoral to kick a puppy?»

            Of course it is, there is no justification to cause unnecessary suffering (to humans or nonhumans).

            «How? If its supposed to be about relations between humans.»

            It mostly about humans, but we must respect life (which is not the same as saying that it has the same value as human life).

            «And how do you come to an objective system over something as subjective as an opinion?»

            Our cognition, our conscience, and our reasoning are subjective experiences but they concern and are directed to the objective reality (that exists objective regardless of our subjective experience).

          • Renard Wolfe

            --That is what humans usually do (regardless of their view on morals), unless they are psychopaths, that is the common understanding that humans are moral creatures,--

            Our history vehemently disagrees with this assessment.

            **Plus humans are inclined to do good, insofar as even while trying to justify wrong deeds, people try to justify those deeds as good **

            So if it is in human nature to be self deceptive, doesn't that make self deception a virtue rather than a vice the way you're doing it?

            ----In terms of morals, my personal view is that I must seek for a rational approach to morality (I don’t claim that it is perfect or that you must share my concerns)----

            It just seems that there is no basis for for rationality in morality. I think its very dangerous to claim something as having more authority than it does. I'd rather have something thats subjective but copped to it than to have something incredibly subjective pretending to be objective.

            -Of course it is, there is no justification to cause unnecessary suffering (to humans or nonhumans).--

            There's plenty of justification for it. The thing is with your human nature based morality, how do you decide that its wrong?

            «How? If its supposed to be about relations between humans.»

            Our cognition, our conscience, and our reasoning are subjective experiences but they concern and are directed to the objective reality (that exists objective regardless of our subjective experience).

            We exist as concious beings------>Something happens------> morality. It seems like the gnome underwear business mode..

          • Vasco Gama

            As I said before, «humans are inclined to do good, insofar as even while trying to justify wrong deeds, people try to justify those deeds as good», and that provides the basis to assert that human are directed to do good (or the right thing as you said), even while doing evil. If there is something that we can know about human nature is that we are naturally directed to do good and avoid evil (safe for psychopaths). With this I don’t say that doing good occurs naturally, if fact human history is full of counter examples (as you said), or that we are naturally good, but just that we are naturally directed to good. I didn’t say also that to act consistently in doing good is easy also, because it isn’t that is problematic for everyone, we are far from perfection. But nothing in reality is simple and we deal with it, we don’t complain that the world has too many colours and it be less complicated if it was black and white (in spite sometimes we would appreciate more clarity and that things we less fuzzy).

            The fact that we may be able to deceive ourselves is important, but it is not the crucial point, insofar as we are rational and we acknowledge that fact, we know very well that we can deceive ourselves, even at the level of cognition, but one knows that, if someone sees a shadow and is afraid as he thinks he may have spotted a menace, one tries to confirm that knowing that one may be wrong, the deception on the level of cognition doesn’t lead us to act irrationally. If one turns on the TV and sees some action that one recognizes as it may describe Romans we automatically know that it is not real that it is fiction, one doesn’t avoid interpreting the perception of what is reality with the assistance of reason, even if we want to fool ourselves.

            About your question on my comment:

            «there is no justification to cause unnecessary suffering (to humans or nonhumans).»

            You say:

            «There's plenty of justification for it. The thing is with your human nature based morality, how do you decide that its wrong?»

            If it is not necessary there is no justification, then it is evil (as nothing else justifies it. If there is justification (and it is well justified) then it necessary and can be tolerated.

            Like if a dog attacks you, you would have the right to defend yourself. Of if there is an epidemic transmitted by flees, you have the right to seek to exterminate them. The other thing very different is to kick a dog, without reason, besides the personal displeasure of that dog.

            Or about your reasoning:

            « I think its very dangerous to claim something as having more authority than it does. I'd rather have something thats subjective but copped to it than to have something incredibly subjective pretending to be objective.»

            First I am not claiming authority on anything, and even less on morals (I don’t really know you, so it would be pure and unjustified presumption). Second the fact that our cognition, consciousness, and reason are subjective experiences they deal with objective reality, and, even conceding that our morality as such is purely subjective, it doesn’t enable us from looking for an objective and rational understanding of it, or even that such a thing is forcely illusory as you seem to suggest.

          • Renard Wolfe

            You have arbitrarily decided that the right thing is species based- this has more than a few problems.
            Arbitrariness of the decision
            Appeal to nature
            Fallacy of composition- why should an individual human feel a need just because most humans do?

            and most importantly you are ONLY accepting the Good aspects of human nature as natural. This clearly demonstrates that what you SAY is your selective criteria isn't.Your selective criteria is good,not human nature.

          • Vasco Gama

            So you claim that it is better that the "right thing" should have to be decided on purely subjective grounds. And this is based on what? As you explained yourself, on the basis that you arbitrarily assume that humans are self-deceptive and irrational (insofar as being unable to rationally find out what to do the "right thing" is). For those reasons alone you came to the conclusion that the best thing is to do is to act uncritically under the impression that whatever we will find reasonable to do is the "right thing", that is a quite self-satisfactory (and obviously wrong) response (it validates everything), nothing more.

          • Renard Wolfe

            -----As you explained yourself, on the basis that you arbitrarily assume that humans are self-deceptive and irrational----

            Why is it that everything you decide is completely objective and rational, but any conclusion I reach, no matter how well evidenced, is an arbitrary assumption?

            Unlike you I am drawing a conclusion based off of EVIDENCE. I know you're pretty deep into this whole philosophy thing but you remember what that is right? Facts, trends, real world happenings that are independent of you? All that shows is that humans are nasty.and not to be trusted, especially in groups.

            To paraphrase men in black: A person is moral. People are bastards.

            And to say that human nature is in line with the Church is sheer fiction. The church calls for celibacy until marriage human nature.. not so much. The church calls for monogamy humans rarely do this. , You are not in any way shape or form reaching the rational, objective morality you claim you are.

            You may not like my product but at least its as advertised.

          • Vasco Gama

            The problem that I find your conclusions about morals are wrong is only due to the premises you take on human nature, such that leads you to conclude that key points about human nature is that humans are self-deceptive and irrational, besides denying that humans are directed through acting towards good (or as you say to do the “right thing”).

            In fact this is distinct form my view about morals (that is similar to the view of the Church), as my argument start form the premises that humans are directed to good and that humans are rational (in spite of a tendency to self-deception).

            I do agree that self-deception can lead us to act like bastards, and history is plentiful of evidence about that (we agree on this), however I disagree with you that the fact that we (normally) intend to do evil, as we normally do not intend evil (apart from psychotic individuals, or extremely morally corrupted people capable of banalizing evil)

            When you claim about EVIDENCE, I have to ask you what is the EVIDENCE you are talking about? The people I know (most of them atheists by the way), in fact match very well my view of human nature (as stated above). I am not claiming that they are perfect, saints, or aliens, but in general they are well intended and, in spite of errors, in general they mean to seek to be good, and that is my view of humans in general, I don’t claim that there aren’t bad people, of course there are and people are capable of doing terrible things (in general thinking only about themselves and losing sight of what is good). In fact all the EVIDENCE available indicates that your view about human nature is unjust and unjustified.

            All the EVIDENCE I have in fact supports that essentially humans seek goodness and are rational (in spite of not being perfect).

          • Renard Wolfe

            You had to start the conversation insulting me, you need to continue it insulting conclusions by calling them assumptions.It shows an incredible weakness in your position that you have to insult and ad hom.

            Humans are, at best, very conflicted.beings. This makes sense as a social animal needs to worry about both their own reproductive success but still needs people around them to help them. They need empathy to deal with their relatives and tribes, but also benefit from cold blooded ruthlessness to deal with competition against people they're not related to.

            Out of that conflict, you are arbitrarily picking one side. Can you give me any reason why a saints selfless giving is any more natural than say Cortez's conquest of the Aztecs? Can you give me any example of the former thats ever gotten an entire society behind it like the latter?

          • Vasco Gama

            Renard,

            I didn’t start the discussion insulting you, originally I made a comment to Rob, asserting that morality didn’t have to be subjective, but that in fact the traditional morality of the Church followed the conception of “natural law theory” that was proposed by the pagan philosopher Aristotle (so “natural law” does not originate by revelation, or any arbitrary metaphysics), which Rob didn’t bother contest, as we have discussed morality on various previous occasions. And you started by questioning this, stating that “natural law” wasn’t objective. Naturally I questioned your understanding of objectivity and what “natural law” is (and I still think that your notions of both things are somehow confused).

            On the course of our conversation you also questioned my view of human nature and advanced your own notion, that clearly implies that basically humans are based on the assumption that self-deceiving (and incapable of avoiding self-deception), which as I explained to you implied a presumption of irrationality of humans as of an incapability to address the objective reality (that is dependent of our subjective cognition, consciousness and reason), that you are pretending to mask behind the argument that we humans are very conflicted beings (but nowhere in our arguing I suggested even remotely that morality was simple or that is expressed black and white on English for everyone to grasp, except for people that rely for their morality only on revelation). All that logically follows from what you said, it is nothing that I created by myself, or unjustified derived from what you stated. You don’t have to be insulted (in fact you have no right to feel that way, as I didn’t mean to insult you), these are the result from your own incoherences. If you think they are not incoherent you can argue about it, if you pretend to feel offended I repeat I don’t mean to offend you, you have the right to choose your own idea of morality (I can disagree with your choice, because in my understanding it poses problems).

          • Renard Wolfe

            Put up or shut up with the backhanded, passive aggressive insults.
            -you are confused
            -don't you know the difference between objective and subjective?
            -do you know what natural law i?

            I have a right to feel insulted for the simple fact that you are insulting me. Further more your entire argument rests on these insults. You are being rude, nasty, condescending and incredibly evasive on actually backing your insults.

            Demonstrate that natural law is objective or apologize. "It was pagan philosophers not the church" is not an argument, as you can see I hold religion and philosophy in the same contempt.

          • Vasco Gama

            I am sorry you feel that way. I didn't pretend to insult you, it maybe the case that I am wrong and you know very well what objectivity or the natural law are.

  • Ben Posin

    In the previous articles people who (like me) start with the assumption that passages in the bible generally were intended to mean what they say was called a "modern." Now we have graduated to being "postmoderns." I have tried to read Wikipeida entries on what exactly it means to be called "postmodern," and now my head hurts. If you can explain what I'm being called, feel free.

    Anyway: Where are the parents who start out teaching their children that stealing and hitting and biting and lying are ok, but then reverse course when their children are adolescents and better able to understand moraltiy? What's that you say? Even when are children are too young to fully understand complicated moral ideas and nuances, we still don't permit them to act violently or dishonestly, and discourage actions we consider immoral even if they are difficult to explain to a young child? Hmmmm......

    • Paul Boillot

      Ben, we don't want to hear your proto-modern take on child rearing.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      But Ben, I don't think we're talking about reversals. We are talking about fuller understanding. The exhortation to "fight those who are in the wrong, and keep fighting until you are completely done" is not wrong, it's just dangerously crude. The fuller elaboration to "fight those who are in the wrong, and keep fighting until you are completely done, but use only techniques such as flying tackles followed by relentlessly loving bear hugs" is a more sophisticated teaching, not a reversal.

      • Ben Posin

        Jim,

        It worries me one could take stock of the horrors of the old testament -- including the massacres of women and children;the clear support for slavery involving truly brutal conditions, the sanctioning of rape--and not think the current Catholic position on these subjects is the reverse. Jehoshaphat, I am hardly an advocate for the Catholic church and even I have a much higher opinion of it than that.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I guess it depends on what one views as the central message of those Old Testament passages. For example, if you view the exhortation to massacre women and children as being part of the central and uncorrupted component of God's message regarding the Amalekites, then yes, one has to speak of a reversal. But if, as in my paraphrasing, the central message never was one of slaughtering innocents, but rather one of fighting for what one believes in, I don't think there is no need to speak of reversal. I would say the same of the moral codes of inner city gangs today: they are crude and violent, but they ARE moral codes. However abhorrent those moral codes may be to you and me, they represent an advance over pure self-interest and cowardice.

          • David Nickol

            For example, if you view the exhortation to massacre women and children as being part of the central and uncorrupted component of God's message regarding the Amalekites, then yes, one has to speak of a reversal.

            Did not the Old Testament authors and editors believe that God did indeed commanded genocide? The Christian view seems to be that the Bible was written for all times, but that certainly must include the time of the authors, whom Christians believe were divinely inspired. What do you suppose the authors of this passage, or the editors who included it in the finalized Torah, interpreted this passage (Deuteronomy 20:16-18) to mean?

            But in the cities of those nations which the LORD, your God, is giving you as your heritage, you shall not leave a single soul alive. You must doom them all—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, lest they teach you to make any such abominable offerings as they make to their gods, and you thus sin against the LORD, your God.

            It is fine to say that we don't interpret it to mean that God commanded the extermination of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. But it seems difficult for me to believe it would have been included in the Torah if the authors and editors of Deuteronomy didn't believe it.

            So the big question is why, if the Bible is the inspired word of God, did God inspire the authors and the editors of the Old Testament to put words in the mouth of God that commanded horrific acts he would never have intended?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi David, I don't have any special answer to your "big question", but to me that is less a question about how to correctly interpret the Word of God, and more of a question of why we are bad at doing it. It is a question of why God would give us such fallen natures. Why did He make us humans so dumb and insensitive that even those who "heard him directly" would corrupt his message to the point of using it to justify unnecessary suffering on others?

            In response to that, there are of course the reflections on evil that you have already seen plenty of times on these pages. I don't always find those arguments compelling myself. My own argument is much less sophisticated and has a dumb practicality to it: I either believe that God is good (in spite of all the obvious data to the contrary), or I can't get myself out of bed in the morning. I confess that I will do all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to get the God of the Bible to conform to this primal and necessary intuition.

  • Renard Wolfe

    Again, this is simply ascribing a divine mandate to your own very human judgement. You are picking what the bible does and does not say rather than either listening to it or discounting it altogether. Its religious gerrymandering.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    There would be no need for this piece if the Old Testament actually looked like revelation in instalments of what we now consider to be proper morality. It is not as if the Old Testament is full of baby steps to wean these ancient "savages" off the rape, genocide, theft that were endemic. Jacob is never admonished for taking advantage of his father's blindness and stealing his brother's birthright. The repeated genocides of the Cananites are ordered by God. When the issue of rape comes up the OT tells us not that it is wrong, but that the punishment for rape is to marry your victim. However, when it comes to seemingly arbitrary rules such as wardrobe and whether to work on the Sabbath, there are clear rules.

    These books simply do not reflect a uniform God slowly revealing itself, but rather a people who are changing and developing.

  • http://briangreenadams.wordpress.com/ Brian Green Adams

    Consider slavery. This issue comes up all the time in the Old Testament and Gods actions never seem to reflect our current moral understanding of the issue.

    In Egypt, God does not tell the Isrealites to turn the other cheek, obey their masters. He tells them to escape and flee. Not only that, their freedom is worth the killing of each first born Egyptian. It is also worth drowning the Egyptian army, who were pursuing what was rightly theirs under their and God's law at the time.

    When Abram expects wants a child but his wife is old and seemingly barren, he just takes his slave Hagar and has one with her. There is zero indication anywhere in that story that God objected. Nowhere in the Bible does anyone, including Jesus explain that this kind of behaviour was obviously extremely immoral. Rather, Abram is rewarded.

    Where are God's attempts to "work with" the Jews? Surely not when he had bears rip apart the youths or children that teased the prophet, or when he accepted Jeptha's sacrifice of his daughter.

    • MichaelNewsham

      Well, the OP does point out our current standard of morality is higher than St. Paul's

      "Slavery used to be sort of reluctantly okay for Christians (cf. Philemon). Now? No."