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Deciding to Believe

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Filed under Belief

Pascals Wager

Sometimes, after reflection and study, people feel that they can’t decide between atheism and belief in God. Where they are at that moment, the evidence seems too evenly weighted or too difficult to evaluate.

What then?

If these are the two belief systems that you feel torn between then there are two basic choices: You could choose to go ahead and believe in God or you could refrain from doing so.

If it seems impossible to decide between these options based on the evidence then one can legitimately consider the advantages of choosing one course of action over the other.

Four Possible Scenarios

 
What would the results be of your choice, depending on whether God really exists? There are four possible scenarios:

A. You choose to live as if God exists and you are correct: God does exist.
B. You choose to live as if God does not exist, and you are incorrect: God does exist.
C. You choose to live as if God exists, and you are incorrect: God does not exist.
D. You choose to live as if God does not exist, and you are correct: God does not exist.

Pascals Wager

If A is the case then you stand to receive the infinite good of everlasting life!

If B is the case then you risk missing out on this infinite good.

If C is the case then what awaits you after this life is not heaven but non-existence. During life you would have had a bit of inconvenience due to living as a believer and having to deny yourself certain things, but that is not as much of a problem as it might seem, since studies show believers tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

If D is the case then you would have a bit more freedom to indulge your lower passions in this life, but that is not as much a gain as it might seem, since you would also miss out on the benefits that religion brings to people’s lives, including a sense of purpose and meaning that there is no rational basis for if we are just walking bags of chemicals.

Comparing these four options, A would result in you achieving infinite gain, B would result in you missing this gain, and C and D would both involve small, finite gains or losses determined by the limitations involved in living as a believer and the benefits gained in this life by doing so.

That being the case, if you feel torn between atheism and belief in God, and if you feel that you can’t decide based on objective evidence, then your rational choice would be to go with belief in God. You stand to achieve an infinite good (if you are right) but only a finite loss at most (if you are wrong). By contrast, if you choose not to believe in God then you risk an infinite loss (if you are wrong) at at most a finite good (if you are right).

Rational self-interest, which is certainly part of human nature whether you believe God built it into us or not, clearly points toward believing in God.

Not an Argument for God’s Existence

 
Bear in mind that this is not an argument for Gods existence but rather an argument for belief in God’s existence. It doesn’t argue directly that he exists but that, in certain circmstances, it is rational for us to choose to believe in him.

It also is not an argument designed for every possible situation. It is designed for those who feel torn between atheism and belief in the kind of God that Christianity proposes, but who aren’t at a point where they feel that they can settle the question by objective evidence. If you are in that situation, then this argument can help you.

Some might have a concern that they would be doing something morally wrong if they were to choose belief in God without objective proof, but this argument can be turned on its head.

If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values, and thus by definition your choosing to believe in God would not be morally wrong. You would be completely innocent in believing. There couldn’t be anything wrong with believing if there were no such thing as right and wrong to begin with.

Make Your Move

 
There are many times in life when we must make decisions about what we will believe without having conclusive proof. Such proof is a luxury that we often do not have.

If you waited, for example, to have conclusive proof that a prospective spouse will always be faithful to you and never betray you then you will never get married. In fact, in trying to obtain conclusive proof, you would likely crush the relationship between you before you were even engaged.

At some point, you must decide that you have “enough” to make the commitment and choose to embark on a life together, even without total proof. Given the fears and anxiety that often accompany the act of getting married, many people find themselves in a situation where, at least at the moment, they don’t know how to evaluate the evidence anymore and they must take a leap of faith to marry.

Something very similar applies to the decision to believe in God. Like marriage, it is a momentous, life-changing choice, and that can interfere with our ability to rationally evaluate evidence. When that happens, deciding based on self-interest is rational.

God understands that. In fact in the gospels Jesus appeals to our rational self-interest, asking, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
 
 
(Image Credit: Words In Quiet)

Matt Fradd

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Matt Fradd is a Catholic apologist and speaker. He is a regular contributor to Catholic Answers magazine. He lives in North Georgia with his wife and four children. Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattfradd and visit his website, MattFradd.com.

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  • Rationalist1

    "If D is the case then you would have a bit more freedom to indulge your lower passions in this life" So that's what non believers do, indulge their lower passions. Maybe we atheists should stereotype how believers act? But that would be wrong and I won't do it.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Rationalist, thanks for the comment. I'm not sure why you find this sentence offensive. I believe Matt is using "lower" in the philosophical sense, in reference to a hierarchy of passions, not in the moral sense.

      • Rationalist1

        So it's not a disparaging remark to say that Catholics indulge in lower passions? Or is it?

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          It's not disparaging to me. All Catholics indulge their lower passions, and the best of us admit this. The difference is that we don't *only* indulge in lower passions, and when we do indulge it's a failure of the will--not it's proper activity. In other words, we lament indulging a lesser passion when greater passions exists.

          The atheist, on the other hand, happily indulges in (what philosophers call) the lower passions, without regret.

          • Rationalist1

            We eat to our hearts content, with thousands dying of starvation each day, without regret. We have sex frequently with whom ever we want, without regret. We satisfy our every material want, when others have nothing, without regret.

            Is that how you see us?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don't know about anybody else, but yes, that is how I see you.

          • Rationalist1

            It's called stereotyping, a type of prejudice. Get to know some atheists, they're no different from anyone else.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I was an atheist at one time, for a brief period. I was one *PRECISELY* because I was tired of people telling me what to do.

          • Susan

            I was an atheist at one time, for a brief period. I was one *PRECISELY* because I was tired of people telling me what to do.

            Strange. Most atheists are atheists PRECISELY because they don't believe in (god)s

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And what is the motivation behind ignoring several thousand years of human experience? Not having anybody to tell you what is right and wrong is a huge motivator.

          • mgcruss

            There is no motivation to ignore anything. There is simply the recognition that as knowledge about how the world around us works increases, the need for supernatural explanations decreases.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            You have a different definition of the word supernatural than I do. To me, the supernatural is the superset of the natural- that is, it is just what we don't know.

            We know God. God isn't supernatural.

          • Rationalist1

            We were all atheists at one time in our life. We were all born that way.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Nope, every child I know starts out believing in God, and experiencing God through their parents.

            Then again, I don't know many orphans.

          • Rationalist1

            Excuse me. Religion is taught. It's like language. Between the time the child is born and when their parents start teaching them their God, the child does not have a belief in God.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Religion is taught. God is instinctive. Which is why religion exists in the first place.

            Religion is about God, but God isn't religion.

          • Rationalist1

            Lots of things are instinctive, but are not necessarily true or good. The reason religions are popular is that evolution has selected for children who more often than not listen and believe their parents. (Don't go near the cliff, don't go into the woods, don't play with snakes, etc.) In families where religion is not taught in childhood, very few become religious in adulthood.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Families where religion is not taught in childhood also have shorter attention spans, more divorce and more broken homes, and more poverty.

          • Andre Boillot

            Just look at how dumb and poor the Swedes tend to be.

          • Rationalist1

            Atheist divorce rates are much lower than most Christian denominations ( http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm ).

            And this illustrates the difference between believers and atheists, the believer made assertions without evidence. I backed up my assertion with evidence.

            How many trust his other claims?

          • epeeist

            Nope, every child I know starts out believing in God,

            How many Inuit do you know? How many Panoan? All this shows is that either your circle of friends is fairly small or that you haven't looked particularly hard.

            And you do realise that an attempt to extrapolate from your statement would be a hasty generalisation?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I know several Inuit, T'linkit, T'Chinook, Klickitat, Neahkeahnie, Celilo, Nez Pierce, and Grand Ronde. All of these cultures have a Great Spirit above all other spirits.

            You have to ignore a LOT of human history to ignore the concept of God in human anthropology. In fact, most of it.

          • epeeist

            I know several Inuit, T'linkit, T'Chinook, Klickitat, Neahkeahnie,
            Celilo, Nez Pierce, and Grand Ronde.

            Good for you.

            All of these cultures have a Great
            Spirit above all other spirits.

            Which therefore means that every culture has a "Great Spirit" (which you seemingly assume corresponds to your god)?

            You have to ignore a LOT of human history to ignore the concept of God in human anthropology. In fact, most of it.

            I would acknowledge that most (all?) societies have a belief in an agency or agencies but all that says is that the concept of agency exists (which may be because we have an hyperactive agency detection device, as Justin Barrett notes). It says nothing about whether the referent exists.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "Which therefore means that every culture has a "Great Spirit" (which you seemingly assume corresponds to your god)?"

            Read Nostra Aetate section 3. That to me is the difference between an exclusionary irrational religion and an inclusionary rational religion.

            "I would acknowledge that most (all?) societies have a belief in an agency or agencies but all that says is that the concept of agency exists (which may be because we have an hyperactive agency detection device, as Justin Barrett notes). It says nothing about whether the referent exists."

            If you want to go that route, then let's jump to the end- nothing exists, not even science, because we can't trust our own senses and experience, and still less the senses and experience of others.

            In other words- that direction and argument of atheism can only lead to an unknowable universe with nothing that is true.

          • epeeist
            "Which therefore means that every culture has a "Great Spirit" (which you seemingly assume corresponds to your god)?"

            Read Nostra Aetate section 3.

            You are missing the point, you were claiming universal quantification. I don't think you can fulfil such a commitment.

            If you want to go that route, then let's jump to the end- nothing
            exists, not even science, because we can't trust our own senses and
            experience, and still less the senses and experience of others.

            Of course we can't trust our own senses, which is claims based upon them can only be tentative and provisional. But your is a straw man. If you want to claim that our sense of agency entails that an agency exists then be my guest, warrant your inference.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I was claiming that it is normal for all human cultures to develop religion- even atheistic ones. The only difference is that your arrogance replaces God with your own brain.

            My proof is that even atheists have formed a God that they worship called skepticism.

          • epeeist

            I was claiming that it is normal for all human cultures to develop religion

            I know you were, and I was agreeing with you with one small caveat. I don't think you can justify the "all", since this would have to apply to each and every society that has developed, is developing or will ever develop.

            The other point I was disagreeing with is that even if a society develops a concept it does not entail the existence of a referent. The demonstration of the existence is a separate exercise. Did you know that there is a leprechaun museum in Ireland? Does this therefore entail the existence of leprechauns?

            My proof is that even atheists have formed a God that they worship called skepticism.

            And your "proof" fails dismally. What characteristics of a god does scepticism have, what actions of reverence do its followers do? Arguments from analogy should really contain more similarities than differences you know.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I've long believed in the existence of leprechauns. I am not surprised that you have lost that part of your soul that would.

            One act of reverence that the believers in the God of Skepticism do, is routinely insult other people. Another act of reverence of the God of Skepticism is to eliminate part of your own mind, the part that is able to believe. That is a sacrifice the God of Skepticism positively demands.

          • epeeist

            I've long believed in the existence of leprechauns. I am not surprised that you have lost that part of your soul that would.

            Why not "your heart" or "your mind", why the loaded "your soul". As it is, my grandparents came from County Offaly, my great aunt, who died some little while back, remained there. She was a pig farmer.

            One act of reverence that the believers in the God of Skepticism do, is routinely insult other people.

            What, you mean by questioning their ideas?

            Another act of reverence of the God of Skepticism is to eliminate part of your own mind, the part that is able to believe.

            This is a parody isn't it? One is never quite sure with this kind of statement.

            Of course if it isn't a parody then I might complain that I am being insulted...

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Because it is the soul that is what we know this with. Not the heart, not the mind, but the soul.

            Skeptics insult other people not by questioning other people's ideas, but by failing to question their own ideas.

            You are being insulted.

          • epeeist

            Because it is the soul that is what we know this with. Not the heart, not the mind, but the soul.

            Which presupposes the existence of the soul.Skeptics insult other people not by questioning other people's ideas, but by failing to question their own ideas.

            You know I am impressed that you can make unsupported assertions with such bravado as though you were speaking ex cathedra. I really hope you don't expect them to be accepted as somehow true.

            You are being insulted.

            A fairly feeble effort if you don't mind me saying so.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            "You know I am impressed that you can make unsupported assertions with such bravado as though you were speakingex cathedra. I really hope you don't expect them to be accepted as somehow true."

            The support in in your own DNA. I suggest you question that. But once again, that would require you to be skeptical of your own skepticism, and recognize the fact that if you do not have a soul, all of everything you do is worthless anyway.

          • epeeist

            But once again, that would require you to be skeptical of your own skepticism

            Let's really get down to it, it isn't about me or sceptics in general. What it is really about is that you are miffed that there are people out there who don't accept the authority of the church or the teachings of the magisterium. That we have the effrontery to challenge Aristotle and Aquinas and that the oldest, existing society in the world has the audacity to use this phrase on its escutcheon.

            recognize the fact that if you do not have a soul, all of everything you do is worthless anyway.

            Thanks, but I don't need that crutch to make my life worthwhile.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            " it isn't about me or sceptics in general. "

            Incorrect. It is directly about your ability to reason.

            The rest, if you'd bother to actually examine it, is not only compatible with reason, but defines reason. You are being irrational.

            Maybe this will help:

            http://www.flocknote.com/note/111624

            Especially the comments section, where a robust discussion is going on comparing the difference between the YouCat and the CCC on the subject of atheism.

            Or failing that, this:

            http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2013/06/youcat-raises-question.html

          • Octavo

            "The atheist, on the other hand, happily indulges in (what philosophers call) the lower passions, without regret."

            You do realize that "atheist" is just a name for something we're not, right? There's no good reason to make generalizations like that. Atheists include Buddhists, Unitarians, Secular Pagans, Moral Realists, Emotivists, among many many others.

          • articulett

            I think he's trying to say that atheists masturbate without guilt... but I could be wrong.

          • Jon Hawkins

            Octavo
            "The athiest... without regret."
            The point is that there is less or no reason not to do so; your conscience isn't going to be bothered by them.

          • Sample1

            Wonderful post. I'm pleased that you have the freedom to speak out about what you feel.
            Mike

          • ziad

            I think you are misunderstanding the article and Brandon (not that they need someone to speak on their behalf)
            by lower passions do not necessarily mean bad passions. I think a better term (at least to me) is lesser. Meaning the greater passions are more rewarding and more worthy of our time, where as lower (lesser) passions (whether good or bad) are less worthy and therefore we would lose more (or risk losing more) by not believing in God.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        Brandon,

        "freedom to indulge your lower passions" is essentially the same thing as saying "atheists choose atheism because it permits them to indulge in malign behavior without fear or guilt".

        And as I have posted elsewhere on this site, it's possibly the single most insulting thing one can say to an atheist. If a Christian desires the atheist with whom he is conversing to slam the mental door shut and walk away, I know of no better approach.

        I did not expect to find here Christians who are convinced that atheists spend their private time torturing small animals, devising confidence swindles and diddling Cub Scouts. Perhaps I'm misinformed??

        • Sample1

          Witnessing Lying For Fhe LORD is the quickest way for me to acknowledge I've wasted my precious time with a person of faith. But yes, trotting out the ridiculous moral card against a null hypothesis is a close second.
          Mike

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Brandon's got this right--"lower passions" are part of the Christian view of the rational soul. These "passions" exist in association with *reason* itself, and generally are 11 in number.
            Btw, I hope no one feels offended by the phrase or thinks somehow that mentioning "lower passions" is an insult. Christians also believe Jesus possessed the same "lower passions" (which are merely a part of human nature) but, being without concupiscence, subordinated them perfectly to reason. The rest of us humans, due to concupiscence, are always struggling to keep the passions subordinate to reason. True, it's part of morality to do so, but in Fradd's example, he's merely making clear that, by rejecting a moral system based on God, many of the restrictions on our passions (when viewed as a Christian) disappear (think, for example, of sexual sin etc.--would an atheist view contraception as morally wrong? homosexuality?).
            If God does not exist, then many of the moral categories associated with the eleven passions disappear with Him, in the view of many.
            So Fradd's statement is really observation rather than insult...

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Can you give us a better way to say "Your philosophical system has no way to control behavior"?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Bye, Ted.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I take it from that, that you cannot give us a better way to say it.

    • Latitude89

      He didn't say that non-believers *do* anything, and I don't think he meant to imply that either. Rather, he was describing how, in a world where God does not exist, man is objectively free to do whatever he wants because there are no transcendent "right" or "wrong" (or "higher" and "lower) and thus no objective standards to discourage or encourage any one behavior. The author didn't say "if you are an atheist and God doesn't exist, you will indulge your lower passions"; he said you would have the freedom to do so (i.e., there are no objective moral restrictions on your behavior).

      This is no minor distinction. It is both egregiously offensive and blatantly untrue for anyone to label all atheists/non-believers bad people, or to associate them with moral or ethical inferiority. I'm not sure if some other posters on this site reside in a cloister of some sort, but I live in the real world where every day I encounter loving, kind, charitable, caring, fair, and ethical atheists, many of whom I love and consider dear friends. I also regularly encounter believers who act in ways that are spiteful, unkind, greedy, and deceitful. We're all humans- we err, and our beliefs and convictions often have little relation to our behavior. I'm confident that the author would agree with me on those points.

      • Rationalist1

        Well atheists do not believe God exists and I live my life as if God exists and Christians believe God exists and live their lives as if God exists and both are objectively free to do whatever they want as you have mentioned.

        His statement is akin to what sometimes one hears about Christians. They choose their denomination to fit their desired moral code. You want divorce, don't be Catholic, you think the war in Iraq was unjust be a Catholic, etc. Both are unfair statements.

  • Rationalist1

    Please, Pascal's wager? Do you think any God worth the title will fall for that cynical "I'll believe so I'll get eternal life" ploy. And what of the billions of people who pick the wrong God, does that matter?

    Comparing committing to God to marriage might have worked in the days when the spouses never saw each other or had any contact with each other before marriage. But even then they were able to interact after marriage.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Rationalist, thanks again for your second comment. In the future, please don't post multiple top-level comments, especially before someone responds to the original one. That only clogs up the conversation.

      Perhaps Matt could have been more clear, but in most forms of Pascal's Wager the word "God" typically refers to "the God of Christianity." The Wager is only aimed at someone who is having difficulty deciding between atheism and the Christian conception of God.

      Thus critiquing the Wager for something it doesn't aim to solve is not a legitimate critique.

      • Rationalist1

        But by his last paragraph he clearly is referring to the Christian God and you tagged the post with the tag "Pascal's Wager".

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          I don't understand this last comment. Are you agreeing or disagreeing with what I said? I basically said the same thing you just mentioned: this article, and Pascal's wager, are designed to help someone who see only two plausible options: atheism or belief in the Christian God.

          • Rationalist1

            Sorry. I thought you were trying to say that this column was not a form of Pascal's wager.

      • Nick Corrado

        Brandon, multiple top-level comments don't clog up the conversation, they actually keep it organized. If everyone tried to post all of their thoughts in a single post, the replies to it would be discussing several unrelated idea in a single thread, which is confusing and interrupts the flow of conversation. Better to have the top-level comments differ in topic than merely in author.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      It's worse than that. It seems more to me that they are comparing this to placing a bet at the dice table, than even something as selectable as marriage.

    • Vuyo

      I don't think he was comparing 'committing to God to marriage.' He was talking about waiting for proof before acting. He could easily have said 'if you wait for proof that a chair would hold you up you would never sit down.' That doesn't mean he's comparing committing to God to sitting in a chair.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    And if Allah exists, the Holy Qur'an puts you Catholics in Hell for cases A, B, C and D. This is another form of Pascal's Wager, which boils down to a marketing arms race among religions to have the very greatest Heaven and the very worst Hell, in order to advertise the "best bet."

    • Michael Murray

      I was taught that God can see into our hearts and minds. Is he really going to fall for a stunt like this? Wouldn't he prefer an honest atheist who tried to live a good life? Maybe not.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        I don't think one can "choose to believe." You believe or you don't. If you don't know if you believe, then you don't. Pretending is simply dishonest.

        • Michael Murray

          The OP says he's "Catholic by choice". He's also Australian. Excuse me while I burn my passport ...

          • Luke Meyer

            Woah, now. Let's keep it charitable, guys.

          • Michael Murray

            I reserve the right to be rude to my fellow countrymen.

            Seriously we Australians have a sense of humour. It's a joke. Ken Ham is Australian. Why would I worry about a Catholic apologist?

            (Who was the other guy not being charitable ?)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I have met plenty of people who are or were "Catholic by choice." That you can choose, believing it is true, you can't.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Michael, I'm struggling to see what this adds to our discussion other than insult.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm an Australian, he's an Australian. It was a joke. We do that kind of thing. So I guess thought it added humour. Apologises if that is not acceptable.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          I don't think you can choose to believe, either, but if there are "two belief systems" that you feel "torn between," it would certainly make sense to "choose to live as if" the one that is in your best interest is true. If you are really torn between living a life that will lead to eternal damnation and a life that won't, it makes sense to lead the life that won't.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            David, are you suggesting belief is not something we choose? From my viewpoint, the way we live follows what we believe. We choose what to believe based on the available data around us and then choose ways to live based on those beliefs.

          • Octavo

            I didn't choose to believe or not to believe. I chose to investigate.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            But then you must choose to believe or not based on your interpretation of the available evidence. The evidence doesn't "force" something into your mind; it's impotent.

          • Octavo

            You're welcome to your interpretation of my internal mental processes. I felt very differently than you describe. When confronted with evidence against theism, I felt a sudden lack of belief/faith and there was nothing I could do to get it back.

          • TheWhiteRock

            Octavo, it is refreshing to hear your honesty that the outcome of your "mental processes" was indeed a "feeling". Many people identify feelings and thoughts as one in the same now-a-days, and they certainly are not.
            When considering the possibility of God, one would also consider the possibility of the devil. The devil is the master manipulator, and it is my experience that when feelings are the result of a strictly cold, logical thought process, we should proceed with extreme caution.
            There is indeed something you can do to get it back, and it is an act of your will. It is the moment you ask "God, if you're there, help my unbelief". It might take time, but if you are really seeking truth, you will find it. Never stop looking and never stop asking "if you're there, help my unbelief". If he's not there, you're losing out on nothing, and you're still looking for truth (admirable in of itself).
            But, if he is...well, I'm sure you know already.
            Have a good evening, my friend.

          • Octavo

            There's not really any evidence that any being fitting the devil's description exists, so I am not concerned by that possibility. Thank you, though.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If that is what you say about your own internal experience, then I have no way of telling you it is wrong. I can only say that I personally do not decide whether to believe or disbelieve.

          • Andre Boillot

            "The evidence doesn't "force" something into your mind; it's impotent."

            I believe this is as good an example of the disconnect between the two parties as I've seen so far.

          • Bill

            I chose to investigate. Then I chose to believe.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            David, are you suggesting belief is not something we choose?

            I am not suggesting it, I am asserting it. :P

            Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."

            "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

            I might choose to accept something if the evidence for it was inconclusive and I had to get off the fence. But I don't see believing as something one chooses to do. If I had been the brother of the Unabomber, I would never have wanted to believe the growing suspicion that my brother was a terrorist. But I could certainly have reached the point where I could not conclude otherwise.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            David, but what would you do when the evidence seemed inconclusive, when you discovered strong arguments for two conflicting things? Because of the Law of Non-Contradiction, you know at least *one* must be false. So how do you choose?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I think there is a problem in that the word belief has a range of meanings.

            When there is inconclusive evidence for two mutually exclusive propositions, I might choose to accept one over the other, but I wouldn't say I chose to believe it. Here's the definition of belief from Merriam-Webster that I think is applicable:

            conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on an examination of the grounds for accepting it as true or real : reflective assurance : intellectual assent

            I don't think one can choose to have a conviction.

            I think, when it comes to deciding between theism and atheism, if there is truly inconclusive evidence, then agnosticism is the reasonable choice.

            If one is "torn" between Catholicism and atheism, I do not see anything wrong in choosing to live as if Catholicism were true. But that would be different from having the conviction that it was true.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Perhaps you shouldn't choose. Both of them might be false.

          • Max Driffill

            I think this is a great idea. If the data are inconclusive, or point to two mutually exclusive answers to a problem why not just acknowledge this.
            "At present our data is inconclusive, and points to these two possibilities. One may be wrong, one may be right, both may be wrong, or both may have part of the answer."

          • articulett

            There are multiple faiths that claim you'll be eternally damned if you don't believe in them...

            So should you pick 1 and hope it's true? Isn't that letting yourself be manipulated by your fear? Why would a real god need to manipulate anyone into belief? Why would a real god be a part of such nebulous twisted plan?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            So should you pick 1 and hope it's true?

            As has been noted, the argument as presented here posits that you are "torn" between two (and only two) belief systems. It seems to me it makes perfect sense under the circumstances, if you simply can't decide which one is true, to choose to live according to the one that you believe is in your best interest in the long run. The argument says nothing about picking from among many religions and hoping you pick the true one.

            Unless you are torn between two and only two belief systems, the argument doesn't apply to you.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Michael,

        I think i would agree with you to some extent (don't fall off your chair). my guess is if an atheist had bad experiences from Christian parents but tried to live a good life he would be accepted into heaven. i suppose we might differ on how open or objective the atheist is to the possibility of God's existence.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          "my guess is if an atheist had bad experiences from Christian parents but tried to live a good life he would be accepted into heaven."

          This guess is, alas, directly contrary to a defined dogma of the Catholic Faith:

          "In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior.
          This translation however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written:

          Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.[18]"

          The idea that one can get to heaven by trying to live a good life is heresy, specifically, the condemned heresy of Pelagianism:

          "We judge by the authority of Apostolic power (apostolici uigoris auctoritate) that Pelagius and Celestius be deprived of ecclesiastical communion, until they return to the faith out of the snares of the devil...."--Pope Innocent I, Ep 182

          • Rationalist1

            Then don't you think such a exclusionary doctrine is wrong. I would say it's immporal and not befitting any God I would choose to worship.

          • severalspeciesof

            There's no way Rick would...

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist
            Your statement is consistent with the faith. "Hell" is a state of being separated from the being you were created for. Heaven is a place you were meant to be in while being in communion with the one you were meant for. God does not send anyone to hell, they choose it.

          • Rationalist1

            Then if offered the choice I choose not to go. Why would anyone choose to go there?

          • severalspeciesof

            Then if offered the choice I choose not to go. Why would anyone choose to go there?

            I've wondered that myself...

          • Rationalist1

            I'm quite willing to accept the existence of a God and if presented with God would love to spend eternity with him. Although the endless worshiping and praising him might get old fast but still that's what I would choose. So I'm covered (plus I was baptized as a baby)

          • Fr.Sean

            Rationalist, try to think of it like this; the flesh or living for self often puts on in a pattern where they live for things that bring a brief moment of excitement. But that brief moment of excietement is often accompanied by restlessness and emptiness. The trouble is that they often don't realize the cause of their emptiness. Now, true happiness is a byproduct of doing the right thing. Now, that doesn't mean everything that gives one a brief moment of excitement is bad or will always deliver emptiness, but when decides to LIVE for those things, to live for the brief moment of excitement they are setting themselves up for emptiness. things that give a brief moment of excitement can be a good thing, or a blessing. the joy you feel when being kind to others, or going out of your way for another (usually you experience it after you do so) is a small part of the joy you will experience in heaven. i've spoken to a couple of people who had near death experiences who saw a little of heaven. both of them said the same thing. that after their experience they no longer feared anything because they knew what was waiting for them. heaven is pure joy and pure happiness so i don't think it will be sitting around singing all the time. you are in my prayers! if for some reason you have any questions please don't hesistate to ask. my e-mail can be found at my website 2fish.co just click on "contact" then click "ask a priest".

            pax,
            Fr.Sean

          • Rationalist1

            My life is not empty or restless and there are a lot fewer brief moments of excitement that you might think (and I might want). I live for my family, others and myself and try to make a difference in the world around me. WRT Near death experiences, it almost seems like God doesn't know if you're going to die or not. Sort of a mixup like the "Heaven can Wait" movie.

            Thank you for the thought of praying for me. Just don't go sacrificing of goat or anything like that. :->

          • ZenDruid

            On the other hand, I would insist that they sacrifice a goat to demonstrate their sincerity.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist,
            i suppose you kind of support that notion then, you don't live simply for the satisfaction of the moment but you live for your family which i would imagine gives you a feeling of purpose or meaning. i was just trying to show doing those things often gives you a sense of joy or fulfillment. Heaven then would be a much greater experience of that joy. i promise not to sacrifice any goats for you. but i will fast till dinner for you tomorrow? and as i said i'll pray for you as well.

          • Bill

            Have you ever heard of the prayer God always answers? If you sincerely ask God to reveal Himself to you, He will.

          • BenS

            Sorry, not true. I prayed and prayed and prayed unbelievably sincerely for him to reveal himself when I was a child. He didn't. I literally could not have prayed harder or been more sincere. I cringe when I look back at it, that's how sincere I was.

            Fortunately, I found science. It doesn't always answer and when it does, I might not like the answers but it makes no such promises -which is altogether far more honest.

          • Rationalist1

            Tried that for years and like Mother Teresa I couldn't find God's presence. She was locked into a religious life at the time and felt compelled to stay. I left when I realized after many years of sincerely trying (and yes I was sincere) there was no answer.

          • Fr.Sean

            AMEN! if the conscience is in a sense God's voice all you have to do now
            is take an honest and objective view of the faith! once you've decided
            to be truly open and investigate the faith i believe you're okay! I
            suggest reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and perhaps Catholic
            and Christian by alan Shreck, and read through the gospels (might i even
            suggest Screwtape letters by Lewis). Pray and ask God to give you the
            gift of faith! Severalspeciesof, if you are being honest you have made my
            day! No, wait you have made my month!

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            > all you have to do now
            is take an honest and objective view of the faith! once you've decided
            to be truly open and investigate the faith i believe you're okay!

            You seem to assume that the people here haven't done that.
            The fact that they have and found it wholly unsupported doesn't seem to be a possibility YOU've investigated.

            Why do you assume that your investigation has been honest and objective and ours hasn't been?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            I know the atheists convey that they have more of a monopoly on reason and logic. i suppose one way i may contest that idea is that many people claim that if you so certain things you will kind certain effects. Read books Like Mere Christianity, or the Gospels and be open to and pray for the gift of faith. some claim that when they have done that they've received a certain interior affect. i think some atheists try to convey that they are open and objective but if one refuses to be honest about; being open, reading certain books, and praying for the gift of faith, and simply stands on the outside saying, "I don't believe, i don't believe, i don't believe" than can one really claim objectivity?

          • Susan

            >I know the atheists convey that they have more of a monopoly on reason and logic

            But you're the one implying that we're not being "honest and objective:" I asked why you assume that you are being more honest and objective than we are.

            >Read books Like Mere Christianity

            I read it. Can you tell me what you think is a convincing argument in that book?

            >or the Gospels

            I read them many times. Do you know who wrote them?

            >simply stands on the outside saying, "I don't believe, i don't believe, i don't believe"

            That's a huge assumption, isn't it? Can you think of no other reasons that honest, objective human beings might not believe that your deity is anything but something invented by humans? You think every, non-believer is just being stubborn, biased and close-minded?

            It was a simple, friendly and important question.

            Why do you think your position is the honest, objective one on this subject?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            perhaps you are right, i need to be mindful not to put everyone in the same box. i guess after dialoguing with some of them it just started to seem like they would believe various theories that had no evidence from science, but when it came to the God question they just refused to be open to any possibility? I also suppose that after witnessing various people do the things i mentioned there usually seems to be a change so perhaps i incorrectly assumed those who don't believe because they weren't open.
            When i was in the seminary, i went on a bus trip with some of the seminarians as well as some of the kids from duquesne. I had known someone who was having problems with their faith and wanted to get them the book Mere Christianity because i thought it would help. when we arrived at our destination there happen to be a Catholic book store there. I bought the book and stuck it in my bag. when we got back on the bus this one student from duquesne had knew i was a seminarian and started peppering me with questions. she had been raised Catholic but was really starting to question everything. she said she had lost her faith and didn't really know if she ever had faith. we talked about some of the things i had mentioned. reading Mere Christianity as well as Catholic and Christian by alan Shreck. we talked about how and what faith is. that you have faith and doubt residing within you the important thing is which one you choose to believe. when you choose to believe and make decisions according to your faith you begin to see that those decisions have a positive effect. anyway, we talked for a while and i naturally concluded that i had bought the book for another person but perhaps the real one God wanted me to give it to was this young woman. although i was able to answer some of her questions we still parted after the trip and she was still in her prediciment. she really didn't beleive in God and didn't know what to do becuse she was eventually going to have to tell her family etc. i gave her the book and assured her of my prayers. about two months went by and i was walking to class. the young lady ran up to me and wanted to let me know how much she appreciated the book and how much she appreciated everything we talked about. i can't remember the exact words she used but she was on fire with her faith, she was praying more and reading more.

            Moreover when i got home i went to another book store and got the same book Mere Christianity. i also had encouraged the person to see faith and doubt is kind of something within them and encouraged them to pray. that person came back with the same result. That was all in my first year of seminary so i felt that the Lord was trying to teach me something about how one comes to faith. you might say those two woman were a like teachers for me of how one opens the door for Jesus.

            you have taught me susan that i need to be more patient and listen to what people have to say but it's difficult on a public site because everyone wants to say the "right" thing since others will read it. if i can help in any way or answer any questions please don't hesitate to e-mail me at my website. 2fish.co just go to the "contact" button then click on the "ask a priest" button. i would love to talk with you if i can. i apologize if i have appeared too narrow minded about where people are at with the question of faith?

          • articulett

            I tried Mere Christianity and I think you have to be a believer to think this is a good and deep book. Do you know what C.S. Lewis thinks is the worst sin of all? Pedophilia?-- No. Torture?-- No. Rape? --No. Enslavement of others? --No. Warmongering?-- No.

            It's pride. Yep pride.

            You have to be brainwashed to fall for this insanity.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articulette,
            None of those sins would be considered if one did not first have a sense of pride, they come first, what they want is most important. Pride blinds one to a moral understanding of right and wrong. it can also blind one to God. usually sins occur because of a couple of sources of sin and not simply because of one. you mentioned rape. sure the guy may have been tempted, but it was pride and the conviction that his needs were more important than any effect it may have on their girl is what allows him to override a moral obligation to do what is right?

          • articulett

            I've heard that excuse before. I don't buy it. I think every victim would have preferred their perpetrator be proud than to inflict abuse upon them. I wonder why god didn't command against these things but felt it was important to mention coveting as one of the major no-nos.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articuletee,
            if the perpetrator had a little humility they would see the value of the person, humility would allow them to override their lust. moreover, if one didn't allow coveting then the "seed" od desire would never allowed them to make their neighbor simply into an object of desire.

          • severalspeciesof

            Nuts... I don't want to un-make your day or month, but my comment was based purely on a "if true" conjecture. I do not believe it to be true. It also points out the wrongness of "We 'choose' to go to hell if we don't believe.

            Should I ever meet you in real life I would, though, like to offer a Guinness, to make your day... ;)

          • Fr.Sean

            thanks Severalspeciesof,
            I'm going to Ireland and Italy with my brother next year so i will make sure i have a Guinness in honor of you.

          • severalspeciesof

            BTW, I have read "Mere Christianity" it was from that book that I began to have serious doubts. I figured if someone who appeared as smart as I thought he was, couldn't see the false dichotomy (or whatever the correct term is) of this statement: "You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse." that the rest of his thoughts justifying that were built on a sand foundation too.

            You might be familiar with this statement: 'A quick way to become an atheist is to read the bible'. While I think it's a really smug, in your face statement, the gist of it is true for many people...

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Severalspeciesof,

            One of the things i found interesting about the book was what Lewis couldn't adequately explain as an atheist. he had originally pursued the question because he was trying to prove God did not exist, but in the end came to the conclusion God did exist. the one thing he couldn't explain as an atheist was why when he did the right was kind, he felt good, when when he did the wrong, was selfish, he felt bad. that didn't make any sense in terms of evolution. that caused him to take an honest and objective look at the God question. many today try to explain that phenomonon as chemical reactions in the brain caused by a "you scratch my back, i scratch yours" mentality. but that notion in general conflicts with darwins idea of survival of the fittest and natural selection. I don't know if you've ever read about richard Morgan but i think his story helps to shed light on things; http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/09/former-atheist-richard-morgan-interview.html

            lately i've realized that most atheists convert due directly or
            indirectly to the natural law. Chesterton, Lewis and Librisco all converted because they could not come up with a rational explanation for the natural law, it points to a "truth" beyond the human being, or beyond the mind. when i read richard morgan's covnersion i noticed thatit was basically the natural law that led him to his awe ha moment as
            well. Morgan was on dawkins website, (David robertson had already written the dawkins letters). some Russian lunatic convinced people to go up into the mountains to
            hide from the end of the world. the day came and went and the Russian lunatic tried to commit suicide. some of the posters were mocking him and then some said they regretted he failed in his suicide attempt. Now, at this point Morgan was horrified, "how could any civilized human
            being wish someone would die?" he appealed to some form of humanity (the higher truth, natural law, his conscience was alarming him something was wrong) subsequently he realized there was "something" to robertson's replys on dawkins site. "again morgan is searching, some higher truth, thought there was something to Robertson even though he thought he was deluded. he e-mailed robertson who asked Morgan, "what would it take you to believe in God"? to which morgan remembered the words, "we love because he first loved us". now, if we stop right here
            we'll notice, the natural law, or source of love, stung morgan's conscience with the story of the Russian prophet, further he recognized there was something of higher truth or love in robertson's replies, he seemed to care, something to the guy. so what are the words that came
            to his head? "we LOVE (aka, this feeling of love, of conscience, of openness to the higher truth is coming from...) because HE first LOVED us. the last piece of the puzzle. this feeling of conscience, of a moral right, of an appeal from humanity isn't an abstract idea or a
            chemical reaction caused by you scratch my back i scratch yours, this source has an exterior source, ...you (morgan) are able to love because you were first loved. morgan then said there was a "kind of perceptual change in his mind" he knew God existed without having any rational explanation for it. Morgan had his awe haa moment, he pursued it in a
            humble manner and received the gift of faith.

            it's hard to understand where people are coming from on a public domain. if you e-mail me i could understand where you coming from or why it still doesn't make sense to you. just go to 2fish.co click on the "contact us" button then click on the "ask a priest" button. be assured of my prayers and please let me know if you have more questions. you are in my prayers severalspeciesof.

          • Fr.Sean

            AMEN! if the conscience is in a sense God's voice all you have to do now is take an honest and objective view of the faith! once you've decided to be truly open and investigate the faith i believe you're okay! I suggest reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and perhaps Catholic and Christian by alan Shreck, and read through the gospels (might i even suggest Screwtape letters by Lewis). Pray and ask God to give you the gift of faith! Rationalist, if you are being honest you have made my day! No, wait you have made my month!

          • Rationalist1

            I've read C.S. Lewis, read "Intro to Christianity" by Ratzinger, read from Sheed to Rahner. Then I stopped believing.I remain open but just don't believe there is any evidence for God. When I die, I'll either see or never know. I don't see why making a choice based upon insufficient evidence helps anyone now.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalists,

            I once read a story by Cardinal Dolan. he said he was preparing a couple for marriage. the bride was Catholic and the groom was not. the groom expressed interest in the faith so Fr.Dolan gave him a few books to help him to understand. the young man came back the next time, he said he really liked the books, he really enjoyed the theology but there was one problem? he just didn't believe any of it? Fr.Dolan said he thought for a minute and realized faith is a gift? he told the young man to go home and pray for the gift of faith. the next week the young man came back and said he received it and he knew God existed! Pray for the gift of faith and be open to the possibility? Richard Morgan seemed to have somewhat of a similar path. http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/09/former-atheist-richard-morgan-interview.html Be assured of my prayers as well. Again, please feel free to e-mail me?

          • articulett

            Mormons tell you to read the Book of Mormon and earnestly pray for god to let you know if it's true-- and god will confirm it to you via a burning in the bosom or some other "sign"-- be patient and keep praying-- and, as can be expected, many Mormons get some sign or feeling that in their minds is god telling them that The Book of Mormon is true and corming that Joseph Smith was a prophet. They give testimony on how the KNOW their church is true. And if they ever decide to leave, they are reminded that god told them personally that The Book of Mormon is true.

            But of course they don't KNOW what they claim to know anymore than you know what you claim to know about god.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Does that mean that if you suffer from heartburn you are more likely to believe you have a calling?

          • articulett

            Yes. In fact being tuned in for "signs" makes you see them all over.

            (I lived in fear that I'd get a "calling" to be a nun as a child-- I remember thinking, if I get a calling I'm not answering... if god wants me for something he better distinguish himself from a delusion.)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, in the old days when young people were never told about the possibility of being gay (or even that that existed), the lack of attraction to the opposite sex was sometimes mistaken for a "sign" of calling.

          • articulett

            Yes... I can only imagine that this denial lead to many of the problems we see in the church today.

            Also, where would a guy go if he were gay or attracted to children-- the church seems the only real option... and there's the belief that god might help you control your sexual urges right?

            But it seems that the sex drive has evolved to be stronger than fear of god--

          • Andre Boillot

            You seem dangerously close to conflating homosexuality and pedophilia. Also, there's no reason to suggest that the RCC was the only option for either group.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            What an unexpected and welcome surprise......

          • articulett

            My apologies

            I don't conflate the two. What I'm saying is that in a Catholic Society, if you were a male who had sexual feeling that the society felt was aberrant, what were your options? Certainly many people have tried to change their sexuality by prayer-- and if god would help anyone, it would be the priests. I doubt many men with societally approved sexuality choose the life of a priest.

            Now, homosexuality is not a crime nor sin in my eyes-- it takes place between consenting adults. But pedophilia is a crime-- it desroys lives and I actually suspect that the only "cure" might be castration. But I don't think anyone chooses what they are sexually attracted to-- I, assume, just like myself, that they discover what it is that attracts them. They may be able to control how they express it. Or trying to control it may lead to repression and more harmful bizarre expressions.

            From my reading, girls are much more often the victims of pedophiles and there is no correlation between homosexuality/heterosexuality and pedophilia.

            But in Catholic society homosexuality is a sin and pedophilia is never even discussed. If you were a Catholic boy feeling the wrong sorts of attractions, what were your options?

          • Andre Boillot

            Art,

            "I doubt many men with societally approved sexuality choose the life of a priest."

            Again, I don't see how you can suggest that with no evidence at all.

            "If you were a Catholic boy feeling the wrong sorts of attractions, what were your options?"

            There are a myriad of options they could and did choose from. I'm not saying that the societal pressures they faced meant that they happily made these choices, but I think you'd have a hard time showing that the majority of gay men in Catholic countries choose the priesthood vs. staying in the closet and marrying a woman or remaining bachelors, all while pursuing whatever professional calling they chose.

          • Sample1

            No offense, but while I get your point, and I think it is a nuanced point but fair enough, I think you are dangerously close to obscuring a unique element here germane to the Catholic episcopacy up to and including a still retired pope.

            In point of fact, there is a reason to suggest that the Catholic Church was the only option for those priests when those priests were looking for a system that covered up sex crimes against minors by employing diplomatic immunity to escape secular justice.

            In other words, Boy Scouts of America, or other faith environments fail to compare with Catholicism here.

            Mike

          • Andre Boillot

            Sample,

            "In point of fact, there is a reason to suggest that the Catholic Church was the only option for those priests when those priests were looking for a system that covered up sex crimes against minors by employing diplomatic immunity to escape secular justice."

            I find it hard to believe that - given the whole concept of "cover up" - this was something widely enough know so as to represent the primary avenue for gay/pedophile Catholic men to make their way through society. That you're lumping gay men in with pedophiles while suggesting this is quite alarming.

            "In other words without a clarification of what you mean by "other options"

            Now I'm starting to wonder how many homosexuals you know, and how well you know them. As I replied to Art:

            "There are a myriad of options they could and did choose from. I'm not saying that the societal pressures they faced meant that they happily made these choices, but I think you'd have a hard time showing that the majority of gay men in Catholic countries choose the priesthood vs. staying in the closet and marrying a woman or remaining bachelors, all while pursuing whatever professional calling they chose."

          • Sample1

            You're arguing personal incredulity? And before we continue, where on earth did you pull the gay/pedophile lumping claim from my words? It's not there but feel free to show me. This is not an accusation or inference I am comfortable letting slide no matter the anonymity of this forum. I made no such claim and would never make such a claim.

            Present your case again and if it remains unchanged, so be it. We will have to disagree, though without evidence I won't dismiss this discussion without prejudice.

            Mike

          • Andre Boillot

            Sample,

            "And before we continue, where on earth did you pull the gay/pedophile lumping claim from my words? It's not there but feel free to show me."

            I got it from: "I think you are dangerously close to obscuring a unique element here germane to the Catholic episcopacy alone up to and including a still retired pope" - which I took to be a reference to rumors the retired pope was gay, as well as your failure to distinguish from the previous lumping of gay/pedo done earlier in the thread you're hoping into.

            It now appears this was lazy and/or presumptuous on my part. I apologize for that.

            In any case, you still appear to be claiming that the RCC was the only option for pedophiles...because they somehow know about a systematic cover-up, that apparently wasn't a secret if you were a pedo. Never mind all the cases of non-clerical pedophilia. They just didn't get the memo, apparently.

          • Sample1

            Andre,

            I used the word predator (not gay or pedophile). Your continued focus on gay, for whatever reason is a straw man.

            Have the second point, it's a straw army too. I'm done. But you did correct your incorrect insinuation and I thank you for doing that.

            Mike

          • Andre Boillot

            Mike,

            "I used the word predator (not gay or pedophile). Your continued focus on gay, for whatever reason is a straw man."

            Aside from trying to provide context for my initial, mistaken, assumption, I don't think I made any more references to "gay". I'm not sure what you're talking about.

            "Have the second point, it's a straw army anyway."

            I'm not sure what this means. Maybe you can explain. I was objecting to your unsupported claim that pedophiles were limited to the options of the RCC, the BSA, or "other non-Catholic led faith environments". It wouldn't take much research to turn up evidence of pedophile teachers, coaches, film directors, etc.

            If you want to argue that the way the RCC handles the sex abuse scandal allowed for the appalling continuation of these crimes, I'm right there with you. I just object to the idea that pedophiles are uniquely found in the environments you listed.

          • articulett

            No-- that was me...

            I said that if someone found themselves having abnormal sexual proclivities (as defined by the Catholic church) that there wasn't a lot of options-- one might hope for a celibate life and hope that god would lessen the desires of those who chose to serve as priests. I can't imagine people would become a priest because they "knew" of a systematic cover up of pedophilia unless they were a victim and it had been covered up. I know that being a victim of pedophilia could be a factor in someone becoming a pedophile... or at least that was one priest's explanation.

            But I know there is not a correlation between pedophilia and homosexuality and that homosexuals are no more likely to be pedophiles than heterosexuals. In the general population, girls are much more likely to be victims of pedophilia than boys, but when it comes to clergy, the opposite is true. My guess is that some people are entering the clergy with the hopes that it will control their sex drive-- if you are going to live a celibate life, you may as well be a priest, eh?

          • Andre Boillot

            "My guess is that some people are entering the clergy with the hopes that it will control their sex drive"

            Entirely possible, maybe even probable.

            "if you are going to live a celibate life, you may as well be a priest, eh?"

            Or an artist? A teacher? A scientist? A doctor?

          • articulett

            Yes, but if you become a priest you avoid the queries about why you aren't married... in fact, you can make it seem like a hard-- but virtuous choice, and win admiration for this "choice". This may well be true of nuns, too, for all I know.

          • Andre Boillot

            Art,

            I doubt it's your intention, but this line of thought seems insulting to gay men, Catholic gay men in particular. You're suggesting that most Catholic gay men chose to enter the priesthood - many undoubtedly under false pretenses in this scenario - solely to avoid the question of bachelorhood. I would suggest this wasn't the case, that had it had been the case we would have seen many more priests, and that there were many other reasons that society accepted for bachelorhood.

          • articulett

            Maybe you're right... I mean I don't think that there are a lot of people who reasoned it out like that... but some people certainly have a greater incentive to interpret "signs" as them getting a calling; whereas others-- would ignore or wave away seeming signs. I remember as a Catholic girl hearing about this idea of getting a calling, and I thought to myself, "If anyone is calling me, I'm not answering!" But if I was attracted towards women, then maybe I'd be more open to getting a "calling". Homosexuality in myself would have been a scary thing to me as a youth-- more scary than getting a calling; I might have decided that celibacy was a better option than marrying a man or having secret lesbian affairs and feeling guilt. It is particularly scary for religious people to realize that they have strong sexual attractions to the forbidden-- especially if they fear it will land them in hell. In fact, the high suicide rate amongst religious gay people supports my contention.

            I imagine it's much worse for someone who is feeling attraction towards children. There's not even a place in society where people can go to get help with such a problem-- you'd think, if anything, being god's ally might help. I don't know what I would do. And unless you've had those feelings, you don't know what you would do either.

            I suspect many people try to go the marriage route and hope that praying and trying really hard will make everything work out.

            I've heard it theorized that the high sexual issues among the priesthood may be due to enforced celibacy... but it may also be due, in part, to the kinds of people who choose to go into the clergy or who think they've got a "calling".

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/pope-confirms-gay-lobby-at-work-at-vatican-in-remarks-reported-by-priests-and-nuns/2013/06/11/e98ae398-d2f3-11e2-b3a2-3bf5eb37b9d0_story.html

            http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/faith/article3791707.ece

            Now I don't want to confuse homosexuality and pedophilia. To me, whatever consenting adults do is fine. I, like most people, am repulsed by pedophilia. I think it destroys lives, and can, apparently, make some people prone to becoming pedophiles themselves. But, I don't think anyone CHOOSES to be a pedophile-- any more than anyone chooses to be gay or straight. We don't choose what we are sexually attracted to-- rather, we find out. I think everyone hopes that pedophiles lead celibate lives and do whatever it is they need to do to keep from harming children. Some might even suggest suicide or castration. Others might feel believe that god can help control sexual urges.

            Maybe the Catholic church doesn't have a higher percentage of sex scandals than other churches or organizations... and maybe they don't have a higher number of pedophiles... but for an organization that claims to be amount morality and higher love-- they sure seem to havee a lot of problems... and we don't know how much we don't know.-- and I don't think it's ALL due to the celebacy requirement (which I suspect only asexual people are able to practice entirely). Do you think the Catholic church has more sex scandals than other organizations? Does it have more than we should expect? What do you think is the cause?

            Remember,most priests are older and entered the priesthood at a time when homosexuality was much more taboo and pedophilia was never even talked about aloud. I was dumbfounded when I heard about 1 priest... thinking it was an aberration... and never realizing how many were involved and how deep the cover ups went. Now, we hear about more victims every week it seems. And we have to assume that some were never caught... some victims never came forward... and surely some pedophiles were successful in keeping themselves from molesting anyone.

            Again... I'm not connecting homosexuality and pedophilia-- I know that studies do not support a connection... moreover, I know that most victims are female. However, the Catholic church skews towards homosexual pedophilia. Not only do they have more pedophiles than one might find in the general population... they also have more men who prefer sexual encounters with males. I submit this may be, in part,be due to selection bias on the part of men who convince themselves they've got a calling.

          • Sample1

            Russia recently passed a bill (434-0) making it illegal to tell kids that gay people exist. Consequences are in place to punish those who violate this law.

            In reply to:

            (or even that that existed)

            I despair at the so-called diplomacy that must be maintained vis-a-vis our embassies to such countries, whatever their status happens to be at the UN from Observer to Security Council Member.

            Stop the planet, I'd like to get off.

            Mike

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Well, that will make things better there, NOT.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articulette,

            whenever evaluating a prohpet it's important to evaluate what they say or what they have done to consider whether they are authentic. Joseph Smith believed people of African discent were inferior to white people and would never be equal on what ever planet they were supposed to rule. i think that may disqualify him as a potential prophet. if you want why don't you try to find something Jesus said or did that would conflict with the natural law, or with common sense?

          • BenS

            http://biblehub.com/matthew/21-19.htm
            http://biblehub.com/mark/11-13.htm

            Cursing a fig tree for having no figs when it wasn't even fig season?

            Lacks common sense by any definition I'm aware of.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            The story you bring up is an important symbolic story of what had been occuring with the israelite people. they had failed in their commitment to the Lord. Jesus used the fig tree as an analogy, that just as Israel fig tree had failed to produce mature fruit so had israel. Mature fruit basically entailed taking care of those in need and Loving God and those around you.

          • BenS

            Yeah? It doesn't say that. How do you know? To me it looks like a hungry man not finding any figs and having a hissy fit. In Mark he says that no-one shall ever eat figs from the tree again. Does this mean Israel is cursed? In Matthew he goes on to say that his disciples too can wage magical warfare on things including lobbing mountains into the sea. This followed up by 'And all the things you ask for in prayer and believe, you'll get' (to paraphrase). Was this also analogy or just a lie?

            And let me just reiterate my third sentence.

            How do you know?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,

            In Scripture study there's an observation called an "inclusio". Basically what it means is that normally Jesus will do an event, or perhaps heal someone, then he will teach the people and later heal another person of a similar aliment. In the one you cited from Mark, Mark uses an inclusio to convey what has happened to Israel. Jesus notices it has not bared fruit, he curses it then goes into Jerusalem where they too have not born fruit. on the way out the disciples see the whithered fig tree. The fig tree is symbolic of how Isarel has lost it's spirit or connecting with the Lord and therefor has cursed itself because it has been cut off from the vine. Matthew's Gospel that was written later (Matthew used Mark, and a source called Q for the german quele meaning source) he simply uses the symbolic representation of the fig tree all at once. Again since the people have cut themselves off from the source of life it is they who in a sense allowed themselves to whither. The Lesson for us is we still need to nurture our own faith to remain fruitful. the parable of the vine and the branches highlights this point; John 15 “I am the true vine,* and my Father is the vine grower.a He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes* so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.b Remain in me, as I remain
            in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains
            on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are
            the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
            because without me you can do nothing. For Christians simply staying connected to the vine through prayer and the sacraments allows one to bear fruit as a natural result of being connected. In other words, the primary job of the branch is to stay connected to the vine. if it does not it may wither.

          • BenS

            I don't mean to trivialise your clearly well thought out and considered post... but it really seems like you can dodge anything that doesn't seem like 'common sense' by saying it's a metaphor or symbolic. So, as long as you can crib in a metaphor post hoc then the things that don't sound like common sense are given a free pass.

            With regards to Joseph Smith's observation about Africans, you could say that it was a metaphor for the fallen and how those who don't accept the true word will forever be inferior to those guided by truth.

            Sure, you have problems with that metaphor but I also have problems with yours. As soon as you claim something is 'symbolic' then you can pretty much justify anything by tacking a completely different meaning on to it.

            Hence, 'how do you know' whether it's supposed to be symbolic or not?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Fr. Sean, I think you are missing Articulette's point.

            When the LDS missionaries come to your door, they ask you to read the BOM, pray for God's guidance and wait for Him to show you its truth. I see no difference between that request and the request that Cardinal Dolan made of the bridegroom.

            The peculiar and offensive doctrines of Mormonism are revealed later, in piecemeal fashion, only to those who have bought into the message of prayer.

          • Fr.Sean

            hi Vicq,
            I think there may be a subtle difference that's quite important. a mormon or jovah's witness tends to want u to believe without understanding everything. both appeal more to the need of community support and if you have doubts etc. it's because of some sin. the Catholic church never asks you to lay aside your rational mind and just believe. in fact doubt is a part of faith because when you investigate your doubts to see what the church actually teaches it usually leads to a deeper faith. in fact, i've met pleanty of Catholics who've left the faith to be protestant and vise versa, as well as many catholics who've left the faith all together. but i've never actuallu met a catholic whose left the faith who'se actually understood the faith. in fact most protestant converts who convert do so because they've studies the history of christianity or studied in detail the churches teachings. studying the catholic faith in detail is encouraged and almost always leads to acceptance of her truths. mormonism and jovah's witness both discourage an evaluation of the faith and convey if you want to do that it's because your guilty of some sin.

          • articulett

            I know a priest who left the Catholic faith to become an atheist (Edward Tarte). I think he understood the faith.

          • Fr.Sean

            hi Articulett,
            you know what, i stand corrected. i too know of a priest who left the faith so i do know of one. but this priest left because he wanted to get married and didn't want to wait. he's still very much a christian and is still very much involved in his parish. i guess i didn't think of him because his modivations were fuled by his desire to get married. i also know of a few other priest's who left because they realized the priesthood was not their calling. nevertheless the are still very much catholic

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            the Catholic church never asks you to lay aside your rational mind and just believe.

            Fr. Sean,

            Then apparently things have changed since I went to Catholic school! :P

            The Catechism says

            2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

            Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

            2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it."

            We were taught that one way to deal with doubt was to put it out of your mind and just trust that the Church knew more than you did. You say, "[I]n fact doubt is a part of faith because when you investigate your doubts to see what the church actually teaches it usually leads to a deeper faith." I think what the Church expects, and what you mean here, is that if you have doubts as a Catholic, you are supposed to seek out Catholics to tell you why you are wrong or read Catholic works on the subject of your doubt until you are finally satisfied that the Church teaching is correct. That is, if you happen across an idea from a Protestant denomination or a non-Christian religion, you are not supposed to look more deeply into the non-Catholic view and the Catholic view. You are supposed to read something from the Catholic point of view, otherwise you are "cultivating doubt."

            It seems to me that a Catholic who has a doubt about the Catholic faith is expected to deal with that doubt by assuming he or she is wrong and trying to find some way of making the doubt go away, either by ignoring it or by reading Catholic works that argue in favor of the Catholic view of the think the person doubts. The Catholic Church would, I think, earnestly hope, say, a Baptist who had a doubt about the Baptist faith and thought maybe Catholicism was right on that issue to study Catholicism itself, not read more deeply in Baptist literature about Catholicism. But a Catholic who suspected the Baptists were right about something would be expected to read more about what Catholics thought about the Baptist issue. In other words, the Church does not expect anyone to study both sides of an issue in depth and come to a conclusion. It expects Catholics and non-Catholics alike to read more and more Catholic thought until they are convinced it is true.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,

            I'm not too sure where you find the disparity. Obviously if faith is a gift, it needs to be nourished through praying and reading etc. involuntary doubt needs to be examined and investigated. Thomas in the Gospel is a good example of this. he had his doubts and he expressed them and thus came to a deeper faith. the cannon's were clear in the sense that you have to nourish your faith for it to be strong and thus you should incorporate other spiritualities such as new age etc because they stand contrary to it. but investigating doubts only strengthens faith.

            Doubt can strengthen faith in two ways. say for example you as a catholic had difficulty understanding the Eucharist so you went and read John Ch. 6 as well as the last supper discourses. perhaps you looked at the catechism, as well as studying what how other faiths understand the Eucharist. Studying those doubts would give you a deeper understanding as well as appreciation for what the Eucharist is. the other way doubt effects faith is that we all have faith and doubt residing within us. the important thing is which one we allow to guide our lives, or which one do we chose to believe? if i believe my faith and make decisions according to my faith i begin to see that that has a worthwhile investment, or it has a positive result in how i view my life, my world around me, my purpose and meaning in life. if i make decisions according to my doubts i don't get anywhere, faith still appears to be nothing more than an idea. Many of the atheists who converted to Catholicism investigated their doubts as atheists which eventually led to their conversion.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Apologies for the long message. Let me see if I can put it more succinctly. The Catholic Church expects Catholics who doubt an alleged truth of the Catholic religion to assume they are wrong in having that doubt and to seek to overcome (or simply avoid thinking about) the doubt. The Catholic Church expects all non-Catholics who have doubts that their religion is right and Catholicism is correct on a particular point to turn to Catholicism. A Catholic who believes Anglicans may be right about something is expected to assume he or she is wrong to be considering a Lutheran idea and to try to disbelieve the Lutheran idea. A Lutheran who believes Catholics may be right about something is expected not to seek to overcome his or her doubt, but to investigate and accept the Catholic position.

            The Catholic position (for Catholics) is not, "Search for truth, and let that search take you wherever it takes you." The Catholic position for Catholics is, as you say, to seek to "nourish" one's Catholic beliefs. The Catholic position for Lutherans is not that they should seek to "nourish" their Lutheran beliefs, but that they should turn from Lutheran sources to Catholic ones to resolve the doubt.

            It's not a level playing field. It's "heads I win, tails you lose."

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,
            I would agree with part of what you said. The Catholic Church believes when Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter that the church was protected when teaching about faith and morals. In other words if the pope makes a statement from the Chair of St.peter or when the bishops come together in a counsel that those teaching have the protection of the Holy Spirit. so in some respects you are correct in that Catholics might not understand certain aspects of the faith but they are to hold it as a doctrine that her teachings are in line with divine revelation. The Church also recognizes that Christians of other faiths are our brothers and sisters in Christ but they are still separated. The Church does not believe she is the only one who has the Holy Spirit or that other faiths do not have the assistance of Providence. The Church however does encourage one to investigate what she teaches, and that if one has doubts about various aspects of the faith they are encouraged to investigate them. Mormons and JW convey to their followers that if they have doubts about their respective religions that those doubts are rooted in some sin that the person needs to repent from? Furthemore if one leaves either of those two religions there are also other ramnafications such as loosing a job, or losing one's social network. The Catholic church encourages their faithful that if they have doubts about various aspects of the faith they are encouraged to investigate those doubts.

          • articulett

            Exactly. If you tell people that the emperor is wearing magical clothes that only the chosen can see-- some people will become convinced that they caught site of those clothes and feel special and chosen for having seen them-- others will play along because they will feel embarrassed that they weren't chosen and blame themselves. When you have a society like this, it's going to be a lot harder to convince people that there is no such thing as special fabric that only the chosen can see--those who have glimpsed the clothes will think that you are just one of the unchosen ones.

          • articulett

            I think the doctrine of hell (which Jesus introduced to the world) is abhorrant and conflicts with both natural law and common sense. And he calls a Caananite girl a dog in Matthew 15:22-28

            But that is neither here nor there... because we can't be sure any of it happened anyhow. It's just that feelings are not valid ways to know the truth. Telling people it is encourages confirmation bias.

            Everybody can give me reasons as to why all those other religions are wrong and why theirs is right, can't they? You set up your religion so it can't fail-- if people don't get the same message as you get, you tell yourself it's because they didn't pray hard enough or didn't want it enough or they're stubborn-- the same sorts of things all those other religions could say about you. I have no more reason to take your anecdotes and suggestions more seriously than you take similar anecdotes and suggestions of people of conflicting faiths. I think you are wrong in the same way that you think they are wrong-- and I think you are as unable to see this as they are.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi articulett,
            with respect to hell instead of thinking of it as a place of fire and brimstone try to think of it like this; you were made for God, an appeal for higher truth, the natural law is an indication of that truth or God. when one completely rejects God or higher truth they simply directed towards a life of constant pleasing of the self. generally people consumed with pleasing the self are just about always very unhappy. if one outright rejects the source of truth, or God they choose abandonment, isolation, that ultimately is what hell is.

            When Jesus spoke to the woman as if she was a dog you have to understand the context. Matthew was righting to a Jewish community of Christians. they understood the prophesy's of the messiah as coming for them and not for everyone. Matthew has to show his community that Jesus was the savior of everyone. so he has this dialogue with the gentile woman, but when you look at it it's almost as if he's teasing her faith to get her to the right place. sometimes when we pray about things or ask for help God doesn't answer our prayer right away because he wants to give us more than what we're asking for. he wants us to have a closer relationship with him which grows in prayer. In a sense that's what Jesus was doing with her before he cured her daughter. however there are other places in the gospel where Jesus just cures someone without being insistent on a faith prerequisite.

          • Max Driffill

            Fr Sean,

            Doesn't this disqualify almost all of the Old Testament prophets? The notion of a chosen people, who will always be held in higher esteem than any other people for all time seems like that might disqualify them as potential authentic prophets by the standard you have just established.

            But since you are asking for teachings of Jesus that might have offered a conflict with natural law or common sense, how about his awful teachings on family? Unless a man hate his mother or brother, well, you know the verses in Luke. Jesus encourages people to leave their families, wives and children. Pretty awful stuff. Or what about prudence? Thrift? Telling people to give no thought for the morrow seems a pretty wicked teaching.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Max,
            first the old testament establishes a foundation for the incarnation. they don't conflict with Jesus but the give a foundation for his arrival (Isaiah 53)
            secondly, the context Jesus was speaking of entailed alligence to not "hate" in the sense that we know it. he was speaking of would be followers and was helping them to see a committment to the Lord had to take a commitment to everything else. Jesus alo admonished the pharisees because they tried to reduce the 4th commandment to some commitment to God. he pointed out one cannot have an authentic commitment to God without caring for their elderly parents

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            >whenever evaluating a prohpet it's important to evaluate what they say or what they have done to consider whether they are authentic.

            There's no reason to believe that anyone is a "prophet". If someone says or does good or clever things, they are humans who have said or done good or clever things. Why should that make them a prophet?

            As far as the stories about Jesus go, many of the things he said were ambiguous, many things terrible, and even the good things weren't terribly original.

            > if you want why don't you try to find something Jesus said or did that would conflict with the natural law, or with common sense?

            I'm not a big fan of "common sense". That's my favourite oxymoron next to "free kittens". (My free kittens are almost nine now.) :-)

            "Natural law" is a phrase I hear here often. The catholic idea of it is a specific one and it doesn't strike me as very "natural". It is appealed to regularly but has never been made clear.

            I will give you an example (there are many) of one of the stories about Jesus that I find makes claims about reality that are simply not true and which is terribly cruel.

            Jesus sent "demons" into a herd of swine and drove them over a cliff to their deaths. This is a very cruel and unnecessary act. I'll never know whether it is just a legend or a skilled performer dazzling the crowds.

            There is no evidence of demons, and we have learned that illness has natural causes. The more we have learned about that, the better we have been able to deal with illness and suffering. Also, pigs suffer. Let's not pretend they don't.

            I don't think we could give you an example about the Jesus in the stories we have that you will consider as a mark against him.

            Anything that works for him, you will take literally and anything that works against becomes a metaphor.

            All we have are stories.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Jesus sent "demons" into a herd of swine and drove them over a cliff to their deaths. This is a very cruel and unnecessary act. . . . Also, pigs suffer. Let's not pretend they don't.

            First, you can't have it both ways. You can't criticize Jesus for working a "cruel" miracle when you don't believe he worked any miracles at all. (Also, in the account of the incident, the demons beg to be allowed to enter the pigs.)

            I think the reasonable conclusion if you do not accept the story as a true recounting of an incident demonstrating the power of Jesus is that it is a legend or a sort of parable, not the work of Jesus pulling off a stunt to fool people into thinking he could cast out demons. One thing to note is that pigs to Jews are unclean animals. Jews in first-century Palestine would not have been particularly sensitive to the suffering of animals, and particularly not pigs.

            Also, if any of the stories about casting out demons have any truth to them (for example, if the people considered to be possessed were suffering psychosomatic or psychological problems) exorcism was the only known treatment at the time. If Jesus was not casting out real demons, he was engaging in faith healing, which was the only known approach.

            Also, I hope you are don't eat bacon or pork chops, since we raise and slaughter pigs for food. That is not particularly kind.

            articulette's charge that Jesus called a Canaanite woman a dog is just silly. The woman in the story is so clever that Jesus winds up praising her. I can't think of another Gospel story where someone spars verbally with Jesus and wins.

            I don't agree with the whole idea of how to evaluate prophets, but trying to criticize Christianity by claiming that Jesus was cruel to animals is really bizarre. He did curse a fig tree for not having any figs on it, and figs were out of season, so that is weird, but I suspect it was a parable that got garbled.

          • Susan

            Hi David,

            >First, you can't have it both ways. You can't criticize Jesus for working a "cruel" miracle when you don't believe he worked any miracles at all

            Why would you think driving a herd over a cliff is a miracle? All you have to know is how to do it.

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

            >(Also, in the account of the incident, the demons beg to be allowed to enter the pigs.)

            This shows more consideration for the feelings of demons than for innocent bystanders who are sentient.

            >I think the reasonable conclusion if you do not accept the story as a true recounting of an incident demonstrating the power of Jesus is that it is a legend or a sort of parable, not the work of Jesus pulling off a stunt to fool people into thinking he could cast out demons.

            How do we sort out how much of it is a legend? I don't know. Sean asked about what Jesus did or said and I only have the stories to refer to.

            But I'm not sure why your conclusion is the most reasonable. Anything's possible. There are countless cases of humans manipulating the gullibility of crowds in order to manipulate them. I'm not saying that's the case. I don't know what to make of the story. It never made sense to me.

            >Jews in first-century Palestine would not have been particularly sensitive to the suffering of animals, and particularly not pigs.

            But the claim is that Jesus is not your ordinary first-century Jew. He was the incarnation of an omnibenevolent deity.

            >If Jesus was not casting out real demons, he was engaging in faith healing, which was the only known approach.

            Unless you're the incarnation of an omnipotent, omniscient deity. If this is just a story about a guy who couldn't have known better, I would accept that he did the best he could considering what little he knew at best and that he was a snake oil salesman at worst. Who knows? We only have stories. There are so many possibilities.

            >Also, I hope you are don't eat bacon or pork chops, since we raise and slaughter pigs for food. That is not particularly kind.

            I don't and I agree it isn't. I am not here to get all preachy about that as good, decent people don't think about it much and eat pork chops all the time but that doesn't mean it doesn't cause tremendous suffering. It's a complicated issue. Belief systems that put humans at the centre without a thought and hand wave away the real suffering of sentient non-human beings without giving a second's thought to the implications don't help. I think a good case can be made that it is an important moral issue that needs to be addressed. I'll leave it at that.

            >I don't agree with the whole idea of how to evaluate prophets, but trying to criticize Christianity by claiming that Jesus was cruel to animals is really bizarre.

            Sean asked me about what Jesus might have said or done that would undermine his status as a prophet.

            Here is a story told about Jesus in which he demonstrates that he has no idea what causes sickness and in which he shows callous disregard for sentient creatures. Not very Omni if you know what I mean.

          • Andrew G.

            Please don't regurgitate old comments.

          • Fr.Sean

            hi andrew, sorry abt that, i had a meeting and didn't have time to type it out. but figured i couldn't say it any different

          • vito

            I prayed for the gift of faith for like 15 years on a daily or semi-daly basis, with a few short breaks. Did not work.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Vito,
            on Thursday we had a priest give us a talk for a night of worship. he grew up in the Caribbean in a poor family. he said he was raised Catholic but his family's Mass attendance was rather sporadic. when he moved into middle school there were no schools for boys or something to that effect in his area so he went to a muslim school. he said they knew he was Catholic but he basically just blended in. when he went into college he became more interested in his faith so he began to read a little of the new testament every day and went to Mass every sunday. but he said that his faith is a bit mythical. he started to think perhaps God was just this mythical type of figure and that if he existed he might must see him when he died but he still wasn't sure. he wasn't really even sure if God existed. he said for the next couple of years he did the same thing, kept reading the bible and kept praying and going to Mass. at one point he said he decided not to pray anymore, but after a couple of days he missed it so he started praying again, even though he really didn't know if God existed. at one point he said he went to some kind of a worship service at his local parish and was amazed to see some of his fellow classmates at the service, singing and prasing God. he as well as they were all stugying engineers, so he didn't really think people focused on math and and such were really interested in aspects of faith. he said a week went by when he was walking back from class to his room when two of the engineering students whom he saw at Mass walked up to him and asked if they could pray with him. as they did he felt a rush of the Holy Spirit, God became real. he understood God as a real person who loved him. after that event he felt that the most important goal to him was to share what he experienced with others. thus after a while he dropped out of engineering school because he felt called to be a priest.

            I think his story is similar to yours in a sense that he kept doing it, praying and going to church for a while before anything happened. Remember if God is going to reveal himself to you you have to know a little of who God might be. so it's important to read though the Gospels, perhaps read a few more books and keep praying and i'm confident you will get some interior proof. i will pray for you as well.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Because, perhaps, you would rather go to Hell than bend the knee to the Christ you have committed your will to denying?

          • Dan C.

            How could it possibly be wrong?

            The entire purpose of religion in the world is to, at last, establish justice and peace for the just, so that they will no longer suffer depredations at the hands of the unrighteous.

            Salvation, my friend, is a simple matter of separating the just from the unjust.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rick,

            Catechism 1117 states; 1777
            Moral conscience,48 present at the heart of the person, enjoins him at the appropriate moment to do good and to avoid evil. It also judges particular choices, approving those that are good and denouncing those that are evil.49 It bears witness to the authority of truth in reference to the supreme Good to which the human person is drawn, and it welcomes the commandments. When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking.

            i don't disagree with you but i believe we are judged according to our conscience as it is formed. If an atheist begins to ponder honestly whether or not God exists, and objectively begins to search for the truth, and in that unexpected situation dies, they will be judged mercifully. one is only judged according to how much revelation he or she has had. the obvious indication to this statement is to want to avoid pursuing the truth because it may lead to more responsibility, but that is not what i'm referring to. if one is objectively searching to discern theological truths then they are already headed in the direction of salvation. i think the real question would be how authentically, or objectively is one searching for the truth?

            Luke Ch12:46; "then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
            47That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the
            person entrusted with more."

            while ignorance of the faith is not an excuse if one rejects the idea of objectively searching for the truth, if one is open and searches they are already moving towards salvation.
            Don't forget Purgatory is intended to purify us so that we may be perfect. if one is moving in the direction of "truth" they only need to be purified.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Rick, your comment is a bit misleading. Pelagianism is the belief that man can *earn* salvation through good works, apart from Christ. That's not what Fr. Sean proposed. He never suggested that such good works were 1) performed apart from Christ's grace or 2) efficacious for salvation.

            Even more problematic for your accusation is that Fr. Sean's comment essentially echoes Lumen Gentium 16, which states:

            "Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life."

            Perhaps we can be more careful here when accusing others of heresy.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The heresy, Brandon, is explicit; that is, an atheist can achieve salvation.

            This is false.

            An atheist can neither believe in God, nor can he or she be justified, so long as their atheism persists.

            The contrary notion is heretical, since the Holy Catholic Church:

            "....firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."-- de fide definita, Pope Eugene IV, the bull "Cantate Domino"

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Rick, you claim "An atheist can neither believe in God, nor can he or she be justified, so long as their atheism persists."

            This is simply false, from a Catholic perspective, demonstrably so from Lumen Gentium 16. That section notes the possibility of salvation for people who "have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God." That would include atheists.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Please provide the text from Lumen Gentium which contradicts the dogmatic definition of the Catholic Faith, that:

            “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

            I do not find it.

            I must also point out that if you think you *do* find it, I urge you to think again, since you would be proposing here in the sight of God, that the Holy Catholic Church has contradicted a defined dogma in Lumen Gentium 16.

            This is of course impossible.

            Instead it will be seen that you have wrongly understood Lumen Gentium 16.

          • Andre Boillot

            "in the sight of God"

            Seems unnecessary to point this out, given both your convictions re: the nature of God, no?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Rick,

            I have many times asked Christian apologists, "What about my loving atheist parents, both of whom died in their unbelief?? How could I, should I become a believer, reconcile myself to their eternal torment??"

            Catholics, much more than other Christians in my experience, tend to answer this question evasively. "Well, only God knows the state of one's soul. Your parents may in fact be in heaven....."

            I want to commend you for not resorting to that sort of tap dance. You would force me to accept the fact that "they be burnin'"....and I respect that honesty.

            For the record, I have found the only compelling answer to the question I posted above to be found in C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce. But I strongly suspect that Lewis' portrayal of the afterlife in that work would be completely at odds with Catholic dogma.....

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Vicq,
            I might be setting myself up to get pummeled, most likely by some atheists and some catholics but here goes; I remember reading a book by about an autobiography of a saint who claimed to have private revelation. Before we get into a debate about private revelation, i'm not advocating one has to or should believe in private revelation, it's just the event in the book that i'm attempting to use. Jesus had appeared to i think it was Sr.Faustina (it's been long time since i read the book so i can't specifically remember the saint but i do remember the story) where two local people had passed away. one was a doctor and the other was some other individual. neither one practiced their faith, however the second individual had gone to confession before he had died. When Jesus had appeared to her she mentioned to him about the two people who had expired, but how he responded surprised her. the man who had gone to confession before he had died had lost his soul, his confession wasn't sincere and her really didn't have any true contrition. the doctor who had not gone to confession did save his soul. the reason being is that although he did nothing to practice his faith he spent much of his time caring for those who had no way of paying him because they were too poor. he had also given a lot of money to the poor. thus he was on his way to heaven. i believed the story for two reasons (again don't want to get into a debate about private revelation); 1. his story was reminicent of matthew 25 the story of the sheep and the goats. moreover it also rang true with an excerpt from i think it's one of Paul letters where he talks about a gentile living the law or cooperating with his conscience even though he had not been privy to revelation.

            while you mentioned Lewis, i remember reading one of his discussions where he used a dialogue where a person of another faith made it to heaven only to discover the one he thought was God was not God at all. but because he tried to live his faith, or he tried to be a good person (not advoctaing salvation by works just that Jesus died for everyone and this person was not privy to revelation) and so he was welcomed into heaven.

            the catholic faith as well as orthodox believe in purgatory. purgatory is not a place where one has to go to "suffer more" because they didn't suffer enough here. it's a place where one is purified so they can be in the presence of perfect love. in a sense they want to be there so they can deal with whatever way they were still imperfect. if your parents were good people as you said and i'm sure they were but just never had an authentic opportuinty to hear the gospel in an objective manner than i'm sure they are most likely there, or where there. they only need prayers and i will pray for them. think of it like this, you have a sense that love is eternal or that it never ends. being a loving and caring person as an eternal effect. i will remember them at Mass as well. i will also pray for you.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I am going to do a minor bit of pummeling.

            I think it is incumbent on faithful Catholics running this site and those commenting here to make it crystal clear that Rick DeLano does not speak for the Catholic Church in his Feeneyite interpretation of "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

            The passage from Lumen Gentium Brandon references above is, in part:

            Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Sean,

            I appreciate your heartfelt reply but -

            never had an authentic opportuinty to hear the gospel

            - is just the sort of evasion I was describing in my post. Of course they had heard and read the Christian gospel. Repeatedly, over their long lives. I discussed it with them at length several times. And to the very best of my knowledge, (I talked with my Dad about it less than a week before his death) they never came to believe in even a small portion of it.

            Now if you want to start with that as a given with no tap dancing about it, and tell me how I should come to accept their eternal fates, I'll give you a listen.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Vicq,
            Get the book "Healing our image of God" by Dennis Linn. read it, it will take you all but about 20 minutes. then send me an e-mail. just go to my website 2fish.co then click "contact us" then click "ask a priest".

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Looking at the comments at Amazon about this book.

            It appears to present an image of God which is much closer to Universalism than has traditionally been posed by either Catholics or Protestants.

            I'd like to hear a discussion between Dennis Linn and this site's Rick DeLano on the topic.....

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Vicq,
            The Book as the impra mater, it's approved by the Church. there are some things i think would shed light on your questions that i would like to discuss, and that i think would be helpful and bring some clarity into the subject.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I realize you are trying to help - but you are directly contradicting Catholic doctrine. Why?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            What Catholic doctrine if Fr. Sean contradicting?

            Have you been paying too much attention to Rick DeLano? He may seem very convincing when he argues that only baptized Catholics can be saved, but he also argues that the earth is the center of the universe and the sun and stars revolve around it. He is the fifth most frequent commenter on the site, and the most frequent self-identified Catholic commenter. It's somewhat of a scandal, in my opinion, that on a Catholic blog, the most frequent Catholic commenter is misleading in describing Catholic doctrine.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I generally don't take Rick seriously: as you say, he is often wrong. But the point about the salvation of non-Catholics is laid out reasonably clearly in the catechism, IIRC. Those who have not accepted Christ are clearly damned, save those who have not been exposed to the gospels. God may save those, but whether he does is not known.

            I admit I haven't read the catechism through in four or five years, but I could try to find the relevant sections.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Mr O'Brien:

            I have been guilty of posting precisely one erroneous assertion in my three hundred-odd posts, of which I am aware.

            I corrected it myself, the error was not brought to my attention.

            I had incorrectly asserted that the gap between theory and observation for our present gravitational theory was such that 99% of the matter/energy of the universe must be added in by hand.

            This was incorrect.

            The correct amount of matter/energy that must be added in by hand in order to bridge the otherwise -insuperable gap between gravitational theory predictions and observations is 95.9%.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Which is not related to gravitational theory, it is a matter of cosmology.

            And it's Ms. Not Mr.

            Two in one post, and I haven't even checked your numbers.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Which is not related to gravitational theory, it is a matter of cosmology."

            >> Perhaps the most remarkable statement I have yet read from an atheist on this blog.

            Let me reiterate, for the sake of those capable of understanding English:

            Our present gravitational theories require the addition of terms in the Einstein field equations, corresponding to 95.9% of the matter/energy in the universe.

            If these terms are not introduced, then our gravitational theories fail drastically, on any scale larger than a stellar cluster.

            In fact they fail by.......yup.

            95.9%.

            My apologies for the error concerning your gender, won't happen again.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            David:

            You continue to assert that I am misleading in Catholic doctrine, when in simple truth, it has been conclusively demonstrated through numerous direct exchanges between us that *you* are the one who has incorrectly grasped Catholic dogma.

            It is also the case that the only cosmology ever officially approved by the Catholic Church, happens to be the very one you reference above :-)

            So far, it is not looking very good for your assertions here, sir.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is simply grotesque that my response to Mr. Nickols above has been Memoryholed.

            Mr. Nickols' assertions have been thoroughly, fairly, and completely answered on threads available for review here.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is not immediately apparent that Fr. Sean's post above contradicts Catholic doctrine, although there is certainly room for ambiguity in his story.

            Suffice it to say that the doctor, if he died with unabsolved mortal sin, most certainly did not escape damnation.

            But if the doctor was baptized, and made an act of perfect contrition before death, the story could be authentic.

            As for the soul that was damned due to an invalid confession- that is certainly the objectively certain outcome of such a malevolent perversion of the sacrament.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            I'm not contradicting Catholic doctrine. we believe that one is judged based on how much revelation they have had. if one has not been privy to the gospel or perhaps they had bad experiences God takes that into account. i know that some of our protestant brothers and sisters use the verse from John's Gospel that "Jesus is the way the truth and the life" which is a true statement but one has to understand the context. Jesus is the way, but it basically means because Jesus freely offered up his life as an expiation for sin that they only reason anyone is able to save his or her soul is because of the gift he gave us. That's why the pope was commenting about atheists being redeemed. if one has had an opportunity to be open an objective to the Gospel than they do have an obligation to freely evaluate the gospel, to pray and to be open to the possibility of who Jesus is and what he is about. one of my friends in the seminary was from a country in Latin America. he father had died when the guy i knew was young and wasn't in good graces with the church. but something happened in his country which turned him off from the institutional church. he had always wondered at the state of his father's soul. one night he said his father was in a dream assuring him that everything was okay and that he was proud of him for responding to God's call. certainly that could have been just a dream but he didn't seem to think so. if for some reason he misunderstood the church or perhaps some Priests gave bad example God would have understood that. i don't know if you read the incident i posted about my friend who's a priest and also a Christian brother but his experience certainly supports what the church teaches. if one does not have the freedom, or has had some bad example God would certainly understand that and welcome him into his kingdom. it's interesting, but once you have more experiences of what God is like, how merciful, compassionate and Loving you seem to understand what Jesus means when he says it is "the father has given them to me and i have not lost anything of what he gave me. it gives you the sense that you are in the father's hands and nothing can take you out of them. People who lose their soul lose it because they choose to. ie. they become totally selfish and self serving and become the opposite of unselfish love.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            " if one has had an opportunity to be open an objective to the Gospel than they do have an obligation to freely evaluate the gospel, to pray and to be open to the possibility of who Jesus is and what he is about"

            Why does one have this obligation? Because you said so?

            According to what you've just laid out, everyone except catholics is damned for eternity. That's the overwhelming majority of the human race over human history.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            I think you may have misunderstood what i was trying to say. From the Church's perspective, Jesus paid the penalty for everyone such that everyone can go to heaven because of what he did in offering up his life. Accordingly some have had the opportunity to hear the gospel in a free and open manner. Some have not. Those who have not heard the gospel receive salvation if they have attempted to adhere to the conscience and tried to live a good life. those who have heard the gospel most likely fall into two catagories; One would be people who were given the knowledge of the faith in a free and loving way. they have a responsibility to nurture their faith through prayer and the sacraments and through perhaps reading more about their faith. the second catagory would be those who have heard the gospel but haven't heard it in a free and loving way. perhaps people who grew up in families where the parents were abusive but still went to church, or perhaps people who were treated poorly by religious leaders or had some emotional damage done by someone who represented the faith. Naturally these people would not have been given an accurate understanding of what the faith is all about. Thus While Jesus did come to save everyone, people have had different amounts of revelation and experiences to which God will take into account when they go home to him.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            If your parents were baptized, and made an act of perfect contrition before death, or, if they were not baptized, and they had a deathbed desire for baptism, then there is hope, Victor.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            ....sigh...

            Most of the Protestants to whom I have posed this question have had sufficient courage of their convictions to tell me that yes, in all likelihood, my parents are in "eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" and that I am going to have to accept that as a consequence of accepting Christ.

            I had hoped from your post up-thread that you were one of the rare Catholics who would similarly not dilute the doctrine in an attempt to soothe.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Not diluting a thing, Vicq.

            There is no contradiction whatever between the two posts.

            In fact, to insist upon one to the exclusion of the other would be a falsification of Catholic teaching.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Well, then let's depersonalize the question.

            Do you believe that some families will be separated in the afterlife, husband or mother or brother in heaven, wife or father or sister in hell?

            How will the eternal bliss of the former group be affected by their separation from the latter, and knowledge of their respective fates?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Do you believe that some families will be separated in the afterlife, husband or mother or brother in heaven, wife or father or sister in hell?"

            >> Yes.

            "How will the eternal bliss of the former group be affected by their separation from the latter, and knowledge of their respective fates?"

            >> Given: eternal bliss. Given: separation from husband/mother/father/brother/wife/sister.

            It follows that eternal bliss consists in something different than non-separation from husband/mother/father/brother/wife/sister.

            Alternatively, we can say that:

            a) IF eternal bliss depends upon non-separation from husband/mother/father/brother/wife/sister, then no one will be separated in eternity from husband/mother/father/brother/wife/sister.

            BUT:

            b) Some will be separated in eternity from husband/mother/father/brother/wife/sister,

            SO:

            c) eternal bliss does not depend upon non-separation from husband/mother/father/brother/wife/sister

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I summarize your post as: "If the child is in heaven, and his mom and dad are in hell, he won't care." Is that right??

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Short answer: Yes.

            Long answer:

            "I answer that, It is impossible for any created good to constitute man's happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object of the will, i.e. of man's appetite, is the universal good; just as the object of the intellect is the universal true. Hence it is evident that naught can lull man's will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone; because every creature has goodness by participation. Wherefore God alone can satisfy the will of man, according to the words of Ps. 102:5: "Who satisfieth thy desire with good things." Therefore God alone constitutes man's happiness".-- Aquinas, Summa, II. i. ii "On Happiness"

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            OK, fair enough. Thanks for the chat.

          • Valkr

            You recently devoted an entire post to explaining that atheists may be redeemed, but not saved.

            You seem to be contradicting that assertion here.

        • Andrew G.

          What about an atheist who had good experiences from Christian parents?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Andrew,
            We're judged based on how much revelation, and experiences we'v had. As my post above to rick points. if you honestly and objectively search for the truth, and take an honest look at the faith, research it and pray for the gift of faith than that's all you can do at this point. I believe if an atheist who had parents who went to church on sunday, but say the father beat the children or did nothing to show them that he loved them than they're naturally going to be antagonistic towards the faith. actually, let me digress for just a moment. an older Priest friend of mine used to be a Christian brother. he worked with the youth who came from very difficult homelives. most of them were either abused by their parents or their parents had drug problems. the state took them aways so by the time they ended up at the school he was at they had a lot of emotional and psychological issues. my priest friend will call him jim said when the young man came to the school (we'll call him bob) he was angry all the time, didn't trust anyone and was always getting into trouble. Jim always tried to help the young man, he tried to convey God loved him and cared for him. for the first couple of years the young man refused to believe in God, refused to pray or have anything to do with the faith. but jim continued to be kind and loving and he and many of the sisters continued to be patient and show him kindness. eventually bob started to change. he started to pray, to be kind and open to what his mentors were trying to convey to him. he even started to do better at school, although he occasionally went back on drugs, he was generally moving in the right direction. Jim was a success, although it took years to get there. he eventually graduated from school and went on to get a job, with perhaps a slightly different outlook. Jim said he had heard bob went back on drugs. jim tried to help but with the freedom he had outside of the orphanage there were no guiding factors to steer him back towards the right path. one day jim was walking back to the orphanage when he went under a train trussel. over against the wall he saw bob leaning back with his eyes rolled up in the back of his head. jim went over to see if he was alraight and he said bob just collapsed. a car drove by slowed down and jim asked them to send for an ambulance. he said bob's head fell back and he started to vomit. right at that point bob died. jim told me all he could think was, was bob lost? he said it was right at that point he had a little vision, not a mystical one or he didn't see anything miraculous, just something he felt the Lord showed hm, of Jesus coming down and taking bob up to heaven. he said it was such a profound experience he knew bob had saved his soul.
            he also said it was one of the most profound moments that conveyed to him God's mercy. his outlook on life and on his faith was never quite the same.

            i think bob's story, or i guess i should say jim's story is ultimately what i'm trying to convey. bob never had a fair chance? his life was a bit of a "hell" experience from the moment he was young. God would certainly judge someone in that kind of a situation completely different than he would judge another. not only that but bob tried to be open to the truth as best he could? all we can do is try to be open. the Lord will assist us if we do try. and always remember, Jesus did not come to save perfect people, he came to save sinners. so the struggle with sin is something we will always have to deal with in this life.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          I had Christian parents and wonderful experiences with them. Yet I am, and always have been, an atheist.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            You're parents can plant the seeds of your faith but it's up to you to let them grow. you let them grow by praying, reflecting on scripture, going to church etc. you can't always go because mom and dad want you to go, but i do believe if one makes an honest evaluation and search they will come to an innate knowledge of God instead of an exterior idea that they learned about.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. But you are wrong. "Knowledge of God" is clearly not something that can be observed from the world.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            Hmm, i think we may have a misunderstanding. i would agree that you can't get innate knowledge of God simply by observing the world. i think you can get evidence of God's existence by observing the world, but to get to an innate knowledge of God i believe one needs to reflect on the scriptures, spend time in prayer and objectively attempt to seek for the Lord. The ironic aspect you realize later is that while you were searching the Lord was leading you in your search all along. If you stop and "listen", ask yourself ,"what has the Lord said to me today, or in the last week?" little events come to mind which open the door for an awareness of just how close God already is. but you do need a sense of humility and objectivity. i think nature can give evidence of God but only a humble and objective search give you something more tangible.

            but then comes the frustrating part. someone will ask you for empirical proof but the only thing you will be able to do is to point them to walk the same path.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And precisely what evidence of God do you find in nature, and how do you know it's evidence?

            As for the 'humble and objective search' - since followers of every faith use the same basic technique, and all come up with mutually contradictory answers, it is far more likely that they are projecting their cultural context onto their sensus divinitatus (as Calvin would say).

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            I can certainly identify with the notion if in fact there are so many potential theories or claims to be the right one that perhaps it's more likely that all of them are wrong. Furthermore, there is no empirical evidence like there is evidence of a table, or chair or something you can simply pull out of a box and say; here it is? Prior to dialoguing on this webiste i had always assumed aquinas' 5 proofs were rather tellings as well as discerning a source for the natural law. since being here i have read a little more (John Lennox's "has science buried God" was an excellent book) as well as a few more things that i've read. i suppose the conclusion i've come to (again this is my perspective) is that if you look at aquina's five proofs they are pretty straight forward, or rather they're pretty clear. the refutations i've read for them all seem to follow a similar line of thought. they don't disprove them they simply distract you from the proof to get your mind on something else. once one is distracted there no longer thinking of the validity of the proof. it's almost like a court hearing where the person is clearly guilty, but to confront the evidence the jury is continuously confused about some incidental aspect that has very little to do with the proof. the natural law in my opinion is perhaps one of the strongest proofs since is that proof that does end up converting mosts atheists, and i also think fine tuning is rather definitive proof.

            with respect to all of the religions, i think the Catholic faith has perhaps a little better way of looking at that. all other religions are not just "wrong", but they have various amounts of truth (except perhaps hinduism) buddhism has some elements of truth. Islam is monotheistic. Jews adhere to the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), other Christians also acknowledge Jesus as the son of God and the Orthodox also have apostolic succession as well as the 7 sacraments.

            one might imagine if there was a God he would reveal himself in some way but not empirically since he would not want robots. if that were true we may look at the abrahamic religions as most likely revealing the divine. islam believed Jesus was a prophet. however the Quran was written by one man who contradicted what the Christian faith said about him. Jews believe in a messiah just that Jesus was not him. Jesus claimed to be the son of God and many in history claimed he performed miracles. so in reality i would start with two questions to ponder; 1. if you look at aquina's 5 proofs and recognize that the refutations are really just distractions do those five proofs appear to be realistic?

            2. Is Jesus who he said he was in the Gospel's? do his teachings and his life appear to match up with someone who claimed to be a messanger from God?

            Finally, perhaps one way to look at the whole thing is to pray to a God you aren't sure exists and then investigate each one of those religions and see where that leads you? it would seem reasonable, if there was a God, and you prayed and investigated those various religions that that God would somehow lead you to the one that most accurately reveals who he is?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "I can certainly identify with the notion if in fact there are so many potential theories or claims to be the right one that perhaps it's more likely that all of them are wrong."

            I did not say this. It is not part of the discussion I am having right now; we can certainly pursue this line further if you'd like.

            "Furthermore, there is no empirical evidence like there is evidence of a table, or chair or something you can simply pull out of a box and say; here it is?"

            So you agree there is no empirical evidence for god? Then what is this 'evidence' you are finding in nature?

            "Prior to dialoguing on this webiste i had always assumed aquinas' 5 proofs were rather tellings as well as discerning a source for the natural law. since being here i have read a little more (John Lennox's "has science buried God" was an excellent book) as well as a few more things that i've read. i suppose the conclusion i've come to (again this is my perspective) is that if you look at aquina's five proofs they are pretty straight forward, or rather they're pretty clear."

            They are a product of a certain scholastic mindset that elevated logic over observation. They also rely on a number of presuppositions that are a product of mathematical naivete and lack of knowledge of the physical world.

            "The refutations i've read for them all seem to follow a similar line of thought. they don't disprove them they simply distract you from the proof to get your mind on something else. once one is distracted there no longer thinking of the validity of the proof. it's almost like a court hearing where the person is clearly guilty, but to confront the evidence the jury is continuously confused about some incidental aspect that has very little to do with the proof."

            Have you read Mackie, for example? I don't recognize any of the normal refutations in what you say.

            "the natural law in my opinion is perhaps one of the strongest proofs since is that proof that does end up converting most atheists, and i also think fine tuning is rather definitive proof."

            If natural law converted most atheists, then there wouldn't be many atheists, now would there? As far as I can see, natural law arguments are convincing only to theists - and fine tuning is not a 'proof' at all. It's a misunderstanding of mathematical probability.

            "with respect to all of the religions, i think the Catholic faith has perhaps a little better way of looking at that. all other religions are not just "wrong", but they have various amounts of truth (except perhaps hinduism) buddhism has some elements of truth. Islam is monotheistic. Jews adhere to the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), other Christians also acknowledge Jesus as the son of God and the Orthodox also have apostolic succession as well as the 7 sacraments."

            And there is the basic question: how do you know you're right?

            "one might imagine if there was a God he would reveal himself in some way but not empirically since he would not want robots."

            In what possible way would god revealing himself create robots? Theists claim that god is revealed to them all the time, but they don't seem to feel they are robots.

            "if that were true we may look at the abrahamic religions as most likely revealing the divine."

            Why? From an atheists point of view, there is nothing to distinguish the truth claims of semitic faiths from any other.

            "islam believed Jesus was a prophet. however the Quran was written by one man who contradicted what the Christian faith said about him."

            Um, so what? If Mohammed was correct, then the christians are wrong.

            "Jews believe in a messiah just that Jesus was not him. Jesus claimed to be the son of God and many in history claimed he performed miracles. so in reality i would start with two questions to ponder; 1. if you look at aquina's 5 proofs and recognize that the refutations are really just distractions do those five proofs appear to be realistic?"

            No. I am quite familiar with the five 'proofs' and find none of them convincing, as I indicated above.

            "2. Is Jesus who he said he was in the Gospel's? do his teachings and his life appear to match up with someone who claimed to be a messanger from God?"

            We have no idea. And you appear to be confused; Jesus didn't claim to be a messenger from god, he claimed to be god.

            "Finally, perhaps one way to look at the whole thing is to pray to a God you aren't sure exists and then investigate each one of those religions and see where that leads you?"

            "it would seem reasonable, if there was a God, and you prayed and investigated those various religions that that God would somehow lead you to the one that most accurately reveals who he is?"

            Not if such a god didn't exist. And I know many people who have done just that.

            Result? Zip. Or they all found a different image of god.

            But could you answer my question please, about what evidence you find in nature? All you have given me so far are the usual metaphysical arguments.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,

            i think we might end up writing a book, we're covering a lot of subjects but that's okay? lol

            1. when i say empirical i'm sure you know some kind of proof like the computer (or smart phone) you're looking at. if God parted the clouds, gave you some kind of instrument that would give you unlimited contact and gave you the "rules" if you will, you would most likely follow him, but it would simply be because you had to not because you had any desire or inquisitiveness. thus he gives us things to ponder, things to open us up to his signs and his presence. as we become more aware of him we discover that he has always been with us, that he loves us unconditionally and he is what we were made for.
            2. the refutations never disprove aquina's proof only make the water muddy. ex. something had to come from nothing. traditional atheistic answer; create a vacuum and you can get something from nothing; truth is a vacuum isn't empty but is filled with dark matter that can become matter. thus we're still left with the same question, at some point something had to come from nothing. ex. 2 contingency; matter is always chainging and came from a different from different place. at some point it had to come from an uncaused cause. entropy throughout space and time shows that it is increasing, although it may decrease in an enclosed system for a limited amount of time. at some point entropy will reach maximum entropy, and all matter will be dispersed. to bring it back in for "another big bang" it would take something extrememly powerful that can defy th laws of physics. something had to bring it in at the beginning (an unmoved mover). any refutation you read of that will only change the subject not disprove it.

            3. Mohammad kind of contradicts what would appear to be reasonable. he killed a lot of people and he taught that if one does not convert it's okay to kill them. Jesus taught things like, " love your neighbor, do good to those who hate you, bless those who mistreat you and pray for those who persecute you." Jesus was always loving and kind with sinners but was most adamantly against self-righteous religious people. in other words he understood our struggle with sin but showed us God loves us anyway.

            4. i suppose some people who have prayed and have not discovered God either didn't discover him because as you said he doesn't exist or they did discover him after praying and researching the issue.

            5. forgot to mention the natural law. Many atheists have researched the issue to a great degree. but at the end of their search they were no longer atheists.

            6. finally with respect to islam. if you google "atheists who converted to islam and atheists who converted to christianity you'll find interesting numbers. Islam 5 Christianity 69

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            "i think we might end up writing a book, we're covering a lot of subjects but that's okay? lol"

            I suspect you're a bit too old to be using lols, but that's your wind-up, I suppose.

            "1. when i say empirical i'm sure you know some kind of proof like the computer (or smart phone) you're looking at. if God parted the clouds, gave you some kind of instrument that would give you unlimited contact and gave you the "rules" if you will, you would most likely follow him, but it would simply be because you had to not because you had any desire or inquisitiveness. thus he gives us things to ponder, things to open us up to his signs and his presence. as we become more aware of him we discover that he has always been with us, that he loves us unconditionally and he is what we were made for."

            Why? Why would the empirically demonstrable existence of god remove free choice or desire or inquisitiveness from people? It certainly didn't bother the angels - according to your religion. And why does it matter?

            "2. the refutations never disprove aquina's proof only make the water muddy. ex. something had to come from nothing. traditional atheistic answer; create a vacuum and you can get something from nothing; truth is a vacuum isn't empty but is filled with dark matter that can become matter. thus we're still left with the same question, at some point something had to come from nothing. ex. 2 contingency; matter is always chainging and came from a different from different place. at some point it had to come from an uncaused cause. entropy throughout space and time shows that it is increasing, although it may decrease in an enclosed system for a limited amount of time. at some point entropy will reach maximum entropy, and all matter will be dispersed. to bring it back in for "another big bang" it would take something extrememly powerful that can defy th laws of physics. something had to bring it in at the beginning (an unmoved mover). any refutation you read of that will only change the subject not disprove it."

            Apparently you and I have very different understanding of what a refutation consists of. Could you clarify yours, please? I will give you an example of mine - a fairly simple one taken from the impact of modern physics on metaphysics.

            The Cosmological argument (four of Aquinas' methods are variations on a theme, but we'll use the CA for convenience) is, as the somewhat officious Feser explained, along the lines of:

            P1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

            P2: The Universe began to exist.

            C1: Therefore the Universe has a cause.

            Perfectly valid if P1 and P2 are true.

            But modern physics has shown us that acausal events DO exist, i.e. that things can begin to exist without a cause. And modern cosmology has shown us that time is a dimension of our Universe - so that there is no moment in time when our Universe did not exist.

            So both P1 and P2 have been shown to be false. And therefore, C1 does not follow.

            This isn't muddying the waters; this is a flat-out demonstration that the basic premises of the argument are false.

            "3. Mohammad kind of contradicts what would appear to be reasonable. he killed a lot of people and he taught that if one does not convert it's okay to kill them. Jesus taught things like, " love your neighbor, do good to those who hate you, bless those who mistreat you and pray for those who persecute you." Jesus was always loving and kind with sinners but was most adamantly against self-righteous religious people. in other words he understood our struggle with sin but showed us God loves us anyway."

            So what? Being reasonable or nice or loving has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the bible or the qu'ran are true.

            And once again, your claim "God loves us anyway" is an assertion without proof. We were discussing evidence.

            "4. i suppose some people who have prayed and have not discovered God either didn't discover him because as you said he doesn't exist or they did discover him after praying and researching the issue."

            Your point? As I indicated, folks who pray and attempt to discover god tend to reach radically different conclusions. They can't be all right - but they could all be wrong.

            "5. forgot to mention the natural law. Many atheists have researched the issue to a great degree. but at the end of their search they were no longer atheists."

            Who? Names? And how does this compare to the number of people who, after diligent prayer, reflection, and study have found nothing.

            "6. finally with respect to islam. if you google "atheists who converted to islam and atheists who converted to christianity you'll find interesting numbers. Islam 5 Christianity 69"

            We're not particularly discussing Islam - this has nothing to do with the topic.

          • Fr.Sean

            hi Solange,
            thanks for responding, i would like to respond to your whole post tonight. but unfortunately i have to get up early. would u mind just posting a website where i can read about acausal events? there's no sense comenting on it if i don't have a better understanding of it? Thanks.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Oy. Virtual particles and quantum fluctuations are a tricky field. Here is a VERY simplified article to start with: http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/virtual-particles-what-are-they/. And I do mean, to start with.

          • M. Solange O’Brien
          • Susan

            Thank you MS O'B.
            Great links.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,

            Thanks so much for those articles. they were really interesting and informative. it was fascinating to see the effects electrons and photons have. I've really enjoyed learning more about this but i acknowledge, as you said, i still have a lot more to learn.

            "Why? Why would the empirically demonstrable existence of god remove free choice or desire or inquisitiveness from people?"

            With respect to God not empirical proof. I was asked a question similar to this on an earlier post. I'm still trying to get my head around the virtual particle thing so i will respond to that in a bit but i figured i'd first comment on why God simply does not give us empirical proof. One of my favorite books was called, "he leadeth me" by Fr.Walter
            Ciszek. Fr.Water was ordained a Priest in the early part of the twentieth century and had always wanted to go to Russia to Evangelize to a people he felt desperately needed hope. Thus, after his ordination he went, but then WWII broke out and Fr.Walter was accused of being a
            Vatican spy and sent to a concentration camp. he lived in a cell without anything besides his clothes and a bed. once a day he was allowed out of the cell and once a week he was taken in to be interrogated. they would accuse him of being a spy or having some other motive but he would always defend his true intentions. after 5 years he was taken into an interrogation room where there was a stack of papers. the interrogator told him those where a summary of all of his interrogations over the past 5 years, he was to read each one and sign it. Water started going through the pages but he wasn't signing them because they had been falsified, or misrepresented what he was saying steering the discussion towards an idea that he was indeed a spy. The interrogator asked him why he wasn't signing the papers, walter said he couldn't, for they weren't true. the interrogator became livid threatened walter and told him if he didn't start signing the papers he was going to be taken out and executed. in walter's desperation he went through each page, without even reading them and signed each paper. he then went back to his room demoralized and humiliated. he thought he had failed the Lord, and wondered why? he thought about the early Church, how Jesus promised the disciples they would have the spirit to
            help them and why he (walter) didn't seem to have any divine assistance, why he failed in courage? Walter realized he went in to the room with a whole lot of pride, he wasn't going to sign the papers no matter what, and thus he failed. He thought about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane
            the night of the passion and how Jesus in his fear and apprehension of what awaited him said, "Father, take this cup from me, but not my will, yours be done". Walter realized that even though his father did not intentionally will people to do evil things he realized that in a way the "cup" was ultimately coming from his father. he realized that the
            cup would be taken from him but only by going through it, not avoiding it.
            This was a profound realization for Walter. He learned to see everything as somehow coming from the hand of the father and learned to trust that just as the Father was with Jesus, the Father was also with him.
            The next day Walter was taken back into the interrogation room where they made him an offer. he was going to be released on one condition. he would go back to the Vatican and report back when he had learned. they even promised to reward him. Walter responded by saying, "No, i'm
            sorry i can't do that." Again the interrogator became livid, threatened to take him outside and have him executed. but again, with a sense of peace walter said, "No, I will not do that." subsequently Walter was sent to a labor camp in Siberia where he lived and worked for 15 years with other prisoners. yet while he was there he was able to celebrate
            Mass in the woods. he was able to minister and give hope to people who saw little reason to have hope. he even was able to give the guards a sense of hope. Later, when he was released he was able to minister to thousands of people who had no priest to celebrate the sacraments with
            them and to share his faith. in an odd way, Walter felt that his original call was to go to Russia to evangelize to the people, and he did, it just wasn't the way he thought it would be.

            John Kavanaugh who is a professor in ethics came to a similar realization via a slightly different route. when he was a young man he went to Calcutta India to voulenteer to assist with the destitute and the poor for a couple of weeks. But the primary reason he went was because he had a question about faith that he couldn't seem to get an
            answer to. he felt perhaps Mother Theresa if anybody would have the answer. While he was there he finally saw Mother Theresa and was anxious simply to speak with her for a while, but it didn't take more than a few moments. she asked him, after their introduction; "John, what may i help you with (J), "Mother would you pray for me?" (M); "Sure
            John, and what would you like me to pray for." (J); "Pray that i have clarity". (M); "No, i will not do that, clarity is the last thing you are holding on to and need to let go of". (J); "But Mother, you always seem to have clarity"? (M) "I have never had clarity, what i have always had is trust, so i will pray that you trust God". With that realization John's life changed.

            In my own life i have realized that often times the struggle seems to convey an idea that God is absent, or uninvolved. but over the course of time you realize that the struggle is often rooted in a desire to know everything, or to control everything. The struggle forces you to see that behind the veil God is present, he removes obstacles, or if he doesn't he helps you to pass through them. through answered prayers, that often take a while to have answered one begins to see that God doesn't want to just give you an answer to your prayer and have you move on, but he wants the good that comes from prayer so he leads you and
            gives you more than what you were asking for. but Like Mother said you still need to have confidence or trust when it appears you haven't gotten your answer yet. This whole phenomenon opens you up to a realization that God has been there the whole time, it fills you with gratitude, and confidence in his abiding presence. through prayer and
            through life want begins to become aware of Just how much God loves each one of us not because of what we do or how good we are but simply because we are his children. This also gives you a sense of humility because you know that just as God loves you he also loves your neighbor,
            that Just as God is there for you he's also there for your neighbor, that just as he has a plan for your life he also has a plan for your neighbor, and thus he enables you to see your neighbor in a different light as well. The growth in this relationship fills one not only with an awareness of his presence, but also a deep and abiding hope in the
            future, which continues to build a deeper love and trust of God.

            Now, i suppose if when i was young, God could have given me empirical evidence of his existence, given me the blueprints for my life, told me he loved me and desired that i love him, that i could have come to those same conclusions but if given the option of how i would come to
            those realizations i can say with confidence that i would have chosen the former.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Nice stories. I fail to see that they are in any way relevant to my question.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,
            Making choices to believe and to respond when you can't see your way clearly ultimately reveals signs. over the course of time you begin to discover a God who loves you unconditionally and is always with you. once the Vail has been lifted you understand why he wanted you to make a choice to believe in him. because those little choices that you make day in and day out reveal God's presence. when you become aware of the abiding presence of divine love you desire to make choices to follow him instead of "fearing" consequences. had he given you some definitive proof you may have just put the plan into action and not discovered how much he loves you and how much he's wanted you to lean on him, to trust him.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            This is not in any way relevant to my question. Why doesn't god simply reveal himself? And why would revealing himself remove free will?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Solange,

            I've mentioned this before, but one time i heard an attorney say, "if you're client's innocent, stick with the facts, if guilty try to confuse the jury." we all do that when discussing various topics. if we feel our perspective isn't that strong or perhaps well thought out the natural tendency is to change the subject.

            Arguments against Aquina's 5 proofs are kind of reminiscent of this form of argumentation. the virtual particle phenomenon i had imagined was something to the effect that there is virtual energy that can in a sense materialize. thus one was attempting to convey something can come from nothing. when an objection was created that suggested virtual matter is in fact matter it appeared that this objection was brought into doubt. now that i've read your two articles i think i can understand where the problem may lie. if virtual particles or photons are really just in a sense effects of charges from electrons than it would be fair to say those are simply wave in a sense from electrons that never actually materialize. Perhaps it would be like looking down at a placid lake and trying to discern how many boats or other none water objects are resting on the surface of the lake. if a boat goes motoring by we would see the wake, and the wake would appear to be something floating on the lake, but the wake itself would still just be water. Thus we're still left with the same proof. physics has not proven something can come from nothing. Furthermore i haven't found any evidence of acuasal events happening in the universe. i know some things like radio active mechanisms or enclosed entropy systems may appear to be independent of exterior causal events. but those mechanisms or systems were still caused by something else. kind of like if a spinned a top in a vacuum, or even out in space. the top may spin for a very long time, and may appear to be acausal but it isn't? i still had to spin it? Furthemore, i know that time can fluctuate according to various causes, like traveling at the speed of light. but while time may fluctuate it does not stop for extended periods of time. the universe still began in one state and still will end in one state. it will not go back and forth through time. it has an end, thus it had a beginning and it's logical and reasonable to assume something had to initiate it's beginning (i'm not saying this is God alone at this point, just that something had to initiate it)

            Thus every "proof" i've seen that attempts to disprove Aquinas' 5 proofs don't actually disprove them they just change the subject or divert it to something that becomes a different issue, because you always end up circling back to the original question; i.e. we still have the unmoved mover, uncaused cause, etc.
            "So what? Being reasonable or nice or loving has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not the bible or the qu'ran are true."

            I may have to disagree with you on this point. if i was attempting to discern which religioin would appear to be inspired by a creator. and i recognized within myself and in others a desire to do good and avoid evil i would look for a religion that was consistent with those notions. seeing an prophet who appeared to be violent and encouraged others to "kill" those who didn't covert i think it's natural to question the prophet.

            "Your point? As I indicated, folks who pray and attempt to discover god tend to reach radically different conclusions. They can't be all right -but they could all be wrong."

            You do make a good point. if everyone is saying the same thing perhaps it's possible that everyone is wrong. what i can say from my own experience is that i have had unanticipated experiences of the presence of God that were some of the most profound expriences of my life. i have heard of other Christians having similar experiences. in fact i had a few of them before i ever heard of anyone else ever having one, and they were unanticipated. i have never heard of a Muslim or member of any other faith having an experience like that. experiences where they can describe what occurred that coincided with my own experiences.

            "Who? Names? And how does this compare to the number of people who, after diligent prayer, reflection, and study have found nothing."

            Leah Lebresco, G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Alasdyer MacIntire. most of these converted while atheists or were trying to prove God did not exist. if you google "atheists who converted to Christianity" you'll have more than enough reading to last you a couple of days.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        God loves every sinner- the proof is His Own suffering on the Cross to redeem them.

        As Pope Francis recently reaffirmed, Christ died to redeem everyone, even atheists, and He did so knowing full well that many of those atheists would persevere in their atheism unto death, and so reject, utterly and finally, the fruits of His sacrifice on their behalf.

        But the problem with the whole " honest atheist who tries to live a good life" scenario is this:

        "Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          While I appreciate that this is your opinion, why should I believe it is true? There is the basic question that atheists have for theists: why should I believe your claims? Why should I accept that you know the "Truth"? Muslims claim completely different truths; Taoists yet others; Buddhists have their own claims.

          Why believe you?

          • Dan C.

            This is Rick DeLano. Disqus misidentifies me due to some glitch or other.

            1. God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, has revealed Himself to us, His creatures, in human form. He has informed us of the reason for our creation, the purpose of our existence, and has promised us a means to secure eternal life in a state of happiness beyond our ability to imagine.

            2. If this is true, you should believe it.

            3. In order to believe it, certain motives of credibility might reasonably be demanded.

            4. They have been provided, multitudinously, and can initially be assessed on the grounds of the truth claims made about Himself by Jesus Christ, including His Resurrection, His prophecies concerning the Temple, and of the future course of His Church in the world.

            5. While these motives of credibility are not sufficient, since God, our Creator and Lord, desires a response of Faith which He alone can prepare, over and above a mere intellectual assent, it is often the case that the process of intellectual investigation of the motives of credibility will, in fact, prepare the soul to receive and cooperate with the supernatural grace of Faith necessary for salvation.

            So, in sum:

            We suggest that if God has come into the world with a direct revelation from the Creator concerning our nature, our purpose, and our destiny, it would be wise to believe Him.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            My earlier response has disappeared, perhaps related to the glitch in Disqus.

            I will try again.

            You wish to distinguish between Catholicism and other religions.

            Either all religions are false, or else all but one are.

            This does not mean that there is nothing but falsehood in all religions; only that it were impossible for two contradictory claims of direct revelation from God to both be true.

            Only one religion can truthfully claim to be in possession, by direct revelation, of an authentic covenant from God.

            So:

            1. God, the Creator and Lord of the universe, has entrusted a revelation to us. He has sent His Son, in human form, to deliver it finally to us. He tells us in that revelation why we were created, what our purpose is, and what it is necessary for us to do in order to have eternal salvation.

            2. If this is true, you ought to believe it.

            3. In order to believe it, motives of credibility might reasonably be demanded.

            4. These have been provided multitudinously, but can initially be best assessed, perhaps, by investigation of the truth claims Christ has made about Himself; His fulfillment of Hebrew prophecies concerning the Messiah, His miracles, His Resurrection, His prophecies concerning, notably, the destruction of the Temple, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant in Him, and the development of His Church through history.

            5. These motives of credibility will not be sufficient, since God, the Creator and Lord of the Universe, desires a response of Faith beyond mere intellectual assent, which only He can provide for, and which response depends upon the freely-chosen cooperation of the creature. However, it is often the case that intellectual investigation of the motives of credibility will prepare the soul to cooperate with the supernatural grace provided in order to lead her to Faith.

            To summarize:

            The Catholic Church claims to be the bearer of a direct revelation from the Creator and Lord of the Universe. This revelation provides certain knowledge of the purpose for which we have been created, and the means whereby we can secure eternal happiness.

            If these claims are true, it would be wise to believe them.

            Sufficient motives of credibility exist, to at least investigate the claims carefully.

    • Rationalist1

      I honestly believe that if there is a God that God would be more impressed with honest and thoughtful reasoning than with a fearful I believe so I won't go to hell or a cynical I believe so I'll go to heaven ploy. But then I'll probably never now if I was right or wrong?

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Rationalist, well the point of Pascal's wager is that you're wagering eternity on your personal belief of what God is possibly like (e.g. that God, if he exists, would prefer "honest and thoughtful reasoning" that resulted in atheism over an honest assent of the will that resulted in belief.) That's a big and, I would argue, unfounded risk.

        Also, you've presented somewhat of a false dichotomy. The choice presented above isn't "honest and thoughtful reasoning" vs. "fear of going to hell, which results in belief."

        Matt, Pascal, and I would all argue that honest and thoughtful reasoning *leads* to a decision to believe for Pascal's Wager *requires* honest and thoughtful reasoning.

        • Michael Murray

          Matt, Pascal, and I would all argue that honest and thoughtful reasoning *leads* to a decision to believe for Pascal's Wager *requires* honest and thoughtful reasoning.

          To be fair to Pascal who lived in the 17th century you have no idea what his opinion would be if he was presented with the current state of scientific knowledge.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It is worse than that. Pascal wrote this in his notes and never published it or tested it for intellectual rigor. It was published by others after his death, and for their own ends. We will never know if Pascal thought it was actually any good.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Michael, no evidence would change the fact that his Wager requires "honest and thoughtful reasoning."

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            But honest and thoughtful reasoning doesn't lead one to the Wager; to the conclusion that atheism and Christianity are mutually exclusive options, and that one must be true. Therein lies the one of the problems with the Wager.

      • epeeist

        I honestly believe that if there is a God that God would be more impressed with honest and thoughtful reasoning

        Exactly so, which is why it can be argued that only non-theists go to heaven.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi epeeist,
          i would say think if the nontheist was truly open they may be okay, but when a nontheist is truly open they might become theist?

          • articulett

            When a theist is truly open, they might become an atheist.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Articulett,
            well, i suppose there's 2 possibilities;
            1. if there is a God and the atheist is open and objectively looks for the truth the will end their search with faith that God exists.
            2. if there is no God then the theist will not come to any decisive conclusion because a decisive conclusion would indicate a higher truth and if there is no higher truth than there wouldn't be any definitive understanding to come to.

    • Michael Murray

      The other problem is you need to know if the gods are jealous gods. If simple disbelief is ranked lower than belief in the wrong god then, given the large number of possible gods, I would think the statistically best option is disbelief. But you need some numbers to get a good handle on it.

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Michael, like others in this thread, you've badly misunderstood Matt's article (and thus Pascal's Wager.) Matt writes clearly that:

        "It is designed for those who feel torn between atheism and belief in the kind of God that Christianity proposes, but who aren’t at a point where they feel that they can settle the question by objective evidence."

        Pascal's Wager is for those who consider Christianity the only plausible alternative if God exists. So what you've done is critiqued the argument for *not* proving something it never attempts to prove, namely that Christianity is more true than other theistic faiths.

        • severalspeciesof

          Pascal's Wager is for those who consider Christianity the only plausible alternative if God exists.

          Then I guess that's a problem for the wager, not us... ;-)

          Glen

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Qu, per my reply above to Rationalist, it seems you're misunderstanding Matt's article (and Pascal's Wager in general.) The Wager is only aimed at someone who is already convinced the only two plausible possibilities are atheism or belief in the Christian God.

      Thus critiquing the Wager for something it doesn't aim to promote, such as belief in a generic, areligious God, is not a legitimate critique.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Which "Christian God"?

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          The God of "mere Christianity," revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

          (Of course Pascal's Wager could be tightened for those people--and there have been many throughout history--convinced that the only two plausible options are atheism or Catholicism. I would guess that many, if not most, of the commenters on this particular site would agree that those two options are ultimately the only two worth considering.)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Well, there are very many "Christian" religions who have deified the person of Jesus with different attributes and different requirements for salvation. By the logic of Pascal's Wager you would still be in there working a mini-max algorithm among the thousands of sects and sub-cults to get the best bet.

          • Michael Murray

            I would guess that many, if not most, of the commenters on this particular site would agree that those two options are ultimately the only two worth considering

            Why would you think that ? If I ended up in a religion it would be Buddhism. But then it's basically atheism so that's no great surprise. My only connection to Catholicism is like my Australianism I was born into it.

      • Andre Boillot

        "Thus critiquing the Wager for something it doesn't aim to promote, such as belief in a generic, areligious God, is not a legitimate critique."

        It might not be a legitimate critique of the Wager, but it's a legitimate observation of the Wager's limitations, as well as putting it in broader context. Since we're dealing with probabilities, when one considers that only a third of the world falls under the umbrella of "Christian", this Wager begins to lose some of its appeal.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Andre, nobody has argued that Pascal's Wager is universal or unlimited. So when you say:

          "It might not be a legitimate critique of the Wager, but it's a legitimate observation of the Wager's limitations."

          ....I would agree. It has obvious and clearly-acknowledged limitations because it isn't intended to apply to every person. Yet again, you're critiquing the Wager for what it doesn't do instead of gauging its intended applicability. For someone who is, as Matt described, torn between Christianity and atheism, it's tremendously effective.

          • Andre Boillot

            Brandon, I thought I was explicit in saying this wasn't a critique of the Wager itself, but rather context. As Matt is describing the Wager, it's a pretty niche argument for why one should *believe* in the Christian god.

            "For someone who is, as Matt described, torn between Christianity and atheism, it's tremendously effective."

            If you say so.

          • cowalker

            "[This argument] is designed for those who feel torn between atheism and belief in the kind of God that Christianity proposes."

            I suspect this is a miniscule subset of people. Very few are balanced on a knife edge between atheism and Christianity. More likely they waver between atheism and agnosticism, possibly between agnosticism and some undefined deist creator-God.

            "Given the fears and anxiety that often accompany the act of getting married, many people find themselves in a situation where, at least at the moment, they don’t know how to evaluate the evidence anymore and they must take a leap of faith to marry. Something very similar applies to the decision to believe in God."

            Given that there is no doubt that the potential partner EXISTS, I'd refine this to say it's similar to deciding to trust in the character of the potential partner. "Honesty," "good faith," "fidelity"--these character traits cannot be directly examined. One must "choose belief." This can be called a leap of faith. However I hope among most engaged couples the partners are not evenly torn between evidence that their intended is a scoundrel who doesn't possess a scrap of good character and evidence that their intended is a wonderful person who will be a joy to live with. I would hope there was a definite preponderance of evidence in favor of good character and only a small leap of faith required. If there really were such conflicting evidence that there seemed to be an even chance one was marrying a terrible person, I'd say "Don't jump!"

      • primenumbers

        It may be aimed that way, but the argument is utterly applicable to Gods other than the Christian one.

        • Nick Corrado

          Not entirely. For instance we know ofc that the Greek gods don't exist, we can go up on Mt. Olympus and there's no gods up there. And assuming you accept the various proofs of God's existence by philosophers then you would accept that that is the only one worthy of worship even if there were Greek "gods" on Mt. Olympus (who would just be unusually powerful physical beings). At that point the only thing left to do is to evaluate various religious traditions to see if they truly carry divine revelation. This is actually the hardest step, you could probably spend ten lifetimes on it and come out further behind than before, but, well, do you think God would punish you for an honest search for truth just because you ran out of time?

          • Rationalist1

            Surely one could say the Greek Gods choose not to show themselves. Catholics believe in angels but angels aren't seen all the time. They're just like the Greek Gods,

          • Nick Corrado

            Hi Rationalist,
            Sure, one could say that, and as I said one sentence later, even if such beings existed they would not be worthy of worship.

          • primenumbers

            I'm sure if there were Zeus believers around today they'd have some nuanced theological reply why they were no longer on the top of Mt Olympus and that their absence when you got to the top was not indicative of the non-existence of Zeus.

            "And assuming you accept the various proofs of God's existence" - if you do so, then what is the need for Pascal's wager?

          • Nick Corrado

            if you do so, then what is the need for Pascal's wager?

            That's a good question actually. It's one more reason if you ask me to find Pascal's Wager kind of redundant.

          • primenumbers

            I find Pascal's wager a very cynical argument. I think the actual mention of it on this website as a proof for God lowers the tone of the place.

          • Max Driffill

            Here is a blog I wrote about Pascal's wager a while back. I don't find it compelling.

            http://maxiitheblindwatchmaker.blogspot.com/2009/10/pascals-wager-argument-that-should.html

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi Quine,
      Muslims believe hell is only temporary for everybody and i'm not entirely sure they would believe that as they believe Jesus was a prophet. We as Catholics do not believe "all Muslims are going to hell". We believe God judges us according to how much revelation we have had, our experiences and how open we have been to his presence. Perhaps it's not a bad idea to have an objective view of Islam and Christianity and see if you feel one might be revealed divine truths.

      • Rationalist1

        So a choice between worshiping a God who hudges people and allows them to be tortured forever and one who allows them to be tortured for a finite time. The finite time one is still reprehensible, but more moral than the infinite time one.

    • primenumbers

      Pascal's wager is known among atheists as the "avoiding the wrong hell problem."

    • epeeist

      Allah? As every fule kno it is always this guy one meets when one departs this mortal coil.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      It is certainly the case that either all religions are false, or else all but one are.

      The Catholic proposes that all but one are.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Actually if Allah exists, all bets are off, because the Allah of the Holy Qur'an changes from one listener to the next, from one second to the next, and can't even be counted on to keep the gravity turned on from day to day.

  • Luke Meyer

    This article seems awfully Protestant to me, as it seems to promote the mentality of "Believe, and you will be saved." It appeals to the more shrewd aspect of what the author sees as cold, calculating atheists. In short, appealing to a vice rather than reason is not the way to approach the Church.

    • Michael Murray

      A theist I can agree with :-)

    • Rationalist1

      Up vote from me.

      • Michael Murray

        Did you know you can wave your cursor over the up vote icon and see who did it ! Your votes can be counted !

        • Rationalist1

          Didn't know that. Thanks.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          But not the down votes.

          • Luke Meyer

            Huh. Well, at least that'll deter some hate-battles on this site.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Most atheists I know see the assertion of Pascal's Wager as a form of religious extortion, and psychological insult. Thank you, Luke, for not assuming us inherently craven.

      • Luke Meyer

        I try.

    • severalspeciesof

      Yes, it does seem to promote that mentality. I don't however think that Matt saw it that way (intentionally) when he wrote the OP...

  • BenS

    Then, following this 'logic', the author clearly believes it's best to believe in ALL of the gods, just in case?

    Christmas in his house must be interesting; interrupting pudding to pray to Mecca, hoping all the bowing doesn't cause his ceremonial knife to fall out and stab the sacred cow or he'll never get into Valhalla.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      BenS, this is not true for the reasons I explain below in the comment boxes. You've unfortunately embraced a common misunderstanding about Pascal's Wager, which is that it aims to prove some generic, areligious God. But it's exclusively aimed at someone who sees only two plausible options: atheism or belief in the Christian God. For that person, the Islamic conception of God would not be a plausible option.

      • BenS

        Comments I couldn't see because of the commenting system you chose to implement...

        Regardless, exactly what kind of person only sees two plausible options? One specific Christian god (disregarding the 30k+ other flavours and all other religions) or atheism? I think it's virtually a certainty that person has already made up their mind and, therefore, is not an atheist anyway.

        So Pascal's Wager only applies to people with faulty critical thinking skills and with their decisions about a god already made?

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          BenS, first, no need to critique the comment system. It's the best we have, and from my end it updates instantly with new comments. Not sure why you're having difficulties with it.

          Second, several people throughout history (and several people on this site) are convinced that atheism and Catholicism are the only two plausible options. Many atheist friends of mine, indulging a thought experiment, are convinced that *if* God exists, then he likely revealed himself in Jesus Christ, and that Jesus established the Catholic Church (not some Protestant spin-off.)

          Third, there's no need to suggest that anyone who thinks atheism and Catholicism are the only two options must, by default, have "faulty critical thinking skills." It's unhelpful and insulting.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Brandon, I can't speak to your experience with your atheist friends, but based upon five decades of interacting with my fellow atheists and reading the classics of atheist literature, I very much doubt that more than one atheist in a hundred agrees that "atheism and Catholicism are the only two plausible options".

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Maybe there are some, but I have never met any atheists who would consider Catholicism a plausible option.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Catholics, Jews, and Buddhists tend to a greater level of intellectual rigor in my opinion than do the adherents of other faiths. But that's not enough to make their beliefs plausible to me.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Brandon, I think you've unfortunately embraced a common misunderstanding about Pascal's Wager, which is that it is not deeply offensive to non-believers. Now I know we say some offensive things about your deities and beliefs that you have to endure, and so we are also going to endure this on our side. But, you are hearing about it, none the less.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Qu, thanks for this comment. I wasn't aware that presenting Pascal's Wager is "deeply offensive to non-believers." As far as I see, it doesn't mock, vulgarize, or insult atheism (or atheists.) So I'm truly curious why it's so offensive. Can you please explain?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I have to go and come back later, but I think you will get an idea by reading through all the comments on this thread.

          • Rationalist1

            I would say Pascal's wager is deeply offensive to believers. It says they believe for self interest. It's like, when as an atheist, I indulge my lower interests for wanton sex, and offer a women a large sum of money to sleep with me or threaten her life if she doesn't. Somehow it just doesn't seem right afterwards and neither does Pascal's wager. It demeans people who believe for non selfish reasons.

          • primenumbers

            It makes such a belief rather selfish indeed.

          • Octavo

            "As far as I see, it doesn't mock, vulgarize, or insult atheism (or atheists.) "

            I've already commented this, but it paints atheists with a pretty broad brush by stating that we indulge our lower passions without guilt.

            Also, a lot of us are familiar with variants of the argument that place emphasis on the threat of hell. Threats get irritating over time, even if they're only implied.

          • Christian Stillings

            I don't think it states that atheists "indulge [their] lower passions without guilt". It states that they're freed from limitations which affect some theists. The chosen conduct of any given atheist is a different matter than the conduct which said atheist would consider permissible. I happen to know at least one atheist who lives by nearly-Catholic sexual ethics, because he thinks it's the best way to conduct his life in that area. However, he wouldn't think the same way that a Catholic would about acting in a more sexually "liberal" way.

          • articulett

            If memory serves me correctly, and Darrel Ray's studies are correct-- then Catholics and atheists are doing pretty much the same things in regards to sexuality-- it's just that Catholics feel a lot more guilt. (But not as much as Mormons who are repeatedly prodded about their sex lives in order to keep their "temple recommends". )

          • Christian Stillings

            I'd be interested to see the actual study. Does it account for things like "level of importance of faith in personal life" and "regularity of Mass attendance" and so on? I'm usually skeptical about studies which make claims about "[x]% of American Catholics believe..." because there's often no variable accounting for what it means for any given person to be "Catholic". If people who attend Mass every Sunday were on par with the non-religious as far as sexual ethics, I'd be honestly surprised.

  • severalspeciesof

    This is essentially Pascal's Wager wrapped up in shiny gift wrap. If god wasn't claimed to be all-knowing, then it might make some sense, and please don't correct me and say that 'This has/says nothing about omniscience'. It doesn't have to. That is the elephant in the room that one isn't acknowledging if that point is brought up...

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Friend (please include your name next time per our commenting rules), you've clearly misunderstood the argument. Per Matt's article, the argument *presumes* someone is torn between atheism and the Christian conception of God. Since the Christian conception of God is omniscient, omniscience is assumed, not argued for or proven.

      • severalspeciesof

        Hi Brandon,

        My name is Glen. I included my name in the first few posts way back when this site first got going, but through habit (I don't normally place my name in internet sites) I soon quit that...

        Anyway...

        I didn't misunderstand. I explained myself very poorly (I totally dropped an idea that was there in my head as I wrote the comment), so I will try to rectify that now. If one has gotten to the point of trying to decide between the two issues, atheism and the Christian god, and one acknowledges the idea of omniscience, then believing in god for the reasons brought up isn't 'believing in' the Christian god that also wants one's free love. The Christian god doesn't just want one's belief, correct?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          More precisely, the Christian god doesn't want a choice based on fear of hell-fire. Or would a Christian correct that? You are certainly correct that the Christian god knows 'why' you made your choice. I find it hard to believe that pure cynicism is a ticket to heaven.

  • Octavo

    How many people here felt that they made a choice about what to believe? I wanted to stay a Christian, but since I chose to investigate the truth of the matter, I lost my faith. There was never a moment in which I chose non-theism.

    Also, it's a bit of a banal slur to refer to "living as if God does not exist" as simply indulging the lower passions and disbelieving in objective morality. It suggests that the author does not have a good understanding of non-theist lives and ideas.

    • cowalker

      I do not feel I made a choice to disbelieve in God. As my knowledge and experience of the world increased, my religious beliefs went away, like soap bubbles colliding with a hard surface. I couldn't choose to reconstitute them.

      • articulett

        Exactly. And trying to make myself believe again would be like trying to make myself believe in Santa again. It doesn't compute.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Yes, it is common for kids to go through a stage where they want to still believe in Santa, but no longer can.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      I would say that the author has the same problem I encounter in most theists: a complete inability to understand how atheists think. Even a fairly bright cookie like Bob Barron doesn't get it.

      • articulett

        Most atheists have been theists, so they know the mind of the believer and how real the beliefs can feel-- but very few believers have ever been atheists so they assume that what their indoctrinators tell them about atheists is correct. I remember what I thought of atheists when I was a Catholic girl...

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Not a very charitable picture, I'll bet.

          • articulett

            Correct... I saw that Phil Donohue clip from a Donahue clip that I watched as a kid http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XEnj-ZVltU

            I remember what I thought of Madelyn Murray O'Hair then-- I probably had the same look on my face as the audience members... but as an adult I'm embarrassed that I let myself be manipulated into feeling that way. Now the audience seems bigoted to me. Religions have to teach people to fear apostates and atheists because such people are a definite threat to faith.

            I really enjoy hearing the stories of true believers who became atheists because they share that phenomenon having really understood how people can be fooled-- they are able to look back on what they thought then-- and how they think now.

  • Rationalist1

    Much is made of being a Christian by choice. Can you be a Christian or a Catholic without a choice and is that better or worse than choosing to be one?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      No, you cannot be a Christian or a Catholic without choice. You may appear to be, and may formally identify as one, but both require assent of the will.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        Not if you grow up in a community where there is no other choice.

        • Vuyo

          There's always choice. Unfortunately the consequences of those choices can be dire.

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago

        "Christian or a Catholic"

        Folks,

        Catholics are Christians in fact, they are the very first Christians.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • Rationalist1

        But you become a Catholic at Baptism, "incorporated into the Church". According to your Church, I am a Catholic.

        • Michael Murray

          Yep over on catholictruthscotland.com they told me I had an indelible mark on my soul. Mind you they were SSPX.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Michael, they are right about baptism, if dangerously wrong about the pope.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            R1, Mike,

            Yep, your theology is sound.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Good distinction. In one sense, anyone baptized in the Catholic Church is, and always be, formally Catholic. They may be a bad Catholic, an inactive Catholic, or a non-believing Catholic, but baptism leaves an indelible effect on one's soul that can never be removed. They will always be Catholic.

          But embracing that identity through one's life is distinct from accepting the formal marker. I was referring to the latter above. Anyone can be baptized, or call themselves "Catholic," but to *be* Catholic--to live it's essence--is something distinct and something chosen.

          For the sake of this discussion, it may be more helpful to say "living a fully Catholic life" rather than "becoming Catholic."

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            I would add that anybody baptized under the Trinitarian Formula ("In the name of The Father, and of The Son and of the Holy Spirit" is Catholic.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • severalspeciesof

            Nice to know then, that I'm Catholic three times over... I guess I get to pick up two other lost souls since I cashed in two extra tickets... ;-)

            (Yes, I was baptized three times... long story...)

            Glen

          • epeeist

            Good distinction. In one sense, anyone baptized in the Catholic Church is, and always be, formally Catholic. They may be a bad Catholic, an inactive Catholic, or a non-believing Catholic, but baptism leaves an indelible effect on one's soul that can never be removed. They will always be Catholic.

            Always an interesting one. If you want to use this as a criterion for membership then you have to accept some interesting members, the obvious one being Hitler.

            Now if you don't want Hitler as a member because he never took the sacrament after the age of 16 then equally you have got to reject anyone else who fulfils the same criterion (which would include me).

            It is an argument we have had here in the UK, where the church claims a membership of some 4.2 million in England and Wales, but only around 860,000 attend mass. This is also consilient with the information from the British Social Attitudes survey which shows that 56% of those who associate themselves with a religion never attend a service or meeting and only 14% attend regularly.

            To be fair, I would accept that the attendance figure for Catholics is probably higher than those who claim to be members of the Church of England. I would base this on the fact that while only 49% of those brought up in the C of E are still members, 62% of those who are brought up Catholic remain so. In each case the majority of people leaving the respective churches become non-religious (43% and 32% respectively).

          • primenumbers

            Catholics rather want to have their cake and eat it when it comes to membership figures. On one hand they'll use any reasoning at all to have large numbers of people Catholic, but when you try to pin them down on some rather evil historical figures, they get rapidly dis-owned.

          • Rationalist1

            If you divide out the number of Catholics my archdiocese claims and divide by the number of parishes it works out to 8600 Catholics per parish. I think that's a bit high

          • Nick Corrado

            Parishes (some of them at least, I don't know how many) publish numbers about church attendance that would reflect more accurately how many practicing Catholics there are around if you're curious about the ratio of practicing to nonpracticing.

  • Sample1

    This is an article I found very interesting not for the content but for the anticipation I had when just reading the title. It had tons of potential.

    The human ability to entrust oneself to a concept is a remarkable trait. As I mentioned elsewhere, there are good reasons to accept that the evolution of the human/canine bond also often includes a delusional result on the human side of things. We lovers of dogs have been manipulated by them, over the course of thousands of years, to believe we now know what they are thinking in areas that dogs probably don't have the neural connections to convey: empathy, love and selfishness.

    I know that. I accept that. But my behavior right now still reflects a choice to believe my dog, in any particular emotional circumstance, and I "connect." I choose to behave the way I do despite the evidence. I'm pretty sure this is a benign choice, however, whereby we both receive enrichment and reward. No one else is harmed (though certain animal welfare groups against domestication in principle may disagree).

    Anyway, like I said, could have been a fascinating article.
    Mike

  • Ben

    I've never understood how this can be seen as an argument for belief, as opposed to faking belief. Can anyone really be flat out bribed or extorted into believing something? If a lunatic broke into your house at night and said that he was God, and that if you didn't believe in him he would burn down your house and kill your family, could you actually believe him out of your own self-interest? Or would you just pretend until he left?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Ben, thanks for the comment. I think you're confusing what Matt (and Pascal) mean by "belief." It's not just verbal assent, or even intellectual assent. For them, "believing" in God is an act of the will; it's a willed choice to believe in God by trusting and serving him, even while one still has intellectual difficulties. "Belief" in this sense means to live my life in the same way I would if I was *intellectually* convinced that the Christian God exists.

      • BenS

        "Belief" in this sense means to live my life in the same way I would if I
        was *intellectually* convinced that the Christian God exists.

        So... to pretend?

        • Michael Murray

          Well that was the advice given to Mother Teresa wasn't it when she no longer heard gods voice. That's what faith means as I understand it. Act as if god exists in the hope that eventually you will feel that s/he does. I think that's why we find a lot of the apologism so unbelievable. It's not written to convert it's written to bolster faith.

          • Rationalist1

            In a crass way "Fake it until you make it"

          • BenS

            For some reason, I though this post was by one of the Catholics on the site. I was reading it and thinking 'And you consider this behaviour ADMIRABLE?!?'.

      • Ben

        That's a very strange definition of "belief," and strikes me as not at all what we normally mean by belief. Maybe people trying to use this argument should use different wording? And maybe wording is still getting in the way for me here, because when you talk about a "willed choice to believe in God by trusting and serving him," it still strikes me as strange that I could possibly, whatever my desires, decide to "trust" something I don't actually believe exists. I suppose maybe I could decide to "serve" something I don't believe exists if I thought I had a clear idea what that thing would want me to do if it did exist, but even that seems a little odd, linguistically speaking.

        Can we really not agree that what we're talking about here is giving someone motivation to act AS IF they believed? Because otherwise I stand by my lunatic arsonist analogy, regarding the possibility of being made to believe something in this fashion.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Yes. You can "suspend disbelief" by act of will, as when we go watch characters in movies. However, I don't think you can will to believe what you don't believe.

          I just got back from walking with my Christian missionary neighbor and we got off on the discussion of "wanting to believe" v. believing. There are many cases of clergy who very much want to believe, because it is their job to promote the religion, but are stuck because, in spite of continued prayer, they just no longer do believe. They want to, but don't.

          It is also possible to find yourself with a belief you don't like, but because of a deep feeling, you can't bring yourself to drop it. That is the case of not wanting to believe, but believing anyway. This can happen when people find out that they have been raised with a deep prejudice that they later realize is wrong, but still have the feeling of belief. For example some might be in the situation of not wanting to believe that gays are bad people, but not being able to drop that belief.

          People who don't believe, and don't want to believe, are usually self satisfied, if not necessarily very justified. And, of course, those who want to believe, and do believe, report the most contentment, even if what they believe isn't true at all.

          I neither want to believe nor want to not believe; I want to know what is true.

      • Rationalist1

        But that version of belief is unique to religion. In no other aspect of our lives do we do such a thing. Better to call it what it is, "religious belief".

        • primenumbers

          Sounds like a lot of equivocation on "belief" going on here....

    • Rationalist1

      And also what's the obsession with belief. in no other realm of human life do we favour belief over knowing. I don't want to believe my wife loves me, I want to know it based upon her actions towards me. I don't want to believe a bridge is safe, I want to know it is based upon structural studies. I don't want to believe I have a million dollars in the bank I want to know it based upon an audited statement.

      It's only in religion that it is" Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" but then religion has no other choice.

      • Vuyo

        Don't we start with belief until we know? We believe our car will start until we know. We believe the food is tasty until we know. It may not be consciously done but we act on belief daily.

        • Rationalist1

          And I will believe that Angelina Jolie loves me, ... until I get a court order that tells me to stop bothering her. :->

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            R1,

            You too???

            I got mine last week.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Luke Meyer

            You could do better.

        • Luke Meyer

          What he's saying is: but does it hurt to try? What do you have to lose?

          • Andre Boillot

            "What do you have to lose?"

            Peace of mind, for one. There are many people who's nature, through no fault of their own, is contrary to Catholic moral teaching. Not that this is what you mean, but I think it's very naive to pretend that the concept of sin preached by the RCC can have no negative effects on the psyche.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Andre, you say:

            "There are many people who's nature, through no fault of their own, is contrary to Catholic moral teaching."

            I would completely disagree if you define "nature" as philosophers (and Catholics) do, and I'd challenge you to provide example. However, if by nature you merely mean "inclincations" or "desires" or "habits" then I'd agree, and even go further: *all* Catholics have inclinations, desires, and habits that are contrary to Catholic moral teaching.

          • Andre Boillot

            Brandon,

            I was referring to, for example, the LGBT community. I won't insult them by categorizing their sexuality as a mere "inclination".

          • Christian Stillings

            I don't see why inclination is a poor term, if we understand it as "that which one is inclined to do". Sexual inclinations may be stronger than others, but that has no impact on the nature of inclinations. Further, I think that the intersection of inclination and identity is a deliberate choice. I attended a pretty "progressive" liberal arts college with a very present "LGBT community", and I recall watching one same-sex-attracted friend "work on his gay strut". His inclination toward sexual acts with men isn't something I think he could voluntarily disavow. However, to talk/dress/act/etcetera in a way that would make him "seem like a gay man" was a deliberate identity choice which wasn't at all required by his attraction to men.

          • Andre Boillot

            Christian,

            In that case, I don't understand the term "inclination" as you do - and I don't think you understand it the way Brandon meant it. I'm not talking about whether somebody leans more 'queen' than 'bear', I'm talking about what defines them as LGBT. Also, I don't think many gay men would appreciate your seemingly reducing their orientation to how they "talk/dress/act/etcetera", or the idea that there's a model for how to "fit into the LGBT community."

          • Christian Stillings

            I mean "inclination" as "a desire to commit a certain action or kind of action". I think Brandon understands it the same way, though he's free to correct me on that. Desires to commit certain kinds of sexual actions may be stronger than desires to, I don't know, eat too much ice cream. However, both meet the same definition of "inclination". I think someone could be attracted to the same sex and choose not to identify as LGBT- one is a desire and the other an identity. I don't equate same-sex attraction with a certain way of "talking/dressing/acting/etcetera"; however, my same-sex-attracted friend did and thought that he should change his mannerisms in order to fit in with the "LGBT community" on campus. Honestly, I'm not sure what your issue is so far- I've done little but make observations based on personal experience.

        • primenumbers

          You're equivocating on "belief". You can "hope" your car will start in the morning if the weather is bad and you've had problems before with your car in such poor weather. You can "trust" your car will start if it's always started no matter how bad the weather.

          If you car has only started rarely, you surely could have "belief" (in the religious sense) that it will start now, no doubt after you've prayed for it to start for you.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            What word would use to fill in the blanks.

            The sun has "risen" every morning of my life.
            Tomorrow morning, I _________ the sun will rise once more.

            Mixing oxygen and hydrogen and igniting them has always caused them to combine into water.
            I am going to ignite this mixture of oxygen and hydrogen, and I __________ the result will be water.

          • primenumbers

            Know.

          • Christian Stillings

            Problem of induction, sah.

          • severalspeciesof

            I know this wasn't directed at me, but... ;-)

            In this 'gotchya' test I would use several words: "have reasonable expectations based on prior experience"

            Though in normal everyday life, I'd most likely go with 'know' or 'belief'...

            Glen

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            In this 'gotchya' test . . .

            It was just an honest attempt to clarify the meaning of words like know, believe, think, etc. This is a philosophical discussion, and the exact meaning of words, or the exact meaning we want to give them for the purpose of this particular discussion, is of paramount importance.

          • severalspeciesof

            Apologies... I should have been more charitable...

            And you're right, it is very important to be as precise as we can be, so at least now you know what I am thinking when I use the word 'belief'...

            Glen

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It was just an honest attempt to clarify the meaning of words like know, believe, think, etc.

            That is why I am careful about using those in this context. I want what I say to have as close to the same meaning in the mind of my reader as my intended meaning. If I use word with shifting meanings, I can't be so sure. If it takes a whole phrase like "reasonable expectations based on prior evidence" then that is what I am going to write, out of care for my reader.

          • ZenDruid

            "am 100% confident"

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            "expect"

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Expect.

      • Dcn Harbey Santiago

        R1,

        The whole field of Theoretical Physics is based on "belief", it is only when Experimental Physics catches on that we can "know" for certain.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • Rationalist1

          So theology is like theoritical physics, but with any experimental verification.

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            "So theology is like theoritical physics"

            Without the formulas ;-)

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Theology is unlike theoretical physics, in that its propositions consist in direct revelations from God, and logically necessary consequences of those revelations.

            The propositions of theoretical physics proceed, always, from metaphysical assumptions which depend, for their veracity, on the degree to which they are in logical agreement with the data of revelation.

            Any theoretical physics which proceeds from metaphysical assumptions contrary to revelation, is a false theoretical physics.

            It will, in every case, either find itself falsified by experimental test, or falsified by logical self-contradiction.

          • Rationalist1

            Rick - not in physics course I ever took. Metaphysics can predict squat.

          • Nick Corrado

            Rick,
            Actually not all theology has to do with direct revelation. Natural theology doesn't concern itself with it.

          • ZenDruid

            Physicists follow Francis Bacon's advice to concentrate on the material and efficient causes, and leave the formal and end causes to the dreamers and storytellers.

          • Michael Murray

            Or pure mathematics but you don't need to make your definitions precise.

  • Sample1

    deleted by author (disqus issue)

  • clod

    Atheism is not a 'belief system'. It never was. I am not an atheist anyway, I'll accept igtheist at a pinch.

    • Octavo

      Is that like "ignostic," the belief that the concept of God is too incoherent to properly believe or disbelieve?

      • clod

        Yes. Wiki has it good enuf......

        It can be defined as encompassing two related views about the existence of God:

        The view that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of God can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition is unfalsifiable, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of God (for that definition) is meaningless. In this case, the concept of God is not considered meaningless; the term "God" is considered meaningless.

        The second view is synonymous with theological noncognitivism, and skips the step of first asking "What is meant by 'God'?" before proclaiming the original question "Does God exist?" as meaningless.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      clod, do you believe atheism is true?

      • clod

        Sorry. What statement does atheism make that I should consider to be true or false?

        • Rationalist1

          The only statement atheism makes is that there is insufficient evidence for a belief in a God or Gods. For me that is true.

          • BenS

            Actually, it doesn't even say that. You can arrive at atheism for many reasons (or none, in the case of default atheism) - but by far the most common is the one you highlighted (and that's why I'm an atheist).

            I also insert the word 'credible' or 'scientific' so it reads:

            "There is insufficient scientific evidence for a god."

            Some people think funny feelings in their tummy or rainbows are evidence for a god. I like to disabuse them of this notion.

          • Guest

            "Some people think funny feelings in their tummy or rainbows are evidence for a god."

            At first I thought this was offensive. Then I remembered that Kreeft made this argument regarding Beethoven or Bach.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          There is no statement at all. It is the absence of a statement of faith.

  • BenS

    In fact, I'm going to add to this in a more serious consideration of the post than my previous flippant one.

    The situation described here is one that someone is caught where the only
    two options are the Christian god or atheism. This has been clarified below by Brandon.

    To do this, the person has arrived at the idea that the Christian god *may* be true but all the other religions are *definitely* false.

    They've arrived at this via one of two routes. They've either followed the evidence trail and used critical thinking to disregard the unevidenced claims of the other religions or they've chosen the Christian god arbitrarily (gut feeling, guessing, dart in a board, best pictures in the holy book etc).

    If the latter, applying reason to the final situation is pointless. They arrived at the
    situation without using reason so using reason to make a final decision is a waste of time.

    If the former, then the situation they're at implies the evidence for the Christian god was insufficient. If they believed the evidence was sufficient, Pascal's Wager isn't needed; they'd simply believe. If the evidence wasn't sufficient, that relgion should have been discarded like all the others with insufficient evidence or they're simply being intellectually dishonest. They WANT this outcome to be true and therefore they're giving it a free pass where no other religion got one. In which case, again, reason is useless. They're not holding their pet religion to the same standards of all the others. So applying reason is a waste of time.

    However you end up in this position of the choice between either the Christian god or atheism, you've arrived there by faulty reasoning so applying reason to the situation is pointless. The problem is much deeper rooted than that final decision and therefore the wager is null.

    So, what did you do today, Ben? Well, I beat up a guy who's been dead for 350 years. Spiffing.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      You did not beat up the guy, you beat up those who published from his notes after the guy was dead.

      • BenS

        That was kind of my point. It doesn't feel right or fair to start chopping up someone's position when that person has been dead three and half centuries and didn't have access to all the knowledge and thinking that I do. He also can't respond and therefore there's no way to know if his position could be changed by counter-arguments.

        ---

        Edit: If it was taken from his notes after he was dead then I can't even be sure I'm addressing his own position. I might be beating up a dead straw Pascal. :(

        Oh, well, at least the author of the OP can reasonably be beaten upon. :)

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Yes, that is part of why it is so offensive when apologists present this as if they had the intellectual authority of Blaise Pascal behind it. They over simplify what was a study in probability, not theology, for their own purposes. There is no evidence that Pascal ever intended to publish this as theology. Here is a good ref for in-depth study.

          • BenS

            Cheers, chief. I'll read this when I get home. :)

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          BenS, once again, you've only beaten a straw man. The fact that Pascal was alive three centuries ago, or that we have more scientific data today, is irrelevant to the Wager.

          The Wager is merely a device for someone torn between belief in atheism and belief in the Christian God, regardless of which century they live in or what evidence fuels their indecision.

          • BenS

            BenS, once again, you've only beaten a straw man.

            What do you mean, 'once again'? Give me an example of where I've done it before. In fact, give me an example where I've done it this time. You've completely ignored the meat of my post.

            I've attempted to show that the wager is void if you didn't arrive at the situation (of being torn between two very specific choices) using reason. If you didn't use reason to end up at that decision then what's the point of using reason to try and solve it?

            Please read my post again and respond to the actual content of it.

    • Andre Boillot

      "hey've either followed the evidence trail and used critical thinking to disregard the unevidenced claims of the other religions or they've chosen the Christian god arbitrarily (gut feeling, guessing, dart in a board, best pictures in the holy book etc)."

      Re: arbitrary choice, I would add that the Christian god may have been chosen for them - as most people faiths are - by their predecessors.

      • BenS

        I concur; I still consider that arbitrary though.

        They do say it's remarkable how many 'atheists' convert right back to the religion they had as a kid....

  • Rationalist1

    Did anyone else here read the poem Abou Ben Adhem by James Henry Leigh Hunt in school (It's a short 18 lines, you can read it now - http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/abou-ben-adhem/).

    The gist of it is if we love our fellow humans, God will love us. I would say what do we have to lose if we seek to make this world the best we can for everyone. Skip all this partisan bickering and help one another. If there is no God, we leave the world a better place than when we found it and will be remembered as doing such. If there is a God we will be rewarded for helping each other. Win/Win, no downside.

    • clod

      Oh yes, I remember that poem very well from childhood.

      • Rationalist1

        Great, you're my first convert. :->

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "The gist of it is if we love our fellow humans, God will love us."

      This sounds good on the surface, but it requires us to answer the question: what is love? "Love" according to whom?

      Is abortion loving? Is euthanasia loving? Is worshiping God loving? Is praying for someone loving?

      • Rationalist1

        Abortion and euthanasia are tow topics, among many others that we as a society need to address and discuss.

        Worshiping a God or saying prayers to a God are no substitute for helping real people.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          We do show our love for God by showing our love for other people, so in that sense worship is not a substitute for helping--I'm going to leave out "real"--people. (God is a person, too.)

          On the other hand, if God exists, we do owe him the acts of religion: thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition. So ignoring him, if we believe he exists, would be wrong.

          • Rationalist1

            Foe you, not for non believers or people of other religions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I thought that would be obvious.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Brandon, I'm a Catholic and want everyone else to become one, too, but can't you find ANY opinion pieces written by atheists or agnostics for us to critique or defend?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Kevin, thanks for the comment. First, please see our About page which explains why we've decided to post mainly Catholic articles, and why we're convinced the real criticism and defense occurs in the comment boxes.

      Second, we have posted one atheist guest post already--therefore your needlessly-capped "ANY" is confusing--and over the next three weeks we'll be sharing two more guest posts and two video interviews with atheists.

      Nevertheless, if you decide that the site is *too* Catholic for your tastes, please feel free to comment elsewhere, or create your own site which accomplishes what this fails to do.

      • Vuyo

        Hi Brandon, I've noticed that when someone critiques this site you advise them to 'comment elsewhere' or basically 'get lost'(my words). In your response to Kevin Aldrich, wouldn't your first two paragraphs have been sufficient?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Thank you for saying that, Vuyo.

  • 42Oolon

    Okay I have decided to live my life as if a god exists and Mohamed is his prophet. I can now never change my view, because Allah, hallowed be his name, is unforgiving of apostates, even more wrathful than against atheists. Thank you Strange Notions and Pascal, I can never be a Catholic.

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi 42Oolon,
      We believe God judges us according to how much revelation we've had, how open we have been to it and what our life experiences are. if one had a bad home life to Christian parents i'm sure that would be taken into consideration. Perhaps the best way to discern it is to evaluate both religions and pray about it. If there is a God and you objectively look at both religions it would seem reasonable that that God would lead you to the correct truth.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        Dogmatic definition of the Holy Catholic Church:

        "Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason."

        Vatican Council I, Dei Filius 2:DS 3004; cf. 3026; Vatican Council II, Dei Verbum 6.

        So there is no excuse whatever for the atheist- he will be condemned justly.

        This is utterly certain.

        • Rationalist1

          There is only one thing that statement makes me utterly certain of..

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Yes. Exactly.

        • Nick Corrado

          Hi Rick,
          You're reading too much into the passage. It says that God can be known with certainty with human reason. Humans, however, are full of cognitive biases and imperfections that hinder our ability to reason. That it can be known does not mean that it must be known.

          Moreover, non-Christians can indeed achieve salvation. To quote CCC #847:

          Those who, through no fault of their own, do
          not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            First: The atheist explicitly denies that knowledge which is certain; that is, the necessary existence of God.

            Second: The means of justification are defined dogmatically by the Council of Trent:

            "In which words is given a brief description of the justification of the sinner, as being a translation from that state in which man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace and of the adoption of the sons of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Savior.
            This translation however cannot, since promulgation of the Gospel, be effected except through the laver of regeneration or its desire, as it is written:

            Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.[18]"

            Therefore your statement above that "non Christians can achieve salvation" is false and heretical.

            Anyone who is saved has first been justified.

            There is no possibility of justification since the promulgation of the Gospel apart from baptism or the desire for it.

            Baptism joins the soul to the Catholic Church.

            Unless that Catholic perseveres in Faith, Hope and Charity unto death, he nor she cannot be saved.

            This is utterly certain.

          • Nick Corrado

            Rick,
            First, the atheist does not "explicitly deny that knowledge which is certain." Many do, sure but many are also not sure. I don't know how many on this site for instance would say that it's possible that God exists, or even just a god in general, but I think it would be a fair number. Skepticism does not imply certainty of doubt.

            Second, it has long been an understanding of the Church that "no one may enter heaven except through the Church" but it has been long debated as to how that should be interpreted. The recent understanding is that non-Christians who, as the CCC says, "do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless
            seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their
            actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their
            conscience" also achieve salvation through the Church, even though they haven't been formally baptized into it or anything. This is consistent with what we know*: Jesus came to earth and founded the Church so that all people can have hope of salvation, yet the physical Church can't be everywhere at once.

            As for how that fits precisely into what you said, well, the quote says that "unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost" which is referring to a baptism, an entering into the Church. In other words someone is saved through being in the Church.

            *or believe to know, if you want to get picky

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Nick,

            I don't understand why, on a Catholic web site with moderators, certain people are permitted to claim something (like Feeneyism) is Catholic dogma when it isn't.

          • Nick Corrado

            David,
            Are you referring to me or Rick? I haven't (intentionally) made any false claims about Catholic dogma.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I was trying not to name names, but I am referring to Rick.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Here is Catholic dogma, conveniently provided in the form of an actual dogmatic definition of an actual Pope, as opposed to the various opinions of non-actual dogmatic definitions of non-actual Popes.

            The Catholic Church:

            "....firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

            That is authentically Catholic dogma.

            If one cannot give full assent of Faith to the above, then they do not hold the Catholic Faith.

            Simple.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            If one cannot give full assent of Faith to the above, then they do not hold the Catholic Faith.

            Not every statement from every council is infallible. Taken strictly and literally, the above quote from the Council of Florence conflicts with Catholic teaching today. I think the burden is on anyone who pulls quotes from a fifteenth-century ecumenical council and claims they define dogma—and the current Church and recent popes (and the Catechism) are in error to provide some solid evidence that the alleged dogma really is dogma. I find very little on the Council of Florence out there except on web sites insisting on the literal truth of "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

            It is not the current teaching of the Catholic Church that Jews necessarily go to hell, or those who never had a chance to know of the existence of Christianity necessarily went to hell. I think that there is a heavy burden on you or anyone who claims that is Catholic dogma to demonstrate at length why you make that contention. Certainly it was not the position of Benedict XVI that Jews who do not convert to Catholicism and undergo baptism of water are necessarily damned.

          • Dan C.

            This is Rick DeLano. Disqus continues to falsely identify me as Dan C.

            "Not every statement from every council is infallible."

            >> Infallible dogmatic definitions are infallible.

            To deny it is to deny the Faith.

            "Taken strictly and literally, the above quote from the Council of Florence conflicts with Catholic teaching today."

            >> You assert, therefore, that the Church has contradicted a defined dogma.

            This is impossible.

            Instead, it will be seen that you have wrongly understood the Church's teaching.

            "I think the burden is on anyone who pulls quotes from a fifteenth-century ecumenical council and claims they define dogma—and the current Church and recent popes (and the Catechism) are in error to provide some solid evidence that the alleged dogma really is dogma."

            >> Certainly. Here is the conclusive evidence, from Lumen Gentium #25:

            "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)--he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.[42] For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church's charism of infallibility is present in a singular way."

            The following infallible dogmatic definition is of the precise form and matter contemplated in LG 25, and constitutes a dogmatic definition which does not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church's charism of infallibility is present in a singular way:

            "The Holy Catholic Church firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

            That is authentically Catholic dogma.

            If one cannot give full assent of Faith to the above, then they do not hold the Catholic Faith.

            Simple.

          • Dan C.

            Rick again, continuing:

            "It is not the current teaching of the Catholic Church that Jews necessarily go to hell, or those who never had a chance to know of the existence of Christianity necessarily went to hell."

            >> It is the infallible and irreformable *dogma* of the Faith that all those who die separated from the Catholic Church immediately descend to Hell, although the punishments are unequal.

            The following dogmatic, irreformable definition applies:

            Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Letentur coeli,” Sess. 6, July 6, 1439, ex cathedra: “We define also that… the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, ****or in original sin alone*****, go straightaway to hell, but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”77

            "I think that there is a heavy burden on you or anyone who claims that is Catholic dogma to demonstrate at length why you make that contention. Certainly it was not the position of Benedict XVI that Jews who do not convert to Catholicism and undergo baptism of water are necessarily damned."

            >> To the contrary. I have met my burden.

            The burden is on you, now, to provide any solemn definition of any Pope, or council accepted by a Pope, *solemnly defining*, which contradicts in any way at all the above, solemn, irreformable dogmas of the catholic Faith.

            You will not be able to do this.

            Instead it will be seen that you have wrongly understood the levels of magisterial authority in Catholic teaching.

          • Dan C.

            What in the world? How is that happening. I'm the real "Dan C"! Our personalities have merged!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Not every statement from every council is infallible."

            >> Every dogmatic definition is infallible.

            "Taken strictly and literally, the above quote from the Council of Florence conflicts with Catholic teaching today."

            >> You assert, then, that the Church has contradicted an infallible dogmatic definition in her teaching today.

            This is impossible.

            Instead, it will be seen that you have wrongly understood Catholic teaching.

            "I think the burden is on anyone who pulls quotes from a fifteenth-century ecumenical council and claims they define dogma"

            >> How about thirteenth? Fourteenth? Eleventh? When does the dogma expire? Is dogma only good after the sixteenth century? Does it expire unless it was defined in the seventeenth or later?

            Answer: It doesn't. Dogmatic definitions are by their very nature irreformable.

            "—and the current Church and recent popes (and the Catechism) are in error to provide some solid evidence that the alleged dogma really is dogma."

            >> It is you who allege the current Catechism and Popes to deny dogma. You provide not a shred of evidence.

            As for your request for proof that dogmatic definitions are in fact dogmatic definitions, certainly.

            Lumen Gentium #25:

            "The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful--who confirms his brethren in the faith (cf. Lk. 22:32)--he proclaims in an absolute decision a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.[42] For that reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature and not by reason of the assent of the Church, is as much as they were made with the assistance of the Holy Spirit promised to him in the person of blessed Peter himself; and as a consequence they are in no way in need of the approval of others, and do not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church's charism of infallibility is present in a singular way."

            The following ex cathedra definition is of the precise form and matter contemplated by Lumen Gentium 25, and does not admit of appeal to any other tribunal. For in such a case the Roman Pontiff does not utter a pronouncement as a private person, but rather does he expound and defend the teaching of the Catholic faith as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the Church's charism of infallibility is present in a singular way:

            Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441):

            "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not onlypagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."
            ****
            I find very little on the Council of Florence out there except on web sites insisting on the literal truth of "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

            >> There are three solemn definitions of the dogma. One is sufficient. It is irreformable by its very nature, as the Second Vatican Council you allege to deny the dogma instead explicitly affirms.

            "It is not the current teaching of the Catholic Church that Jews necessarily go to hell, or those who never had a chance to know of the existence of Christianity necessarily went to hell."

            >> It is the irreformable *dogma* of the Catholic Church that:

            “The souls of those who die in mortal sin ****or with original sin only*****, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.” Council of Lyons (Denzinger 464)

            "I think that there is a heavy burden on you or anyone who claims that is Catholic dogma to demonstrate at length why you make that contention. Certainly it was not the position of Benedict XVI that Jews who do not convert to Catholicism and undergo baptism of water are necessarily damned."

            >> To the contrary.

            My burden is met.

            The burden is on you to provide evidence that any Pope or Council, *defining*, has reversed, set aside, or contradicted any of the ex cathedra definitions I have supplied.

            You will not be able to do this.

            Instead, it will be seen that you have wrongly understood the Church's teaching.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            “The souls of those who die in mortal sin ****or with original sin only*****, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.” Council of Lyons (Denzinger 464)

            Does this mean that aborted babies or other infants who die before formal baptism are certain to go to hell and be "punished"? Certainly the Limbo of Infants is not defined dogma.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Unless the children are justified prior to death by baptism or the desire for it, they will descend to hell.

            The punishments are unequal- that is dogma- and the theological doctrine of limbo- not a dogma, but instead a logical and orthodox doctrine based on dogma- is an expression of that unequal punishment in a perfectly orthodox way.

            Pope Urban III:

            "The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting hell. . . ."

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Unless the children are justified prior to death by baptism or the desire for it, they will descend to hell.

            Do you know of any way an aborted, miscarried, or stillborn baby can have a desire for baptism?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            There are theological speculations to this effect.

            None of them proceed directly from revelation, but they are possible.

            We are always allowed to hope that God will intervene in some way unknowable to us.

            But as for the absolutely certain, heaven-protected dogmas of the catholic Faith- these will stand until the end of time.

            They will never be altered, or reversed, or contradicted, because heaven has willed it so.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            There are theological speculations to this effect.

            None of them proceed directly from revelation, but they are possible.

            Could you give me a couple of examples?

            We are always allowed to hope that God will intervene in some way unknowable to us.

            Would this not apply to all of the unbaptized, then? For example, could not God intervene in some way unknowable to us when someone in a remote jungle who has never heard of Christianity dies? Might not every unbaptized person be offered baptism in some manner that we cannot even imagine at the moment of his or her death?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Could you give me a couple of examples?"

            >> Cajetan proposed vicarious baptism of desire; the prayers of the parents or the Church; Klee proposed supernatural intervention at the moment of death to grant the child the faculty of reason, by which to desire baptism...there are some others.

            "Would this not apply to all of the unbaptized, then? For example, could not God intervene in some way unknowable to us when someone in a remote jungle who has never heard of Christianity dies? Might not every unbaptized person be offered baptism in some manner that we cannot even imagine at the moment of his or her death?"

            >> Certainly. We can always hope for such unknowable interventions by God.

            This hope is salutary and holy, but must be tempered by the sober consideration of the fact that God could, in a similar manner, have intervened to supernaturally save the men who did not board the Ark, or who through no fault of their own failed to know of its existence.

            He did not do so.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            By the way, what about the "good thief" (Luke 23:40-43), to whom Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Did he have to be baptized with water before he could enter paradise?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Other side of the Cross.

            The Trent definition concerning baptism applies after the promulgation of the Gospel; Dismas was saved under the Old Covenant, by Faith in the Messiah, just as were all of the Patriarchs and saints of Israel.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "...do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience"

            >> That part is authentic.

            "also achieve salvation through the Church"

            >> That part appears nowhere in any catechism or dogmatic teaching of the Church. It is your formulation, and it is in error.

            The actual text continues, after you close quotes:

            "may achieve salvation".

            Of course they may.

            The point is, they *may* achieve this salvation by the very specific means of being justified; that is, translated from the condition of child of Adam to child of God.

            The Church has already dogmatically taught that such a translation cannot be effectuated, since the promulgation of the Gospel, apaprt from baptism or the desire for it.

            "even though they haven't been formally baptized into it or anything."

            Formal baptism- that is, the administration of the sacrament- is absolutely necessary for salvation unless one has desired baptism and has been incuplably prevented from receiving it- *and* has persevered in Faith Hope and Charity unto death.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Both good points. My six year old daughter doesn't know from reason that God exists. And somebody who lived 3000 years ago in Tierra del Fuego needs a way to salvation.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Your daughter can be saved by baptism.

            Your three thousand year old Tierra del Fuegan will answer to the law written on each human heart, but apart from Faith in the coming Messiah, he was not found in Abraham's bosom, and God foresaw this from all eternity.

            Original sin, my friend.

            It is the hardest of hard sayings.

            To deny it is to deny the Faith.

      • 42Oolon

        I understand that. My sarcastic comment was aimed at this post which advises us to hedge our bets after doing the kind of journey you describe and just "choose" to believe.

        I weekly genuinely and as honestly as I can, think and "pray" to someone named "Jesus" to see if anything will be revealed to me. So far, nothing. I see no reason to go further than this, because I think this would risk self-brainwashing and confirmation bias. I also see no reason to investigate any religion beyond my own interest. That said I probably have done so more than the average person. I come to fora like this to see if I am missing something and to try to understand how otherwise reasonable people can justify these kinds of beliefs.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi 42Oolon,
          God speaks to all of us, kind of in the back of our minds. sometimes it's important to stop and say; "what has the Lord said to me today?" What has he said in the last week? sometimes when we put those little signs together it becomes a bit of a pattern. has God sent you any little signs? has there been any patterns. Do you ever have any moments when you read something, or hear something and think; "that was meant for me?" if can get a chance just e-mail me because it's a little hard to get a take on the situation from a brief paragraph. if you get a chance go to my website at 2fish.co then click, "contact" then click "ask a priest" i really would like to discuss it with you.

          • articulett
          • Susan

            >God speaks to all of us, kind of in the back of our minds. sometimes it's important to stop and say; "what has the Lord said to me today?"

            Have you see Michael Shermer's Ted video?

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8T_jwq9ph8k

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            I was really glad you sent that to me because that was not what i was talking about. When i was in the seminary i was in the chapel one night praying. i was looking for a scrpiture verse, and was leafing through various letters from St.Paul.. Everything i read was about faith, how important it is to nurture it. how we are to allow faith to guide us and not look to heavily at the world around us (Christians were undergoing a great deal of persecution). I rememberd thinking; "wow, there really is a lot in the New Testament about the importance of nurturing one's faith." About a week later i had to give a talk. i figured with so much about the importance of nurtering one's faith i went back through Paul's letters and couldn't find anything about faith. as i pondered this i realized how important that was to me to reflect on faith back then. it made me realize where i was at, how i needed to read and reflect on faith? it opened my eyes to see how often the word of God does speak directly to my situation? God does speak to all of us, but sometimes it is important just to be quiet and listen. it often takes me a while to quiet my mind and thoughts. When God speaks to us it's almost more of an impression on one's heart that their mind puts words too. When it's from the Lord there's always a sense of peace, a sense of rightness even if it isn't something we want to hear. When it isn't the Lord sometimes there's a sense of agitation, or uncertainty even if it is something we want. But being quiet and reflecting on one's day or week often reveals what's right behind the curtain. see faces in clouds, or hearing words that sound similar to others sounds more like a psychological phenomenon.

          • David Egan

            "Everything i read was about faith, how important it is to nurture it. how we are to allow faith to guide us and not look to heavily at the world around us"

            This is where Christianity absolutely fails. There is zero reason to value faith whatsoever and especially no reason to encourage anyone to use faith rather than observation as a guide. That's how you end up with 50% of Americans believing in creationism.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,
            I was attempting to show how i felt the spirit was speaking to me in that story. Faith is valuable if there is a God and if faith opens us up to his presence and his love. Obviously i am a Christian but i am not a young earth creationist. I do believe much of evolution is in fact true but i also believe it is God who originally creates and guides evolution.

          • 42Oolon

            I'd rather ask "has a god said anything to me today?" Of course I notice patterns quite often. Most are clearly human created. Others are clearly natural, cycle of the sun etc. I have seen no sign of anything like what I would think a god is. I notice many things that are clearly meant for me by other people but not from anything suggesting a supernatural origin. I will get in touch.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If you give me an example of a belief you think is unjustifiable, I'll try to show it is reasonable.

  • Susan

    >If A is the case then you stand to receive the infinite good of everlasting life!

    What does that mean?

    What sort of infinity are we talking about? And what makes it good? Is everlasting time-based? What about the countless billions of non-human sentient beings who suffered and died for nothing? Do I want to make a pact with a deity who was responsible for that? Even if it existed, I wouldn't see it as "good" or something I want to have an "everlasting life" with

    >If B is the case then you risk missing out on this infinite good.

    This is meaningless language as I pointed out earlier. Explain it.

    >If C is the case then what awaits you after this life is not heaven but non-existence. During life you would have had a bit of inconvenience due to living as a believer

    A bit of inconvenience??!! Living the only life I had believing a delusion is a bit of an inconvenience? My moral and intellectual choices distorted by something that was utterly wrong?

    >If D is the case then you would have a bit more freedom to indulge your lower passions in this life

    Nice try. To imply that it's about that, worse to ASSUME it's about that without considering any of the more likely reasons people have for not surrendering their intellectual and moral choices to unevidenced claims of deities is a bit of a dirty move, isn't it?

    • Rationalist1

      It would be very good for you. The others, much less so. But it would be very good for you.

      • Susan

        Well, exactly. "Good" for me

        Doesn't sound much like our "higher" notions of goodness, does it?

  • 42Oolon

    I act as if a god existed, but I do not believe it to be true, would that actually work? Could I do the same for Mohammed and Joseph Smith at the same time? Would that interfere?

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi 42Oolon,
      yes it would work, but you do have to read a little i don't think God would reveal anything if you didn't know anything about him because you wouldn't know who it was revealing anything to you? Just read through the gospels, look for little signs or inspirations that encourage you to continue to ponder. might i even suggest the "screwtape letters". i and also, keep praying to a God you are not sure exists and you will get your evidence. i'm praying for you too.

      • BenS

        I think it shows a remarkable lack of power on your god's part if he's unable to reveal himself to you unless you've already learnt about him.
        Surely god would be able to reveal himself and all his rules directly and accurately to anyone in the world who had never heard of Catholicism and it would be instantly recognisable as the Catholic faith. It's odd how that never happens. The teachings and stories of Jesus are never revealed to someone who has never heard those stories before.

        You'd think they would be. If your god was any good, I mean.

      • 42Oolon

        Oh, I have read much. The more I read, the more arbitrary and bloodthirsty seems the God of Catholicism to me. I will not pray to a specific god as if it really existed, until I believe. This would seem to be dishonest and kinda crazy. But I do take Chirsitans at their word and open myself up to someone named "Jesus" who may want some kind of relationship with me. No offers so far.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi 42Oolon,

          I think about a week ago i read that you had been praying for God to reveal himself to you. i was very thankful for that and was hoping you would continue. when you mentioned that nothing happened i'd have to admit i was a little disappointed (not in you but perhaps that God didn't give you any signs to keep going). Later when i was reflecting on it i did realize that it certainly does help to know at least a little about who Jesus is before you're going to receive some innate knowledge or the gift of faith so you do have to learn a little, but i was just hoping some aspect of faith was beginning to grow.

          That evening we had a night of reflection at my parish. some Priest came to give a reflection, he was from Trinidad in the Caribbean. he said he grew up Catholic but didn't really go to church all that often. when he was young he had to go to a Muslim school because there wasn't any other schools around in his area. He said the other students knew he was catholic but still treated him with respect. Later he went to college to study engineering. while he was there he began to question his beliefs. he said something to the effect that he wanted to know if they were true so he started reading a couple of chapters of the New Testament every evening and started praying for God to give him something more tangible in the way of faith. he said for over a year nothing happened, but he continued praying. in fact he said he eventually said soemthing to the effect of; "i'm not praying not going to church any more until you give me something more". after three days he realized what a positive effect prayer had on him and he missed it. even though he wasn't sure Jesus existed he missed the praying as if he missed a friend. (which kind of reminded me of something you said in an earlier post). About a year and a half went by. one day he went to some kind of a worship service at his local parish. he was amazed to see some of his engineering classmates there also praying. he was a little puzzled by that in that being charasimatic didn't seem to be something engineers would be interested in, or even the faith in general. these were very bright intellectual people, but he felt they seemed to have something he didn't. about a week went by when he saw two of the engineering students at school. they both came up to him and asked if they could pray with him. at that point he felt a rush, like he was being lifted up from the inside. he flt joy and peace. he received his innate knowledge, and later responded to a call to the priesthood. he said he felt his life's goal was to open others to what he had discovered.

          Later when i was reading your post and was thinking perhaps you would get some little sign to continue you said something to the effect that "you felt like you may be brainwashing yourself", which almost seemed like something out of the screwtape letters. 42Olon, can i encourage you to continue your search? keep praying and keep reading. you have nothing to lose. as your praying and reading just take some time every day and ask yourself; has God given me any little signs, did i have any inspirations that something felt like it was meant for me?
          i would also suggest reading the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, i know you'll find them helpful. if there's anything i can do, or if you have any questions you don't want a whole lot of people reading please feel free to e-mail me at my website 2fish.co . click "contact us" then click "ask a priest". you are in my prayers 42.

  • Susan

    > the benefits that religion brings to people's lives including a sense of purpose and meaning that there is no rational basis for if we are just walking bags of chemicals.

    Here we go again I get very, very tired of this strategy.
    Without religion, we and all sentient beings might as well be sacks of flour.

    More appeals to our intuitive response to "reason" and "purpose" without clear terms, asserting without support that belief in a deity is the only thing that makes sense out of them. .

    And assertions about objective morality to boot. No support either.

    • Andre Boillot

      I don't fear a world full of non-believers. I fear a world where something shatters the faith of the religious, leaving them without any moral compass whatsoever.

      • Rationalist1

        I've often told people to stay with their faith when they scared me when they went on and on about how would one know what was right or wrong without God. Now I'm sure it was just a rhetorical device but with some I do worry.

        Any of the believers here. Would you act morally differently if you lost your faith in God? I didn't change when I became an atheist.

        • Dcn Harbey Santiago

          R1,

          "Any of the believers here. Would you act morally differently if you lost your faith in God?"

          To answer your question (and I'm speaking for myself here), most definitely. There is a definite " dieing to self " when you make a conscientious decision to loving others unconditionally, specially those who do not love you back or actually hate you (and as a Catholic Clergy, trust me when I tell you, I encounter a lot of that).

          My morality is based on self sacrifice because this is what I'm called to do by God; not to "gain heaven" but because in a strange way this is how I gain strength and joy in life, the way in which I'm most "human". Helping and loving others is good for the soul, although is hard work.

          If I were to loose my faith, I suspect my morality would become exclusively based on my natural need to be loved and accepted by others (forget about the haters) and in my self-centerness, which is the beginning of moral relativism.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          Deacon Harbey Santiago

          • Rationalist1

            f that's the case, keep with your faith until you realize you don't need God to act that way. To use one of the atheist's Christmas ads. "you can be good for goodness' sake'.

            As for me, I'm weeding my elderly neighbour's garden tonight (if the rain stops).

          • Dcn Harbey Santiago

            " I'm weeding my elderly neighbour's garden tonight"

            You are good person, keep it up.

            Dorothy Day said once "The poor are ungrateful and they smell bad" and yet she dedicated her life to help them. It is easy to help the ones we like and like us back. It is in the ones that don't care about us in which we show to ourselves what is the source of our moral compass.

            I'm sure your neighbor would be very appreciative. :-)

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            Deacon Harbey Santiago

        • BenS

          Oh, I did.

          I ditched a load of the awful shit that was hovering in the back of my mind when my morality was unshackled.

          When you no longer have the nagging notion that there's something wrong or 'off' with homosexuals or divorcees or women who choose to have an abortion you can really start being nice to people.

          Life's so much better without religion. You can spend less time be disgusted with peoples' life choices and more time being pleasant.

          • Rationalist1

            That's true. I did get rid of a lot of judgement hangups. I don't understand homosexuality but I no longer seek to impose my views upon them.

            But in terms of my actions, nothing much changed.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Any of the believers here. Would you act morally differently if you lost your faith in God?

          This is a tricky question because while beliefs are important in moral behavior, virtues and vices matter much more.

          If you were temperate before you lost your faith, you would probably remain temperate afterwards and only slowly change while forming a new habit. On the other hand, if you were prone to anger before converting, you would likely have a hard time being patient despite your desire.

      • Susan

        > I fear a world where something shatters the faith of the religious, leaving them without any moral compass whatsoever.

        The image of Wile E. Coyote frozen in mid-air above a canyon, suddenly realizing there was nothing there to hold him up was raised on another issue in another discussion. I think it applies here too.
        I'm sure you and I have too much respect for theists to worry that most of them would rape and pillage if they suddenly realized there was no deity to hold them up.

        There is the rare one that scares me, though. I hope they never stop believing.

    • severalspeciesof

      I found that a bit repulsive too... plus, if one is allowed to nit-pick this part also bothered me:

      "since studies show believers tend to live longer, healthier, and happier lives."
      as it doesn't address the idea of correlation versus causation.

      This example/reason is part of the OP and is an important part of this choice issue...

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      ... just walking bags of chemicals.

      Also known as, the famous "just fizzing" argument. I like to ask them exactly when, in the process of cell division, did they no longer be a bag of chemicals?

      • Dan

        I think the key word here is "JUST" -- or the reductionist fallacy.
        In other words, what is true of the PARTS is not necessary true of the emergent WHOLE.

        There's more that could be said here.
        For a good read on the topic of emergence, non-reductive understandings of reality, and the like, see George Ellis' paper "Physics and the Real World"

        http://www.mth.uct.ac.za/~ellis/realworld.pdf

        • Andrew G.

          References to "top-down causality" are a good tell to distinguish between sane discussions of emergence and crank emergence-as-magic nonsense.

          There is nothing going on at the higher levels that is not simply an abstract description of the lower-level processes. Predicting the behaviour of, say, a neuron in terms of the physics of subatomic particles is computationally intractable, but there is nothing going on that is not simply the result of the operation of that physics.

          We overlay different maps over the territory according to what level we want to study it at, but there is only one territory, and it behaves the same way regardless of which map you're looking at.

          • Michael Murray

            Predicting the behaviour of, say, a neuron in terms of the physics of subatomic particles is computationally intractable, but there is nothing going on that is not simply the result of the operation of that physics.

            Maybe more accurate would be to say that we have never seen any evidence of emergent behaviour that can't be reduced.

            While I agree with that statement I wouldn't rule Ellis out too quickly. He wrote a famous relativity textbook with Hawking that I still have on my shelf. He's credentials in that area are excellent. So he knows something about causality.

            http://www.mth.uct.ac.za/~ellis

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Dr. Ellis' recent work on top down causation is highly relevant, including his citation of Laughlin:

            "Superfluidity, like the fractional Hall effect, is
            an emergent phenomenon - a low-energy collective effect of huge numbers of particles that cannot be
            deduced from the microscopic equations of motion in a rigorous way, and that disappears completely
            when the system is taken apart."

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/1212.2275.pdf

          • Dan

            Hi Andrew G.

            You use the word "abstractions", perhaps suggesting there are no real, independent, self-determining realities beyond the lowest layer of physics?

            The point is, there IS such a thing as a real, meaningful "I" and a real, meaningful "you". Our interactions (including this very conversation) occur at this level of personhood, not at the level of molecules. A reductionist would say the very idea of personhood itself is an illusion. Again, I think this is a confusion between the "methodological" and the "ontological".

            BTW: There is nothing "crank" about the Ellis paper at all. He's quite respected in his field.

            See more here:
            http://physicsdaily.com/physics/Emergence

            And if you happen to be in the UK in July, there's even a "Physics of Emergent Behavior" conference sponsored by the Institute of Physics. (If only I was important enough to attend!). :) It seems to be more evidence that this is a real, vital area of discussion among physicists and philosophers -- one that is not going away anytime soon.
            http://bio13.iopconfs.org/PhysicsofEmergentBehaviour_IOP_Conference_Home

            The summary itself is quite intriguing:

            "Biological systems are often conceptualised as networks of interacting genes and proteins. Nevertheless, a simple analysis of the fundamental genetic programs is often not sufficient to explain higher-level functions such as multi-cellular aggregation, tissue organization, embryonic development, and collective behaviour of groups of individuals. Furthermore, various aspects of these processes are often emergent properties of the underlying complex system, irrespectively to its microscopic details. In the past few years, larger scale experiments allowed the construction of statistical mechanics models of biological systems directly from real data, producing immense progress in our understanding of emergent collective behaviour in biology."

          • Guest

            Andrew:

            This is Rick DeLano, for some reason the Disqus wants to identify me as Dan.

            You write:

            "There is nothing going on at the higher levels that is not simply an abstract description of the lower-level processes."

            But Dr. Ellis declines to agree with you, here:

            "This paper will explore these forms of top-down causation and the associated implications for our understanding of the nature of causality, and hence for the nature of the scientific
            endeavour. ****In brief: the conclusion is that there are other forms of causation than those encompassed by physics and physical chemistry.**** A full scientific view of the world must recognise this fact, or else it will ignore important aspects of causation in the real world,and so will give a causally incomplete view of things (Ellis 2005, 2006a, 2006c). This has obvious implications for reductionism, but I will not explicitly enter the complex debate about that issue here."

            "

            http://www.mth.uct.ac.za/~ellis/Top-down%20Ellis.pdf

          • Andrew G.

            I wouldn't bother to explain this to you since you seem to be immune to explanation, but in case anyone else is reading along:

            Emergence is both a valid way of looking at the world and a delusion. The valid aspect is that since in any complex system, the behaviour of the system is affected by the interactions between the parts as well as the parts themselves, it's extremely common (indeed the norm) for there to be no easy or practical way to derive properties of the system in terms of closed-form solutions to the fundamental laws governing the parts. This is why we do science on many levels rather than just doing physics and deriving chemistry, biology and so on as consequences of physical laws (even though they are).

            At this level "emergence" can also be thought of as a heuristic for avoiding committing the fallacies of distribution.

            The point where the delusions start to creep in is when you start thinking that the higher-level phenomena are anything more than descriptions of the lower-level ones. Once you get to the point of seriously considering downward causation as a real thing, then you have lost your anchor to reality and drifted off into woo.

            The best way I know of to understand this is to study simple cellular automata such as Conway's Life. On a Life field, you can describe high-level objects like gliders, glider guns, eaters, and so on, but the clearly do not exist in any meaningful sense - it's all just cells which are alive or dead. Nevertheless, it can be shown that you can emulate a Turing machine on the Life field, which means that there can be no general closed-form laws which you can use to predict the fate of arbitrary patterns (since if there were, you'd have solved the halting problem).

            Likewise, it's easy to see that "downward causation" is not a real thing - the only thing that causes a cell to change state is the state of the neighbor cells. At a descriptive level you can say "the cell at (x,y) changed state at time t because a glider was passing through it", but to say that the glider caused the cell to change state is a category error.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Hi Dan, thanks for your comment. At some point I think we are going to want an entire "Just Fizzing" thread to go through all this. I would suspect a great deal of that would involve the emergence of complex behavior in bodies of cells acting as units of discrete automata.

          • Dan

            Ah yes, "Faith, Reason and Dr. Pepper"! That would be a great topic, for sure. :)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Indeed. :-)

    • Randy Gritter

      It is a conclusion that strikes people as highly implausible. We know ourselves pretty well. If Catholicism tells us a story about who we are that rings true and atheism tells us a story that feels all wrong that cannot be dismissed. It would certainly move the burden of proof strongly to the atheist side.

      • ZenDruid

        Here's an atheism story for you:

        "We were all born with the necessary precursor for a fully functional moral conscience. To subordinate this conscience to superstition is harmful in the long run."

        • Randy Gritter

          That is what Catholicism teaches.

          • ZenDruid

            Then why the superstition that Catholicism invokes?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Why the superstition that Catholicism invokes superstition?

          • Octavo

            What? Is it a misconception that Catholics believe in the revivification of necrotized human beings?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is indeed a misconception.

            Catholics believe in the Resurrection from the dead, and they do so based upon eyewitness evidence, subsequently vindicated by confirmed prophetic utterances concerning the supernatural destiny of the Catholic Church.

            It would be superstitious in the extreme to suggest that God, having demonstrated His ability to raise from the dead in front of eyewitnesses, ought be disbelieved on the basis of our materialist superstitions about reality.

          • Octavo

            "It is indeed a misconception.

            Catholics believe in the Resurrection from the dead, and they do so based upon eyewitness evidence, subsequently vindicated by confirmed prophetic utterances concerning the supernatural destiny of the Catholic Church."

            So...I was right. You believe in supernatural superstition based on hearsay.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            We believe in evidence, Octavo.

            It would be superstitious in the extreme to discount evidence simply because it does not comport with our superstitions.

          • Octavo

            2000 year old hearsay is just not terribly impressive.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            To the contrary. 2,000 year old eyewitness accounts of miraculous events, combined with the subsequently-demonstrated affirmation that the Church founded on these events will become the first and only universal faith of humanity, is monumentally impressive.

          • Octavo

            If your standards for evidence are really really low, then I guess it is impressive.

            Also, Christianity isn't the first or only universal faith of humanity. That's just not a useful or accurate description at all.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            To the contrary:

            it is an objective fact that only the Catholic Faith has been adopted universally, in all of the history of humanity's religions.

            This fact was also prophetically announced, before it happened, when the Church consisted in a very few, heavily persecuted, adherents.

            It is truly a remarkable thing, that this tiny and powerless (humanly speaking) sect should have created the modern world itself.

          • ZenDruid

            it is an objective fact that only the Catholic Faith has been adopted
            universally, in all of the history of humanity's religions.

            Like in South America, where the natives were given the choice to submit to the pope or die. "Adopted universally..." Yeh right.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The mass conversions of the South Americans were achieved by prophetic confirmation of signs the Holy Spirit had already vouchsafed to them- the state of antagonism between the Aztecs and the missionaries was resolved not by force of arms, but by the the single greatest mass conversions in history, which accompanied the miracle of the Virgin of Guadelupe.

          • ZenDruid

            I could possibly accept this, if the natives had come into the light before the Iberians showed up. Sorta like the Mar Thoma in India, but soon after the Portuguese arrived, things oddly morphed into Roman Catholicism.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Virgin was Catholic, Zen.

            Reasonably enough, the Aztecs became Catholic- by the millions- in the greatest mass conversion in history.

          • ZenDruid

            [pure speculation:]

            What if all these feminine apparitions were actually of Mother Gaia, and the Papists prostituted her for their own ends?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Then Mother Gaia was apparently amenable to being bribed.

            The alternative, of course, is that the Blessed Virgin appeared, not Mother Gaia.

            Take your pick.

            The Aztecs certainly did :-)

          • Octavo

            Amazing that you're boasting of cultural imperialism and forced conversions. I think most Catholics would be a little embarrassed about that.

          • Rationalist1

            And now they're moving in larger and larger numbers to the Evangelicals. Pretty fickle bunch.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It's a tough time for the Church just now.

            Thankfully, we have been through them before :-)

          • Octavo

            The definition of "universally" must be a very accommodating one.

          • BenS

            Well, yes. I mean, England adopted the Catholic church... then the king decided not being able to get an annulment was rubbish and booted it. Amazingly, when the state mandates another religion in its place with harsh penalties for dissenters there was another universal conversion within a generation!

            The faith was so powerful that now, even when there are no sanctions against Catholics at all, they are less than 10% of the UK population. 'Universally adopted', my muscular buttocks.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Yes, the Catholic Faith is the only Faith which has ever been able to demonstrate adherence on a universal scale by the human race- not limited by geography, or race, or tribe, or culture, or tongue.

            It is a truly remarkable empirical fact, that this one religion, of all of humanity's myriad religions, has become truly universal in its dissemination and persistence.

          • Andre Boillot

            If this is the measure of universal scale, how is Catholicism differentiated from, say, Islam? What of Muslims outnumbering Catholics?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Muslims are doing quite well recently, and might yet succeed in colonizing the West and overcoming Christian civilization.

            But they have not done so, and even if they do, the Catholic Church will persist until the end of time.

            As the matter stands, Catholicism remains the only universal religion of the human species.

          • Rationalist1

            Then why don't you believe the evidence of the many miracles performed by
            Sathya Sai Baba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sathya_Sai_Baba), viewed by millions, many of who are still living.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks for bringing them to my attention.

            Since miracles are happening all the time, I see no reason to presuppose the reports must all be false.

            However, even if they were true, they do not impact the question of whether Catholicism is true.

            Catholicism depends upon the supreme miracle of Christ- His Own resurrection from the dead, as a sign confirming His teaching.

            Miracles performed under either supernatural or preternatural circumstances are not sufficient to establish the credentials of the miracle worker as God.

            In fact the linked information leads to no evidence that the alleged miracle worker claims himself to be the bearer of a revelation from God, and certainly not that he claims to be God.

            Christ, on the other hand, adds to all of his miracles, the supreme Sign of His deity- His Own resurrection- and the subsequent confirmed prophetic statements concerning the fate of the Temple, and the universal spread of the catholic Church.

          • ZenDruid

            We are not working with the same definition of superstition. Here's mine:

            "Performing a ritual in the hope it will deflect misfortune; hoping for something that has no reliable basis in reality."

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Here's mine:

            "insistence that reality conform to my preconceptions, andm ignoring any evidence that it doesn't."

      • Rationalist1

        But truth surely isn't a matter of what feels right, or worse, what we ant to be true?

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Given:

          Our experience of life.

          Proposal One:

          The life we experience is meaningless. It is the outcome of random chance.

          Proposal Two:

          The life we experience is meaningful. It is the outcome of an Intelligent Design.

          Take your pick.

          • Rationalist1

            False dichotomy. I know no one who advocates proposal one.

            Rather here's two choices
            Choose one of the myriad religions and accept its meaning to your life
            or
            Make your life meaningful by doing meaningful things.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The dichotomy is not false.

            Evolution is explicitly affirmed to be random and undirected on these threads.

            So, take your pick, above.

            Your suggestion re: religion, suffers from an unexamined flaw of assumption, which is:

            All religions are exactly as true as they provide a sense of meaning.

            This is false.

            A sense of meaning is a necessary, but not a sufficient, mark of truth.

            Religion is not a subjective matter, any more than is physics a subjective matter.

          • Rationalist1

            I would strongly suggest you read a book on evolution. Perhaps "Only a Theory" by practocing Catholic Kenneth Miller. Evolution is not just random occurrences.

            Secondly name religions that con't give a sense of meaning. I never said the meanings of these religions are true. In fact a moments reflection should show I would think not.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Rationalist:

            To be precise, you are correct that a tautology is not random, and since evolution is a tautology, it is correct to say it is not random.

            Here is the tautology of natural selection in a nutshell:

            What survives?

            That which is selected for.

            What is selected for?

            That which survives.

            This is indeed not random; it instead tells us nothing at all.

            As for your second point, it is already addressed above.

          • Rationalist1

            For goodness sake, learn about evolution before you embarrass yourself further. Evolution is the non random selection of randomly varying mutations. Natural selections choose not the fittest but the adaptations that have more advantageous reproductive rate under the current selection conditions. Change the conditions, change what is selected for,

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            For goodness sake, learn what a tautology is.

            Here is an example:

            What is selected for?

            That which has a more advantageous reproductive rate under current conditions.

            What adaptations have more advantageous reproductive rate under current conditions?

            Those which are selected for.

          • Rationalist1

            Let me try again

            Animal reproduce more advantageously because they actually are more likely to reproduce under current conditions, not because they were defined as more reproducible after the fact. Also offspring inherit the genes of their parents and are more likely to survive if conditions remain the same.

            This is not a tautology. There is no definition of what determines survivability in the definition of evolution.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Let me show you your tautology again:

            What is selected for?

            That which reproduces more advantageously

            What reproduces more advantageously?

            That which is selected for.

            Again, Rationalist.

            This tells us *nothing*.

          • articulett

            But why are they selected? Why does the darker black moth pass on more of it's dark genes when the pollution makes the tree bark darker... why aren't the lighter genes being passed on as much-- could it be because now the lighter moths are more visible to predators-- that is, predators are culling them from the gene pool? Say we can test this! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution

            Don't let your faith keep you clueless.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Speaking of faith and clueless, here is atheist evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne on the peppered moth scam:

            "What can one make of all this? Majerus concludes with the usual call for more research, but several lessons are already at hand. First, for the time being we must discard Biston as a well-understood example of natural selection in action, although it is clearly a case of evolution. There are many studies more appropriate for use in the classroom, including the classic work of Peter and Rosemary Grant on beak-size evolution in Galapagos finches. It is also worth pondering why there has been general and unquestioned acceptance of Kettlewell's work. Perhaps such powerful stories discourage close scrutiny. Moreover, in evolutionary biology there is little payoff in repeating other people's experiments, and, unlike molecular biology, our field is not self-correcting because few studies depend on the accuracy of earlier ones. Finally, teachers such as myself often neglect original papers in favour of shorter textbook summaries, which bleach the blemishes from complicated experiments.

            It is clear that, as with most other work in evolutionary biology, understanding selection in Biston will require much more information about the animal's habits. Evolutionists may bridle at such a conclusion, because ecological data are very hard to gather. Nevertheless, there is no other way to unravel the forces changing a character. We must stop pretending that we understand the course of natural selection as soon as we have calculated the relative fitness of different traits.

          • Sample1

            Thorough, concise and a pleasure to read. Thank you for that. You take issue with it?

            (In reply to your Jerry Coyne cut/paste).

            Mike

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I applaud its salutary honesty in debunking the peppered moth study.

            I do take issue with his assertion that the Galapagos beaks constitute any stronger evidence than the peppered moth study.

        • Randy Gritter

          Should the truth feel right? An argument often goes along one logical dimension. Should not all the dimensions jive with the same story? If you reject God because of issues around creation and it seems all wrong when you think about morality then you might want to revisit the creation analysis.

          • articulett

            Feelings are a very poor way to evaluate the truth. The earth feels like it isn't moving-- but it's actually spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The sun seems to move across the sky, but we are on an planet that rotates toward the sun each morning.

            Catholicism never felt right to me. It seemed creepy and didn't make sense. But, because of my culture, I still thought you could feel the truth. My Mormon friends were claiming to get signs and telling me all sortsof anecdotes about signs that their church was true. Later I got into New Age beliefs-- because the people seemed more spiritual and nicer than the religious people I know, and reincarnation made more sense than the cartoonish idea of heaven and hell. Plus it "felt" right... I got "signs"... it "resonated" with me.

            But I grew up and realized that the idea of souls made no sense-- faith and feelings are not a way to know what is true-- and I had been fooling myself exactly like all the believers in the supernatural have been doing for eons.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "The earth feels like it isn't moving-- but it's actually spinning at a thousand miles an hour."

            >> This is a metaphysical, not a scientific, assertion. There exists no scientific experiment that has directly measured this asserted absolute motion.

            "The sun seems to move across the sky, but we are on an planet that rotates toward the sun each morning."

            >>This is a metaphysical, not a scientific, assertion. There exists no scientific experiment that has directly measured this asserted absolute motion.

            If Relativity is true, then no such experiment is possible, even in principle.

            If Relativity is false, then the experimental evidence is inconsistent with both assertions.

          • Rationalist1

            Is this a joke? Do you have any science background?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Is this a joke?

            Have you never understood what Relativity consists in?

            Let me assist:

            "The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS [coordinate system] could be used with equal justification. The two sentences, 'the sun is at rest and the earth moves', or 'the sun moves and the earth is at rest', would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems]."

            ---"The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, New York, Simon and Schuster 1938, 1966 p.212

            ***************************

            “If one rotates the shell *relative to the fixed stars* about an axis going through its center, a Coriolis force arises in the interior of the shell, *that is, the plane of a Foucault pendulum is dragged around*”--Albert Einstein, cited in “Gravitation”, Misner Thorne and Wheeler pp. 544-545.

            “One need not view the existence of such centrifugal forces as originating fromthe motion of K’ [the Earth]; one could just as well account for them as resulting from the average rotational effect of distant, detectable masses as evidenced in the vicinity of K’ [the Earth], whereby K’ [the Earth] is treated as being at rest.” --Albert Einstein, quoted in Hans Thirring, “On the Effect of Distant Rotating Masses in Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation”, Physikalische Zeitschrift 22, 29, 1921

            Max Born said in his famous book,"Einstein's Theory of Relativity",Dover Publications,1962, pgs 344 & 345:

            "...Thus we may return to Ptolemy's point of view of a 'motionless earth'...One has to show that the transformed metric can be regarded as produced according to Einstein's field equations, by distant rotating masses. This has been done by Thirring. He calculated a field due to a rotating, hollow, thick-walled sphere and proved that inside the cavity it behaved as though there were centrifugal and other inertial forces usually attributed to absolute space.

            Thus from Einstein's point of view, Ptolemy and Corpenicus are equally right."

            ******************************

            Sir Fred Hoyle,Astronomy and Cosmology - A Modern Course, (San Francisco:W. H. Freeman & Co.), p. 416,1975.

            "We know that the difference between a heliocentric theory and a geocentric theory is one of relative motion only, and that such a difference

            has no physical significance."

            ****************

            George Ellis, a famous cosmologist, in Scientific American, "Thinking Globally, Acting Universally", Octonber 1995,

            “People need to be aware that there is a range of models that could explain the observations,” Ellis argues. “For instance, I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observations.” Ellis has published a paper on this. “You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds. In my view there is absolutely nothing wrong in that. What I want to bring into the open is the fact that we are using philosophical criteria in choosing our models. A lot of cosmology tries to hide that.”

          • Andrew

            Thank you for all your references, Rick, but your assertion is not correct. I don't have time this moment to look up any references, but I remember reading Einstein myself in high school, and I know he specifically rejected the notion that the earth could be stationary, with the distant stars rotating around it many thousands of times faster than the speed of light! Special relativity indicates that you could not distinguish any kind of "absolute" non-accelerating translational motion. You can *definitely* distinguish an absolute rotational motion, because acceleration is involved.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thank you for all your references, Rick,

            >> You are welcome :-)

            but your assertion is not correct.

            >> The assertions are not mine, but instead those of the physicists cited.

            "I don't have time this moment to look up any references, but I remember reading Einstein myslef in high school, and I know he specifically rejected the notion that the earth could be stationary,"

            >> Your assertion here is directly contradicted by direct citation of Einstein. I invite you to notice this :-)

            "with the distant stars rotating around it many thousands of times faster than the speed of light!"

            >> Quite to the contrary. *General* Relativity explicitly allows for objects to move at *any speed whatever* in the presence of gravitational fields.

            Here:

            "Relative to the stationary roundabout [the Earth], the distant stars would have a velocity rw [radius x angular velocity] and for sufficiently large values of r, the stars would be moving relative to O' [the observer] with linear velocities exceeding 3 x 10^8 m/sec, the terrestrial value of the velocity of light. At first sight this appears to be a contradiction…that the velocities of all material bodies must be less than c [the speed of light]. However, the restriction u > Then all you need do in order to correct Einstein, Hoyle, Born, Ellis, Thirring, and Rosser, is provide the experimental evidence of this absolute acceleration at the surface of the Earth.

            We'll leave the light on for ya :-)

          • Andrew

            As I said, I don't have time to look up references this moment. I will get back to you.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            That is a perfectly fair position.

            I will look forward to engaging the question when you are ready.

          • Andrew

            Hi Rick

            I have done some quick research and I have decided that I will retract my earlier statement. I still think that your assertion is wrong. However, I see that you are an avid proponent of geocentrism on a few websites, and have been for years. For example

            http://talkrational.org/showthread.php?t=46759
            http://talkrational.org/showthread.php?t=55186
            http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/09/23/weekend-diversion-you-are-responsible-for-what-you-say/

            I believe that I am incapable of advancing arguments against your position better than the posters on those sites, especially uncool on talkrational.org, who is clearly much smarter than I am! Since none of those have swayed you from your position, it would be completely lacking in Christian humility to suppose I could do better. Therefore I believe I have no other recourse than to retract my statement, and agree to disagree with you on this point. Thank you for your patience on this response.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I have done some quick research and I have decided that I will retract my earlier statement."

            >> Not sure which statement you are retracting, but I am disappointed you have chosen not to engage this question.

            Entirely up to you, of course.

            "I still think that your assertion is wrong."

            >> What assertion?

            Every assertion I have made on this thread, beginning with my response to art re: metaphysical preference, is completely consistent with the irreducible requirements of Relativity.

            Most of the assertions on this thread have come in the form of cited, direct quotations from Einstein himself, his direct collaborators, or world-class physicists and science writers, all of whom have explicitly affirmed the foundational postulate of Relativity insofar as it impacts the question of any absolute motion of Earth.

            "However, I see that you are an avid proponent of geocentrism on a few websites, and have been for years."

            >> Yes, I defend geocentrism. I am surprised anybody could be surprised by that at this stage. I am, after all, easy to find, posting under my own name and all :-)"

            http://talkrational.org/showth...
            http://talkrational.org/showth...
            http://scienceblogs.com/starts...

            I believe that I am incapable of advancing arguments against your position better than the posters on those sites, especially uncool on talkrational.org, who is clearly much smarter than I am!

            >> Yes, uncool is a *very* good guy (gal?), by far the class act over at the Den of the Talking Rats (actually, need to include cephas along with uncool).

            But it is important that you understand that every single assertion I have advanced on this thread is completely in accord with uncool's posts on the Den of the Talking Rats site.

            Uncool is a relativist; that is to say, he both understands and agrees with every assertion I have advanced on this thread concerning the impossibility of establishing any absolute motion of the Earth under the postulates of relativity.

            "Since none of those have swayed you from your position, it would be completely lacking in Christian humility to suppose I could do better."

            >> Distinguo. uncool and I are in complete agreement that, under relativity, there is no physical difference *whatsoever* in the two statements:

            1. The Sun is at rest and the Earth moves
            2. The Earth is at rest and the Sun moves

            uncool and I completely agree on this.

            The debate with uncool was on the more difficult and hence, more interesting question, of whether Newton's bucket, the MMX/Sagnac experiment and modern sequelae, the GPS navigation software, and the recent observations of Earth-orienbted structure in the CMB constitute grounds for a scientific establishment of geocentrism, which would of course go much further than the above-two enumerated statements, and insist that the Earth is in fact the demonstrably preferred frame for physics.

            It was an excellent debate, if you cut out the Talking Rats.

            "Therefore I believe I have no other recourse than to retract my statement, and agree to disagree with you on this point. Thank you for your patience on this response."

            >> Thank you very much for your gracious notice.

          • Rationalist1

            You realize that special relativity consists of looking at co-ordinate frames in relative motion. (i.e. moving at constant velocity with respect to each other). An accelerated frame of reference is completely different.

            You can cut and paste but I have a Masters in Physics and I know of what I speak. Have you ever taken a high school or university physics course?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Rationalist:

            If you have a Masters in physics, and yet have failed to understand what Einstein's theory requires, then may I say that you might have grounds for a lawsuit against whatever institution provided you with your accreditation.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Yes, if the Earth did not spin, there would be no equatorial bulge from that spin. And, of course, fixed inertia frame, three axis gyros would not rotate re the ground (principle used in the gyrotheodolite).

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            False, Quine. The oblation of the Earth is indifferently attributable to the rotation of Earth on its axis, or to the rotation of distant masses around Earth taken as stationary.

            This has been known since Mach, and mathematically established since Thirring (direct citation below).

            All inertial forces can be equally attributed to a rotating Earth or a rotating cosmos.

            It is truly astonishing to me that you have not yet grasped this.

            It is a foundational requirement of Relativity (see direct citations below).

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is a bit amusing to see the thumbs down from our atheist friends on the direct quotes of their heroes :-)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Those who have, know that tangential velocity on the surface of the Earth is aprox 1,040mph * cos (latitude).

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Those who have, know that this tangential velocity is equally attributable to a rotation of the Earth on its axis, or to a rotation of the cosmic masses around Earth, with Earth taken as stationary (see Einstein/Thirring below).

          • Rationalist1

            Rick - Are you trying to redeem the Church's reputation after Galileo by advocating geo-centrism?

          • David Egan

            I'm surprised that you are just now noticing this. He has made hundreds of posts on this site advocating what was called his "insane troll physics." It's actually kind of fascinating.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            David:

            It will get much more fascinating, now that Planck has definitively confirmed a universe-spanning Axis in the CMB pointing directly at us.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I expect that the Church's reputation would have been more powerfully redeemed had She stood Her ground on the question, alas.

            But yes.

            Some form of geocentrism is certainly coming, since the Copernican Principle has been observationally falsified.

            Whether physics can establish an absolute frame will depend on whether Relativity can be successfully reformulated along Lemaitre-Tolman-Bondi solutions, since the Friedman-Lemaire-Robertson-Walker solutions are toast.

            If so, the Relativity can survive with Earth at the center, and the question of absolute motion will remain indeterminable by physics.

            If not, then we will all be geocentrists again :-)

          • articulett

            I don't think ANYone here takes him seriously.

            I think he is a young earth creationist who believes in geocentrism, but I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong.

            I never know what point he's trying to make, and if he was representative of Catholics in general, I don't think there'd be many Catholics.

          • Rationalist1

            Sorry I took the bait, I'll know better next time.

          • primenumbers

            Maybe he's actually an atheist in disguise, to turn people away from Catholicism?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Most of us have had a turn in the barrel.

          • severalspeciesof

            Even IF (I might regret doing this) it were to to be proven that the earth was the center of the universe and all things went around it, it wouldn't prove that a god exists anyway...

            Why would a 'center' be special, especially to a god that is purported to be outside of space?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            art:

            One difference between us is that I do not make the false assumption that truth is determined by whether or not art or anyone else takes a given thing seriously.

            The experimental results of all attempts to directly measure the assumed motion of Earth around Sun were unanimous.

            No such experiment was ever able to measure this assumed motion.

            This fact marked the death knell for Newton's physics, and the advent of Relativity.

  • ZenDruid

    From the OP:

    If you waited, for example, to have conclusive proof that a prospective
    spouse will always be faithful to you and never betray you then you will
    never get married. In fact, in trying to obtain conclusive proof, you
    would likely crush the relationship between you before you were even
    engaged.

    At some point, you must decide that you have “enough” to make
    the commitment and choose to embark on a life together, even without
    total proof. Given the fears and anxiety that often accompany
    the act of getting married, many people find themselves in a situation
    where, at least at the moment, they don’t know how to evaluate the
    evidence anymore and they must take a leap of faith to marry.

    Bad example. You can "live in sin", stupid as that sounds, with a potential spouse and develop a well-informed level of mutual trust. With gods... well, faith is no substitute for trust.

    • Randy Gritter

      Actually sex without commitment does not build trust at all. It simply establishes that marriage vows would not mean that much to either of you.

      • ZenDruid

        Protip: do not introduce personal opinion with "actually".

      • Michael Murray

        How does not being married mean you are without commitment ? Having children out of wedlock is amazingly popular these days.

        • articulett

          Yes-- Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have 6.

          • Michael Murray

            I think this graph is really interesting. I was surprised by how high the numbers were. I keep offering it up here but nobody seems interested.

            What interests me is you have all the Scandinavian countries who have done an outstanding job of building societies that follow Jesus' social message of looking after the weak, sick and needy but have apparently abandoned the conservative Christian moral message. I don't say Jesus moral message because I don't know what he thought of children out of wedlock.

          • articulett
          • Michael Murray

            lol. Thanks. I must have missed it last time.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          A measure of commitment would not be how many children are born outside of wedlock. A reasonable measure of commitment would be how many couples (married or not) who beget children stay together to raise their children to adulthood. I can't cite statistics, but I believe it is the case that in many European countries, cohabitation is much more of a "marriage-like" commitment than it is in the United States, and heterosexual unmarried couples who cohabit have much more stable and "marriage-like" relationships than in the United States.

          • BenS

            A reasonable measure of commitment would be how many couples (married or not) who beget children stay together to raise their children to adulthood.

            Commitment to whom, though? Commitment to the children doesn't necessarily mean you have to stick with their other biological parent until they're an adult. It's possible to be committed to the children without having to live with their other parent.

            Your points about cohabitation being 'marriage-like' is well made, though, and kind of echoes Michael's observation. It's not the word 'marriage' itself that denotes commitment.

        • BenS

          Having children out of wedlock is amazingly popular these days.

          Hey, wow! That's a REALLY interesting graph!!!

          • Michael Murray

            So is some of the data on the "Catholic" countries

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

            It is notable that traditionally conservative Catholic countries now also have a substantial proportion of extramarital births (e.g., in 2011, Portugal 42.8%; Spain 37.4%; Ireland 33.7%; Italy 23.4%).[20]

            The percentage of first-born children born out of wedlock is considerably higher (by roughly 10%, for the EU), as marriage often takes place after the first baby has arrived.

            Latin America has the highest rates of non-marital childbearing in the world (55–74% of all children in this region are born to unmarried parents).[21] In most countries in this traditionally Catholic region, children born outside marriage are now the norm. Even in the early 1990s, the phenomenon was very common: in 1993, out-of-wedlock births in Mexico were 41.5%, in Chile 43.6%, in Puerto Rico45.8%, in Costa Rica 48.2%. In other countries, they were the majority: in Argentina 52.7%, in Belize 58.1%, in El Salvador 73%, in Panama 80%.[22][23]

            Other traditionally Catholic countries have also been experiencing majority extramarital births: in 2007, Paraguay 70%, Dominican Republic 63%.[23]

          • BenS

            Yes, this was what I had in mind when I was asking somewhere else about the definition of Catholic and when the church counts them and when it doesn't.

            For its "1.2 billion" figure, all these people are Catholics. When it wants to claims all its followers are united in belief, these are clearly not Catholics.

  • Max Driffill

    Do people choose to believe things? I'm not sure they do.In fact it seems as if they do not. I cannot choose to believe something if I am not compelled by the evidence of the proposition.

    • Rationalist1

      I once chose to believe Angelina Jolie loved me, but a court order made me stop. :->

      • Octavo

        You know, joking about harassing a woman isn't terribly funny.

        • Rationalist1

          Sorry. Never have done it, never will.

          • articulett

            I thought it was funny. I doubt you actually harassed Angelina Jolie or any other woman.

          • Rationalist1

            I actually have great respect for her and her concern for children but can't stand tattoos (I'm just of that generation)

            But Octavo was right, it's not a joking matter.

          • BenS

            Everything's a joking matter - but humour is subjective. If I told a joke someone didn't find funny, I wouldn't apologise for it any more than I would if they didn't find my favourite foods appealing.

            That's my take anyway. Sorry if you don't like it.

          • Rationalist1

            But this is a bit different and I shouldn't have made that comparison. That said, my point was we can't just arbitrarily decide to believe something. We must have some evidence to support that belief, good or bad.

    • Randy Gritter

      People do choose to a degree. You can't choose to believe something you think is irrational. You can choose when both sides are rational. You can be an Eagles fan or a Giants fan. Being a Cowboys fan would be irrational! May times people choose to reject Catholicism because its moral teaching are hard. Who wants to give up porn and wait for marriage. If you can understand that argument then you can see this one as a counterpoint.

      • Rationalist1

        People do not give up Catholicism because its moral teachings are hard. That's rather belittling. They reject many of Catholics moral teachings because they are wrong. It's like me saying believers cling to their beliefs because they are scared of death.

        I actually found it much harder accepting the activities of my gay friends now than I did when I thought their actions were sinful. It was much easier just to think of them as sinners. I still don't understand it and I just keep telling them it's their life but I don't feel I have to impose my lifestyle on them.

        • Randy Gritter

          I am not sure it is belittling. It is the way humans are. People smoke because quitting is hard. They might even rationalize smoking in a variety of ways. Is it belittling to say so?

          "It's like me saying believers cling to their beliefs because they are scared of death. "

          Nor sure what that means. Believers still die. They are scared of dying in a state of mortal sin. That is because at some level they still believe.

        • Ben

          This is off topic, but I'm a bit fascinated by what you describe as your difficulties accepting the activities of your gay friends, given the other content of your posts and your chosen screenname.

      • Michael Murray

        May times people choose to reject Catholicism because its moral teachings are hard. Who wants to give up porn and wait for marriage.

        Many times people choose to reject atheism because its view of reality is hard. Who wants to give up the comforter of an imaginary loving father who cares for them and face reality.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi Michael,
          Unless the "imaginary loving Father" isn't imaginary at all. Then giving up on things like porn is good because you don't need it and you wouldn't want one of your daughters to be one of the performers anyway? And because they learn their relationship with their Loving Father surpasses any immediate gratification?

          • Michael Murray

            I didn't mention pornography. I was just pointing out that maybe Randy's comment didn't sound so good if an atheist said it. I now more think religion is just about a comforter than I am sure you think atheism is about pornography.

          • Fr.Sean

            Opps, you are right. Perhaps i need to make sure i read the comment someone is referring to before responding too soon!

          • BenS

            Then giving up on things like porn is good because you don't need it and you wouldn't want one of your daughters to be one of the performers anyway?

            I can't speak for others but I don't think I'd mind at all. As long as it was her choice made for her own reasons I doubt it would bother me. Several of my exes have been models, a couple of them nude ones. Can't say it bothered me overmuch.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            My guess from what you said is that you don't have any daughters. if you did, if you watched them grow up, call you daddy. watch them learn about life, give you a hug and a kiss when they come home, cry on your shoulder when their going through a rough time etc. than i can't possibly imagine you would feel comfortable with them becoming porn stars.

          • David Egan

            You have daughters?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,
            I don't, but i do have nieces and nephews. i do fear when people reduce what's right and wrong to simply chemical reactions in the brain they can lose their appeal for a moral right and wrong, or to see human beings as needing love, respect and dignity, instead of just objects.

          • Michael Murray

            i do fear when people reduce what's right and wrong to simply chemical reactions in the brain they can lose their appeal for a moral right and wrong, or to see human beings as needing love, respect and dignity, instead of just objects.

            Treating women as objects was going on long before our discovery that emotions are caused by chemicals in the brains.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Treating women as objects was going on long before our discovery that emotions are caused by chemicals in the brains.

            From even a materialist point of view, I don't think we would say that emotions are "caused by chemicals in the brains." If someone tells you a funny joke, and you laugh, I don't think you would say that what caused you to be amused was a combination of chemicals in your brain. Even if the entire physical, chemical, and electrical state of your brain could be recorded and examined when you laughed at a joke, and even if someone could examine the recording and say, "I can tell from looking at this that the subject was amused at the time," the amusement would still be amusement, not chemicals and electrical signals.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Michael,
            you are right, but having no recourse to a moral right and wrong becomes easier when one thinks they're only chemical reactions in the brain.

          • Rationalist1

            "but having no recourse to a moral right and wrong becomes easier when one thinks they're only chemical reactions in the brain."

            Fr. Sean - Religious people think that is so and I thought it too when I was a believer but when you realize there's no one to tell you all the rights and wrongs, just us to work it out, one finds it takes the responsibility much more seriously.

            It;s like I never realized how many things I had to take care of until I moved out of my parents home (so many years ago).

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist1
            If you don't mind me saying you're getting into dangerous territory. the common atheist's belief is that the moral law, or natural law has been guided by evolutionary forces such that one thinks the rights and wrongs we feel compelled to do originate in an innate desire for self preservation. that if someone is in need i feel compelled to help them because i may need it someday or something to that effect. i don't think this thinking is reasonable for two reasons 1. in conflicts with darwins "survival of the fittest and natural selection". If my main purpose is to propagate my dna than i am in competition with others of my own species. it may be reasonable to help those of my family or even tribe but assisting others may reduce my chances of my offspring surviving and reproducing. and 2. often times when one concludes moral rights and wrongs are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain cultivated by evolutionary forces than they lose their appeal to follow them because they think they are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain? If in fact that were true, than realizing it wouldn't effect those reactions, but they do? however if there was a higher truth, appealing to our conscience than i understand i have a duty to do right, or good and avoid being selfish is an adherence of an appeal to a higher good that goes beyond myself. if a little old lady fell in your country you will feel compelled to assist her, if a little old lady fell somewhere across the globe you would feel the same compulsion that she needs your help and you are compelled to assist her.

            some contradict this idea by saying moral rights and wrongs are different for different cultures. i would affirm moral norms may be but not a compulsion to do good unless i have singed my conscience. there have been cannibals throughout various cultures throughout history. but most of us recognize that as being abhorrent and wrong. if you were given an opportunity to go to another planet to meet a different intelligent species and you were given the opportunity to take one other person you would most likely not take a sociopath or someone with sever mental problems. you would try to take someone who was normal so they could give an accurate representation of human beings. in like manner, other odd cultures stand out because they represent to us something strange or different for what we expect within humanity. if you want to remain an atheist you need to sweep this issue under the rug because it just either leads one out of atheism or they just start to ignore it.

            You are in my prayers Rationalist and as i promised i will be fasting and praying for you today.

          • Rationalist1

            " the common atheist's belief is that the moral law, or natural law has been guided by evolutionary forces such that one thinks the rights and wrongs we feel compelled to do originate in an innate desire for self preservation."

            No, evolution informs why were are the way we are, but is not normative. One tenet of evolution is that species over produce offspring. Atheists tend to use contraception. We share a common evolutionary heritage but we don't necessarily derive our morals from it.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist1
            My guess is that atheists aren't the only one's using contraception? lol. but do you know of any way evolution guided the chemical reactions in the brain to compel one to do good, or to feel good when one has done something good, and vice versa?

          • Rationalist1

            Fr. Sean - Why do we do good and most animals do not? We have seemingly evolved conciousness sometime in the last 100,000 to 200,000 years. By the artifacts, burial sites and evidence that injured humans and Neanderthals started having self awareness. And when that happened we can start to develop an awareness of ourselves, others and our societies. It's taken thousands of years but we gradually coming to the awareness of what is best for both ourselves and our society and the realization that the two are linked,

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist!,

            You do raise a good point. certainly if Human's have a self awareness beyond animals it might account for an awareness of a general good for society. I don't know if you've ever read the screwtape letters, but it's an excellent book that Lewis wrote perhaps to bring to the forefront his own reflections. The Letters are between two demons an elder, more experienced demon and a younger one still learning his trade. each demon has a patient that they are attempting to "win" for their kingdom to keep him or her out of the enemy's (God) Kingdom. Most of the dialogues are intended to keep the patients from truth, from thinking to much of metaphysical aspects of life, thus they use a lot of distraction, confusion, and bodily needs to keep their patients blind. Anyway, in one of the stories a college professor (perhaps Lewis himself?) is reflecting one day, when the divine places in his mind a thought of the source of "good". the professor starts to ponder where good came from, what is it's origin, and then perhaps if it has a source? his thoughts are moving him upwards if you will pondering higher notions, why he has feelings of good, why it appears to be infused in him and why there's a common good? what is the source. The demon seeing the patient slipping out of his grasp can't use logic, or truth because he has no claim on truth except when he can mix it with lies so he does the only thing he can do, distraction. he reminds the professor that he is hungry and it's almost time for lunch, thinking of his bodily needs the professor decides to take this thought up after lunch. shortly after eating he begins to take up the thought he had earlier when the demon calls the professors attention to a young man with whom he is familiar with. the young man has had a very difficult life, very unfortunate events have happened to him, the demon throws in the thought, "if there was really a God would he have allowed such difficult things to happen to that young man?" with that thought the professor resigns his thought pattern on the notion of the good and he is "safe" in continuing his journey towards the demons' kingdom.

            Lewis had a profound mind for bring out spiritual aspects into every day life, perhaps because of his own journey. In fact even though Lewis was not Catholic Pope John Paul II when he was a younger priest taught a class on the screwtape letters. if we ponder the notions of an "evolved consciousness" and it's connection with the natural law or the common good, on the surface it seems reasonable, until we reflect upon it as a whole or it's extremes. Lennox points out that even atheists acknowledge that the source of the natural law simply boils down to chemical reactions in the brain brought about by evolutionary means. thus, there really is no such thing as truth, as a higher good, because everything is nothing more than a chemical reaction in the brain. the thought pattern commits suicide you might say in two ways. 1. if all truth is nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain because there is no higher truth, than truth being simply chemical reactions in the brain cannot be true. the reason is because the notion is nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain? The idea cannabilizes itself if you will?

            2. The second way it commits suicide is that once one has discerned that morality or the natural law boils down to chemical reactions in the brain than they lose their appeal for the moral law or natural law, because they determine it isn't important, it has no source, no true meaning simply because it's just a chemical reaction. If in fact this was true, that awareness of what the natural law is chemical reactions in the brain guided by evolutionary forces, than those chemical reactions would not change because someone has discerned their source? those reactions would remain stable as they were formed through evolutionary means. however, if truth is more than just chemical reactions in the brain than being deceived into thinking they are nothing more than chemical processes than one would lose their appeal for a higher truth, they wouldn't concern themselves with it, and thus, it would be reasonable for them to change because they would see no concrete reason to adhere to their conscience.

            Perhaps one example might shed light on this. i had spoken with a gentleman who bragged that he had to take a lie detector test, he had in fact lied but before he took the test he read up on how to beat the lie detector test. thus, he practice what he had read up on and succeeded in fooling the test. Now, in this example, the truth is, he was lying, but because he figured out how to beat the test, he figured out a way that resulted in not releasing chemicals that would stimulate his heart beat such that nothing would appear on the test. one might say the lie detector test attempts to determine the truth as it is conveyed by chemical reactions in the brain. but if he beat the test than his truth was concealed. thus in this one example, his "truth" was more than just a chemical reaction.

            Chemical reactions in the brain can measure love, empathy, compassion, etc. but those chemical reactions are just a byproduct of what the person may be appealing to or a result of what how their conscience was reacting, but those truths still go beyond just those chemical reactions as i illustrated with the lie detector test.

            I think richard morgan's conversion conveys this in a rather detailed way; http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/09/former-atheist-richard-morgan-interview.html

            As i'm sure you've read his story Morgan who was an atheist was on dawkins
            website, (David robertson who was a protestant pastor had already written the dawkins letters and was on the website defending his points).
            some Russian lunatic convinced people to go up into the mountains to
            hide from the end of the world. the day came and went and the Russian
            lunatic, embarrassed by his failure tried to commit suicide. some of the posters on dawkins site were mocking him
            and then some said they regretted he failed in his suicide attempt.
            Now, at this point Morgan was horrified, "how could any civilized human
            being wish someone would die?" he appealed to some form of humanity
            (the higher truth, natural law, his conscience was alarming him
            something was wrong) But was only rediculed by some of the other atheist's posters. Morgan was disappointed with not only the way they treated the russian prophet but also how they seemed to have no appeal for humanity. subsequently he realized there was "something" to
            robertson's replys on dawkins site. "again morgan is searching, some
            higher truth, thought there was something to Robertson even though he
            thought he was deluded. he e-mailed robertson who asked Morgan, "what
            would it take you to believe in God"? to which morgan conveyed these words came to his mind, "we love because he first loved us". now, if we stop right here
            we'll notice, the natural law, or source of love, stung morgan's
            conscience with the story of the Russian prophet and the callous disregard for human life by some of the atheist posters, further he recognized
            there was something of higher truth or love in robertson's replies, he
            seemed to care, something to the guy. so what are the words that came
            to his head? "we LOVE (aka, this feeling of love, of conscience, of
            openness to the higher truth is coming from...) because HE first LOVED
            us. the last piece of the puzzle. this feeling of conscience, of a
            moral right, of an appeal from humanity isn't an abstract idea or a
            chemical reaction in the brain. this
            source has an exterior source, ...you (morgan) are able to love because
            you were first loved. morgan then said there was a "kind of perceptual
            change in his mind" he knew God existed without having any rational
            explanation for it. Morgan had his awe haa moment, he understood why he felt compassion and love, because it was something beyond him. something that led to an innate knowledge of God.

            Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. i probably need to read up on the natural law so i could give a more detailed approach but i think in a sense we do have an innate knowledge that the notion of good is more than just a chemical reaction?

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            I know you were responding to Rationalist but this is a discussion site so I hope you don't mind me responding to your post.

            You've made another reference to C.S. Lewis. You do that a lot and you don't seem to realize that many atheists here are familiar with Lewis and are not convinced by his "profound" thoughts.

            Screwtape Letters is a fictional book, framed to support an argument that is not supported outside of fiction.

            It does not require the "divine" to wonder what the source of "good" is and there's certainly not an iota of evidence that the only reason people don't see deities as the answer to that question is because demons are distracting them with sandwiches.

            To understand the source of "good", we need to unpack what the word even implies. Gods don't logically or morally provide definitions or answers. Are you familiar with Euthypro? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthypro
            You must have encountered it in seminary. You must know that if you want to discuss gods and goodness, this is the place to start. Screwtape is a cartoon by comparison.

            You have really got to stop referring to Richard Morgan. His argument is not a good one. I would also say that I had some interactions with him and found him particularly unsavoury and attention-seeking, something I wouldn't bring up if you didn't repeatedly rely on him as a good example. I have reached my breaking point on that subject. Trust me. You're not going to win any converts here with Richard Morgan references.

            You keep citing the same three "atheists" when there are so many cases of people leaving churches because they have simply found the claims contradicted by evidence, unsupported by evidence and the "proofs" full of murky premises that cannot be granted in deductive reasoning.

            There are thousands of cases on the internet of ex-believers who no longer believe. Have you listened to their point of view? Many of them have been here on this site respectfully trying to explain why. You don't seem to have heard most of what they're saying. You're repeating the clichés they taught you in seminary.

            If you want to investigate "notions" of good, look into secular moral philosophy. It goes back a very long way, before the church.
            And I'm begging every catholic here. STOP saying "just" chemistry. It's a meaningless phrase whose only function is an editorial one. It's rhetoric.
            It conveys the impression that you have no interest in what neuroscience, biology, zoology and countless other relevant subjects have to say about who we are, where we are and what we are.
            No one here but the faithful are impressed by "mere chemicals" , "just animals" and that sort of thing.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            Please don't apologize for butting in, i like it when you do! I don't have a lot of time since i have Mass and then i'll be busy but i want to respond to your replies as best i can. First, my guess is you're younger than me but you remind me of my mother, and that's a good thing.

            second.Screwtape Letters is a fictional book but sometimes fiction/parables/symbolism etc. help to reveal truths or understandings about things that couldn't be conveyed in any better way. Think of the movie the "Matrix". it was noted to have a great deal of philosophy in it, but science fiction was used to covey those philosophical truths. the Screwtape letters are the same, it lets us in on a dialogue, about truth and how we may ponder it. i know you may not like lewis, i guess that's a subjective thing so we'll leave it there.

            there are only two possibilities, a material world, aka, no god in which moral "rights and wrongs" are only things that exist in our heads or more specifically are simply chemical reactions in the brain. or we identify moral rights and wrongs as something that goes beyond just our own minds, as Leah Librisco said, "morality is not something we construct like archatects but rather uncover like archeologists". if its outside of just my head something beyond me, it's not something that just material, i'm sure you get the notion.

            Richard Morgan... subjective

            people who leave churches, i have met many people who've left the church, other than one guy who left because he was a priest and wanted to get married, i haven't met any catholics who've left the church and understood what the church teaches. however people who've studied the history of the christian faith usually end up here.

            secular moral philosophy... again it boils down to notions of good go beyond just my mind, or are simply chemical reactions in the brain, there's no in between.

            Catholics saying chemistry... that wasn't my or catholics idea, that came from atheist's ideas on the natural law. i'm simply citing them.

            "No one here but the faithful are impressed by "mere chemicals" , "just animals" and that sort of thing."
            Other than the statement about "the faithful" i could not agree more, you are right on, it's a baseless incoherent explanation for morality! we are in total agreement!

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            >Screwtape Letters is a fictional book but sometimes fiction/parables/symbolism etc. help to reveal truths or understandings about things that couldn't be conveyed in any better way

            As I said in my post to you, Lewis's story is not supported in the real world. So, no. It's not conveying a "truth". It's framing an assumption that you and Lewis share. It's easy to do that with books of fiction as you can just make stuff up to support the message you want to sell. .It's easier than providing evidence.

            >there are only two possibilities, a material world, aka, no god in which moral "rights and wrongs" are only things that exist in our heads or more specifically are simply chemical reactions in the brain. or we identify moral rights and wrongs as something that goes beyond just our own minds,

            Slow down, Sean. Please address Euthyphro. None of the points in the previous paragraph connect. You're just repeating yourself. .http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthypro

            >Richard Morgan... subjective.

            I agree. I won't bring him up again if you don't.

            >people who leave churches, i have met many people who've left the church, other than one guy who left because he was a priest and wanted to get married,

            Look at the numbers. They're everywhere. Many of them are here trying to have a "dialogue" with catholics.

            >secular moral philosophy... again it boils down to notions of good go beyond just my mind, or are simply chemical reactions in the brain, there's no in between

            What secular moral philosophy are you familiar with? Or are you just assuming it has nothing to say about morality because it doesn't require a deity to justify morality and not bothering to familiarize yourself with it?

            There is nothing "simple" about brain chemistry, by the way. We're not talking about a pouch of gravy mix. There's a tremendous amount of information out there on the internet on the subject of neuroscience It would be a good idea if you learned a little about the subject before you referred to "just chemicals" again.

            > i could not agree more, you are right on, it's a baseless incoherent explanation for morality!

            So, what do you have to say about Euthyphro? You should really address that. You have given no reason that a deity is an explanation for morality nor have you demonstrated that morality is baseless without a deity. So far, you have sidestepped the whole issue and repeated the same assertions. Not much of a "dialogue", is it?

            >we are in total agreement!

            Now, now. No cheap tricks. I thought priests were supposed to strive to model honest behaviour.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            Where the love? where's the sweet little Susan i Know? If you don't calm down i'm going to start praying for you okay? Okay i admit it i've prayed for you a couple of times. But seriously, i do think we all enjoy this discussion? My pastor said i'm wasting my time, that faith is a gift etc. But when i think maybe i'll just respond every now and then i can't help but to think there's a small part of each poster on her (even you Susan) who really does want to believe in God and wants to believe the whole thing is true, so trying to address your questions at least might open you up just a little?

            I think you have a good point though, the last thing i want to do is to come on too strong so i needed to be more patient, kind and understanding of where you are coming from. One thing i've noticed is that with some of our more fundamentalist brothers and sisters, that the whole self-righteous approach, pushes people away more than it does lead them to the faith. If i sound that way in the future please let me know. I do think i have to challenge a little though? Forgive me if i've offended you Susan?

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            >Where the love? where's the sweet little Susan i Know?

            I'm as sweet as ever. ;-)

            > If you don't calm down i'm going to start praying for you okay?

            I'm as calm as ever too. :-)

            >Forgive me if I've offended you Susan?

            No offense taken, so no forgiveness required.

            Now, how about Euthyphro?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            Max and Solange mentioned that perhaps i was not as chairtable as i need to be. you've always been kind and respectful in our conversations so i guess my instincts led to the idea that we have a good dialogue relationship. if i have been uncharitable please forgive me. i do enjoy dialoguing with you and you do always appear to be a kind person. i did not mean to be negative in any way so if it came off that way please know that wasn't what i intended.

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            >you've always been kind and respectful in our conversations

            Thank you.

            > i did not mean to be negative in any way so if it came off that way please know that wasn't what i intended.

            You didn't come off as "negative" Sean, but I did feel slightly patronized.

            I've been asking you questions and you've been responding to me as though I hadn't asked them. I'm not saying that was your intention but it has worked out that way.

            It would be so much more effective for communication if you attempted to directly respond to the questions I have.
            I will be happy to do the same but try to make them clear.

            I will stick to one for now so that we don't lose focus again.

            How do you resolve the Euthypro Dilemma?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            You are right i should try to be more clear. The Euthypro dialogue seemed to revolve around two primary questions. what is justice, and how do humans understand it. and what is piety? in the examples i spoke of earlier; wait i can't find my post. did you get a post on Anthony De Mello and Thomas Aquinas? If you didn't i will try to retype them again from memory but i typed them out this morning and i can't find them on this post site. if you didn't get them i'll try to type them out on tuesday evening or Wednesday. sometimes i might have to say dealing with disqus gets a little difficult. it's late and i have to get up at 5:30 but i will try to post them when i get back. Let me know if you did get them so i don't have to retype them? Oye!

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            No. I'm sorry. I didn't get your De Mello and Aquinas e-mail.

            The Euthypro dilemma as I understand it can be put in this nutshell:

            Does God say it is good because it is good or is it good because God says it is good?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,
            you did see it, in fact you did respond to it? Okay, if you read the former post the answer revolves around this idea.
            1. Euthypro, and Socrates are debating justice and piety.
            2. they can't seem to understand it or understand specifically what it is. but they have a sense of it and are attempting to pin point it. aka. they have a "concept" justice and a "concept" of piety.
            3. De Mello and Aquinas in a sense have "concepts" of God. Both of them recognize though learning more about their relationships with God that their respective "concepts of God fall far short of what God is truly like.
            4. Both Justice and piety point to a "higher truth". But just as words fail to do justice to what God is truly like, words can help define justice and piety (higher truths) but ultimately fall short of truly being able to grasp them. i.e. Justice and piety are rooted in a higher source and humans can get an understanding of them but will never fully be able to grasp them?

            Does that make sense?

          • Max Driffill

            Sean,

            "Where the love? where's the sweet little Susan i Know?"
            Doesn't that seem just the teensiest bit patronizing?

            "If you don't calm down i'm going to start praying for you okay? Okay i admit it i've prayed for you a couple of times. But seriously, i do think we all enjoy this discussion?"
            Pray away if it makes YOU feel good. It does nothing for Susan, and nothing for anyone you pray for aside from letting them know you are thinking about them and hope for the best for them. But it often takes the place of doing actual things for people. Which is, of course, too bad.
            For myself I can say that sometimes I enjoy the discussion, but sometimes the callousness caused by the beliefs of the faithful truly bother me, and and cause me to pity believers at the same time I am offended by them.

            "My pastor said i'm wasting my time, that faith is a gift etc."
            If your pastor is correct, can unbelievers be justly punished for not having faith, for not believing.

            "But when i think maybe i'll just respond every now and then i can't help but to think there's a small part of each poster on her (even you Susan) who really does want to believe in God and wants to believe the whole thing is true, so trying to address your questions at least might open you up just a little?"

            This is deeply presumptuous on your part. I certainly don't find myself wanting to believe any of it. I could of course, if the evidence were compelling. I would not be happy about it. I find the Christian god to be somewhat less than worthy of worship.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Susan,

            Okay, now please be patient with me?

            "Lewis's story is not supported in the real world. So, no. It's not conveying a "truth". It's framing an assumption that you and Lewis share. It's easy to do that with books of fiction as you can just make stuff up to support the message you want to sell. .It's easier than providing evidence."

            Well, if you've ever watched the matrix (the first one) the movie was designed to incorporate philosophy into a science fiction movie. while the science fiction movie has no basis in reality the philosophy does? i think it's kind of like that with the screwtape letters. the example i spoke of earlier, even though it was a "demon" attempting to convey a method to another demon could have in fact have been an actually event that had occured in Lewis' mind, or even in our minds. Perhaps at some point when Lewis was reflecting this actual event may have happened (without the demons of course) in that Lewis may have thought about the notion or source of goodness but then become distracted by his bodily needs, or perhaps some other issue that had nothing to do with what he was thinking about, but when he picked it up later it led to a conclusion about God. Perhaps what he did was recognize how easy it is to become distracted from the Lord's voice and lose in a sense what the spirit may have been saying to him? so i do think it can apply to real life?

            Euthyphro,

            I found the dialogue very intriguing. Anthony De Mello wrote a book called "awarness" in which De Mello largely postulated that in some sense if we could observe ourselves all day, like have a camera on us and observed us we may learn a lot about ourselves. this awarness also often leads to an awareness of God's presence. Anyway, in one of his parables he said that when a child looks at a bird for the first time, the child sees this little fluttering chirping thing up in the tree. it's filled with life, chirps just for the heck of it and then has an amazing ability to fly. what inevitably happens is that an adult looks at the child, then points to the bird and says; "bird". thus the child has a concept. every time he or she sees the little fluttering chirping thing he/she's going to think "bird". Demello says that the child will never see the creature in the same purity again. he makes a point that we need "concepts" to understand our world. but those concepts usually fall at least a little short of what the actual object really is? Anyway, De Mello says that when we learn about the concept of God (just for the sake of argument just assume God exists) we learn various attributes; creator; unconditional Love; powerful; omnipotent; etc. we need those concepts, but the problem is we eventually discover that are concepts fall far short. as we learn more about God we discover he is far more loving far more present that we ever imagined. one might have a mystical experience from time to time but the growing pattern of having prayers answered, or discovering later why a prayer wasn't answered, or perhaps seeing how he works things out, one begins to look back on the past to see just how loving and caring he had been all the time while we were oblivious to it. de mello says in a sense one has to "get on the bus" of concepts, but eventually one needs to depart the bus because the concepts limit something so loving and awe inspiring. his idea is reminicent of something that occured with aquinas. After he had written the summa he was celebrating Mass one morning, when all the of the sudden, he stopped, put the host back on the patton, walked to the back room and sat down. one of the other monks had to finish the Mass. When it was over a Monk went back to find aquinas transfixed. he asked him what happen? Aquinas only replied that his writings are all straw. when the Monk asked him what he meant he said that that at the consecration the Lord allowed him to see what actually happens. he had such a profound mystical experience he realized that his words can never truly explain or define the wonder and awe he experienced that evening. i think aquinas was on the same wavelength if you will, of de mello. When i read Euthyphro, you almost had a glimpse of what De Mello and Aquinas were struggling with. They have a sense of something good, something holy, something perhaps mystical but they can't find words to describe it. You might say they had a sense of the apprecation of the divine, but when they attempted to put them into words, or to even adequately understand the notion of divine justice they can't quite grasp it and find defining it a difficult task, only to be left with the same awareness of the notion in their hearts. now, i know they didn't have a complete understanding of God for many of them were pantheistic (i think that's the right word) but that whole notion was something similar to what Lewis said (sorry for quoting him) about people of other faith. in one of his dialogues he had someone of another faith reach heaven, the man is welcomed in but the God he thought he was worshiping all the time was the wrong one. but because the man tried to follow his conscience, he tried to follow God as he knew him he was welcomed in?

            Look at the numbers. They're everywhere. Many of them are here trying to have a "dialogue" with catholics.

            When speaking with other memebers of the parish or other priests i often like to try to point out that among other ways, there are two primary kinds of parishioners sitting in the pews. the first kind are the ones trying to "stay out of hell". they're barely in the door. if you talk about money, if some mean priest is mean to them in the confessional, or if they just lose interest, they're gone. we have to love them into a deeper relationship with Jesus. the other kind of parishioner understands that Sunday Mass is only one part of their spiritual journey. they recognize the importance of prayer. they recognize the effects of prayer. they recognize the importance of being open to God's will for their life and understand the need to live their faith by what they say and do. many of the first kind become the second kind. but many of the first time leave before the get a good enough taste of the "honey". but many also return after realizing they are missing something. those who are the second kind rarely ever leave because they've discovered the beauty of the faith. they recognize that the ten commandments and other necessities are like the gardrail post. if you were traveling through the mountians on a beautiful sunny day you wouldn't just stare at the guard rail post, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have a purpose, it's meant to keep you on the road. hopefully you'd enjoy the sights and scenery around you?

            "What secular moral philosophy are you familiar with? Or are you just assuming it has nothing to say about morality because it doesn't require a deity to justify morality and not bothering to familiarize yourself with it?"

            From what i've read about the natural law according to an atheistic perspective is that fundamentally the natural law simply boils down at least in it's essence to chemical reactions in the brain. to a materialist, there's nothing in life but the material. no spirits, no God, no soul, just material. therefore the natural law, and other things like love, compassion, empathy, care, mercy, etc. simply boil down to chemical reactions in the brain. now, i know those chemical reactions may be very complex and intricate, but it's still just a chemical reaction in the brain. now, why i point this out as the atheist perspective is that i don't think the moral law or natural law, or love, compassion, empathy care etc. is just chemical reactions in the brain. i used the example of the guy who told me he beat a lie detector test. his "truth" was a lie, yet the chemical reaction in his brain that would effect heart beat did not pick up on it. his "truth" was beyond just a chemical reaction. i do think things like love, compassion, mercy etc. do have a corresponding chemical reaction, but i also believe it's more than just a chemical reaction? i suppose you read how those truths cannablize themselves? truth is more than just a subjective feeling or idea. truth goes beyond just what i may think? I try to discover truth, not decide what it is? a good example is that some "truths" are subjective. it may be right for you to go to school to study some subject but it may not be right for me? but it would be wrong for either one of us to hurt an innocent person? it may be wrong not to help an elderly woman who's fallen? don't we feel that truth goes beyond us, something we aspire to? isn't that perhaps why we feel good when we do right and feel bad when we do wrong, we're appealing to a higher truth? and why is it then when some people think truth is just a chemical reaction or there is just materialism and material process that they lose their appeal for conscience. subsequently those chemical reactions become less. if it was just chemical reactions, discovering what they were wouldn't change them would it?

            When i read ebon alxander's book i almost had to laugh as he was going over the explanations trying to prove he did not have just chemical reactions near the point of death. he was an atheist/agnostic. when people would tell him about their experiences he would just smile and didn't want to throw cold water on what they felt they experienced. But after his experience he went through every possible explanation he could think of (he was a neurosurgeon). you had the sense that as a former atheist/agnostic he knew what all of their "proofs" and "evidence" was, but he seemed frustrated by the fact that he knew he couldn't put it into words (there goes that theme again). Nevertheless he did his best. (incidentally, if you ever do read the book he goes back and forth between what was happening with his body and what was happening with his soul, it's really helpful after you've read the book to go back and read what happened with his soul in order)

            "You have given no reason that a deity is an explanation for morality nor have you demonstrated that morality is baseless without a deity."

            If you've some of the stuff i've written in the past i don't like jumping from subject to subject because it becomes just a conglomeration of issues where nothing is accomplished. I like to play chess and realize that while there are many theories, or possibilities in a game it's important to recognize that every move is important. or every move contributes to the whole game. thus, discerning the source of the natural law as simply material or something more than material can only go in one of two directions. if it's just material than that would give weight to the idea that God does not exist. if it's more than just material than truth exists beyond just the material. truth is something we strive to discover and discern. if truth is more than just material than life is more than just material. there is a non-material element to life. Now, does this point to Jesus being the Son of God. Not directly, but it does give weight to the idea that life is more than material therefore it's important to discern what that higher truth is rooted in? it points to a source of truth? I suppose if life is just material than morality really is just chemical reactions? in the book "that hideous strength" by (no, i'm not going to say his name again)
            (theunnamedauthor) has the end of the book where a group of evil scientists failed in their attempt to take over the world. one of the last evil scientist's is about to take his life. he's started a fire in their project area and is going to lock the door and allow himself to expire. as he's preparing to lock the door, providence you might say appeal to him one last time. he thinks something to the effect of; maybe life is more than just chemical reactions in the brain, maybe love, compassion, responsibility are all true things? maybe truth is real. but then he backtracks, no, just chemical reactions, there is no truth. he closes the door.

          • Susan

            Hi Sean,

            >Okay, now please be patient with me?

            Why would I stop now? :-)

            >If you've some of the stuff i've written in the past i don't like jumping from subject to subject because it becomes just a conglomeration of issues where nothing is accomplished.

            I agree. For that reason, I'm going to have to ignore most of your post and keep (patiently) pushing until you respond to my question about Euthyphro.

            I keep hoping we will accomplish something too. That's why I keep responding.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I am glad to see you edited your original somewhat rude and condescending response.

          • Andre Boillot

            Fr. Sean,

            "often times when one concludes moral rights and wrongs are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain cultivated by evolutionary forces than they lose their appeal to follow them because they think they are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain? If in fact that were true, than realizing it wouldn't effect those reactions, but they do?"

            I'm sorry, but you're not doing a good job supporting your claims here. You could argue that, once we realize that morality is heavily influenced by evolutionary forces, it's much harder to give simple answers for morality - but that's not the same thing as saying that the resulting morality is any less persuasive. In fact, decoupling morality from religion and culture is the only way we can come close to achieving anything resembling a universal morality. For example, how do you tell the Muslim that honor-killing women that have been raped is immoral, without first separating morality from religion?

            "in like manner, other odd cultures stand out because they represent to us something strange or different for what we expect within humanity. if you want to remain an atheist you need to sweep this issue under the rug because it just either leads one out of atheism or they just start to ignore it."

            Not at all. In fact, there's a very good reason that tribes which practiced things like cannibalism and ritual human sacrifice haven't (in large part) survived and flourished - they lacked the necessary social traits. Though, I suppose one could say they were worshiping the wrong God too ;)

          • BenS

            My guess from what you said is that you don't have any daughters.

            than i can't possibly imagine you would feel comfortable with them becoming porn stars.

            Your inability to guess correctly and your lack of imagination do not an argument make.

            Assuming, for the moment, that your views are reflective of the views of Catholics in general, Catholic parents must lurch through life absolutely terrified of what decisions their children are going to make. They may decide to become an atheist, come out of the closet, become a doctor and perform abortions, vote Democrat (!), become a porn star, become a prostitute, become an evolutionary biologist, become an actress (and take their top off!), use contraception, have sex outside marriage, eat figs....

            Absolutely none of those would bother me in the slightest but would cause general conniptions in a Catholic parent. Sucks to be a Catholic parent, eh? So many life choices your daughters could make that would make you uncomfortable.

          • Fr.Sean

            hi Ben,
            my guess is that not wanting ones daughter to become a porn star is not unique to Catholics

          • BenS

            At no point did I say it was. I was simply pointing out that Catholics do have an incredibly long list of things that their children might do that people who aren't bound by a 2 millenia old book are more likely to be comfortable with.

          • Michael Murray

            Like growing up to an adult and forming a loving relationship with another adult of the same gender. Or entering into a loving relationship with an adult of the opposite gender and not getting married. Like having a sexual relationship and using contraception because they are not ready to have children.

            The list is endless and so many of them about the naughty bits.

          • Rationalist1

            It's so telling that the moral issues that so many religious get so riled up about are sins that people commit with no clothes on. Imagine how different the world would be if religious put as much emphasis on sins people commit fully clothed.

            And if someone says I'm being unfair, when was the last time anyone was ever fired from a Catholic school for a sin that was not related to sex?

          • BenS

            Exactly.

      • Max Driffill

        Again I am not sure they do choose, even in matters as trivial as sports teams, though I do agree with you about the Cowboys (Deeply Irrational!).

        The adopting of any belief, stance or position will be based on a great number of factors about which we may be dimly conscious. I like the Giants, they have an amazing running game. I developed an affection for the Colts because they were an amazing small market team with the greatest quarter back in the game. Many of my peers loved the Colts. I developed a deep dislike for the Patriots. I never chose this. Even when I moved New England continued to be a fan of the Giants and the Colts (though sensibly I did not advertise my fandom on my car).

  • Corylus

    OK – Let's bring this kicking and screaming into the real world and see how it does.

    Imagine sitting on a jury and that you feel torn as there are two basic choices: You could choose to go ahead and believe in God the defendent's guilt or you could refrain from doing so. N. B. I have put it this way around due to the presumption of innocence that really is one of the basics in terms of a civilized legal system. Plus, it is also interesting to look at this in this way, as the really rather unpleasant question of self interest goes all away.

    You really are honestly and genuinely torn; both the lawyers were convincing; the evidence could be interpreted in different ways, and you know nothing about any
    previous convictions the accused may or may not have. Rats! You are in trouble.

    OK, let's look at your choices.

    A. You choose to live as if the Guilt exists and you are correct: the Guilt does exist.
    B. You choose to live as if Guilt does not exist, and you are incorrect: the Guilt does exist.
    C. You choose to live as if the Guilt exists, and you are incorrect: the Guilt does not exist.
    D. You choose to live as if the Guilt does not exist, and you are correct: the Guilt does not exist.

    The results:

    A. You convict and a guilty woman goes to jail.
    B. You do not convict and a guilty woman goes free.
    C. You convict and an innocent woman goes to jail.
    D. You do not convict and an innocent woman goes free.

    Of course, A and D would be acceptable outcomes, but B and C are a little trickier. B is bad as the family of the victim will be devastated and the guilty woman could well go on to re-offend. C, however, is an abomination. C is why it is wrong to “believe on insufficient evidence.”

    Now, let's bring self-interest back. Why not imagine yourself in the dock? Who do you want on your jury?

    Henry Fonda or Thomas Browne

    This is one of the reasons why Pascal's Wager is offensive. There is no acknowledgement that the seeking of the truth is a moral endeavour. There is no
    understanding that when we 'choose' to believe – insofar as that is possible – we risk hurting people.

    • Randy Gritter

      This is the real world? Some made up trial? You are right that we have an obligation to the truth. But the trial analogy actually makes the point. One error is worse than the other so if the evidence is close you must say Innocent. What Pascal and Fradd are arguing is that if the evidence is close we must choose God for the same reasons. The difference in the price for being wrong demands it.

      • Corylus

        This is the real world? Some made up trial?

        It is a naturalistic scenario Randy. No unproved entities to contend with. I could have brought in possession as a possible defense, but that would not have been merited.

        You are right that we have an obligation to the truth

        Thank you, Randy, I very much appreciate both the point made and the effort made with typing those first three words: words of this type are not easy to get out at times ;)

        One error is worse than the other so if the evidence is close you must say Innocent.

        Thank you again.

        What Pascal and Fradd are arguing is that if the evidence is close we must choose God for the same reasons. The difference is the price for being wrong demands it.

        The price to whom? Yourself or the person you many accuse?

        • Randy Gritter

          We prefer the innocent answer to guilty answer precisely because of the price for being wrong when a person is innocent. The same applies to Pascal's wager. He is simply saying the price for being wrong about God is greater if you choose to reject God. That does not mean you don't care about truth. You just err on the side of God being real.

          • Corylus

            You just err on the side of God being real.

            No you err on the side of the presumption of innocence. These are not (unfortunately) the same thing. This is because the assignment of guilt is often a catholic (both small and large c) action. I am sorry, but there it is.

            Anyway, I notice that you have not answered any of my questions clearly yet. It is easy to miss these from a mouse so I will give you two direct questions to choose from. Please answer at least one.

            a) Why do you find it so hard to imagine yourself in the dock?

            b) If you did find yourself there would you be glad or sorry to find one such as I on your jury?

  • John

    The logic is ...
    "If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is" (Jn 14:7)
    Then, we must find out who Jesus is .

  • stanz2reason

    That being the case, if you feel torn between atheism and belief in God, and if you feel that you can’t decide based on objective evidence, then your rational choice would be to go with belief in God. You stand to achieve an infinite good (if you are right) but only a finite loss at most (if you are wrong). By contrast, if you choose not to believe in God then you risk an infinite loss (if you are wrong) at at most a finite good (if you are right).

    Sticking your head in the sand because the world and prospect of death frightens you is the type of behavior you'd expect from an ostrich, not a human. Were you to believe in the finite nature of your existence, you would value every moment of your life even more. You might feel spending even a moment of it subscribing to the cowardice of the above quote and looking at the world through the lens of superstition would be a moment wasted that you'd never ever get back.

    If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values, and thus by definition your choosing to believe in God would not be morally wrong.

    It really is difficult for the believer folk to even conceive of the atheist worldview. Subjective moral value is different than no moral value. Were things like honesty important to you from an ethical standpoint, were you to feel that the level of evidence for god is equivalent to that for unicorns or the tooth fairy, a belief in god would be dishonest and immoral.

    There are many times in life when we must make decisions about what we will believe without having conclusive proof. Such proof is a luxury that we often do not have.

    … which is why more often than not we rely on reasonable evidence rather than concrete conclusive proof. I don't have proof the sun will come up, but that it's come up every day for a few billion years makes the assumption that it will in fact come up a reasonable one and allows me to plan accordingly.

    Am I the only one who felt the bit about commitment & marriage was just tacked on to fill up space?

    • Randy Gritter

      You are still not grasping it. Nobody says you should be dishonest or stick your head in the sand. If you think the evidence for atheism is overwhelming then this argument is not going to move you. But what about people on the edge? People who see some appeal in the case for Catholicism but are not completely convinced. You do more and more research. Still at some point you just have to decide. Am I going to embrace Catholicism fully? I can relate to this in my conversion. I didn't think along Pascal's wager lines but I did think the point of decision had been reached. The doubts and pains of conversion would not get less by waiting. Was I prepared to make the jump? You do ask what is the worse that could happen? I could get totally embarrassed and have to recant after 2 years. Bad but not as bad as risking missing out on my true purpose and deepest happiness.

      • Michael Murray

        Surely if you are weighing everlasting life (infinity) against happiness in this life (finite) as long as you have a non-zero amount of belief in Catholicism and multiply it by infinity you are going to get infinity so you should always choose Catholicism. The numbers never lie !

        Personally I thought his triangle was better.

      • stanz2reason

        It seems the sales pitch to the person on the fence is basically 'lie to yourself and believe, even if you do not, because somehow you could benefit if its true... worst possible scenario youve just wasted some of your time'

        What if I were to say that your finite existence makes every moment infinitely valuable, and that even a moment lying to youself because you've decided to hedge you bets on someone elses superstitution is a moment of infinite value you've wasted.

    • Sage McCarey

      Stanztoreason, I feel the need to repeat this: "Were things like honesty important to you from an ethical standpoint, were you to feel the level of evidence for god is equivalent to that for unicorns or the tooth fairy, a belief in god would be dishonest and immoral." Yes, it really is difficult for believers to even conceive of the atheist worldview!

  • Michael Murray

    including a sense of purpose and meaning that there is no rational basis for if we are just walking bags of chemicals.

    Are that old one. We are not just walking bags of chemicals. We are amazing thinking, talking, laughing, loving bags of chemicals.

    • Randy Gritter

      But does thinking, talking, laughing and loving add up to meaning. Not if they are just random chemical reactions. Interesting but still random. They don't seem random. Life feels like it has meaning. So why embrace a creed that says otherwise?

      • Michael Murray

        But does thinking, talking, laughing and loving add up to meaning.

        My complaint is the rhetorical use of the word "just". This computer is just a bunch of chemicals. No it is not just a bunch of chemicals. Apologist articles are always full of this kind of trick.

        Life feels like it has meaning.

        Yes it's amazing what the brain can do.

        So why embrace a creed that says otherwise?

        I don't. I don't embrace any creed -- that's you guys -- I think that our brain gives us a feeling that our life has purpose and meaning. At least on a good day and barring having depression.

  • Michael Murray

    And another furphy

    If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values, and thus by definition your choosing to believe in God would not be morally wrong.

    Without objective moral values nothing is wrong. I thought we had done that one, again and again and again ...

    • Randy Gritter

      This one is a stretch. I am not sure that if you are to the point of saying it is morally wrong to believe that you could at all be considered on the fence.

  • Heather

    As someone who tried what this article recommends before I finally left Catholicism, I wanted to offer my opinion. This approach might work for some people, but it did not work for me, and actually left me with a lot of fear and anxiety for a long time.
    I wanted to believe, but as others here have already mentioned, you can't really just "decide" to believe something. Trying or wanting to believe does not offer the same emotional "benefits that religion brings to people's lives" as actually believing once had for me. You can't fool yourself.
    I had grown up surrounded by attitudes such as the one presented in this article- that life without God must be devoid of a "sense of purpose" and would reduce me to nothing more than "a walking bag of chemicals." So atheism terrified me, and I thought my only strategy was to keep praying, learning more about Catholicism and ignoring my doubts.
    If anyone else reading this has also been "trying" to believe and finding that it just doesn't work, what finally brought me peace was deciding to face my fears and ask myself to consider the possibility that there might be no God and how that would affect my life. Once I realized that I could still lead a happy and meaningful life even if there was no God, it was the biggest relief.
    I know this article is meant to be helpful, but spreading the idea that atheists are people with no purpose or morals is an unfair and hurtful way to promote Catholicism.
    Wishing you peace,
    Heather

    • Sample1

      Well put. Jerry Coyne has a great rebuttal to the Chief UK Rabbi about the goofiness of thinking atheists dodge the moral card. Big Faith does not hold a patent on morality.

      Welcome!

      Mike

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        Not all "patents" are equally reasonable, which is, I think, more the point than is any claim that atheists are ipso facto completely amoral (or even completely immoral). Is anyone really making such claims?
        The Christian view is that God has written much of the moral law "on our hearts" (subjective morality) but that, because of several factors, we need the assurance of objective moral guidance that can come through the Holy Spirit-guided teaching of the Church.
        So I wouldn't think many or most people would claim that atheists have "no purpose or morals", but rather the argument is that the Christian view includes an objective component that is lacking in the "patent" of the atheistic moral view (which appears either subjective or "collective" rather than absolute, and therefore it is always relativistic), since the issue of absolute moral "authority" is never adequately resolved in an atheistic moral system. It is resolved in the Christian view--regardless of whether one agrees or not on the objective moral "authority" of the Church, at the very least the claims of possessing that authority are internally consistent and in keeping with reason.

        • Rationalist1

          Rather the claim is made we are amoral. That we are moral relativists.

          Rather we take charge of our moral positions rather than having one handed to us by a religious institution.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            That would not be my claim though--my claim would be that an atheist is most likely just as "moral" as a theist can be when one's morality is based on subjective or "collective" but not absolute criteria.
            Trying to derive moral "absolutes" from *non-absolute* sources is both unreasonable and self-contradictory. And, when seeking to live a "moral" life without moral absolutes, we will invariably have conflict when I "take charge" of my moral position against your "taking charge" of yours. Who gets to decide who is being "more moral" so to speak? And if "your" morality and "my" morality are *both* moral, while contradictory, then we've reduced the concept of "morality" to meaninglessness.
            But saying this is in no way an accusation that any particular individual is behaving "amorally" on everything. Rather the moral relativist is seeking the good like everyone else, but cannot always choose the good due to the murkiness of the relativistic structure of non-absolute morality.
            Atheistic morality is, in my view, an attempt to have the cake and eat it too--insofar as it acknowledges the necessity--and the presence--of the internal subjective moral "compass" we humans possess (given by God, we theists claim), while denying the necessity and presence of the corresponding objective absolute morality (also given by God) that actually holds together the very concept of morality....

          • Sample1

            Oh good grief, I don't have to believe in moral absolutes to make a moral judgement.

            In reply to:

            Trying to derive moral "absolutes" from *non-absolute* sources is both unreasonable and self-contradictory. Jim Russell

            Mike

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            But if you don't actually believe in moral absolutes, why even *try* to make a "moral" judgment when trying to do something "right" has no clear meaning?

          • Michael Murray

            Because our lives are full of choices. To be or not to be ? Experience or thought suggests that some choices will lead to nasty unpleasant outcomes for us. Most of us don't like nasty unpleasant things happening to us.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Might make sense for the *individual* good--wherein we always choose that which keeps nasty unpleasant things from happening to us personally. What about the *common* good? What if "society" dictates that something nasty and unpleasant should happen to you for the sake of the "common good."?

          • Michael Murray

            But part of our evolved nature is that we feel bad when we see others suffer and will put up with suffering ourselves to avoid it. There was an experiment done with monkeys where they could only get food by causing an electric shock to other monkeys. Some monkeys went without food for days to avoid shocking their fellow monkeys.

            What if "society" dictates that something nasty and unpleasant should happen to you for the sake of the "common good."?

            Something has gone very wrong with my society.

          • cowalker

            But it's ALWAYS society that rewards or punishes, whether it's in the name of the "common good" or society's interpretation of some "absolute morality." The effect is absolutely the same, and I may or may not agree with society's dictate no matter what its origin.
            It's hard to think of anything much more unpleasant than the stonings of adulterers carried out in the Middle East in the name of Islam's absolute morality. But how do you referee between competing codes of absolute morality? Mosty we apply empathy, reason and evidence. How do we feel about doing this to others? How would we feel if it were us? Is the punishment proportionate to the damage? Is it a practical area to regulate by law? Does it result in a better-functioning, productive society? How do we balance the value of individual freedom against the disruption of the community?

          • BenS

            Even if you do believe in an absolute morality, it doesn't help you. I've posted on this before and I would link you but Disqus is shit and I can't find it.

            For an absolute morality to have meaning you have to show that it exists, show EXACTLY what it is and then show it's used to judge you.

            If you can't do all of those, stipulating the existence of an absolute morality is a waste of time.

          • Rationalist1

            Also all this talk about moral absolutes. In my opinion a moral absolute is that some actions are inherently always right or wrong and that no moral calculus can ever overturn a wrong or hinder a right or be justified by the situational ethics Principle of Double Effects. I've only seen one example of such as act by a Catholic that fits that criteria, artifical contraception.

          • primenumbers

            Absolutes must be objective, and objective means to be mind independent. As God, according to the theist is nothing other than mind, objective values cannot, by definition, come from God.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Most theists don't believe that God is nothing "other than mind"--at least none do that I know...

          • primenumbers

            Eh, so your God now has physical components?

          • Michael Murray

            And, when seeking to live a "moral" life without
            moral absolutes, we will invariably have conflict when I "take charge" of my moral position against your "taking charge" of yours.

            Rather the moral relativist is seeking the good like everyone else, but cannot always choose the good due to the murkiness of the relativistic structure of non-absolute morality.

            Whereas with absolute morality we all argue, torture and kill each other to show whose absolute morality is right. With absolute morality be it religious or the dialectic of history on your side anything is possible and you have to defend it to the death. Look at the history of the past couple of thousand years with open eyes.

            Give me a pragmatist any day.

          • Sample1

            I am reminded of Czeslaw Milosz when he wrote the epigram to The Captive Mind

            When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is
            suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever say he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.

            Mike

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Milosz is about 5 % right with his statement...(at least he thanks God)... :-)
            Seriously, though, I'd agree with him--as long as the lines of subjectivity and objectivity are not blurred. God *alone* is 100 percent right (which is why we need God in morality). We creatures, not so much....

          • Sample1

            Well, the quote is placed in the epilogue because it perfectly sets up the novel about Stalin's rule (that for me had unmistakable theocratic similarities).

            Mike

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Hey Sample1 - Pascal said something similar: "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." But these insights into fanaticism are not at all incompatible with faith in God or a belief in moral absolutes - both men were Catholics (although Milosz, I understand, had his struggles, as all of us do).

            Even Pope Francis said something similar in a conversation with a Rabbi in Argentina: "...rigid religiosity is disguised with doctrines that claim to give justifications, but in reality deprive people of their freedom and do not allow them to grow as persons...fundamentalism is not what God wants...it reduces God to a being that you can manage with prescriptions." And again: "Humility is what gives assurance that the Lord is there. When someone is self-sufficient, when he has all the answers to every question, it is proof that God is not with him."

            How is "Captive Mind" by the way? I've admired his poetry ("Religion Comes" and "To Raja Rao" are my favorites) but have never read his longer works. Peace!

          • Sample1

            How is "Captive Mind" by the way?

            It's a book I would like to find the time to read again. As for poetry by Poles, I prefer the atheist Wislawa Symborska, another Nobel Laureate.

            Mike

          • severalspeciesof

            Hey, I'm right 95% of the time, the other 4% doesn't matter... ;-)

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Can't argue that observation--but the observation does not negate the reasonability of moral absolutes and may indeed increase the necessity for them...

          • Michael Murray

            Can't argue that observation--but the observation does not negate the reasonability of moral absolutes and may indeed increase the necessity for them…

            If they existed that would be great. Then we might have hope of everybody finding them. But as they don't we will inevitably invent our own. Better to accept that we are inventing our morality so that we don't feel so compelled to defend them to our and everybody else's deaths.

          • cowalker

            I will never understand why believers feel that they are better off than non-believers when it comes to determining moral values.

            ". . . when seeking to live a "moral" life without moral absolutes, we will invariably have conflict when I 'take charge' of my moral position against your 'taking charge' of yours."

            Have you observed a lack of conflict among groups of believers, each of which has its own set of absolute morals? Even within groups who accept the same set of moral values there is disagreement among over how to interpret them.

            "Who gets to decide who is being "more moral" so to speak?"

            Who gets to decide which set of absolute morals is really from God--and how to interpret them?

            I can see the theoretical advantage of absolute morality straight from God, but there is no practical advantage. None at all. We each have to persuade others to share our moral values, whether we claim they are absolute or not, by appealing to empathy, reason and evidence. There is no other recourse.

        • Sample1

          Jim, I really don't follow how your reply was constructed from my words. And the supernatural flourishes in your second paragraph may as well be written in wingdings font, as they make no sense to me.

          Mike

          • Michael Murray

            Have you tried google translator ? It might do Catholic -> Atheist

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Simply put: Without God, the concept of "morality" is unreasonable because morality requires the establishment of moral absolutes. There is only one possible source for a moral absolute ever conceived in the human intellect--God.
            A moral absolute requires an absolute source.
            And morality becomes relativism without it.

          • Rationalist1

            Name one moral absolute that concerns people (i.e. not love God) that can not be overridden.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            No rape.
            No torture.

          • Rationalist1

            I would agree with rape, even though it happened with great frequency in the Old Testament.

            And I wish all governments would ban torture and Churches would treat those in the West who advocate it the same way they treat those who advocate gay marriage.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So, what is it that makes rape a moral absolute? Why is it always wrong?

          • Rationalist1

            For me it's wrong because because it's a violation of another person's body that I have no right to do.

            For you it's wrong because God decreed that it was wrong.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            For you it's wrong because God decreed that it was wrong.

            This is not correct. It is generally held that things are not wrong because God says they are wrong, but rather God says they are wrong because they are wrong. Otherwise we might live in a world where rape was right and feeding hungry people was wrong.

          • primenumbers

            "God says they are wrong because they are wrong" - which has your God appealing to an objective source of morality outside of himself, or else he's just stating a tautology.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Well, remember that God is believed to be all good. His stating what is good would be "determined" by his nature. And what is good should be discernible from what he created.

          • primenumbers

            Sounds like you're just setting up "God" to be synonymous with "good" and hence rendering the word "good" somewhat meaningless. Anyway, what is "nature" for a God anyway? We have a nature (our genetics, how we were born, the various chemical balances in our bodies), but God has none of these. God is just a disembodied mind, leaving no place for a "nature".

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Please read up on what Christians *really* believe about the Divine Nature--you are misstating the claims pretty drastically.
            And, actually, without God, the very meaning of moral "goodness" is thoroughly short-circuited...

          • primenumbers

            With God morality is meaningless - it just becomes another word for God.

            As for "Divine Nature" - what's that, another "guess" as to what this utterly unknowable God is like? What's a guess worth? Any argument on morality like this all comes back to epistemology - unless you have a reliable method of knowing, any claim to objective morality (or any claims used in the argument to justify an objective morality) are utterly null. And I'm sorry, but you lack a reliable epistemology. So what Christians believe is irrelevant unless there is a God, there is a Divine Nature, and we can reasonably be able to see what it is and what it means.

            Also, DN above doesn't say "Divine nature", but "nature", the same word we use to apply to ourselves. If you can't use common words to have the meaning they normally mean, your theistic arguments end up as semantic word play, rather than being substantive, and dare I say is, interesting.

          • Michael Murray

            God says they are wrong because they are wrong.

            So moral absolutes bind even God ? What of the rape and murder in the old testament? What of killing Jobs wife and children ?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            You believe what is recounted in the Book of Job actually happened?

          • Michael Murray

            No. But I don't believe in God either. Or can I have one and not the other ?

            OK let's cherry-pick and say Job is fiction. What about the problem of pain? I've had lots of discussions here about this and they seem to end up justifying God creating pain by saying that it isn't important in His grand plan So something that we feel is immoral (like creating childhood cancer) is not immoral. I was surprised then to discover that God was bound by absolute morality.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            What about the problem of pain?

            The problem of pain is an entirely different issue from whether moral relativism is a tenable position. Let's stick with the question of morality. It is not necessary to believe in God, by the way, to believe that there are objective moral principles.

          • Michael Murray

            If no god where are you getting your objective moral principles from ? I can see agreed moral principles -- I think we get them from evolution. But if we were a different species our think our morality could be different. What if males where of a lot lower IQ and mating caused them to die ?

          • Rationalist1

            So why the need for God to tell us so? So waht God wrong when he commanded the murder of so many in the OT? If God had no control over moral laws, maybe he had no contriol over the laws of the universe.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Your two statements are not mutually exclusive.
            For me, it's wrong because God created the human person in His image and likeness, which is *why* we have no "right" to violate another person's body.
            But the obvious questions begged are: "If there is no God, why don't we have the 'right' to rape, and why is raping a 'violation'?"

          • primenumbers

            Because we feel pain and rape hurts?

          • Rationalist1

            "But the obvious questions begged are: "If there is no God, why don't we have the 'right' to rape, and why is raping a 'violation'?"" And I answer that if you obviously don't know that answer then please continue to believe in God.

            But I suspect you do know the answer. It's the basis of how we form a just and fair society. Can you imagine a society you would want to live in where rape was common place? Could you imagine one where slavery was common place? Could you imagine one where a small number of people control most of the wealth and twenty percent of the children live in poverty (Oh, I think we have that one).

          • Michael Murray

            Could you imagine one where a small number of people control most of the wealth and twenty percent of the children live in poverty

            Once there was this crazy guy who said we should give away all our worldly goods and help the poor …

          • BenS

            What are the poor going to do with my car? They can't afford to put petrol in it!

            That's just silly. Also there's no mention of a minimum wage in the bible so those poor people should just work harder.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Like the term "moral," the terms "just" and "fair" are relative without God.
            Unfortunately, we still live in a society in which rape is commonplace, but it's not viewed as "right". Why? And what if "society" chooses to return to past forms of "wrong"--like slavery--if society determines what's right and wrong, then no one or no other "collective" can stand in judgment of society, past, present, or future...

          • primenumbers

            "Like the term "moral," the terms "just" and "fair" are relative without God. " - and with God they're relative to that God. Either way, morals are relative.

          • Sample1

            Rape me, said the maschocist*. No, said the sadist.

            Jim, are you suggesting that without an absolute proclamation (in holy writ or holey theology) rape ceases to be wrong? I don't think you would say that. Morals come from us. Sometimes we hit the mark (rape is wrong) and sometimes we don't (slavery is good).

            Mike
            *In this scenario, the masochist could be a minor consenting to sex with an adult which could still be ruled a rape.

          • Michael Murray

            OK you had it in your next post.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Because it's meaningless--if someone is seeking to do that which is morally "right" (which is the whole point of morality), then one must recognize that the term "right" is not the same as the term "right right now but maybe wrong tomorrow or yesterday".
            If someone can *not* kill an innocent person today but *could* kill an innocent person yesterday or tomorrow, then calling it "right" to avoid killing the innocent becomes meaningless...

          • Rationalist1

            You said the right to " avoid killing the innocent becomes meaningless..", not the right to not kill innocent lives. Already equivocation on that moral absolute.

            In WWII Allied forces all took part in the terror bombing Axis civilian targets with the full approval of the various churches. Where was the moral absolute then?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            In WWII Allied forces all took part in the terror bombing Axis civilian targets with the full approval of the various churches.

            As Q. Quine likes to say, "Got evidence?"

            What churches are you talking about? What was the process by which various churches approved bombing targets chosen by the allies?

          • Andre Boillot

            Haha, certainly not the German churches.

          • Andre Boillot

            One of the ironies is that, if I'm not mistaken, Nagasaki had been the Christian equivalent of Plymouth Rock in Japan, and had some of the highest concentrations of the faithful in all of Japan. I'm pretty sure they didn't approve of what happened to them...

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks Jim. I hadn't noticed you had already explained this further down. When I noticed that I removed my post. Sorry to make you have to respond again.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            From Wikipedia:

            Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

            Certainly there is a problem with normative moral relativism. It makes moral arguments somewhat the equivalent of arguing over whether chocolate tastes good. Most people think so, but the people who don't care for chocolate aren't wrong.

          • Rationalist1

            I don't agree that atheists are moral relativists but I would say that the Church is a temporal moral relativist. For a institution that preaches the truth of God for all times why is it impermissible for the current pope to own slaves yet previous popes did. Why is it impermissible to execute heretics now, but it was in the past? Why was it permissible to sanction crusades against the Muslims in the past but not okay now?

            I have an answer, society has learned that those activities are unacceptable but they hadn't got to that conclusion in the past.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I don't agree that atheists are moral relativists but I would say that the Church is a temporal moral relativist.

            I have never argued that atheists are moral relativists. Michael Murray has declared himself to be a moral relativist, but I do not believe he speaks for all atheists.

            For the Church to be a "temporal moral relativist" it would have to maintain that it was perfectly moral for past popes to own slaves, but it would be wrong for Pope Frances to own slaves. But the position of the Church is that slavery has always been wrong. Anyone who ever owned a slave did something wrong. They may have been so much a product of the time in which they lived that they did not know it was wrong, but it was nevertheless wrong.

          • Michael Murray

            Hang on David. You where the one who wanted the fine distinctions. I think I said that I was

            meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong;

            This has to be my position as I hold that there are no absolute moral values. Assuming that objective means absolute in this context.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I don't understand your objection. You don't want a precise definition of your own opinion?

          • Michael Murray

            I don't understand your objection. You don't want a precise definition of your own opinion?

            I do want a precise definition. That is my objection. I don't want to be confused with normative moral relativism.

          • Sample1

            The only absolute I like comes with a little grapefruit juice.

            Mike

          • Rationalist1

            But the Previous Pope called atheists moral relativists and I assume you follow the pope.

            "But the position of the Church is that slavery has always been wrong." The Catholic Church has approved of slavery many times in the past. Check the various Church councils.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Did Benedict XVI say that all atheists were moral relativists? I would like to see the quote.

            I think Benedict was an extremely sophisticated thinker, but his concept of the "dictatorship of relativism" made absolutely no sense to me.

            I do not "follow" any pope, except of course when he says something I consider to be correct. Even the most devout Catholic is not obliged to agree with the pope except in certain narrow circumstances.

          • Sample1

            As a Catholic, you are obliged to form your conscience through the tutelage of the Magisterium. Popes are part of that. Another way to say it is, your brain is theirs or so they would like.

            And don't for one second think that you can disregard willy nilly everything a pope says unless he is speaking narrowly as in the case, for instance when he speaks infallibly.

            Mike

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            This is incorrect--largely based upon what is meant by the term "slavery" and what is not....the teaching authority of the Church has never approved of forced enslavement or "racial" slavery....now it is quite true that individuals in the Church, including bishops, not only "believed" in slavery and practiced it, sadly. But the Magisterium has not universally *taught* anything erroneous on this issue (and yes, that includes the 1866 Holy Office statement oft-quoted)...

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. I guess I am a meta-ethical moral relativist. I don't think there is objective right or wrong. But I think that in reality most people will agree about the basic principles such as the golden rule. It's genetic.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            It's genetic.

            So if you are a police officer in charge of a hostage situation, and the hostage taker is raping the women and murdering the hostages one by one until he gets what he demands, your argument to him will be, "Listen to your genes?" Or, "You know, most people think what you are doing is wrong, but of course that's only their opinion. You have a right to your opinion, too"?

          • primenumbers

            "until he gets what he demands" - implies that he already knows what he is doing is wrong, but that he has a higher ideal that he's aiming for, and the ends justify the means.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            "until he gets what he demands" - implies that he already knows what he is doing is wrong

            Do terrorists know what they are doing is wrong? Did the 9/11 hijackers say to themselves, "We know this is wrong, but . . . "?

          • primenumbers

            Of course they know the terrorist action itself is wrong, just like we knew dropping the bomb on the Japanese was wrong. However justify that wrongness with a higher ideal. Sometimes we can agree with that justification, other times not... But you have to know that the action itself is wrong and that other people will agree with you that it's wrong or else it wouldn't work to serve the purpose you have for it.

            Terrorists don't threaten to do nice things because it wouldn't work. Hence they have to know what is nice and what is nasty....

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Of course they know the terrorist action itself is wrong, just like we knew dropping the bomb on the Japanese was wrong.

            I disagree. I think terrorists believe what they are doing is right and good. I do not think the decision to drop the bomb was a matter of "We know this is wrong, but . . . " If means are justified, then using them is not wrong.

          • primenumbers

            The terrorists know that killing people is wrong, but that they have a higher ideal that justifies the killing. They must know that it's wrong to kill or else they'd not use killing as their weapon.

            If means are justified, then you've adopted moral relativity.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I don't think terrorists believe killing people is morally wrong in cases like suicide bombings, to take one example. They know that people do not want to be killed, and governments do not want their people killed. But they do not think it is morally wrong to kill. They think it is morally right to kill. There are few people on earth who think it is always wrong to kill. Most people believe capital punishment is morally acceptable or even morally required. Killing in self-defense is not wrong. Killing the aggressors in a just war is not wrong.

            If the end doesn't justify the means, what does? It is not that means are never justified by ends. It is that the end, no matter how desirable, cannot justify any and all means.

          • primenumbers

            So you're a moral relativist then?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            So you're a moral relativist then?

            What makes you say that? One can be a moral absolutist and believe an act that is unjustified in some circumstances may be justified in others. I can be a moral absolutist and believe it is wrong to used deadly force against someone because I do not like him, but morally acceptable to use deadly force against someone because he is trying to kill me. The moral rule about killing is not that killing is always wrong. It is that it is always wrong to directly kill an innocent person.

          • primenumbers

            So whether killing is wrong or not is due to the justifying circumstances?

            " It is that it is always wrong to directly kill an innocent person." - um, depends on definition of innocent, and then again, the circumstances. If it's always wrong to directly kill an innocent, dropping of the Hiroshima bomb was wrong, wasn't it. Or the carpet fire bombing of Dresden?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I used to argue that the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan was justified, but I have changed my mind. Particularly persuasive is the fact that Eisenhower opposed it:

            "In 1945 ... , Secretary of War Stimson visited my headquarters in Germany, [and] informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act.... During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and second because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of 'face.' The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude, almost angrily refuting the reasons I gave for my quick conclusions."

            I think the bombing of Dresden was wrong.

            However, there is a difference between directly killing innocent people and bombing a legitimate military target knowing that some innocent civilians will be killed. Directly is a very important word in that formulation.

          • primenumbers

            "However, there is a difference between directly killing innocent people and bombing a legitimate military target knowing that some innocent civilians will be killed." - the difference being that in both cases innocent people end up dead? What's the worry about killing them if they go to Heaven though? Doesn't the prescription about killing innocents only matter if there is no afterlife and no God?

          • severalspeciesof

            Another thing is that say you believe that there is a military target,
            which you bomb, knowing some civilians will be killed. At that point you
            use your justification and declare what you did was good. But when you
            get your ground troops in, you find it wasn't a military target after
            all. Your intelligence was wrong. Now, your once good act is now wrong.
            Morality is completely relative to facts and what we believe.

            Bingo. IMO, unless we have complete knowledge, objective morality (if it exists) cannot be obtained/known...

          • BenS

            Bingo. IMO, unless we have complete knowledge, objective morality (if it exists) cannot be obtained/known...

            I hadn't even considered that. I figured that without knowing the full list of 'rules' for this objective morality.. but it seems that without a full knowledge of everything then an objective morality is even less use.

            You know, one of us should write a article to submit outlining all this. People are always moaning there are no atheist articles.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            . . . . the difference being that in both cases innocent people end up dead?

            Is it your contention that all cases in which people wind up dead are morally equivalent? Take a driver hitting and killing a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

            1. The driver knows and hates the person on the sidewalk and deliberately runs him down and kills him.

            2. The driver is texting and loses control of the car, which runs up onto the sidewalk and kills the pedestrian.

            3. The driver has a heart attack, loses consciousness, and the car veers onto the sidewalk and kills a pedestrian.

            Would you say the "difference" in those cases is that an innocent pedestrian is killed?

            Or take a wartime case in which there is an enemy factory turning out a large percentage of the enemy's ammunition. You can't destroy it without the very high probability of civilian casualties in areas close to the factory. Is bombing the factory, a legitimate military target, and incidentally killing some civilians morally equivalent to simply targeting those civilians?

            Now, your once good act is now wrong. Morality is completely relative to facts and what we believe.

            People who responsibly act on the best information they have and do something that they sincerely believe to be right act morally. If it turns out that through no fault of their own, intelligence was wrong, it is not the case that, in retrospect, they acted immorally. You can't be morally culpable for acting on what you honestly and reasonably believe to be right.

            If you shoot an intruder breaking into your home, you have acted in self-defense, which is not morally wrong. If it turns out the person you know who is perhaps drunk and lost his keys and decides to break into the house, that doesn't make you a murderer.

            Morality is completely relative to facts and what we believe.

            Moral culpability certainly depends on what a person reasonably believes to be the circumstances under which he or she is acting. Some years ago, there was a woman whose routine was to drop off her baby at daycare on her way to work. One day she made a stop on the way to work that departed from her routine, and when she arrived at work she forgot the baby was in the car. It was a hot day, and the car heated up. By the end of the day, the baby was dead. If you believe the woman really did forget the baby was in the car (and I think it is plausible), she is not morally culpable for the death of the baby. How a person lives with something like that is another question. She was responsible for the baby's death, but she was not morally culpable.

          • primenumbers

            "Is it your contention that all cases in which people wind up dead are morally equivalent? " - nope, but in the military target example I thought the difference was subtle at best.

            In the example of military intelligence going wrong, I was talking about the moral act, not the morality of the person doing it. If we're going to talk about the person then even more hinges on their knowledge, and their epistemology too.

            As the discussion goes on you're finding varied exemptions to the moral rule of don't kill (or don't kill innocents) that I think you're getting the idea of moral relativity - knowledge and circumstances count.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            In the example of military intelligence going wrong, I was talking about the moral act, not the morality of the person doing it.

            How can you possibly discuss morality without discussing human action and intention?

            I think you're getting the idea of moral relativity - knowledge and circumstances count.

            Of course knowledge and circumstances count, but they count even for moral absolutists. How can you isolate an act from an intention. I believe someone used this example here recently. It is immoral to cut a man's chest open with a knife if you intend to kill him, but if you are a heart surgeon doing bypass surgery, it is not immoral. You can't remove intentions and circumstances from moral discussions. It may very well be that making a particular moral decision involves extremely complex reasoning. The commandment often cited as "You shall not kill" is actually "You shall not murder." It is of little or no help at all in distinguishing morally acceptable killing from wrongful killing.

            You write as if you were unaware of a great body of moral and legal reasoning. The very same act of killing may turn out to be first-, second-, or third-degree murder, or fit in one or another of several other legal categories based solely on the intention of the accused. It may not be a crime at all. That is not moral relativism. Moral relativism doesn't say moral reasoning is complex. It says there is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether or not a certain act is immoral.

            If you are a true moral relativist, and I steal your wallet, you basically have to admit that although you may think I am doing something wrong, there is no way you can reason with me and convince me that it is wrong for me to steal your wallet. If I believe that it is a good thing that people who don't have money take it from people who do, as a moral relativist, you have to concede that you can't give me any compelling reasons to believe what you believe. Because in truth, objectively, stealing is neither right nor wrong. It's right for people who think it's right, and wrong for people who think it's wrong.

          • primenumbers

            "It is that it is always wrong to directly kill an innocent person." - doesn't mention the intent of the killer. You pose it as an absolute. Now you're telling me intent (and presumably knowledge too) do count. That at the very least makes things very relative.

            " You can't remove intentions and circumstances from moral discussions." - therefore you cannot have absolute moral rules.

            "It says there is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether or not a certain act is immoral." - that's just another way of looking at this. We can evaluate and decide based on evidence a reason a moral decision based on our knowledge of the circumstances, but there's no absolute morality we can appeal to to give us that answer. Relativity in morals doesn't mean that there's no right or wrong, just that there's no absolutely right or wrong answer to questions of morality, and no objective source of morality exists.

            I think you're arguing a very different thing to what I am.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I think you need to read up on what is meant by moral relativism. I posted this from Wikipedia earlier:

            Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

            You say, "Relativity in morals doesn't mean that there's no right or wrong." What can right and wrong mean if everyone gets to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong? Morality would be something like taste. If I declare that Citizen Kane was the greatest movie ever made, and you consider it pretentious and boring, neither one of us is right. I can't convince you to like it, and you can't convince me to dislike it. Or it would be like taste in food. It would be foolish to argue about whether Brussels' sprouts are delicious, because if I love them and you hate them, neither of us is objectively right or wrong.

            Moral absolutism doesn't mean that everyone moral absolutist will agree with every other moral absolutist about what is right or wrong. But they would agree that there are right and wrong answers to moral questions, not answers that depend solely on what their personal beliefs happen to be. If two people disagree about whether cherry pie is delicious, it can't be said that one of them must be wrong. But if two people disagree about whether rape is moral or immoral, one of them is wrong.

          • primenumbers

            "But if two people disagree about whether rape is moral or immoral, one of them is wrong." doesn't seem to agree with "Moral absolutism doesn't mean that everyone moral absolutist will agree with every other moral absolutist about what is right or wrong."

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I am not sure we both mean the same thing by moral relativism. Could you perhaps offer a definition?

            If there are objective moral truths, that is no guarantee that everyone will agree what they are. There is disagreement about global warming, for example. That doesn't mean that neither side in the debate is right. Moral absolutes are not so "absolutely" true that they are self-evident. There may even be some who disagree that rape is always wrong. That doesn't mean that rape is neither right nor wrong. People can be wrong about moral absolutes just like they can be wrong about virtually anything else.

          • primenumbers

            By moral "relativism" I'm just meaning "not objective", and by "objective" I mean "mind independent". So for moral relativism I'm meaning morals that are mind dependent.

          • Andrew G.

            That might be better described as moral anti-realism. "Moral realism" is the position that there exist at least some objectively true moral statements. "Moral anti-realism" is the negation; anti-realists may assert that moral statements are not propositions which can be treated as true or false (non-cognitivism), or that they are propositions but are never mind-independent (subjectivism), or that they are objective propositions but are always false (error theory).

            "Moral absolutism" is usually taken to refer to a different level of analysis and therefore not comparable to any of the above.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks Andrew for the clarification.

            I'm on the "or that they are propositions but are never mind-independent (subjectivism)" side then.

            According to wikipedia "Moral absolutism is an ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other circumstances such as their consequences or the intentions behind them. "

          • Michael Murray

            I really wonder sometimes when theists debate this kind of thing if they are just being deliberately obtuse.

            By "It's genetic" I mean that we are a social species, we are hard wired for a certain amount of empathy and care for the group in which we live. As a consequence of this we develop certain rules and laws. Tthe golden rule is one I expect most primates would sign up to -- if they could sign.

            In the situation you describe I would try to minimise the suffering. That might mean sending in the SWAT team if the hostage taker didn't have the ability to kill everybody at once by an explosion. But hostage negotiation isn't my area of expertise.

          • Andre Boillot

            This has to be one of the stranger arguments I've seen against the idea that humans have evolved certain social traits that lend themselves to mutual empathy and co-operation.

            It's also begging the question of why appealing to divinely issued morality would stop a hostage taker. What if he responds that the God of his faith allows the rape and murder of these people (maybe they are infidels or apostates)?

    • Rationalist1

      Heather - I went through the same. For quite a while I wouldn't say I was an atheist because it felt akin to saying I was a communist or a criminal. But I soon realized that I was still me and that I didn't have to have my life's meaning imposed upon me. I didn't have to desperately try to support positions I knew were not right. I didn't have to feel like I had all the answers to truths that humanity has wondered about for tens of thousands of years.

      When I started meeting other atheists, I realized that they were not terrible despondent "walking bags of chemicals" with no purpose in their life. They were people who loved, struggled, did good, did bad and were just the same as my religious friends.

      I realized it's okay not to believe.

      • Heather

        Yes, realizing it's okay not to believe is crucial. This article wrongly suggests that the only advantage to choosing atheism is "a bit more freedom to indulge your lower passions," but there is definitely a peace of mind that comes with realizing you'll be OK even if there is no God that trying to force belief does not give you. One might discover that it was not the idea of no God that was causing them so much anxiety, but only their fear of the idea of no God.

    • clod

      Yes. It often seems the intention is to be unfair or hurtful. I corresponded with Cardinal O'Connor after his unfortunate press remarks that atheists were not quite fully human. It was hurtful. The previous pope also used this tactic frequently in his remarks about atheism and 'aggressive secularism.' In my experience, secularists, humanists, atheists, whatever, are highly moral people. Not all of course. We also have the curious property of pondering over the concept of God ten times more frequently and a hundred times harder than the majority of the general population, including the religious. Go figure!

  • Matthew Fradd

    Oh Pascal, you continue to be misunderstood.

    Here are three common objections to the wager, all of which demonstrate a misunderstanding of it, and all of which I addressed in my article.

    1. There's lots of religions that will damn you to Hell for not believing them.

    "It also is not an argument designed for every possible situation. It is designed for those who feel torn between atheism and belief in the kind of God that Christianity proposes."

    2. This doesn't prove God's existence!

    "Bear in mind that this is not an argument for Gods existence but rather an argument forbelief in God’s existence. "

    3. This amounts to mercenarism and is therefore immoral.

    "Some might have a concern that they would be doing something morally wrong if they were to choose belief in God without objective proof, but this argument can be turned on its head. If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values, and thus by definition your choosing to believe in God would not be morally wrong."

    • Andre Boillot

      "If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values, and thus by definition your choosing to believe in God would not be morally wrong."

      I think it's frowned on to make assertions such as this without any supporting evidence.

      • BenS

        Whilst I was typing with a deep frown on my face, you made exactly the same point I did using almost exactly the same words. Either we are a quantum entangled pair or Satan guides our hands. There can be no other explanation.

        • Andre Boillot

          You have hands?

          • BenS

            Withered claws used to snatch babies to devour.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          ... made exactly the same point I did using almost exactly the same words.

          I see quite a bit of that going around. Perhaps a sign of a good thing?

          • BenS

            I like it when I see someone make the same points as me - as long as I was unaware of it when I was formulating my point - as quite often they will be better able to get across what I'm trying to say and occasionally with additions and clarifications that hadn't even occurred to me.

            It also gives me to chance to see my own thoughts put forward in different words and allows me to challenge them in my mind as though I would be arguing with someone else. That way, if I'm wrong or hadn't considered something, I'm more likely to see it than if reading my own words.

            There's also the sweet and sour occasion where I put forward something that I think I've come up with myself and it turns out some longbeard beat me to it by a few centuries. The sour of being so out of date and uneducated and the sweet of at least knowing that I arrived there independently.

            Man, I need to write shorter posts....

    • BenS

      1) "It also is not an argument designed for every possible situation. It is
      designed for those who feel torn between atheism and belief in the kind
      of God that Christianity proposes."

      Addressed here:

      http://www.strangenotions.com/deciding-to-believe/#comment-929133999

      ----

      2) "Bear in mind that this is not an argument for Gods existence but rather an argument for belief in God’s existence. "

      Tied in with 1). If you haven't used a rational manner of determining WHICH god you're supposed to believe in then all gods apply which means objection 1) still stands and its rebuttal is null. If you feel you have used a rational manner then see my repudiation to the rebuttal to 1).

      ---

      3) "If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values, and
      thus by definition your choosing to believe in God would not be morally
      wrong."

      Unsupported assertion. Rejected.

    • BenS

      Was this just a drive-by reposting of chunks of the article or will you be coming back to engage the rebuttals to those points?

    • Max Driffill

      Matthew,
      Here are my objections to Pascal, taken, somewhat abridged, from my blog "I Don't go Out For Brunch."

      "As an atheist (a six on the Dawkins scale) I get to hear about Pascal's wager more often than anyone really needs to hear about it. If you find yourself in the unbelieving crowd, no doubt you hear it too often as well. This post isn't for you (well it is for you too, but I am really interested in exposing the flaws of Pascal here). This post is for those, often well meaning folks, who continue to tirelessly wheel out Pascal's rotting corpse in an effort to affect a religious conversion. I don't honestly think they've given Pascal's Wager the review it deserves. This may not be so. However, the abruptness with which the wager falls apart makes me think those who fancy it haven't thought too deeply about it. Either that or they think I'm none to bright. No doubt a few have thought the latter.

      Wikipedia has a nice framing, "even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because so living has everything to gain, and nothing to lose." So if you believe, and are correct you win the lottery, and if you are wrong you have, so Pascal claims, lost nothing.

      For some reason this seems like a very brilliant gambit for many believers, but they really ought to note its many pitfalls. Lets look at what I think are three of the most obvious.

      1. Pascal's Wager assumes we can choose which beliefs we adopt
      I can only speak for myself here, but it seems like there are very few of our beliefs we can control. If we believe something, it is likely because we think the reasons for holding that a position is consistent with reality are strong. Not because it makes us feel good. No doubt some beliefs are better at making people feel happy than others, but that says nothing about how true they may be. For instance children believe in Santa Clause for very rational reasons. Authorities, whom they trust tell them Santa is real. For a child of a suitably young age, this kind of trust makes complete sense and constitutes reasonable evidence. But no matter where you find yourself in the belief or unbelief question you look for evidence of the veracity of position. It isn't apparent that one can choose to believe anything. They have to be compelled by evidence to adopt a position. That doesn't mean of course they will arrive at the correct position, just that some body of evidence (experience, research, etc) will have been enough to convince them that an idea (God, Aliens, Bigfoot) is consistent with reality. Whether people notice it or not they speak in terms of evidence no matter how much they use the word faith. At most all an unbeliever could do was act as if they believed if evidence didn't compel belief. Lets leave that aside for the moment.

      2. Pascals Wager assumes that adopting religious belief carries no costs.
      In every framing of this argument that I've heard, and indeed the way it was phrased by Pascal himself, it is assumed that faith is a cheap investment for the believer, as cheap as unbelief (hence the extreme difference in payoffs at the end of earthly life). One wonders how that part of the argument can be made with a straight face. Religious belief has obvious costs (these can vary of course, but they exist in every sect of the Abrahamic traditions). Religious faith makes its cost felt in obvious places like one's bank account (tithing, other religious donations), but also in terms of family relationships, and mental health, and simple time. The costs of religion can be felt in all these areas. Why Pascal didn't count these things as costs I don't know. Perhaps he was simply trying to bolster his case that the investment of both unbeliever and believer was equal in an effort to underscore the difference in payoffs. But think about all the time believers spend doing things for their faiths, the money spent, the relationships avoided, or broken off, and it becomes apparent that belief has costs, and sometimes they are quite serious. From here we see that these costs amount to serious, indeed utterly substantial investment. This seems like a profoundly obvious thing to have missed. Set against eternity in heaven I suppose a life time of this isn't much of an investment, but if it is the only life you get it, the wastefulness of it becomes apparent. Think about someone you know (it might be you reading this) who spends time, and considerable amounts of money on their faith, maybe they have also shunned a child for some religious infraction, or have all their life avoided same sex encounters that they deeply desire. What if that believer is wrong? Such a scenario certainly ruins Pascal's hypothesis that cost was a non-issue for the believer, but even mild costs would work to ruin the notion.

      3.Pascal's Wager assumes that God will accept a lie.
      I cannot make myself believe something that I think is patently false. All I can do is act like I believe something that I already believe is patently false. Sure I can fake it. And this is essentially what Pascal asks people to do with his wager. Dishonestly act as if you believe to gain a set of rewards for little cost in a future life. Firstly does this sound like the kind of action that the god of Abraham would tolerate? Secondly, is such subterfuge commensurate with moral action? It seems to me the answer to both questions is no. Pascal, and those who continue to use this argument act as if the answer is yes."

  • Rationalist1

    Much is made about atheism have no object morals and that is true. We don't have a list of do's and don'ts, rights and wrongs, licit and illicit actions to follow but look at the believers. Looking at mainstream Christianity, with people who are intelligent, educated, prayerful and sincerely want int discern God's will if you take any modern moral question (abortion, birth control, capital punishment, divorce, euthanasia, female ordination, gay marriage, ...) you will find absolutely no agreement.

    Now it's easy to say that one's own denomination is right and all the others are wrong. But that takes a lot of hubris and doesn't address the real question. If God's moral law is not just given, but embedded in all of our hearts, why no agreement on these very pressing and relevant topics?

    • Jon Hawkins

      "We don't have a list of do's and don'ts, rights and wrongs, licit and illicit actions to follow but look at the believers."
      -As a Christian, I see less reason for an Atheist take part in things the moral law of God has determined to be wrong. That is where a lot of this discussion about "lower passions" is coming from (I assume this is what you're referring to). Mainstream Christianity is the result of, large in part, the development of Protestantism and a group of Christians who make up their own interpretation of the Bible and go with it.
      "God's moral law is not just given, but embedded in all of our hearts"
      But we don't always listen to our hearts do we? This is exactly why the Catholic Church has a magisterium. 2,000 years and practically no changes in what is to be believed.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Rationalist, first you continue to confuse the *ontological* question of objective morality with the *epistemological* question. (I've pointed this mistake out on other posts.) The former deals with whether objective moral laws and duties *exist* and the latter with whether, and how, we can *know* what those laws and duties are.

      So just because there's disagreement about *which* specific laws and values are objectively moral, that doesn't mean objective morality doesn't exist. Indeed, the fact that people *do* argue about which actions are objective moral presupposes that objective morality actually exists.

      Which brings me to my second point. The difference you point to about what different Christian traditions count as objectively moral is deeply exaggerated. The different Christian groups share far more in common when it comes to objective morality than they disagree with. Yet sill, the overwhelming consensus, despite disagreeing, perhaps, on what specific actions are objectively moral, nevertheless are convinced that objective morality exists.

      Finally, you ask "If God's moral law is not just given, but embedded in all of our hearts, why no agreement on these very pressing and relevant topics?"

      I think you misunderstand what Catholics (including St. Paul) mean when referring to the "natural law." We don't mean that every single moral decision can be inferred without reference to God or Divine Revelation. That said, most can. But for the reasons above, the fact that there isn't complete agreement on them doesn't mean they don't exist. It could mean that some people or groups have clouded intellects or wills and aren't able to discern them.

      • Rationalist1

        Is this all just a philosophical/theological exercise or does it all have a practical point. You may split the difference between ontology and epistemology but we in society want to know how to act, While I agree that just because there isn't agreement doesn't mean that an imbedded moral law doesn't exist, but it should cause reflection.

        In every other area of human inquiry such disparate results would bring the underlying premise into doubt. Imagine if historians couldn't decide when Julius Ceasar lived, which river he crossed with his army, did he invade Gaul or North Africa, was his stabbed by Brutus or Mark Anthony, etc,. Produce enough disagreement and people start questioning the entire artifice.

  • Dan C.

    This reminds me of a quote by the existential atheist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

    "That God does not exist, I cannot deny, That my whole being cries out for God I cannot forget"

    -----------------
    My own belief eventually sprang out of agnosticism. And yet, I found myself in a place of being continually haunted by the inevitability of God wanting to break into my life. What really struck a chord for me was meeting many people like myself -- a rebellious and indifferent teenager. When people described how their lives had changed after a personal encounter with receiving Christ in their life -- I could no longer just ignore it.

    Fulton Sheen wrote a brilliant essay touching on this titled "The Psychology of Conversion". It is well worth the read and speaks almost exactly to the kind of existential crisis that was going on in my own life at the time.

    http://northamericanmartyrs.org/pdf/The_Psychology_of_Conversion.pdf

    Excerpt:

    "[…] Involved in the struggle is the impression that one is being sought by Someone—by the “Hound of Heaven” in Thompson’s language—who will not leave us alone. The tragedy is that many souls, feeling this anxiety, seek to have it explained away, instead of following it to where, at the end of the trail, it is seen as God and actual grace working on the soul. The voice of God causes discontent within the soul in order that the soul may search further and be saved. It embarrasses the soul, for it shows us the truth, tears off all the masks and masquerades of hypocrisy. But it consoles the soul, too, by effecting a harmony with self, with others, and with God. It is for man to decide—to accept or reject the voice he hears."

  • Roger Hane

    All that, and he never mentioned Pascal. What is interesting is his characterization of the consequences of each of the alternatives. Especially in case D, where he praises the results of self-delusion.

    "If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values..." That argument has been dealt with before in many other posts. I won't get in to it again here.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "That argument has been dealt with before in many other posts."

      Perhaps dealt with, but not refuted. What ground for objective morality does atheism offer?

      • Susan

        Hi Brandon,
        >What ground for objective morality does atheism offer?

        First, atheism is an absence of belief in deities. I'm not sure how many times that says to be said here before theists here stop acting like it's supposed to be more than that.

        Second, what is "objective morality" and how would we know it is objective?

        • Sample1

          I'm not sure how many times that needs to be said here

          One would think the mods would get it, eh? Though I can understand the visitor-for-a-single-article might miss out.

          Perhaps this is a deeper issue (the refusal to accept the six five word definition of atheism) than we understand? Shall we start calling Catholics Mary-worshippers (as in latria, not hyperdulia) and see how far we get with that misunderstanding?

          Mike

          • Susan

            >Perhaps this is a deeper issue (the refusal to accept the six five word definition of atheism) than we understand

            I'm not sure it's a "deep" issue (although, I doubt that's what you meant). It has become frustrating.

            Misunderstanding is a perfectly acceptable part of dialogue. Willful misunderstanding is not acceptable at all. It makes for a very one-sided "dialogue".

          • Susan

            Hi Mike,

            How do you get the vertical blue bar quote you use (as opposed to the tacky indent I've been using)?

          • Sample1

            Mike

          • Susan

            Thanks Mike. That helps.

          • Sample1

            One of my favorite quotes to the problem you've pointed out is:

            Where religion is weak, atheism is weak

            I think this demonstrates an excellent visual for the definition of atheism.

            Mike

          • Susan

            Where religion is weak, atheism is weak

            That about covers it.

          • Sample1

            I think it was someone from the Dawkins site that said it. Anyway, to them the credit.

            Mike

          • Sample1

            Willful misunderstanding is also known as Lying for the LORD (or Lying for Yahweh). I've seen some hints of that here, but not enough to make me jump ship. I don't usually associate that tactic with Catholics.

            Mike

          • Susan

            Willful misunderstanding

            I don't associate it with any group in particular. I do recognize it though as a strategy (whether intentional or unintentional) to control the discussion, rather than to have one.

            Definitions and support for those definitions is fundamental in any discussion.

            When calls for those are repeatedly ignored and the reset button is continuously hit, we aren't going to make much progress.

      • Max Driffill

        What is to refute? No one can offer an objective morality. All we can do is have the discussion, and try to argue our case.
        Even if there are gods capable of handing down edicts there is no way for us to decide if they are objectively moral. They would moral only relative to the law giver-for all we know.
        If the rules are actually objectively moral, they are so without any input from gods. A simple decree from a god doesn't tell us if the decree is objectively moral. It just tells us something about the god and what it finds to be moral.

        But here we run into the first of many problems. We never hear from gods. We hear from people who arrogate authority in the name of gods. Never do we hear directly from gods themselves.

        If a god were to offer us an objective moral, we would have no way to really know this.
        Whatever route we take, we are still left with the arguments and debates about morality.

        • Susan

          Hi Max,
          I couldn't help but take the bait either but for goodness' sake, this has gone on long enough.
          How many times has this point been made and Brandon has it utterly ignored it at every turn.
          It is not our job to "refute" it. It is Brandon's job to justify his position. He hasn't defined "objective morality", let alone supported its existence.
          On top of that, he's asked what "ground for objective morality atheism offers".
          It's Brandon's turn to make sense of his ill-defined assertions.
          So far, there is nothing to refute.

  • vito

    "If B is the case then you risk missing out on this infinite good."

    You risk it anyway becaus of the possibility of choosing the "wrong" religion. So in any case you have to see which God runs the worst hell, and then ballance your risks again. I hear in Islam hell is very bad, especially for Catholics, so make sure you make the right pick. Second, you risk missing out on the infinite good anyway by committing any of the mortal sins, you don't exactly need need disbelief or atheism to end up in hell.
    Catholic hell visionnaries reported that most of the people in hell are there because of the sins of the flesh, not atheism.

    "If C is the case then what awaits you after this life is not heaven but non-existence."

    You mean hell and eternity of torture of course, but thanks for an attempt for a euphemism. Non-existence is not a thing you can scare too many people with. We've all been there - before we were born. Not that bad. You're not gonna win any believers if you remove hell and eternal torture from Catholic teaching, while Islam retains this marketing advantage.

    "A bit of inconvenience" you say.. You must realy realy be kidding here. If following Christ is only an insignificant inconvencience to you, I can tell you for sure: you are not doing it right. You probably have not even tried it. If you really follow Jesus teachings and the rules imposed by the Catholic church, it must change your life dramatically.. The same can probably be said about many other religions. Perhaps you are reffering to Cafeteria Catholics...

  • Budge_1

    Some people talk about their "need" for a god. I must have missed that program. Maybe I was never issued one, and I am not alone. Not for one second have I ever felt anything like that. OK, maybe when wishing for a lottery win, but that is as close as I ever got. So I look at "those" people with a squint, like they have something wrong with them, like Flat Earthers. Not worth my time to even engage them in conversation. Life is too short, unless they want to debate the subject, and then I might make time. Debating is fun when you have all the evidence on your side. Set 'em up, knock 'em down. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. These comments "It seems to me that god does exist" have as much credibility as me claiming there are aliens visiting earth. Cool idea, but without proof, sorry Charley. I am certainly not going to adjust my life on the basis that they have, but no one has ever made a movie of first contact. No tinfoil helmets for me. Ever notice one of the major features of religions is the wearing of different headgear ?, Scarves, veils, boxes, pointy hats, the list goes on.

    About helping someone in need........I do that, regularly, in small ways. Not because I hope they will do the same for me, I may never see them again. I do it because it feels good. Any day is better when I helped someone. How would you explain teachers who are atheists ? They simply want to help. Maybe when I hold the door for someone, I should start saying "Thank god an atheist was there to hold the door open for you."

    Your list of four points omitted one feature that applies to at least two of them.....those who believe in a god, whether or not one exists. They run a risk of being attacked, even killed, by those who believe in a different god, or the same god, but in a different way, and JUST due to that difference. Oh, sorry, even if you don't believe in any god, you are still at risk of being attacked and killed by those who do. And the curious thing is that in almost every case of a god belief, no matter which one, or which way, those who believe may want to attack or kill you. If they are civilised enough to refrain from that, then they still want to control you. A famous philosopher once said something like "Why can't we all just get along ?" We can't, in many cases due to religion. If people who believe in any of the 3,000 gods could just keep their beliefs to themselves, the world would be a better place. But no, they all want to control others. We don't have this problem with people whose favourite colour is green, or with those who like historical novels. Religion seems to be the major cause of conflict between individuals. I saw a photo recently of a t-shirt that said "Religion - together, we can find a cure". I think I will track it down and buy one. One small step.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    It's interesting that Mr. Fradd does not continue in Pascal's chapter 233 to the point where the good Blaise suggests that the unbeliever should mimic the behavior of those who do not believe, making the point that this action will "deaden your acuteness".

    If there is a learned Catholic scholar on this board, (the motto of which is "Come, let us reason together"), who can make the case that what is needed to spread the faith is to deaden the mental acuteness of unbelievers, by all means, let him have a go at it.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      It's interesting that Mr. Fradd does not continue in Pascal's chapter 233 . . .

      It's only fair to note that Fradd is making an argument that is similar to Pascal's wager, or may be inspired by Pascal's wager, but he is not promoting Pascal's wager itself. So there's no reason to criticize him for not making the same argument Pascal makes.

  • Latitude89

    Pascal's Wager has never sat right with me. I think it is logically consistent, but there is something sort of cheap and base about it that seems to conflict with the Christian understanding of God and humanity. It basically tries to argue for the rationality of belief in God by appealing to our selfish desire for self-preservation, or our desire to "protect our asses" (to put it crassly). In this way, it turns us inwards, basing the rationale for belief in God on our love of self, not on our love of God.

    I suppose one could argue that Pascal's Wager is merely a first step that brings an undecided person to an imperfect belief in God (imperfect because it is rooted in self love), and that by opening him/her to God it will over time develop into a more mature and full belief that is not rooted in self interest. But I'm not so sure. It still seems suspect that a selfish impulse could be the first step on any true path to belief in God.

  • Paul Mealing

    I tried to post a comment yesterday, but it didn't get through, apparently, so I'll try again.

    'If atheism were true then there would be no objective moral values... There couldn’t be anything wrong with believing if there were no such thing as right and wrong to begin with.'

    Only in America could someone make such an outrageous, not to mention ignorant, statement and get away with it. I come from Oz and even Cardinal George Pell (known for his own outrageous statements) would try to defend that.

    Regards, Paul.

    • ZenDruid

      So how is the Royal Commission going? I understand Pell was already caught in a DARVO (Deny, Accuse, Reverse Victim and Offender)

      But hey, anyway, we don't need no stinkin' objective moral values... we're human; we subjectivized them when we were still crapping our nappies.