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Is Religion Evil? Secularism’s Pride and Irrational Prejudice

ReligiousWar

The common wisdom in many circles (most located in certain cities on the East and Left Coasts) is that religion, in general, is a bad thing, and that in the hands of "fundamentalists," the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and ultra-super-radical-Islamic terrorists, it is inevitably evil. Eliminating religion, it is then suggested or even openly argued, is a sure way to rid the world of evil. The term "religion," it should be noted, almost always refers to Christianity (or a form of pseudo-Christianity) and then, in some cases, to Islam.

An example of such thinking is the story of a film that documents the abuse of religion and the deadly bigotry that can flow from racists who twist the Bible for evil purposes. The Detroit Free Press reports on a showing of the documentary at Rochester College in Michigan and the reaction to it:

In the often-emotional discussion after the film, Rubel Shelly, a Rochester College professor who teaches courses on religion, told the crowd, "This startles me, aggravates me and humbles me. It scares the life out of me."

He said the film made him wonder about everything from the abuse of Christianity by white-supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan to the twisting of Islam by suicide bombers. "For me, the insight from this film is that religion can become downright evil," he said.

Based on these comments, one might conclude that the film is about "white-supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan" or "suicide bombers" or perhaps a crazed "fundamentalist" Christian who tried to bomb an abortion clinic. But the film (which aired on PBS in Michigan) is titled "Theologians Under Hitler: Could It Happen Again?":

The film focuses on several 1930s-era Protestant theologians in Germany who encouraged the rise of Nazism, publicly praising it as a gift from God to resurrect the impoverished German people. These men also added their moral weight to the attempted destruction of Judaism.
 
Among the most infamous was Gerhard Kittel, at the time a world-famous Protestant expert on the ancient history of the Bible. Far from a marginal figure or thug, like many of Hitler's early followers, Kittel taught at the centuries-old Tubingen University, the same school that later would have Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, on its faculty.

Reading this, a couple of questions come to mind. First, was Gerhard Kittel some sort of knuckle-dragging, half-witted "fundamentalist"? No, he wasn’t. On the contrary, he was a highly regarded and well-educated New Testament scholar who produced work – the ten-volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament – that is still used today.

Secondly, if religion is proven bad because Kittel and some other Christians supported the Nazis, what was proven by the many Protestants and Catholics—including the much-maligned Pope Pius XII—who helped save hundreds of thousands of Jews? What about Hitler’s obsessive hatred of orthodox Christianity? Is religion itself really the problem? Specifically, when someone states that "religion can become downright evil," is he saying that religion inevitably leads to evil, or religious people commit the majority of evil acts, or that the religious impulse must be severely contained (or even destroyed)?

Sam Harris thinks so. The popular atheist author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the End of Reason (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 2004) makes a passionate, if not convincing, case for the elimination of religion, namely (of course) Christianity and Islam. Lamenting that many people, including some public leaders, still take seriously Christian doctrine, Harris writes: "As we stride boldly into the Middle Ages, it does not seem out of place to wonder whether the myths that now saturate our discourse will wind up killing many of us, as the myths of others [terrorists] already have."

He then boldly insists that "faith" must go the way of the dodo bird: "We must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it. … It is imperative that we begin speaking plainly about the absurdity of most of our religious beliefs" (47, 48). It comes as no surprise that Harris’s polemic is praised by Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, who advocates infanticide and euthanasia and all else in-between (yet, irrationally, Singer spent much moneykeeping alive his mother, who is stricken with Alzheimer's disease).

Professor Shelly apparently missed Harris’s book (which was well-received among those who read The New York Times Book Review—"This in an important book"—and sleep in on Sunday mornings). Still, when a professor of religion states, "For me, the insight from this film is that religion can become downright evil," one can be forgiven for wondering what they have studied and if they have ever contemplated human nature, both by considering the actions/thoughts of others and examining their own actions/thoughts. Sure, there is a sense in which "religion can become downright evil," which is because people can become downright evil. As G.K. Chesterton rightly noted somewhere (the exact location escapes me), if you think the world is in bad shape you might be shocked how much worse it would be if Christianity weren’t around. And before anyone argues that it’s a completely subjective point, do check out The Black Book of Communism.

The problem many people have today is not that they deny outright the existence of evil, but that they deny they could have anything to do with evil. Sure, evil is personal and is committed by persons—but not by me. Yes, Hitler was human—but I’m different from Hitler. Some folks aren’t even comfortable at that distance, so they create more space by conceiving of evil as something done to them or forced upon them (usually by an institution) rather than a specific attack on the good and on others that humans can freely choose to commit. Another comment by Professor Shelly from the Free Press article points toward this second option:

Without a stricter separation of church and state, Shelly argued, "we can still allow ourselves as Christians to be played by political power," just as in Germany in the 1930s. At that point, he turned to Martin and asked, "So where are the religious leaders who are strong enough to resist the stroking of political power today?"

The implication, it seems clear, is that evil comes in the form of large, faceless, and frightening institutions—usually political—that force themselves on us. Strangely enough, a common (and sometimes warranted) criticism of some "fundamentalists" is that they have a conspiratorial mindset and operate out of fear of the Big, Bad Bogeyman (the U.N., the European Union, Hollywood, etc.). But if one feature of "fundamentalism" is an irrational, conspiratorial, and highly emotional fear of beliefs and institutions that we do not understand (nor try to understand), then "fundamentalism" is hardly limited to the realms of traditional Christianity, conservative politics, or Middle America. Nor is evil the sole property of a certain religion, political party, or ideology, even if a particular religion or ideology carries fuel that feeds the thought and actions of a person bent on committing acts of evil.

Admittedly, it is often difficult to see where religious teaching ends and adherence to that teaching begins. It becomes even more difficult when the teaching appears to be ambivalent or open to different interpretations. But to say, for instance, that a priest who molests a boy does so because of his religion (or, as it is sometimes argued, the unrealistic or "unnatural" disciplines of his religion) is to ignore that Catholicism condemns such an act. In the case of Kittel, I don’t know all of the influences—either theological or political—that shaped his thinking. But I know that nearly a million Jews were saved by the actions of Pope Pius XII, who acted in accord with the religious belief that all men are created in the image of God and that murder is evil. (And yet, when many people think of Christianity and Nazism, they also think of "Hitler’s Pope," a sad testament to the reality of evil attacks on truth.)

We can see the effects of this skewed thinking when confronted with the "solution" so often promoted by educators such as Professor Shelly, which is a "stricter separation of church and state." If that is the answer, look no further than the former Soviet Union to see what happens when the ultimate separation of church and state takes place—that is, when the state essentially destroys the church (and I use "church" here to mean an authentic body of Christians who don't give lip service the state to save their skins). The result is not just the eradication of traditional religion but also the establishment of a grotesque and bloody new religion—or anti-religious religion.

In the words of Simone Weil: "Marxism is undoubtedly a religion, in the lowest sense of the word. Like every inferior form of the religious life it has been continually used, to borrow the apt phrase of Marx himself, as an opiate for the people." Weil's remark is quoted in Raymond Aron's The Opium of the Intellectuals, a classic work of political reflection on radical politics, especially Marxism and Communism. In another work, The Dawn of Universal History,Aron (1905-1983)—a French intellectual who was once classmates with Sartre but chose a far different path from the famed existentialist—has a lengthy analysis of "The Secular Religions," which include Fascism, Nazism, Marxism, and Stalinism.

Aron writes that these secular religions "related everything—men and things, thoughts and deeds—to that ultimate end [the totalitarian goals of each respective political movement], and utility in terms of that end is the measure of all values, even spiritual ones. Partisans of such religions will without any qualms of conscience make use of any means, however horrible, because nothing can prevents the means from being sanctified by the end. In other words, if the job of religion is to set out the lofty values that give human existence its direction, how can we deny that the political doctrines of our own day are essentially religious in character?" He then points out how these secular religions provide an interpretation of the world, the meaning or source of suffering, salvation and the hope of a future utopia, and the demand of sacrifice by commitment to the "movement."

Oddly enough, Harris also recognizes the religious character of certain totalitarian ideologies, although his comments suggest that his reasoning is self-serving: "Consider the millions of people who were killed by Stalin and Mao: although these tyrants paid lip service to rationality, communism was little more than a political religion. … Even though their beliefs did not reach beyond this world, they were both cultic and irrational" (79; emphasis added). Readers are apparently expected to take on good faith that Harris is not just paying lip service to rationality, but hates religion for perfectly rational, scientific reasons.

The point is that every "ism"—even atheism, materialism, and the "pragmatism" endorsed by Harris—plays riffs based on the same tunes since man moves to a religious beat; to further the metaphor, man has music within him and longs to know the composer. He is, in other words, a religious animal who thinks religious thoughts and has religious impulses. In the words of Chesterton:

Every man in the street must hold a metaphysical system, and hold it firmly. The possibility is that he may have held it so firmly and so long as to have forgotten all about its existence. This latter situation is certainly possible; in fact, it is the situation of the whole modern world. The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be said even that the modern world, as a corporate body, holds certain dogmas so strongly that it does not know that they are dogmas. (Heretics, [Ignatius, 1986], p. 205).

So, one of dogmas (either conscious or otherwise) of avowed secularists is that religion is unreasonable and almost inevitably produces evil. Another is that some form of pure secularism (often described using terms such as "education," "progressive thinking," "enlightenment," "sophisticated," "scientific," and so forth) is the much-needed answer to the problems that plague humanity.

But Chesterton is correct in observing that there "are two things, and two things only, for the human mind, a dogma and a prejudice" (What’s Wrong With the World [Ignatius, 1987], p. 48), and that doctrine "is a definite point," while prejudice is "a direction." Religion, especially orthodox Christianity, is despised because it is a definite and specific faith. Instead of vague platitudes about love, the Christian Faith speaks of specific suffering and a definite Cross. Instead of hazy affirmations of the goodness of man, Catholicism teaches a specific doctrine of sin and makes definite moral demands.

And instead of a general appeal to "just get along," the Church insists on specific sacrifices and definite choices between good and evil—and bluntly says that all of us are capable of evil, regardless of how non-religious our religion might pretend to be.
 
 
(Image credit: The Day)

Carl Olson

Written by

Carl E. Olson is the editor of Catholic World Report and IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the best-selling author of Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"? (Ignatius, 2003), which was selected by the Associated Press as one of the best religious titles of 2003, and co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius, 2004). Carl's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Raised in a Fundamentalist home, he attended an Evangelical Bible college, and entered the Catholic Church in 1997. He holds an MTS from the University of Dallas. A well-respected author, Carl writes a weekly Scripture column, "Opening the Word" for Our Sunday Visitor, and has also written for First Things, This Rock/Catholic Answers Magazine, Envoy, Crisis, National Review Online, and National Catholic Register. Find more from Carl at the Ignatius Insight Scoop blog.

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  • Peter

    ""We must find our way to a time when faith, without evidence, disgraces anyone who would claim it"

    I agree. Faith without evidence is absurd. Faith in a Creator without being surrounded by the signs of a Creator would be absurd. Thankfully, we are surrounded by those signs, which renders belief in a Creator nether absurd nor disgraceful.

    • Well this is really the issue in dispute. You see evidence of a creator all around you, I do not. We should work hard to figure our which one of us is right.

      What evidence do you see for a creator? And not just a creator, but a god? More than that how do you know you have faith in this creator and not a myth?

      • Peter

        I am personally satisfied that the signs I observe around me, and which are being further revealed by science, point not only to the existence of a Creator/Designer but also to the kind of attributes which such a Creator/Designer would have.

        Since the religion I follow, Christianity, has for centuries proclaimed the Creator to have attributes similar to those revealed by my own observations, it is not unreasonable for me to believe the other claims of the Christian religion even though they have not yet been observed.

        • William Davis

          Out of curiosity, what would a universe with no creator would look like? How do you think we can tell the difference?

          • Anna White

            For starters, try explaining the place of appreciation of beauty in the evolutionary theory, for example. And I'm not talking about attraction to a beautiful person. I'm talking about independent, completely subjective concepts of beauty, whether in nature, or art, or music. What would be it's purpose if there is no metaphysical, if there was no creator to imbue us with those features, when they have 0 place in a materialistic world view.

          • William Davis

            That doesn't answer my question, and difficulty with explaining things has nothing to do with the fact of the matter. I could explain the rotation of the sun around the earth (which is wrong) by a god with a chariot pulling it. Great, simple explanation, but it's wrong.

            Explaining something as high level, and relatively subjective as beauty can be difficult, and I don't see how the existence of a creator helps explain anything (this of course is not evidence against the existence of a creator). It might make you feel better if you think the creator finds the same things beautiful as you do, but I don't see that as an explanation as such. Speaking of evolutionary explanations (the idea there is God or evolution as an explanation is a false dichotomy, there could be other paradigms with explanations) here's a video and a link. Personally I prefer natural beauty (stars, scenery) with my eyes, and western music with my ears. I'm curious how you explain the fact that Indians and Muslims find their music beautiful, and I can't stand it for the most part. Which one does God like?

            https://www.ted.com/talks/denis_dutton_a_darwinian_theory_of_beauty?language=en

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_aesthetics

            But back to my question, what would a universe without a creator look like? To me confirmation bias plays a massive role on both sides.

          • Andrew Y.

            I for one can't even begin to imagine a universe without a creator. What would a statue look like without a sculptor? Not only would it not be a statue, it would not even be.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Comparatio claudicat. The universe is not a statue. It is an evolutionary proces with laws of its own.

          • Andrew Y.

            Indeed the universe itself is not a statue but the laws that govern its evolutionary process are quite static.

          • William Davis

            Indeed the universe itself is not a statue but the laws that govern its evolutionary process are quite static.

            As far as we know. If we begin to explore the universe, we could find location variation in these laws. I think assuming they are the same everywhere and throughout time is a reasonable assumption, but it is an assumption. The results of evolutionary processes are the opposite of static, of course.

          • Andrew Y.

            Good point. I actually think temporal variation is more likely than location variation. But the discovery of either would not change the laws themselves, only our understanding of them.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Not true. And it doesn't need a sculptor either.

          • WeAreThey

            So the universe has "created" these "laws of its own"?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Not necessarily. It is not inconceivable that our universe is only a part or an aspect of an immensely greater whole. It is possible that "something" in this whole has caused the Big Bang that is at the origine of our universe with its physical time and space and the laws of physics. So our universe did not create itself. One could of course say that the more we discover about the origin of the universe, the greater the mystery. What this "mystery" is, I do not know. I certainly do not believe it is a God who set up this immense construction and then, as the icing on the cake, created humans. I think we are here by accident and create a God to comfort ourselves for our being lost in a hostile universe.

          • William Davis

            I for one can't even begin to imagine a universe without a creator.

            The inability to imagine the universe without a creator has little value in trying to determine whether or not one actually exists, it only informs us of your imagination. I can imagine it both ways, making me an agnostic :)

          • Andrew Y.

            I don't think it is without value. To quote Chesterton:

            I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking [...] as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY as the fact that two and one trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot IMAGINE two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail.

          • William Davis

            For the sake of discussion, let's suppose what we can imagine has value. I can easily imagine the universe being a brute fact in and of itself (I can even show a philosophical proof of this, for whatever it is worth). Thus we have two contrary imaginations. We are still nowhere (at least in my view).

          • Andrew Y.

            I didn't intend to use my imagination as an argument for the existence of a creator, only as an explanation for what I think the universe would look like without a creator: nothing.

            I am curious to read your philosophical proof of the universe being a brute fact. Who knows, maybe it will expand my apparently limited imagination :)

          • William Davis

            This is my favorite one. It's specifically a proof that only God exists and it allows for multiple "modes" of existence, but it does preclude Christian dualism (i.e. the universe is one substance and God/angels/souls are something else). If it's of any interest, this is the "God" Albert Einstein believed in.

            In propositions one through fifteen of Part One, Spinoza presents the basic elements of his picture of God. God is the infinite, necessarily existing (that is, uncaused), unique substance of the universe. There is only one substance in the universe; it is God; and everything else that is, is in God.

            Proposition 1: A substance is prior in nature to its affections.

            Proposition 2: Two substances having different attributes have nothing in common with one another. (In other words, if two substances differ in nature, then they have nothing in common).

            Proposition 3: If things have nothing in common with one another, one of them cannot be the cause of the other.

            Proposition 4: Two or more distinct things are distinguished from one another, either by a difference in the attributes [i.e., the natures or essences] of the substances or by a difference in their affections [i.e., their accidental properties].

            Proposition 5: In nature, there cannot be two or more substances of the same nature or attribute.

            Proposition 6: One substance cannot be produced by another substance.

            Proposition 7: It pertains to the nature of a substance to exist.

            Proposition 8: Every substance is necessarily infinite.

            Proposition 9: The more reality or being each thing has, the more attributes belong to it.

            Proposition 10: Each attribute of a substance must be conceived through itself.

            Proposition 11: God, or a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses eternal and infinite essence, necessarily exists. (The proof of this proposition consists simply in the classic “ontological proof for God's existence”. Spinoza writes that “if you deny this, conceive, if you can, that God does not exist. Therefore, by axiom 7 [‘If a thing can be conceived as not existing, its essence does not involve existence’], his essence does not involve existence. But this, by proposition 7, is absurd. Therefore, God necessarily exists, q.e.d.”)

            Proposition 12: No attribute of a substance can be truly conceived from which it follows that the substance can be divided.

            Proposition 13: A substance which is absolutely infinite is indivisible.

            Proposition 14: Except God, no substance can be or be conceived.

            This proof that God—an infinite, necessary and uncaused, indivisible being—is the only substance of the universe proceeds in three simple steps. First, establish that no two substances can share an attribute or essence (Ip5). Then, prove that there is a substance with infinite attributes (i.e., God) (Ip11). It follows, in conclusion, that the existence of that infinite substance precludes the existence of any other substance. For if there were to be a second substance, it would have to have someattribute or essence. But since God has all possible attributes, then the attribute to be possessed by this second substance would be one of the attributes already possessed by God. But it has already been established that no two substances can have the same attribute. Therefore, there can be, besides God, no such second substance.

            If God is the only substance, and (by axiom 1) whatever is, is either a substance or in a substance, then everything else must be in God. “Whatever is, is in God, and nothing can be or be conceived without God” (Ip15). Those things that are “in” God (or, more precisely, in God's attributes) are what Spinoza calls modes.

            As soon as this preliminary conclusion has been established, Spinoza immediately reveals the objective of his attack. His definition of God—condemned since his excommunication from the Jewish community as a “God existing in only a philosophical sense”—is meant to preclude any anthropomorphizing of the divine being. In the scholium to proposition fifteen, he writes against “those who feign a God, like man, consisting of a body and a mind, and subject to passions. But how far they wander from the true knowledge of God, is sufficiently established by what has already been demonstrated.” Besides being false, such an anthropomorphic conception of God can have only deleterious effects on human freedom and activity, insofar as it fosters a life enslaved to hope and fear and the superstitions to which such emotions give rise.

          • Ladolcevipera

            As you said yourself, beauty is purely subjective. It may or may not move us. As William Blake said:"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eye of others only a green thing that stands in the way".
            I look at the stars and find them beautiful, and I wonder; but at the same time I know there is a cold universe out there. So, what is the point? The point is it's pointless.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Something very similar to the universe that we observe....

          • VicqRuiz

            I think it was one of the banned posters who suggested that we live in a universe designed by God to be a perfect simulacrum of one in which he does not exist.

            Actually, I like this. Fits the Thomist cause-wrangling as well as empirical observations.......

          • Kevin Aldrich

            WD, this is the only universe we know of and it looks the way it does. The universe looks this way if God exists or if he does not.

          • William Davis

            I agree.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I basically agree with this. Personally, I would think that a universe created by a benevolent God would have less evil in it. (Although I don't want to start another PoE thread.) I can't say I can imagine what the universe would be like if there was a God.

            Much of it probably comes down to what we emphasize when we observe the universe or how we individually perceive the universe. Where a Christian may see design, I see cosmic chaos.

            Many theists use design arguments or fine tuning arguments. Many atheists will use an argument from poor design. I've often wondered which argument is more effective at changing minds.

          • William Davis

            Is the universe more chaotic or more ordered? Seems a matter of perspective doesn't it? It seems both to me, probably why I dither between atheism and deism, but stay pretty solidly in agnosticism if we're talking knowledge, not opinion.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't think we can put it all in some sort of scale and measure the order versus the chaos. The apparent design and fine tuning is explainable by noting that if we exist, we would exist in a universe that allows us to exist. The design type arguments get the causative arrow the wrong way.

            On the other hand, poor "design" and chaos seem irreconcilable with an omnimax type god. If this universe was designed, it has been designed by an immensely incompetent designer. Certainly not a being worth of worship.

          • WeAreThey

            If everyone would obey the 10 benevolent Laws God commanded us to obey, there would not be any evil.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I disagree.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            what would a universe with no creator would look like?

            It wouldn't look like anything, since it would not exist.

          • William Davis

            So, for you, the existence of God is axiomatic as opposed to a conclusion reached by some process?

          • Mike

            if anything at all contingent exists there must be a creator of said thing...isn't this a basic truth, an axiom or a metaphysical necessity?

          • William Davis

            It's not a necessity. It's an intuition based on common experience. It might be true, it might not. We are only in a position to guess, not know. Enter faith.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            An invisible sky contingency???

          • William Davis

            This is a very childish comment for someone who is nearly 70 years old. I could respond to you with "you believe an invisible sky fairy made the universe?" but I won't. I take both positions (God or no God) as seriously as I can.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It was tongue in cheek. Perhaps a reminder that it is not merely the religious folks who hang something up in the air.

          • William Davis

            Have I personally ever claimed that "only religious folks hang something in the air". We have conversed enough that I would expect you to be somewhat familiar with me by now. I suppose my expectation is incorrect.

          • Mike

            it's like 2+2 = 4 is mere intuition? no i think that it is logically necessary otherwise science wouldn't work imho.

          • William Davis

            2+2 = 4 is empirically verifiable. Just get 4 apples, split them into 2 groups of 2, then recombine. The claim "science wouldn't work if God doesn't exist" seem not only a leap, but also extremely unpopular with actual scientists.

          • Mike

            but aren't you assuming there's something almost not material about "4" apples? i mean all you really get when you put 2 and 2 apples together is more of that "shape and color that seems to resemble" something called apple not actually something almost not material called "4"?

            plus i mean that w/o cause and effect there can be no real science and w/o "natures" of things there can be no science bc that's all that science does all day is try to figure out and systematize what the natures of different things are.

          • William Davis

            Last time I checked, apples are quite material.

          • Mike

            yes apples but NOT something you call the "number, 4"..i've never seen touched or smelled "4" and you haven't either.

            See if you can point to a thing any thing that is contingent on something else that was NOT caused then you'd have empirical proof that the idea is wrong.

          • William Davis

            4 is a symbol that represents something. We both see the symbol on the screen, and we can touch physical incarnations of it. In your brain such symbols are stored as semantic memory:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_memory

            Thus, even your mental representation of 4 is stored in a material form. It's fine to conceive of 4 as something immaterial, but that doesn't mean it actually is.

            Even if there is a first cause, which is entirely possible though not necessary, assuming it's the Christian God is a very big assumption.

          • Mike

            i don't think you can touch "4" sorry.

            yes i agree i wouldn't have a concept called "4" without being able to "see" "4" things but that's just begging the question.

            no one is assuming based on pure metaphysics that the first cause is JC or Christian God..there's alot more after that..BUT of the major religions the mono theist ones are uncanny in their beliefs about only 1 God.

          • William Davis

            Draw the number 4 on a piece of paper and touch it. You just touched the symbolic incarnation of far, as I said. The way it's represented inside you head is obviously radically different, but still.

            Have you ever read the objections the cosmological argument? There are several very serious ones. These things are just not so cut and dry as many here indicate.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmological-argument/

          • Mike

            unfortunately i've heard alot of objections but i honestly think they miss the point or beg the question or obfuscate...i've yet to see a serious on point objection.

            mind you i am not a phd in this stuff.

          • Ladolcevipera

            A regressus ad infinitum may be counterintuitive, but who knows... On the other hand there may be a first cause but we do not know it. Calling it "God" is a matter of faith. There can be no proof for faith because if there was a proof, it wouldn't be faith anymore but knowledge...

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, a regress to infinity for essentially ordered series is impossible. It's like an infinite series of gears without a motor. The gear alone does not have the power to turn. This is true of a series of gears. It does not change if you have an infinite series of gears, because none of them have the power to turn in and of themselves.

            An accidentally ordered series, such as mother giving birth to daughter who gives birth to grand-daughter, can in principle go back infinitely (although physics cautions us against this belief) because each element in the series possesses the power of giving birth in itself.

            A First Cause is not necessarily something first in time any more than Michelle Obama is the first lady to set foot in the USA.

            The consequences of First Cause (or First Mover or Necessary Being, et al.) are laid out in a series of subsequent theorems. Do not give up simply because the first theorem doesn't prove everything in the barn. Check Euclid for a comparison model.

            No one requires faith to be the absence of all knowledge. Remember, "faith" (fides) is the Latin form of "truth" (triewð) and is exemplified in the Beach Boys request that we "be true to your school." Neither, of course, actually means "fact." Science must indeed be "true to the facts" but a novel must be "true to life."

          • Ladolcevipera

            I have never been any good at physics or mathematics, so I am easily impressed. On the other hand I am not so sure that an infinite chain is an impossibility. Modern mathematics show that if one accepts a number of axioms and rules and respects agreements , it is possible to talk in a consistent manner about infinite sets, without contradicting oneself. You could of course argue that this is mathematical fiction and the infinite chain does not exist in reality. But then I could say that it is not logically inconsistent and that it is not impossible that it exist.
            And now you are going to lambaste me, so I am going to sit in a corner and sulk.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I am not so sure that an infinite chain is an impossibility.

            Philosophically, it is not; but physics tells us that the space-time manifold had a beginning and will have an end. So, it would seem to be a physical impossibility. It is only infinite regress (i.e., infinitely into the past) that is logically impossible and then only for certain kinds of causal series, as described above. Aquinas pointed this out himself.

            Infinity can be a useful mathematical abstraction. The Normal Distribution is useful for modelling (e.g.) the heights of adult Frenchmen. But the distribution equation runs off to infinity in both directions, while no physically real Frenchman has a negative height or a height of twenty feet tall.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Okay, exit infinite regress...(until further notice from the universe)

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It was the universe who exited the idea as a physically realizable thing. Big Bang, heat death, that sort of thing. But Aquinas assumed sec. arg. that the universe was eternal, and so did not appeal to this. He regarded infinite regress as possible for accidentally ordered series. We get confused because Modern thinkers only think about accidents.

          • Mike

            faith is trust in what reason reveals. Even pagan philosophers knew about God via natural theology.

          • David Nickol

            faith is trust in what reason reveals

            This isn't even remotely in line with Catholic thought.

            Faith is a grace

            153 When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come "from flesh and blood", but from "my Father who is in heaven". Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. "Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'"

            Faith is a human act

            154 Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to "yield by faith the full submission of. . . intellect and will to God who reveals", and to share in an interior communion with him.

            155 In faith, the human intellect and will cooperate with divine grace: "Believing is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace."

          • Ladolcevipera

            This isn't even remotely in line with Catholic thought.

            Strange to see how christians keep bickering with each other about their own faith...

            Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit.

            So why don't I receive this grace? It seems to me that you have to be already a believer before you receive it.

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            Sure you do. Can't you consider reason/knowledge is a grace for you. Why bother living, yet because there is grace (e.g. reason/knowledge)?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Now I am completely in the dark.

          • William Davis

            He's making things up too. That seems common with some of the Catholics here. I just posted the relevant catechism above with a link to it's location on the Vatican's website. Sad to see such misinformation being presented in a completely irresponsible fashion.

          • Alexandra

            Knowledge and reason can be a grace. It's not misinformation.

          • William Davis

            Do you have a source to back that up? Every Catholic source I have found (not to mention my own protestant training) says this is not so. Even here:

            f you took your parish’s catechism classes when you were growing up, you at least remember that there are two kinds of grace, sanctifying and actual. That may be all you recall. The names being so similar, you might have the impression sanctifying grace is nearly identical to actual grace. Not so.

            Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly, it is supernatural life.

            Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s a supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace.

            Imagine yourself transported instantaneously to the bottom of the ocean. What’s the very first thing you’ll do? That’s right: die. You’d die because you aren’t equipped to live underwater. You don’t have the right breathing apparatus.

            If you want to live in the deep blue sea, you need equipment you aren’t provided with naturally; you need something that will elevate you above your nature, something super- (that is, "above") natural, such as oxygen tanks.

            It’s much the same with your soul. In its natural state, it isn’t fit for heaven. It doesn’t have the right equipment, and if you die with your soul in its natural state, heaven won’t be for you. What you need to live there is supernatural life, not just natural life. That supernatural life is called sanctifying grace. The reason you need sanctifying grace to be able to live in heaven is because you will be in perfect and absolute union with God, the source of all life (cf. Gal. 2:19, 1 Pet. 3:18).

            If sanctifying grace dwells in your soul when you die, then you have the equipment you need, and you can live in heaven (though you may need to be purified first in purgatory; cf. 1 Cor. 3:12–16). If it doesn’t dwell in your soul when you die—in other words, if your soul is spiritually dead by being in the state of mortal sin (Gal. 5:19-21)— you cannot live in heaven. You then have to face an eternity of spiritual death: the utter separation of your spirit from God (Eph. 2:1, 2:5, 4:18). The worst part of this eternal separation will be that you yourself would have caused it to be that way.

            http://www.catholic.com/tracts/grace-what-it-is-and-what-it-does

          • Alexandra

            "Do you have a source to back that up?"

            Yes. Look up "charism".

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            Are you claiming you have the proper exegesis/hermeneutics for our Catholic doctrine?

            Kindly look to at its appendixes and annotation, and cross referencing

            Also we confess faith as a grace, faith as acquired, and faith a continual cooperation. It's not an either/or position, but an AND position. With this, it can be said that faith is not against reason and more so the statement that "faith is a trust that reason reveals".

            a) God has placed in our hearts a longing to seek and find him. St. Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We call this longing for God Religion.

            b) fides et ratio -From the Catholic point of view faith does not contradict reason, nor reason faith.
            "Even though faith is above reason, there can never be any real disagreement between faith and reason, since it is the same God who reveals the mysteries and infuses faith, and who has endowed the human mind with the light of reason. God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever be in opposition to truth."

            http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091998_fides-et-ratio.html

            ps. there's no reason to be sad. You're more making things up (or claiming more "Catholic" via reading). Faith and intellect is necessary to correctly understand the message of Jesus. What i mean by correctly understand is it is correctly lived it, and it's because he correctly understand.

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            Completely?

          • William Davis

            You are making things up:

            The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.39

            Grace has nothing to do with reason/knowledge according to the vatican. Here is more:

            1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.46

            1997 Grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ, the Head of his Body. As an "adopted son" he can henceforth call God "Father," in union with the only Son. He receives the life of the Spirit who breathes charity into him and who forms the Church.

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c3a2.htm

            Making things up just creates unnecessary confusion and isn't very Christian, is it?

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            Yet having participation in the life of God is having knowledge. But you can't have it, if he did not want too.

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            I'll also add faith is a grace. but grace itself is not faith itself, as faith is a type of grace.

            The uncreated divine Grace, the uncreated divine favour, causes in us created graces (e.g. faith), created gifts and benefits, for which we render acts of thanksgiving.

            The copy&paste from catechism does not follow "Grace has nothing to do with reason/knowledge according to the vatican." It did not hold you.

            "To illustrate this Catholic doctrine, that it is God who gives man the ability to merit, we must constantly recur to Christ's comparison: 'I am the vine, and you the branches. He that abideth in me beareth much fruit'. Neither Calvin nor Barth is able to explain this text. Calvin says: So you see, the branch severed from the trunk is thrown into the fire; it cannot, therefore, produce anything. We agree; the severed branch withers, but what if it remains attached to Christ? Then it bears fruit. Does the fruit come from the trunk or the branch? From the trunk through the branch. If we ask Barth whether it is God or man who produces the good act, God or the rose-tree that produces the rose, he answers that we base our reasoning on a simile. But the simile is taken from the Gospel!"

            AND (not either/or but it's AND!)

            7. Grace is, as it were, a participation in the divine nature. That is the definition always quoted by theologians. It is to be found in the second Epistle of St Peter (i. 3-4): 'As all things of his divine power which appertain to life and godliness are given us through the knowledge of him who hath called us by his own proper glory and virtue.

            https://www.ewtn.com/library/DOCTRINE/MNGGRACE.HTM

          • William Davis

            Thanks for the better explanation. Your original comment:

            Sure you do. Can't you consider reason/knowledge is a grace for you. Why bother living, yet because there is grace (e.g. reason/knowledge)?

            seemed to imply all reason/knowledge is grace, but now I see that this can apply to specific types of divine knowledge. I do seem to be incorrect, however, that knowledge can't be grace.

            I suppose it's true I don't speak "mandarin." This comes from a comical quote from a Catholic priest named John McKenzie:

            ”I think my colleagues in theology and exegesis are open to the charge that they have become mandarins, who speak only to other mandarins about topics which are of interest only to mandarins in a style of discourse which is gibberish to any except mandarins, and one sometimes wonders about them too. Scholarship is and ought to be a form of public service and not an expensive enterprise dedicated to the production of a few more mandarins who can spend a leisurely life in the production of other mandarins”.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_L._McKenzie

          • Mike

            interesting thx.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Faith is indeed trust, not an exact science. It is certainly not illogical to interpret a number of phenomena as possibly pointing to a transcendent reality. What this reality is like, we can't possibly know. That is a question of revelation, of faith, of trust. You probably believe that "pagan" philosophers were christians "avant la lettre". I don't.

          • Mike

            what do you think makes most sense of the data?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Science gives us correct information about at least one of the possible aspects of reality. We can be sure of that because science works, so the world must at least minimally be as science says it is. At the same time there might be more to reality than we know. But even then I do not see why God would reveil himself only in christian faith.

          • Mike

            i agree and i agree that God has revealed aspects of his "nature" to other religious traditions; all to some extent have beliefs that "point"to God.

            natural science gives reliable info about at least ONE ASPECT of reality; again very important point.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No.

          • William Davis

            what would a universe with no creator would look like?

            It wouldn't look like anything, since it would not exist.

            This is what you said. If you think a universe without a creator wouldn't exist, you have decided a priori that a creator must exist, because the universe exists. Thus there is no argument that could change your mind. Axiomatic: taken for granted; self-evident.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's just the logical response to those who claim that a world without a creator would look the same as a world with one. Under the hypothesis, without one, there wouldn't be a world. The idea that something exists without a reason for existing is an odd one.

          • William Davis

            Fair enough, I guess it looked "snarkier" than what you intended.

            The idea that something exists without a reason for existing is an odd one.

            What, would you say, is the reason God exists?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In the so-called argument from contingency, we conclude to a necessary being that is Existence Itself. Existence exists, and cannot not exist.

          • William Davis

            Why isn't the universe "existence itself"? Serious question.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Because the universe is a mereological sum of existants, and each of those existants can either exist or not. Stars come into being and pass out of being. Ditto protons and photons and everything else. Contingent being depends at bottom on something necessary, and nothing in the universe exists necessarily. Even space-time, by current theory at least, is contingent on mass-energy.

            Mass-energy cannot be created or destroyed, only altered as to its form. This led Heisenberg to equate it with Aristotle's prime matter. But eternity is no cure for contingency, as the example of the footprint illustrates. (The eternal footprint in the eternal sand is still contingent on the eternal foot. If someone asks, "Why do you keep the hammer in the refrigerator?" it is no answer to say "We have always kept the hammer in the refrigerator!") Prime matter does not actually exist; it is pure potency. It only exists in some form, such as photons, quarks (if they are physically real), et al. So the question is what gives form to mass-energy (accepting Heisenberg, sec. arg.)? It cannot give itself form because it is ex hypothesi formless and as having only potential existence has no actual existence.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I always get confused when prime matter or matter in the A/T sense gets applied to physical mass/energy. Can that really be done? Do we observe anything in existence with pure potency? I think the A/T system says that pure potency does not really exist in the universe.

          • William Davis

            I, by no means, think he is surely wrong, but there seems to be so many vague terms and loose reasoning involved in all of this that I get annoyed when people suppose they have "proven" something with these arguments. They definitely justify belief in God, or at least a "first cause", but prove? I don't agree.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            For me the problem is listening in on a conversation in which I don't understand what all the words mean.

          • William Davis

            Or (in my case) what I think the word means is apparently not what he thinks it means, lol. Like we are using different versions of English or something.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know enough A/T vocabulary to know that what it means by matter is not what physicists mean by it. What I don't see is how they interrelate. YOS, I'm confident, can clarify this.

          • Mike

            Wouldn't "prime matter" just be whatever leptons and quarks are made of?

            "All matter around us is made of elementary particles, the building blocks of matter. These particles occur in two basic types called quarks and leptons."

            http://home.web.cern.ch/about/physics/standard-model

          • Kevin Aldrich

            From my knowledge of what prime matter means, it does not actually exist. It is an idea. It is not what things are made of.

          • Mike

            yes i agree.

          • DJ Wambeke

            The A/T conception of prime matter is admittedly hard to wrap one's mind around (and I'm not sure mine will be a perfect explanation either) but quarks and leptons would definitely not be prime matter in the A/T sense. Prime matter is simply the undifferentiated "stuff" of the created world. The moment one can identify the "stuff" as something (in other words as a unified object with identifiable properties) it is no longer prime matter. So while physicists might consider quarks & leptons as the basic building blocks of the material universe they aren't Aristotle's prime matter since they are specific kinds of objects with identifiable properties.

            This is why prime matter does not actually exist. It always exists as something else.

          • Mike

            thanks and by "made of" i mean what ever that "stuff" is that those leptons etc. are made of...whatever that pure potential is which we may never know "what" it is but we know that it must exist.

          • DJ Wambeke

            Yes. The tricky thing is that its not that we may never know "what" it is it's that we cannot know "what" it is because the second we know "what" it is we know it as something and therefore it's no longer prime matter. :-)

          • Mike

            yes i agree that that is what it must be: pure potential...like a form of mathematics that you have to discover in order to use in other theorems, like a metaphysical necessity.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Do we observe anything in existence with pure potency?

            No. It is by nature unobservable. That is why we have never observed mass-energy, but only certain particular forms of mass-energy. Once potency has been actualized by form, it becomes real, and hence observable. Think of Schroedinger's cat which is in potency to being alive or dead until observed. Or the pile of building materials, which is in potency to being a house, a gazebo, a gallows, or some other structure until building actually commences and these potentials are collapsed into a single actuality of (say) a house.

          • William Davis

            Wiki has a pretty good write up on the cosmological argument (which is what we are apparently into). Lot's of back and forth, and too off topic to continue here (plus I've caught some kind of virus) as this could go on forever.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument

            One minor point I would make is that the trinity, to me at least, indicates God is a sum of existants (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) though I'm sure you would argue they all exist "necessarily"...or do they?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Since God is supposed to be a rational spirit (and it is in this sense that were are supposed to be in God's image) then there is something in God that is analogous to intellect and will. Aquinas proceeded as follows (digest version): the predicate of intellect has a subject and an object (as does the will). The subject in both cases is what we call the Father. God knows himself, so he is both subject and object of his intellect. The product of the intellect is a conception and is expressed in words, and so God as the object of knowing is said to be the Son and the Word. Similarly, the will is an appetite for the products of conception (either desire or revulsion). The Father desires the Son as good and so the object of the will is called the Spirit, which proceeds toward the beloved and returns.

            But notice that these three hypostases are not separate, but are God as subject and object of two processions. If you know yourself, you do not become two individuals, but are one individual, as knower and known. And so on. I promised a digest version.

          • George

            you should have clarified then.

          • Ye Olde Statistician
          • Peter

            The correct question to ask is: what would a universe with no signs of Creator would look like? It is the signs of a Creator which point to his existence.

            The signs of a Creator are, among others, that the universe has a beginning and (increasingly likely) an end, that it is governed by fixed universal laws, that it is configured from its inception for the widespread evolution of life, and that it is intelligible to us even though it existed aeons before we did

          • William Davis

            A universe with no sign of a Creator would have no beginning and no end, no fixed universal laws and no precise configuration at its inception, leading to a chaotic environment where everything or nothing could happen, and which would be utterly unintelligible.

            So you think, a universe with no sign of creator would have no life? If so, how could one actually observe such a universe. The universe, so far, does not appear to be teaming with life, at least not intelligent life.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox

            I've started reading a book on observation selection effects and I am just getting into the chapter on fine tuning. It might be easier to start the book from the beginning (it's difficult material) but he seems to be making some good points so far. Cosmic designer is definitely a consideration.

            http://www.anthropic-principle.com/?q=book/chapter_2#2a

        • VicqRuiz

          I am personally satisfied that the signs I observe around me.... point ..... also to the kind of attributes which such a Creator/Designer would have.

          Lots of us skeptics, observing the very same things you do, reach different conclusions about the supposed creator's attributes.

          • Peter

            So you don't question the Creator's existence, just his attributes?

          • VicqRuiz

            I'm saying that if someone were to suggest that the creator is indifferent, or outright malicious, I would have a much harder time making a case against a creator based on empirical observations.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        That external reality is lawful and consistent in a way that can be understood by the human mind; i.e., that the world is ordered. Among evidences are natural laws, such as those regarding gravity, electromagnetism, and evolution.

        But surely, a priori, one should expect the world to be chaotic, not to be grasped by thought in any way. One might (indeed one should) expect that the world evidenced itself as lawful only so far as we grasp it in an orderly fashion. This would be a sort of order like the alphabetical order of words. On the other hand, the kind of order created, for example, by Newton’s gravitational theory is of a very different character. Even if the axioms of the theory are posited by man, the success of such a procedure supposes in the objective world a high degree of order, which we are in no way entitled to expect a priori. Therein lies the miracle which becomes more and more evident as our knowledge develops.”
        -- Albert Einstein, Letter to M. Solovine

        • David Nickol

          It's pretty bizarre to quote Einstein as giving evidence for a creator when he himself didn't believe in one.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Perhaps, but I enjoy the irony. He saw clearly what was mysterious about it. I suppose one can wave his hands in the air and cry in ecstasy, IT JUST IS! but this is not intellectually more serious than to cry GODDIDIT!

          • I see the mystery in the apparent order in the Cosmos. But again I don't see how the mystery entails a creator. Concluding there is a creator removes the mystery.

            An inability to explain something such as gravity does not entail an explanation, it is evidence that we don't have an explanation.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Sure. For many people, their curiosity stops short. Many people get on quite well without the slightest interest in how or whether new species arise. Others are quite satisfied with the physics of vibrating strings without any need for a pianist.

        • I don't think those things entail a deity. The existence of invioble laws of nature entails the opposite to me.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Only if you believe in invisible sky laws.

        • William Davis

          Of course, the universe is both chaotic and ordered. Some only pay attention to the order, others only to the chaos. Some try to see both which can give you a headache ;) Perhaps and advanced enough intelligence can perceive the entirety as pure order, but both Einstein and I agree humans aren't smart enough, at least in our current form (of course would a different form still be "human")

          Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

      • Phil

        If one holds that we can know anything about the cosmos--that it is actually intelligible, as science assumes--then God must exist. The universe cannot give itself intelligibility.

        We could not rationally hold that the modern physical sciences come to any real truth in a universe with no God as classical theism holds actually exists.

        • "If one holds that we can know anything about the cosmos--that it is
          actually intelligible, as science assumes"

          My position on this depends on what you mean by "know". If you mean certainty, then no. I do not hold that we can "know" anything about the cosmos. If you mean "a high level of confidence based on the assumption that the past will be generally like the future" then yes I think we can hold that we can "know" things about the cosmos.

          The intelligibility of reality, any uniformity of nature, is not an assumption made by science. The assumption is that future observations will be similar to past observations. That things we identify as being a pattern, suggests the pattern will continue. This is the problem of induction and there are no solutions to it.

          "then God must exist. The universe cannot give itself intelligibility." Why not? Why cannot the the cosmos itself exist necessarily and be intelligible?

          Unlike religion, the physical sciences recognize that the problem of induction and limits issues constrain the ability to say anything certain about the cosmos. Though, for issues of convenience, such caveats are clunky. Even so, it is very rare for any scientist to use unequivocal language in stating most conclusions.

          • Phil

            The assumption is that future observations will be similar to past observations.

            Why is this a rational assumption?

            In other words, if one can't show, philosophically, that this is a rational assumption, science would then be completely be based upon an irrational assumption.

            "then God must exist. The universe cannot give itself intelligibility."
            Why not? Why cannot the the cosmos itself exist necessarily and be
            intelligible?

            The simplest way to show this is the understand that the entire physical cosmos (including the potentiality of a multi-verse) does not need to exist as it does.

            Take the entire physical cosmos--whatever that may be--and ask the question, "could this physical cosmos exist in some other way?" The answer will always be 'yes'. This means that the physical cosmos as a whole cannot necessarily exist because it could always exist in a different way. In fact, the physical cosmos could have existed in a potentiality infinite amount of different ways. So we need an explanation as to why it exists as it actually does. This answer can't come from within the physical cosmos itself.

            If it can't necessarily exist, this means that the explanation for the existence of the entire physical cosmos and its intelligibility must come from outside of the physical cosmos. (That is, it must be immaterial.)

            My position on this depends on what you mean by "know". If you mean
            certainty, then no. I do not hold that we can "know" anything about the
            cosmos. If you mean "a high level of confidence based on the assumption
            that the past will be generally like the future" then yes I think we can
            hold that we can "know" things about the cosmos.

            Yes to the latter. To "know" something simply means for the mind to be coming into conformity with the truth of reality. We can know something true about reality without knowing the whole of reality--which is what it would take to hold something with 100% certainty. 100% certainty is not possible in this life. But this does not mean that we are left in a state of complete skepticism with 0% certainty about anything,

            Unlike religion, the physical sciences recognize that the problem of
            induction and limits issues constrain the ability to say anything
            certain about the cosmos.

            I think you meant to say "philosophy doesn't recognize the problem of induction like the physical sciences do". Revealed Religion is a whole 'nuther beast as this goes to supra-rational knowledge.

            And so in response to that I would have to say that we have to understand exactly what philosophy is. Philosophy is not science, so if you try to use the scientific method to do philosophy that is like trying to use a hammer instead of a screwdriver.

            Philosophy and science are both valid ways of coming to know the truth of reality. But you don't use philosophy to do science and you don't use science to do philosophy. IN the end, science relies upon philosophical assumptions. So philosophy is primary to the sciences. That is why metaphysics is the "queen of the sciences". Metaphysics is the most fundamental realm of philosophy.

          • The assumption of induction is not rational, but once it is made, many rational conclusions can be made, contingent on this assumption being true. Yes, you are correct, not only science, but all empirical enquiry is contingent on this irrational assumption. This is why it is an assumption, not a conclusion.

            With respect to the contingency of the universe, you are conflating the nature of material reality with the existence of material reality. So instead of asking if the material universe "could be some other way" you should be asking "could all of this not be?" I don't know where to begin with this question, or the other for that matter. I don't see how we can even place probabilities on this question, even assuming induction is true(!), until we know something about how or if material reality came to exist. There is a hidden and unjustified premise at play on your part that it can't "just be". I see no reason to conclude it can't exist necessarily.

            I agree that religion, or some religions, are different than science and philosophy, though there is always overlap. I do not agree with the statement that science and philosophy are valid ways of coming to know the truth about reality. We never know if we have reached a conclusion that is absolutely true about reality. Science can never get you to certainty or truth. If induction is true, it can provide the highest level of confidence. Philosophy cannot help us with any truths, except for cogito ergo sum. For any claim about reality, science and philosophy require some content, some input. Because of the problem of induction this can work in only one case: conforming one's own existence.

          • Phil

            So instead of asking if the material universe "could be some other way" you should be asking "could all of this not be?" I don't know where to begin with this question, or the other for that matter. I don't see how
            we can even place probabilities on this question, even assuming induction is true(!), until we know something about how or if material reality came to exist. There is a hidden and unjustified premise at play on your part that it can't "just be". I see no reason to conclude it can't exist necessarily.

            I think that both the questions you reference of "why does physical reality exist as it does" and "why does physical reality exist at all" really get at the same point. They get at the point that physical entities are, by their very nature, contingent.

            The first question gets at the fact that physical reality could exist in a potentially infinite amount of unique ways, but the entirety of physical reality actually exists in one specific way. The second question gets at the fact that physical reality doesn't need to exist in the first place.

            Even if material reality existed eternally in the past, the question of why the cosmos exists as it does, or at all, right now and in the past would still be valid. Because either a person answers that question as, the entire cosmos "just is", which doesn't answer anything at all.

            This is why arguments for God's existence from contingency are so powerful.

          • I think this gets to the point. The person whose "answer" to the question of contingency is that the explanation "just is" offers not explanation at all.

            I think this is precisely what theists are doing. It is just pushing it back a step. Why is the cosmos contingent? God, what explains god? God just "is", it is uncaused, necessary by definition.

            I have a more humble position. I don't know if the cosmos is contingent or not, either in its existence or manifestation. I don't know where to begin with tat question. I am not at all convinced that material reality is not necessary in all senses of I the word.

          • Phil

            Two thoughts:

            1) It is good for a person to admit that she doesn't know the answer to a question, like you mention in regards to the question of the contingency. But remember, to be humble is not to be blissfully ignorant or ignore reasonable facts. We don't call a scientist prideful when they say that the earth is round. To be truly humble is to recognize the truth of reality and submit ourselves to it.

            All rational evidence points toward the fact that material realities are contingent. In fact one cannot even rationally propose how a material entity would be non-contingent. Therefore we can say humbly that material realities, as a whole, are contingent. This leads to point number 2:

            2) The theist actually does not say that God "just is". They say that God completely explains Himself. He is non-contingent. That is very different from saying that a contingent being "just is".

            This similar point as to when someone asks the question "what caused God?" Well, it's a ridiculous question because the person hasn't understood what is actually being proposed yet.

          • Actually there is no evidence for the contingency of the existence of matter. We've been through this tho.

            the question here is not whether a god explains himself. But whether it is reasonable to conclude such an entity exists.

            If matter is necessary, it would explain itself complete too. We don't know what explanation is or could be. Either one. Basically all the theist is doing is wrongly concluding the contingency of matter, and labeling the ignorance of what could cause it "God"

          • Phil

            Actually there is no evidence for the contingency of the existence of matter.

            What material entity does not rely on something outside of itself to explain how it exists as it does right now?

            This is one of the things someone has to show if they want to say that material entities are non-contingent.

          • There are two issues here, the arrangement of matter and the existence if matter.
            I would suggest that the existence of all matter and energy may not be contingent, while at the same time, the arrangement of this matter can be contingent, compared to some other arrangement.

            Think of it this way. The existence of God is, on your view a necessary fact. However, the choices god makes, to flood the world, to drink the wine and be crucified are contingent, god could have chosen otherwise.

            That said, I have no problem with strict determinism either. That the arrangement of matter could not have unfolded any other way.

          • Phil

            A further thought--let's think just about our own universe (whether there is more than 1 physical universe we don't know yet).

            What is matter/energy reliant upon to exist the way it does in our universe? It is the strong/weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, and possibly other forces. Could the strong/weak nuclear force be different than it is? Well, of course it could. Same goes for the electromagnetic force. Our entire universe could exist differently from how it does right now; it is not necessary.

            In one fell swoop we have discovered that our entire universe is contingent. It does not exist necessarily as it does right now. We need an explanation outside of the universe itself. So this means that the explanation for our universe either goes to a multi-verse or to an immaterial explanation. If a multi-verse does exist, the question simply gets pushed back: Does the multi-verse have to necessarily exist as it does right now? And so on...

            Ultimately, we get to the point where we must declare that any material entity could exist in some other way. This is what it means for something to be contingent because it cannot completely explain its own existence.

          • I have no idea what, matter/energy is reliant on for its existence or if it is reliant on anything. Same for the fundamental forces. No idea if they could be different.

            How do you know they could be different?

            What do you, or apologists know about the origin of the fundamental forces' origin that shows their nature to be evitable?

          • Phil

            Several examples:

            1) Look at yourself and myself. Do we necessarily exist? Is there something in the very nature of you or me that we must exist as we do right now? Of course not. Your parents could have never met and you wouldn't exist as you do right now. I could have got in a car accident the other day. You and I are contingent.

            2) What about the earth, the stars, the galaxies; could they have existed in some other way? Of course they could have. There is nothing in the nature of them that shows us they must necessarily exist as they do.

            3) What about our universe as a whole? What about the basic forces of nature (weak/strong nuclear force, etc)? Is it possible for them to exist in some other way? Of course they could.

            4) What about material entities in general? Could a material entity in general exist in a certain way necessarily? It could not because material entities always exist in "this way, and not in this other way that they could potbetially exist." This means that all material entities are contingent.

          • I don't know. You say "of course" they're contingent, but that is not an argument. If strict determinism is true, then no, all of these things are necessary. If it is not, then the various arrangements are contingent. I don't see why it is impossible for the existence of the material cosmos to be necessary, but the way it is arranged in time to be contingent. Nor do I see why it is impossible for everything to be necessary.

            Now, I don't hold these views, I don't hold any view on these subjects. I would be guessing in the dark.

          • Phil

            You hinted earlier at another version of this question, does any material entity need to exist? Aquinas took this question and asked it about material things right now. Does any material thing right now need to exist? Of course not; no invesigation of any material thing will help you to discover why it doesn't go out of existence right at this very moment. There is no reason intrinsic to any material thing why it shouldn't go out of existence right now. Aquinas realized that this pointed towards a creating and sustaining God right here at this very moment! We are being willed to exist at this very moment!

            We also posit that the material cosmos is infinite and eternal. The question of why the infinite and material cosmos exists at all could still not be answered. We could always still ask, why does this infinite and eternal cosmos exist as it does?

            ---
            Back to our discussion--The question that really gets to the heart of the contingency question is, as I mentioned before, could a material thing exist in a single, unique, necessary way? The reason why many have concluded that the argument from contingency is a solid one is because the answer to this question reasonably seems to be 'no'. Even the most fundamental particle or piece of material reality could possibly exist in some other way (or not exist at all).

          • Actually, what our observations of matter and energy suggest is quite the opposite, that matter/energy can neither be created or destroyed. You need to understand the distinction between logical coherence and possibility. It is not a logical contradiction for any bit of matter to not exist, but that does not mean it is possible for it not to. For example, I have two dice in my pocket. I ask you, if it is possible that I roll an 89 with these dice. You cannot know. You can say it is not a logical contradiction, but until you know what kind of dice I have, you don't know if it is possible or not. If they are six-sided dice, it is impossible, if they are ten sided dice, it is possible.

            Disagree that the answer reasonably seems to be "no". I've asked you several times why you think this and you haven't provided a reason.

            Personally, I don't think this argument is not convincing to many people. It is rarely advanced by even Christian apologists. It seems to be the refuge of intelligent Catholics whose biases allow them to overlook the equivocations it contains.

          • Phil

            A bit of a side question, and I know we've talked a little bit about prayer in the past.

            Have you seriously and recently asked God if he exists and any other questions you might have? I mean, we can use limited human reason to try and answer these big questions. But if God actually exists why not try and ask Him these questions?

            You have mentioned that you are seriously open to the possibility of God's existence, so someone that is honestly open should do what people have done the past several thousand years to have a relationship with God--have conversation with him on a regular basis!

            For any person to decide not to do this would be an act of pride and would show that they are not truly open to the existence of God, unfortunately.

            Please continue to keep me in your prayers, and be assured that you are in mine!

          • I do this continually. So far it has been a one sided conversation.

          • Phil

            That is awesome to hear! Just be patient, as patient endurance attains all things as St. Teresa of Avila noted.

            One prayer that could be particularly relevant is to ask God that you might be open to recognizing Him however he wants to reveal Himself to you. I have to pray this often as so many times we want God to do things our way. But most of the time we want/are expecting God to work in a different way from how he actually is working.

            Much of this is because though our human reason can come to much truth about reality, it pales in comparison to the God who is Truth and Intelligence itself.

          • Think what you want, but this God knows what would convince me he exists, and he doesn't care to do it.

            Ask yourself, how would it be if actually there was no god? What kind of world would you expect? I don't see anything that distinguishes this one from that one.

          • Phil

            On your first thought, you are exactly correct that God knows exactly how he needs to reveal Himself, and that's exactly what he is doing at this moment for both of us! But remember God is love, so he will never force Himself upon us, so that means we *always* will have the free choice to ignore and deny how he is revealing Himself to us (this is sadly what we all do much of the time).

            Think about Fatima--that is the most well documented and explicit case of God's power breaking into human history and was documented by believers and unbelievers alike. But much of the world either doesn't live as if God actually exists, or doesn't believe that God exists.

            We will shortly be getting another confirmation of Fatima when the Holy Father (not necessarily Francis) consecrated Russia to Mary's Immaculate Heart, as Mary requested at Fatima, and true peace begins to spread out to the world through this event. But even after these signs, many will unfortunately still not believe.

            -----

            Ask yourself, how would it be if actually there was no god? What kind of world would you expect? I don't see anything that distinguishes this one from that one.

            Great point that you hit upon! I think you're right because the majority of people don't live as if the true loving God exists or don't believe he does exist, so we see what is happening right now: we see rises in violence, unrest, coming economic collapse because of systems built on lies, selfishness in politics and economies, spread of hatred and disrespect. You get the picture; the further we turn away from God, the greater the suffering and unrest will become, both in our own life and those around us. The more people that truly love God, the greater will be the worldwide peace, guaranteed!

            That is why we need the peace that God has placed in Mary's Immaculate Heart for us for this specific day and age!

          • Fatima is nowhere near as well documented as you may think, I am certainly not convinced. Funny how these things have utterly ceased in the days when everyone has a video camera in their pocket. I'd say the kinds of miracles claimed by the church are pretty weak.

            I'll be covering the argument from divine hiddenness in the podcast soon.

            You're missing the point of my question. I am asking you how we would tell the difference between a world where god doesn't exist and he does.

          • Phil

            Fatima is nowhere near as well documented as you may think, I am certainly not convinced.

            Which was exactly what I was pointing out. When 50,000+ people experience an instantaneous drying of their clothes and the ground, which is documented by believers and skeptics alike, that I why I consider it having the best merit out of any sort of these types of supernatural events.

            Sure, one could try and explain away the sun, but the fact that everything dried up, and continued to be that way. That's gonna much harder to explain away.

            But as I mentioned, many still disregard it. And that's okay, Fatima is very important for our time, but our faith does not rest on "signs and wonders".

          • That is a misrepresentation of what has been reported about Fatima. A bunch of people were told that the mother of god would enact a miracle. Lots of people attended and the kids yelled and some of the people there said they say an optical phenomena.

            I don't believe anything supernatural occurred.

          • Michael Murray

            Lots of people attended and the kids yelled

            Well that second occurrence doesn't qualify as a miracle. That always happens.

          • Phil

            In many ways, we are living in a very unique time in history because of what God will do through Mary's Immaculate Heart. Here are the words from our Blessed Mother Mary yesterday:

            http://www.locutions.org/2015/08/5-the-fires-of-peace/

            I encourage you to read and reflect on any of her (or Jesus' words) over the past 4 years!

          • David Nickol

            Do you really believe the following are the words of Jesus? Really?

            Jesus

            The tragic events of the Iran treaty are not yet complete. Only if Congress accepts that pact will the full evil unfold. If Congress rejects the treaty, then this powerful stream will be like a raging river that hits an impregnable wall and is forced to turn back upon itself. A rejection of the treaty by Congress will unravel other aspects of evil that are intertwined with the treaty. The forces of evil will have met a setback. Such is the importance of this Congressional vote.

            For now, the legislators read the documents and hear advocates on both sides of the issue. Little do they realize that they hold much of the world’s future in their hands.

            These are my words. The matter is not settled and the conclusion is not firm. This vote is very close to my heart. All must let their voices be known to those who vote. Now is not the time to be silent. Speak out. Your voice is important.

            Comment: Call 1-202-224-3121 and ask for your senator and representative. You can also locate your senator’s email address at http://www.senate.gov/general/. The House of Representatives email address can be found at http://www.house.gov/representatives/
            Tell them to vote against the treaty. Our Lady will bless your call.

          • Phil

            Do you really believe the following are the words of Jesus? Really?

            Personally, based upon what Our Lord and Lady have been speaking over the past 4 years, yes. Remember that these would be considered a type of private revelation, so if it helps one's faith receive it; if it doesn't we are free to let them go.

            But please don't take my word for it, the greatest confirmation would be the events that are to follow over the next several years. I share this simply so that when Our Lady brings it about we can know that God has prepared us ahead of time! This includes some pretty widespread economic collapses, continuing increase in violence, which eventually will lead to our Lady raising up her "priest son" who will consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The culmination will be the martyrdom of the Pope, other clergy, and lay persons in Jerusalem as she spoke of at Fatima.

          • David Nickol

            Also, remember that these would be considered a type of private revelation, so if it helps one's faith receive it; if it doesn't we are free to let them go.

            Messages such as this are "private revelation" if and only if they are actually revelation. Assuming for the sake of argument that private revelation may exist (it certainly might, in my opinion, but then again, it might not), one has to have some reason to believe—and it had better be a pretty good one!—that any particular message really is revelation. Where do these "locutions" come from? (I hesitate to ask this, but do they come from you?)

            Very briefly, it is difficult for me to believe that Jesus is distressed about American politics! ("This vote is very close to my heart.") Does Jesus really try in any way to influence American voters, or Senators and Congressional Representatives? And if so, aren't there far better ways to do it than sending messages to be posted on an obscure blog?

            I read only a few of the messages purporting to be from Mary, but it struck me that—in many alleged but not officially approved Marian "locutions," it sounds like she's the one who's really running the show.

          • Phil

            Where do these "locutions" come from? (I hesitate to ask this, but do they come from you?)

            Haha! No, I'm sure the Lord would know better than to trust me with something like this!

            These come from a spiritual directee of Msgr. Esseff who is from the diocese of Scranton, PA. He has been the spiritual director of Mother Theresa and was a directee of Padre Pio. He is a very well respected priest. His directee began having these private locutions some time before 2011. The original messages were simply for the directee and his/her small community. But there came a point where our Blessed Mother said that if Msgr. Esseff discerned that these where indeed valid that they were to begin being released to the world. The signal date was the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution. So since that date they have been faithfully released to the entire world. They do not speak of any new doctrine and are continuation of Fatima since we are coming ever closer to the time that Fatima will be fulfilled and Mary's Immaculate Heart will triumph (as she promised as Fatima).

            The actual locutionist has remained anonymous so that it makes it harder for a disruption to come to the daily words.

            Very briefly, it is difficult for me to believe that Jesus is distressed about American politics!

            Remember, God revealed himself as a loving Father. Of course God is interested about our daily affairs. He desires us to live in peace and happiness, and world politics has a huge impact upon this. There is no physical distance between heaven and earth. Jesus and Mary are right by your side right now, literally!

            So our Lord appears to be revealing that if this current Iran deal does not change, this will pave the way for destruction to be brought about through Iran in some way.

            I read only a few of the messages purporting to be from Mary, but it struck me that—in many alleged but not officially approved Marian "locutions," it sounds like she's the one who's really running the show.

            Yes--God has chosen to work through our Blessed Mother at this specific time in history! Mary has no power of her own, it all comes from God! In the 1700s, St. Louis de Montfort, one the most respected saints on Marian devotion, predicted an "Age of Mary" that God is preparing us for. That is exactly what we've seen building up to the Fatima, and know the coming fulfillment of Fatima!

            We are in the Age of Mary and God wishes to bring peace to the world through Mary's Immaculate Heart. It will happen, but the more we turn back to God through prayer and actions, the quicker this will come.

            Woman Clothed with the Sun, Pray for us! Our Lady of Fatima, Pray for us!

          • William Davis

            Have you ever read the prophecy guide for dummies? Let's you in on how this works. It doesn't take a genius to guess there will be economic troubles in the future, as there are always economic troubles in one place or another. Russia has been acting up for years, so throwing that in is a safe bet. It's important to realize that these things are more "bets" than anything else and are so vague that could be fulfilled by almost anything. It's a huge question what a "few years" is...

            http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=449

            https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/speaking-in-tongues/201201/tricks-the-psychic-trade

            It's fun to study cognitive biases and how they are exploited by magicians, ect. It's also important to keep in mind how many failed prophecies there have been, here is a list of only failed end times prophecies, it's huge.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events

            If you believe this stuff do you believe in Nostradamus? In my view he wrote so much stuff that there was a high probability of post hoc pattern matching.

            http://www.dreamscape.com/morgana/nospast.htm

          • No thanks, I didn't see anything interesting in there.

          • Phil

            That's perfectly okay. These would be considered a type of private revelation, so if it helps one's faith receive it; if it doesn't we are free to letthem go.

            As I shred with David, But please don't take my word for it, the greatest confirmation would be the events that are to follow over the next several years. I share this simply so that when Our Lady brings it about we can know that God has prepared us ahead of time! This includes some pretty widespread economic collapses, continuing increase in violence, which eventually will lead to our Lady raising up her "priest son" who will consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. The culmination will be the martyrdom of the Pope, other clergy, and lay persons in Jerusalem as she spoke of at Fatima.

          • Which pope?

          • Phil

            Allow me to expand upon your proposal that the entire physical reality is somehow non-contingent--that it explains itself completely:

            So if the entirety of physical reality is ultimately non-contingent this means that things could not have been different than they are right now. Things are the way because they are necessary to be this way. One is thrust immediately to extreme determinism. Even the "random" events are built into this determinism.

            This is because there exists in all physical reality at least one entity which explains itself, that cannot exist in any other way. This means it brought about reality as it is right now. And it could not have brought it about in any other way.

            The proposal is then that a material entity could never necessarily exist in a certain way. You can't get to some ultimate physical reality and ask "could this have existed in some other way" and answer "no".

            You are free to propose how this could be the case, but until a person would actually propose a rational explanation for how this would be possible, it is not rational to hold that physical reality is non-contingent.

            I am not a fan of promissory philosophy or science. It becomes "philosophy/science of the gaps". You don't start by assuming that physical reality is non-contingent and then try and prove it. You use the evidence reality provides us with and reason from it to the truth.

          • It is not up to me to show that physical reality is capable of being non-contingent, I am not making any claims.

            You are claiming that it is impossible, it is up to you to show why. You haven't done so. I don't blame you. But the claim you are defending requires the you demonstrate it is impossible though.

          • Phil

            In an earlier comment you said that the evidence pointed towards the fact that material reality is non-contingent. So then my follow-up question was: What material entity(s) must necessarily exist as they do right now?

            If a person cannot point to any part of reality that necessarily exists as it does right now, the rational conclusion is that the evidence points towards the fact that material reality is contingent. (Then we can ask the deeper question of if material reality could even, in principle, be non-contingent. But let's start with the basic empirical evidence first.)

            Again, one shouldn't assume a view (e.g., "material reality is non-contingent") and then try and find evidence for that assumption. You look at the evidence first and let it lead you to the conclusions; as a good philosopher and scientist such as yourself would do!

          • I don't think I did say that, I've checked this thread and expressly said I don't even know where to begin with that question.

            Please read my comments carefully, I am not making assumptions, I am not making a claim. I am asking what your basis for the claim that a necessary material universe is impossible.

  • I agree with the general thrust of this piece and it bears repeating. There is nothing inherently evil in religion generally. But I would say neither is there anything evil with secularism or atheism. People who subscribe to both have been guilty of horrendous crimes and caused countless suffering.

    I think why you see such rhetoric from secularists is because virtually never do secularists or atheists commit these despicable acts expressly because of a lack of a belief in a god or to further the separation of church and state.

    By contrast, history and the daily news is filled examples of people killing in the name of their religion and expressly because they believe it is a religious duty. Now, certainly you might say that they are using religion as a shield for some other psychological or geopolitical cause. Perhaps, but we can say the same about any act.

    What we do see, and we see it often, is people who are extremely religious and their claims that they believe their activities are required by their god or holy book, they see credible. When sane people let their children die because they believe prayer will save them, religion is the cause. These people are not slightly religious, or evil, they deeply believe what their bible and religion plainly say.

    I do wish to see religion disappear, but it is not because I think it inevitably results in evil. (And definitely do not want to see it go away by coercion or even social pressure, but critical thinking.) Clearly it does not always or even commonly cause evil. Clearly there are as much or more good works inspired by religious belief as well. I object to religion because I think it is wrong, and demonstrably wrong. I think that it requires people to lower their standards to believe, or encourages low standards for acceptance of claims, on important issues. I think it is unnecessary for social goods, and often does result in harm. Particularly, religion divides families, or it results in sorrow when families and friends have different religious view.

    Perhaps if the claims made by religion were credible, we might work to overcome these problems and keep these institutions. But they are not. We are better off using this energy directly for charity and pro social aims that do not involve believing in mythology. Indeed, many societies have done so.

    • Anna White

      Hold on - so the billions of dollars of aid that the Roman Catholic Church (the largest charitable organization in the world) alone gives to the world (let's not count all the other religious charities that exist) doesn't qualify as "charity and pro social"? How does that work exactly?
      If you're about to make the argument that even more money would be given if we didn't have churches to upkeep and priests to feed, the argument could be made that that money would be used in a similar fashion if they were secular.

      Secondly, suggesting the Church has never been right about any of it's claims is a massive stretch.
      Lastly, if one is required to lower their standards to believe (I'm assuming you mean lowing their intellectual standards) than I'm afraid you don't understand the nature of faith in the slightest.

      • Some of the work that Catholic Church charities do is pro social, some is not. I'm not saying that money is not being used for pro social means, but that it can still be spent on the same pro social causes by secular charities. I am saying that there is no need for charities to be religious.

        I don't mean every claim made by religion is not credible, but the distinctively religious claims are. The claims that could not be made just by secular organizations are not, on balance credible.

        Whether or not standards need to be lowered to accept theistic claims is exactly the point of contention, and what we have been debating in these pages for some time. But I say that to isolate the issue in dispute. I don't dispute that if Catholicism is true that for example that religion should not go away. If Catholicism is true, everyone should be catholic. However, I am not convinced it is true, and I think on the whole the evidence strongly favours it being false. What I'm saying here is if I am right, we'd be better off without Catholicism.

        I certainly appreciate the position of Catholicism that we should just let the evidence fall where it will and take the position consistent with where the evidence leads. Unfortunately, that is not what I see in practice with apologetics. rather I see conclusions, based on circular reasoning, arguments from ignorance and other fallacies.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        How effective are Catholic Charities in actually distributing money to those who need it and not using the money to prop up their charitable system?

        • Alexandra

          In my parish, the Church's charity for the poor - 100% of the funds raised or donated goes to the poor . 0 % goes to the group. (It's all volunteers.)
          Also the food pantry we run from the church - 100% donations go to the poor.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Which is not Catholic Charities, the most prominent charitable arm of the Catholic Church.

          • Alexandra

            Then you probably meant to write: How effective IS Catholic Charities....

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I did. I was invited to a fundraising event for Catholic Charities and was wondering if it is a good use of money.

          • Alexandra

            That's wonderful that you are considering a donation. I have first hand seen poor people truly helped through the generosity of people like you.

          • Kraker Jak

            That's wonderful that you are considering a donation.

            He did not actually say that. I will say that I don't doubt that many Catholic charities may be very worthy of donations.

          • Alexandra

            "I will say that I don't doubt that many Catholic charities may be very worthy of donations."

            And that is very wonderful of you to say. :) (I do hope IR considers going to the fundraiser). I have seen the good work that is supported by these donations. It does help people- those in need.

        • Mike

          One could ask the same question of the state, could they not?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We could and should. There are tangible benefits to a robust social safety net. There are some disadvantages as well.
            Catholic Charities receives over half of its funding from the Federal Government.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Eliminating religion, it is then suggested or even openly argued, is a sure way to rid the world of evil.

    I'm sure we will still find ways to be horribly evil. Without religion, those who do evil will be forced to justify their actions without having recourse to deities, sacred institutions, of divine rights. Furthermore, there will be less good intentioned people causing harm, because of their religious beliefs. Religious evil is dangerous, because usually the people who profligate it think they are doing good and that it is justified. Finally, without religions, we will no longer tell little children that misbelievers and sinners burn in everlasting fires, and that they will too if they are not careful.

    As G.K. Chesterton rightly noted somewhere (the exact location escapes me), if you think the world is in bad shape you might be shocked how much worse it would be if Christianity weren’t around.

    This is most likely unknowable. I would point out that many of our most important principles and rights are a reaction to and against religions.

    The point is that every "ism"—even atheism, materialism, and the "pragmatism" endorsed by Harris—plays riffs based on the same tunes since man moves to a religious beat; to further the metaphor, man has music within him and longs to know the composer

    Not at all. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Materialism is the belief that only physical things exist. Pragmatism is a system of ethics. None of these necessarily have the dogmatic character of religion, they do not claim special revelation from a capricious Divine Law Giver, and there is little impetuous to force this belief system on non-atheists, non-materialists, or non-pragmatists.

    Humans are curious animals and wish to have an understanding of the universe around them. This is not evidence of a divine tune.

    So, one of dogmas (either conscious or otherwise) of avowed secularists is that religion is unreasonable and almost inevitably produces evil.

    It is not a dogma. All secularists do not hold to it and those who do, do not demand that other secularists tow the line. Many religious beliefs are unreasonable. We can observe it. Observations do not make for dogma. Religious dogmas are of an entirely different character. They rest on weak assumptions and tenuous interpretations of old documents and traditions. Believers must believe the dogmas to be considered a proper believer. It is all rather Orwellian.

    Religion does produce evil. Inevitably so. The question is whether or not this evil outweighs the good and whether this evil would be present anyway, even if we dispensed with religion. This is not a dogma. It is an observation.

    Another is that some form of pure secularism (often described using terms such as "education," "progressive thinking," "enlightenment," "sophisticated," "scientific," and so forth) is the much-needed answer to the problems that plague humanity.

    Do you deny that more education has a positive social effect?

    Do you deny that scientific thinking is highly rigorous and very good way to discern truth from falsehood?

    I have never heard a secularist bandy about "progressive thinking" and "enlightenment" as catch all phrases to cure the world of its ill. What many secularists think, and rightly so, is that certain principles, which are often associated with the enlightenment and perhaps progressive politics make society better. These are principles like tolerance for opposing views, justice for everyone, separation of church and state, and protecting dissenting views. Do you think these are social evils?

    It seems your list of secular dogma is something of a straw man.

    Religion, especially orthodox Christianity, is despised because it is a definite and specific faith. Instead of vague platitudes about love, the Christian Faith speaks of specific suffering and a definite Cross. Instead of hazy affirmations of the goodness of man, Catholicism teaches a specific doctrine of sin and makes definite moral demands.

    I don't think it is despised for being a specific and definite faith, it is disliked for arguably being wrong on many moral positions. Nearly all systems of ethics make definite moral demands. The question is do the ethical systems make moral demands that are sensible.This is again a straw man.

    And instead of a general appeal to "just get along," the Church insists on specific sacrifices and definite choices between good and evil—and bluntly says that all of us are capable of evil, regardless of how non-religious our religion might pretend to be.

    We don't need the Church to tell us that we are capable of evil. It is a fairly simple observation. We also do not need the Church to tell us that certain things are wrong and best avoided. We just put our emphasis on social justice concerns and freedom, while the Church seems more concerned with condoms and fasting.

    • Kraker Jak

      I'm sure we will still find ways to be horribly evil.

      I have always read your comments with interest. But would be interested to know what you define as the definition is of evil?....beyond that is which is aborrhrent, disgusting or distasteful to most normal thinking adults on this planet?

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Lately I have become more and more of a utilitarian. I consider actions that cause unhappiness or pain to be wrong. I would use the evil label to describe things that cause an unusual amount of unhappiness or pain.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      how much worse it would be if Christianity weren’t around.

      This is most likely unknowable

      Not entirely so. One may look at the old Roman Empire and its institutional cruelty for some clue.

      Recall that when Julian the Apostate became emperor late in antiquity, one of the things he urged the pagan priesthoods to do was to imitate the Christians in setting up charities, hospitals, and other means of caring for the poor. It was this selfless care, he wrote, that attracted the people to Christianity, so pagans should do it, too.

      I would point out that many of our most important principles and rights are a reaction to and against religions.

      Again, not entirely so. The main reaction was against the notion that there would be any institution within society that was independent of and able to stand up to the State. Can't have that.

      But for example, in On kingship, Aquinas wrote that if it belongs to a people to choose a king, then if the king were become a tyrant it belonged to that multitude to overthrow him. Not even Jefferson could say it better. The idea that human beings had rights by nature, including (as Ockham wrote) the right to their own life, liberty, and property, is likewise due to Christian natural theologians. There is also the notion that the State exists to protect and improve the lives of its people -- not an idea that Ramses, Asshurbanipal, or Tiberius would have entertained.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Not entirely so. One may look at the old Roman Empire and its institutional cruelty for some clue.

        This does not mean that we owe our more civilized impulses to Christianity. Ancient civilizations had their good points as well. We can also point to barbarous practices of Christian civilizations.
        By your line of reasoning, one could view civilization as Christian an post-Christian. Then secularism could claim the credit for any advances we have add as Christian influence has waned.

        Recall that when Julian the Apostate became emperor late in antiquity, one of the things he urged the pagan priesthoods to do was to imitate the Christians in setting up charities, hospitals, and other means of caring for the poor. It was this selfless care, he wrote, that attracted the people to Christianity, so pagans should do it, too.

        There was charity and acts of selflessness before Christians came onto the scene.

        Again, not entirely so. The main reaction was against the notion that there would be any institution within society that was independent of and able to stand up to the State. Can't have that.

        Not sure what you are referring to here.

        The idea that human beings had rights by nature, including (as Ockham wrote) the right to their own life, liberty, and property, is likewise due to Christian natural theologians. There is also the notion that the State exists to protect and improve the lives of its people -- not an idea that Ramses, Asshurbanipal, or Tiberius would have entertained.

        The same Ockham whose ideas were considered unorthodox and was called before a court for expressing them? Do you have a citation for Ockham writing on life, liberty, and property? Ockham was a good philosopher not because he was a Christian.

        You could probably add Louis XIV and other kings who ruled by Divine Right to your list.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          This does not mean that we owe our more civilized impulses to Christianity.

          Maybe it was just a big fat coincidence.

          Ancient civilizations had their good points as well.

          Perhaps so. They certainly did not allow enemy cities to continue to exist, but razed them to the ground and sowed the land with salt. It surely put an end to things. They had no compunction about killing babies and children, either. (Tacitus lists as one of the wicked behaviors of the Jews that they did not kill their children for any reason.) Then, too, they enslaved the survivors of the cities they destroyed, which was kindly of them. Remember what the Athenians told the Melians just before their unprovoked attack on that neutral polis: "The strong take what they can, while the weak suffer what they must." Of course, they had their good points, but the question was how we would know what the world would be like had there been no Christianity. (Or in the East, perhaps, no Buddhism.) It seemed a perfectly explicable question, requiring only that we look at civilization before and after. Post hoc is not propter hoc, but it certainly ought to make one pause in thought.

          We can also point to barbarous practices of Christian civilizations.

          But this was in large measure because the people involved were barbarians. The Franks, Goths, Lombards, et al. were not especially charitable beforehand, and it took a great long time to tame them. (And I really hope you don't believe that in a group of tens of millions there will be no bad apples.)

          Then secularism could claim the credit for any advances we have add as Christian influence has waned.

          Like Divine Right Monarchs, Total States, etc. However, what Nietzsche pointed out is interesting: even atheism, he wrote, is contaminated by Christianity. (In fact, the tendency to preserve Christian moralities was one of his chief complaints about Anglophone atheists.) History never turns on a dime and it may take many generations to shake off the influence of what he called the slave mentality -- just as it too Christendom a long time to shake off the remnants of antique convictions. Heck, there are people even today who believe in astrology.

          There was charity and acts of selflessness before Christians came onto the scene.

          Then why was Julian trying to get the pagans to set these things up? Answer: Just as there have always been individuals interested in nature, but no natural science until its study was embedded in the culture, so there were a thousand points of light in the darkness, but no conflagration until charity was embedded in the culture.

          Not sure what you are referring to here.

          The whole Christian notion that Church and State were separate (cf. The City of God, by Augustine). Or as noted in a more recent secular text:

          "It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state."
          - A.D. Lindsay, The Modern Democratic State

          The same Ockham whose ideas were considered unorthodox and was called before a court for expressing them? Do you have a citation for Ockham
          writing on life, liberty, and property?

          His dissertation was rejected by peer review, which is why he was an Inceptor and not a Doctor. He got in trouble for his political views, not for his philosophy. He mentioned natural rights in his Opus nonaginta dierum, which I read about in Copleston's History of Philososophy,Vol.III. The medievals generally did not demonize everything a man wrote simply because they disagreed with something else he wrote. That is a comparatively recent phenomenon (by which someone's life work can be dismissed because he used the wrong word at some point).

          Besides, the idea that human beings had rights by human nature was neither original to nor restricted to Ockham. One can find the same ideas in Aquinas and elsewhere. Late Moderns, who do not believe in natures or essences, have a hard time with this and must settle for the rights to have been granted by the Omnicompetent State.

          You could probably add Louis XIV and other kings who ruled by Divine Right to your list.

          I did. See above. Divine Right monarchs were a Modern innovation, after the States had broken the Church and domesticated them into "established churches" subordinated to the King.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Maybe it was just a big fat coincidence.

            I think we owe a lot to economic and technological developments. Things like agriculture, merchant class, middle class, guilds, trade, and printing presses are all civilizing influences. Its a slow march from barbarity to civilization and we often go backwards.

            Perhaps so. They certainly did not allow enemy cities to continue to exist, but razed them to the ground and sowed the land with salt. It surely put an end to things.

            I assume you are talking about Carthage. It is most likely a myth that the Romans sowed the land with salt. In general, the Romans incorporated their enemies into the republic and later the empire.

            They built aqueducts and roads, had a system of laws and a court system, and for a certain period of time a republic. They have had immense influence on our own civilization.

            Of course, they had their good points, but the question was how we would know what the world would be like had there been no Christianity. (Or in the East, perhaps, no Buddhism.) It seemed a perfectly explicable question, requiring only that we look at civilization before and after. Post hoc is not propter hoc, but it certainly ought to make one pause in thought

            It really isn't that simple. Rome was declining as Christianity gained prominence. It is difficult to compare Christian Rome with pagan Rome. It took at least 700 years from the time Rome fell before civilization reached the levels the Romans achieved. I would argue it was actually quite longer. So that comparison is difficult as well, because over such long periods of time there are a lot of conflating factors. At least the Romans were tolerant of different belief systems. I'd rather be a Jew under Roman rule than in Christian Europe. (Well provided I wasn't rebelling against Roman rule.)

            But this was in large measure because the people involved were barbarians. The Franks, Goths, Lombards, et al. were not especially charitable beforehand, and it took a great long time to tame them. (And I really hope you don't believe that in a group of tens of millions there will be no bad apples.)

            Certainly, but I think there is more to it than just that. There were certainly a few instances of genocidal behavior. Modern systems (and I would argue ancient systems) are better at distributing justice.

            Honestly though, I was thinking of post medieval Christian Europe. Christian England in the 1800s treated the poor rather barbarously. All of the Colonial powers had their moments of barbarism. Christians fought plenty a war against each other for religious reasons. It seems odd to claim all of the good things in civilization stem from Christianity, while the bad things are simply barbarians who are ignoring Christianity civilizing impulses. Especially, when many barbarous acts were justified using Christian texts and traditions.

            Like Divine Right Monarchs, Total States, etc.

            Like liberal democracy.

            The whole Christian notion that Church and State were separate (cf. The City of God, by Augustine). Or as noted in a more recent secular text:

            "It was perhaps equally important that the existence and prestige of the Church prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state."
            - A.D. Lindsay, The Modern Democratic State

            I think you are giving the Church way too much credit here.

            His dissertation was rejected by peer review, which is why he was an Inceptor and not a Doctor. He got in trouble for his political views, not for his philosophy. He mentioned natural rights in his Opus nonaginta dierum, which I read about in Copleston's History of Philososophy,Vol.III.

            Interesting. Thanks!

            So now the Church, who you seem to think is the founder of liberal democracy, is punishing people for political views?

            That is a comparatively recent phenomenon (by which someone's life work can be dismissed because he used the wrong word at some point).

            Care to give an example?

            Late Moderns, who do not believe in natures or essences, have a hard time with this and must settle for the rights to have been granted by the Omnicompetent State.

            Not at all. Is there a serious thinker who believes that rights are granted via the state?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I assume you are talking about Carthage.

            Carthage, Corinth, Tyre, Jerusalem,... The ancient world was not kind to losers. Ask the Athenian soldiers at Syracuse.

            [The Romans] built aqueducts and roads, had a system of laws and a court system, and for a certain period of time a republic.

            Who says they did not? The Nazis built roads, too. But such accomplishments do not mean that they were less cruel. Heck, the Greeks were not known for gentility to anyone but citizens of their own polis, but even the Greeks regarded the Romans as exceptionally cruel even for that milieu.

            Remember, when we say the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans were not A, it is no rebuttal to point out that they were exemplary B.

            It took at least 700 years from the time Rome fell before civilization reached the levels the Romans achieved.

            That's not clear. We call the period from the barbarian invasions to the defeat of the last magyar horde at Lechfeld the Dark Ages largely because the documentation -- and much of the physical plant -- was destroyed; not because the people suddenly forgot how to do things. Those fragments that do shimmer through reveal a surprising level of sophistication, at least among the soi-disant Romans.

            I assume you mean the "levels" of technology rather than the matter under discussion; viz., charity. We really don't know all that much about Byzantium, since most of their records went up in smoke during the Turkish Sack. And the devolution of Syria, Egypt, and North Africa did not actually occur until the Turkish and Mongol invasions, and that of the Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym, somewhat later. Western Europe was largely built on lands that had barely been touched by classical civilization -- Gaul, England, Germany. Much of it was accessible only with difficulty from the Med. Nearly all its rivers open on the Northlands. (Recall Socrates' dictum that the classical world was a bunch of frogs sitting around the edge of a pond.) The "spine" of the West was the "border" of the Empire. Peter Brown's book, The World of Late Antiquity can be instructive regarding this era.

            It's true there was a general decline in population -- and this made some things harder to maintain. (You need a minimum population density to support activities like trade routes, towns, etc..) But the decline began well before imperial administration collapsed in the West, and was likely due to the end of global warming (the "Roman Warm") and the onset of a colder climate with its smaller harvests. Hence, what the saracens, vikings, and magyars destroyed proved very difficult to replace.

            I would argue it was actually quite longer.

            But you might have difficulty doing so on the facts, even in the field of technology. See Jean Gimpel The Medieval Machine or Gies and Gies Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel for overviews. Also Pirenne, Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe.

            So that comparison is difficult as well, because over such long periods of time there are a lot of conflating factors.

            Cahill's contention is only that Europeans became more charitable, not that they built more aqueducts or even that they became paragons of virtue. (They were human beings, after all.) And of course there were other factors. But those other factors were largely the ones that the Christian copyists of Byzantium and Europe found edifying and compatible with their own beliefs.

            At least the Romans were tolerant of different belief systems.

            This is also a myth. They tolerated other polytheisms, provided they could shoehorn the pantheons into the Roman one. When they could not, as in the case of the druids or the Christians, they were ruthless in trying to suppress them. They persecuted witches mercilessly, and tried to suppress the oriental mystery religions. The Jews received a pass because of their ancient origins, so they were not required to offer sacrifices to the dead emperors like everyone else. Still, there were an estimated 10 million Jews in the Empire in the reign of Augustus and only 1 million by the time of Constantine. In the interim, the boots of Gen. Hadrian's legions had trampled them thoroughly; and replaced the ruins of Jerusalem with the Roman colonia, Aelia Capitolina.

            I was thinking of post medieval Christian Europe. Christian England in the 1800s treated the poor rather barbarously.

            That was well after the collapse of Christendom and the onset of secularization and the Age of Reason. The Church in England had been nationalized and made a department of the State.
            Laizzes faire and economic liberalism, mon dude.

            Christians fought plenty a war against each other for religious reasons.

            Hard to think of any, although kings have used all sorts of rationales for their wars. Even the Thirty Years War, often cited as the last and worst of the wars of religion, began as a revolution of the German Princes against the Emperor. (Saxony, Brandenburg, et al. did not declare their independence because they had become Protestant. They became Protestant because they wished to declare their independence. In the Modern Ages, that meant they had to have their own state-run church.) In its later phases, the war became one of Hapsburg vs. Bourbon.

            I think you are giving the Church way too much credit here.

            Not me. Lindsay.
            https://www.questia.com/read/82394299/the-modern-democratic-state

            So now the Church, who you seem to think is the founder of liberal democracy, is punishing people for political views?

            Lindsay's statement was that by providing an independent structure in society not controlled by the kings society was prevented from becoming totalitarian. This has nothing to do with "liberal democracy," which Tocqueville noted was quite as able to aspire to totalitarianism as any other form of government. This is independent of the aspirations of any particular individual.

            Care to give an example?

            In the age of "microagressions" and "trigger warnings" do you really need to ask? Start with Larry Summers, women and mathematics and go from there. Ask Watson, DNA helix discoverer, fired for remarks about the distribution of talent in a Darwinian world. Sir Tim Hunt was forced to resign from University College London, not because he is a bad biologist -- he is a Nobel Laureate -- but because he made remarks at a banquet in Korea that were taken as sexist. Val Rust was removed from teaching because he had corrected his stuidents' atrocious grammar -- in a grad school class on how to write dissertation proposals. Heck, there was a celebrity chef who was subjected to the Ten Minute
            Hate because like twenty years before she had used the N-word.

            Is there a serious thinker who believes that rights are granted via the state?

            Does the expression "right to marry" ring any bells? Most leftists of my aquaintance hold this operationally.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Who says they did not? The Nazis built roads, too. But such accomplishments do not mean that they were less cruel.

            Nazi justice is not something I would ever want to be on the receiving end of. Really wouldn't care for Roman justice either, but the Roman legal system was an important step.

            Remember, when we say the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans were not A, it is no rebuttal to point out that they were exemplary B.

            If we are trying to judge their civilization, I think we have to consider the good points as well as the bad.

            I assume you mean the "levels" of technology rather than the matter under discussion; viz., charity.

            I was thinking of judging the entire civilization. How the civilization treats the poor and disadvantaged weighs in the calculation. There is more to this than just charity. There is also rule of law. Besides technology there was also art, literature, engineering and philosophy.

            Certainly, Europe does not produce a great epic poem till Dante. You would probably disagree, but I do not think philosophy does not reach the level of ancient achievement till Descartes. Art till the renaissance. Everyman plays are not Sophocles or Shakespeare. Ancient civilizations had a more robust culture than the medieval.

            Roman military and siege strategy also eclipsed medieval methods.

            But you might have difficulty doing so on the facts, even in the field of technology. See Jean Gimpel The Medieval Machine or Gies and Gies Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel for overviews. Also Pirenne, Economic and Social History of Medieval Europe.

            You could be right, but is it not the scholarly consensus that the Roman technological achievements surpass those of the medieval?

            Cahill's contention is only that Europeans became more charitable, not that they built more aqueducts or even that they became paragons of virtue.

            What book is this? Honestly, I don't know much about charity in either the ancient world or the medieval. It wasn't ever brought up in any of the books I have read.

            I do think there is much to be admired in Roman concepts of virtue.

            This is also a myth. They tolerated other polytheisms, provided they could shoehorn the pantheons into the Roman one.

            More tolerant than Christendom.

            That was well after the collapse of Christendom and the onset of secularization and the Age of Reason. The Church in England had been nationalized and made a department of the State.

            What period of time do Chistians get credit for?

            Hard to think of any, although kings have used all sorts of rationales for their wars. Even the Thirty Years War, often cited as the last and worst of the wars of religion, began as a revolution of the German Princes against the Emperor

            Funny how the protestants and the Catholics all lined up to fight each other. Certainly there were political reasons for the war, but that does not mean that religion was not part of the conflict.

            This has nothing to do with "liberal democracy," which Tocqueville noted was quite as able to aspire to totalitarianism as any other form of government. This is independent of the aspirations of any particular individual.

            A liberal democracy could become totalitarian, but in doing so, it would cease to be a liberal democracy.

            In the age of "microagressions" and "trigger warnings" do you really need to ask?........

            I see what you are getting at here. I do not approve of the indignant thought police. We are probably mostly in agreement here. There is much to criticize about our culture, as there was much to criticize about cultures before ours.

            I do not think these witch hunts are the norm though. They do happen and they are unfortunate.

            Does the expression "right to marry" ring any bells? Most leftists of my aquaintance hold this operationally.

            The state does not grant rights. It protects them. That is the function of legitimate government.

  • VicqRuiz

    the Church insists on specific sacrifices and definite choices between good and evil

    Let's talk about how the Church opposed evil under the likes of Batista, Franco, and Mussolini. A few pluses, a lot of minuses. You up for it??

    • Michael Murray

      Or the Argentinian Dirty War ?

  • Is Religion Evil? Secularism’s Pride and Irrational Prejudice

    or:

    Is Secularism Evil? Religion's Pride and Irrational Prejudice.

    I shall assume you have understood 'the' question, and thus have found 'an' answer as to why there is evil in the world.

    • Kraker Jak

      why there is evil in the world.

      Evil is just a word used to describe activities or ideas that that people use to describe that which is contrary to their own religious, cultural, political or tribalistic thinking. There is no global understanding or definition of the term.

      • You 'got' it!!! But I did say 'an' answer to 'the' question.....

        • Kraker Jak

          I don't have an answer per se. Don't actually know if evil actually exists other than in the minds of people according to their whims or ideology or religious thinking etc.

          • Aren't these religious/metaphysical questions interesting. We ask if God exists, and of course we say - yes, of course, when that 'existence' is a subsistence, and therefore not-material, a word we generally associate with existence, but certainly not 'nothing' (and even the Buddhist 'emptiness' does not pass the grade) because of course, God could not be 'Nothing'
            and yet Evil exists, and this 'evil' is really 'nothing', because it is less than something, or is at least deficient, but certainly Satan or the Devil exists, like temptation and all the rest of it....so we should really mind what we say...
            circles within circles within circles-
            Yes, if the above paragraph can serve as an example - of empty language without 'real' content - are we possibly not aware that much of our common language is also really not as 'coherent' as it might be - if, as John Locke once said - we would only pay attention to what it is that we are actually attempting to say. All of these 'mysteries'!. Perhaps they could be 'puffed' out of 'existence'!!!!.if we only asked the right questions, or learned to keep a little 'silent' contemplation- instead....!!
            Thanks for sticking with me. I've really begun to 'indulge' myself with respect to these comments!!!.

          • Kraker Jak

            Every true faith is infallible. It performs what the believing person hopes to find in it. If you want to achieve peace of mind and happiness have faith. But if you want to be a disciple of the truth, then search. ... Nietzsche

            Above is an excerpt from the following video. One could expand on what he said but I won't do that now, except to say that his comment may not confer peace of mind to all that accept it as true, but it does seem to offer freedom of thought and freedom from the chains of slavery to political, cultural, tribal and religious ideologies.

            Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil Documentary
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CSuJUWJRwg

          • Thank you Kraker Jak. I thoroughly enjoyed the video. I have spent much time reading and interpreting Nietzsche in my life, and was pleased that this presentation got as much 'right' as it did. He did say, for instance, that there was only one Christian but he died on the cross. Well, in a way, those values could be thought to have been transcended in a way that made them personal for the individual interpretation, and within this context, if you understand me, Nietzsche was the polarity of the anti-Christ. Perhaps having said this you will reinterpret some of my 'irony' within this context- the juxtaposition of contrasting viewpoints regarding the title of this post, for instance, and the fact that power, generally, is used, not in the sense that Nietzsche would have wished, as the process of overcoming the self (in perhaps almost a Buddhist fashion, may I suggest) but as the dominance of the individual, the institution, etc. against 'other' - be it god or other individuals.
            It is this that I find myself in agreement with Nietzsche, the objection to the use of such narrow interpretations of logical 'argument' for instance, which really in the sense they are used in the evanalizations by both parties in this 'dialogue' are really rather more 'rhetorical' - i.e. aimed at persuasion, rather than comprehension of 'truth'. And so it goes. As I pointed out, hopefully above, we do, as per Heidegger, (his student) if we are to 'overcome' ourselves, it is imperative that we learn not only 'to think' but 'how' we think. I also believe that we have much to learn from animals, (back to the body!), in that perhaps we should become more aware about how limited our 'sapience' really is, and how often we jump to universalizations/generalizations that have 'no merit' whatsoever, but that instead we would perhaps be far better off, if only we could grasp the 'particular'.
            Thank you for this KJ!!!!

          • Kraker Jak

            Nietzsche was the polarity of the anti-Christ.

            I think that there was a point in his life that he said that Christians would actually refer to him as the Anti-Christ...because of his views. Atheistic prophecy:-) or what?

            there was only one Christian but he died on the cross He got that right.

          • Nietzsche went through many changes in his life, psychologically, and philosophically. He is also more ironic than a lot of people give him credit for. I would limit his idea of the anti-Christ to his intent to 'transcend' the shepherd-sheep mentality that he associated, (rightfully I would argue) with Christianity. When it comes to thinking then I believe he would want everyone to be 'for himself': no followers no leaders. In his early writings, he emulated the Greeks, (his study of Philology) specifically Dionysian and (the god of reason - I forget, an A word- senior moment). dichotomy which as a model of the good and evil balance, would allow both but within the control of the individual. Balance and integration of opposites - Hegel back to Heraclitus, and it's even found in the Kaballah from Judaism. Through strife with 'love', perhaps is a good way of putting it. It's 'overcoming' all the way. What I find fascinating with Nietzsche, (and similar to Kierkegaard) is that they make philosophy (and religion) a 'personal' quest, not an institutional one. The individual is the all?. And there wouldn't have been a Freud without Nietzsche. He was the one wsho put forth the idea of the 'mask' or the self we construct 'for others'. Maybe his ubermensch could be the culmination of Christianity if it is as they promise, ii.e. the possibility that we all can indeed become 'gods', - but I will, out of respect to Nietzsche not capitalize this word - god. But Nietzsche was also opposite to Schopenhauer's interpretation of Buddhism: some personal psychological need to be 'in charge' of himself, or something. The Catholics refer to his 'voluntarism' - excessive will, as they do with Wittgenstein, Pascal, James, etc. (Fault finders!!!) He did have a difficult life. One must study the details within his constant quest to overcome to understand what he is 'truly 'saying...

            Hey. I learned today that in the 14th century, there was a real relationship with China, (Marco Polo) which they ended by closing the trade routes, (they didn't want any more to do with Europe), but during this time the Buddha was actually accepted into Christianity as a 'saint' - Josephus, was the name given to him. Can you 'believe'!!!! I'm falling in love with History now.

          • Kraker Jak

            He is also more ironic than a lot of people give him credit for.

            I think that you meant to say more iconic rather than ironic. |Anyway I think I understand what you meant.

          • Well that's a challenge. After all he did say. There is 'no truth - only interpretation'. I would love people to see the irony in that!

            And I'll give you another example. Way back when, a fellow or what is the feminine form of fellow, anyway, SHE accused Nietzsche, (Irony) of being a misogynist. When she showed me the text where she got this idea from, it turned out that Nietzsche was actually having an older woman, not a male, put down a younger woman. Some people don't notice things like this. And so they miss that there is a real
            'dramatic' element in the writings of Nietzsche. He presents people in a living context.

            And that 's how "I" interpret his reference to himself as an anti-Christ- an Anti-Christ like no Christian would have ever expected? Or his saying about there never having been a Christian, only Jesus and he died on the cross. I can't help feeling there is a humor/irony in that. He follows, to my interpretation the greatest of Ironists - Socrates, and -- Jesus. Oh yes, and I agree, he was/is also an icon, like Socrates and Jesus?????

          • Kraker Jak

            Back pedaling....Point taken re: irony.

          • You've taught me a new word: To reverse to an earlier part of an argument and alter and reuse it later on in the argument So now let me 'backpedal'!!

            So who's 'irony' do you like better, the parables of Jesus or the stories of Nietzsche? Actually, I don't think you can have 'drama' without there being some kind of irony, whether that be Shakespeare, or the dramas/misinterpretations that happen between people on this blog!!! https://www.google.ca/?gws_rd=ssl#q=Irony

          • Just saw this comment now. Yes, he was a prophet of 'nihilism'. He also said on one of his mountain trips that he would look forward to the day when he could lie out in the sun on a grassy mountain top. He saw the 'effect' of what the Industrial Revolution could/would bring what? surely not 'climate change'!!!!

            On the one Christian reference-Yes. I think you can think of this comment with regard to referring to himself as the anti-Christ too. There is some kind of 'jest' in it. And he went back to what he wrote years later, with a critique. He was always learning and growing. You are seeing now his 'irony', for sure.

            And on that comment made by the woman? Was he talking about society in general when he had the woman say:

            "And when you go to the woman, remember to bring your whip".

            And Nietzsche is for the independence of individuals?????? But, however he is interpreted: he sure 'tells it as it is'!!!!! :Like Socrates and Jesus, it is his person as well as his philosophy (in words) that is essential to understand. But yes, I still wonder if I've got the 'beyond' in beyond good and evil. Very appropriate discussion we have had for this posting today, yes?. I certainly don't think any of the sides in this debate have gone -beyond'!!! for instance. !!!! Sleep well.

          • Kraker Jak

            John Locke once said - if we would only pay attention to what it is that we are actually attempting to say....

            That is really good advice for all of us really...thanks. Something that we should all pay heed to...but in attempting to say things in com boxes we also have to try to keep things concise and to the main points that we are trying to get across and let us not get carried away in our zeal to get our point across, or we will overwhelm others with too many details in our effort to be understood. That is a struggle I can relate to, especially when we receive a reply in which we know the person did not understand what we were trying to say. But We can always add more detail in ongoing replies etc. Thanks Loreen...love your refreshing honesty and fearless search for truth.

          • Just got to this, after watching your video, and giving a reply. Yes, I feel I have resolve, i.e. accepted, the criticism that I can indeed become incoherent, in some of my attempts, (experiments) to get to the 'source/root' of specific issue. That's OK. I can take the criticism. Indeed, it is an opportunity to 'discover' more. Yes, you are right sometimes I don't know what to say or how to say it. (Except for the occasional opportunity to clarify some philosophical point made by Kant, or something). But, as I said before, I really do appreciate the 'quest' of Nietzsche, which still I believe remains very 'misunderstood'. The difficulty is in resolving the conflicts as they exist between the self- and the 'other' be that the God/gods, of science or religion, etc. etc. etc. I do understand, i.e. my understanding, that Nietzsche, himself, did not find this resolution. He was certainly a 'prophet', however, although as I ironically stated once, not a priest, or a king!!!!

            I have been for the last while involved in historical research of Catholicism, and for the first time I am remembering dates, and 'putting things' together. I feel I have much greater understanding regarding the revolution in Catholicism that took place during and following the Crusades, to the advent to Thomistic philosophy, through the horrors of the 14th century which I now understand almost necessarily was followed by the revolution. It has also given me new insight into the current state of Catholicism vs. -naturalism/atheism, and the arguments on this blog. I hope the evil-overlord, etc. etc. take note of your video on Nietzsche. I certainly feel they could profit from his perspective on this, as presented in this thesis, and become, in the sense of the Nietzschean over-self ubermensch- more 'Buddhistic'!!! in their approach to Catholicism, for instance. :) (can I say grin grin?) Thanks again.

          • Kraker Jak

            I was not implying that that you were inchoherent in fact you are just the opposite in that you explain yourself in great detail. The misunderstanding applies in that others fail to understand precisely what you are getting at some times. In my humble opinion.

          • Thank you Kraker Jak. I really appreciate that you 'get something' from my comments. i was speaking about my relationship with EN, where the Evil Overload is still monitoring my comments as he thought they were often incoherent. I have tried a couple of experiments, one in which I was testing the effect of the dialogue on me, psychologically, and thus have occasionally just followed associative thinking, or stream of consciousness presentation. I this this phase in my attempt to understand my heritage of Catholic thought is 'over'. I greatly admire the comments of others, like yourself, Nichol, Rimmer, Adams, Shafer, and especially Davis, but also lots of others, who can speak to specifics better than I. But I don't have a 'cause' to fight, perhaps, and therefore tend to attempt to be more philosophical. And besides I feel like I know all you guys, and so its like a trip to the cafe coming here and reading the comments.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Well, "evil" is defectus boni, a "deficiency in a good." And the good is what all seek, as we understand when we say, "She is a good archer" or "he is a good doctor." That is, one is good to the extent that he or she fulfills the aims or goals of life.
        http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html

        • Ladolcevipera

          Absolutely not! "Evil" is something real, and I do not mean a devil with horns and hooves and a tail. To say that "evil" has no ontological status (as Thomas does) is to deny it's reality and is an affront to all the victims of evil.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Does saying that a pothole is a deficiency in the road somehow demean the victim of a blown tire?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Then we are talking of technical failure, not of evil.

          • ben

            They're not the victims of evil; they are the victims of people committing evil acts against them.

          • Ladolcevipera

            You cannot equate the evil of pain with the emptiness of a glass of wine or any other pleasure. Evil exists as a property. It denotes profound immorality.
            The privation theory is a means to save the goodness of God. But then of course the question arises: If f.i. torture is only the absence of something good, why does God allow privatio evils to exist?

        • Kraker Jak

          Harkening back to what I said about evil earlier, Good as well is just another word, open to interpretation according to one's own religious, cultural, ideological, philosophical, political ,or tribalistic thinking. There is no global understanding or definition of the word. It seems that it cannot be otherwise unless God really does exist, and these two concepts actually exist on some sort of spiritual, supernatural plane or dimension. And if that is so, then non theists truly have difficulty with that conundrum.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So it's only a matter of culture whether someone is a good doctor? Or someone is a good archer? Or a good scientist?

          • Kraker Jak

            You are equating being skilled or competent with "good", that is not what I was referring to when I was speaking of the concept or meaning of the word "good" and you know it. Deliberate obfuscation seems to be a particular skill of yours.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Don't blame me. Take it up with Aristotle. [cf. The Nichomachean Ethics] or Aquinas. That is the meaning of the good that underlies all the rest and illustrates that the concept is not entirely beyond your understanding. To pursue the good is to perfect what it means to be... a doctor, an archer, or... a human being. That a human being is a rational animal, our perfection is attained in two ways: perfecting our rational nature and perfecting our animal nature. Perfecting our animal nature is what is involved when we say things like "too much chocolate is bad for you.

            Modern neuroscience has shown that "vulcanizing" [by repetition] neural patterns originating in the more primitive brain structures inhibits neural patterns originating in the neocortex. Hence, pursuit of the good tells us to avoid such things as they impair the perfection of our intellect. etc. etc.

          • Kraker Jak

            Ok...now we have gone beyond the concept of good or evil into "perfection". Hence Evil is now merely lack of perfection?....whatever that is? Who among us can lay any claim to perfection? The game of checkers is very boring and I don't wish to play your childish game anymore. Sayonora.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Per fectus means something that is "done thoroughly" and is the opposite of de fectus, which falls short of being done. I once had a discussion with a production superintendent in which he claimed that quality was an indefinable and unattainable idea. You can quality yourself out of business, he said. The problem, as here, is considering relatively concrete terms as if they were the fuzzy and inchoate terms of Late Modern discourse.

            I never said anyone was perfect. I used perfect as a verb. And if you are not striving toward perfection then you must necessarily be striving toward imperfection, and I would not wish you to be in charge of manufacture of, say, medical devices.

            "What do you want," he asked me, "a gold-plated beer can?"
            "Of course not," I responded. "If it were gold-plated, I would have to reject it."
            "Say what?"
            "Gold plating is not a perfection of a beer can. If it were to somehow happen, it would be a defect, adding cost without adding value."

  • Doug Shaver

    The common wisdom in many circles (most located in certain cities on the East and Left Coasts) is that religion, in general, is a bad thing, and that in the hands of "fundamentalists," the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and ultra-super-radical-Islamic terrorists, it is inevitably evil. Eliminating religion, it is then suggested or even openly argued, is a sure way to rid the world of evil.

    Yeah. And people who talk that way are being stupid. But not all secularists talk that way.

  • Kraker Jak

    While many may think that society and the world may be better off without religion for whatever reasons...some justifiable on the grounds of social justice....they simply cannot argue that the world will be better off without the cultural, charitable and social structures and support that many religions provide, IMHO.

  • Ladolcevipera

    I think it would be useful to make a distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic religion.
    1. In the case of intrinsic religion, people believe for the sake of religion itself, for WHAT is said, for the content of their faith. It also depends on HOW they belief: in a literal or in a symbolic way. People who believe in a symbolic way know that texts need to be interpreted. They know that other interpretations are possible. These believers are usually very tolerant and certainly non-violent.
    People who believe in a literal way are often people who want absolute security. They are certain of their faith but avoid to raise questions. They strongly rely on the eccleciastical authorities. They are often right wing and have a tendency to etnocentrism. They make a strong distinction between their faith (and they are the true believers, of course) and that of others. They are willing to defend their (idea of) religion with violence if they have to. I think we can situate the KKK, bombers of an abortion clinic, islam suicide bombers in this category. I think they have a twisted idea of what religion really is about.
    2. In the case of extrinsic religion, people do not adhere to a religion for the sake of religion itself, but use it to obtain their own goals. They are the cynics who have a hidden agenda and let gullible or downright stupid people do the dirty work for them in the name of religion. Here we find the Hitlers, Islamic State etc.
    Religion has nothing to do with that. It is used in a most despicable way.

  • David Nickol

    As G.K. Chesterton rightly noted somewhere (the exact location escapes me), if you think the world is in bad shape you might be shocked how much worse it would be if Christianity weren’t around.

    I hope this unsourced idea, attributed to Chesterton, is either garbled or not attributable to Chesterton at all. There is simply no way to know what the world would be like without Christianity. It is a meaningless statement. It reminds me of people who pray and pray when they are in the path of a storm, and when the storm turns out to be utterly devastating, they claim that their prayers were heard because the storm could have been worse if they hadn't prayed.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      There is simply no way to know what the world would be like without Christianity.

      You could get some data by considering the world before Christianity or the world outside Christendom. (Post-Christian Europe doesn't count. As Toynbee pointed out (and Nietzsche!) that world is inescapably ex-Christian.)

      Thomas Cahill wrote on the subject:
      http://www.amazon.com/Desire-Everlasting-Hills-Before-History/dp/0385483724

      • William Davis

        What we can't do is separate Christianity from Greek philosophy (Plato Aristotle). That would be a fascinating experiment. I have no doubt that Christianity was superior in many ways to pagan religions, but I think the type of philosophical questioning that started with the Greeks and developed inside Christianity is the primary "good" of Christianity. Think about Christians like those in Westboro Baptist Church. A huge difference in philosophy between Thomists and these clowns, but technically the same religion. The philosophy, to me, is what makes the difference all around.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          The Westboro people aren't even Baptists. They are as much Christian as North Korea is a democratic republic. It takes more than self-declaration to make something true.

          Remember that pagan religions were not the same kind of thing as Christianity (or Buddhism). They were, as the name implies, "rebinding" rituals by which a people affirmed their commonality by public participation. Artemis or Jupiter put no demands on behavior beyond adherence to the rituals. Among the Greeks, in fact, the gods were simply personified nature. Poseidon was not an old man with a trident living under the sea. Poseidon was the Sea, and the Sea was Poseidon. Pagan temples were institutions of the State and its priests were State employees. In Rome, they were elected offices. That is why an Emperor shutting down pagan temples is best compared to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania shutting down all the liquor stores. (In PA all liquor stores are state-run.)

  • David Nickol

    has a lengthy analysis of "The Secular Religions," which include Fascism, Nazism, Marxism, and Stalinism.

    It seems to me that when we call something a religion that is not, in fact, a religion—let's say Marxism—we are paying no compliment either to Marxism or religion. We are, in effect, saying that it is dogmatic and irrational, and adherents believe in it without (or in spite of) evidence.

    When we call something a religion that is not a religion, we are saying it has all the worst aspects of religion.

    • VicqRuiz

      saying that it is dogmatic and irrational, and adherents believe in it without (or in spite of) evidence.

      True of the Abrahamic faiths, and also true of Marxism, at least when put into service as a governing doctrine.

      Is there a term other than "religion" which would encompass them both??

  • David Nickol

    It comes as no surprise that Harris’s polemic is praised by Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, who advocates infanticide and euthanasia and all else in-between (yet, irrationally, Singer spent much money keeping alive his mother, who is stricken with Alzheimer's disease).

    It strikes me that this is a loathsome—not to mention inaccurate—statement that communicates personal animosity more strongly than any reasoned point. Peter Singer does not "advocate" infanticide and euthanasia. He argues that there are circumstances in which they may be morally permissible. It is interesting to note that on abortion, for example, he felt that Roe v Wade was wrongly decided, and that the legality of abortion should be determined democratically, by voters, rather than by judges. Certainly Peter Singer believes that there are cases where abortion is morally justifiable, but I think that, based on that fact alone, it is not accurate to say he advocates it.

    I am curious to know, in the phrase "advocates infanticide and euthanasia and all else in-between," exactly what Carl Olson understands by all else in between. Rape? Slavery? Wars of aggression? Theft?

    And are we to feel contempt for Singer because he provides medical care for his mother?

    Would the moral monster Catholic apologists love to hate have written The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically or The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty?

  • GCBill

    We can see the effects of this skewed thinking when confronted with the "solution" so often promoted by educators such as Professor Shelly, which is a "stricter separation of church and state." If that is the answer, look no further than the former Soviet Union to see what happens when the ultimate separation of church and state takes place—that is, when the state essentially destroys the church (and I use "church" here to mean an authentic body of Christians who don't give lip service the state to save their skins). The result is not just the eradication of traditional religion but also the establishment of a grotesque and bloody new religion—or anti-religious religion.

    If you want to convince secularists that their application of church-state separation will eventually lead to communist levels of religious oppression, you will need to argue for that conclusion. As I see it, destruction of religion is not compatible with the view that religions and governments ought to keep out of each other's affairs. No one who isn't already persuaded that secularism goes well beyond this dictum will find this paragraph persuasive.

    But Chesterton is correct in observing that there "are two things, and
    two things only, for the human mind, a dogma and a prejudice" (What’s Wrong With the World [Ignatius, 1987], p. 48), and that doctrine "is a definite point," while prejudice is "a direction."

    This is too simple even for Catholicism, which takes care to distinguish between dogma and doctrine. Otherwise, Chesterton is using "dogma" in a way which is not consistent with RCC teaching.

  • Michael Murray

    "For me, the insight from this film is that religion can become downright evil," one can be forgiven for wondering what they have studied and if they have ever contemplated human nature, both by considering the actions/thoughts of others and examining their own actions/thoughts. Sure, there is a sense in which "religion can become downright evil," which is because people can become downright evil.

    I'm not a great believer in evil as an entity. I would rather say that people can do evil things. Then the question is not can religion become evil but can it somehow encourage or enable people to do evil things. I think the evidence is clear that the answer to that question is yes.

    The problem many people have today is not that they deny outright the existence of evil, but that they deny they could have anything to do with evil. Sure, evil is personal and is committed by persons—but not by me. Yes, Hitler was human—but I’m different from Hitler.

    Really? I would have thought the question anyone who isn't Jewish should ask themselves when contemplating the Holocaust is could they have been a guard? Or just turned a blind eye? What do you do in the face of such appalling things when you know that opposing them will lead to your destruction and the destruction of all those you love?

  • Michael Murray

    First published apparently on Dec 5, 2005.

    http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/colson_relevil_dec05.asp

    Thanks Geena for pointing that out. She also points out that this is before The God Delusion (2006), Breaking the Spell (2006) and God is Not Great (2007) the books by the other Four Horsemen of the New Atheism.

  • neil_ogi

    since atheism and theism are both religions, it is therefore sad to say that each religion had some share of 'evils' in our society. i can say that only radicals cause these evils. most moslem governments and countries condemned the attacks on U.S. soil, the empire state building and pentagon, even though the instigators or the attackers are mostly or sides with moslem religion. radical christians (catholics of ancient time) executed their fellow christians, moslems and others, during the crusaders and dark ages.but these are also condemned by christians themselves (protestants and catholics). atheists also executed millions (china, cambodia, germany, etc). in my personal opinion, only radicals will do these 'evils'.

    the fact that the laws of morality exist in our hearts, don't necessarily mean we don't have 'free will'.. human hearts can do anything, be it evil or good.

    hitler. for example, executed millions of jews and others because he believes in the doctrine of evolution. sometimes killing sprees is often dictated by some kind of mental illnesses (whether he is an atheist or not)