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Why Atheists Should Read “Lumen Fidei”

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Lumen Fidei

On Friday, Pope Francis released his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, which means “The Light of Faith.” Even though the encyclical is addressed to “the bishops, priests, and deacons, consecrated persons, and the lay faithful,” I hope that non-Christians will read it as well. Why? Because Francis explains in stark terms the differences in how “faith” is understood by believers and non-believers.

He begins by explaining that to Christians, faith is illuminating, and is described by Christ as a light:
 

1. The light of Faith: this is how the Church’s tradition speaks of the great gift brought by Jesus. In John’s Gospel, Christ says of himself: "I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness" (Jn 12:46). Saint Paul uses the same image: "God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts" (2 Cor 4:6).
 
The pagan world, which hungered for light, had seen the growth of the cult of the sun god, Sol Invictus, invoked each day at sunrise. Yet though the sun was born anew each morning, it was clearly incapable of casting its light on all of human existence. The sun does not illumine all reality; its rays cannot penetrate to the shadow of death, the place where men’s eyes are closed to its light. "No one — Saint Justin Martyr writes — has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun".[1]
 
Conscious of the immense horizon which their faith opened before them, Christians invoked Jesus as the true sun "whose rays bestow life".[2] To Martha, weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus said: "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (Jn 11:40). Those who believe, see; they see with a light that illumines their entire journey, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets.

 
In stark contrast, non-believers tend to envision faith as a “blind leap,” or as a turning-away from the light of reason:
 

2. Yet in speaking of the light of faith, we can almost hear the objections of many of our contemporaries. In modernity, that light might have been considered sufficient for societies of old, but was felt to be of no use for new times, for a humanity come of age, proud of its rationality and anxious to explore the future in novel ways. Faith thus appeared to some as an illusory light, preventing mankind from boldly setting out in quest of knowledge.
 
The young Nietzsche encouraged his sister Elisabeth to take risks, to tread "new paths… with all the uncertainty of one who must find his own way", adding that "this is where humanity’s paths part: if you want peace of soul and happiness, then believe, but if you want to be a follower of truth, then seek".[3] Belief would be incompatible with seeking. From this starting point Nietzsche was to develop his critique of Christianity for diminishing the full meaning of human existence and stripping life of novelty and adventure. Faith would thus be the illusion of light, an illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.

 

3. In the process, faith came to be associated with darkness. There were those who tried to save faith by making room for it alongside the light of reason. Such room would open up wherever the light of reason could not penetrate, wherever certainty was no longer possible. Faith was thus understood either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be proposed to others as an objective and shared light which points the way.
 
Slowly but surely, however, it would become evident that the light of autonomous reason is not enough to illumine the future; ultimately the future remains shadowy and fraught with fear of the unknown. As a result, humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself, in order to be content with smaller lights which illumine the fleeting moment yet prove incapable of showing the way. Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.

 
What I’ve observed is that many of the people who understand faith in this way seem genuinely unaware that this isn’t how believers view faith. If that describes you, or those you know, it behooves you to read this encyclical. It’s relatively short (only four chapters), well written, and thorough, quoting from Nietzsche, Dante, Martin Buber, the Church Fathers, Rousseau, Dostoevsky, Guardini, Wittgenstein, Aquinas, Bonaventure, John Paul II, and T.S. Eliot, amongst others. Who knows? It just might change the way you approach the topic of religion.
 
 
Originally posted at Shameless Popery. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: News.va)

Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • Rationalist1

    Theat encylical is short and it may help clarify the terminology we're using.

    I'll read that if you read the first chapter of The God Delusion ( http://www.bookbrowse.com/excerpts/index.cfm/book_number/1918/index.cfm?fuseaction=printable&book_number=1918 ), It helps explain the difference between theism, deism and pantheism and how non believers can be spiritual people and are no prepared to surrender that word to religious use only. It also brings up perhaps the greatest effect the so called "new atheists" have had on society, namely the questioning of the automatic respect religion has in society.

    Happy reading.

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

      I've read Dawkins' entire book and I know many of the posters and commenters here have, too.

      So when can I expect the "Lumen Fidei" book report? ;)

      • Rationalist1

        Part way through it. But i do detect quite a bit of confusion here on deism and theism and the occasional religious poster who claims atheism leaves no room for wonder and awe.

        • clod

          To the contrary. Wonder and awe is vastly more likely in minds that question everything rather than are told what they must believe to be true. The intent of a great many religious commentators is to slur atheism with as much negative criticism as it's possible to invent. I see why they do it, but it often backfires.

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

        I'd love to read a book report from a Catholic and an Atheist on Lumen Fidei. I don't really count this as a book report, more of an introduction. Perhaps R1 could offer an atheist perspective.

        • Rationalist1

          Mine is less of a book report and more blogging points that stand out.

      • Maximus Meridius

        I guess this Encyclical hath shed a light on Atheists. Thus, taking sometime to reply to it.

  • 42Oolon

    I used to think "faith" was some vague wishy-washy term. Now...

    Thank goodness for Christianity which took these ignorant pagans who worshipped the Sun, Appollo, Ra, but were actually languishing in spiritual darkness, inventing geometry, philosophy, poetry, democracy, science, completing wondrous works of architecture... and brought us into the wonderful centuries of 400 CE to 900 CE, when the only educated Europeans were the clergy. This period was extremely religious and Catholic and became known as the "Light Ages" in which incredible discoveries were made. Such as... Anyway, of this came crashing down upon the re-discovery of the darkened pagan knowledge and the drudgery of the Middle Ages culminating in the terrible "En-darkening Age" of the 16th and 17th centuries.

    • Fr.Sean

      Hi 42Oolon,
      Couldn't you also give credit to the church for establishing schools and universities that have led to much of our educational system? She's also worked very hard to educate the poor, many of whom I'm sure had opportunities in life that wouldn't have been available without the such schools?

      • 42Oolon

        Yes. However, I see nothing religious or Christian about that. The best schools, and librearies were established in Rome, Greece, particularly Egypt. These all faded and decayed once the "light" of faith took over and education centered on the Bible, mainly monks copying ancient texts in fortified monastries. It took centuries for secular education to recover. The Renaissance was the re-birth of buried PAGAN knowledge kept alive largely by the arabs.

        • Randy Gritter

          This is why Arab countries advanced in science so much quicker than European ones did.

          • Rationalist1

            They certainly did in the medieval period.

          • Randy Gritter

            You really think so? Even if that were true the Europeans did shoot ahead. Why? They had some foundation in education and philosophy that created an environment for the growth of science. I would say the actual science started earlier too but that is a detail.

          • Rationalist1

            The Europeans made great advances during the Renaissance, when the ancient texts were making their way to Europe via the Arab countries. While the Church did establish universities for in the medieval period much of the subsequent advancement in science was done in spite of the Church rather than because of the Church and much was done in Protestant countries (I include England in that list) as the scientific revolution really got underway as opposed to traditionally Catholic countries.

          • 42Oolon

            Shoot ahead? It had to catch up first!

          • ZenDruid

            It was people such as al-Ghazali who pretty much put the quietus on the Islamic golden age.

          • VelikaBuna

            That is a myth.

        • Fr.Sean

          Hi 42Olon,
          I'm not sure i would agree with your summary. there were no printing presses and there wasn't a great growth in education and knowledge that was somehow minimized by the church. Greek philosophy was not halted because of the growth of the church nor was growth in architecture subdued. i know that the church did burn a library in Alexandria because of it's pagan influence, but many of the pagans practiced infanticide so they had reason to reduce it's influence. the Church did in fact preserve a great deal of what was good in the early centuries after Christ. the Church began universities in the 12th century which highly influenced the growth of learning as well as preserving many of the Greek and Roman works of literature. I'm not aware of any secular education prior to the influence of the Church, the only people who were educated were the nobility. the ancient pagans and barbians coming down from nothern Europe were civilized by the influence of the Church. The Church was the light of civilization for Europe and the Middle East and certainly did more to encourage education and progress than it did to detract from it.

          • 42Oolon

            The point is, that contrary to the Pope's implication, the advent of Christianity did not correlate with a period of intellectual, scientific or artistic illumination, rather what came next is pretty much understood as a Dark Age. Now the Dark Ages are probably more due to the decline of Rome and I do not blame religion. It is just a bit ridiculous to say that the Pagans who build the Parthenon, the Pantheon, the Colloesium, wrote Oedipus Rex, gave us Plato, Aristotle, Democracy, the liberal arts lacked some kind of intellectual light, compared to the Christians who retreated to Monasteries and to my mind created virtually nothing for hundreds of years...

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

            Yet the pagans' glorious civilization perished for all their intellectual brilliance, and the monasteries created European civilization, while simultaneously preserving the intellectual brilliance of the pagans.

            Score one for the Catholic Church.

          • Rob VH

            Rick hit the nail on the head. It's about faith AND reason. Knowledge is power but faith provides direction. Give power a direction and you have a useful laser. Give power no direction and you risk a harmful explosion.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi 42Olon,

            Sorry i didn't get back to you sooner. i understand your point and i agree that many of the prechristian philosophies as well as much of antiquity was growing in learning and knowledge prior to the influence of the church. i guess i just get a little frustrated when i hear "some" atheists define faith such that people of faith believe in stuff that has no evidence in reality or history, when i will hear them make faith proclamations themselves. i have never read anything that implied you do that but i do think one could have a discussion on faith and reason outside of the influence of the Christian faith in how one views life. i do think they are two different venues who have connections (speaking about faith in general not necessarilly the Christian faith) that help us to make decisions in life. sometimes it gets frustrating to hear an atheists claim that their all reason and logic and therefore their way of thinking is superior which the idea in and of itself is a faith proclamation.

    • Maximus Meridius

      It took awhile, but we were busy fighting the battles before we could sit down and write an Encyclical. Thank you for thy support.

  • Rationalist1

    Preanble - Lots of statements without support. Lots of wishing things to be. Lost of light and flame and darkness metaphors. Example

    "Slowly but surely, however, it would become evident that the light of autonomous reason is not enough to illumine the future; ultimately the future remains shadowy and fraught with fear of the unknown." One needs to become not afraid of the unknown, the dark and indeed of death. Until that happens there will always be religion.

    "Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, " I assume that was the Benedict XVI line, another attack at atheism and its supposed moral relativism. I hope it wasn't the current Pope.

    "for once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begin to dim. The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence. " Except when the flame of of faith began to dim in the Enlightenment (another light metaphor) the light of reason grew and now is close to dominating much of Western Society. And secondly, illuminating every aspect of human existence, that's a bit of a stretch.

  • Rationalist1

    The first chapter deals with the faith journey saying"if we want to understand what faith is, we need to follow the route it has taken, the path trodden by believers"

    It starts with Abraham and his the Word of God calling him to "leave his own land", trust in God and then before what would now be classified as child abuse to show his faith. The comes Israel who is often unfaithful through idolatry, which still is faith but in the supposedly wrong God. The people of Israel do not encounter God directly but through a mediator that tells them what God wants of them and they learn to trust in him. I giess God didn't worry about relying on mediators would often lead to mediators manipulating people to theor own ends.

    Next it's the fullness of the Christian faith in Jesus, trust in him as he knows what is best and it"enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself." No ambiguity there.

    The Salvation by faith section is intersting. If one could send it back in a time capsule 500 years the entire salvation by faith/works debate which drove much of the reformation micght have been prevented.

    And finallay it would nit be complete without bring it all back to the Church. It seems to take the former dictate of outside the Church no salvation to "apart from this body, outside this unity of the Church in Christ, outside this Church ...[faith]... no longer finds its equilibrium, the space needed to sustain itself. Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers. It is against this ecclesial backdrop that faith opens the individual Christian towards all others." So does that mean the faith of Protestants, Jews, Muslims is defiecient?

  • stanz2reason

    The Catholic argument often downshifts into 'oh, you should read this' or 'you really need to read that'. Attempts to make chapter & verse relevant to people who think it's at best an OK story or use of vague metaphors or the notion that there is anything special about religious faith is not only unconvincing but just boring. Surely there are people qualified of providing a cliff notes 1-2 paragraph summary of the overall points. I read plenty. Don't need extra assignments because you're unable to be brief.

    Also, I might be mistaken, but wasn't "I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness" what the warden says in Shawshank Redemption? Anybody?

    • Randy Gritter

      It is hard. Different people are willing to read different things and impressed by different things. I would take it as a complement that Mr Heschmeyer things you are going to be able to read and understand this encyclical.

      • stanz2reason

        I'm glad that both you and Joe think skeptics might be able to comprehend such deep thoughts as "Conscious of the immense horizon which their faith opened before them, Christians invoked Jesus as the true sun "whose rays bestow life"....

        zzzzzzzzzzzz... zzzzzzzzzz...

        ... wha?!?! Oh sorry I dozed off.

        • Rationalist1

          I only think it must be comforting language for believers to assure those "fraught with fear of the unknown."

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

          I'm afraid that says more about your capacities than the Pope's.

          • stanz2reason

            Or perhaps Catholics are impervious to being doubtful or flat out bored when considering the deepness of vague metaphor.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            This is something I noticed when I started questioning my Catholic faith, the reliance on metaphor to offer the appearance of deepness. But behind the curtain, these metaphors ultimately weren't very helpful because metaphors always break down when analyzed. I used to contemplate the imagery and appreciate the flowery prose, but when I started breaking down the meanings of the metaphors, I realized they weren't saying very much. "Deepities," indeed.

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

            So.

            Metaphor is inadmissible in the atheist universe, then?

            Here is an example of why atheism is a dead end in all of its applications.

            ATHEIST UNIVERSE "TRUTH":

            Guy found an old broken down statue in the desert.

            REAL UNIVERSE TRUTH:

            I met a traveller from an antique land
            Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
            Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
            Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
            And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
            Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
            Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
            The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
            And on the pedestal these words appear:
            `My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
            Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
            Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
            Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
            The lone and level sands stretch far away".

            It is only in the real world that metaphor exists, and conveys truth which is accessible only to human cognitive powers.

            The computers can't get it.

            Neither can the atheists.

            Except they can, of course.

            They are human.

            Thankfully, atheists cannot live their faith.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            Huh? Your example fails you. Atheists can understand art, mythology, poetry, etc. They just don't necessarily believe that Ozymandias really existed and did the things claimed by the poet. Likewise, the atheist can read the Bible, appreciate parts (Ecclesiastes really is quite excellent), but leave behind the myths and superstitions. We don't have to believe Jesus existed, as described in the Bible, to appreciate the drama of the story. Likewise we don't have to believe that these light metaphors actually describe a real cognitive outside the poetic realm.

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

            "Atheists can understand art, mythology, poetry, etc"

            >> They can do so because they understand that reality exists beyond sense perception, and these levels of reality can be accessed by metaphor.

            Even if they turn around and deny the validity of metpahor when it suits them to do so.

            It is of course illogical, but it has been established on these threads that the law of non contradiction itself will be instantly trashed by some atheists, when it suits them to do so.

            "They just don't necessarily believe that Ozymandias really existed and did the things claimed by the poet."

            >> Ozymandias really existed.

            The poet is interested in telling us the truth about Ozymandias, including the truth that cannot be reached by the facts.

            In other words, the metaphor of Ozymandias, which is so beautifully and ironically expressed here:

            "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

            "Likewise, the atheist can read the Bible, appreciate parts (Ecclesiastes really is quite excellent), but leave behind the myths and superstitions."

            >> Quite so. The atheist, as I have said, is human, and humans understand that truthful knowledge is accessible to our cognitive powers which cannot be attained through sense perception.

            It is a real problem for the atheist worldview, but only if the atheist is serious about examining that world view.

            Once an atheist does so, the problem becomes immense.

            How can we attain to truthful knowledge about objects of sense perception, when that truthful knowledge is inaccessible by mere sense perception?

            The Catholic Church has an answer.

            Do you?

            "We don't have to believe Jesus existed, as described in the Bible, to appreciate the drama of the story."

            >> Actually, you do. The drama of the story depends upon whether or not the story's report of an eternal damnation is true.

            Otherwise it is mere literature.

            "Ozymandias", as great as it is, is mere literature.

            The Gospel is life and death, and much more than that.

            "Likewise we don't have to believe that these light metaphors actually describe a real cognitive outside the poetic realm."

            >> The poetic realm is precisely the realm which conveys the truth about Ozymandias, which your sense perceptions alone can never access.

            It is a real problem for the reductionist/materialist world view.

          • Phil Rimmer

            "How can we attain to truthful knowledge about objects of sense
            perception, when that truthful knowledge is inaccessible by mere sense perception?

            The Catholic Church has an answer.

            Do you?"

            Yes.

          • Rationalist1

            Many churches have answers. As do synagogues, mosques, temples, etc.

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

            What answer do they have, for the ability of metaphor to convey truthful knowledge which is not accessible through simple sense-perception?

            What answer does the atheist have for this observed aspect of reality?

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

            I am delighted.

            May I request that you provide it here?

          • primenumbers

            "How can we attain to truthful knowledge about objects of sense perception, when that truthful knowledge is inaccessible by mere sense perception?" - you've become a presuppositionalist now have you?

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

            Nope.

            A Catholic.

          • primenumbers

            I didn't realize Catholics ascribed to presuppositionalism? Or is my characterization of your commend as presuppositionalism incorrect?

          • Corylus

            The poet is interested in telling us the truth about Ozymandias, including the truth that cannot be reached by the facts.

            In other words, the metaphor of Ozymandias, which is so beautifully and ironically expressed here:

            "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

            That poet would be Shelley, who talked of the destruction of empire and faded ancient power from a young age. For example,

            ‘Behold,’ the Fairy cried,
            'Palmyra’s ruined palaces!
            Behold where grandeur frowned!
            Behold where pleasure smiled!
            What now remains? -the memory
            Of senselessness and shame.
            What is immortal there?
            Nothing -it stands to tell
            A melancholy tale, to give
            An awful warning; soon
            Oblivion will steal silently
            The remnant of its fame.
            Monarchs and conquerors there
            Proud o'er prostrate millions trod -
            The earthquakes of the human race;
            Like them, forgotten when the ruin
            That marks their shock is past.

            Doesn't scan as well, I admit, but he was a kid when he wrote Queen Mab

            You can site him as understanding the 'truth that cannot be reached by facts' if you wish Rick, but you then find yourself with a problem dismissing what else he said:

            ‘Then grave and hoary-headed hypocrites,
            Without a hope, a passion or a love,
            Who through a life of luxury and lies
            Have crept by flattery to the seats of power,
            Support the system whence their honors flow.
            They have three words -well tyrants know their use,
            Well pay them for the loan with usury
            Torn from a bleeding world! -God, Hell and Heaven:
            A vengeful, pitiless, and almighty fiend,
            Whose mercy is a nickname for the rage
            Of tameless tigers hungering for blood;
            Hell, a red gulf of everlasting fire,
            Where poisonous and undying worms prolong
            Eternal misery to those hapless slaves
            Whose life has been a penance for its crimes;
            And Heaven, a meed for those who dare belie
            Their human nature, quake, believe and cringe
            Before the mockeries of earthly power.

            [Ibid]

            Shelley is not one of yours.

            In his more mild mannered moments he displayed a pantheistic bent:

            Nothing in the world is single,
            All things by a law divine
            In one spirit meet and mingle -
            Why not I with thine?

            Love's Philosophy

            (Arrrh!)

            However, that really was his limit. I'd have a care with poets if I were you :)

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

            "Doesn't scan as well, I admit"

            >> We agree. But then Beethoven filled thirty years' worth of sketchbooks with versions of the "Ode to Joy", some of which were remarkably unpromising.

            I have not adduced Shelley in defense of Catholicism, Corylus, since if I had, your above excerpt would have constituted a valid point :-)

            As it stands it constitutes a devastating employment of the poet's art in furious rejection of the Faith.

            Your final excerpt, that allows us to hope that Shelley rejected not the Faith but the failures of the Church to fully live and proclaim it, is a good one, but not this good:

            "Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits
            But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds
            Which Thou and I alone of living things
            Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth
            Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou [1.5]
            Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,
            And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
            With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.
            Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,
            Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn, [1.10]
            O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.
            Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,
            And moments aye divided by keen pangs
            Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
            Scorn and despair, — these are mine empire: — [1.15]
            More glorious far than that which thou surveyest
            From thine unenvied throne, O Mighty God!"

          • Corylus

            I have not adduced Shelley in defense of Catholicism, Corylus, since if I had, your above excerpt would have constituted a valid point :-)

            No, maybe not, maybe you did something much more commonplace. You used the emotional effect that pleasing meter has upon us to make an argument based, not on facts, but on rhetoric.

            This works particularly well with those of us seeped in language, but it is possible to see past the appeal.

            Something makes me feel good ≠ something which is true.

            Your final excerpt, that allows us to hope that Shelley rejected not the Faith but the failures of the Church to fully live and proclaim it...

            Are you questioning the Magisterium, Rick? Good for you if you are. I hope you also give me credit for citing something not in complete agreement with my argument - and marking it as such.

            ... is a good one, but not this good:

            Please read this again Rick. Prometheus Unbound is about the tedious predictability of myth and the possibility of man to shake it off.

            Shelley was not about the acceptance of a god, he was about mortals doing their best and trying to make a world worth living in by their own efforts.

            Romantic? Yes. But that was rather in his job description.

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

            "No, maybe not, maybe you did something much more commonplace. You used the emotional effect that pleasing meter has upon us to make an argument based, not on facts, but on rhetoric."

            >> To the contrary. I did nothing even approximately like that.

            I adduced Shelley as an example of the power of metaphor to give us truthful knowledge not accessible via sense perception.

            Check and see, please.

            "Are you questioning the Magisterium, Rick? "Good for you if you are."

            >> The Magisterium is infallible, under strict conditions, in its definitions of the Faith. The magisterium is indefectible, in its proclamation of the Faith that has been held "always, everywhere, and by everyone", in St. Vincent's formulation. The Magisterium is not, nor has the Faith ever proposed that it is, impeccable or always-prudent in its decisions concerning governance or strategies of evangelization.

            "I hope you also give me credit for citing something not in complete agreement with my argument - and marking it as such."

            >> I certainly do, and not least by continuing the interesting and rewarding exchange.

            Love Shelley, always have. "Mary Queen of Scots" is my favorite drama ever composed and it is my dream to one day be able to produce it.

            "Please read this again Rick. Prometheus Unbound is about the tedious predictability of myth and the possibility of man to shake it off."

            >> Please read *this* again, Corylus:

            "Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits

            *But One*"..........

            It is that remarkable "But One", that I adduce as grounds for my earlier-expressed hope for the immortal soul of the great Percy Bysse Shelley.

            I do not say the hope is well-grounded, only that I retain it and refuse to surrender it.

            "Shelley was not about the acceptance of a god, he was about mortals doing their best and trying to make a world worth living in by their own efforts."

            >> I do not find, with respect, your above reductionist take on Shelley to be either true, or worthy of this stupendous genius.

            "Romantic? Yes. But that was rather in his job description."

            >> To besmirch this great Classicist as a Romantic, is as grotesque as to refer to Wagner and Brahms as a couple of Romantic composers.

            In the case of a great performance of Brahms, there shan't be a dry eye in the house.

            In the case of a great performance of Wagner, there shan't be a dry seat in it.

          • Corylus

            I adduced Shelley as an example of the power of metaphor to give us truthful knowledge not accessible via sense perception.

            Then you forgot to explain:

            a) by what method your decide which parts of his writing to decree as 'truthful knowledge' and which bits to not cite as such

            b) how it is you take in poetry if not via sense data (reading/hearing etc.) do you have some form of osmosis thing going on with it?

            The Magisterium is infallible... etc.

            Oh dear.

            Please read *this* again, Corylus:

            "Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits

            *But One*"..........

            It is that remarkable "But One", that I adduce as grounds for my earlier-expressed hope for the immortal soul of the great Percy Bysse Shelley.

            I do not say the hope is well-grounded, only that I retain it and refuse to surrender it.

            No, I don't think it is well-grounded:

            Earth can console, Heaven can torment no more.

            Shelley is going down not up.

            To besmirch this great Classicist as a Romantic, is as grotesque as to refer to Wagner and Brahms as a couple of Romantic composers.

            In standard literary theory he is classed as a Romantic. There is nothing wrong with this. As for classicist? Well, he had a classical education, certainly, but he was sent down from Oxford (due to being, guess what?) mid degree. So, not a traditional scholar by any means.

            In the case of a great performance of Wagner, there shan't be a dry seat in it.

            I don't know quite what to make of that one! I suppose he does go on a bit, and the queue for the toilets can be rather long at concerts.

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

            "Then you forgot to explain:

            a) by what method your decide which parts of his writing to decree as 'truthful knowledge' and which bits to not cite as such

            >> This is the beauty of metaphor. The truthful knowledge consists not in the letters, or the words, or the punctuation.

            It consists in the metaphor itself, which exists above all of those things.

            When we read:

            "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

            We understand a truth that is present nowhere in the words of the text, nowhere at all is the metaphor to be found in them.

            The metaphor is found in the excruciatingly beautiful irony which the poet has set up-so cunningly that we have no clue that it is coming- between the circumstances of the carving of the statue and its pedestal- the kingdom, the riches, the power, the arrogance of the King of Kings as he sets his image up in the midst of his mighty city- and the "lone and level sands" that "stretch far away.

            This is not reducible to any algorithm whatever.

            It is creative metaphor, accessible only to that part of the human cognitive apparatus which is not shared with computers, or our closest genetic relatives.

            It is the thing about human cognition for which the atheist has no ability to account.

            "b) how it is you take in poetry if not via sense data (reading/hearing etc.) do you have some form of osmosis thing going on with it?"

            >> See above. The metaphor exists nowhere in the words, but above them.

          • Rationalist1

            Metaphor is not inadmissible but one must not base one's knowledge base upon it. To use a simile it's like building your house upon sand.

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

            Completely agreed. Metaphor is an extension of knowledge beyond sense perception, to involve those aspects of reality which cannot be accessed through sense perception.

            Such as the necessary existence of God, for example.

          • severalspeciesof

            Metaphor is an extension of knowledge beyond sense perception, to involve those aspects of reality which cannot be accessed through sense perception.

            From what drug induced dictionary did that come from?

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

            From what unexamined assumption does the assertion that a dictionary was involved proceed?

          • severalspeciesof

            Wow...

            I used a metaphor (drug induced) to point out that your definition of metaphor was wrong...

          • Rationalist1

            Now that's going above and beyond.

          • severalspeciesof

            Someone has to... ;-)

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

            That was not a metaphor.

            A metaphor leads us from sense perception to truthful knowledge, not accessible to sense perception.

            Your assertion above is simply a slander, based on not a smidgeon of sense-perceptively acquired knowledge in the first place.

          • severalspeciesof
          • Michael Murray

            You forget the fundamental Argumentum de poesy

            1. There are poets.
            2. Some poets are better than other poets.
            3. There must be a greatest poet -- we call Her god.

            God is beyond normal metre and rhyme of course. Think of Her as the blankest of blank verse.

          • 42Oolon

            I am actually confused. The poem you quoted is by an avowed atheist poet, Percy B. Shelley. Are you saying atheists can or cannot `get` metaphor.

            Kacy seems to have just been saying that apologists tend to over-rely on metaphor or misuse analogy. The trinity shamrock. God is love. etc.

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

            To the extent that atheists are human, they of course get metaphor, and Shelley is a perfect example.

            I took Kacy to have said that the employment of metpahor in Scripture was a decisive factor in her apostatization.

            Looking back on her comment, it seems she was indeed saying that.

          • 42Oolon

            Right, so basically atheists like Shelley, and theists like Mel Gibson are equally able to tap into this transcendent element that elevates art beyond the sum of its parts. So what.

            What I think I share with Kacy is a criticism of taking difficult to understand ephemeral concepts like faith and trying to explain them by use of some metaphor like light which just passes the buck.

            Atheist: I do not know what faith is

            Pope: Faith is light

            Atheist: literallyÉ

            Pope: No, it is like light, in that it illuminates.

            Atheist: So Pagans who worship the Sun must really understand faith, they actually worship light.

            Pope: NO! Worshipping light is not enough, the Pagans lack the other element.

            Atheist: What is that other elementÉ

            Pope: Faith.

            Atheist: I do not know what faith is

            What does comparing this ephemeral concept to light achieve.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            It played a role in my de-conversion, but it certainly wasn't the only thing. When prominent Catholic apologists, such as G.K. Chesterton, speak in a combination of metaphor and polemic to explain things like faith and divine revelation. It really isn't very helpful. And perhaps because my personality is such that I'm interested in details and sense perceptions, I find metaphors alone unconvincing

          • primenumbers

            I'm sure you disagree with a lot of what Hitchens wrote, but he was eloquent and a highly entertaining read. I looked a the link and rapidly gave up on reading it.

            Now one of the things I have to do for a living is parse very dense legal documents, arguments and patents, so I'm used to reading dense and complex text, but really....

        • Max Driffill

          I'm sorry but that quote does sound an awful lot like important sounding, but ultimately vague word salad.

          • severalspeciesof

            It's a 'deepity' that is bottomless... or something...

            Glen

          • Joe

            I think Rick was trying to explain "Poetic Knowledge" sometimes called "connatural knowledge. It is explained here
            http://logismoitouaaron.blogspot.com/2012/07/maritain-st-dionysius-on-poetic.html

            Flannery O'Conner "Faith is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not."

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

            This is really a remarkable blog.

            Is it yours?

          • Joe

            No. The author is a Russian Orthodox friend of mine. He is brilliant but sadly still not Catholic. Pray for him!

          • severalspeciesof

            I think I get it. (I'm assuming here you are referring to the 'metaphor debate')

            But to be concise, Rick said "metaphor IS ...."

            and NOT 'metaphor can get one to a ....'

            There's a difference. Like the difference between saying 'a car IS getting to the other side of the city faster' and 'a car CAN BE USED to get to the other side of the city faster'.

            Language is tricky... ain't it? ;-)

            Glen

  • Ben

    I get that Catholics (et al.) must see faith in a different way than atheists, otherwise they wouldn't consider it a virtue...so ok, they see it as an illuminating light, it seems, or at least the Pope does. But the better question is why do Catholics see faith this way, and are they right to? Rationalist1's book report doesn't give me much hope that Lumen Fidei gives a strong argument that faith could be appropriately considered an illuminating light...may read it though if I get a chance.

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

    One possible reason for atheists to read Lumen Fidei is that they will be able to say to Catholics, "I have read an encyclical—have you?" Most Catholics will have to honestly admit that they have not, and a fair number of them will likely answer, "I don't know. What's an encyclical?"

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

      Touche.

    • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

      I've read several of them: "Humanae Vitae,""Fides et Ratio," (my personal recommendation for atheists wanting to understand how Catholics think of faith and reason), "Humani Generis," "Lumen Gentium," "Rerum Novarum," "Centesimus Annus," "Caritas in Veritatae," and "Deus Caritas Est." My favorites are the ones focused on economic justice, and my economic views are still quite informed by RN and CA. I'm hoping Pope Francis will do more in this area, which I'm anticipating if Catholic blog speculation proves correct.

      • Rationalist1

        I agree. If many conservative Catholics read Rerum Novarum or some of JPII's teaching on social justice they's be shocked. Catholic morality is about more than sex.

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

          When the Catholic Church fully recovers Her doctrine- and this will happen- among the doctrines recovered will be the one concerning usury.

          Two things will predictably follow.

          First, conservative Catholics such a Michael Novak will be speechless in fury.

          Second, the rest of us will ask why She allowed the gigantic, insane metastasis of fake money created out of thin air and lent out at usury, to have escaped Her condemnation as long as it did.

          • cowalker

            the rest of us will ask why She allowed the gigantic, insane metastasis of fake money created out of thin air and lent out at usury, to have escaped Her condemnation as long as it did.

            Not to mention the shenanigans the Vatican Bank got up to. I do think the apparent blindness of the church hierarchy to things like pedophilia and bank fraud within the church itself casts a long shadow of doubt across the church's credibility in general. Yeah, sure, they're just human beings, but if the institution doesn't reflect its ideals, what makes it better than any other institution? If it were, it would be a powerful witness. Instead it operates in secret and circles the wagons like any other global corporation when wrong-doing is discovered. Not impressive.

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

            cowalker, your objections above are completely reasonable, and constitute the basis for examination of a very important aspect of the Church's claims to be a supernaturally-instituted and preserved society.

            "Yeah, sure, they're just human beings, but if the institution doesn't reflect its ideals, what makes it better than any other institution?"

            >> Precisely and only this.

            She is divinely protected and She will endure to the end of the world by Divine decree, just as Her Founder told us She will.

            All other institutions, similarly subjected to human foibles, collapse and return to dust.

            The Church, somehow, continues on, and we must ask what is different about Her, even on strictly empirical grounds, since She is now the oldest continuously-operating institution of the human species, and yet the appalling malfeasance in office of her ecclesiastical hierarchy is certainly not limited just to this inexpressibly awful period.

            It was arguably worse during the Arian crisis.

            The Babylonian Captivity.

            Somehow, these empirical circumstances, which would have crushed any other human society, have not crushed Her.

            Why?

          • cowalker

            I think she survived (so far) by adapting to changing environments. Classic evolution. It certainly helped when the leader of the Roman Empire adopted Christianity rather than Mithraism. The institution changed massively even if doctrines didn't--although I do think usury disappeared very mysteriously. I will be astounded if it is somehow rediscovered (where WAS it?) and used to condemn the modern the banking industry. That would actually impress me, but I'm not holding my breath.
            As for the Church's survival as an appallingly corrupt entity--I don't see that as a good thing.

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

            She is not an appallingly corrupt entity.

            She is not only Her ecclesiastical hierarchy.

            She is, however, subject in Her human aspect to the same corruption as other human institutions.

            The appalling part comes because all of us, even atheists, instinctively hold Her to higher standards than we would hold other human institutions.

            Under those standards, what we see in this present, awful time, is indeed appalling.

            But it is not, conclusively, the worst disaster She has ever faced.

            It can be argued the apostasy of 80% of the catholic bishops to the Arian heresy was worse, although I personally would not agree.

            You and I agree completely on the very anomalous abandonment in practice of the usury teaching.

            I expect that this teaching will be recovered- I am ashamed to say it- the very week it becomes finally clear that the global usury scam does not have one more round of reflation left in it.

            But then again, we are not promised an impeccable Church, nor one that always chooses the correct prudential course of action.

            Only an infallible Church, Whose dogmas will never fail, and which dogmas can always be learned and accepted by anyone with the true intention of holding and professing the True Faith.

          • cowalker

            It would have been impressive to me if the Church had survived without compromising her practices. Dogma is what they say--the behavior of the hierarchy and members is what they do. "Do as we say, not as we do." Those words come very easily to everyone's lips. In my view, it does not distinguish the Church from any other institution. If you claim to be under the direct leadership of God, you are begging to be held to a higher standard.

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

            Yes, we agree that the Church is, as if instinctively, held to a higher standard, even by atheists.

            That is perfectly reasonable.

            What is not reasonable, is for the atheist to suppose that the Church Militant is the Church Triumphant; or, what is the same error under different analogy, to propose that the Church ought to be a place of pristine and sinless serenity.

            She is instead the spiritual equivalent of an emergency room in the worst neighborhood of town on the hottest night of summer.

            Messy as can be.

            But still the only place to go for the cure.

    • Corylus

      What's an encyclical?

      A ladies bike. One of those things with no crossbar.

  • Rationalist1

    In Chapter II perhaps title, a reference to Isiah 7:9 , Unless you believe you will not understand sets the tone but does not detail how believing changes the truth.

    One howler I must point out is that it claims society and science claims that scientific truth is the "only truth that is certain". On the contrary every scientist would say that all science is contingent (if otherwise they would be out of a job). All is subject to revision and falsification. Absolute, unchanging, unalterable truth the the domain of human religions and "the great totalitarian movements of the last century, a truth that imposed its own world view in order to crush the actual lives of individuals." Enough with the relativism slur against atheists. We have principles that we hold to, they just are not perhaps your principles.

    • Quatsch83

      Unless you believe you will not understand sets the tone but does not detail how believing changes the truth.

      The claim is not that believing changes the truth. Truth cannot be changed. What can be changed is what we recognize as true. And if it is true that God exists then "unless you believe you will not understand" makes sense.

      One howler I must point out is that it claims society and science claims that scientific truth is the "only truth that is certain". On the contrary every scientist would say that all science is contingent (if otherwise they would be out of a job). All is subject to revision and falsification.

      Even though science is contingent, isn't it the best shot at truth out there? I think it is in that sense that the quote you pulled should be understood. And I think that is a more fair reading of it in context (LF 25):

      In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology: truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable. Nowadays this appears as the only truth that is certain...

      • epeeist

        Even though science is contingent, isn't it the best shot at truth out there?

        "Inference to the best explanation", but explanation doesn't necessarily mean true.

        Carl Sagan may have it right when it comes to the scientific search for truth:

        The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what's true. We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth — never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities. Cleverly designed experiments are the key

        But I think most scientists would concur with Saul Perlmutter

        Science isn't a matter of trying to prove something – it is a matter of trying to figure out how you are wrong and trying to find your mistakes

        From this article

      • Rationalist1

        Isn't the idea that unless you believe in God you won't understand God begging the question. Not to be too rude, but isn't that how cults work. Unless you are one of us you can't understand. Unless you accept what we say this won't make sense. unless you abandon reason just for this moment and make a leap of faith, .... Once one is on the other side, all forms of justification for one's action kick in. None of us want to be wrong or have to admit a mistake, especially in a decision that was made with very little or no evidence. It's human nature and this is why religious people are so adamant in supporting their religion.

        My point is that that science isn't certain and the context doesn't matters. It is uncertain and that's why we trust it. Religious truths are certain and because of that we shouldn't trust them. The Popes were missing the point on how to gain knowledge. A rule of thumb I adamantly adhere to is never trust anything that never admits error.

  • josh

    "No one — Saint Justin Martyr writes — has ever been ready to die for his faith in the sun". Tell that to the Aztecs and Incas. And for that matter the Egyptians during the worship of Ra and countless others cultures. Really though, is there any religion which hasn't used light and 'enlightenment' as a metaphor for the idea that they have the real super-special truth? No atheist I've ever met is confused by the idea that Christians, like every other cult, think they have an inside track on reality. We just keep pointing out that it is a self-deception. Your light is a will-o'-the-wisp (or Ignis Fatuus since people seem to be impressed by latin) and if you pull back a few steps you can see it leading you off the path the same as all the other believers following their own "luminaries."

    • Randy Gritter

      We do see others following their own luminaries. That causes us to compare revelations and rationally determine which luminaries are to be trusted. It does not make sense to assume all are false because there are multiples. In fact, many can be largely true. Only one can be the fullness of truth. It actually ends up much more plausible than asserting that everyone who believed in any kind of God was not even close to reality.

      • josh

        '3 million smokers can't be wrong!' I don't think you understand what the phrase 'rationally determine' means in this context, it really is quite possible that they are all substantially wrong because they are all making similar mistakes.

  • Rationalist1

    Sorry more to chapter two. The authors take the example from Wittgenstein as faith is falling in love. (Currous they draw inspiration from a homosexual and his experience of love but I'll attribute it to a new openness).

    "If love needs truth, truth also needs love." If man needs God then God needs man. If fish need water, then water needs fish.

    To say that love is a source of knowledge is not true in all but a limited sense. It tells one about the relationship, the mutual attraction between the parties and helps explain the actions of each party towards the other. But to many believers this relationship of love is one sided. Mother Teresa who expressed her love for God in her life and work in the poor said "the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear." What knowledge does this tell us about the relationship, what does it tell us about the other partner. If we wouldn't accept that in our relationships here, why should we with God.

    • Randy Gritter

      To say that love is a source of knowledge is not true in all but a
      limited sense. It tells one about the relationship, the mutual
      attraction between the parties and helps explain the actions of each
      party towards the other.

      That seems pretty cold. You don't think loving a person leads to knowing a person? In fact, knowing someone without loving them is a shallow knowledge. As for Mother Teresa, she had some periods where God spoke to her a lot and some periods of silence. We all have that. It is what a life of faith is about. Should we accept it? When we interact with God we don't do so as an equal.

      • Rationalist1

        Mother Teresa described vast periods of her life where she didn't feel the presence of God. That's not a healthy relationship and one we, quite frankly, should not codon. If the relation between God and us is not equal then lets not compare it to spouses, lets compare it to pets. My son had guinea pigs, not much intellect but they needed human affection and interaction every day. I got on my son's case if he neglected to care for them. Not just feed and clean but cuddle and interact. Christians need to get on God's case to take this relationship seriously or else they're walking. I walked when I realized the relationship was all onesided. Imagine if we all did.

        • Randy Gritter

          Our relationship with God has been compared to that of a sheep and a shepherd. Not exactly guinea pigs but close. It is also compared to a husband and wife. That is the paradox. God is far above us yet closer to us than we are to ourselves.

          Do we need to feel God? If we have faith then we don't. It is nice but love is most evident when we go through things that are not nice. Mother Teresa had a hard road. She had the faith to walk it with great joy. That is more than healthy. That is heroic.

          • Rationalist1

            That is sad. I wouldn't and didn't accept that is a relationship. She had it drilled into her that she had to. Like women who put up with abusive husbands for years and years because they are told they must.

  • Susan

    In what way is faith "illuminating"?

    This article seems to be a vague, flowery claim that faith illuminates without demonstrating that this is actually the case.

    • primenumbers

      Faith is the light in this classic joke:

      A woman comes across a man crawling under a street lamp. "I've lost my car keys," he explains.

      The woman tries to help the man find his keys. After a few minutes of searching, she asks "Where exactly did you drop them?"

      "Down the street, next to my car."

      Puzzled, she asks "Then why aren't you looking over there?"

      "The light is better here."

      • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

        Hey Prime - This joke calls to mind a recent dialogue between us about reason and faith, where you insisted that the two slide along a continuum of belief, a "teeter-totter," competing for the same objects of knowledge. To reiterate, Catholics simply don't hold this view. We see reason and faith as mutually supportive epistemologies, but wholly distinct in both their source and object. John Paul II's image is that of wings of a dove ascending to truth - not a tug-of-war on a battlefield. This distinction matters greatly. Above, Kacy recommended that her fellow atheists read "Fides et Ratio" to understand "how Catholics think of faith and reason." I can't recommend that enough - if for no other reason than to launch a far more productive attack.

        • primenumbers

          I think I've got a very good idea by now how Catholics see faith and reason, but I've yet to see how the religious beliefs of Catholics rest on anything but faith because the actual evidence is such that it's insufficient to support your beliefs on it's own, and there's vast amounts of disconfirming evidence that Catholics seem to give very little weight to. In other words, what you say could very well be correct in theory, but I don't see how you reach a belief in the basics of Christianity without engaging in the use of serious amounts of faith.

          • Rationalist1

            The word evidence is not used once in this encyclical and in Fides and Ratio eveidence is used with reference to science but that "religious truths which are to some degree grounded in philosophy" and that " philosophical truth, attained by means of the speculative powers of the human intellect". No evidence required.

            Further is goes on to say that "belief is often humanly richer than mere evidence".

            I'm afraid any rapprochement between belief and evidence as viewed by non believers and believers may be impossible.

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

            " I don't see how you reach a belief in the basics of Christianity without engaging in the use of serious amounts of faith."

            >> Neither does the Church.

            Faith is a supernatural virtue. It does not come from the human being. It comes from heaven. The human reason assents to this gift, by believing what God says on the strength that God is saying it.

            This assent is impossible in the absence of divine Faith.

            However, the *necessary existence* of God, is of course knowable by reason alone, entirely apart from supernatural Faith.

            This is also a dogma of the Faith, and constitutes conclusive proof that mere intellectual assent to the necessary existence of God does not save anyone at all, ever.

            Only Faith does that.

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

            This is also a dogma of the Faith, and constitutes conclusive proof that mere intellectual assent to the necessary existence of God does not save anyone at all, ever.

            Only Faith does that.

            It seems to me it would be difficult to imagine that God withholds the gift of faith to someone who assents intellectually to his existence. My understanding is that the gift of faith is given (or at least offered) to everyone. God wants all to be saved. Also, surely it must be true that one can have faith and not be saved. In fact, I might make an argument that only those who have the gift of faith can be damned.

          • primenumbers

            You could rationalize like that, but I see no evidence to support your position, other than your good human decent morality that would not condemn people for no fault of their own.

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

            I certainly hope you don't buy Rick DeLano's interpretation of Catholicism. I don't know why he is so seldom challenged by other Catholics. It is highly debatable whether I could claim to be Catholic myself, but I know the Catholic Church is not as inhumane and coldblooded as he makes it out to be. You would think, from Rick DeLano's explanations of Catholicism and "outside the Church there is no salvation" that God's primary concern in creating the human race was to populate hell.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Those Catholics who are more "humane" than Rick are, I think, motivated by a desire to win converts through blunting all the sharp edges of the historical faith.

            They desire to replace the flames of the auto-da-fé with a cool-touch light bulb.

            I give credit to Rick and any other traditional Catholics who refuse to whitewash historic doctrine, disagree with it though I may.......

            God's primary concern in creating the human race was to populate hell.

            When I observe the world as it is, it is in fact difficult to avoid the conclusion that if there is a God, he is 99% punishment and 1% mercy.

          • Vuyo

            When I observe the world as it is, it is in fact difficult to avoid the conclusion that if there is a God, he is 99% punishment and 1% mercy.
            Please explain.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I believe I need to clarify.

            A deist's God who simply wound up the universe and set it running of course would not be subject to such a criticism.

            What I should have said was "If Christianity is true, then God is 99%/1%".

            This would be the God who created a Law which no man could obey, gave that Law to a tiny fraction of humanity, and condemned all to eternal punishment regardless.

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

            "A deist's God who simply wound up the universe and set it running of course would not be subject to such a criticism."

            >> But it seems He would. After all, He built and wound the watch, and the running down of the watch creates the 99%/1%.

            In fact He is utterly guilty of all evil in such a case, since He built it into the watch and left no way out.

            That is indeed a hellish notion.

            It is not true, however.

            But we have to get to that.

            "What I should have said was "If Christianity is true, then God is 99%/1%".

            >> To the contrary. Only Christianity solves the problem that the Watchmaker built 99%/1% into the universe in advance, then walked away to let it run.

            "This would be the God who created a Law which no man could obey, gave that Law to a tiny fraction of humanity, and condemned all to eternal punishment regardless."

            >> Instead, this would be the God Who created a paradise, supplied every need, and included freedom in the design, knowing in advance that the inclusion of freedom would, of course, necessarily involve the inclusion of evil.

            And good.

            So, either:

            1. Freedom is evil and God is to be rejected for the evil act of including it in His universe, or

            2. Freedom is such a great good that even evil is to be permitted- though never willed- because the outcome of this universe will have been more good than would a universe without freedom, good, or evil.

            In this light, man is seen as a free being, in a place of battle.

            The battle is supremely noble, and worthwhile.

            It involves the possibility of defeat, and final loss.

            It involves then possibility of victory, and final beatitude.

            I know which universe I would have chosen.

            It is the same one God chose.

            In such a universe man can attain to something infinitely beyond his own nature, or man can attain to something infinitely beneath it.

            What he cannot do, is attain to meaninglessness.

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

            "God's primary concern in creating the human race was to populate hell."

            >> An heresy of the Calvinists, condemned by the Catholic Church.

            "When I observe the world as it is, it is in fact difficult to avoid the conclusion that if there is a God, he is 99% punishment and 1% mercy."

            >> Strange- I see it in just the opposite way.

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

            I give credit to Rick and any other traditional Catholics who refuse to whitewash historic doctrine, disagree with it though I may.......

            If he were right, he would deserve credit. But he is wrong! You must not judge Catholicism in the 21st century by 14th-century statements, any more than you should judge the United States today by what it was prior to, say, 1860, the Civil War, Emancipation, and the enactment of the 14th Amendment. There are things about the Catholic Church in earlier ages that ought to have changed and did change, just as there are things about it today that ought to change and hopefully will.

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

            "f he were right, he would deserve credit. But he is wrong!"

            >> God forbid I should decline to admit error in defending any dogma of the Faith.

            Let us see if you can make your case.

            "You must not judge Catholicism in the 21st century by 14th-century statements"

            >> To the contrary. Dogmatic definitions are irreformable, and this has been explicitly documented to you, from Lumen Gentium #25, by direct citation and quote, on two separate occasions.

            You are wrong.

            The Catholic Church's dogmas stand until the end of the world, and are completely irreformable by their very nature.

            "any more than you should judge the United States today by what it was prior to, say, 1860, the Civil War, Emancipation, and the enactment of the 14th Amendment."

            >> You greatly err here as well, in considering the Catholic Church to be a merely human society, subject to the procedures and constraints of a purely human institution like the US Federal government.

            This is also wrong.

            There might be a religion Nickolanity you would find more to your liking, which occasionally does a poll, or totes up the "up votes" and "downvotes", in order to bring its teaching into line with consensus.

            The Catholic religion does none of these things, and it is exactly this which you find objectionable.

            In other words, Mr. Nickol, you do not believe what the Catholic Church teaches, and you are angry because I do.

            Tough.

            Discipline can change.

            Doctrine can develop.

            Dogmas are irreformable by their very nature.

            This is the Catholic faith and I would rather die than deny it.

            Even a posse would be of no help at all to you in such a case, Mr. Nickol.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            ought to have changed and did change

            In what way is this different in effect from, say, the Mormon concept of continuing revelation?

          • primenumbers

            I don't buy Catholicism, but if Rick is wrong on doctrines and dogma other Catholics here should robustly point it out.

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

            I completely and fervently agree.

          • primenumbers

            And for the 2nd time I get to upvote you. What happened? Did you eat three shredded wheat for breakfast or something?

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

            We are just getting down to the place where the rubber meets the road is all :-)

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

            Indeed they should, but for the most part they don't.

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

            Says the guy who explicitly affirms that he does not believe what the Catholic Church teaches.

            It appears your plaintive appeal for reinforcements boils down to a desire for positive reinforcement in this condition.

            I would have expected the outcome which you find so unpalatable.

            But if it had gone the other way I would have defended the dogmas of the Faith even if it were a unanimous consensus against me.

            It ain't a popularity contest Mr. Nickol.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Similarly, if Rick is right, the other Catholics here should support his views.

            I plan to frequently ask of them "Is baptism into the Catholic Church the only way to avoid an eternity in hell?"

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

            Please do ask them exactly this.

            If they are Catholic, they will answer:

            "No."

            They will instead point out that the dogmatic definitions require being joined to the Catholic Church, and the dogmatic definitions explicitly include the rather important notification that justification can be attained by baptism *or the desire for it*.

            This is what the Church teaches.

            This is what I believe.

            This is what I have defended in every post.

            It is probably why you and Mr. Nickol keep waiting for the posse to arrive, and it doesn't :-)

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Which would open the possibility of universalism. After all, God could have so arranged us so that at the last extremity we desire such baptism.

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

            It is certainly possible.

            But there is no evidence to support the assertion.

            There is much contrary evidence.

            For example, we are informed that the Hebrew Scriptures provide us lessons and types.

            Noah's Ark is a type of baptism (see 1 Peter 3:21).

            It is certainly possible God might have saved those who, through no fault of their own, failed to know of the Ark or its necessity for salvation.

            He did not.

            Crucially, however, the universalist hypothesis is falsified by something much more certain and irreformable.

            It is falsified by the direct Word of Jesus Christ Himself:

            "For the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment."

            QED, Vicq.

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

            The above post is a stupendously dishonest bit of gratuitous slander.

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

            The above post is a stupendously dishonest bit of gratuitous slander.

            Perhaps I should not have said it, and no doubt I could have said it better, but I do object to the charge of dishonesty. I believe your interpretation of Catholicism is misguided, and I do not understand why so much of what you say goes unchallenged by other Catholics. Of course, maybe I am wrong, you are right, and they agree with you and disagree with me. But I think people have a right to know that there are other views than yours on what is dogma and what is not. You are often very persuasive, but you personally are not infallible.

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

            " I do object to the charge of dishonesty"

            >> It was stupendously dishonest; that is, the slander is advanced even though you were in possession of direct evidence- in the form of prior, specific exchanges between us- that directly falsifies the slander.

            In other words, the slander is stupendously dishonest.

            "I do not understand why so much of what you say goes unchallenged by other Catholics"

            >> This does nothing to mitigate your stupendous dishonesty.

            " Of course, maybe I am wrong, you are right,"

            >> In that case why did you descend to the level of a stupendously dishonest gratuitous bit of slander?

            Why not determine whether you are wrong or right first?

            "and they agree with you and disagree with me"

            >> This is completely irrelevant. I have upheld dogmas of the catholic Faith. I have done so with precision, by direct reference and citation, and you have decided you cannot agree with the dogmas, and so you somehow conclude that this gives you the right to engage in stupendously dishonest gratuitous slander.

            It doesn't.

            "But I think people have a right to know that there are other views than yours on what is dogma and what is not."

            >> You have been making that case for weeks. Everyone has seen your arguments. Why take your frustration that you have not had a posse ride to your assistance out on me?

            I certainly do not intend to ride to your assistance, except of course on the not insignificant number of occasions when you have posted something with which I agree.

            "You are often very persuasive, but you personally are not infallible."

            >> Since I have never asserted personal infallibility, we are left with the fact that you have leveled a stupendously dishonest bit of gratuitous slander in my direction.

            You ought to apologize.

          • epeeist

            I don't know why he is so seldom challenged by other Catholics.

            Tricky isn't it. What do you do when someone in an out-group is being attacked by a person in your in-group, but you dislike that person, think they are wrong or possibly extreme in their views?

          • severalspeciesof

            Is it: "I know he's wrong, so I hope someone else points it out because I don't like being 'the bad guy'." ?

            It could be one possibility among many...

            Glen

          • josh

            "You would think, from Rick DeLano's explanations of Catholicism and
            "outside the Church there is no salvation" that God's primary concern in
            creating the human race was to populate hell."

            Actually, I would think that from a study of scripture and of historical Catholic emphasis and behavior. It is to the credit of many modern Catholics that they look for ways to soften or ignore their inherited teachings (and to the credit of the secular forces that actually brought about that modern outlook.) But for a guy like Rick, whose hobby-horses include the supposed supernatural constancy and endurance of the church, a regressive interpretation is natural.

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

            Actually, I would think that from a study of scripture and of historical Catholic emphasis and behavior.

            You apparently regard older Catholicism as "the real thing," and any attempts to make it conform to more contemporary ideas of goodness and justice as dishonest. Why? To reuse an analogy I made recently, is the "real" United States the one that permitted slavery, and the current United States dishonest for having enacted the 14th Amendment?

            I think you buy the ultraconservative argument that the Catholic Church never changes and cannot change, and therefore any positive developments in Catholicism don't count as "real" Catholicism.

          • josh

            Mostly I was describing Rick's likely psychology.

            You should try to think of these things from an atheist's perspective. I think the the Catholic Church is an entirely human institution which changes with the times. Neither its past nor its present is more 'real' than the other, same as a country like the US.

            The problem is that Catholics believe it is established and guided by a divine power of infinite goodness, and that its central teachings haven't changed. That doesn't comport with reality. As I said, modern Catholics are in many ways better than their forebearers, but this doesn't stem from Catholic doctrine in any consistent way. America can change precisely because I can say that the founding fathers were straight-up perversely wrong on any number of topics. When Catholics are willing to say the same about Jesus and Paul there will be no more Catholicism.

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

            "Mostly I was describing Rick's likely psychology."

            >> A psychic too!

            Just refute the bloody arguments, will you josh, and leave the Ouija board at home.

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

            The problem is that Catholics believe it is established and guided by a divine power of infinite goodness, and that its central teachings haven't changed.

            I don't have too much to quarrel with this analysis, except that I think Catholics can make an reasonable argument that the most central of central teachings have not changed. Catholics (and other Christians) can still recite the Nicene Creed (325 A.D.), and mean basically the same thing by its statements as the Christians of the fourth century did.

          • josh

            Oh I agree that Catholics then and now still hold Jesus as their central figure of worship, we wouldn't call them Christians otherwise. (Although even there one has to be careful about defining just who we are talking about given Arianism, but you did pick the Nicene Creed.) There are certain claims they can't easily back down from without giving up the whole game. But around those fixed statements it turns out there is huge room for interpretation and interpolations which could give one set of indisputable meanings to one generation only to fall by the wayside when another is confronted with a different social milieu.

            Sort of like US law. Any judge or lawyer must defer to the Constitution as the highest law in the land. But the consequences of that terse document have had vast and changing implications to different ages and factions.

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

            Then we are to a certain extent in agreement. I would just add that in the case of the creed, scripture, or the constitution, it seems to me a good thing that there is a great deal of room for differing interpretations. Even though it drives me crazy to see so many Supreme Court decisions where Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito very predictably agree, I do still believe they are interpreting the Constitution honestly (consciously, if not subconsciously), and I would rather have them interpreting the Constitution than just deciding the issue by their own lights.

            It was widely believed that Pope Paul VI was going to in effect reverse Catholic teaching on contraception and say the pill was permissible as a means of birth control, and there was a joke among Catholics that the announcement would begin, "As the Church has always taught . . . " It is not only people outside the Church who recognize that Catholicism is overly fond of the idea of perfect continuity.

            Gratuitous Catholic joke: Many are critical of the architecture and decor of The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. There is an old Catholic joke that when it was completed, the Virgin Mary appeared on the steps and said, "Build me a beautiful church on this spot!"

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

            If one is born with a congenital disease, one can either go to a doctor and seek a cure, or else rail against the injustice of having been born in the first place.

            These two options are actual; the free will can choose between them.

            If one is born with original sin, one can either go to the Church and seek baptism, or else rail against the injustice of having been born in the first place.

            The two options are actual; the free will can choose between them.

            I suggest the doctor, and the font.

          • primenumbers

            Or be an atheist and laugh at all your sin nonsense.

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

            Sure, you can laugh.

            God allows, as we have already established, the freedom to choose.

            It is the perfectly just way, after all, to separate the just from the unjust in eternity.

          • primenumbers

            You can't choose to believe, not if you don't have the magic faith sense you have.

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

            Sure you can.

            You can ask for Faith any time you are ready to believe.

            It will be given.

            And even the initial impulse to ask will have been a gift.

            In case you haven't figured it out yet, prime, we are in a bit of a fix here.

            We live in an entropy universe.

            We are going to die.

            Either it all means nothing- in which case....well....it all means nothing- or else that universal, quintessentially human desire to find something beautiful and meaningful beyond death can be satisfied.

            Seems like a pretty well-defined choice to me.

            I choose Christ and I believe in His promises.

            I hope you will too.

            But it is *entirely* up to you.

            God would not be able to judge justly if it weren't.

          • primenumbers

            Sorry, doesn't work.... I know, and I know that what you have above is a rationalization not fact.

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

            Well then!

            I believe that brings us to the logical conclusion of our exchange.

            All the best, 'til next time.......

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

            "It seems to me it would be difficult to imagine that God withholds the gift of faith to someone who assents intellectually to his existence. "

            >> We agree completely. The point is that the faith that saves is a gift of God, not merely an act of the intellect.

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

            I wonder, though, why faith has to be a gift from God when intellect (or reason) is apparently a gift from God. If human intellect (reason) and will are possible only because of a spiritual soul, then isn't reason just as supernatural as faith?

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

            Both are gifts.

            They are not the same gift.

            One can have a rational soul without faith.

            As the necessity for baptism confirms.

          • primenumbers

            "Faith is a supernatural virtue." - probably better described as the cognitive bias that more heavily weights the evidence confirming your pre-supposed beliefs and removes weight from disconfirming evidence.

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

            It is not so described.

            It is denied to exist, a priori, by atheists who themselves cannot account for its empirical existence in the Church, and the historical effects which this allegedly non-existent thing has nonetheless effectuated in the world.

          • primenumbers

            It is so observed. I'm telling you how I observe religious people in general and Catholics through my discussions with them appear.

            "and the historical effects which this allegedly non-existent thing has nonetheless effectuated in the world" - just like every other human-made religion like Islam, and Mormonism has had effect on the world, like the ancient religions had effect on the world based on no more than overly active imaginations and the cognitive bias phenomena I have pointed out.

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

            Except that Islam, nor Mormonism, can demonstrate the mark of universality which is solely that of the Catholic Church among all the religions of man.

            Islam is in fact a Christian heresy, promulgated based upon Christian texts, as reified through the lens of Judaic influences upon Mohammed.

            Mormonism is a latecomer, and can have no possible claim to apostolicity.

            Its influence upon civilization in comparison to the of Catholicism is negligible.

            And so the empirical evidence of the existence of European civilization, accompanied by the spread of the Gospel into every nation, every tongue, every race, testifies just as eloquently to the Divine nature of the Catholic Church, as do Her multitudinous miracles which continue to this day.

          • primenumbers

            How quickly you dismiss the religions of others, yet cannot see the splinter in your own eye.

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

            It is a matter of simple logic that either all religions are false, prime, or else all but one are.

            I propose that all but one are.

          • primenumbers

            "I propose that all but one are." - so why are you not a Jew then?

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

            Almost became one in fact.

            The nature of my initial conversion was such that it were possible the Jews might have been in possession of the covenant with the God Who had revealed Himself to me.

            Investigation showed- although the rabbi was wonderful; far more impressive than the simple street Bible Christians arguing for Christianity- investigation showed that the Jews could not explain the historical fact of the 2,000 year period where they had been deprived of the ability to obey the Law of Moses, from within Scripture.

            Scripture made sense only if the Messiah had come.

            So I became a Christian, and in only ten short years, the journey ended with my reception and baptism in the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, by the grace of God.

          • primenumbers

            So your Jesus was wrong to be a Jew then?

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

            Oh, no. The Jews had the covenant then, as He said.

          • primenumbers

            So Judaism is good enough for Jesus, but not for you. Just like your God believing in no higher power makes him an atheist, but that's not good enough for you either. So you pick Catholic even though neither your Jesus nor your God was Catholic.

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

            Judaism was not good enough for Jesus, which is why He said:

            "Jesus saith to them: Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? By the Lord this has been done; and it is wonderful in our eyes.[43] Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall be given to a nation yielding the fruits thereof. [44] And whosoever shall fall on this stone, shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder. [45] And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they knew that he spoke of them."

            You need to tighten up your game here a little bit, prime :-)

          • primenumbers

            So Jesus wasn't a Jew because Judaism wasn't good enough for him? Which is it - was he a Jew or not?

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

            Asked and answered, prime.

            Got any more pizza?

            ;-)

          • primenumbers

            Do you always go daft when you don't want to give a straight answer.

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

            I always recognize the pizza man when he has arrived without the goods.

            Ciao!

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            The 1st Vatican Council declared (de fide, paradoxically) that reason and science, available to all in the public domain, can show us that God exists, apart from faith (not, I would clarify, make us totally understand God's nature). If we didn't believe this, Strange Notions wouldn't exist. No one is appealing to Scripture here to make their points, however weak you find them.

            But you're right - pure reason cannot get you to "the basics of Christianity," if by that you mean the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection. As Ralph McInerny said, there is "infinite distance" between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham. If you mean to point out that faith is not equivalent to reason, I agree.

            And I'm quite sure I can't get you to hold faith in higher esteem - I expect that. But I'm hoping you'll see that the Church has never held to that tug-of-war model you keep describing. It argues that the two logical outcomes, fideism and positivism, both lop huge limbs of truth from the body of human knowledge to fit their Procrustean Bed. Again, the Catholic model sees instead two wings of one dove - distinctness, harmony, mutual necessity. (Incidentally, it's also really beautiful.)

          • primenumbers

            I really don't honestly care that the Catholic Church thinks they don't have the model of faith and reason I'm describing because I care about what methods of knowledge have actually been actually used in practice.

            I know there's very little focus on historicity on this site, but you wouldn't be Catholic without that historical aspect. Ever so very few people have been drawn to religion through the logical arguments this site has presented, and as evidenced by the vast number of atheists posters here those arguments do not hold.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            I really don't honestly care that the Catholic Church thinks they don't have the model of faith and reason I'm describing because I care about what methods of knowledge have actually been actually used in practice.

            I'm not sure what you mean, so I hesitate to respond - could you clarify?

            very few people have been drawn to religion through the logical arguments this site has presented, and as evidenced by the vast number of atheists posters here those arguments do not hold.

            Well, for me this site is just a great place to hear from people of different views and learn new things. Secretly, everyone would probably like to convert the other side - but if it happens, will we hear about it? What is conversion anyway? To me it's not a lightning strike, seal-the-deal revelation - violent delights have violent ends - but an organic growth, somewhat hidden from our own consciousness. (Sorry, enough deepities for one day!)

          • primenumbers

            Always happy to try to clarify. Say we pick a Catholic believer, and we try to find out what lead them to the various beliefs. The method by which they came to believe what they believe is just their epistemology. Catholic Church lays out the Church's epistemology, but my assertion is that such as it is described, that is not what I observe either religious people in general or Catholics in specific actually using to come to their beliefs.

            "Well, for me this site is just a great place to hear from people of different views and learn new things." - same here. I'm very interesting not so much what people believe but why they believe it. What is it that gives them the same base information and evidence as I have, yet leads them to religion?

            "Secretly, everyone would probably like to convert the other side - but if it happens, will we hear about it?" - I dunno. I'm here for the conversation, and to poke and prod to test my own ideas on why people are religious.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            I don't see a conflict there. The Church doesn't teach that you have to be a scientist or philosopher to come to believe - only that reason can't conflict with faith, and that the two are mutually supportive. People might come to cooperate with the gift of faith for all kinds of reasons, not all of them intellectual, or prompted by "information and evidence." "The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."

          • primenumbers

            I can see how faith can "support" reason to fill in the epistemological gap between the evidence and belief, but it's surely not reasonably to do so. If there's sufficient reason to believe, then what need for faith, and if there's insufficient reason to believe, how does adding faith make the belief more reasonable?

            "only that reason can't conflict with faith" - but is that because faith trumps reason or that reason trumps faith?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Ah, but we're back to faith and reason filling each other's gaps, trumping each other, and getting in each other's way along a continuum of beliefs - concepts framed by that tug-of-war epistemological model! At least we've nailed down our disagreement again. "Fides et Ratio" - it's all there in that exposition, and I can't say it enough. Me, I need to get started on Lumen Fidei, which I still haven't read! (There's also a section on faith and reason in that encyclical that could be illuminating.)

          • primenumbers

            But what exactly is wrong with how I see how religious people use reason and faith?

            Two simple questions: If there's sufficient reason to believe, then what need for faith?

            and

            if there's insufficient reason to believe, how does adding faith make the belief more reasonable?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Many religious people may use reason and faith that way - in fact, it's the working assumption of our post-Cartesian world that faith and reason are radically separate and mutually hostile. But it's not the Church's teaching.

            Both of those questions presuppose that faith and reason proceed from the same source and toward the same object, only with different epistemological approaches. Go back to your joke about the keys! A man chooses to look for his keys under the lamp post (faith) because "the light is better." Using his reason, the man would go to look for the keys where he dropped them - near the car. Notice that either way, he is looking for the same object (keys). In the first case, he may have the nice assurance of light, but will never find the keys - but in the second, he will actually find the keys through difficult but reasonable steps. In the joke, faith and reason are binary paths toward the same object of knowledge, which will either be won or lost depending on which path is taken. They are enemies.

            I can't answer your question because it's a loaded one based on this faulty model. If faith and reason are both contenders for the keys (belief x), there is no reason to "add" faith if reason alone can get you x. But in the Church's model, faith and reason don't contend for the same object - they urge, frame, and compliment each other, but are fundamentally oriented toward distinct dimensions (the natural order and the supernatural order).

          • primenumbers

            I completely understand you (which can be a rare occurrence here). Yes, agreed when used for the real world that faith and reason are at loggerheads - they are enemies as you say. We'd be daft to hunt for our key via faith.

            But it's not keys we're looking for, but knowledge and truth. And it's reliable epistemologies that lead us to knowledge and truth.

            The problem is that there is no way to empirically test faith in it's use as an epistemology about the supernatural. However we can test faith as an epistemology about the natural world. And it fails. Why would be expect faith to work any better as an epistemology for the supernatural when it fails so abysmally (and gets the reputation it deserves) when used in the natural world, the one where we can check and confirm?

            On the other hand, I can give good reasons why the epistemology of faith is unreliable even when used in it's own domain, that of the supernatural, and I point to the vast chaos of beliefs on this planet as the the primary piece of disconfirming evidence against it. As you say "Many religious people may use reason and faith that way - in fact" (and by that way, I take it that you mean the way I describe above how I see people using faith)

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            And it's reliable epistemologies that lead us to knowledge and truth. The problem is that there is no way to empirically test faith in it's use as an epistemology about the supernatural.

            Natural reason is a reliable way for discovering truth about the natural order, but it is not any more a reliable way for discovering and explaining the supernatural order (the hubris of "scientism") than faith is for discovering and explaining the natural order (the folly of fideism).

            Still, as you pointed out, even if we concede that faith and reason are distinct domains - the notion of "non-overlapping magisteria" - it seems we still have a big problem. Reason can yield very accurate, testable truths, while faith seems to yield a plenitude of vague truths - dozens of religions, with conflicting (sometimes warring) ideas about God. How to choose one? In fact, why choose one at all?

            This is where the mutual necessity of this model becomes so key: faith and reason press on each other, assist each other, and interpenetrate organically - again, like two wings. Reason ungrounded by faith is cold rationalism; faith uninformed by reason is sentimental credulity. It's all too easy today to think of one as wholly apart from the other; but they inform each other and need each other. Francis has a great section on this in Lumen Fidei:

            Faith without truth does not save, it does not provide a sure footing. It remains a beautiful story, the projection of our deep yearning for happiness, something capable of satisfying us to the extent that we are willing to deceive ourselves. Either that, or it is reduced to a lofty sentiment which brings consolation and cheer, yet remains prey to the vagaries of our spirit...If such were faith, King Ahaz would be right not to stake his life and the security of his kingdom on a feeling. But precisely because of its intrinsic link to truth, faith is instead able to offer a new light, superior to the king’s calculations, for it sees further into the distance and takes into account the hand of God, who remains faithful to his covenant and his promises.

            Faith is not an absurd leap away from reason - if so, any religion seems as good as another. Instead, it's the trust and assent of mind and will to God, based on the best evidence. It consists, as Aquinas said, essentially in knowledge.

          • Susan

            Natural reason is a reliable way for discovering truth about the natural order, but it is not any more a reliable way for discovering and explaining the supernatural order (the hubris of "scientism") than faith is for discovering and explaining the natural order (the folly of fideism).

            What is the supernatural order? You are speaking as though its existence is a given. How do we know any such thing exists and if it does, that your ideas about it are remotely accurate?

            What is a reliable way for discovering and explaining "the supernatural order" and how can you demonstrate that it's reliable?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Hey Susan - That's a turn from epistemology (what Prime and I were discussing) to metaphysics, and a whole other can of worms! Here's a good summary: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14336b.htm

            As to how one knows it's reliable, again, Francis talks about that beautifully in Lumen Fidei. If you seek a syllogistic or scientific explanation of what faith knows as true, you won't get it - faithfulness rests primarily on trust of man in God, and reciprocally, God's adhering to his promises through history - but that does not mean it's an irrational, unreasonable, or unreliable way of knowing. It simply means we cannot access it with "clear and distinct" light like the noon-day sun, but only as a supra-rational call discerned and response given, one that - through the divine hidenness - honors our freedom as rational agents. The Godfather gives you an offer you can't refuse - God the Father gives you an offer you can refuse.

          • primenumbers

            "As to how one knows it's reliable, again, Francis talks about that beautifully in Lumen Fidei." - maybe "beautifully", but hardly incisively, succinctly, or clearly. Perhaps you'd take a go at presenting it clearly for us, as it appears to be one of the key questions - how do we know that faith as en epistemology is reliable.

          • Susan

            Hi Matthew,

            I read the link you gave me and it didn't help at all. It assumes that your choice of deity and a supernatural order exist without justifying that assumption.

            It simply means we cannot access it with "clear and distinct" light like the noon-day sun, but only as a supra-rational call discerned and response given, one that - through the divine hidenness - honors our freedom as rational agents.

            This doesn't help either. I asked two simple questions.

            1) How do we know that a "supernatural" order exists and that your ideas about it are accurate?

            2) What is a reliable way for discovering and understanding "the supernatural order" and most importantly how can you demonstrate that it is reliable?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Hey Susan - Sorry the article didn't help! But it wasn't meant to convince you that a supernatural order exists, only to explain how it might be defined. (You asked "what is a supernatural order?")

            For your other questions...

            1) We can know a supernatural order exists by faith, which is an assent of the intellect, influenced by the will, moved by grace. But that's not a fideistic dead-end for us, because we believe that reason can steer us to faith, and that faith is reasonable while remaining supra-rational (above, but comporting with and energized by, reason).

            2) I can't demonstrate that it's reliable in the sense of a purely logical or scientific demonstration. This is the same disagreement Prime and I hit on. Would you first concede that there are degrees of knowledge with degrees of evidence? We both accept things on faith from reliable sources (scientists, doctors, meteorologists) for example. We know our family and trust our spouses without measuring them or testing their actions. Knowledge is also stronger or weaker depending on the source and object. If we disagree on that - if you believe only science and formal logic can get us to truth, and everything else is mere opinion - we'd be stuck.

            Speaking personally, I think faith (not any old faith, but Catholic Chrisitan faith) is reasonable and reliable because:

            a) It comes from good authority.
            b) It reflects and explains my own experiences in a way no other religion or philosophy could.
            c) It has immense explanatory and predictive power (far more than materialism) about the origin of the universe, the existence of life, consciousness, cognition, intentionality, objective value, human history and anthropology (pre-Christian religions, Christian civilization, and the continued existence, global presence, and unchanged teachings of the Church), and love.
            d) It has a long, documented history of comporting with what science and philosophy can discover, and champions those discoveries.

            In short, it passes every test. But paradoxically, it wasn't primarily the passing of the tests that got me faith, but primarily faith that got me to see how perfectly it passes the tests. Reason can help us immensely - but it can never, on its own merits, get you to say "yes" to God, especially in the original sense of the word, which is trust.

          • severalspeciesof

            a) It comes from good authority.

            How do you know this? Looks like assertion to me.

            b) It reflects and explains my own experiences in a way no other religion or philosophy could.

            Unless you've thoroughly investigated every one of these, how can you know this?

            c) It has immense explanatory and predictive power (far more than
            materialism) about the origin of the universe, the existence of life,
            consciousness, cognition, intentionality, objective value, human history
            and anthropology (pre-Christian religions, Christian civilization, and
            the continued existence, global presence, and unchanged teachings of the
            Church), and love.

            A lot to chew on here, not sure where to start, but I'll parse it down to one question: How does faith have explanatory powers?

            d) It has a long, documented history of comporting with what science and
            philosophy can discover, and champions those discoveries.

            But in the past when the church had more control, whenever it appeared to contradict the church's teachings, woe to the messenger of science...

            Glen

          • primenumbers

            "only to explain how it might be defined" - but anything might be defined in any way we choose. What we'd like to know is how can you be sure your definition is correct, and that it actually applies to something that actually exists?

            " We can know a supernatural order exists by faith, which is an assent of the intellect, influenced by the will, moved by grace." - and completely indistinguishable from imagination. By what means do you discern faith that results in truth from faith that results in falsehood?

            a) but you're using faith to get to that proposed authority, hence what you suggest is entirely circular,

            b) consistency is no guide to truth. (although lack of consistency can demonstrate falsehood)
            c) so immense that it explains everything, hence really gives no good explanation for anything.
            d) so you say faith can work to produce good epistemological results in the natural world, yet up above I challenge that when faith is used to find natural knowledge it fails miserably, and you didn't challenge me on that.... If you have evidence that faith does work when applied to the natural world, please bring it forwards.

          • Susan

            We can know a supernatural order exists by faith, which is an assent of the intellect, influenced by the will, moved by grace.

            How do you know you know? Why should I believe you know?

            because we believe that reason can steer us to faith,

            Give me an example.

            faith is reasonable while remaining supra-rational (above, but comporting with and energized by, reason).

            What does that mean?

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Susan - Thanks for the reply! It reminds me of an interesting distinction Kierkegaard made between the genius and apostle. The genius - the philosopher, scientist, abstract thinker - gives us knowledge sub specie aeterni ("from the viewpoint of eternity"), or objective knowledge, true for anyone at any time. In contrast, the apostle presents for our particular subjectivity (you, Susan, or me, Matthew) news of a important event. He or she is not distinguished by his or her own merits, but by a mission and authority. Should we believe the apostle? How will we know what he or she says is true?

            Walker Percy based a scene in one of his novels on this. A character, Jamie, is dying, and a priest comes to baptize him. The priest gives his spiel and asks if he believes. Jamie looks at his friend: what do you think? Am I supposed to believe this stuff? His friend looks to the priest: how does he know it's true? The priest responds: if it wasn't true, I wouldn't be here telling you. And I'm here telling you.

            This all may be uncomfortable for Catholics who put a great emphasis on reason. But Percy was a Catholic - he only meant to get at the existential heart of faith. And the truth is: analysis won't impede it, but analysis can't deliver it. But interestingly enough, pure analysis can't deliver reason either. "Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians."

          • josh

            Matthew, So now you are arguing that faith, by which you mean trust, IS supported by reason. That means it can, in principle, be found to be unreasonable. Faith and reason are no longer separate things as you originally claimed, reason can and should be used to test faith. In fact, in the sense of justified trust, faith would just be a small part of the larger field of reason generally. Nothing about natural and supernatural order, because the object of reason is truth and it applies to any purported order.

            So, we can get into the weeds of your attempted justification a)-d) if we like, but no retreat to 'faith and reason can't conflict'. Briefly
            a)The authorities in this case are known to be unreliable.
            b)Naturalism explains your experiences better and accounts for everyone else's experiences besides.
            c)You are talking almost entirely about post-dictions, observations that were available to even ancient people. But your faith doesn't provide any explanations and it gets all the details wrong. Material science on the other hand, continues to predict things with a precision simply unimaginable to the religious mind and ever expands its knowledge and detail.
            d)The Church has a long history of making claims that were later overturned by science. It has never been a champion of good science but has now largely adopted a strategy of claiming scientific advancements as its own or insisting that they can't affect its core beliefs.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Faith supports and reason and reason supports faith is not the same thing as an equivalence. I support and depend on my wife and my wife supports and depends on me but I am not my wife and my wife is not me.

            Conversations about reason and faith here have been really enlightening. There is a spastic urge in us all to want to a) totally disregard or eliminate one or the other, b) radically separate one from the other, or c) declare perpetual war. We quickly fall into one of these three mentalities whenever an attempt at harmony or mutual necessity is made. I blame Descartes.

          • primenumbers

            "Natural reason is a reliable way for discovering truth about the natural order, but it is not any more a reliable way for discovering and explaining the supernatural order (the hubris of "scientism") than faith is for discovering and explaining the natural order (the folly of fideism)." - I think reason tells us an awful lot about the supernatural, but you're pre-disposed to not being happy about the null answers it gives. Scientism is a straw man. Science isn't limited at all to the natural world, just limited to evidence.

            I don't subscribe to "non-overlapping magisteria".

            Your following argument is rather poetic in nature. My answer comes back to "if there's insufficient reason to believe, how does adding faith make the belief more reasonable?" and I don't think you've demonstrated how faith makes belief more reasonable.

            We can see how faith fails miserably when used instead of reason, leads to the vast chaos of religious belief when used in the supernatural. You may think that reason just doesn't work on the supernatural, but if there is any evidence at all, reason and science can work. If there's no evidence, then there rightly should be no belief - agnosticism if you will. Science does give us honest answers about the supernatural, answers that are as good as the evidence and don't go beyond what the evidence shows. You might not like those answers, but science isn't lying to you. Faith tells you what you want to hear, and that should make us suspect it. Just like that email about winning the lottery - it's what we want to hear, but we (or most of us at least) know it's not true because the evidence just isn't there for it to be true.

            Science and natural reason are not impotent when it comes to the supernatural, just honest to the evidence.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Prime - It looks like we've talked in a circle again! I'm not sure I can respond without repeating myself, so I'll leave you with the last word if you want it. Thanks for a "part 2" of our dialogue!

          • primenumbers

            Sorry it comes back to a circle. As I note, you try to explain, but you use what appears to be poetry rather than something I could dig into and discuss with you.

            I guess what it comes down to is that it's not reasonable to use faith because faith has not been demonstrated to be a reliable epistemology. Because it's not demonstrated to be reliable, it cannot be reasonably said to work in an additive manner with reason used as an epistemology.

          • epeeist

            Natural reason is a reliable way for discovering truth about the natural order

            What do you mean by "natural reason"? The logic of Aristotle or the extension and elaboration of it by the likes of Frege and Russell amongst others? Or perhaps some of the variants discussed by Susan Haack in her Philosophy of Logics?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > If there's sufficient reason to believe, then what need for faith, and if there's insufficient reason to believe, how does adding faith make the belief more reasonable?

            Did you come up with this yourself or is part of the atheist creed?! It is a very clever saying but misses the point of faith entirely.

            The object of Faith is supernatural revelation, things that are true but exceed reason's capacity, accepted on the authority of God who is completely trustworthy. So, for example, God wants to reveal something about his inner life through the doctrine of the Trinity. We could never figure this out through reason and we can never see how there can be three persons in one God. Still we can then draw all kinds of insights from this doctrine.

          • primenumbers

            Atheists don't have creeds you know....

            I fully understand your objection and I address it below, and copied here:

            The problem is that there is no way to empirically test faith in it's use as an epistemology about the supernatural. However we can test faith as an epistemology about the natural world. And it fails. Why would be expect faith to work any better as an epistemology for the supernatural when it fails so abysmally (and gets the reputation it deserves) when used in the natural world, the one where we can check and confirm?

            On the other hand, I can give good reasons why the epistemology of faith is unreliable even when used in it's own domain, that of the supernatural, and I point to the vast chaos of beliefs on this planet as the the primary piece of disconfirming evidence against it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Unfortunately, above and below have no meaning in the universe of Disqus, so I can't find if you've explained your statement in more detail later in this thread (and earlier in time).

            I suspect you are using faith in an equivocal way if you lump together in the word "faith" all its meanings as used or attributed to all religions in human history.

            I know its a lot, but could you define "faith," briefly sketch out your "epistemology of faith," and then show why it is worthless in regard to the natural world? If you can link to another comment, that's fine. If you want to limit your discussion to just the Catholic view of "faith" and your take on its shortcomings, that's fine, too.

          • primenumbers

            "Unfortunately, above and below have no meaning in the universe of Disqus," - ok, you just win funniest comment of the day....

            It's not my epistemology of faith - I don't use it. Perhaps ask Rick as he has the "faith sense" and he can explain how it works to you. It's basically whatever method you use to know facts about the supernatural.

          • josh

            But the catholic 'model' (really a lame metaphor, I say faith and reason are two legs of a stool that need the third leg, pure bullshit, to raise us up to the light bulb!) doesn't work. When you declare from the outset that faith and reason can't conflict you are acting unreasonably. Faith isn't knowledge, it's not justified.

            And of course, many here have argued based on Scripture. Where do you think the Catholics are getting their 'evidence' for an empty tomb and such?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What an offensive comment.

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

            I agree. There is no need to be crude and vulgar. It's really just a form of name-calling. I am surprised to see such stuff getting voted up.

          • josh

            Pointing out the inanity of the metaphor isn't name calling. What offends you? The s-word? I think you have misunderstood the thoughts being conveyed.

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

            It's not really the language per se I object to but the fact that is used here in what is supposed to be "high-level, charitable dialogue."

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

            The 1st Vatican Council declared (de fide, paradoxically) that reason and science, available to all in the public domain, can show us that God exists, apart from faith (not, I would clarify, make us totally understand God's nature).

            I assume you said paradoxically because the whole thing is just a little bit like declaring that through their natural esthetic sense, humans can discover that Joyce Kilmer's Trees is the greatest poem ever written in any language. No disagreement is permitted. If you don't adore Trees, in fact, if nobody adores Trees, it's their own fault.

            The Church has taken the burden off itself to prove God's existence by reason, and essentially said that if anyone doesn't arrive at the reasoned conclusion that God exists, it is his or her own fault.

            It is indeed paradoxical (or perhaps just foolish) to declare de fide that something can be known by reason alone. People who believe the de fide declaration don't need it, since they already believe, and people who don't believe are not bound by de fide declarations.

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

            "It is indeed paradoxical (or perhaps just foolish) to declare de fide that something can be known by reason alone."

            Not paradoxical at all. De fide definita exists precisely to settle a matter of the faith which has come under attack.

            The Vatican Council definition was made to *define* against a specific error:

            "it is to be observed that the definition is directed only against the extreme form of that theory, as held by Lamennais and others according to which — taking human nature as it is — there would not, and could not, have been any true or certain knowledge of God, among men, had there not been at least a primitive supernatural revelation — in other words, natural religion as such is an impossibility."

            http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06608b.htm#I

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

            I find this in the documents of Vatican I, which seems much broader than what your quotations suggests:

            The same Holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason : ever since the creation of the world, his invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made . . . . .

            And then from Vatican II (if that can be mentioned here):

            As a sacred synod has affirmed, God, the beginning and end of all things, can be known with certainty from created reality by the light of human reason (see Rom. 1:20); but teaches that it is through His revelation that those religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race.

            In both cases, the Church is declaring as a matter of faith, binding on all Catholics, that God can be known with certainty by human reason. If a Catholic cannot see how God can be known by reason, but only through revelation, they must nevertheless believe God can be known with certainty by human reason. This is binding Catholics to affirm that what they already believe by faith can be known by reason. It is apparently not enough to believe in God. You must also believe that if you didn't believe in God, you could arrive at your belief through reason.

            It seems to me that when something that is knowable by reason comes under attack, you respond with reason, not with de fide definitions. It is, in effect, saying, "If we can't convince you of this, we order you to believe that we can convince you."

          • ZenDruid

            Ayyup.

            "If only you had faith that you could think you had faith in God, then you could have faith in God."

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

            The purpose of a definition is to defend a dogma of the Faith against attack by heretics.

            Heretics insisted that God cannot be known except by faith.

            This is false as a matter of reason alone.

            It is also false as a matter of Faith, which infallibly teaches that human reason alone is sufficient to know, with certainty, the necessary existence of God.

            There is of course no paradox.

            No contradiction.

            Just another instance of Mr. Nickols expressing his own confusion, as the best thing he can muster in place of an actual argument.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I would see this statement more in the following vein.

            The basic moral law we have revealed in the Ten Commandments can actually be discovered in the natural law through reason. However, that doesn't normally happen.

            In the same way, the existence of God and some of his attributes can be known by reason, but most people believe in God through faith rather than reason to him.

          • primenumbers

            What natural law leads us to laws that criminalize blasphemy, exercising freedom of religion, working on sundays, and treating wives as chattel?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Ten Commandments as such are particular instantiations of the natural law.

            If you took a totally philosophical approach you might put them in a different order but I think you'd find all of them (except keeping the Sabbath, although setting aside time to honor God, for leisure and rest is perfectly reasonable).

            Natural law ethics can get extremely detailed as they are applied to different facets of human life and they will all be totally non-religious. Natural law reasoning has to be the basis and the justification of all positive human laws, like criminal justice codes.

            The Ten Commandments can be seen to be "unpacked" in the 613 Jewish laws which are a particular application of the natural law to those people in the context of the Jewish religion. So you can say the basic principles are universal and the particular application is theocratic. There can be many ways the natural law can be applied in human societies and they all criminalize certain behavior which is objectively wrong.

            It would take a much longer comment to deal with each of your "complaints" about the Ten Commandments but none of them in principle command any of those things. For example, the fourth commands you to honor your father and mother and the nine commands not to covet someone else's wife.

          • primenumbers

            So you're not going to justify blasphemy laws or rules against freedom of belief and freedom of religion then?

            "except keeping the Sabbath, although setting aside time to honor God, for leisure and rest is perfectly reasonable" - perhaps reasonable to a believing Christian, but utterly ridiculous in practise as many people need to work on Sundays so that you can be safe, have medical care etc. etc. Some of use work pretty much every day because a) we enjoy what we do and b) like to earn money to support our families.

            Another question would be about the commandment not to kill - do you interpret that as "kill" or "murder" because as you realize, there's a vast difference between the two.

            "but none of them in principle command any of those things" - asserted, not demonstrated. A plain reading of, and Christian behaviour based upon would demonstrate my reading is correct. Christians have instantiated blasphemy laws, have criminalized non-Christian belief, have persecuted others based on religious beliefs.

          • Rationalist1

            The ten commandments approached philosophically would lose the first four. Those are all about placating a God's ego.

            Honor they father and mother - Only if they deserve it.

            You shall not murder - Good, but define murder.

            False witness - Fine if not taken to extreme. Better to say Don't bear false witness to harm another person.

            Don't commit adultery - Once again define adultery.

            As for coveting besides being the basis for capitalism, it gets dismissed as it includes wife along with cattle and property. Not a good association.

            Here's a much better set http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/the-new-ten-commandments/

          • primenumbers

            Indeed there are plenty of situations where the moral decision is the one to tell a lie.

          • BenS

            Does my bum look big in this?

          • Rationalist1

            No man has ever answered that one truthfully to his wife and lived to tell us about it.

            Now if it was a guy asking another guy, the question has never been answered as the questionee is too busy laughing.

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

            It seems to me that the Ten Commandments are of limited usefulness. I recall once claiming I could make a better list, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. The following is something I wrote elsewhere and will just quote rather than rewrite.

            A note in the New American Bible says the following of Exodus 20:13:

            Kill: . . . the Hebrew verb translated here as “kill” is often understood as “murder,” although it is in fact used in the Old Testament at times for unintentional acts of killing (e.g., Dt 4:41; Jos 20:3) and for legally sanctioned killing (Nm 35:30). The term may originally have designated any killing of another Israelite, including acts of manslaughter, for which the victim’s kin could exact vengeance. In the present context, it denotes the killing of one Israelite by another, motivated by hatred or the like (Nm 35:20; cf. Hos 6:9).

            So if you go by “original intent,” the commandment is not a prohibition against all killing (or even all murder), but the killing of a fellow tribesman under certain circumstances.

            It has always struck me that the commandments against stealing and against murder tell us exactly nothing, because they don’t define wrongful killing or wrongful taking of another’s property. Stealing and murder are wrong by definition, and a command not to do something that is wrong by definition would appear to be unnecessary and redundant.

            The command to honor your father and mother scarcely belongs in the top ten in 21st century society, although it no doubt did in Old Testament times. Bearing false witness would seem to have had to do with court proceedings, and is not a blanket command always to tell the truth. Commands not to covet seem actually not to have been about envy but about plotting to get what your neighbor had. And of course in Old Testament times, it was not considered adultery for a married man to have sex with an unmarried woman, since the prohibition against adultery was to protect the husband's right to his wife, but the wife had no right to her husband.

  • Rationalist1

    The dialogue between faith and reason - " Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the individual, valid only for the life of the individual." I seriously don't know anyone who subscribes to that. This is perhaps why there is know understanding of truth between believers and non believers.

    "Faith awakens the critical sense by preventing research from being satisfied with its own formulae and helps it to realize that nature is always greater." Faith doesn't do that science does. Science demands progress, demands testing and if possible invalidating established facts and science rewards those who so. Faith encourages acceptance and accommodation of facts with beliefs.

    • epeeist

      Truth nowadays is often reduced to the subjective authenticity of the
      individual, valid only for the life of the individual." I seriously
      don't know anyone who subscribes to that.

      I have seen this in a slightly wider guise than this. I have seen it in appeals to Wittgenstein and Kuhn by a few of the religious in order to supposedly show that the truths of science and the the truths of religion occupy different "language games" or "paradigms" and therefore the first cannot invalidate the second.

    • John Paul

      "Faith doesn't do that science does. Science demands progress, demands testing and if possible invalidating established facts and science rewards those who so. Faith encourages acceptance and accommodation of facts with beliefs."

      This is a view of scientism. Science is a tool in and of itself, and if there is any demanding, there must be intentionality behind that demand. As such, if there is a scientist who demands progress, testing, and finding/using a principle of verifiability, fine; however, this does not put the intentionality upon science itself which is at best, a tool. Moreover, once one sees this aspect, one will have to not that there must be another aspect that contributes to this "demanding", namely, human intentionality. Therefore, if a scientist, or rather any individual, wishes to establish facts, there must be some reason for wanting understanding those facts beyond science itself since science does not desire, or will, or naturally bring to fruition, in itself, such demands of progress. Moreover, since science is in itself as a tool, inductive, and not deductive, there is only a set of probability from 0 to 1. Given this, there requires faith to correspond to facts with beliefs about the probability of those inductive/empirical facts. The usefulness of science is that it allows one to make that jump without a blind leap in the dark. For example, if there is a 99.8% probability and verification of X, then one has good reason to trust the results that derive from X's truth-value. However, that does not mean that X does not require any faith at all since the factors that make up that 99.8% are a culmination of other factors that make up that percentage [number of tests performed, reproducibility, observable and testable, variety of tests performed, etc.] As such, just the same way that scientists, theist and atheist alike, use the dimension of faith within "good reason" in a belief of the probability of inductive facts on a 0 to 1 scale. Therefore, the theist can very well blend together faith and reason much in the same way that the scientist does. Moreover, this is only the inductive aspect; if one wishes to eliminate the aspect of non-inductive processes from an argument, one cannot use non-inductive principles to make such a claim that might be employed through non-empirical, propositional statements by individuals. This stated, St.Thomas Aquinas' argument, and not Dawkins' representation/assessment of his argument, is valid within such a spectrum upon which Father Robert Barron expands: http://youtu.be/3ZkHv8iTJPo.

      • Rationalist1

        No, Scientism is equivalent to faithism and is the position that science is the only way to get knowledge. I personally don't know anyone who embraces that viewpoint.

        It's people who want to know something, not science and science has a track record of being an extremely reliable way to get knowledge.

        • John Paul

          You might not "personally" know anyone who embraces that viewpoint, but then again, you probably do not know every person who has walked the earth (not that you need to or that this is important) but the point is that if this point is to be made, it needs to be made from an argumentative one and not a rhetorical one. Nonetheless, here are two sources with commentary to discuss your claim about what scientism is.

          From the Stanford EoP, "The key text is Hayek's paper, “Scientism and the Study of Society,” serialized in Economica (1942–44), and later published as the first part of The Counter-Revolution of Science (1955). In Hayek's view, the desire on the part of social scientists to emulate the physical sciences creates an exaggerated fear of teleological or “purposive” concepts." For some social scientists, by Hayek's definition the teleological/purposive definition takes the same definition of scientism goes beyond mere empiricism or acquisition of knowledge but that the only way things can be known is through science.

          The following citation shows another iteration of this statement through a science-only approach: "Scientism may refer to science applied "in excess". The term scientism can apply in either of two equally pejorative senses:[18][19][20] To indicate the improper usage of science or scientific claims.[21] This usage applies equally in contexts where science might not apply,[22] such as when the topic is perceived to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and in contexts where there is insufficient empirical evidence to justify a scientific conclusion. It includes an excessive deference to claims made by scientists or an uncritical eagerness to accept any result described as scientific. In this case, the term is a counterargument to appeals to scientific authority. To refer to "the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry,"[20] or that "science, and only science, describes the world as it is in itself, independent of perspective"[15] with a concomitant "elimination of the psychological dimensions of experience."[23][24]"

          A few key quotations from that last post: "This usage applies equally in contexts where science might not apply, such as when the topic is perceived to be beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, and in contexts where there is insufficient empirical evidence to justify a scientific conclusion. To refer to "the belief that the methods of natural science, or the categories and things recognized in natural science, form the only proper elements in any philosophical or other inquiry," or that "science, and only science, describes the world as it is in itself, independent of perspective."

          It's is not being argued that science does not have a good track record or that it is not an extremely reliable way to get knowledge. Science does have these qualities (that is not being denied); however, science is not the only field that has logical usefulness. It would be a red herring to continue that point. The point is that philosophy of logic, of science, and of mathematics, for example, also have rigorous reliability and ought not be excluded.

          Faithism has two definitions and I think you are using the second one: "(1) Discrimination towards a person or group of people solely dependent on their faith, beliefs or religion. - Used in place of racism when applicable. (2) A belief that faith or religion is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that religious differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular religion or beliefs." As such, the equivalency that was pointed out, under this definition, is not shown.

  • Rationalist1

    Now this is interesting. The corrollary to salvation for atheists statement of a few months ago. (corrected to salvation is offered to even atheists).

    "Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith. They strive to act as if God existed, at times because they realize how important he is for finding a sure compass for our life in common or because they experience a desire for light amid darkness, but also because in perceiving life’s grandeur and beauty they intuit that the presence of God would make it all the more beautiful."

    I don't agree with the statement "they strive to act as if God existed" for I can't say what that would be and I don't think the existence of God would make life's "grandeur and beauty" all the more beautiful. Here I could give the Douglas Adams' quote about faeries and gardens but more to the point if there is a God surely an appreciation and awe at creation is enough, not adulation of the creator. Using the analogy of a human writer, one appreciates the work and expresses one's awe and thankfulness for the work of literature. To place the emphasis on the person and how the person magnifies the work is more than a little sycophantic.

  • Rationalist1

    The last two chapters tie it together and make the point that all this leads to the Church, the sacraments, prayer and the catholic (small c intentional) aspect of the Catholic faith. It's to e expected since if you have a church you need adherents and the Church keeps (or attempts to keep) the adherents on the straight and narrow.

    Two points made. One is the importance of sharing faith with the youth. The Popes argue for the strength that faith gives them. buy unspoken is the fact that of you don't indoctrinate at a young age very few become religious later.

    And secondly the Church as a light (again with the metaphor) for society. Being raised in a more British than the British area of Canada, I used to get (from non Catholics only) how the Royal family was the family we should all seek to emulate. Their example was one that we could all learn from,. etc. Well we know how that turned out and using the Christian faith as a light for society, especially with the revelations of the last few decades about the hierarchy takes courage.

    And finally ending as so many of JPII's encyclicals did it ends with Mary, mother of Jesus and her role in the Catholic faith (interestingly less other denominations). One wonders why the mediation of a women Mary, who through the Incarnation brought Jesus to this world, and continues to mediate (Catholics believe) with God on our behalf, cannot be an example of women mediating in the Catholic Church as they do in so many other Churches. The Catholic Church has the start of a beautiful theology there, just take it one more step.

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

      "the fact that of you don't indoctrinate at a young age very few become religious later"

      >> I would suggest this "fact" is one that does not comport with reality.

      There have been many instances through the Church's history of large adult populations converting; notably the case of the mass conversions of the Amero-Indians after the apparition of Our Lady of Guadelupe, and the conversion of the barbarian tribes of what would later become Europe.

      Noteworthy in both of these instances is that these conversions were not the outcome of tedious theological disputes, but instead of astonishing miracles of utterly persuasive character, completely satisfactory to persuade the unbelievers of the truth of the Faith.

      Anecdotally, I also came to the Faith as an adult with no prior religious formation, and as a result of a simply miraculous demonstration of its power.

  • 42Oolon

    Apparently the Pope's final sentence was deleted by the Cardinals. The original ended:

    "May the Lord of Light protect you, for the night is dark... and full of terrors."

  • reader_gl

    This looks like an example of apophatic theology: Say three times "Nietzsche" (this name occurs three times in the encyclical) and he will disappear.

    • ZenDruid

      Gesundheit!

  • Rationalist1

    Science and religion. “Science and religion are not at odds in our faith. We accept truth wherever it is found and take the pragmatic view that where religion and science seem to clash, it is simply because there is insufficient data to reconcile the two.”

    • ZenDruid

      "... and, lacking data, it is pragmatically incumbent upon Us to generate yet another pointless metaphor."

  • niknac

    Who worships the Sun God anymore? This pope is way behind. I worship the internet, it brings all things to me.

    Most of the people on this site seem also to do so.

  • Martin Snigg

    Thanks Joe. Your article reminds me of a brief youtube interview with Fr Thomas Joseph White OP on 'BigThink' re: limits of reason and the human heart. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeBSmB2z0n8 (8.59min). As Fr Hans Urs von Balthazar said, the 'yes' or 'no' to the Good News of Jesus Christ is intensifying. Or, "When the round table splits, one must either side with Galahad or Mordred. Middle ways are gone.” CS Lewis . 50 years later his other quote is more urgent than ever.

    “God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else - something it never entered your head to conceive - comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last for ever. We must take it or leave it.”

  • clod

    No. The essence of faith is fear. Like a dark shadow it follows you. The comfort of obedience, of rules, keeps you like a child: secure, but afraid underneath. Shadows are only shadows. When you look at them without flinching, they lose all power over you. When they've dispersed, faith is still there, but it has more humanity to it.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Clod, if faith is fear and the fear is dispersed how can anything be left of faith?

      What did you really mean to say?

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    Okay, I have read the encyclical entire.

    And what I glean from it is that "leap of faith" is not the phrase one should use to describe the process of moving from a naturalistic view of the universe to a supernatural view.

    So I guess we need a new phrase.

    Leap of wugg?

    Leap of smilnap?

    Open to suggestions......

    • Rationalist1

      And suggestions as to what the transition is the other way. I would say "acknowledgement of error".

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

      It is a perfectly logical process, in which you and I are presently engaged, on the other thread.

      The arguments are available for review, and they are not accurately characterized as

      "Leap of wugg"

      Leap of smilnap"

      "Open to suggestions......"

      >> I suggest dealing with the argument, instead of misrepresenting it in a cheap bit of sophistical mugging to the peanut gallery.

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        My post was only partially intended as satire. Clearly there have been many human beings who have moved from unbelief in a supernatural creator to belief in same. Now, if "faith" is not an appropriate word to describe what one acquires thereby, then what is?

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

          ""leap of faith" is not the phrase one should use to ****describe the process***** of moving from a naturalistic view of the universe to a supernatural view."

          The process certainly involves a great deal of logical investigation.

          I know.

          I have gone through the whole process.

          I am now engaged with you in a strictly logical investigation of how one might move from unbelief to belief.

          Your move.

  • John Paul

    The following link (Fr. Robert Barron's commentary) is a helpful supplement to understanding the Encyclical: http://youtu.be/IDbcHBuuG7Q