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“The Avengers” and Friedrich Nietzsche

Avengers

C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their colleagues in the Inklings wanted to write fiction that would effectively “evangelize the imagination,” accustoming the minds, especially of young people, to the hearing of the Christian Gospel. Accordingly, Tolkien’s Gandalf is a figure of Jesus the prophet and Lewis’s Aslan a representation of Christ as both sacrificial victim and victorious king. Happily, the film versions of both The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia have proven to be wildly popular all over the world. Not so happily, Joss Whedon’s “Avenger” films, the second of which has just appeared, work as a sort of antidote to Tolkien and Lewis, shaping the imaginations of young people so as to receive a distinctly different message. It is certainly relevant to my purpose here to note that Whedon, the auteur behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and many other well-received films and television programs, is a self-avowed atheist and has, on many occasions, signaled his particular dissatisfaction with the Catholic Church.

I won’t rehearse in too much detail the plot of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Suffice it to say that the world is threatened by an artificial intelligence, by the name of Ultron, who has run amok and incarnated himself in a particularly nasty robotic body. Ultron wants to destroy the human race and has produced an army of robots as his posse. Enter the Avengers—Tony Stark (Iron Man), the Hulk, Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Thor—to do battle with the dark forces. There is an awful lot of CGI bumping and banging and blowing things up, but when the rubble settles, we see that the real struggle is over a perfect body—a synthesis of machine and flesh—that Ultron, with the help of brainwashed scientists, is designing for himself. After pursuing the bad guys on a wild ride through the streets of Seoul, the Avengers recover the body, and Thor, using one of the fundamental building blocks of the universe or lightning or something, brings it to life. Exuding light, intelligence, and calmness of spirit, this newly created robot/human/god floats above the ground and announces that his name is “I am.” Just before his climactic battle with Ultron, “I am” declares that order and chaos are two sides of the same coin and that wickedness is never eliminated but keeps coming around in an endless cycle.

Although some have seen Biblical themes at work in all of this, I see pretty much the opposite, namely, an affirmation of a Nietzschean view of life. Whedon, who was a philosophy student at university, delights in dropping references to the great thinkers in his work, and one of the most cited in “Ultron” is none other than the man I take to be the most influential of the 19th century philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche. At a key moment in the film, Ultron in fact utters Nietzsche’s most famous one-liner: “what does not kill me makes me stronger,” and the observation made by the newly-created “I am” is a neat expression of Nietzsche’s doctrine of the eternal return of the same. At the heart of the German philosopher’s work is the declaration of the death of God, which signals that all values are relative, that we live in a space “beyond good and evil.” Into that space, Nietzsche contends, the Ubermensch, the superman, should confidently stride. This is a human being who has thrown off the shackles of religion and conventional morality and is able to exercise fully his Wille zur Macht (Will to Power). Asserting this will, the superman defines himself completely on his own terms, effectively becoming a god. Here we see the significant influence of Nietzsche on Sartre and the other existentialists of the twentieth century.

The Avengers is chock-a-block with Ubermenschen, powerful, willful people who assert themselves through technology and the hyper-violence that that technology makes possible. And the most remarkable instance of this technologically informed self-assertion is the creation of the savior figure, who self-identifies with the very words of Yahweh in the book of Exodus. But he is not the Word become flesh; instead, he is the coming together of flesh and robotics, produced by the flexing of the all too human will to power. I find it fascinating that this pseudo-savior was brought about by players on both sides of the divide, by both Iron Man and Ultron. Like Nietzsche’s superman, he is indeed beyond good and evil—which is precisely why he cannot definitively solve the problems that bedevil the human race and can only glumly predict the eternal return of trouble. If you have any doubts about the Nietzschean intention of Joss Whedon, take a good look at the image that plays as The Avengers comes to a close. It is a neo-classical sculpture of all of the major figures in the film locked in struggle, straining against one another. It is in complete conformity with the aesthetic favored by Albert Speer, Leni Riefenstahl, and the other artists of the Nazi period.

What we can seize upon in this film is the frank assertion that the will to power—even backed up by stunningly sophisticated technology—never finally solves our difficulties, that it, in point of fact, makes things worse. (See the Tower of Babel narrative for the details.)

This admission teases the mind to consider the possibility that the human predicament can be addressed finally only through the invasion of grace.
 
 
(Image credit: HD Wallpapers)

Bishop Robert Barron

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Bishop Robert Barron is Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. He is an acclaimed author, speaker, and theologian. He’s America’s first podcasting priest and one of the world’s most innovative teachers of Catholicism. His global, non-profit media ministry called Word On Fire reaches millions of people by utilizing new media to draw people into or back to the Faith. Bishop Barron is also the creator and host of CATHOLICISM, a groundbreaking, 10-part documentary series and study program about the Catholic Faith. He is the author of several books including Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master (Crossroad, 2008); The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path (Orbis, 2002); and Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (Image, 2011). Find more of his writing and videos at WordOnFire.org.

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  • Kevin Aldrich

    This seems to underline for me the only two basis for morality.

    One is that we discover a law of good and evil above us to which we submit (conforming to the good and rejecting the evil).

    The other is that moral questions are decided by power: whoever has the most power decides what is good and what is evil (and it is whatever the powerful one decides).

    • I think that, practically speaking, you are right.

      There are dozens of different theories of morality, but it would seem as though they all would practically end in these two categories.

      Either there are moral rules we determine and some sort of enforcement of these rules, or with any alternative, those who are powerful will simply make the decisions they want, and those decisions will act as the de facto moral framework.

      Thanks for sharing the insight.

      • Bob

        Confusing legalism with morality

        • Possibly. Could you elaborate? I'd like to correct any errors I might be making.

          • Bob

            Reward and punishment are irrelevant to what is or isn't moral

          • What do you think determines what is moral? Why ought we be moral?

          • Bob

            The amount of intentional harm, directly or indirectly, that results from a particular act.

            If the results of being moral are desired, than one ought to be moral.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So it is perfectly moral to wear a condom then?

          • Bob

            If one had gunk on the junk, then it would definitely be less moral not to.

          • Andre V.

            Not as a hat. That would be immoral.

          • Bob

            Hats are for heads...teleologically speaking... ;)

          • Thank you. To clarify my original statement, using what may be your moral system as an example (I hope I didn't misunderstand it):

            "The amount of intentional harm, directly or indirectly, that results from a particular act" is the moral rule and following the rule is enforced by the consequences. Both the rule and the consequences of following the rule seem to be outside our determination.

            In this reply, I've realized that "enforcement" was an unfortunate choice of words. "Motivation" would have been a far better word to use.

          • Bob

            What do you mean by "outside our determination"?

          • We determine neither the rules nor the motivation to follow them. They are determined by something else. The rules and motivation are determined by our biology, in the case of what might or might not be your moral theory.

          • Bob

            Other than everything biological things do is in some way determined by biology, I still do not follow.

          • I don't know how to make my point any clearer. You're welcome to ask a specific question if you'd like. Otherwise, thanks for the helpful discussion.

          • Bob

            The best I can make out is that you are not talking about morality. Once again, morality refers to the harm caused by actions and not by rules.
            Whether or not actions are deterministic, indeterministic, following rules, or not following rules, the morality of actions in and of themselves objectively remain.

          • Andre V.

            I see that you claim to also not understand Paul, just as you claim not to understand my arguments in our discussion, in both instances as relating to the meaning of morality. That does not bode well for effective and meaningful communication. Your definition of morality is far too restricted. It should be expanded to include intentions, common good, weighing of interests and a host of other considerations.

          • But there are rules, rules of behavior or at least rules of language of morality ("morality is X, you are talking about Y therefore you are not talking about morality").

            Actions are presumably moral if they meet certain criteria (e.g. action A is more moral than action B if action A causes less harm than action B). These are what I mean by rules. These rules are motivated by the outcome of the action itself, that causing less harm is intrinsically desirable.

            In some conceivable moral framework (it need not be yours), it would seem as though I cannot arbitrarily choose these rules or their motivation. I couldn't wake up tomorrow and say "I think it would be moral to harm as many people as possible as much as possible, and I'm motivated to do so because I've decided that I enjoy inflicting pain on others." This isn't something I can freely decide. It's something that's determined for me.

            If someone were to believe that these rules are not self-determined, then they are determined by something else. Maybe biology, or society, or the will of a divine being, rules of logic, the Platonic Form of the Good, the creator of this simulation, etc (the options are boundless). It's just that these rules and the motivation to follow them are not self-determined.

            Some people may think that there are no rules at all. That there is no right or wrong. Others may think that the rules are self-determined. People make up their own moral rules. Still others may think that there are set moral rules, determined from outside the self, but that there is no external motivation whatsoever to be moral.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So utilitarianism?

          • Bob

            I suppose if someone wanted to live in the worst possible society for some reason or other, doing the moral thing would not be something such an individual ought do.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            These are important questions that are often neglected in these "you need God for morality" discussions.

    • Do you honestly think anyone really thinks moral questions are decided by power? Can you really imagine anyone saying that because they have the power to do something it makes it right?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Absolutely. In fact, when people say "It is settled science" or "You'd better get on the side of history" or "You'll never get tenure that way" or "You are a bigot" that is pretty much what they are saying.

        This is the essence of totalitarianism.

        • Or when someone says "abortion is murder" or "you'll never be hired by the diocese if you teach that".

          It may be that someone will think a particular behaviour is morally reprehensible precisely because that person believes that there is an objective moral standard. That person may find it necessary to invoke social and even legal and economic sanctions in order to protect what they believe to be right.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If everyone was as reasonable as you things would be much better.

            This is more my experience:

            If I say "abortion is murder" and you (plural) ask why, I will give you reasons. Generally today if one says, "Being against SSM is bigotry" and I ask why, I'm told in different ways, "Shut up, bigot."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            A few things.

            1) Many people who oppose SSM give bigoted reasons. I am not saying that this is true of everyone, but there are a fair amount of bigots in your camp. Sometimes it is best to call a bigot a bigot.

            2) I think some of us who are in favor of SSM understand that their is a history of bigotry in our country and in our zeal, we often toss the bigoted label around, even when it is not deserved. This is not something we should do.

            3) In my experience, many people who are against SSM are also homophobic. They do not like being around homosexuals. These same people will give natural law arguments about SSM and refer to homsexuals as gross or disordered.

            4) I agree with you that we should not use words to shut down dialogue or shame people into agreement. It is not healthy, in general, healthy for democracy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I up voted your comment.

            I would just add that natural law arguments do not use the term "gross." However, disordered in not an homophobic term.

            Any thing that goes against the proper ordering of an act is a disorder. Lying and stealing are disordered acts, too. So are adultery, bestiality, and a host of other sexual practices. People who do those things habitually can be said to be disordered in those ways.

          • A few things.

            1) Many people who oppose SSM give bigoted reasons. I am not saying that this is true of everyone, but there are a fair amount of bigots in your camp. Sometimes it is best to call a bigot a bigot.

            2) I think some of us who are in favor of SSM understand that their is a history of bigotry in our country and in our zeal, we often toss the bigoted label around, even when it is not deserved. This is not something we should do.

            3) In my experience, many people who are against SSM are also homophobic. They do not like being around homosexuals. These same people will give natural law arguments about SSM and refer to homsexuals as gross or disordered.

            4) I agree with you that we should not use words to shut down dialogue or shame people into agreement. It is not healthy, in general, healthy for democracy.

            Thanks for the comment, Ignatius. A few things in reply:

            1) Many people who oppose God, religion, or Catholicism give bigoted reasons. I am not saying that this is true of everyone, but there is a fair amount of bigotry in the atheist camp. Still, unlike you, I don't think it's helpful to call anyone a bigot. It simply shuts down the conversation.

            2) Some people toss the bigoted label around, even when it is undeserved. This is not something we should do. Hopefully we all agree on this.

            3) In my experience, few people who are against SSM are homophobic. In fact, I haven't met a single person who is afraid of homosexuals or homosexuality, which is the definition of homophobia. They may not like being around homosexuals, but this doesn't make them homophobic any more than me avoiding vulgar drunks makes me drunkaphobic, or avoiding soccer makes me soccerphobic. Similarly, one can recognize a particular act as disordered (in the philosophical sense, meaning "not ordered to its proper end") without having a corresponding phobia.

            4) I agree with you that we should not use words to shut down dialogue or shame people into agreement. It is not healthy in general or healthy for democracy.

          • David Nickol

            In fact, I haven't met a single person who is afraid of homosexuals or homosexuality, which is the definition of homophobia.

            That is not the definition of homophobia.

          • Cody Taylor

            Lets break this apart. homo, meaning man or human in Latin, and phobia, coming from the dictionary meaning an extreme or irrational fear of something. So actually, that is the exact definition of homophobia

          • David Nickol

            First, note that by your reasoning, homophobia would mean "fear of man" or "fear of men" or "fear of humans."

            Second, the homo in homophobia comes from homosexual, and the root homo in homosexual is from the Greek meaning "same."

          • Cody Taylor

            Either way, phobia is constant. Even by your definition, homophobia means fear of the same sex. I have never met a single person who is scared of gays.

          • David Nickol

            The way to know what a word means is to look it up in a good dictionary or other reference work and see how it is used. It can be helpful if you come across a word you don't know to look for its root or roots and see if you can make an educated guess as to its meaning, but it can also be totally misleading. See the Wikipedia entry for the etymological fallacy.

            According to Merriam-Webster's unabridged online dictionary, homophobia means " irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals."

            Wikipedia has a good entry, which is (in part) as follows:

            Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs.

            Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientations that are non-heterosexual. According to the 2010 Hate Crimes Statistics released by the FBI National Press Office, 19.3 percent of hate crimes across the United States "were motivated by a sexual orientation bias." Moreover, in a Southern Poverty Law Center 2010 Intelligence Report extrapolating data from fourteen years (1995–2008), which had complete data available at the time, of the FBI's national hate crime statistics found that LGBT people were "far more likely than any other minority group in the United States to be victimized by violent hate crime."

          • Mike

            I spent 5 years during school in the heart of the gay ghetto in my very very large ne city and can tell you that although the men (most of the population was male) were mostly polite and courteous i nevertheless did NOT like their general cultural ambiance; not that it was rude to me but it was OVERLY SEXUALIZED and constantly related to something sexual which made me feel uncomfortable - my point is that that is not being homophobic but a personal taste as i would feel the exact same way if surrounded by "straight" ppl acting like that.

          • David Nickol

            my point is that that is not being homophobic but a personal taste as i
            would feel the exact same way if surrounded by "straight" ppl acting
            like that.

            Is it your contention, though, that all gay people behave like the ones you encountered in your (unnamed) "gay ghetto"?

            Suppose you had lived in a very bad, high-crime neighborhood populated by the ethnic minority X. If you had formed a bad opinion of the X people in that neighborhood, would you be able to generalize and say, "I don't like X's, and I am not a bigot, because I lived in an X ghetto once and I didn't like the way they behaved"?

          • Mike

            i'll be perfectly honest that in my experience NOT all but i swear something like 90% do if not 95% - the cat calls, the insinuations, the dirty jokes, the gossip, it was constant...but i know that there is a not small minority that are NOT radicals and some that are even not for redefining marriage and some that are faithful to the church-at my wedding 2 men who live together but are chaste sang and played the piano...one of them would NEVER"marry" the other.

          • David Nickol

            You didn't answer my question.

          • Mike

            Of course not ALL behave that way as i said the 2 men in my wedding were NOT like that and were ASHAMED of the pride parades etc.

            As for generalizations i don't think they are necessarily bad but you have to be VERY careful; however if overt sexualization of pretty much everything is not a problem for you well then cool i suppose but i'd rather not live in an area like that.

            We all live and work where you feel most comfortable - all ppl do that bc it is healthy and good.

          • VicqRuiz

            As a "small l" libertarian, I am obliged to tolerate homosexuality, and likewise to support the rights of homosexuals to any/all of the rights of citizenship.

            But I am not obliged to affirm or celebrate homosexuality, or to insist that others do so.

            It's the fairly recent insistence that the latter is an obligation which I object to.

          • Mike

            YES! Screaming BIGOT is an argument from ignorance.

        • I don't agree, I don't think even dictators believe that power is the source of their morality. I think they think they are morally justified to take and exercise power. I think some are psychopathic, such as Mao, who really did not seem to have any empathy for other people, but having no morality is different than accepting morality and believing it arises from power.

          Humanist and subjective morality need not be grounded in power, in practice it is quite the opposite.

          The statements above do not at all entail a belief that what is good is what the powerful do.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't mean that people think morality arises from power. Rather, in the absence of a standard of good outside themselves, people uses themselves as the standard. So, whatever they want is good. If they have power, their will will be done.

            I agree that a lot of despots are sociopathic. If you have no empathy you are not likely to see standard to which you should conform your actions.

          • I don't think anyone thinks like that. I do not believe there is an absolute objective moral standard, much less that I could have access to it. But neither do I think whatever I want is good, or if I have the power my will be done.

            At the end of the day the axioms I employ to guide my thinking on moral issues can only be described as intuitive. But cannot the same be said for theists? I often hear apologists defend objective morality on the basis that moral obligations are intuitive or evident, as opposed to rationally derived.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Do good and avoid evil" is intuitive. It is the most basic premise of the natural law.

            However, all the specific axioms are derived by reason. Like all the natural rights and responsibilities of parents and children.

          • Can we agree that intuitions of shoulds and shouldsn'ts are found in most humans. Whether this represents evolved instinct or some kind of vague law encoded in our souls or whatever, is another question.

            Something can't be an axiom if it is derived by reason.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can agree that everyone who has reached a certain age (unless that person has either by nature or nurture a serious deficiency) has synderesis.

            If you doubt the truth of the command "do good and avoid evil" you can use your reason and experience to verify it.

            By axioms I just meant new starting points that can be reasoned to from the first premise and which can be the basis of much more moral reasoning.

            So, for example, I think you can reason from "do good and avoid evil" to "do not murder."

            "Do not murder," then, becomes the basis of much more reasoning about preserving and defending life and doing physical and even psychological harm to oneself and others.

          • Tweck

            Yes, as a theist, I agree that morality is intuitive. I've heard the same on both sides of the discussion as well. It arises from the core of our being. Though we very often willfully disregard that morality, even when our intuitions warn us against our actions, in the pursuit of our own desires.

    • William Davis

      You forgot option three. We the people decide on laws of good and evil that we set above all of us. This is the core principle of a representative government. Rome was the first to create one these, their motto was "Lex Rex" or Law is King. It worked incredibly well, and it provided the social strength among the people who embraced it forge an empire that lasted nearly 1000 years. Christianity came on the seen later, once the empire was formed. The U.S. added a Constitution to this type of government that super-cedes ordinary law. I suppose the Constitution was the founders attempt at objective morality, best they could muster.

      It think history demonstrates that natural selection occurs among groups, and the form of morality they embrace has a dramatic impact on whether or not the group survives. I like E.O. Wilson's line "Selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, but altruistic groups beat selfish group." This really applies to Rome, as the Romans were very big on Fide (faith) and Pietas (piety), both related to loyalty to the Republic (of course Christianity later altered the meanings of these words). As Rome lost it's altruism to selfishness, it made it's fall inevitable. The fall of the Empire happened while Christianity was at the helm, not paganism. Some historians argue it was more of a decline than a fall, but I'm sure you get what I mean :)

      I recommend this book on the evolution of eusociality (and morality is basically the set of rules that govern society, today morality is incredibly complex because it must include economics, political science, ect). It is a useful metaphor to look at human civilization as a super-organism of sorts, and organism lives or dies on how well it is put together...enter morality.

      http://www.amazon.com/Social-Conquest-Earth-Edward-Wilson-ebook/dp/B0074V3712

      Wilson is sort of deist like me, so there is nothing negative about religion really in the book. I think this nearly 90 year old man has a great perspective, and he is also a proponent of things like this:

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

      Perhaps it's time for some science based mythology that I can read my kids at bedtime.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        I agree wholeheartedly that a society based on just laws is better than one ruled by a strongman. However, people can easily vote themselves into the tyranny of a majority. Laws can be unjust: even duly enacted ones. Happens all the time.

        • William Davis

          That's true. That's why I mention the part about the Constitution transcending (theoretically) mob rule and standard legislation.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        I recommend closer reading of the history of Rome, specifically the Late Republic. A nice, accessible book is Rubicon by Tom Holland. If you prefer, Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, specifically those of C. Marius, Sulla, Lucullus, Crassus, Pompey, Caesar, Antony, Cicero, Cato the Younger, and Brutus.

        The fall of the Empire happened while Christianity was at the helm, not paganism.

        Sure, but that was not until the 15th century.

        • William Davis

          Right now I'm doing:

          http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/history-of-ancient-rome.html

          I'm still in the early Republic at the beginning of the expansion of the empire, so if I seem shaky on the Late Republic, you're probably right. This is a great course (pun intended) :)

        • Tweck

          ... and Christianity had been "at the helm," (i.e. allowed to come above-ground and not face persecution), since the 4th century, so a good deal of that morality, from what I understand, emanated from the Church rather than Rome specifically.

          While there was certainly reform in the Roman Empire prior to its acceptance of Catholicism, there was also a lot of major partying (ha ha) and religious bigotry, as evidenced by the persecution of Jews and Christians in prior years.

          And what we call "paganism" was more like a religious free-state with some major caveats, as prior to Christianity being allowed above-ground, I'm pretty sure all citizens were told to worship the emperor as a god.

          • William Davis

            While there was certainly reform in the Roman Empire prior to its acceptance of Catholicism, there was also a lot of major partying (ha ha) and religious bigotry, as evidenced by the persecution of Jews and Christians in prior years.

            Religious bigotry carries on to this very day. Just because Christianity became the official religion, that doesn't mean the bigotry stopped, quite the contrary. Thank God for separation of Church and state :)

          • Tweck

            Oh definitely, I quite agree. We humans are willfully frightened by things we don't understand, and many of us over the centuries have lost sight of Christ's compassion and acceptance of the marginalized and "different." And that bigotry continues to manifest. In my faith we'd likely say that such is a way the devil works in our lives.

    • William Davis

      Here's a pretty good article talking about Wilson and the struggle of "us" vs "me".

      http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/edward-o-wilsons-new-take-on-human-nature-160810520/?no-ist

    • Andre V.

      That just shows a rigid lack of imagination. Let's consider the Buddhists, who for the better part of 2 500 years have been building a magnificent and highly sophisticated ethical and moral system without the help of a creator God, only based on considerations such as compassion and an absence of harm.

      Theism is not an objective moral system. That argument is destroyed by centuries of wars over doctrinal disputes, evidence of the subjective nature of these interpretations of the "objective morals" leading right up to Christianity itself squabbling about gay marriage, women priests, divorce and so on. Not to mention 30 000 odd different denominations of that objective truth.

      Some people take comfort in the thought that there is some objective morality that guides them and society. It does not exist though, and mankind creates morality as we need it from time to time, based on more objective considerations like security, lawfulness, societal cohesion and so on. Study aspects of communal living such as slavery, marriage, the death penalty, imprisonment, and hundreds of other such parameters and any wishes of objective morality should disappear.

      And there are several other foundations for morality. Our modern legal systems are proof of this in many respects. Morality is situational, it is dynamic, and it does not fit inside the pages of a single book, and it is certainly not objective when derived from a perceived nebulous entity the details of which theism cannot even agree on.

      • William Davis

        Lol, that's where I just went above ;) Poor Kevin is trying to defend Catholicism solo today it seems. You have to give him credit for courage at least.

        • Andre V.

          I have just read your posts above, thanks William.
          I really suggest that theists drop the objective morality argument. It is weak, and they have better ammunition than that.

          • William Davis

            I sympathize with their desire for objective morality, but it just doesn't exist, like it or not. For any objective moral statement one can come up with, I can almost always come up with a thought experiment to blow a big hole in it. Circumstances always matter when it comes to morality.

          • Andre V.

            I understand the need for objective morality - existentially, theologically and apologetically - but it simply does not exist.

            We don't want that rigid a standard in our study of medicine, or our laws, our commercial interest - but when it comes to morals our rules must be written on stone tablets.

          • Bob

            I think that morality, as in the best possible moral action in any given situation, is an objective fact.

          • William Davis

            Let's say you let a friends kid sleep over for the night, but in a separate room from yours. While sleeping, the house catches on fire, and you only have time to save 1 child, yours or the neighbors. Which one do you choose, and why is the morality of this decision an objective fact?

            Edited: Fixed typos

          • Bob

            The objectively best possible moral action would be the one that causes the least harm, directly or indirectly.

            Does this answer your question, or are you actually asking me to answer your hypothetical with my opinion of what the answer might be - given that I am quite sure that there is an objectively best moral response.

          • William Davis

            I expected a specific answer and a specific justification. If not, the right move in this situation is relative to the person making the decision.

          • Bob

            I disagree. It is my contention that there is, in fact, the objectively best moral action one could take in your given hypothetical when viewed in light of the least possible resulting harm, directly or indirectly.

          • William Davis

            Lol. But you won't say what it is...you just keep making proclamations like the wizard of Oz. Is it objectively right to save your own child, or the neighbors? It's a simple question.

          • Bob

            What don't you get. The objectively correct action is the one that causes the least harm, directly or indirectly. If saving my child meets that, than objectively, it meets it, if not, it doesn't. Regardless of what I happen to do, the objectively most moral act remains the same.

          • William Davis

            What you don't get, is that you have to choose between who to harm. Objectively, the loss of your child is equal to the loss of the neighbors child (more or less). You have to choose between WHO to harm, not how much harm is done. Haven't thought about this much have you. I've thought about morality a lot over my life, and it has been obvious that it is much like art. There are objective elements, but one can't remove the subjectivity to morality. One also can't remove the emotion, that is why reason alone is never enough. The idea that reason and emotion are separate is a been pretty much proven false anyway.

          • Bob

            You read more into me then I am saying. Look, the question is if morality is, in fact, objective. It is my contention that, based on it being defined with regards to harm, it is. There is a moral fact of the matter, the act that results in the least possible amount of harm.

            What I do not say is that anyone happens to know, in any given situation, exactly what the objectively best action would be. This, we work towards over time, correcting errors as we go. Such corrections are evidenced by, what is sometimes referred to as, societal evolution. We learn, as a society, that yes Virginia, owning people as property is probably more harmful than not owning people as property, or that treating women like chattel is probably not the best way to treat them, etc. most of this stuff, once discerned, becomes painfully obvious and is one of the interesting things about morality in general. Just imagine how some future society might view our present one, from a moral perspective. We may not even be aware of what to them may be just as obvious as how we today view the societal shortcomings of some that came before us.

            Finally, you are talking about ethics, that is considering the moral reality, as meat we can, and making a choice.

          • William Davis

            In general I agree with you, but I don't think there is always an objectively right action. In general there is, but not always. I think the example I gave is a good one. To me, losing my own child is more harmful than the neighbor losing their child (though both are really bad). To the neighbor, the opposite would be truth. We both would choose opposite actions, but we both would be right to choose them, at least in my view. Again, this is where the subjectivity comes in, not to dismiss the objective things you just mentioned. The subjective element doesn't mean is should be a free for all :)

          • Bob

            Okay, to your moral dilemma.

            My child and your child in a fire, I can save one.

            Morally, there will be some fact of the matter regarding the actual harm for any action I take. The degree to which the amount differs may even be minuscule, to the point that it is basically indeterminable to us. I suggest, however, that that difference, no matter how miniascule, determines the objectively better moral action, that action which caused less harm. I hope we can agree on this much at least.

            Now, would I happen to be able to make this distinction, or even if I could, would I make the ethical decision to act less morally if by doing so I save my child over yours, perhaps - but that decision really has no bearing on which act is objectively more moral.

          • William Davis

            I think I understand your use of objective. You are just taking the perspective of a third party observer as opposed to being IN the actual situation, fair enough, but moral actions are always taken by those IN the situation.
            I could go into how difficult it is to calculate "harm", but I'm out of time right now. I don't know how you measure the harm of losing a child, it would depend on the parents wouldn't it (again subjective). It would also depend on if we are talking psychological harm, monetary harm (one set of parents may have invested more money into a child), genetic harm (perhaps one child has uniquely useful dna). Seeing what I mean about subjectivity yet?

          • Bob

            Sure, the word harm is a subject unto itself (is there a fact of the matter with regards to harm, depending on how it is defined, perhaps, but perhaps not) and yes, I mean objective in a fact of the matter sense, not in some platonic out there sense. Thanks for the chat.

            Oh and yes moral actions are taken by those IN the situation, but the morality of the action would still have, in my view, a fact of the matter.

      • Bob

        I am pretty sure that one given act can be objectively better than another given act and that there is some act that is objectively the best possible act, whether known or not.

        • Andre V.

          I fully agree with you. That's often how our laws are arrived at. But today's "objectively better" may not be the case tomorrow. Just here in my country (and you guys have even more examples) we have moved those goalposts on slavery, voting rights, gay marriage and we are about to do so again in the next few weeks with assisted suicide.

          The bible itself gives us examples of acts and traditions that were regarded as objectively better, even approved of, but wich were subsequently abandoned for approaches that were subsequently considered to be ... You guessed it ... objectively better.

          • Bob

            If act x is objectively better than act y then is always true, it may be the case that act x was actually never objectively better than act y, only mistakenly thought to have been so, which is irrelevant to the objective fact of the matter.

          • Andre V.

            I have no doubt that such always true objective fact can be established. We can probably both put together a debatable list of such examples.

            Firstly, though, all that shows is simply that mankind has always benefitted from such an act, that it has always been perceived as objectively better. There is no need, and certainly no factual basis, to go further and posit an external agent that has provided or decreed such act.

            But secondly, our exercise creates a further problem for the theist. If such eternally objective acts and rules exist, why are they not clearly indicated as such in a place where one would expect such obvious truths to be expounded? Why did Jesus not make it clear that slavery should be abolished, that child molestation is wrong, that abortion is wrong, that xenophobia is wrong, that domestic abuse is wrong - these should be examples of those eternal truths that God should have been seized with. Instead, we are told to extol the poor, the Ten Commandments go on and on about issues that would in certain cases hardly count as eternal truths, and those lists in the OT ...

            I am quite happy to agree with you that there may very well be a few of those eternal objective truths around, but that's as far as we can go.

          • Bob

            Again, morality and legality are completely distinct things.

          • Andre V.

            Not at all. They are interlinked and should more often than not inform and support each other. In any event, and at the very least, legislation shows clearly and repeatedly that morals are not objective, that they change as we grow and evolve.

          • Bob

            Again, I will have to disagree. Whether something is accepted, punished, legal or illegal is really irrelevant to whether that something is moral or immoral.

            If something is actually moral than it always has been and always will be moral. If immoral, ditto. This, irrespective of the legal situation.

          • Andre V.

            What tells us that something is always and ever wrong? The bible? Our conscience? What example of such an eternal moral rule would you suggest? How has that example been applied by mankind throughout the centuries? If it has changed and developed in the past, by what arrogance do we assume that such rule has now, here in our time, reached its fulfillment?

          • Bob

            I am not sure what you wish to argue here. Let me see if I can clarify.

            Do you agree that saying something is moral is equivalent to saying that something causes the least amount of harm, directly or indirectly?

            If you agree, then the answer to the question, what tells us, is obvious, or so it seems to me.

          • Andre V.

            No, that is not what I am saying. You are arguing for objective morals. I am saying such morals do not exist. Hence my questions.

          • Bob

            Do you think it is morally better to help an old lady cross the street, or push her into traffic? Do you think that, morally speaking, one is objectively better than the other, given no additional details?

          • Andre V.

            The answer is obvious, and not applicable for the use you want to gain from it.
            It is morally better to help the old lady across the street, given no additional details, and no objective morals are required for the entire exercise.

          • Bob

            Then you are saying that it may not be morally better to help then to push, given no additional details. I completely disagree, in fact I say that it is objectively better, morally speaking, to help than to push, given no additional details.

          • Andre V.

            That is now not the first time that you are putting words in my mouth. That can only come from either malice or an inability to follow the discussion. I will grant you the second as being most probable.

            We are re-hashing the same tired old stuff. I think we also have a significant time difference, and I need to get some sleep. I hope you forgive me for saying goodnight (during your afternoon).

          • Bob

            My night...and I did not put any words into your mouth. I do not think we mean the same thing when we each use the word morality.

          • Andre V.

            Goodnight in any event, and thanks for the discussion.

          • William Davis

            Of course it is morally better to help the old lady cross the street, assuming no further details. The fact that we all agree on this indicates we all have the same moral intuition. We don't learn much from such obvious examples. Examples where the correct answer isn't clear are much more instructive. I don't think there has ever been a human civilization in history that thought killing old ladies for no reason was a good idea (unless you start adding details). The fact that we all agree on some obvious things doesn't mean morality is purely objective. It's not purely subjective because we all tend to be hardwired with similar moral intuition (conscience). Some people don't have this, we call them sociopaths or psychopaths. One of these freaks might think it IS good to kill old ladies for no reason, but they are abnormal psychologically. Psychology has a lot to say about normal human nature and the resultant morality. It's biggest weakness is that it's tribalistic. There is a powerful tendency to prefer in-tribe members to the detriment of outside of tribe people. If you look for it, you see this everywhere.

          • Bob

            how would you define the word morality?

            What do you mean when you say something is moral?

          • William Davis

            In general I would say morality is the principles one uses to determine their behavior.
            An action is moral if one considers the affect the action has on themselves and other people, and chooses the best in good conscience. Least harm is often helpful, but most benefit has to be weighed too. Sitting at home watching TV does no harm, but taking some flowers to your sick grandma does good. The good action becomes the moral one because it is superior to a neutral action. An example of subjectivity (and tribalism) would be choosing your own sick grandma over someone else's sick grandma...assuming you can't visit both :)

          • Bob

            Thanks. A lot of what you are referring to is what I would call ethics, which I take to be the what we do with those pesky moral facts. I agree that benefit has to be weighed, but am simply crouching that in terms of least harm, to keep it simple, since causing the least potential harm can be understood as providing the greatest potential benefit, though I probably could have been more clear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes, right. How is this progress? Thou shalt not kill (OT). Thou shalt not even use verbal violence (NT). Thou may kill grandma (assisted suicide).

          • William Davis

            Thou may kill grandma (assisted suicide).

            It should be: "Thou shalt allow grandma the mercy of killing herself."
            I watched my mother in law die slowly of cancer. We would have all been better of skipping the last 3-5 days. A person's life is their own, it should be their choice when it's time to end it. I don't mind if religions continue to teach against suicide (and in general this is a great teaching), but I don't think this teaching should be the law.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is another subject but much could be said how harmful it is for the elderly, the infirm, and the handicapped, when assisted suicide and euthanasia laws go into effect.

          • Bob

            Do you think that assisted suicide and murder mean the same thing?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            More or less. Murder is killing an innocent person.

            Suicide is self-murder. In assisted suicide, somebody has to help somebody kill themselves. If you help, you are a killer. If you push the button, you are a killer.

          • Bob

            So you think that the killing of an innocent person is murder.

            So a child that runs into traffic and is killed as a result can be said to have been murdered?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The deliberate and intentional killing of an innocent person.

            To get really technical:

            http://dictionary.law.com/default.aspx?selected=1303

          • Bob

            Do you think the word malicious might need to be in there as well?

          • William Davis

            Intention is one of the keys to morality. An unintentional crime gets turned into an accident because of the lack of intention.
            This idea is one reason why the Christian claim of "believe in Christ or be condemned" is immoral. I can have all the right intentions, and still not be convinced or believe. I have done nothing wrong because my intentions are pure, and I honestly think what I think. I don't think its unreasonable to make the assumption that God isn't immoral.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is also imaginary; that is, your objection. It is not a Catholic claim.

          • William Davis

            1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;618 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":619

            Father, accept this offering

            from your whole family.

            Grant us your peace in this life,

            save us from final damnation,

            and count us among those you have chosen.

            http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_P2O.HTM

            What constitutes a "willful turning away"? Is that rejecting Christianity? I willfully reject Christianity, but my intentions for doing so are noble. I guess we need to understand "willful".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A mortal sin could be any number of evil acts in which the matter is serious, you know what you are doing, and you do so freely.

          • Andre V.

            An unfortunate example. Jesus himself was not above verbal violence when addressing those "vipers" and "dogs", and when he was being rather uncomplimentary towards his own family.

            But again, keeping all the theistic balls in the air is such a difficult art. If we agree, for the sake of debate, that this is not progress, why is God allowing it? Why was this regressive process ever allowed to happen? Why did Jesus not come when he said he would?

            To go back to your examples. I take it that your second example is seen as an improvement on example one? Why is that? Why does Jesus see the need to improve on his own earlier pronouncement?
            If we see a natural progression in your own examples, an evolution of morals, why can and should we not accept that your third example could be a further progression?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Keeping all the theistic balls in the air is such a difficult art."

            As the Soup Nazi would say, "No soup for you today."

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Buddhists have perfect uniformity of thought and never squabble about anything or commit acts of violence? There are not lots of Buddhist sects? I'm not knocking Buddhism. I'm knocking the notion that diversity of opinion and difficulty in finding answers rules a system out.

        How do you build an ethical system based on compassion and the principle 'do no harm' unless you believe those are objectively good values in all time and all places?

        Of course theism is not an objective moral system. Theism is belief in God.

        If you refuse to admit that there are not objective morals, then please do not complain when the morals around you change and the next Hitler or Stalin decides to liquidate you.

        • Andre V.

          Come on, Kevin, you can do better than that.

          You have just ever so mildly accused Buddhists of the very offences (of which they are very guilty of) that Christians have turned into art forms.

          There is no objective standards necessary. That's where my comment about a lack of imagination comes from. An individual, a community, a legislator, a country can, and do, approach these challenges from purely pragmatic considerations and decide within a given epoch what harms individuals, what is best for societies, what works best for societies. Please read up on someone like King Ashoka and see how he fared.

          And please pack away the old scare tactics boogeyman. Morals have been changing around me, and you, for most of our lives, Kevin. Our duty is to participate in that process, not sit down and sulk and bewail the loss of something that has never existed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Cut the condescension. "You can do better than that." "You lack imagination."

            So it was okay back during the Renaissance for the civil authorities to burn Bruno and for the South to have defended slavery . . . because those were best for their societies?

          • Andre V.

            Those are your examples, not mine. They. show quite clearly how societies change over time. Where are the objective morals then?

            And please stop being so over-sensitive. Don't use those tactics if you don't like being called on them. This is a robust debate, not kindergarten.

          • Bob

            You are falling into the legalistic trap again, confusing legality with morality.

          • Andre V.

            A very subjective, convenient and self-serving distinction of your own making, Bob. You've made that point three times now, and failed to deal with any of my counters. Maybe we've then reached the end of that specific issue.

          • Bob

            I do not see where you countered. I keep telling you that morality and legality are not the same thing and you keep objecting by providing a legalistic argument .

  • I am think what Fr Barron is saying is that Nietzche was wrong and so is Ultron. Seems like Weedon and the film take that point of view as well. Ultron is the bad guy, the good guys stop him.

    But to the point of the kind of topics we discuss here, I'm not sure I really understand the criticism of "will to power" or subjective and relative morality. I see no other options but for people to make moral assessments themselves as they navigate this world and see no way to confirm whether these assessments conform to some absolute objective moral standard, or even if such a standard exists. In the ultimate sense these assessments are going to be subjective, but so is our assessment of temperature, in the ultimate sense. With respect to agrees standards, we can be very objective.

    I don't know what he means by human predicament, presumably this is that we need to be saved by God? From God's judgment? Or from ourselves? Well I don't believe in any such thing and so I do not see any predicament. I do see disease, disaster and war, much of which can be mitigated enormously by technology and the application of human will.

    What God's grace is and how it is supposed to help anything is completely undefined. I don't see how this would have helped with Ultron or the problems humans face.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Since you don't believe in God, God's grace has to be meaningless to you. However, the problem still remains of how do you assure that your subjective beliefs about good and evil are actually correct?

      Science and technology are not self-steering enterprises. They need pilots. How do the pilots not wreck everything?

      • David

        However, the problem still remains of how do you assure that your subjective beliefs about good and evil are actually correct?

        That is tricky. One handy rule of thumb is that if I'm getting guidance on good vs evil from an institution that allowed and covered up child rape for decades, I'm looking in the wrong place for my advice.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The institution did not allow or cover it up; leaders within the institution did both. And by and large it was not "child rape" but gay men going after adolescent boys.

          Nobody in the institution ever said molesting children was good but you are right that many of those leaders did think covering it up was good.

          David, the sexual morality that teaches us that child molesting is bad was given to us by Christianity.

          Where do you think you are going to find better guidance? From the public schools? From universities? From politicians?

          • David Nickol

            The institution did not allow or cover it up; leaders within the institution did both.

            I do not like to use the "abuse crisis" as a brickbat with which to beat the Church, but you can't let the Church off the hook by saying it was the leaders within the institution, not the institution itself. Granted, there was no Ecumenical Council called that took a unanimous vote to cover up sexual abuse of minors. But I think it is disingenuous to define the Church in terms so "spiritual" that it can never be held responsible for any misbehavior by some of its most prominent members.

            And by and large it was not "child rape" but gay
            men going after adolescent boys.

            It was not the Church. It was gay people! Even if that were true, which is debatable, it was not (as far as we know) gay priests and bishops who perpetrated the bungled handling of priests who preyed on minors, and who often put them back in situations where they could continue their misdeeds.

            "Child rape" is a very inflammatory term, but it was statutory rape.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Some of it was how every institution used to handle the problem. Some of it was bungling. Some of it was networking of likeminded rats.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Yes, though in many cases it was no more than a hug a little too intense or a squeeze while teaching a swimming class.

            About 80% of the cases were man-boy, compared to 60% man-girl in the general population. The bishops, except for Weakland of Milwaukee, who maintained a male lover on the side, seem to have been straight and motivated by a desire to avoid scandal. Ironically, this was in line with the then-consensus science that said taking such matters public would be more harmful to the teenagers than keeping it private. There was even a school that said it was wrong to deny the sexuality of adolescents, and it was a "good" thing to "bring them out."

            The frequency of the 1965-1985 scandal pales in comparison to incidents involving public school teachers (as shown by the Associated Press story picked up by almost no major news organs). One is reminded of the president of Harvard, who excused the then-current admissions policy restricting Jewish students by saying "Jews cheat." When Alan Dershowitz replied, "So do gentiles," he said not to change the subject. IOW the president wanted to blame a group he disfavored with behavior that was common to all groups. But only about 5% of molestation cases involve professionals; and of professionals only a fraction are clergy, and of clergy only a fraction are Catholic. However, the Catholic clergy keeps records grouped by diocese, making it much more convenient to get data compared to Baptist churches or public school districts.

            The John Jay report concluded that the main culprit was the sexual liberation movement of the sixties, which was not confined to the Church but general to society. That is why the new-incident rate jumped in 1965 then fell off abruptly in 1985. By that time, any priest who wanted nookie, whether homosexual or not, had pretty much left the priesthood and were no longer entering. (No one needed a celibate priesthood as a beard any more.) The seminaries that had fallen into the hands of the "Lavender Mafia" had been reformed.

          • William Davis

            No matter what anyone says, this is a massive blow to the Church's credibility. Personally I think the root cause is celibacy. I think completely avoiding sex is unnatural (when was the last time someone found a celibate animal in the wild).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It is only a massive blow to those hoping for one and glad it occurred.

            The problem is not celibacy! Why does your child have 20X a greater chance of being molested by a public school employee than by a Catholic priest? Why is the greatest risk of your child being molested for you to have a step-father or live-in boyfriend in your home?

          • William Davis

            I think we can't really can't know the odds because we can't know how much of this has gone on inside the Church, and we can't know how long it's gone on. Where do you get the 20X numbers out of curiosity?

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • William Davis

            P.S. I would never be glad child molestation occurred, for any reason. Since it did, isn't it worth considering that some of the Church's teaching couple be a possible contributing factor? It looks like this is being investigated, and I'm willing to go with what an independent third party has to say on the issue.

            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/12/celibacy-and-child-abuse-why-is-the-catholic-church-pre-empting-the-royal-commission

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually, I would say that it is absurd to think celibacy is a factor.

            Do you think someone goes out and molests a child just because he feels sexual desire? You think people who do things like that live perfectly chaste lives except when it comes to their one object of desire?

          • William Davis

            I'm often cautious about making broad claims about psychology, but to me, sex drive is a natural appetite like hunger. In general, a starving man is more likely to steal food than someone who is satisfied, and the same often goes for sexuality. People in satisfying monogamous relationships almost never commit sex offenses. Many people on the street aren't celibate by choice. There is such a thing as sex addiction, just like food addiction. For the sex addict, there is never enough, but this isn't a normal situation.
            I'll be interested to see what commissions on the subject find. It would be interesting to also include sex offenders who aren't getting sex (forcibly celibate).

          • David Nickol

            Actually, I would say that it is absurd to think celibacy is a factor.

            It may not be celibacy per se, but certainly the various institutions in the Church may contribute to the problem. I mentioned my Christian Brothers high school, for example. There was a celibate, all-male community of brothers living in a "cloister." There was an all-male student body, who were largely the only outsiders with whom the brothers interacted. Diocesan priests often live very lonely lives, and the only ones they may have a chance to emotionally bond with are altar boys and others interested in male, Catholic endeavors (scouting, camping, etc.) In some ways, the life of a priest may be similar to the life of a man in prison. I wouldn't take this too far, but where men are isolated physically and emotionally with other men, you are going to get an increased incidence of homosexual behavior. That is why it is sometimes a leap to claim abusing priests are "gay." Most men who have sex with other men in prison are not gay. It is quite possible that many (or even most) priests who form attachments to young teen boys are not "gay" or "homosexual persons." They are just isolated in an all-male environment.

          • David Nickol

            Why does your child have 20X a greater chance of being molested by a public school employee than by a Catholic priest?

            Justify this one, please. I think it may be comparing apples and oranges.

          • Kevin Aldrich
          • David Nickol

            There are two grave problems with you assertion, if I understand the article correctly (and it is based on only a single study).

            First there are 5,368 elementary and 1,200 secondary Catholic schools in the United States. The figures for public schools are 67,086 elementary and 24,544 secondary. Shakeshaft was comparing absolute numbers, not percentages. Since the public school system is so much larger than the Catholic school system, even if the rate of misconduct by Catholic school teachers and public school teachers is identical, it is obvious that the public school system is going to have a much larger number of incidences of sexual abuse, since it has a much larger number of teachers and students.

            Second, the comparison was of reported abuse cases from Catholic sources, while data from public schools was based on surveys of students. If a student in a public school reported they were uncomfortable by a sexual remark made to them by a teacher, that counted as "abuse" by a public school teacher. It is comparing apples and oranges.

            Third, I don't know the answer to this, but my impression is that priests for the most part are not teachers in primary and secondary schools. I don't ever remember reading of a sexual abuse case by a Catholic priest that involved one of his classroom students. So comparing Catholic schools to public schools doesn't make a great deal of sense to me. Even back in the heyday of Catholic education, I never had a priest as a teacher. (However, I went to a Christian Brothers high school, and although Christian Brothers take vows, they are never ordained priests. But there are now no Christian Brothers teaching at my high school. It is all lay teachers.)

          • William Davis

            Great post, I have nothing to add to that :)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sometimes the best apologetic is actually apologizing and doing as much
            as possible for the victims and their families, while doing everything
            possible to ensure that it never happens again.

            Noting that others do it or that the Church isn't as bad as other institutions is a poor justification. Seeing these sorts of justifications is rather upsetting.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic Church has done exactly what you suggested. My words are not a justification but an attempt to put this in perspective.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would imagine that many believers and doubters, who were friendly to the Catholic Church lost some trust in the Roman Church as a source of moral guidance because of the scandal. I think they are within reason to feel that way. Trust, once lost, is hard to gain back.

            I try to avoid bringing up this particular subject on this forum, because I know that it is a sensitive issue to everyone. I think there is particular anger at the Church, as opposed to say teachers or step fathers, because the Church sets itself up as a moral authority. The priests who abused were supposed to be caretakers of metaphorical souls (or real depending on your beliefs) - thus their abuse of trust is most egregious.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I sincerely appreciate your not bringing it up. The tiny percentage of priests who did this are rats--and they are all dead now or in prison. Innocent Catholics who did nothing wrong have had their dioceses pay out exorbitant sums ($660,000,000 so far in L.A.). Monies they and their forebears gave. There is no safer place now in the US for a child than a Catholic school.

          • David Nickol

            The tiny percentage of priests who did this are rats--and they are all dead now or in prison.

            Actually, it seems quite possible to me that many of them were disturbed, misguided, and unhappy individuals whose superiors, in some cases, relied on bad advice from some fairly incompetent mental health professionals, and in other cases, did what they know was wrong to avoid "scandal." Some of them are now dead, but only one or two have ever been charged with crimes or been punished legally.

            Who can say what is an "exorbitant sum" to award a child or a young boy who was seduced and molested by a priest? I have seen a few interviewed on television who appeared to me to be absolute wrecks, their lives profoundly damaged.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One or two?

            I have read that damages from getting sexually abused in a public school is capped at $40,000. Aren't those victims of child rape hurt just as deeply by betrayal by an adult who had a duty of care?

          • David Nickol

            I have read that damages from getting sexually abused in a public school is capped at $40,000.

            Simply google "public school abuse settlements" and you will see that you are wrong. For example:

            November 2014:

            The Los Angeles public school district will pay more than $139.2 millionto the families of 81 children allegedly abused by an elementary teacher now serving a prison sentence for lewd conduct, officials said Friday. . . . .

            March 2014:

            Seattle Public Schools has agreed to pay a former student nearly $250,000 to settle a lawsuit she filed claiming the school district failed to adequately investigate her complaints of sexual misconduct by her sixth-grade computer teacher. . . .

            January 2014:

            BRENTWOOD -- School district leaders announced Wednesday that Brentwood Union School District has settled a second child abuse lawsuit with an $8 million payout. . . .

            The district's insurance will pay the families of eight special needs children who were physically and verbally abused by the same teacher at Loma Vista and Krey elementary schools.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you for the correction.

          • David

            The tiny percentage of priests who did this are rats--and they are all dead now or in prison.

            This is so false and it infuriates me that you would say it. I personally know two guys who abused kids - one from my grammar school and another from my high school. Both are alive and not in prison. And, two very prominent guys who were involved in the cover up - the former pope and Bernard Law - both alive and not in prison.

            Innocent Catholics who did nothing wrong have had their dioceses pay out exorbitant sums

            There are no innocent catholics at least not anymore. If you are still in the church and supporting it as far as I'm concerned, you are part of the problem.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "There are no innocent catholics."

            That is a fascist statement.

      • But what does god's grace mean to you, do you have any idea what it is or how it works? It seems to be used as a place holder for "way that god will fix stuff".

        I don't need to believe in something to have some understanding of what it is.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Sure. This is what Fr. John Hardon says:

          In biblical language the condescension or benevolence (Greek charis) shown by God toward the human race; it is also the unmerited gift proceeding from this benevolent disposition. Grace, therefore, is a totally gratuitous gift on which man has absolutely no claim. Where on occasion the Scriptures speak of grace as pleasing charm or thanks for favors received, this is a derived and not primary use of the term.

          As the Church has come to explain the meaning of grace, it refers to something more than the gifts of nature, such as creation or the blessings of bodily health. Grace is the supernatural gift that God, of his free benevolence, bestows on rational creatures for their eternal salvation. The gifts of grace are essentially supernatural. They surpass the being, powers, and claims of created nature, namely sanctifying grace, the infused virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and actual grace. They are the indispensable means necessary to reach the beatific vision. In a secondary sense, grace also includes such blessings as the miraculous gifts of prophecy or healing, or the preternatural gifts of freedom from concupiscence.

          The essence of grace, properly so called, is its gratuity, since no creature has a right to the beatific vision, and its finality or purpose is to lead one to eternal life. (Etym. Latin gratia, favor; a gift freely given.)

          http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=33791

          • But isn't this tautaulogical? By definition god is maximally benevolent and, I suppose, condescending. So what Barron is saying is that the only solution. To the human predicament is god? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised! Thanks.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            He is saying that for human beings to escape the human predicament of sin and death we need grace.

            I don't get the tautology.

          • Fair enough. I admit I really don't have any criticisms of this piece. I would criticise belief in the predicament and the solution, but that is not what the piece is about.

          • Andre V.

            I continue to find the very concept of grace, by a creator towards its creation, to be nonsensical. We are created this way, we are maintained this way, why should God now either withhold any such grace or be credited for the rare occasion when it is dispensed? It is a mild form of Stockholm syndrome to praise your creator in this manner. With creation should come a responsibility from God towards creation, not some story where his grace gets extolled. We expect that in parents, why not in the creator?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The dispensation of grace is not rare.

            Grace elevated human beings from the level of creation to the level of God.

            Does that make it more sensical?

          • Andre V.

            No, sorry Kevin. The rarity or otherwise of grace does not change my view. I do not see much of it, as you understand it, in any event. The entire concept is, in my opinion, an incoherent and even unhealthy one.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I only mentioned rarity because you said it was rare.

            If you will the true good of another even though it costs you a sacrifice, then you are putting grace into action.

            Of course we are not seeing God face to face . . . yet.

          • William Davis

            If you will the true good of another even though it costs you a sacrifice, then you are putting grace into action.

            If that is the criteria, than ants and other social insects clearly meet it. Of course they can't "will" per se, but the actions of self sacrifice are the same. I think it is much harder for mammals to be truly altruistic (most mammals are loners), but we've done it, and have built a global nest that is unprecedented in the history of the planet.

            Typically altruism is only shown to kin (the word kindness comes from the same root) and this is true in the animal world in general. Here's a notable exception of chimpanzees (arguably our closest relative) taking in an orphan. How Christian :)

            http://www.greenfudge.org/2010/01/29/chimpanzees-and-other-animals-display-altruistic-behavior/

            In the end, my point is that altruism doesn't require the supernatural.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If I recall correctly, Dante ends "Il Paradiso" with the verse that translated into English is, "The love that moves the sun and the other stars." If God's nature is charity, then even in fallen creation should it be surprising to see instinctual altruism in insects and animals? We know from Youtube (that great authority right up there with Wikipedia) that all kinds of animals can become friends if they meet at the right time.

            Even though "do to others what you want done to yourself" is known by all human beings in all cultures, it is very selectively practiced. But what about this?

            Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

            How is it possible to do this?

          • William Davis

            Enlightened self interest. Love actually works quite well to disarm enemies and turn them into friends. It doesn't always work but it is always the best choice starting out. Mahatma Gandhi is a great non-Christian example of this principle at work (I'm sure I don't have to mention Buddhists). I'll grant that this level of altruism is unknown to non-humans (as far as I know), but non-Christians are no better at practicing this than other non-violent religions.

            In general, "love your enemies" is an example of pacifism. Pacifism goes back a long way, and is practiced by many religions (some you may have never hear of). This article is pretty good:

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

            Buddhism is specific is against war. I think you'll find Buddhist ethics quite similar to your own, even anti-abortion :)

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

            Buddhism is very comparable to Christianity in many ways, but it has a distinct advantage of being inherently adaptable and open to change.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've studied Buddhism. I was attracted to it when I was a teenager, especially Zen.

            I don't agree that charity=pacifism. Sometimes the best thing you can do to your enemy is to kill him because that is the only way you can stop him from harming you or others. This is where legitimate self-defense, acting as a good samaritan, and just war doctrine come in.

          • Andre V.

            Buddhism, especially the older version, actually agrees with that position. The Dhammapada (iirc) contains a story of the Buddha, in a previous life, killing some badass on a boat to save the lives of hundreds of people. I think you nevertheless score the bad karma points.

          • William Davis

            Charity is not equal to pacifism, but they are related. Surely one could be a pacifist simply out of apathy instead of charity. I agree with you on just war, but I personally think it is impossible to love someone while killing them. It isn't exactly necessary to hate them to kill them, however.
            Out of curiosity, why did you go with Catholicism instead of Zen Buddhism?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I disagree that you cannot love someone while killing them. Isn't that the justification that people use for mercy killing? (I think euthanasia is gravely wrong, though.)

            Certainly it can be just but I see justice as a subset of charity, not opposed to charity.

          • Andre V.

            I would agree with your reasoning here. Even if we do not use the classic euthanasia scenario we do find some horrific instances of families being killed by a member thereof, in the name of love. I suppose one could argue whether that is real love but I would accept those as examples. We have well-known instances in jurisprudence and case law where family members (sons in both cases that I can recall right now) clearly killed their parents out of love.

          • William Davis

            I would say mercy is the justification for mercy killing, love may or may not exist. Typically the victim requests the mercy killing, so the desire to kill comes from the one being killed. The person helping is a tool, not the author of the intention. It's the exception not the rule.
            I think when you say "charity" you are talking abstract concepts; I'm talking about an active mental state during the killing. I might kill a monster out of love for those the monster might kill, but I wouldn't be loving the monster when I killed him. We could come up with a rare hypothetical like you see in movies (parent has to kill a evil child or something) but that's an extremely unusual situation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let me repeat that I'm 100% against "mercy killing" of human beings.

            Nevertheless, what is true mercy but an aspect of authentic love? Thus it is not something abstract because it directly impacts the person to whom the love is directed.

          • William Davis

            Two knights meet alone in a field. One manages to stab the other in the gut, disabling him. The winning knight has two options, to let the other die slowly in misery, or to finish him off. Finishing him off is an act of mercy, but is it still an act of love? Maybe his mercy is based on honor or a code, which I don't think is quite the same as love. I suppose the real answer depends on what's going on in the head of the knight, what motivates him.

          • Andre V.

            Buddhism and Hinduism, at least, had this before Christianity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you be more precise as to "this"?

          • Andre V.

            The "this" you referred to, as in "What about this?" The entire section of Matthew that you quote and specifically those teachings, should not be seen as original, as is so often the case. The "this" in "How is it possible to do this?" is maybe not regarded as achievable in Christianity, but Buddhism does envision eventual perfection.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you refer me to ancient Hindu and Buddhist texts that say this?

          • Andre V.

            Definitely Buddhist ones, I will try for some of the Hindu ones. That will have to happen on the weekend, I will need to wade through some paper copy books.

            Edit to include - obviously, if you are only enquiring about the perfection aspect, then we are dealing with the Mahayana concept of buddha nature and of course the more prevalent nirvana.

      • William Davis

        Since you don't believe in God, God's grace has to be meaningless to you.

        Why is it necessary to believe in God to have his grace, or is it necessary?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It is not strictly speaking necessary to believe in God to have his grace. Grace can work in secret.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      see no way to confirm whether these assessments conform to some absolute objective moral standard

      Start here: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.html
      and here: http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/timaeus.html

      Be wary of the Nietzschean will to power. The last time search for the Superman did not at all end well.

      Will to Power #534:
      Das Kriterium der Wahrheit liegt in der Steigerung des Machtgefühls.
      (The criterion of truth resides in the heightening of the feeling of power.)

      The idea that whatever makes you feel empowered is what is true is a march away from the notion that "Truth is One" and discoverable by human reason.

      Appeals to "the application of human will" have no traction among those who deny that humans have will.

      • William Davis

        When it comes to the 19th century philosophy wars, I find myself on the side of the British vs the Germans, they made some excellent criticisms of Nietzsche. It makes no sense to worship the will itself, because in order for will to exist, we must will something. What we "will" matters a lot. To me, worshiping will is like saying "I intend to intend."

        • Kevin Aldrich

          But some people, some ideologies, some philosophies, and even some religions put will before intellect.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    A friend of mine just posted this on Facebook from a blog he wrote ten years ago:

    "Believing in absolute truth is the only reason to be tolerant. If there is objective truth, then there's a chance you're objectively wrong, so you should tolerate those who disagree with you. If there is no objective truth, all debates are just power struggles, and there's no reason not to stomp on anybody who gets in your way."

    • David Nickol

      Of course, the best reason not to be tolerant is to believe there is objective truth, to believe that you know it, and to believe that those who disagree with you are are objectively wrong. "Error has no rights!"

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Error has no rights but people do. Tolerate people but not their errors. That is what you practice in just about every comment you make.

        • George

          When did catholic societies start practicing this? Did Giordano Bruno get that treatment?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No.

        • Chad Eberhart

          Not exactly. Traditionally speaking the Catholic Church would never have asserted that a creature has an individual right. This is a modern idea. For the Church you had one right and that was a right to the "Truth" found in the Catholic Church. That's why all this talk of religious freedom you hear trotted out by people like Cardinal Dolan or the idea of a "right to life" are fairly incoherent within the context of traditional Catholic thought. These are expedient terms couched in post-Enlightenment language to advance an agenda, not to clearly explicate the Catholic "truth".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree that talk of rights is fairly recent (I think the Jesuit Suarez was one of the earliest) but why am I forbidden to speak of them? They are perfectly coherent and in line with the idea of man made in the image of God.

            St. Paul asserted his right to have his case heard by the Emperor.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        Oh, goody. Then we don't have to regard natural selection as true, or quantum mechanics, or the privacy of the voting booth, or...

        Wait. There must be something more to it.

        • William Davis

          Of course, we can't make natural selection or quantum mechanics untrue, but we surely could make the right to privacy at a voting booth untrue if we thought that would help our politics.
          This idea might get some people up in arms, but personally I think a voting test is a good idea. I don't think it should be anything too complex, but if you don't have any idea what the president actually does, maybe you shouldn't have a say on who should be president? I don't that (and similarly basic understandings) are too much to ask from a voter. We require such things from naturalized citizens, after all. I don't think "born here" should give you a free pass.

        • David Nickol

          Oh, goody. Then we don't have to regard natural selection as true, or
          quantum mechanics, or the privacy of the voting booth, or...

          No one is forcing you to accept natural selection or quantum mechanics. The privacy of the voting booth is neither true nor false. And of course not all votes are private (in congress, for example), so the privacy of voting is not an absolute.

          But in any case, you know the issue involved. It is not a matter of quantum mechanics or natural selection. KA's post was about absolute, objective truth and tolerance. KA said, "If there is objective truth, then there's a chance you're objectively wrong, so you should tolerate those who disagree with you." My point is that if there is objective/absolute truth (or even if you just believe there is), and you are convinced you know it, you are right, and others are wrong, then why should you be tolerant of those in error? You may very well think you would be doing them a favor to force them to live according to the truth you "know" is correct.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            you are convinced [there is objective truth] you know it, you are right, and others are wrong, then why should you be tolerant of those in error?

            So if others believe in enslaving people and I think it's wrong, should I or should I not be tolerant of their error? What of the others who regard property as theirs for the taking? Should we tolerate kleptomania?

            Now, since there are gradations in these things, one must take account of proportionality. You should not force them to live according to the truth you "know" to be correct -- such as for example the kinds of light bulbs they should use or the amount of water in each flush -- but it may be a different matter to force people to live according to the truth you know is correct; that is, without the scare quotes around knowing.

            That is why Augustine counseled tolerance for prostitution, for example. There are instances in which the cure may be worse than the disease. In just war theory, for example, we find that one criterion be that the final outcome of the war must be a better peace than that which would have obtained by doing nothing, and this principle is more widely applicable.

          • William Davis

            That is why Augustine counseled tolerance for prostitution, for example. There are instances in which the cure may be worse than the disease. In just war theory, for example, we find that one criterion be that the final outcome of the war must be a better peace than that which would have obtained by doing nothing, and this principle is more widely applicable.

            The Iraq war probably failed that criteria. In general, I think you are correct, but it is almost impossible to know ahead of time what the end result of war will be. If the situation is unclear, I think avoiding war is more than prudent. If only we could accurately predict the future.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That is as may be. The point is that morality is not as simple as its opponents suggest their opponents think it is.

          • William Davis

            Sure. I wasn't arguing with you, just a neutral comment :)

          • David Nickol

            I have found tolerance to be an extremely difficult concept to write about, since there is always the question of whether it is being intolerant to work against people who are intolerant! Perhaps I should take a leaf from the Catholic book and say that intolerance is a neutral term, and what we should oppose is unjust intolerance. But then, of course, who gets to define what is just intolerance and what is unjust intolerance?

            Should we tolerate kleptomania?

            We should not exactly "tolerate" it, but if it is a true mental disorder (which it is), then it should be treated differently from common thievery.

    • George

      Do you think that believing in absolute truth means one knows what that truth is?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        No. But it's out there and once you find a piece of it you accept it. And if it is a moral truth you try to live by it (or at least acknowledge you should).

        • Doug Shaver

          once you find a piece of it you accept it.

          How do you know when you have found a piece of it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd say the way you know anything is true: experience, reason, natural revelation (someone trustworthy tells you, like a teacher), or supernatural revelation (if you can accept that).

          • Doug Shaver

            Experience and reason: OK.

            Someone trustworthy tells me: I use experience and reason to decide whether I should trust them. Do you think I should use something else to decide that?

            Supernatural revelation: Experience and reason tell me that it doesn't happen.

  • William Davis

    Like Nietzsche’s superman, he is indeed beyond good and evil—which is precisely why he cannot definitively solve the problems that bedevil the human race and can only glumly predict the eternal return of trouble.

    Ok..but we have to consider that Christianity has been around for 2000 years and it has failed to solve the same old problems that have always bedeviled the human race. Maybe it's time to try something else.

    It's been a while, but I've read some books on Nietzsche. In "Thus spoke Zarathustra" when it was proclaimed that "We have killed God" he really didn't necessarily mean we did it on purpose. It was our increase in knowledge that killed God (at least the God described in the Bible), accidentally really.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Christianity HAS solved the problem. The solution is charity: loving others the way Christ loved us, willing another's true good despite the sacrifice it costs.

      However, it is not a once-and-for-all solution. Every person and every generation gets an arena to put this into effect.

      • William Davis

        Have you read the same history books that I have? It makes for a good line, but it isn't as simple as "All you need is love."

        • Kevin Aldrich

          People don't know to or don't want to apply the solution. Much of history has been basically "Give me all your stuff or I will destroy you."

          • William Davis

            I would argue that Christianity has failed to inspire those who claim to follow it to actually follow it's rules, especially if you include protestants. For comparison, Buddhism has probably been more non-violent, and even condemned war and slavery from it's very inception. Buddhism has contributed as much to philosophy and knowledge as the West, but I'd argue the West benefited from Plato and Aristotle's philosophical traditions (both were non-Christian) where the east never had this. Combine western philosophy and Buddhism...now we are talking the non-violent pursuit of greater knowledge. This article is pretty good on Buddhism and violence. Nothing is perfect of course, and human nature will likely always be human nature (though this isn't a reason to give up)

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

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't agree that Christianity has failed to inspire. It takes supernatural grace AND our cooperation.

            Can't Buddhists be pretty violent at times, too? If you compare Buddhist and Catholic monks, I don't think either group is bopping too many people on their heads.

          • William Davis

            As far as I know there Buddhists have NEVER gone to war. Largely Buddhist countries have attempted (and often failed) defend themselves from invasion by both muslims and communists, but you can hardly blame them for that. It is directly against Buddhist principle to wage war. There have been cases of self mutilation by monks (like what happened once in Catholicism) due to an excessive emphasis on asceticism (resisting desire and the flesh). If you can find any specific counter arguments, I'd be interested to hear them.

          • Kevin Aldrich

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

            Again, I'm not knocking Buddhism. I'll even entertain the notion that these acts were done not because of Buddhism but because their perpetrators were not Buddhist enough.

          • William Davis

            Lol, you do realize I linked that same wiki article comment before last, right? I'll go with the not Buddhist enough, however things get tough if you compare overall Buddhist actions with Christian actions. That's not something I'm that interested to get into right now, too off topic :)

          • Andre V.

            That's quite inaccurate, William. While most of the Japanese kamikaze pilots acted under a merry mix of Shintoism, bushido and emperor worship, there was enough Zen Buddhist influence there to add that to the list. Even DT Suzuki acknowledged that. Technically speaking the Tibetans also went to ( defensive) war against China. Much of what goes on in Myanmar etc can also justifiably be called a civil war.

          • William Davis

            Didn't know that, thanks for the info.

          • Chad Eberhart
          • Kevin Aldrich

            An exception that proves the rule.

          • William Davis

            Lol. Looks like an episode of Jerry Springer.

          • William Davis

            I can agree with that :)

          • George

            Or "believe as we the majority do or we'll burn you"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That's bad, too, but the difference is between individuals and whole peoples.

      • Doug Shaver

        Christianity HAS solved the problem.

        It has proposed a solution. Or rather, a few of its members have proposed it. Most of its members seem unaware of the proposal.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Yes. It is like water off a duck's back. And I have been that duck.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Through Christianity, the individual was made so important, so absolute, that he could no longer be sacrificed. ... All 'souls' became equal before God: but this is precisely the most dangerous of all possible evaluations.
      -- Will to Power

      Life itself recognizes no solidarity, no ‘equal right,’ between the healthy and the degenerate parts of an organism. . . . Sympathy for the decadents, equal rights for the ill-constituted—that would be the profoundest immorality, that would be anti-nature itself as morality!
      -- WIll to Power

      If we cast a look a century ahead and assume that my assassination of two thousand years of opposition to nature and of dishonoring humans succeeds, then that new party of life will take in hand the greatest of all tasks—the higher breeding of humanity, including the unsparing destruction of all degenerates and parasites.
      -- Ecce Homo

      • William Davis

        I'm not one to defend Nietzsche per se, but I think there is a strong case to be made against Will to Power being Neitzche's.

        The Will to Power (German: Der Wille zur Macht) is a book of notes drawn from the literary remains (or Nachlass) of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche by his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche and Heinrich Köselitz ("Peter Gast"). The Will to Power is also the title of a work that Nietzsche himself had considered writing.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Will_to_Power_%28manuscript%29

        Nietzsche's Nazi sister got the rights to his memo's, and she and her Nazi husband used them to make a truly Nazi work. I've never written anything quite as bad as some of the stuff that found it's way into Will to Power, but I would never want someone else recombining my notes into a book I never intended to write. Ecce Homo wasn't necessarily anti-Jewish, but it was definitely an endorsement of eugenics. I suspect the world isn't done with the idea of eugenics. In the future it is likely to take the form genetic engineering and selective breeding. Sperm banks already work this way (mothers select smart, attractive men from a database. The morality of all this can get quite complex. I think, at the very least, the use of genetic engineering to prevent genetic disease is not only moral, it's a good thing. We'll see about it's use to augment intelligence/stamina/lifespan.

  • David Nickol

    The successors to the now defunct "Legion of Decency" have rated the film A-III. The classifications are as follows:

    • A-I — general patronage

    • A-II — adults and adolescents

    • A-III — adults

    • A-IV — adults, with reservations (this indicates films
    that, while not morally offensive in themselves, are not for casual
    viewing because they require some analysis and explanation in order to
    avoid false impressions and interpretations)

    • L — limited adult audiences, films whose problematic
    content many adults would find troubling (replaced A-IV classification
    Nov. 1, 2003)

    • O — morally offensive

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Fr. Barron rated it as PP: philosophically problematic

      • William Davis

        Just for the record, many fundamentalists (including those I grew up around) think Tolkien's and Lewis's works are evil because they condone witchcraft, lol.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I've heard that about JK Rolling but not the Inklings!

  • GCBill

    "Not so happily, Joss Whedon’s “Avenger” films, the second of which has just appeared, work as a sort of antidote to Tolkien and Lewis, shaping the imaginations of young people so as to receive a distinctly different message."

    "What we can seize upon in this film is the frank assertion that the will to power—even backed up by stunningly sophisticated technology—never finally solves our difficulties, that it, in point of fact, makes things worse."

    How does the film's message shape young people's minds against Christian ideals if, in the end, the Nietzschean worldview is portrayed as something dreadful?

  • Doug Shaver

    This admission teases the mind to consider the possibility that the human predicament can be addressed finally only through the invasion of grace.

    OK, it's possible. But I already knew that.

    • William Davis

      Kevin noted to me that we don't necessarily need to believe in God to get his grace. Good to know :)

  • jroberts548

    It would be hard for Fr. Barron's analysis to be lazier.

    The guy spouting off cheap Nietzsche is the bad guy. He's the villain. The movie does not approve of him, nor should the audience. We're cheering for the guys who beat him. If Ultron is a mouthpiece for Nietzscheanism, then the movie is expressly anti-Nietzschean. The heroes, whom Fr. Barron mistakenly (and lazily) identifies as Übermenschen spend great amounts of effort on such slave morality concerns as rescuing weak innocents. If the movie is Nietzschean, then why do we cheer for the heroes who, motivated by ressentiment, seek to overthrow Ultron? If Avengers: Age of Ultron is about Nietzsche's philosophy, it comes down firmly on the side of the last men.

  • GuineaPigDan .

    When the Vision (that's what the android's name in the comics is) said "I am," I thought it was supposed to be a reference to Descartes' "I think therefore I am," since he says that as he's looking at his own reflection in a window.

  • Luc Regis

    From an article at patheos:
    In fact, while many Christians demonize Nietzsche with their words, they actually agree with him with their actions.

    Nietzsche clearly saw the alternatives: either we live by Dionysian myth that justifies the use of violence to maintain life’s “eternal fruitfulness,” peace, and order, or we live by the Gospel of Jesus Christ that refuses to create peace through violence, but offers another way: peace through forgiveness.

    Nietzsche consciously chose the way of Dionysus, and the way of violence drove him mad because he couldn’t accept the forgiveness of Christ in his own life. And yet by clearly seeing the alternative between Dionysus and the “Crucified,” Nietzsche was closer to Christ than many who profess to be Christian. Many Christians are far from Christ because while they profess Christ, they actually believe in Dionysus; they actually believe in a god who justifies their violence rather than leads them in the way of forgive.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/teachingnonviolentatonement/2015/04/a-god-torn-to-pieces-good-friday-nietzsche-and-sacrifice/

  • Destin McIntosh

    I would like to point out that the God like characters name is "The Vision", not I Am as is stated in the article. The line that was misquoted in this article is more accurately analyzed in the following way:

    Having just been "born", as well as being under the influence of a source of great Knowledge (The Infinity Stone), the Vision was likely under a great amount of sudden sensation and consciousness. He was then immediately interrogated by the Avengers. When asked who he was, his answer was "I am... I am."

    He did not say "I am THE 'I Am'", rather "I am not sure how to answer that question, I just kind of exist now..."

    If this author actually knew about the characters from the Marvel Universe and their histories, he would know that the Vision is no more a God/ultimate source of correctness as the character Thor who is also God like but flawed in nature and personality.

  • Destin McIntosh

    It is also worth noting that Stan Lee, one of the founding minds behind Marvel Comics and the Marvel Universe, is heavily influenced by his faith. So much so that many Marvel characters are openly faithful, Captain America and Wolverine being the most well known examples.