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Violence is Contrary to God’s Nature: Common Ground for Catholics and Atheists

Violence

Today I’d like to consider an issue on which many atheists and Catholics may—perhaps to their surprise—find a point of common ground. “Violence is incompatible with the nature of God.” This line is not from an atheist but rather from Pope Benedict XVI. The context in which he penned it was his famous (in some circles infamous) Regensburg Address from 2006. In this particular case, he was endeavoring to foster a dialogue with Islam over a theology which “might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness.”

As good Muslims and atheists whom I’ve known in the past have indicated, this warning applies to Christian theology and Scripture as well. Namely, what do we make of the many Old Testament texts in which God commands seemingly evil deeds such as the slaughter of men, women, and children? For just one example, read 1 Samuel 15. Within this chapter, God commands the extermination of an entire people and then proceeds to remove King Saul for office for not having fully carried it out!

Before I proceed any further, I want to make something clear. Within the constraints of a short blog post, I have no pretense of offering an exhaustive defense of the many passages in the Bible which seem to fly in the face of the words just cited from our previous pope. In fact, I have recently authored a 300-page book entitled Dark Passages of the Bible that itself only scratches the surface of this issue. What I hope to achieve here is simply to make an observation which I hope will better frame debate over the Bible’s so-called dark passages, as well as to offer a key principle for explaining their presence from a Catholic perspective—a perspective which, unfortunately, not many Catholics themselves grasp and hence are unable to convey to non-Christians.

To begin, the very notion of violence being contrary to God’s nature is something we Catholics debate amongst ourselves. Thomas Aquinas, for example, seeks to justify violent divine actions in the Old Testament on the basis of the fact that all people are sinners and in fact deserve the punishment of death on account of original sin. Hence Aquinas states, “[B]y the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever.” For Augustine as for Aquinas, the problem of thinking God is being cruel when killing people is that we just don’t realize the gravity and pervasiveness of sin and thus the punishment it deserves. Now I love both of these Doctors of the Church, and this is a very brief paraphrase of their arguments, but here I have to join my atheist friends in saying that I simply don’t fully buy the explanation. To be sure, it’s not the only possible Christian answer, but other ones I have come across usually leave me just as unsatisfied. So my observation is this: if even I—a Catholic theologian who buys fully into the Catholic worldview and tradition—don’t find this approach satisfying, then I don’t think we are going to make progress in our dialogue with atheists by taking an approach wherein we seem to have no problem in saying that God directly wills the killing of men, women, and children. Perhaps God does do this. I am open to being convinced otherwise, but again I just don’t buy it.

That said, I am fairly certain that my response is not going to satisfy atheists, either. Yet I do think it makes a step in the right direction by at least admitting that they have a point in seeing the Old Testament’s dark passages as problematic from a certain point of view. So what does the Catholic have to offer the atheist by way of explanation, then?

First, for Pope Benedict with whom I agree, we have first have to admit that the Bible really says what it seems to be saying. It says God did some violent things.

Second, we may admit that what the Bible says does indeed seem to conflict with the nature of God such as we understand it through reason.

Third—and here is the key according to Pope Benedict—the Catholic has to interpret the entire Old Testament as a gradual progression towards Jesus Christ: “Anyone who wishes to understand the biblical belief in God must follow its historical development from its origins with the patriarchs of Israel right up to the last books of the New Testament.” Christians believe the fullness of truth is revealed in the person, teaching, and ministry of Jesus. We look at the entirety of Scripture in light of him. Indeed, according to Pope Benedict, problematic passages in the Old Testament are “valid insofar as they are part of the history leading up to Christ.” Now if he had commanded violence, then we’d be in trouble. (Perhaps you have an objection here, but that’s a topic for another post).

Benedict’s 2010 exhortation Verbum Domini is particularly significant because it has a section entitled “Dark Passages of the Bible” in which he states that instances of violence and immorality in the Bible can be adequately addressed only if Catholics take seriously the fact that “God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.” Benedict admits that “revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times,” and for this reason the Bible narrates certain things without denouncing their immorality in the way that we would rightly do today. In an interview Benedict stated in the same vein: “It follows straightaway that neither the criterion of inspiration nor that of infallibility can be applied mechanically. It is quite impossible to pick out one single sentence [of the Bible] and say, right, you find this sentence in God’s great book, so it must simply be true in itself.”

Bottom line: the Old Testament does not give us a video-camera account or transcript of what God said and did in times of old. It is God’s word; it is inspired; it is inerrant (Due to space constraints I’m not addressing that issue here, although it definitely needs addressed). Neither I nor Pope Benedict nor anyone who takes such a position need deny these Catholic doctrines. But interpreting passages which seem to contradict the nature of God requires us to recognize that the people who penned the Old Testament were not privy to the fullness of divine revelation and the Catholic tradition whereby we now distinguish, for example, between God’s active will and his permissive will (whereby he allows evil to be done by humans).

Did the authors of the Old Testament think that God wanted them to execute entire peoples? To me it seems disingenuous to reply in the negative. Yet notwithstanding that these authors thought, for Catholicism and its doctrine of biblical inerrancy the question revolves around what they intended to assert or teach, as stated in Vatican II’s constitution Dei Verbum. But I digress. The simplest way to say it is that the Old Testament’s conception of God and God’s deeds was imperfect because God was working with an imperfect people to gradually lead them to Christ. Like any good teacher, God in his divine pedagogy had to work the pupils he had, not the 4.0-GPA honors students he wished he had! The imperfections we see in the Old Testament are therefore not God’s, but rather due to the fact that he deigned to “condescend” (to use a term from the Church Fathers) and patiently work with a truly human people to lead them into communion with himself. I suppose God could have “zapped” people’s minds and taught them the Trinity ten thousand years ago, but in the Catholic worldview this is not the way we understand God typically acts. He creates a human nature and works with it. As the scholastics aptly said, grace builds on nature. Problematic passages within Scripture are among the clearest of evidence that grace does not eliminate human nature.

Like I said above, I don’t expect an atheist to be convinced by this. First of all, it’s an incredibly abbreviated summary covering only one of several key distinctions needed to account for the Bible’s dark passages. Second, to accept the divine pedagogy is already to have accepted something prior to it: namely, the existence of God and faith in Jesus Christ. Seeing Old Testament passages in light of their progression towards Jesus is only going to satisfy someone who already believes that Jesus is God in the flesh. But it’s not my job in this post to prove that Jesus is God or even that God exists. What I’ve tried to do is the only thing a Christian can do in this situation, according to Thomas Aquinas. That job is to provide answers to objections from unbelievers so that they might see what a reasonable way to deal with dark biblical passages might look like if faith in Christ and his revealed word is granted.
 
 
(Image credit: Aleteia)

Dr. Matthew Ramage

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Dr. Matthew Ramage is Assistant Professor of Theology at Benedictine College. Before coming to Benedictine, he studied at the Pontifical Lateran University, worked in campus ministry, and taught Religious Studies at the University of Illinois. He is a language buff and has competence in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, and German. Follow his writings at TruthInCharity.com.

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  • Ben Posin

    First: we've just had two other posts where the claim was made that the bible has to be interpreted as a unified whole, or, as you say, "a gradual progression to Jesus Christ." That claim has been hotly contested in the comments both times, without much in the way of substantive rebuttal from its supporters. To see it made yet again as a key point in an article about supposed common ground between atheists and Catholics is frustrating.

    Second: the above article alludes to various arguments as to why we should ignore the old testament when understanding the nature of God. I find the arguments lacking. But I'm surprised by a bigger omission from this article: anything in support of the actual claim that God is non-violent. Maybe I missed it? But aside from exhortations of "don't look over there," where is the actual explanation and proof of God's non-violent nature? But when presenting a worldview that includes the threat of hell, and has Jesus saying lines like "I come not with peace but with a sword," you don't get to start with the default assumption that God is non-violent. Make your case!

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

      Ben, thanks for the comment. You claim: "The above article alludes to various arguments as to why we should ignore the old testament when understanding the nature of God."

      This seems like a very warped caricature of Dr. Ramage's piece. Can you please point out where he encourages us to ignore the Old Testament?

      • Ben Posin

        Hmmm. Would you feel it more appropriate if that were edited to say: "why we should not take the violent depictions of God in the old testament at face value?

      • Sqrat

        What Ramage seems to be saying is this: If, in the Old Testament, it says that "God said X" or "God did "Y", we should consider those statements to be false if they imply that God is not the very bestest god there could possibly be. Nevertheless, despite containing false statements, "The Old Testament ... is God’s word; it is
        inspired; it is inerrant."

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          I think he says exactly not that. He says that we believe that the things in the Bible actually happened, but that God was leading humanity progressively higher and higher and closer to him.

          • Sqrat

            If so, he used far too many words in far too obscure a manner, but I don't think your reading is correct. If, on the other hand, your reading is correct, then what Ramage is saying is that violent words and violent deeds are perfectly compatible with a non-violent "nature."

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Looking at this section:

            "First, for Pope Benedict with whom I agree, we have first have to admit that the Bible really says what it seems to be saying. It says God did some violent things.

            Second, we may admit that what the Bible says does indeed seem to conflict with the nature of God such as we understand it through reason.

            Third—and here is the key according to Pope Benedict—the Catholic has to interpret the entire Old Testament as a gradual progression towards Jesus Christ: “Anyone who wishes to understand the biblical belief in God must follow its historical development from its origins with the patriarchs of Israel right up to the last books of the New Testament.” Christians believe the fullness of truth is revealed in the person, teaching, and ministry of Jesus. We look at the entirety of Scripture in light of him. Indeed, according to Pope Benedict, problematic passages in the Old Testament are “valid insofar as they are part of the history leading up to Christ.” Now if he had commanded violence, then we’d be in trouble. (Perhaps you have an objection here, but that’s a topic for another post)."

            He saying that all three of these points have to be held. Honestly, if he had just said these three things, there may have been less confusion, but some topics are far too big for blog posts. Just those three points would bear some fruitful discussion.

          • Sqrat

            That section is hard to parse. Consider the first paragraph: "... we have first have [sic] to admit that the Bible says what it seems to be saying. It says God did some violent things." The problem in understanding that paragraph is that "The Bible says God did some violent things" is not the same as "God did some violent things."

            I understand that your reading is that, indeed, God did some violent things. Perhaps, in reading the third paragraph you cite, one might come to that conclusion, but you neglected to cite another paragraph, where it says, "In an interview Benedict stated in the same vein: 'It follows straightaway that neither the criterion of inspiration nor that of infallibility can be applied mechanically. It is quite impossible to pick out one single sentence [of the Bible] and say, right, you find this sentence in God’s great book, so it must simply be true in itself.'" That can certainly be read as implying that Benedict holds that, just because in this or that passage, the Bible says that God did certain violent things, that does not mean that God actually did those violent things.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            True, but he's not saying we should consider those statements false, but rather parse them out, in context, etc, and if it does seem that God did something false, figure out the message of that passage, the "Divine Idea" behind the literal author.

          • Sqrat

            That seems to be making things a lot harder than they really are.

            Ramage writes, "Did the authors of the Old Testament think that God wanted them to execute entire peoples? To me it seems disingenuous to reply in the negative." That appears to be his backhanded way of saying "The authors of the Old Testament really did think that God wanted them to execute entire peoples." Regardless of what they thought God wanted, they did not write, "We think that God wants us to kill entire peoples," they wrote that God himself said to exterminate some group. Well, either God did say that, or he didn't say that. If he did say that, then he commanded violence. If he didn't say that, then what they wrote was false.

          • David Nickol

            Well, either God did say that, or he didn't say that. If he did say that, then he commanded violence. If he didn't say that, then what they wrote was false.

            I think it is not too unreasonable to argue that what they wrote was what they believed to be true. They considered their rules of warfare—just like all the other obligations they considered bound by (e.g., dietary laws)—to be God-given.

            I think in order to make sense of the Bible, we (believers and nonbelievers) have to give up on the idea that there was a magical time when God held conversations with human individuals like Moses and Abraham and Lot and told them what to do. The God of the Old Testament is not God, it is the conception of God held by the people of the time (if there is a God).

          • David Nickol

            Here is an extremely minor and imperfect example. Suppose I write some scripture of my own and Chapter 1 begins with a family preparing to eat a meal, and they say in unison:

            Bless us, Oh Lord,
            and these thy gifts which
            we are about to receive from thy bounty,
            through Christ, Our Lord.
            Amen.

            It would be very much mistaken to deduce that shortly before the events that begin Chapter 1, the Lord had visited and put out all the food on the table, or that nobody in the family had a job at which he or she worked hard to earn money, or that the food had not come from the supermarket.

          • Sqrat

            Yes, one could argue that what they wrote what they believed to be true -- but what they wrote, believing it to be true, was actually false. One could also argue that they might have written something false, knowing perfectly well that it was false. Or sometimes they might have done one, and sometimes the other. Since we don't really know who "they" are, in any particular case it's quite difficult to say.

          • David Nickol

            Yes, one could argue that what they wrote what they believed to be true -- but what they wrote, believing it to be true, was actually false.

            The writings of our great intellectual heroes, which we still read today, are full of things that are now known not to be true. Not everything Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species turned out to be true. A lot of what Galileo believed turned out not to be true. I think Freud was a groundbreaking genius, and it seems to me most of what he wrote turned out not to be true. In my opinion, the fact that most of what Freud wrote is probably not true does not diminish him in my eyes.

            There is a group of Orthodox rabbis who have recently started a web site. Here's the beginning of an article about them:

            “Virtually all of the stories in the Torah are ahistorical,” declares a manifesto posted in July on TheTorah.com. “Given the data to which modern historians have access,” the essay explains, “it is impossible to regard the accounts of mass Exodus from Egypt, the wilderness experience or the coordinated, swift, and complete conquest of the entire land of Canaan under Joshua as historical.” Not only did the events in the Garden of Eden and the Flood of Noah never transpire, readers are informed, but “Abraham and Sarah are folkloristic characters; factually speaking, they are not my ancestors or anyone else’s.”

            I think true and false do not apply to religious literature any more than they apply to poetry or novels. There is no doubt much that is historically true in the Bible, but historical truth (as we understand it) was not what the biblical authors were after.

          • Sqrat

            Well, far be it from me to assert the inerrancy of The Origin of Species or the works of Galileo or Freud, the way Ramage asserts the inerrancy of the Bible.

            There is no doubt much that is historically true in the Bible, but
            historical truth (as we understand it) was not what the biblical authors
            were after.

            How do you know what they were after?

          • David Nickol

            How do you know what they were after?

            Biblical scholarship.

            . . . the way Ramage asserts the inerrancy of the Bible.

            Inerrancy was left undefined. If I were Ramage, I would define it in such a way that it basically didn't mean anything.

            Something has to go, and I think it is any theory of divine inspiration that asserts that everything that appears in the Bible is there because God wanted it to appear in the Bible. (Or perhaps I just should have said, "Something has to go, and I think it is any theory of divine inspiration.")

          • Sqrat

            So what, according to Biblical scholarship, were they after?

            Inerrancy was left undefined. If I were Ramage, I would define it in such a way that it basically didn't mean anything.

            If I were Ramage, would not use the word at all rather than use it in the sense of "a meaningless utterance." However, he did use the word, and I don't think he used it in that sense.

            Something has to go, and I think it is any theory of divine inspiration that asserts that everything that appears in the Bible is there because God wanted it to appear in the Bible.

            I reject, obviously, any theory of divine inspiration that asserts that anything whatsoever that appears in the Bible is there because there is a god who wanted it to appear in the Bible.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "The God of the Old Testament is not God, it is the conception of God held by the people of the time (if there is a God)."

            Yes, but don't stop there. That is true of EVERYTHING that is written, certainly including the New Testament as well. Our descriptions of reality ALWAYS represent our conceptions of reality, not reality itself.

            "[We] have to give up on the idea that there was a magical time when God held conversations with human individuals like Moses and Abraham and Lot and told them what to do."

            One can, while maintaining deference to tradition, give up on a particular conception of what those "conversations" looked like and sounded like. But it would be a mistake, I think, to give up on the notion that real encounters with the divine occurred that could best be approximated in human terms by describing them as conversations.

          • Mlbc2930

            Never, God speaks to us in various ways if we are listening! He speaks to us in His Word, Holy Scripture, through others, in dreams, and yes within our hearts. "Be Still and know that I am God" . In today's noise filled world it is often hard to hear Him. Eucharistic Adoration is one quiet encounter with the Real Presence of Jesus Christ and the best and simplest way to hear Him speak.

          • Steven Carr

            God speaks in dreams?

            So Christianity is something that was literally dreamed up?

          • David Nickol

            . . . the best and simplest way to hear Him speak.

            Are you saying that if a person listens correctly, that person will get information from God that he or she could not receive in any other way? What would that information be like? I think it would be too intrusive of me to ask you what God has told you, but could you give an example or two of the kind of thing God might communicate directly to an individual?

          • Geena Safire

            Right. So genocide, which God directly ordered, looks bad, but it is actually good. Because exegesis.

            I'm sure that distinction is of great comfort to the Amalekites.

            And to the half a million dead Rwandans, whose slaughterers and their inciters were Catholics and based their justification on God's words here in the Bible.

            And to the six million dead European Jews, because Hitler was similarly inspiring by God's example of exterminating unrepentant evil peoples.

            And to the 3,000 dead in the World Trade Center attack , which was inspired by the Quran, which author was inspired by the Old Testament.

            Catholics, and all Christians, must repudiate that part of the Bible and must claim that the people misunderstood (intentionally or unintentionally) God's will, if they want to claim that God is all goodness.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            And Godwin's Law in under 2 hours.

          • Ben Posin

            Not so.
            Godwin's law states that as the comments in an internet discussion grow in number, the probability of one side being compared to Nazis approaches unity. An often cited corollary to this law is that the first side to make such a Nazi comparison has lost the argument.
            So calling "Godwin's law" here is inappropriate, and comes off as a way to avoid Geena's points. The Nazis did actually exist, and when relevant in a discussion it's perfectly reasonable to reference them; I note that Geena did so as part of a list of groups arguably influenced by old testament examples and ideals, without any undue emphasis.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I, in fact, addressed Geena's points anyway.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            There would be very few people on this site who would argue that the Amalekite massacre was a good example of God's goodness.

            Of course, from our position 2000 years later we can shake our heads at the story, but the question that remains is "why is this here? What is there to learn here?" Is it simply that we as humans have been on a track progressing to a more enlightened and loving relationship with God? Is it that the Old Testament writers, in not understanding God's nature, just got it wrong, and let their ideas of a "Manifest Destiny" get in the way of their relationship with God?

            The question is "Did God command it?" Reason would tell us, no. God is Love. But the questions can't stop there, which is what I think this post was about.

          • Ben Posin

            As I've mentioned in another reply to a comment of yours, it really hasn't been established that reason tells us that God is non-violent, or that "God is Love." The story of the Amalekite massacre seems like evidence (evidence, not proof) for the idea that God is actually violent, and not universally loving. What is logically impossible about an evil or uncaring God?

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

            "Right. So genocide, which God directly ordered, looks bad, but it is actually good. Because exegesis."

            I know you favor sarcasm, but I struggle to see how reductive, caricature sentences like this are helpful to anyone. They're simply unnecessary.

          • Octavo

            Also, the correct word is eisigesis. Exegesis is a pretty different process that I don't think we see in this article.

            ~Jesse Webster

          • fredx2

            Wow. Hitler was inspired to exterminate the Jews because of the Old Testament? There is zero evidence of this. However, there is evidence that Hitler was more influenced by the "SCIENCE" of eugenics - very popular in the early part of the twentieth century, and very popular among the liberal intelligentsia of the time

            "Thus George Bernard Shaw [a prominent atheist] could insist that "the only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man", even suggesting, in a phrase that chills the blood, that defectives be dealt with by means of a "lethal chamber"."

            "Yet what looks kooky or sinister in 2012 struck the prewar British left as solid and sensible. Harold Laski, stellar LSE professor, co-founder of the Left Book Club and one-time chairman of the Labour party, cautioned that: "The time is surely coming … when society will look upon the production of a weakling as a crime against itself." Meanwhile, JBS Haldane, admired scientist and socialist, warned that: "Civilisation stands in real danger from over-production of 'undermen'." That's Untermenschen in German.

            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/feb/17/eugenics-skeleton-rattles-loudest-closet-left

          • Paul Boillot

            You're altogether right to call-out the utterly inhumane philosophies and policies promulgated by the eugenicists, foreign and domestic of the early 20th century.

            To my mind it is a shame to find as many free-thinkers as we do on the list of those seeking to politically purify the human gene pool.

            But I will take exception to your portrayal of Dawkins as having neo-Nazi-purification leanings. Eg, directly from Dawkins:

            Nobody wants to be caught agreeing with that monster, even in a single particular. The spectre of Hitler has led some scientists to stray from “ought” to “is” and deny that breeding for human qualities is even possible...I wonder whether, some 60 years after Hitler’s death, we might at least venture to ask what the moral difference is between breeding for musical ability and forcing a child to take music lessons...I can think of some answers, and they are good ones, which would probably end up persuading me. But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?

            Next, from the author of the article:

            Richard Dawkins himself, in comments on his own website, has explained that the above passage was published as an afterward in a book specifically about “dangerous ideas,”...what Dawkins is saying is not an expression of support for eugenics, but rather a provocative question: Is eugenics inherently bad, and, if so, why?

            After listening to an episode of RadioLab where they discuss Kenyan running ability, and listening to the palpable discomfort everyone involved in the reportage exudes while trying to avoid the 'it's genetic' answer, I'm not convinced that it's unreasonable or unethical to start asking the question again: what are causes of human genetic differences?

          • fredx2

            Correction: 1) I did not portray Dawkins as having neo-Nazi purification leanings. I simply said that he SEEMS to be going down that road again. - the road of eugenics. 2) His original quote was a letter to the editor of a Scottish newspaper, not his book. As I read the accounts, he said nothing about it being dangerous territory, He honestly asked whether we should start doing selective breeding in humans, as we do with other animals. However I think it is a very sketchy thing to start down the eugenics road again, and I think Dawkins certainly seemed to be trying to do so, without getting painted as being a Nazi. In the end, I think you are conflating two things - whether there are genetic differences, and whether we should actively try to get rid of undesirables. Once we start down that road, we have to be very careful. After all the Supreme court held in 1910 that "three generations of imbeciles are enough", and that Carrie Buck should be sterilized. Turns out she was not impaired much, if at all.

          • Paul Boillot

            Fred, please allow me to fix your "corrections."

            1) I'll leave it for others to decide whether or not you were imputing eugenicist tendencies, ala 3rd Reich to Dawkins:

            "I did not portray Dawkins as having neo-Nazi-purification leanings."

            vs.

            "That's Untermenschen in German...Richard Dawkins seems to be walking down that road again ... the road of eugenics...[he] seemed to be trying to do so, without getting painted as being a Nazi"

            2) "His original quote was a letter to the editor of a Scottish newspaper, not his book."

            You're wrong. I know you're wrong, because I read the article you linked as evidence of Dawkin's secret desire to reinvigorate eugenics, something you would've been well advised to do.

            This is a direct quote from the article WHICH YOU GAVE US TO MAKE YOUR ORIGINAL CLAIM:

            The other thing that’s wrong is that all of these attacks are a load of quote-mining from a “letter to the editor” that was no such thing, as even Wesley Smith was forced to admit. Dawkins never said that Hitler’s eugenics program “might not be bad,” as the LifeSiteNews article misrepresents him.

            I'm going to give you a link to the grudging admission of same from Mr. Smith: http://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism/327371/i-retract-my-claim-richard-dawkins-supports-eugenics

            3)" As I read the accounts, he said nothing about it being dangerous territory"

            YOU SENT ME THE LINK TO THE ARTICLE WHICH TELLS YOU THAT *HE* DID!

            I'll quote it for you again: "Richard Dawkins himself, in comments on his own website, has explained that the above passage was published as an afterward in a book specifically about “dangerous ideas,”"

            You might have gleaned that information from the original Dawkins quote itself, "But hasn’t the time come when we should stop being frightened even to put the question?" -- Dawkins is explicitly telling you that he knows this is dicey territory, and this was an afterword to What Is Your Dangerous Idea?

            4) "He honestly asked whether we should start doing selective breeding in humans, as we do with other animals"

            No, he did not. He honestly asks whether we should keep pretending that IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE. "Objections such as “these are not one-dimensional abilities” apply equally to cows, horses and dogs and never stopped anybody in practice."

            He honestly asks whether enough time has passed to allow ourselves to wonder what the moral difference is between inculcating new skill XYZ in a child through rigorous and demanding practice and choosing mates to increase the chances of natural talent. "Or why it is acceptable to train fast runners and high jumpers but not to breed them."

            5) "In the end..."

            Your inability to read your own sources doesn't give me much hope that you understand when someone is or is not 'conflating' two things.

            Finally, I will add that I brought up the American roots of the turn-of-the-century eugenics movement 24 hours ago when talking to Dan...a eugenics movement that excited Herr Adolf Hitler a great deal.

            *Edits for words*

          • fredx2

            I purposely linked to that site because it defended Dawkins. I thought that people could sift out the actual Dawkins source material from it, I thought the defense there was pretty weak. Apparently I was too hopeful. But I think your corrections make clear that I was basically accurate in what I said. Your parsing of Dawkins intent is not persuasive. I'll end it there and leave it to the crowd to judge who is more accurate.

          • Paul Boillot

            Literally everything you have said on this topic is incorrect, just admit it and move on.

          • fredx2

            Catholics did not cause the genocide in Rwanda. Period, end of story
            See Religion
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide#Religion

          • David Nickol

            Geena Safire is very knowledgeable and has made many cogent arguments, but holding the Catholic Church and the Bible responsible for the genocide in Rwanda seems like an attempt to throw as much mud as possible at Catholicism and hope some of it sticks.

          • Paul Boillot

            I don't know her, so I can't well adjudge her motives, however I'd shy from calling someone a mud slinger for bringing up documented genocide aided by Catholic clergy.

            Does that mean that the Catholic Church *itself* ordered/participated/allowed the genocide: to me the obvious answer is "no."

            Should we ignore the outrage of clergymen herding refugees into churches only to have them bulldozed, and any survivors shot? Probably not. To what extent does the RCC bear responsibility for the actions of her members? I don't know; I'm not blaming them for Rwanda.

            I'm also not comfortable calling GS a mudslinger for pointing out the actions of ordained and consecrated men and women of the cloth.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Rwanda#1994_Genocide
            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/mar/29/pope-catholics-rwanda-genocide-church

          • fredx2

            Let's be clear on this. Geena did not "call out documented genocide aided by Catholc clergy"

            Geena said "half a million dead Rwandans, whose slaughterers and their inciters were Catholics and based their justification on God's words here in the Bible."
            She laid the whole thing at the feet of Catholics. This is a vicious slur. There was one priest and two nuns convicted. That is three too many, but Geena was ridiculously far off in her statements.

          • Paul Boillot

            The massive involvement of Christian communities in the killing of Tutsi is one of the most disturbing and controversial questions in the background of the Rwandan bloodbath.

            -- Rene Lemarchand, Emeritus Professor, University of Florida

            Longman shows how and why churches linked to the state and imbued with ‘a conservative, hierarchical, bigoted version of Christianity’ gave moral sanction to violence against Tutsi, making it easier for people to participate in the genocide

            -- Catharine Newbury, Five College Professor of Government and African Studies, Smith College

            Although Rwanda is among the most Christian countries in Africa, in the 1994 genocide, church buildings became the primary killing grounds. To explain why so many Christians participated in the violence, this book looks at the history of Christian engagement in Rwanda and then turns to a rich body of original national and local-level research to argue that Rwanda’s churches have consistently allied themselves with the state and played ethnic politics.

            --The book's website.

            Contrast those with what you just said:

            There was one priest and two nuns convicted. That is three too many, but Geena was ridiculously far off in her statements.

            -- fredx2

            Rwanda happened in '94, the book Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda came out two years ago. Mitani wrote his letter for the Guardian less than 5 years ago: I'm not going to fault anyone here for not knowing much about it, it'll probably be decades before complete scholarship is done on the subject, and longer still for general knowledge about it to trickle into mainstream history, if it ever does.

            Nonetheless, stating that there were 3 Catholic clergy involved when people who *do* know what they're talking about are indicting the system...combined with the fact that tens of thousands were slaughtered INSIDE churches makes your comment acknowledging 3 culpable persons seems flippant.

          • fredx2

            Book blurbs are not evidence that there was major Catholic or Christian involvement in the Rwandan genocide. Leftist "studies" professors tend to spit out this stuff like clockwork.
            Give me names of people who were involved. Not merely Oooh, it was the system.

            The fact that they were killed in churches does speak volumes. People felt they would be safe there. If the people knew that the clergy was aligned with teh government, that is the last place they would go. But in reality, They felt they would be protected by the clergy and that the terrorists would not dare defy the clergy. But they did. The terrorists killed the people in the churches. So you blame that on the clergy? How weird.

            It also turns out that the government, after the genocide, started to get back at people who crossed it by accusing them of being involved in the genocide. When their cases were tried in the west, these people were acquitted.

            It is a very complex, messy issue. The most that can be said is that a few clergy took part. At the same time many clergy died trying to protect the people in those churches - many more, and we will never know because most of them are dead.
            •Father Vieko Curic, an ex-Yugoslavian priest, saved and sheltered100 victims in the Norht/Gitarama region
            Father Celestin Hakizmana, a Hutu priest, gave shelter to about 1,500 refugees in his church, located in Downtown Kigali.
            Father Jean-Bosco Munyaneza, a Hutu priest, welcomed refugees, took care of them, then organized their resistance, fought alongside them and got killed with them.
            So if you can find more than 3 Catholic clergy that have been proven to have done anything wrong, please let me know. My research was quick.

          • David Nickol

            I'd shy from calling someone a mud slinger for bringing up documented genocide aided by Catholic clergy.

            I did not call her a mudslinger. I try not to engage in name calling. My knowledge of Rwanda is very limited, based on the little I remember plus, of course, Wikipedia articles. Let me quote a bit:

            Though religious factors were not prominent (the event was ethnically motivated), in its 1999 report Human Rights Watch faulted a number of religious authorities in Rwanda, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Protestants for failing to condemn the genocide directly – though that accusation was belied over time. Some in its religious hierarchy have been brought to trial for their participation by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and convicted. Bishop Misago was accused of corruption and complicity in the genocide, but he was cleared of all charges in 2000. Many other Catholic and Protestant clergy, however, gave their lives to protect Tutsis from slaughter. Some members of the clergy participated in the massacres. In 2006, Father Athanase Seromba was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for his role in the massacre of 2000 Tutsis. The court heard that Seromba lured the Tutsis to the church, where they believed they would find refuge. When they arrived, he ordered bulldozers to crush the refugees within and Hutu militias to kill any survivors.

            I hold the Catholic Church responsible for many things, some which touch my life personally, and others that are more general in scope. Frankly, I think I have more than my fair share of beefs with the Church. However, it seems to me nonsense (and anti-Catholic nonsense at that) to blame the Catholic Church and the Bible for what was primarily ethnic, not religious, violence in Rwanda.

            To characterize one comment a person makes is not to characterize the person. And saying something "seems like an attempt" to do some particular thing is not the same accusing a person of doing that thing. If I say I think someone is obfuscating a point, that is not the same as calling that person an "obfuscator." It would be difficult for me to think of anyone I know who has not committed some kind of crime or legal infraction, but I would not call them all criminals. Even bluntly saying someone told a lie is different from calling the person a liar. As I am typing this, I see that fredx2 has already commented, and I agree with him. The slaughter in Rwanda was ethnic, not religious. Some religiously affiliated people may have done horrendous things, and I hope they were all caught and punished. But blaming the horrific events in Rwanda on "Catholics" or "the Bible" is anti-Catholic nonsense.

          • Paul Boillot

            If the Catholic Church, through it's bishops, arch bishops, priests, nuns and brothers supports one ethnic group over another....and an ethnic civil war ensues....and many of those clergymen are tried and convicted of genocide....can we say that the Catholic Church is blameless simply because Catholics killed Catholics?

            I don't know, but Martin Kimani of The Guardian seems to think not.

            I know as little about Rwanda as the next person, but if you're upset with Geena for characterizing the RCC as taking sides in the Rwandan genocide, you'll have to be upset with Kimani and Timothy Longman as well.

          • David Nickol

            if you're upset with Geena for characterizing the RCC as taking sides in the Rwandan genocide . . .

            I take issue with Geena for saying all of the following, not just the part about Rwanda:

            And to the half a million dead Rwandans, whose slaughterers and their inciters were Catholics and based their justification on God's words here in the Bible.

            And to the six million dead European Jews, because Hitler was similarly inspired by God's example of exterminating unrepentant evil peoples.

            And to the 3,000 dead in the World Trade Center attack , which was inspired by the Quran, which author was inspired by the Old Testament.

            To mention the genocide in Rwanda in reference to Catholics without even mentioning Hutus and Tutsis is surely a grievous omission at best. The Catholic Church and other Christian churches may have behaved reprehensibly—I really don't know enough to say—but it was by all accounts an ethnic conflict, not the Catholics against the non-Catholics.

            And really can we reasonably say the Holocaust the result of Hitler being inspired by the God of the Old Testament? Is there documentation for that?

            And Muhammad was inspired to write the Qur'an by the Old Testament, so therefor the Old Testament is responsible for Al Qaeda's attack in the World Trade Center? Would you really want to argue that case?

            I am not commenting about what happened in Rwanda. I am commenting on what Geena said, and I think what she said is insupportable. And beyond that, it is irrelevant to a discussion of whether "violence is contrary to God's nature." Furthermore, there is no lack of religious wars in history in which Catholics fought Protestants, Christians fought Muslims, and various other religions pitted themselves one against another. Why bring in Rwanda?

          • Paul Boillot

            First, I've already discussed at length elsewhere that I think your analysis of what is "relevant" to this discussion is too narrow for my taste.

            Next: who is arguing that it's not ethnic? If the RCC's hierarchy and prelates supported white catholics in exterminating black catholics in the US or South Africa...it would *still* be ethnic violence, and it would *still* be supported by the RCC. The dichotomy you're offering between Catholic responsibility and non-religious conflict origins is a false one.

            Third: "To mention the genocide in Rwanda in reference to Catholics without even mentioning Hutus and Tutsis is surely a grievous omission at best." This is just hogwash.

            Everyone knows it was Hutus and Tutsis: not everyone knows that the RCC actively encited the ethnic violence, in some cases directly. Failure to mention hutu/tutsis is failure to mention something which is already known.

            Again, as to her motivations, I don't know. As to whether or not the conflict was as simple as "Catholics did bad things," that's clearly not the case.

            What *is* clear to me, is that you and fred both are ignoring the documented evidence of hierarchical support for one side of an ethnic conflict over another.

            Why bring up Rwanda and not any other conflict where religion was a factor? I imagine that 'column inches' might be a consideration, but I don't know: you'd better ask her.

            But it's not like the Catholic clergy's involvement in that conflict is a non-sequitur to the idea of violent religion.

            I'd like it if you stopped pretending it was.

          • fredx2

            Not Phd Theses. Names of Catholic clergy that were involved. And check the names carefully. There have been lots of people accused, but then found not guilty. If you can find more than a few names, let me know.

          • Paul Boillot
          • Geena Safire

            The Catholic Church absolutely did cause it, starting about a hundred years ago when they elevated the Tutsis over the Hutus in every aspect of life for generations.

            In addition, several Catholic clergy were convicted for their part in the savagery, and many others only escaped prosecution because of the death of all witnesses.

            Period, end of story.

          • Andre Boillot

            We're still left with the appearance that God is employing violence to meet these progressively higher ends, no?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Would you accept a meaningful distinction between "employing violence" and "allowing violence"?

          • Andre Boillot

            In certain cases yes (eg. violence committed by humans operating under non-explicit instructions). However, I think we both know the Bible contains passages where God appears to be committing violence directly.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Appears to be. And that's the whole question of hermeneutics. How much of it is from the author, and how much from the Author, as Paul Rimmer said.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            To which I would say, "I don't know." I have not done as much hermeneutical analysis of the Old Testament as I should.

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

            Of course an "I don't know" is always acceptable, and it's profitable for us to know where our knowledge starts and ends. So don't think I'm saying you're somehow obligated to think through everything -- none of us can do that.

            Given that your answer about the violent-texts hermeneutics boils down to a (wholly acceptable) "I don't know", shouldn't you let that propogate up to your top-level beliefs, so that you would also say, "I don't currently know whether these are compatible with my beliefs about God"?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            The grace (gift) of faith comes from the top-down. The big picture universe makes so much sense to me with God in it, that I believe that the little things all have an answer. It's like a particularly difficult physics problem where your professor gave you the answer, and you can see how he got there, mostly, even if you still can't figure out some of the steps.

            See? Science analogy! Sort of.

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

            Haha, oh, right. :) Sometimes I forget about the "faith" thing, since it's not any part of my life and feels wholly irrational to me. I suppose you'd prefer the term "arational" or "prerational". Whichever it is, it appears to be a blockade to dialogue -- I don't even know how to continue to the conversation once it hits a "because I have faith" kind of moment.

            The analogy has some trouble in that physics calculations are bottom-up reductionist, so if a student can't do the fine details correctly, then they don't really understand the answer at all.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Perhaps. I'm hardly one to plead "I just believe" on a regular basis, I enjoy conversating too much. But I presented it that way to maybe illustrate why some things are not "deal-breakers".

          • Paul Boillot

            Ugh, conversating.

            "Conversating" is both longer and uglier than the real word it has come to supplant, how did it enter the lexicon?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Well, I can only speak for myself, but I just watched "O Brother, Where Art Thou."

          • Andre Boillot

            Good thing you qualified that, otherwise one might be left wondering if the entire world had not just done the same.

            Ugh, happy friday.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It's Christmas-time! Why so down, Andre?

          • Andre Boillot

            I'm knee deep in Nativity scenes over here man. It's creches all the way down!

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cr%C3%A8che

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I do know what a creche is...

            Also, he's the reason for the season!

          • Sqrat

            It's not a real creche without a caganer.

          • Octavo

            I love that movie. Best version of the Odyssey I've seen.

          • Paul Boillot

            INVALID: ARGUMENT FROM AUTHORITY

            Also, is Clooney an expert in grammar/vocabulary?

            I
            think
            not.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Clooney may not be, but the Cohen Bros are.

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

            If we were to start from an assumption that faith could be appropriate in some circumstance, I don't see how there could be a way for a person to discern whether they are putting faith in the right thing or a wrong thing.

            1) Suppose Alice believes on faith in the Most Holy Trinity, Bob believes on faith in Brahman, Chris believes on faith in Thor, and Dimika believes on faith in crystal healing. Are all their acts of faith worthy of intellectual respect? Are any?

            2) Suppose Erin researches her Catholicism in detail and only takes on faith what she does not yet have an answer for, Frank learns about Catholicism casually and takes anything not fully spelled out in the Catechism on faith, Ginger remembers only quotidian facts about Catholicism and takes all the rest on faith, and Harry doesn't know anything and takes the whole thing as a big faith story disconnected from the world. Have any of them taken faith too far? Or not far enough?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            We are so off-topic right now... This is an entirely separate discussion on the nature of faith. But its a good one.

            This deserves a post-series of its own.

          • fredx2

            "Suppose Alice believes on faith in the Most Holy Trinity, Bob believes on faith in Brahman, Chris believes on faith in Thor, and Dimika believes on faith in crystal healing. Are all their acts of faith worthy of intellectual respect?"
            I would suggest that you judge them by the societies they produce. Christianity seems to work well, it has produced strong societies for thousands of yours. Hinduism has done the same, but I suspect that on the whole, most people would judge the Christian society to be somewhat superior (untouchables, for one) , but that is by no means clear at all times and all places). A society based on Thor would probably be fairly violent by today's standards, since you only get to go to Valhalla if you die in battle with a sword in your hand. And most would probably judge the crystal person to be a bit flaky. But you forgot one - an atheist society. Has there ever been one, except the Soviet Union? (A true disaster) Why not? After all, atheism should have all the advantages. No religion can prove anything, directly deliver miracles or perhaps even favor. Atheists should be ruling the world . Why aren't they?
            I suspect atheism is completely incapable of sustaining a society. I have no problems with someone being an atheist. There are people who just do not see the value in religion. However, when they attempt the "Religion is bad" thing, that's when they cross the line into goofiness.

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

            Hi fredx2,
            Judging faiths/ideologies by the societies they produce when they are predominant among the population is an interesting idea. I like how it's explicitly consequentialist, since that way we have clear test results. You hinted at one of the complexities, though, which is that there's a lot of variation in societies which have the same faith or ideology.

            For Catholicism, for example, we have violent, impoverished republics like some in Central America, and we also have progressive, increasingly prosperous nations like Brazil. For Islam, we have modern, only mildly repressive states like Turkey and backwards, viciously repressive states like Saudi Arabia. Hinduism is largely limited to India, so the variation is less, but correspondingly we can't be as confident that any effects we see are due to Hinduism rather than other things.

            Atheism, of course, is neither a faith nor an ideology by itself any more than theism by itself, so it can't sensibly be compared on this metric. But we could borrow the closest available ideology, which is skeptical secular humanism. That ideology is predominant in the Nordic nations and Japan, which are extremely positive data points. As you pointed out, the rulers of the USSR of long ago were atheists, though lumping dogmatic communists together with secular humanists and then looking at their joint human rights record is even less meaningful than lumping Christians together with Muslims and then looking at their joint human rights record.

            So the available data on various countries, as is well known, show a mild trend that "more skeptical secular humanism leads to better quality of life". However, I remain deeply skeptical of that conclusion since history is so complicated, resources did not start out equal between the nations, and there may well be a lot of natural variation.

            Also, the whole argument feels somewhat beside the point to me. Suppose I was in Bahrain and adherence to Islam were shown to be advantageous there, or suppose you were in Sweden and nonadherence to any religion was shown to be advantageous there. To my mind, that shouldn't really constitute evidence that we as dissenting individuals should change our minds.

          • Andre Boillot

            I'd like to say I'm sympathetic - and this isn't to say I don't find the question interesting - but it's kind of a bummer to think that the will and/or intent of the Author should be so easily clouded by the author.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Perhaps. But to the Catholic, that's the microcosm to human history's macrocosm of always trying to eclipse God's goodness with our own penchant for selfishness and sin.

          • josh

            It's odd that you don't consider the possibility of humans constantly attributing their best characteristics to Gods and heroes, and trying to overshadow their badness with excuses and moral relativism.

          • fredx2

            I think that is the interesting thing about the Old Testament. It is not a story of an overly lovey-dovey God that we get in the New Testament. The Old Testament seems to be the story of getting mankind to even acknowledge that He is God. After all, most of the people of the time were chasing after Sun gods or Moon gods or wind gods, or Fire gods, etc. Basically, they were worshipping nature and variations thereof. God comes and says "Don't you get it? I am real. Do I have to prove it to you? After all, he led the Israelites out of Egypt by splitting the red sea and then making bread to feed them fall on the ground. And then the first thing they do is ignore him, and go back to worshipping golden calves or whatever. Over and over, the Israelites keep forgetting that God is in control, and after a great deal of patience and warning, God has to slap them down to get their attention again. That's where most of the violence comes in. Like a parent having to discipline a child. No doubt,there are "troubling" passages, but the concern has only come about recently, with an overly "Boy, God better be about Love and only love all the time, or I am not going to like him" nonsense. This approach fails to take into account the fact that a man with free will can be a real turd at times. It fails to take into account the fact that a man with free will will constantly want to explore the boundaries, and will want to get away with things. So, like most things, read the whole book, get the whole impression of God (which is, on the whole, quite peaceful and loving) and stop obsessing about a few remote passages.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me, though, that you can't attribute to divinely inspired biblical authors a human "penchant for selfishness and sin" that got in the way of what God wanted them to write. It is very easy to explain why primitive peoples would have a primitive (although continuously improving) concept of God and the good. But it becomes very difficult to explain why divinely inspired accounts could paint such a primitive understanding of God and the good if God is indeed inspiring the writer.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Is this kind of the same question as "Why did God's chosen King David do so many un-godly things?"

            In which case the answer is human nature distorts the message, like a flaw in a prism, but that the message itself (light, in this analogy) still comes through.

          • Andre Boillot

            Which brings me back to: fair enough in the instances involving men being wicked, but we still have God slaughtering Egypt's first-borns for the crimes of their king (and sparring the latter, btw).

          • fredx2

            God did not just "slaughter" the first borns. By working through Moses, he warned Pharoah over and over again that it was time to stop keeping slaves and let the Israelites go. Moses went to Pharoah over and over again to ask him to release the Israelites. Pharoah did nothing. Then God sent the ten plagues - each increasingly harmful to the Egyptians, to let him know that there was a God, that he had power, and it was time to let the slaves go home. Each time an arrogant Pharoah refused. Finally God took the first born of the Eqyptians. Again, the message had to escalate to that degree because God gave man free will and Pharoah was free to do as he pleased. But there are consequences to each action and God basically pleaded with Pharoah not to make him use the full extent of his power. So was it God being mean or was it Pharoah being stupid?

          • Paul Boillot

            A) God doesn't need to kill innocent children. Ever. He is all powerful.
            B) God hardened his heart.
            C) Are we going to use words like "mean" and "stupid" to talk about mass infanticide?

          • fredx2

            Riddle me this - would you have preferred that God did nothing, and let the Israelites continue on in slavery? How many Israelites died from being in slavery every year? Remember to consider all sides of the ledger before making judgments.

          • Paul Boillot

            "would you have preferred that God did nothing, and let the Israelites continue on in slavery?"

            I don't believe your god exists or did anything. The current historical evidence indicates that that story, along with most of the ancient Hebrew self-told myths, is complete fiction.

            However, I would prefer it if modern (AD) history weren't rife with the struggles of religious factions who could point to their holy books and say "See! The Lord Killed the firstborn of all Egypt to save the chosen people!"

            "Gott mit uns"
            And when he is, genocide of those who stand in the way of the chosen people is righteous.

          • David Nickol

            Again, the message had to escalate to that degree because God gave man free will and Pharoah was free to do as he pleased.

            But this is simply not true. The Bible (Exodus 10:1-2) itself explains:

            Then the LORD said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his servants obstinate in order that I may perform these signs of mine among them and that you may recount to your son and grandson how I made a fool of the Egyptians and what signs I did among them, so that you may know that I am the LORD.

            My Jewish Study Bible says in a footnote:

            An extension of the idea of 9:16, but noting explicitly that the real point of the plagues is so that the Israelites, not only the Egyptians, will appreciate the Lord's power.

            Then in Exodus 11:9-10:

            Now the Lord had said to Moses, "Pharaoh will not heed you, in order that My marvels may be multiplied in the land of Egypt." Moses and Aaron had performed all these marvels before Pharoah, but the Lord had stiffened the heart of Pharaoh so that he would not let the Israelites go from the land.

            Regarding this passage, we are referred to a note to Exodus 4:21, which has a lot of cross references in it that I will omit here for easy of typing, since they do not affect the sense of the note:

            I . . . will stiffen his heart, make him unyielding, impermeable to reason. As in v. 23 and 7.3, God here speaks of the final stage of the concentration with Pharoah . . . . He does not stiffen Pharaoh's heart initially, but only after Pharaoh has done so himself many times . . . . Then God punishes Pharaoh in kind, depriving him of the freedom to change his mind and escape further punishment. The process is drawn out so that God's power can be made abundantly clear . . . .

            So if in the beginning Pharaoh was free to do as he pleased, as the story moves along, his freedom is taken away. Why? So that God may make an impressive display of his power to the Israelites and to the Egyptians. In effect, when God sends Moses to Pharaoh in the later stages of the "negotiations," God is making sure Pharaoh will not agree to what Moses demands. God is making Pharaoh say no so that God can display the terrible price he can make Pharaoh pay for saying no. But God is making sure Pharaoh doesn't relent, because God wants to visit the last and most terrible plagues on the Egyptians not to get them to yield, but to show how powerful he is.

            God is in no way respecting Pharoah's free will. He is making a puppet of Pharaoh so that he can impose the last two plagues (darkness and the killing of firstborn sons). The authors of Exodus do not have an understanding of God in which violence is contrary to his nature. They have an understanding that God will "harden Pharaoh's heart" so Pharaoh will not relent, and so God can cause every firstborn Egyptian to die.

          • fredx2

            http://www.midwestapologetics.org/articles/theology/pharaohsheart.pdf
            If these were the only relevant verses to the topic
            then it would be easy to side with the extreme Calvinist
            position and claim that Pharaoh had no choice in the
            matter.

            However, there are numerous relevant verses that
            need to be examined before reaching a decision in this
            matter. The Bible mentions the condition of Pharaoh’s
            heart following the description of each of the first nine
            plagues. Following the first plague when the water was turned to blood, Exodus 7: 22 states that “Pharaoh’s heart grew hard.

            Verse 23 declares that Pharaoh’s heart was not
            “moved by this.” After the second plague, “when Pharaoh
            saw that there was relief [from the frogs], he hardened his
            heart” (Ex. 8: 15). At the conclusion of the plague of
            flies, “Pharaoh’s heart grew hard” (Ex. 8: 19). Following
            the plague on the livestock, the Bible again states, “the
            heart of Pharaoh became hard” (Ex. 9: 7).
            It is not until after the sixth plague that God’s
            prophecy in Exodus 4: 21 was clearly fulfilled. It is at
            this point that for the first time the Bible specifically
            stated, “the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Ex. 9:
            12). This is significant because it appears that God may
            have given Pharaoh at least five chances to free the
            Israelites and avoid divine judgment.
            My mistake. God only gave him five chances.

          • David Nickol

            t's kind of a bummer to think that the will and/or intent of the Author should be so easily clouded by the author.

            I think you have made an excellent point. It seems to me that in order to make the case that the God of the Old Testament was not a moral monster, you have to drastically modify or abandon the concept of the Bible being divinely inspired.

          • fredx2

            Question: Was Pharoah a moral monster?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            For what it is worth, I don't see this painfully slow revelation as a bummer at all. To me, it speaks to the breathtaking magnitude of the journey we are on.

            Going beyond any Biblically-based reflections on the slow plodding progress of human history, we are stuck trying to respond to the famous Bertrand Russell comment: "If it is the purpose of the Cosmos to evolve mind, we must regard it as rather incompetent in having produced so little in such a long time".

            As I see it, one is forced to either Russell's conclusion or to the conclusion that God made the Cosmos so darn slow and humble precisely because that is the only way for the epic magnitude of this adventure to truly blow our minds.

          • Andre Boillot

            Sure, but as I've stated several times in this thread, I can understand instances of allowing human violence as part of a slow revelation, what I don't understand is God's direct violence towards man.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, sorry for missing the gist of what you were saying. Count me as being on your team on that point.

            At the risk of departing into completely different territory, this is where the Trinity comes in for me. The Trinity is in some way expressing that absolute truth and human love are actually two aspects of the same reality (please don't ask me to situate the Holy Spirit in this schema). Any "truth" of the Bible that is contrary to human love must therefore be rejected as being untrue. It must be ascribed to the author and not the Author. That is the sense in which I use Jesus as the bedrock / interpretive key for all of those stories.

          • David Nickol

            That is the sense in which I use Jesus as the bedrock / interpretive key for all of those stories.

            Is there even a hint in the Gospels that Jesus wanted to improve the image of God that his fellow Jews gleaned from Scripture?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It sounds like you are probably asking about the things that Jesus taught, in the sense of words coming out of his mouth. Even in that limited sense, yes, I do see fairly clear indications that His teaching was meant to add to the Law. We could undoubtedly debate on that important point, but I would suggest moving the conversation in a different direction. What is compelling to me about the story of Jesus is not so much the things that Jesus said (awesome as they were), but rather the way that he lived his life. In living a human life of complete virtue, nonviolence and humble, loving self-sacrifice, he elevated our humanity in what appears to be a completely unprecedented fashion. Virtuous humans throughout the Old Testament (and throughout all of human history) have approached the asymptote of divinity, but the Resurrection suggests to me that He actually jumped to the asymptote itself. I would say there is plenty in the Gospels that speaks to that "value added".

          • Vasco Gama

            Andre,

            The interpretation of the scriptures is problematic even for Catholics and that is clearly expressed in the article that viewing the scriptures and their own experience as a whole came to the conclusion that God is goodness and directs us to goodness. You may not agree with us and claim whatever you want, that you don’t believe in God, that we got the scriptures wrong, that it is only wishful thinking and superstition, or that you can’t believe in God, or that you dislike this God that Catholics believe in, all that is respectful. But you are getting it wrong if you think that Catholics are trying to justify God, Catholics can’t justify God, at most they can try to understand God and try to make sense of things (justification of Gods acts is in no way intended, it can’t be, it is absurd).

            Trying to isolate parts of the scripture to illustrate the nature of God in a way that contradicts the overall understanding that Catholics have of God, can’t make much sense either. In spite of the fascination it constitutes for atheists it has little sense. I don’t understand what is exactly the point of this debate. Is it to suggest that God pretends that Catholics should do evil, or that Catholics should exterminate other people, commit genocide, in spite of the Catholics understanding that we must direct ourselves to do good and avoid evil at all cost.

          • David Nickol

            Trying to isolate parts of the scripture to illustrate the nature of God in a way that contradicts the overall understanding that Catholics have of God, can’t make much sense either.

            It is simply impossible to have a discussion of the Bible without taking it part by part. Even if the argument is that the Bible must be read as a whole, it still must be taken part by part. Otherwise you could never quote the Bible. Certainly you don't fault the Church for including Bible readings in the Mass rather than reading the whole thing cover-to-cover!

          • Vasco Gama

            I agree with you in part, but my point is that we can't forget the entire context of those parts we may discuss. The readings of the Bible during mass is meant to address specific points, but then it is contextualized.

          • fredx2

            The point is that you are asking Christians to justify their God, claiming that their God is a genocidal maniac. However, your conclusion rests on what happened in a few instances of a book thousands of pages long. The book does not give us enough information to make an informed reply. It really does not give us enough information to know the whole story. But knowing the whole bible, both new and old testament, we know that the God that is revealed there is a loving God. As I think Benedict said, there are somethings we don't quite understand. But that means you don't understand them either, you just pretend to be surer of your conclusions than we do. We go with the evidence, and the weight of the evidence is that God is a loving God.

          • David Nickol

            The point is that you are asking Christians to justify their God, claiming that their God is a genocidal maniac.

            Read this post of mine and the response by Matthew Ramage, author of the OP, and then let me know if you stick by the above statement.

          • Danny Getchell

            If you are going to evaluate the Old and New Testaments based on the "weight of the evidence" and set aside that evidence which indicates that God is not always "loving", I do not have a problem with that....

            .... provided that you are willing to disagree with Ramage and Benedict, by conceding that portions of the Bible are neither "inspired" nor "inerrant".

          • fredx2

            Well said. We don't claim to know everything about every detail. But we do get an overall sense from a reading of the entire bible.
            The point is illustrated this way: Christopher Hitchens wrote a book about Mother Theresa that claimed she was a vile ogre. He hung his hat on several miniscule facts, such as "she took money from Baby Doc in Haiti" But no one, reading the entire set of facts about Mother Theresa believes she was anything other than a good and wonderful woman. You can always ISOLATE facts that may be troubling, but the task of any intellectuai / Science based person is to read the whole thing and then figure out what kind of God you have. It is the task of the provocateur / polemicist to isolate facts from the whole and make a big deal about them.
            My concern is that we are dealing here with debating points rather than attempts to understand.

          • Paul Boillot

            Actually, Hitchen's largest point against Mother Theresa is that she was not a friend of the poor, but a friend of poverty itself.

          • fredx2

            And no offense, but it hitchens point is a pretty dumb point. Hitchens should be ashamed of himself. Once again, he focuses in on a few isolated facts, "makes a case" but refuses to review the whole record.

          • Paul Boillot

            None taken! If you really feel that it's a dumb point, I'd encourage you to look up youtube videos of him arguing the point live.

            Should he be ashamed of himself? I think not, and you'll have a hard time forcing him now.

            But, just my take on it: MT didn't care about the people, she cared about their poverty.

            She didn't love them, she loved their suffering.

            She didn't help anyone, she didn't cure anyone, her 'hospitals' were not places of medical care. They were places where the forgotten were taken to die, and their last agonizing moments were an offering to god.

          • David Nickol

            But no one, reading the entire set of facts about Mother Theresa believes she was anything other than a good and wonderful woman.

            I personally have not formed a final opinion of Mother Teresa. I do not think it is necessarily true that she was a "good and wonderful woman." On the other hand, she may have been. It is difficult for me to altogether dismiss the idea that she was dishonest during her long years of not feeling the presence of God. I believe she herself expressed a concern about this. But all that is another topic, and a very big and explosive one.

          • fredx2

            This is the sort of almost bizarre hypercriticality that does athests no credit. The country of India held a state funeral for her. Those in the country would have been able to judge, wouldn't they? Do you think that the Indian people were just too dumb to notice that she was not doing something good? Once again, separated by time and distance, the atheist insists on perfection rather than great behavior. The ones she provided care for would have simply died in the streets, without any care whatsoever. Sheesh.

            ""Her intention was to take care of those who had fallen by the wayside; people whom no hospital would admit. She set up hospices and not hospitals because a hospital would have been good for just one city such as Calcutta. She wanted to care for the destitute all around the world," says former chief election commissioner Navin Chawla, who wrote an acclaimed biography of Mother Teresa in 1992.

            "In such a huge ocean of goodness, it's always easy to find some points of criticism," he adds.

            The most shocking claim in the study is that while the donations received by the Missionaries of Charity were not used for improving her hospices, money was not a problem when it came to Mother Teresa's own treatment in America.
            "I was quite heavily involved at the time when she was ill in Calcutta and doctors from San Diego and New York had come to see her out of their own will.

            "Mother had no idea who was coming to treat her. It was so difficult to even convince her to go to the hospital. The fact that we forced her to, should not be held against her like this," says 70-year-old artist Sunita Kumar, who worked closely with Mother Teresa for 36 years and is the spokesperson for the Missionaries of Charity, Kolkata.

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2289203/Mother-Teresas-followers-dismiss-critical-documentary-questioning-saintly-image.html#

          • picklefactory

            I believe David's said many times here that he is not an atheist.

          • josh

            Here's the question Daniel: At what point do Catholics consider the possibility that they are significantly wrong? Previously we read about how inconsistencies in style and message must be overcome by finding a way to make the Bible seem an 'organic' whole (and consistent with Catholic doctrine). Now we learn that any 'apparent' dark passages must be read in a way to make them part of an inerrant book but also consistent with a non-violent God, (but also consistent with any violent seeming Catholic doctrines, like hell.) Is there a point at which you say 'This whole program can't be made to jibe in a rationally honest way, it's time to go back to square one' ?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Speaking for myself, "square one" was some ad hoc mix of survival, keeping other people happy, and pleasurable diversions. In other words, "square one" for me was despair, so I don't want to go back there. If you have a "square two" that allows me to find purpose and reconcile the obvious data of suffering and evil with my unshakeable hope that goodness pervades existence, I'd be all ears. Catholicism gives me that. What else is on offer?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That just became my favorite one-liner description of hermeneutics! If only I could convey that use of capitalization in spoken words.

          • Danny Getchell

            Is it permissible for an individual Catholic to read the "dark passages" at face
            value? To decide that yes, they do correctly describe God's will??

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      Context is key here, especially for your last point. Jesus goes on to explain that the sword is metaphorical, for the division that his teachings would bring to many families.

      You can't quote "I come not with peace but with a sword," without also quoting "He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."

      • Ben Posin

        Daniel: you're making my point, I think. The issue of whether God has a non_violent nature as a matter of reason and logic, as asserted in the article, is one that has to be supported and argued. It's not something to be assumed a priori. I submit that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnimalevolent god is as logically possible as an omnibenevolent God, and that we could flip around all the normal "problem of evil" apologetics and scriptural handwaving seen here and put forth learned theories concerning the problem of good. I can post some links concerning these arguments later. A creed that believes in hell will have a hard time convincing me that their god is non-violent and good.

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

    You're right. It hasn't convinced me. The Old Testament clearly and repeatedly depicts God as being violent. I guess you are saying the authors got it wrong? Then why should we consider it holy?

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

      Brian, how do you understand the word "holy"?

      • 42Oolon

        Let's take a step back from that. Instead of "holy" I will say consider it any differently than any other ancient text.

    • Vasco Gama

      Brian,

      While it may look problematic and perplexing, one thing is clear, according to the Church teachings, even if we fail to understand entirely what is reported in the Bible, humans are called (by God) to do good and that is the common understanding of Catholics.

    • fredx2

      In isolated places in the bible, God is depicted as doing things we find difficult to understand - given his nature as revealed in the bible as a whole. That's what makes them shocking - they are so clearly out of step with the rest of what we learn from the bible.
      But just because these few instances exist, it does not really disturb the overall message of the bible.
      If, as you say, the bible repeatedly and clearly depicts God as being violent, then shouldn't the Jews be one of the more violent people on earth? After all, the Old Testament IS their entire holy book. And yet they are far, far from being violent. . The fact is, that you seize on a few, isolated instances to draw your conclusions. What is the message that God continually gives the Jews during whole of the Old Testament? Is it "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women"?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkSFIWzi7aA

      No, that it obviously not the message ANYONE gets from the bible. The attitude of Jews toward violence is this:

      "Peace is Judaism's highest aspiration. The Midrash says the entire Torah is based on the value of peace (Gittin 59b; Bamidbar Rabbah 11:7). Another Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 9:9) explains that the obligation to seek peace is of a much higher order than ritual observances. It notes that although many of the Torah's commandments are phrased in conditional terms such as "if you see", "if you meet", "if you come across", which indicate that they are only operative in specific situations, the imperative of peace is much greater, because the Torah demands that one "search for peace and pursue it" (Psalms 34:15).

      http://www.jlaw.com/Commentary/warandpeace.html

      How on earth did they come to this conclusion after reading the "violent" bible? The answer, of course, is that the bible, taken as a whole reveals a quite different God than the one you propose.

      • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

        A person who lives for 30,000 days and commits murder on 3 of them is still a murderer, regardless of what he did on the other 29,997. And a Being who is only occasionally murderous is still murderous.

  • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

    I appreciate the candor of Dr. Ramage's take here - he admits that this is a very cursory glance at a thorny topic, and that even an in-depth look at the matter may result in an impasse. Namely:

    to accept the divine pedagogy is already to have accepted something prior to it: namely, the existence of God and faith in Jesus Christ.

    I think this is true to an extent. Our starting point will greatly determine whether such a reading is finally acceptable. (Just as the article "Will we have free will in heaven?" hinged on two prior questions: "Are we free? Is there a heaven?")

    But I don't think this has to determine whether such a reading is coherent. I think a modest goal of these articles could be to show that the Catholic reading of the Old Testament lines up with its first principles - even if atheists reject those principles a priori, and so reject the "alignment."

    Another thought: on the subject of violence I think the work of anthropologist Rene Girard ("Violence and the Sacred," "The Scapegoat") is indispensable here. Many atheists often ask why a violent crucifixion was necessary for salvation. Why couldn't God just say "saved!" and make it so?

    Girard holds the key. According to his theory, the Gospel is the unveiling of the cycle of mimetic desire and scapegoating naturally inherent in human societies. Prior to Christ, "the cultural and moral level of distant times" is steeped in scapegoating, ritual violence, and human sacrifice to restore order. It took the dying and rising of an innocent scapegoat to invert this cyclical violence from the inside, and herald a supreme act of love and nonviolence, a scapegoat to end all scapegoating. To my mind, this is perfectly consonant with the notion of God's grace building on nature, and pulling man out of his disorder from the inside.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      To play "Devil's Advocate," and to help my own understanding, this (and the article) may help us understand why God might allow his people to do violent things, but does it help us to understand why God would command violent things?

      • David Nickol

        . . . . but does it help us to understand why God would command violent things?

        I think the only possible argument, if violence is against God's nature, is that God did not command the slaughter of the Amalekites and other such atrocities, but the people in Old Testament times interpreted their customs and practices (both commendable and savage) as the will of God. Of course this requires reading Old Testament accounts much less literally, taking accounts of what God said and did in the Old Testament not as accounts of what he actually said and did, but accounts of what the OT authors and compilers believed he either said and did or would have said and did.

        The idea that violence is against God's nature but that, because he was slowly leading his people (or dragging them) toward what was good, he would deliberately order them to do evil because they were not ready to understand good is out of the question. If violence is against God's nature, it is against God's nature to command violence.

        • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

          I think you're right, that's a good way to put it.

        • fredx2

          I think we have fallen into a semantic trap. The phrase "violence is against God's nature" means what? That God is incapable of violence? No, since he is all powerful. That he does not ever use violence? That is one possibility. But the words of the Old Testament seem to show that he sometimes did use violence. Could it mean that "He really, really hates to use violence, but will if he has to"? That is probably the case.
          Would you call your parents "violent" since they probably, when you were young, had to spank you? After all, it is using violence, but to a good purpose.
          The point is this: atheists tend to pretend that God is a vengeful, violent being and therefore is not worthy of respect. They cite a few selected passages from the Bible to show that. But these are far and few between, and the overall message of God (as with Parents) in the bible is love.

          • Paul Boillot

            I'm not saying this is what you're saying, but let me try to understand you.

            Are you saying that all parents who discipline their children love them?

            Are you saying that all modes of discipline are equally valid and loving?

            Are you saying that child abuse is term made up by liberal atheists who just don't realize how hard it is to raise a stubborn child?

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Well, when God kills these people they end up in Hell for all eternity, so I would say this is not to a good purpose, and parents who did the mortal equivalent of that would be abusive.

          • David Nickol

            Well, when God kills these people they end up in Hell for all eternity . . .

            To which people are you referring, and how do you know they go to hell?

            There was no concept of an afterlife in the Old Testament, so the idea of the Amalekites going to hell can't possibly be found in the text of 1 Samuel or any other OT book. If anyone in the Catholic Church bothered to offer an opinion of the eternal fate of the Amalekites, they would probably say that those who lived according to their consciences as best they knew how were saved.

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            I'm speaking within the Catholic context. And I don't know that your anticipation of the Catholic response is correct. Even those who live according to their consciences find themselves in a state of mortal sin from time to time, and many were likely killed in that state.

          • David Nickol

            But the words of the Old Testament seem to show that he sometimes did
            use violence. Could it mean that "He really, really hates to use
            violence, but will if he has to"? That is probably the case.

            There are all kinds of problems with this theory, including the idea that an omniscient, omnipotent being could wind up in a position where he "has to" use violence. I think we may take "violence is contrary to God's nature" to mean God would never use violence. Otherwise you make the statement meaningless. You could then say things like, "God is all good and would never tell a lie . . . unless he had to."

  • Steven Dillon

    I think this raises the fascinating issue of whether the God of natural theology can be identified with the God of revealed theology, a matter that should be settled prior to making that identification. In so far as Dr. Ramage's intriguing proposal requires one to make this identification, it seems to set the cart before the horse. But, I still find it intriguing and would love to see it developed more.

  • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

    Matthew,

    Thanks for writing this. I think that it is a wonderful piece. It furthers a case, one I find more convincing the more I think about it, that if the Bible really is inspired by God, then the meaning of the Author of the Bible may not be the same as the intended meaning of the writers.

    This also may mean that finding out what the authors originally thought is secondary to determining the Author's meaning. It may be that the writers of the Bible were sexists, racists, homophobes. Maybe God isn't, in which case the more liberal and allegorical interpretations of the Bible may have a lot more accuracy than the literalistic interpretations.

  • Argon

    I think an article so named would've discussed common ground about why violence is generally unacceptable to Catholics and atheists.

    Myself, I think there are some problems with biblical and historical precedence concerning torture and capital punishment. However I think the church more recently has been moving strongly into a more enlightened role on these subjects and has provided a leading voice against these archaic practices.

    I do hope that in this conversation that we don't run into another example of Godwin's Law and that the moderators remain vigilant.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      We'll do our best.

    • Geena Safire

      I do hope that in this conversation that we don't run into another example of Godwin's Law and that the moderators remain vigilant.

      Right , Argon, let's hope that those pesky atheists don't bring up the massive evil done in the world by people relying on what the Church teaches regarding the evil God has ordered done but must be infallible.

      It's not Godwin's law if Hitler relied on his Catholic upbringing and church teaching. It is not saying something is equivalent to Hitler's evil. It is that this Catholic exegesis and teaching directly caused the Holocaust.

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        "It is that this Catholic exegesis and teaching directly caused the Holocaust."

        Geena, I like you, but this claim is unsupported. Again, it's like saying Stalin's persecution of people of all religions was because of his atheism. Which I'm not saying is the case, and in fact I don't believe is the case, but your claim is equally dubious.

        • Steven Carr

          I agree that the claim is unsupported.

          Don't people read Martin Luther any more?

          See what he proposed should happen to Jews.

        • Geena Safire

          "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.." Hitler, Mein Kampf

          "it is said with such terrible justice that the sins of the fathers are avenged down to the tenth generation. But this applies only to profanation of the blood and the race." Hitler, Mein Kampf

          Shall I go on?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Maybe it would help your argument if Hitler wasn't Lutheran. He hated the Church for what he saw as her "Germanophobia".

          • Steven Carr

            Hitler called Luther one of the greatest men who ever lived.

            'To them belong, not only the truly great statesmen, but all other great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great stands Martin Luther as well as Richard Wagner.

            You just have to read Martin Luther on what should happen to the Jews.

            I shall quote some.

            First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. . . .

            Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. . . .

            Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing, and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them.

            Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. . . .

            Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.

            Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. . . .

          • Sqrat

            I think this conversation could benefit from an examination of a different Wikipedia article, on "Religious Views of Adolf Hitler."

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            He wielded Christianity as political tool, but personally was disdainful, yeah?

          • Steven Carr

            He scoffed at Transubstantiation , but believed in the Christian god as surely as you do.

            From Table Talk.

            'Das, was der Mensch von dem Tier voraushat, der veilleicht wunderbarste Beweis fuer die Ueberlegenheit des Menschen ist, dass er begriffen hat, dass es eine Schoepferkraft geben muss.'

            'That, which Man has over the animals, the probably most wonderful proof for the superiority of mankind is, that he has understood, that there must be a creative power.'

            Hitler also said 'Die zehn Gebote sind Ordnungsgesetze, die absolut lobenswert sind.'

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Wikipedia, at least, disagrees:

            "In adulthood, Hitler became disdainful of Christianity, but in seeking out and in trying to retain power in Germany, he was prepared to set aside his views on religion out of political considerations. He repeatedly stated that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science."

          • Sqrat

            That would be my reading. As the article notes, "by 1939, despite the encouragement of the Nazi Party, only around 5% of Germans had declared themselves neo-pagan deists (gottglaubig) or atheists [and even] the majority of the three million Nazi Party members continued to pay their church taxes and register as Christians." As a politician, beyond a certain point he had to play the hand he was dealt. I tend to side with those who hold that he was actually something of a deist -- as well as an example of the fact that a good Catholic upbringing doesn't always bring about the intended results.

        • Paul Boillot

          Bolshevik/Stalinist persecution of religions IS NOT to atheism what persecution of the jews is to Catholicism.

          Catholics have a long tradition of weighty authority being given to jew-hate. Atheists do not have a long tradition of weighty authority being given to religion hate.

          Stalin's anti-religious overreaction in the USSR was a specific reaction to centuries of religious fascism under the ROC and the Tsars which lasted....80 years? Maybe? It did not directly or necessarily arise out of the tenets of atheism per se.

          For 2000 years the Church has been either directly anti-semitic, or harbored many prominent anti-semites.

          http://www.shc.edu/theolibrary/resources/Timeline.htm
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_antisemitism

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Hitler was not Catholic. The Holocaust was not "inspired by Catholic exegesis". Ergo, both claims are unsupported which was exactly my point.

          • Steven Carr

            Hitler was not a Catholic?

            When was he excommunicated? Date please.

            He was not a good Catholic, but he was certainly counted as a Catholic by the rules of the Church - the same rules used even to this day.

            SImply answer one question.

            Did Hitler pay his Church Tax, that he introduced?

            Yes or no......

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            You do realize that "Catholic" and "Christian" are not synonymous in a country where the primary religion was Lutheranism, right? He was born to a Catholic mother and anti-clericalist father, and stopped receiving the sacraments once he became an adult. At best, he was a fallen-away Catholic, though he was disdainful of Christianity as a whole, seeing it as a religion fit for slaves.

            By your logic, any atheist on this site who was born into a Catholic family is still Catholic, though they have chosen to not practice anymore. I think most of them here would disagree with you.

          • Paul Boillot

            Wait wait wait....

            "By your logic, any atheist on this site who was born into a Catholic family is still Catholic"

            Is it, or is it not, the position of the Church that once your are a Baptized Roman Catholic you will always be a Roman Catholic, no matter how hard you try?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yes, you will, it leaves an indelible mark on your soul. However, if you are in a state of mortal sin, you are outside of communion with the Church. Also, I asked if any atheist on here would identify as a Catholic.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Point being, someone who does not believe in Catholicism should not be held responsible for his or her actions as far as he or she is Catholic.

          • Steven Carr

            Yes, Hitler was a great admire of Martin Luther and put into practice many of Luther's ideas of what should be done to Jews.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Martin Luther left the Catholic Church, and started his own. I don't know why you bring this up as if it were damaging to Catholicism.

          • Steven Carr

            I'm not. I'm agreeing with you that Hitler did not base his views on Catholicism, even though the Church counted him as a Catholic, and recieved church tax.

          • Paul Boillot

            I think you're confusing 'indelible mark on your soul' with 'occasional guilt about enjoying easter chocolate.'

            But that's not my point.

            You said "Hitler was not Catholic." I took you to be stating that he was not A Catholic, which in so far as anyone is *actually* a "Catholic" is either true or false based on baptismal records. I happen to believe that when you had water poured over your head you didn't become anything but wet. I call you a "Catholic" because that's what your belief system calls you, not because of what I think your metaphysical status is.

            As I re-read you carefully, however, I note that you wrote "Hitler was not Catholic" vs. "Hitler was not [a] Catholic," potentially highlighting what you take to be the dichotomy between his actions and Church dogma.

            I ammended my response to jive with this distinction.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Sadly, I cannot follow your link, so I've lost that response. But yes, that dichotomy was my point.

          • Paul Boillot

            Ah, improper link formatting, my bad.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It's ok. @Geena_Safire:disqus gave me good lessons on that, maybe she can help you out :)

          • Paul Boillot

            No, she taught me too!

            I have failed my master.

            Geena, forgive me :(

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            She will be.... disappointed.

          • Geena Safire

            How soon they forget...

          • Geena Safire

            Bien sûr, je vous pardonne, mon petit chou. Passez votre souris sur "Partager". Cliquez avec le bouton droit sur ​​l'icône de la chaîne qui s'affiche. Choisissez "Copier l'adresse du lien." Collez le lien entre les guillemets dans une balise d'ancrage:

            <a href="votre.lien.fr">quelques mots connexes</a>

          • Paul Boillot

            Mon dieu, vous etes Francaise?

          • Geena Safire

            Non, pas du tout. Je ne suis que enchanté par la belle France.

          • David Nickol

            What in the world does it have to do with the proposition "Violence is contrary to God's nature" whether Hitler was technically a Catholic or not???

            The claim that once baptized Catholic, a person forever remains a Catholic is basically a supernatural claim and a technicality that should be of no interest to atheists, who don't believe baptism has any supernatural effects.

            1272 Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ. No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation.

            Do you believe in "indelible spiritual marks"? If not you can't use them to beat Catholics over the head with. A great deal of the attack on Catholics and Catholicism here amounts to, "We don't believe any of this, but you say it's true, and consequently God and the Catholic Church are horrid." The level of anger here at the Catholic Church and those who believe in God rather amazes me. I am amazed to see 'Mit Brennender Sorge' used to attack the Catholic Church in a thread devoted to discussing the proposition that violence is contrary to God's nature. I am amazed to see a discussion of how the Church allegedly inflates its membership by including people in the state of mortal sin. Aside from having nothing to do with the topic, what is the Catholic Church supposed to do? Interview over a billion people one at a time to see if the count as faithful Catholics?

            We've had many interesting topics of late, and sadly, people go off on things that can scarcely even be called tangents. Whether or not Hitler was a Catholic is simply unrelated to the proposition that violence is contrary to God's nature.

          • Paul Boillot

            What in the world does it have to do with the proposition "Violence is contrary to God's nature" whether Hitler was technically a Catholic or not???

            I have heard Brandon and other moderators sound this clarion call before, and let's put a stop to it: you either want dialogue, or you do not.
            Dialogue is often going to stray away from the exact verbiage of the OP...that's what engaging with someone else's point of view will get you. It's a bear, I know, but let's not pretend we want something and then cry when we get it.

            The claim that once baptized Catholic, a person forever remains a Catholic is basically a supernatural claim and a technicality that should be of no interest to atheists, who don't believe baptism has any supernatural effects.

            Are you telling me how to be a proper atheist? Go back through all my comments, I think you'll find enough allusions to chocolate and baptism yielding nothing but a wet-frock to ascertain I'm a card-carrying member.

            I don't care about the stories you tell yourself, except in the following ways:

            1) I often find them amusing
            2) You often try to impose them on others.

            Do you believe in "indelible spiritual marks"? If not you can't use them to beat Catholics over the head with.

            Yes I can, see the point I just made.

            A great deal of the attack on Catholics and Catholicism here amounts to, "We don't believe any of this, but you say it's true, and consequently God and the Catholic Church are horrid." The level of anger here at the Catholic Church and those who believe in God rather amazes me.

            Are you seriously amazed? Have you not payed any attention to all of the discussions of atrocities we've had over the last months?

            We've had many interesting topics of late, and sadly, people go off on things that can scarcely even be called tangents. Whether or not Hitler was a Catholic is simply unrelated to the proposition that violence is contrary to God's nature.

            If you want to engage with people who fundamentally disagree with you, I imagine you're bound to go down paths that you initially thought were irrelevant. See my first point.

            The discussion of whether, and to what degree, Nazi Germany's Final Solution had it's roots in Catholic traditions should have rather a lot, I would think, to do with the proposition that God, and his revelation throughout history culminating in the Catholic Church, is non-violent.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Here's my rejoinder, whether fair or not, I guess that's what I'm trying to find out.

            In a Europe with no Catholicism, would anti-semitism have "flourished" so much? I would think so, since the Romans were pretty anti-semitic (the Jewish nation was apparently easy to conquer, hard to rule, historically).

            That being the case, my comment below is in fact relevant.

          • Paul Boillot

            "In a Europe with no Catholicism, would anti-Semitism have "flourished" so much? I would think so, since the Romans were pretty anti-Semitic (the Jewish nation was apparently easy to conquer, hard to rule, historically)."

            That's an interesting hypothetical...

            Are there any other historical groups that the Western Roman empire had difficulty subduing/assimilating? I hear Gaul was tough. I hear the Germanic tribes were tougher.

            Did the marriage of Church and Empire we *did* get in the dice-roll entrench and, in many ways, distill the frustrations of conquest into radical race-hatred against the French or the Germans?

            What about the Scottish?

            Bah, these are tough questions, and Masada was some seriously hard-core insurrection-ism.

            The what-ifs are tough, but what we do know is that most of the most grievous anti-Semitic listings on this timeline are after the fall of the Empire.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Well, the only other culture that springs to mind right off the bat that was hard to subdue/assimilate was the Irish, so take that for what its worth.

            Obviously, though, Judaism's combination of Monotheism and Chosen Race status didn't make them very popular with pagan Gentiles.

          • Geena Safire

            Also the Zulu nation, especially under Shaka Zulu. Also the southern (Hindu) Indians. The Australian indigenous peoples and the Maori of New Zealand. Burma. Nigeria. ...

          • Geena Safire

            True. Up until a few years ago, one could file a form to get yourself off the church rolls officially. But in 2009, IIRC, the Vatican did away with that process. I heard it was because of rumors that half the Irish population was inclined to do so.

            Now, you have to go through a much longer and more complex procedure of getting officially excommunicated.

          • Steven Carr

            The Catholic Church counts fallen-away Catholics as Catholics.

            There are 1,000,000,000 Catholics in the world, according to *your* church. Are you claiming they all go to Mass?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I am deleting your other comments because you are repeating yourself. If someone were Catholic, and then rejects their Catholicism in favor of paganism, and they offer sacrifice to Gaia, they do not offer that sacrifice as a Catholic, but as a pagan.

          • Paul Boillot

            I agree that he was not Catholic.
            I disagree with your claim that "Catholic exegesis" was not inspirational to the perpetrators of the Shoah, from Hitler on down through the NDSP party leadership all the way to the every day citizens of occupied western Europe.

            Using atheism as your counterfactual is not appropriate.

            If the claim had been that theism was one of the contributing causes of the Holocaust, then it would be an analogous counter example.

            But the claim was about an extremely specific set of religious beliefs and traditions, Catholicism, which have a huge track record of anti-Semitism. That Catholicism earlier fractured into sub-sects does not mean that those sub-sects did not inherit all or part of those traditions, teachings, and attitudes.

            Shakespeare wrote "The Merchant of Venice" way before Hitler, and is creditably argued to have been Catholic. Do you think his depictions of anti-Semitism were also no true Scotsmen?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            The antipathy was not one way. While Jews were the majority, they persecuted and killed Christians (cf: Saul/Paul). Which is in no way to excuse any sort of animosity towards our brothers, merely to point out that animosity flowed both ways, and that who had the upper hand depended upon the numbers.

          • Paul Boillot

            "While Jews were the majority, they persecuted and killed Christians (cf: Saul/Paul)"

            Why stop there? They killed the OG Christian!

            But the 'animosity flowed both ways' for....what....20 years after the death of Christ? 30?

            And the put-upon little-brother Christians got back at the mean old jews for....eighteen hundred years?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Again, the animosity is something we look back on in horror today. The reason I didn't indict them for Jesus' death is the same reason He didn't. "Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do."

          • Paul Boillot

            Look, Dan, I admire your desire for reconciliation, and I'm sure the state of Israel is happy they can take you off their watch-list.

            The point was never a personal attack on your ability to overcome xenophobia (a great book!), the point was that Catholic traditions have formed Europe for millenia, as our friends Stacy and DeLano never tire of reminding us.

            To the extent that that's true, the deep cultural roots of hating Jews is directly and incontestably a Catholic thing.

            People hate outsiders anyway, I'm not going to say that the Catholic attitude *caused* anyone to murder anyone else. We're primates, and we're pretty good at fearing and therefore hating people we don't understand all on our own.

            Thousands of years of hating the usurous, treacherous, dirty, diseased Jews who killed Emmanuel, the Christ, the God-Man come to save us all....might have made it easier on ze old conscience when turning the shower-supply knobs.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            While the rest of Christendom was accepting Jews and preaching anti-semitism, Germany was getting worse, between the conditions of poverty and the influx of wealthy Jewish immigrants, of course xenophobia would be inflamed.

            Hitler further fanned those flames, but Luther set the stones. No, Catholics and Jews have not had a rosy history, but they were beginning to move past at this point in time. Read Pope Pius XII's Summi Pontificatus, condemning racism and reaffirming the papal condemnation of anti-semitism.

          • Paul Boillot

            I'm not going to fight you on the "things were getting better" line.

            For one my knowledge is too incomplete. For another I know too many good Catholics *now* to assume that all previous generations of Catholics were anti-semitic cretins.

            Allow me one point, as I've pretty much said what I wanted to say on this topic:

            Might'nt you have mean[t] "while the rest of Christendom was accepting Jews and preaching [against] anti-semitism"?

            PS Obligatory nod to the American eugenics movements, and the in-roads that Nazi ideology was making here.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Thank you.

          • Paul Boillot

            Please, you're welcome, but no thanks.

            This is what it's about: essentially respectful honest and tough dialogue.

          • BrianPFT

            So to make sure I understand your logic is as follows:

            Catholic Church formed Europe
            Roots of European culture is to hate Jews
            Therefore hating Jews is a Catholic thing

            I would say:

            Catholic Church says love your neighbor.

            Hating Jews is contrary to loving your neighbor
            Therefore hating Jews is contrary to Catholic Church.

            In response to your logic I would say:

            Catholic Church formed part of culture of Europe
            Hating Jews is contrary to Catholic Church (see above)
            Therefore hating Jews comes from another source.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Brian, I get what you are saying, but I think we need to be careful not to be too glib about this. It is still frighteningly easy for Catholics to misread of their own tradition with regard to the Jewish people. The Church quietly acknowledges this by leaving the more incendiary sections of the Gospel of John out of the lectionary altogether, because to this day vast swaths of the laity are prone to take that material out of its proper context. That amounts to an acknowledgement that dangerous stuff lurks at the roots of our traditions. I don't think that dangerous stuff is truly part of the truth of the Catholic faith, but we can't pretend that it is some distant cousin that we've never met.

            EDITED to correct original mis-wording.

          • Paul Boillot

            With respect, you have not understood my logic, and your summation is inaccurate.

          • Abe Rosenzweig

            Are you kidding me?!!! I'm done with site. For good.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Because the nature of violence is to be directed towards the group of "others"?

          • Geena Safire

            Don't the Jesuits say, 'Give me the boy and I'll give you the man'? Hitler was raised as a Catholic. You can take yourself out of the church, but it's not at all as easy to take the church out of yourself. Hitler learned of the vileness of Jews directly from the mouths of priests.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Actually, as Steven pointed out, the person he learned it out of the mouth from was Martin Luther. Lutheranism held far more sway in Germany at this point (especially Northern Germany) than Catholicism.

          • Geena Safire

            Hitler was born and raised in Austria which, if you look at a map, is nowhere near northern Germany. Austria is about three-quarters Roman Catholic.

            Hitler was born to a devout Roman Catholic mother. He grew up in a predominantly Roman Catholic culture. He was educated in Roman Catholic schools. He was suckled on anti-semitism from the Roman Catholic teat.

            I know that your religion prizes taking things on faith, but that is not supposed to extend IIRC to the field of widely-known, factual, recent history.

          • David Nickol

            I am curious to know why it is so relevant that Hitler was born and raised a Catholic when he so obviously rejected Christianity, while no doubt it would be considered irrelevant to the discussion that Winston Churchill was an Anglican, Franklin D. Roosevelt was an Episcopalian, Harry Truman was a Baptist, and Dwight Eisenhower was a Jehovah's Witness who later converted to Presbyterianism. Christianity as a religion, nor Catholicism as a Christian denomination, did not support Hitler or Nazism. Many of those who opposed Hitler and Nazism—who fought and died against Hitler—were Christian or Catholic. It can hardly be said that Roosevelt of Churchill saw no religious or moral significance to fighting Hitler. Of course, there were those who fought against Hitler who were not religious (Stalin), but to try to make Catholicism or Christianity responsible for Hitler or Nazism seems to me quite illegitimate.

            I would never let the Catholic Church (or the Lutheran Church) off the hook for anti-Semitism. Far from it. But on the other hand, anti-Semitism was not entirely religions. It was also ethnic and racial. Hitler did not spare Jews who converted to Catholicism, nor would he have spared Jews who simply renounced their religion and pledged allegiance to German ideals. Had Christianity not treated Jews as "Christ killers," no doubt things would have been dramatically different for Jewish history from the first century onward. But Hitler did not attempt to exterminate the Jews for religious reasons, just as he did not target Gypsies, homosexuals, and the physically disabled for religious purposes.

      • Octavo

        It's Godwin's law regardless of the reason Hitler's invoked. I think we can agree that this sort of eisegesis has caused enough problems that we don't have to go talking about Hitler (even if it ends up being applicable in the final analysis). On the internet, people stop listening once Hitler's been invoked, because he's invoked by everybody for everything. Just a friendly recommendation.

        ~Jesse Webster

        • Geena Safire

          According to Wikipedia, if Hitler or Nazis are directly relevant to the topic under discussion, which they are, then Godwin's law does not apply.

          Still, I also take note of your advice.

          • David Nickol

            if Hitler or Nazis are directly relevant to the topic under discussion . . .

            I can't see how they are relevant to a discussion of whether violence is contrary to God's nature.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Thank you for helping us get back on topic.

          • Paul Boillot

            "get back on topic"?!?

            Is this a pro-RCC press release site, or a site for engaging with people who have serious and deep problems with what you believe?

            If you're getting tired of responding to a huge number of replies, maybe take a break...but passive-aggressively announcing that we're doing the wrong thing by...discussing is beneath you, imho.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I don't think it's wrong! If I thought it was wrong, I would delete them.

            That being said, I don't think every discussion sparked by every post should become Nazi-apologetics, and these past couple weeks we've seen a lot of that, don't you think?

            I appreciate David's attempt to bring the discussion to a more metaphysical level, if only so I don't have to run to Wikipedia quite as much.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Furthermore, taking a break would make me more tired, not less. I live for these discussions, man. I like all you guys and girls a lot (most of the time :P)

          • David Nickol

            Is this a pro-RCC press release site, or a site for engaging with people who have serious and deep problems with what you believe?

            As someone who just wrote a long message about abortion in the thread on the crusades, I suppose I am not necessarily the best one to lecture about staying on topic, but it seems to me that the OPs (in this case, Violence is Contrary to God’s Nature) ought to be the topic of discussion. If I had the powers of a moderator, I probably wouldn't delete messages that were off topic (unless they were way, way off topic). But it does seem to me that there is some value to sticking to the discussion of the proposition being asserted by the OP. Whether or not Hitler was a Catholic, or whether or not the Catholic Church uses a double standard in counting Catholics have been discussed before, and besides not being at all relevant to whether violence is contrary to God's nature, they seem to be some people's (and I do not mean you) way of venting their anger at the Catholic Church.

          • Paul Boillot

            "to the extent the OP is ignored, that is not happening for the person who wrote it."

            With respect, we arrived at the topics you find objectionable by degrees. The head waters of that particular branch of discussion had their place firmly in the meat of the OP.

            Had I written an OP whose discussion ranged far afield, I want to believe I would find it fascinating to see the dialectic journey, not disappointed that people didn't goose-step to my marching band.

          • David Nickol

            With respect, we arrived at the topics you find objectionable by degrees.

            Which is precisely the way one gets lost, or goes around in circles. In any case, I am not the moderator, and I am not in cahoots with Matthew Ramage. My opinion about what is on topic and off topic is no more important than yours. So when I opine that whether or not Hitler was a Catholic is off topic, you are perfectly free to believe it is on topic. We simply disagree. And part of my reason for being here is to disagree as much as possible!

          • Geena Safire

            The point was made that the Catholic Church has gotten over all its bad, old ways and thus is justified in taking the position that violence is against God's nature. I was replying that it is far too soon for the church to be claiming the high ground, since it.still supports these stories of mass rape and genocide as being God's will, which have spawned recent tragedies.

          • Geena Safire

            The OP claimed that, despite the Catholic church holding that the Bible is inerrant, including God's command to annihilate the Amalekites, violence is contrary to God's nature. He also intimated that since the Catholics are mostly nice now, there is no consequence to the church still holding that God was fully justified in ordering the Amalekite genocide (and others).

            My examples show that this is not the case, so if the church really wants to embrace non-violence, it has to re-understand Biblical genocide. Hitler's Holocaust, for example, was justified, in no small part, by doing God's will as shown in the Bible.

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

            Geena, the entire first part of your comment hinges on what you understand the Church's teaching on inerrancy to mean. As Dr. Ramage shows, the OT accounts do not contradict the Church's doctrine of inerrancy if the latter is properly understood.

            Please see his own comment below for more guidance:

            http://www.strangenotions.com/violence-is-contrary-to-gods-nature/#comment-1172146463

      • Paul Boillot

        In fairness to Dan, I should point out that I don't follow you down this road: " It is that this Catholic exegesis and teaching directly caused the Holocaust."

        I know perhaps a bit more than average about the subject, but by no means would I call myself an expert, so I take myself with a grain of salt as I write this.

        However, it seems to me that claiming to have pinned down a "direct" cause of the Holocaust is going to be problematic.

        • Geena Safire

          Strongly indirect is the least I'll accept. The church supported Hitler much longer than it should have because he was opposed to the Jews and opposed to atheistic Communism in the USSR.

          And in Rwanda, the genocide was explicitly based on the Catholic view toward Biblical genocide, per the nuns and priests on the radio inciting violence, as well as the direct result of decades of overt Catholic Church discrimination between the two groups.

          • Paul Boillot

            Haha, I feel like this is the scene in Star Wars Ep. IV where Obi Wan and Darth Vader face off: old allies clashing!

            So, first off, Rwanda: I know next nothing about and you're commenting on my caution re: a causal link between the RCC and the Final Solution. We can talk about Rwanda elsewhere or later on, but for now I'm going to focus on that causal link.

            As my primary sources of knowledge I'm going to use:

            1) My general knowledge of history acquired through attendance at the excellent pedagogical institutions know as American schools.
            2) Multiple viewings of the 1983 movie The Scarlet and the Black.
            3) Wikipedia on the RCC's relations with various States in the 20th Century
            I know, with those comprehensive and unassailable sources, I should be a NYT reporter.

            After that full disclosure, I'm going to take the following position: the role of the Roman Catholic Church during the rise of fascism in Europe was extremely complicated.

            I wholeheartedly agree that traditional Catholic characterization of "the Jew" as evil, scheming, conniving, corrupt, depraved and diseased were integral in the propaganda of the Third Reich. The almost mechanistic ratcheting levels-of-segregation leading to exportation to camps that the Nazis used was certainly greased by the cultural and religious xenophobia which had been endemic to the Catholic (and Russian Orthodox) west for centuries.

            Then again, seeing as how the RCC is really just a group of humans pretending to have superpowers and who all believe somewhat similar things, I'm not going to dock them for not being able to see the future that no one else was able to see either.

            The facts are that many of the official interactions of Rome with Hitler's Germany were centered around keeping the Churches open; appeasement rather than confrontation. When things began to decline severely, many Jews were saved by an underground railroad system that went through the Vatican.

            Hitler and Mussolini both hated the RCC personally and strove against it culturally and politically, but they had to find ways of interacting with it so as not to alienate their large Catholic populations.

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

            ^^^ That article makes for interesting and contradictory reading.

            If you imagine a woman in a relationship with a dangerously abusive and alcoholic man, with whom she's had many children...let's pretend it's in the South in the 40's...not a lot of popular understanding of psychology or women's shelters around....what are her options?

            That's how I partially imagine the Church's response during WWII. Appeasing, yes, but out of fear not just for herself but the children.

            Of course appeasement doesn't work in DV, and it didn't work in WWII. Is the RCC to blame for a wide variety of sins? Did ancient anti-Semitic traditions play into a host of nationalistic propaganda machines which portrayed jews as national illnesses? Did it ally itself with a host of awful regimes? Was it cowardly in it's outward and official stance vis-a-vis the 3R? Did fascist dictators all over Europe use conservative xenophobic Catholicism as a tool to culturally knit their nationalisms? Were Church leaders frantically trying to reach political accords that would safeguard the RCC's religious practices in regime-controlled areas?

            I think the honest answer to those questions is "yes".

            Did elements of the Church also work to covertly save lives? Did members of the Church show heroic fortitude in shepherding their flocks even inside the death camps? Was the RCC seen as a socio-political threat by Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin?

            I think we have to admit that too.

  • Argon

    One small thing: Would there be any call for becoming vegetarian?

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      There are several prominent Christian monsatic orders that are vegetarian, such as the Carthusians and the Cistercians. It's certainly a part of the non-violence principle, though I believe it's considered a "higher" calling, not necessary, but holy if done for that reason.

  • Joseph

    When Christ violently attacked the money-lenders in the temple, was He doing something contrary to His nature?

    John Chapter 2: 13 And now the paschal feast which the Jews keep was drawing near, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And in the temple there he found the merchants selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting at their trade. 15 So he made a kind of whip out of cords, and drove them all, with their sheep and oxen, out of the temple, spilling the bankers’ coins and overthrowing their tables; 16 and he said to the pigeon-sellers, Take these away, do not turn my Father’s house into a place of barter.

  • Geena Safire

    and the Catholic tradition whereby we now distinguish, for example, between God’s active will and his permissive will (whereby he allows evil to be done by humans).

    "...that I have sinned ... in thought, word, and deed, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do..."

    Sins of omission are no less evil than sins of commission. God is guilty both of the evil he does and the evil he allows to be done by his creation.

    You can write a 300 page book or a 3,000 page book, but no fancy verbiage nor intricate exegesis changes that fact and gets God off the hook. He is not only goodness if he created evil and allowed and allows it to continue such that his people suffer.

    • Vasco Gama

      Geena,

      Once good is created, evil, as such, as to be created also (or allowed, as the absence of good).

      • Paul Boillot

        Then god is not all powerful, the god you worship is just one side of the dual good/evil nature of ultimate reality.

        Kinda feels like what I understand the hindu take on this mess to be.

        The "good" god is just one side of yin-yang, a coin flip, a peak to a valley.

        • Vasco Gama

          This is not a question of God being all powerfull or not, but a question of rationality or lack of it.

          • Paul Boillot

            Your God is "good" yes?
            You claimed that "good" cannot be extant without concomitant existence of "evil," yes?
            So God cannot eradicate evil, yes?

            So God is not all-powerful, he's been around exactly as long as his shadow self.

          • Vasco Gama

            God is all powerful and can eradicate evil (God sustains existence), yes?

            But if you like pseudo dilemmas to annoy theists I can teach you a very simple one that atheist kids use in order to tease theist kids,

            “your god is not all powerful! If he really is then he could create a stone so heavy that he could not lift, but he can’t, can he?”

            However I guess you can imagine and engage on trickier and smarter perplexities.

          • Paul Boillot

            Well, now you're just contradicting yourself:
            "Once good is created, evil, as such, [h]as to be created also"
            vs. "God is all powerful and can eradicate evil"

            How do you mean "pseudo" dilemma?

            As it happens, I think that the logical regression problem that those school children are hitting on is a valid one.

          • Vasco Gama

            How do you mean "pseudo" dilemma?

            irrational (to the point where "all powerful" is devoided of meaning).

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

    Within the constraints of a short blog post, I have no pretense of offering an exhaustive defense of the many [apparently pro-violence] passages in the Bible ... In fact, I have recently authored a 300-page book entitled Dark Passages of the Bible that itself only scratches the surface of this issue.

    So are you saying it takes more than 300 pages to adequately reconcile the violence the Bible attributes to God with your beliefs about God? Isn't that length itself exceedingly strong evidence of incompatibility? For us humans, always in danger of rationalizing, it's clearly possible to concoct a sufficiently complicated scenario in 300+ pages to defend literally anything no matter how incompatible.

    Compare to the atheist alternative, which can be expressed in a short sentence that can be understood by any child and that fits all the facts: People did bad things and said a make-believe god told them to.

    the Old Testament does not give us a video-camera account or transcript of what God said and did in times of old. It is God’s word; it is inspired;

    Why is there even anything to defend? If there were an omnipotent good god who wasn't really responsible for the atrocities of the Bible, it would appear very perverse for him to choose to inspire written accounts that attribute those atrocities to him. Why not inspire the authors sufficiently so as to restrain them from expressing things in (apparently) the worst possible way?

  • Andre Boillot

    Benedict’s 2010 exhortation Verbum Domini is particularly significant because it has a section entitled “Dark Passages of the Bible” in which he states that instances of violence and immorality in the Bible can be adequately addressed only if Catholics take seriously the fact that “God’s plan is manifested progressively and it is accomplished slowly, in successive stages and despite human resistance.”

    I would find this line of argument much more convincing were these Dark Passages limited to instances where humans were committing violence. If that was the case, I'd even grant that you could try to make arguments, even in the instances where they appear to be following the direct orders of God, that they were misunderstanding God's will. All of this would be much easier to entertain were it not for the many depictions of God actively committing violence on man and nature. The only response to that - and the author is correct in admitting it's quite unsatisfying - is that you can't complain about it because sin and God does what he wants. None of which seems to come close to supporting the claim that violence is contrary to God's nature.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Paul,

      The Catholic understanding of the Bible is that each book has two authors, the human author and the Holy Spirit. The human author is a real author, not a mere taker of dictation (like Muhammad claimed to be).

      For the authors, these events were far in the past, and in the authors' "present" the Jews did not have the power or even the opportunity to wipe out anybody. And as the Pontifical Biblical Commission asserted, the events depicted were probably legendary, that is, fictional.

      Why would the authors see both goodness and evil coming from God such that God would send physical evil and death? Why might they "resist" the idea that violence is contrary to God's nature?

      It think it comes from the human "default" to see everything as coming from the hand of God, even when it does not. Some atheists rightly resist the idea that God could do evil and so reject the entire notion of God in order to defend goodness and innocence.

      • David Nickol

        There is a problem, it seems to me, with this whole theory, and it is that we think of Hebrew scripture as having been written for us in the 21st century. Therefore, we can extract the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit and discount the "primitive" understanding of the human author. But why should we assume a passage like this was writtenn for posterity?

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

        If the Holy Spirit is the true author of this passage, isn't it the case (or quite possibly the case) that this dates to a time when the Israelites would have taken it quite literally and obeyed it?

        It is claimed that we are supposed to "see through" what the human author wrote and comprehend the "true" meaning intended by the Holy Spirit. But that assumes such things were written for us, thousands of years later. But really, they were written for the people in the Old Testament period and have been preserved. So you can let the Holy Spirit off the hook for modern readers who will say we must understand this as other than the endorsement of God of genocide. But how do you get the Holy Spirit off the hook for allegedly inspiring something that people in Old Testament times would surely have taken to mean exactly what it said—God wants you to commit genocide.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          If the Sacred Scriptures really are inspired by God, then it is *not* true that they were written only for the people at the time. They were written for all times, including a thousand years from now.

          The Catholic Church is upfront in seeing the Old Testament as containing matters "imperfect and provisional," which to me means there's things wrong in them.

          122 Indeed, “the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men.”93 “Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional,”94 the books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God’s saving love: these writings “are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way.”95 (702, 763, 708, 2568)

          So as for getting the Holy Spirit "off the hook for allegedly inspiring something that people in Old Testament times
          would surely have taken to mean exactly what it said—God wants you to
          commit genocide," I don't have a definitive answer.

          A question is, "Why would the Holy Spirit inspire someone living in say 450 BC to write a book that takes place hundreds of years in the past that ordered those things?"

          My understanding of history is that the Jews from the time of the return from exile would never again have the chance to have the upper hand over anyone, except briefly. So even if some thought God was for genocide, is it possible that the Holy Spirit still wanted people to read those texts and for them to ferment in the Jewish mind until they could begin to question them?

          • David Nickol

            If the Sacred Scriptures really are inspired by God, then it is *not* true that they were written only for the people at the time.

            I did not mean to imply scripture was written only for its time. However, it was written for its time.

            I am no expert on the history of the interpretation of scripture, but I think it is probably only quite recently that the views espoused by Matthew Ramage have evolved. I have been in many discussions of these kinds of issues in similar forums, and a great many people are more than willing to argue that God did indeed command the Israelites to commit genocide and that if God commands something, then it is right and good. This would not be a difficult discussion if so many Christians didn't believe that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Catholics and Christians and atheists and agnostics can have deficient views on all kinds of issues.

      • Andre Boillot

        Kevin,

        In not requiring you to use the honorific "Dr." when addressing me, I've already shown great leniency. The least you could do is to get my given-name correct. Though, given your response, perhaps you meant to address somebody else.

        "And as the Pontifical Biblical Commission asserted, the events depicted were probably legendary, that is, fictional."

        I didn't see this line of argument put forth in the OP (perhaps I missed it?). OTOH, I did see the following, which has been echoed by other Catholics in this thread:

        Thomas Aquinas, for example, seeks to justify violent divine actions in the Old Testament on the basis of the fact that all people are sinners and in fact deserve the punishment of death on account of original sin. Hence Aquinas states, “[B]y the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever.” For Augustine as for Aquinas, the problem of thinking God is being cruel when killing people is that we just don’t realize the gravity and pervasiveness of sin and thus the punishment it deserves.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Fixed your name, Andre. Who the heck is Paul?

  • Steven Carr

    2 Samuel 6-7 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act;therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.

    Most out of character for this imaginary god.....

    Still, apparently this hypothetical god was learning, and he got better, so that by the time of Jesus he managed to learn to count to 10 before killing people.

    Acts 5
    5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

    3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

    5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

    7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

    “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

    9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

    10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.

    Oh, well, learning how to be good is a long and tortuous process. You can't expect the Christian god to give up killing without some relapses.

  • Steven Carr

    Surely Christians should not ignore the Old Testament?

    In 'Mit Brennender Sorge', read out in German churches during the Nazi era, we read that 'But side by side with innumerable touches of greatness and nobleness, they also record the story of the chosen people, bearers of the Revelation and the Promise, repeatedly straying from God and turning to the world.'

    The Old Testament records how the Jews strayed from God. No wonder Christians should read it.

    I wonder what Jews in 1930's Germany thought about this letter, urging Christians to study the Old Testament to see how they repeatedly strayed from God.

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

    Dr. Ramage hits the nail on the head in mentioning the distinction between God's "active" and "permissive" wills. An OT writer claiming that "God willed" something violent or seemingly unjust is not stating something "wrongly" by saying so, as long as it can be understood in the context of God "permitting" something to occur, even though the author may well have understood it more in the sense of God "actively" willing it.
    Similarly, something like divorce or polygamy was "permitted" in the OT despite God not actively willing it.

    • Steven Carr

      Yes, that explains 2 Samuel 12

      11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

      God permitted people to be killed, but he actively willed public orgies to take place in broad daylight.

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

        Hi, Steven--my translation even has God saying "I will bring *evil* upon you out of your own house." Evil? How could God bring "evil", right?
        But the other thing going on here is that this is actually Nathan the prophet speaking for God of the consequences of *David's* sinfulness.
        These are the things that God will indeed permit to befall David's household as consequences of David's sin. But, then David repents.
        So, this isn't God actively willing "public orgies" etc.....

        • Steven Carr

          Would you like to try not treating atheists as idiots who can't read?

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

            What do you mean? I didn't treat you as an idiot, and sorry if it came across that way. Rather, I'm saying that what God said is a description of the consequences of David's sin. It's obviously not God giving approval to public daylight orgies...

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Or, indeed, private night-time ones.

        • Andre Boillot

          The Flood? The Plagues of Egypt? Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Is God not actively willing these things? If it's not God doing these things, what is merely being "permitted" to do this violence to mankind?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Water, germs, and fire and brimstone, respectively.

          • Andre Boillot

            -_-

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Seriously? Downvote? People need to take themselves a little less seriously around here...

            Looking at you, Andre.

          • Andre Boillot

            This is my favorite meme. When Brandon asks me why I keep coming back, this is why.

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

            Each thing you mention was presented by the author as a consequence of sin. God of course *knows* everything that can/will happen as a consequence of sin (being outside of time). God is therefore able to both "predict" and "permit" such consequences without having any desire for them to occur. Indeed, in each case, the consequences would have been avoided had the people involved repented and turned to Him.

          • Andre Boillot

            Jim, this is quite unsatisfying. The sea rising is a natural consequence of sin?

            "the consequences would have been avoided had the people involved repented and turned to Him."

            Egyptian 1st borns...had they just opened their hearts eh? Remind me: what happened to Pharaoh himself?

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

            Andre--you're right in that my line of thought couldn't satisfactorily explain every apparently "violent" thing associated with God in the OT. Point conceded. I think it does happen that way in some scenarios, but the more I consider the question, the more it seems reasonable to not entirely avoid the legitimacy of Divine Justice being meted toward those who use their *own* wills to actively thwart God's will, particularly after being warned by God.
            It's the kind of thing that parents do with their kids, in fact (though on an admittedly smaller scale). "If you do X, Y is going to happen to you." In the legitimate exercise of authority, this is considered justifiable. Right?

          • Sqrat

            If you masturbate, you'll go blind.

          • Andre Boillot

            Jim,

            "every apparently "violent" thing associated with God in the OT. Point conceded."

            None could accuse you of conceding too much.

            "the more it seems reasonable to not entirely avoid the legitimacy of Divine Justice"

            By all means, embrace it! Just, you know, change the title of the article then.

            "It's the kind of thing that parents do with their kids"

            Yes, at a certain point, little Jimmy Jr. does need to die, and you're much better off just starting with a fresh set of kids.

            "In the legitimate exercise of authority, this is considered justifiable. Right?"

            God does what he wants. Whatever he does is good. No doubt about it.

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

            I just mentioned below (before seeing this comment) that we're morphing into the "problem of evil" on a grander scale, which does ultimately get down to, for example, the exchange between Job and God in the Book of Job--basically "I'm God, you're not" and all that this can mean.
            I think the point of this post is to help us understand that there is indeed room for us to consider the smaller question of how the human authors might be revealing their *own* incomplete understanding of who God is, particularly in the earlier accounts found in the OT.

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

            I'd also add that I can see how quickly this question can morph into the bigger "problem of evil" question. The "smaller" question at hand in this post seems to be addressing specific passages in which biblical authors appear to assert that God Himself condones something that appears to us to be morally wrong. So forgive me if I've redirected any conversation to the "bigger" questions...

          • Andre Boillot

            I mean, the title of the article is: "Violence is incompatible with the nature of God", so I don't see why you would limit the discussion to just the passages where there's some wiggle room to suggest that the author is mistaking God's allowing for condoning. There are many examples of God either explicitly ordering violence, or committing it himself. As you conceded above, we may just have to allow for such a thing as Divine Justice, and acknowledge the possibility that it might not be true that violence is contrary to God's nature.

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

            Andre, you have a good point, I think, depending on how one understands the term "violence." I'd suggest that "violence" takes both a form that is morally permissible and a form that is morally impermissible. Violence used in self-defense, for example, is morally permissible, while violent murder is not.
            So we're kind of trying to assess when and where violence associated with God in Scripture is morally permissible, or not.
            And it's not just in the OT--how should we understand, for example, Ananias and Sapphira each being struck dead after "lying to the Holy Spirit" in Acts 5?

          • Andre Boillot

            "So we're kind of trying to assess when and where violence associated with God in Scripture is morally permissible, or not."

            Why bother with the charade of trying to parse out which forms of violence are permissible when it's God we're talking about. I think we can cut to the chase: If God, then permissible. What remains is deciding how to rationalize the victim blaming. So, the Flood: people turned away from God, he warns them, they continue, they deserved it. All of them? Were none good? Not enough. Luckily, with Humanity v2.0, God decided that He'd be more patient. Not so much less violent (at least at first), but more patient.

          • Ben Posin

            In Singapore people are caned as a legitimate exercise of authority. Still strikes me as violent. As alluded to by Andre, when *GOD* hardened Pharoahs heart, giving himself the opportunity to visit horrific "punishments" on the Egyptians, that strikes me as, well, the kind of psychopathic propensity towards violence one normally only encounters in horror movies (sounds a bit like the Saw series, actually).

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Now, to get into hermeneutics, how could the author know that God hardened Pharoah's heart? It seems to me that that's more the author positing the only possible reason Pharoah didn't let them go.

          • Steven Carr

            '... how could the author know that God hardened Pharoah's heart?'

            Because your god inspired the Bible?

            Are you claiming Biblical authors would make things up?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Your condescension is wearing thin, Steven.

          • Steven Carr

            So did Biblical authors just make up things about their god, such as his ability to harden hearts?

            Romans 9

            18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

            Was Paul just boasting when he claimed his god hardens the hearts of people he wants to have hard hearts?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            And how would Paul have known if God hardened Pharoah's heart?

          • Sqrat

            Didn't Paul assert his authority by claiming to be getting his information directly from Jesus?

          • Sqrat

            How could an author know that God got a virgin pregnant?

          • Ben Posin

            That is a perfectly reasonable statement, if we approach the old testament as an attempt at a historic recounting of the events of the alleged Exodus. A couple of things strike me, though.

            1. can we approach the new testament in this way? Who knows what motivations or even statements, were put into Jesus' mouth by the gospel writers! I wonder what position they were in to know that Jesus was conceived by a virgin, for instance...

            2. The fact that you feel inclined to make this argument makes me think you recognize that the whole "hardened" heart thing is a horrifying story. To the extent that the bible is an "inspired" text, or the word of God, or inerrant, why would this story be permitted to be a part of it if it's untrue speculation? The claims about God being loving and good are better served by letting go of this baggage, but given the church narrative of Jesus as the fulfillment of the old testament I guess that's not an option.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Hardening the heart runs counter both to the idea that God is Love, and the idea that God permits us free will, and truly free will is the only way we can be judged.

            The New Testament is approached differently from the Old for a number of reasons. 1) it was contemporary to the founding of Christianity, and a relatively short time ago in the history of the written word, and 2) there was a New Covenant, brought about and bringing about a more full understanding of God.

          • Steven Carr

            Oh I get it.

            The Old Testament contradicts the New Testament.

            Why does Paul claim in Romans 9 that his god hardens hearts?

            Is it because he has a better understanding of his god than you do?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            "He hardens whom he wants to harden" does not say that he hardened anyone's hearts.

          • Steven Carr

            I always love the way Christians deny the Bible.

            I wonder if they think atheists can't read.

            I'd better quote some more from Romans 9.

            What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?

            So people were prepared for destruction, because Paul's god made them that way, like a potter making things out of clay.

            Why do you want to deny what the Bible says?

            Do you think it improves the image of Christianity if people see you wriggling and squirming , trying to make your Holy Book say what it does not say and mean what it does not mean?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Yep. Wriggling and squirming like a... thing that wriggles. And squirms.

            And what do you think "bore with great patience" means? Romans 9 is about some people who were "made" for salvation (the Israelites) being destroyed because of a stumbling block to their faith, while some people who were made "for common use" (Gentiles) were saved nonetheless, through righteousness.

            Now, tell me again, who is it who cannot read?

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

            Steven, please cut the unnecessary sarcasm, which is clearly only meant to mock Catholicism. Just about every post you've made is tinged with it. If it continues, we'll delete your posts. Thanks!

          • Ben Posin

            Yes, hardening the heart of pharoah does run counter to the idea that God is love, and you've already stated that this means you think the author of this portion of the old testament was mistaken, just guessing. So do you agree that at least this part of the old testament is not inspired by God, given that you think it materially misleads readers about God's nature?

          • Andre Boillot

            Not to belabor the point too much, but this scene always comes to mind when discussing Divine Justice.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx7irFN2gdI

          • http://wakingupnow.com/ Rob Tisinai

            Thank you SO MUCH for introducing me to this.Can't wait to see the whole thing!

          • Geena Safire

            Jim, I get that you're interested in the justice angle. But that's not relevant here in this thread when we're talking total genocide of an entire people, including babies and their livestock.

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

            Hi, Geena--well, yes, again this goes directly to the "problem of evil" *and* to the issue of "sources" for morality.
            It still makes me think of the Book of Job, of course.
            But I take it that you are among SN's atheist commenters? Which would mean that you are raising an objection to the concept of God (from the Christian perspective) based upon the biblical evidence of God behaving "immorally"?
            Part of the Christian response to this is, of course, that all creation belongs to God. So, even if we were to agree that there is no other explanation for a biblical passage describing "genocide" except that God wanted it so, it still *does* boil down to how we understand what is "just". And it's true that God, as the Author of human life (again the Christian view), can freely and justly will to sustain that life or to end that life.
            Just like I could, as author of this comment, freely and justly determine whether to post it or delete it.
            Depending on circumstances, such a choice may not appear "fair"; and the story certainly doesn't end there. But it is reasonable to propose that God alone has such a "right" to give life or to take it, as Author of it.

          • Geena Safire

            Just like I could, as author of this comment, freely and justly determine whether to post it or delete it.

            But you don't claim, I assume, that you have the right to 'delete' your adult children, or to lock them in your basement and torture them forever just because they don't love you.

            If God made us free, then, no, he doesn't have any right to take away our lives or impose nor allow unnecessary suffering.

            OTOH, if, as in Job, he thinks he can do whatever he wants to any of us for reasons beyond our understanding, then we are not free. He can't have it both ways.

            And regarding what would be 'just' or 'reasonable,' this world isn't it.

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

            "If God made us free, then, no, he doesn't have any right to take away our lives or impose nor allow unnecessary suffering."

            What reason do you have for believing this?

          • Geena Safire

            Slavery is immoral.

          • Steven Carr

            RUSSELL

            And it's true that God, as the Author of human life (again the Christian view), can freely and justly will to sustain that life or to end that life.

            CARR
            I take it your imaginary god is the Author of truth.

            So he can freely and justly not tell the truth.

            How come your god can kill people but not lie?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We're talking total genocide of an entire people, including babies and their livestock.

            We're quite possibly talking about a fictional genocide.

            As quoted above, "At the time when Deuteronomy was written — as well as the Book of Joshua — the ban was a theoretical postulate, since non-Israelite populations no longer existed in Judah. The ban then could be the result of a projection into the past of later preoccupations. Indeed, Deuteronomy is anxious to reinforce the religious identity of a people exposed to the danger of foreign cults and mixed marriages.

            "Therefore, to appreciate the ban, three factors must be taken into account in interpretation; theological, moral, and one mainly sociological: the recognition of the land as the inalienable domain of the lord; the necessity of guarding the people from all temptation which would compromise their fidelity to God; finally, the all too human temptation of mingling with religion the worst forms of resorting to violence." (THE PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL COMMISSION, THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR SACRED SCRIPTURES IN THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE)

          • Steven Carr

            If you gather sticks on the Sabbath, your god is going to have you killed.

            Provided you do it before Jesus was born.

            After Jesus was born, you can gather as many sticks on the Sabbath as you like.

            Is that legitimate exercise of authority?

            Why does your imaginary god have the right to punish people for stealing a pencil from work?

          • David Nickol

            The Flood? The Plagues of Egypt? Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah? Is God not actively willing these things?

            Do you believe they actually happened?

          • Andre Boillot

            As the acts of God's vengeance depicted in the OT? No I don't. However, the Church seems to, so I'm not sure what my personal belief has to do with this.

          • David Nickol

            However, the Church seems to, so I'm not sure what my personal belief has to do with this.

            If seems to me that atheists should not criticize God, in whom they do not believe, but criticize the Church and religious people who defend the God of the Old Testament as an evil-doer. I realize that's what many atheists who criticize God are attempting to do, but they are doing it in a "veiled" way, and it sometimes takes near supernatural insight to life the veil and see that what is being said is not really "Your God is a monster!" but rather "You have a set of very inconsistent beliefs, and if your teachings about the truth (and inerrancy) of the Bible are correct, and your teachings about morality are correct, then your own moral teachings are incompatible with the way God is depicted in the Bible."

          • Andre Boillot

            "If seems to me that atheists should not criticize God, in whom they do not believe, but criticize the Church and religious people who defend the God of the Old Testament as an evil-doer."

            I'd quote some dude as saying something like: 'what's faster; saying your sins are forgiven or saying....', but irony, right?

            It's quicker to just say 'God', I'd hope I've been here long enough that when I say 'God', it's implied I'm critiquing the 'Christian/Catholic notion of god'.

          • David Nickol

            It's quicker to just say 'God', I'd hope I've been here long enough that when I say 'God', it's implied I'm critiquing the 'Christian/Catholic notion of god'.

            I understand that, and that's fine as far as it goes. But we've been over that many, many times, and it doesn't (in my opinion) get to the source of the problem, which I believe is a huge edifice of Catholic teaching with many internal contradictions. The contradictions are dealt with by dividing things into many different "systems," so that the contradictions are kind of like moving targets. It is kind of like what is often said about fundamentalists debating evolutionists. If the evolutionist is a geologist, the fundamentalist will concentrate on biology. If the evolutionist is a biologist, the the fundamentalist will concentrate on geology.

            I personally think it has been established that if God really did do the things he is depicted as doing in the Old Testament, then he is not admirable and not even God. The God of philosophy and Catholicism cannot regret something he has done, and yet God not merely regrets creating humankind and wipes out the whole race except for Noah and his family. He also seems to regret having drowned the world, or at least makes a resolution not to do it again.

          • Andre Boillot

            I mean, I guess I don't know what you want from me. I share many of the same concerns as you. I'm just lazy, so I say 'God'.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Stop being lazy. Give me a tough one.

          • Andre Boillot

            If I had a nickel...

          • Paul Boillot

            Sometimes you've got to put boots-on-the-ground and take a city block by block.

            We're not going to win this with an air-only campaign.

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

            "Sometimes you've got to put boots-on-the-ground and take a city block by block.

            We're not going to win this with an air-only campaign."

            Paul, your war rhetoric is unhelpful and offensive to people who fight in actual wars, or who have loved ones who do. This is a civil dialogue. The goal is to attain truth, not vanquish your dialogue partners.

          • Andre Boillot

            In a thread where theists are suggesting that the widespread slaughter of humanity is justified by the mere fact that it is God that is doing the killing...I wonder how it is that this turn of phrase is what has drawn your criticism.

            Also, as a member of the group that you claim would find offense, I have to say: please spare me the insult of thinking that I'm that easily offended, as well as the arrogance of claiming to speak for me.

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

            Andre, thanks for the comment. I'm honestly shocked you're not offended by someone equating an online dialogue about interpreting the Old Testament with the horrors and gravity of actual war. If you're actually a veteran--or know any veterans--I find it difficult to believe you're OK with flippantly using war rhetoric.

            But many others are not. For that reason, this sort of language has no place here. It's completely antagonistic to the purposes of this site, which is to find truth, not destroy an enemy. If you disagree, feel free to leave or refrain from commenting.

          • Ignorant Amos

            As a veteran of 14 years service and having a firm grasp of squaddie's and their humour, I find the whole idea that a service person would be so thin skinned as to be offended by said remark absolutely ludicrous.

          • Paul Boillot

            Okay, so that went pear-shaped.

            First of all, let me address your second admonition: "This is a civil dialogue. The goal is to attain truth, not vanquish your dialogue partners."

            I can see that this is a touchy subject, so I won't emphasize this aspect, but I would offer that even civil truth seeking dialogue in the religion/atheism arena is going to be...passionate?

            I am here to discuss and search for truth *with* Catholics from an atheist point of view. I imagine that most of the Catholics are here to search for truth *with* me but from a Catholic point of view: that is to say, it is not merely disinterested geology or chemistry we're doing here, there is a tension of world views.

            I, personally, find it more engaging and polite when an interlocutor tells me up-front about any potential ulterior motives. I don't much like sales people; they come off as smarmy to me. One of the ways I approach being civil about my strongly-held world-view, and my desire for it not to be as misunderstood as it usually is in religious circles, is to be up-front about this tension in the dialogue.

            I have no goal of "vanquishing" anyone, merely honest and unflinching dialogue about the difficult things.

            --

            That being said, I want to deal with the first part of your complaint: "Paul, your war rhetoric is unhelpful and offensive to people who fight in actual wars, or who have loved ones who do." There are two things I want to address:

            1) The context of the quote.
            David Nickol, DN, had raised a concern several times. (I'm not trying to pick on DN in particular, I'm pretty sure he's an honest and up-front dude in his own right. I'm just recounting what happened.)


            Do you believe they actually happened?

            - WRT instances of the OT God directly killing humans.

            If seems to me that atheists should not criticize God, in whom they do not believe, but criticize the Church and religious people who defend the God of the Old Testament as an evil-doer...what is being said is not really "Your God is a monster!" but rather "You have a set of very inconsistent beliefs, and if your teachings about the truth (and inerrancy) of the Bible are correct, and your teachings about morality are correct, then your own moral teachings are incompatible with the way God is depicted in the Bible."



            Do you believe in "indelible spiritual marks"? If not you can't use them to beat Catholics over the head with.

            The claim that once baptized Catholic, a person forever remains a Catholic is basically a supernatural claim and a technicality that should be of no interest to atheists, who don't believe baptism has any supernatural effects.

            There is no logical connection between "who don't believe" and "should be of no interest." It's odd to me to be forced to enumerate on this site, but here's a short list of potential factors: there's the concern for fellow human beings who seem to be attempting to find truth, there's the history of religion's influence in human affairs, there's the non-passive nature of your religion currently, there's the effects of the RCC on my life personally, and there's the cognitive disconnect between what I take to be reality and what the RCC teaches...and conflicting stories about reality draw me in to investigate.

            As it happens, I don't believe anything happened to me, or my fictional soul, when a man in a robe poured water on my head. That's what it means to be an atheist; but DN's repeated voicing of concern on this topic started a sub-thread between him, Andre and myself.

            It's an interesting topic: "do atheists have any business engaging with and debating the minutia of religious dogma, doctrine, and tradition if they think it's all bunk?" Does the fact that I don't really believe that God talked to Abraham and commanded him to murder his son mean that I can't stipulate to it anyway, and argue my point from within your religious context?.

            2)The meaning of the quote.
            So we're having a discussion about if an atheist can/should care about the internal structure and teaching of a particular religion. In my effort to explain my point of view to DN, I chose...poorly.

            I've already stated that I have no problem with strong, and honest disagreement. I was trying to explain to DN that there is no dichotomy between not believing what the RCC teaches and being willing to meet the RCC on it's own terms and argue there. It seemed to me, at the time, that DN's approach was aloof, and mildly snobbish: "if you play in the mud, you'll get dirty" or "don't let them drag you down and beat you at their own game, they have more experience" sort of an attitude. I don't agree with him, my respect for the beliefs and intelligence of religious people means I won't ignore them, and in an effort to show the difference between DN's approach to interacting with Catholic teaching and mine, I chose an analogy.

            Now.

            I often say thing here tongue-in-cheek. I know it has the potential for misinterpretation, but that's part of the mischievous fun of an edgy comment, isn't it? I picked an analogy which got my meaning of "meet them on their own terms" across, I believe, but apparently the choice of metaphor was hurtful and offensive.

            To Brandon, and anyone else who was offended by my choice of analogy: I apologize.

            I had no intention of 'escalating' the rhetoric of these debates into aggressive or hateful conflict. More importantly, to my mind, I had no intention of denigrating or diminishing the sacrifice you, and all our other armed forces, have rendered by being flippant, and I am sincerely sorry if you feel I did.

            To all of you: thank you for your service.

          • Paul Boillot

            Okay, so that went pear-shaped.

            First of all, let me address your second admonition: "This is a civil dialogue. The goal is to attain truth, not vanquish your dialogue partners."

            I can see that this is a touchy subject, so I won't emphasize this aspect, but I would offer that even civil truth seeking dialogue in the religion/atheism arena is going to be...passionate?

            I am here to discuss and search for truth *with* Catholics from an atheist point of view. I imagine that most of the Catholics are here to search for truth *with* me but from a Catholic point of view: that is to say, it is not merely disinterested geology or chemistry we're doing here, there is a tension of world views.

            I, personally, find it more engaging and polite when an interlocutor tells me up-front about any potential ulterior motives. I don't much like sales people; they come off as smarmy to me. One of the ways I approach being civil about my strongly-held world-view, and my desire for it not to be as misunderstood as it usually is in religious circles, is to be up-front about this tension in the dialogue.

            I have no goal of "vanquishing" anyone, merely honest and unflinching dialogue about the difficult things.

            --

            That being said, I want to deal with the first part of your complaint: "Paul, your war rhetoric is unhelpful and offensive to people who fight in actual wars, or who have loved ones who do." There are two things I want to address:

            1) The context of the quote.
            David Nickol, DN, had raised a concern several times. (I'm not trying to pick on DN in particular, I'm pretty sure he's an honest and up-front dude in his own right. I'm just recounting what happened.)


            Do you believe they actually happened?

            - WRT instances of the OT God directly killing humans.

            If seems to me that atheists should not criticize God, in whom they do not believe, but criticize the Church and religious people who defend the God of the Old Testament as an evil-doer...what is being said is not really "Your God is a monster!" but rather "You have a set of very inconsistent beliefs, and if your teachings about the truth (and inerrancy) of the Bible are correct, and your teachings about morality are correct, then your own moral teachings are incompatible with the way God is depicted in the Bible."



            Do you believe in "indelible spiritual marks"? If not you can't use them to beat Catholics over the head with.

            The claim that once baptized Catholic, a person forever remains a Catholic is basically a supernatural claim and a technicality that should be of no interest to atheists, who don't believe baptism has any supernatural effects.

            There is no logical connection between "who don't believe" and "should be of no interest." It's odd to me to be forced to enumerate on this site, but here's a short list of potential factors: there's the concern for fellow human beings who seem to be attempting to find truth, there's the history of religion's influence in human affairs, there's the non-passive nature of your religion currently, there's the effects of the RCC on my life personally, and there's the cognitive disconnect between what I take to be reality and what the RCC teaches...and conflicting stories about reality draw me in to investigate.

            As it happens, I don't believe anything happened to me, or my fictional soul, when a man in a robe poured water on my head. That's what it means to be an atheist; but DN's repeated voicing of concern on this topic started a sub-thread between him, Andre and myself.

            It's an interesting topic: "do atheists have any business engaging with and debating the minutia of religious dogma, doctrine, and tradition if they think it's all bunk?" Does the fact that I don't really believe that God talked to Abraham and commanded him to murder his son mean that I can't stipulate to it anyway, and argue my point from within your religious context?.

            2)The meaning of the quote.
            So we're having a discussion about if an atheist can/should care about the internal structure and teaching of a particular religion. In my effort to explain my point of view to DN, I chose...poorly.

            I've already stated that I have no problem with strong, and honest disagreement. I was trying to explain to DN that there is no dichotomy between not believing what the RCC teaches and being willing to meet the RCC on it's own terms and argue there. It seemed to me, at the time, that DN's approach was aloof, and mildly snobbish: "if you play in the mud, you'll get dirty" or "don't let them drag you down and beat you at their own game, they have more experience" sort of an attitude. I don't agree with him, my respect for the beliefs and intelligence of religious people means I won't ignore them, and in an effort to show the difference between DN's approach to interacting with Catholic teaching and mine, I chose an analogy.

            Now.

            I often say thing here tongue-in-cheek. I know it has the potential for misinterpretation, but that's part of the mischievous fun of an edgy comment, isn't it? I picked an analogy which got my meaning of "meet them on their own terms" across, I believe, but apparently the choice of metaphor was hurtful and offensive.

            To Brandon, and anyone else who was offended by my choice of analogy: I apologize.

            I had no intention of 'escalating' the rhetoric of these debates into aggressive or hateful conflict. More importantly, to my mind, I had no intention of denigrating or diminishing the sacrifice you, and all our other armed forces, have rendered by being flippant, and I am sincerely sorry if you feel I did.

            To all of you: thank you for your service.

  • Danny Getchell

    There should be a Catholic bible in which the verses are color coded. For example:

    Black (just like my copy of the KJV) means "This really happened, exactly as it says" (i.e. the resurrection of Christ)

    Blue means "This happened in some real sense, but is retold here in a figurative way" (i.e. Adam and Eve)

    Green means "This is a hypothetical showing how God relates to man. Our faith would not be undermined if it were shown to be a fiction" (i.e. the Tower of Babel)

    Red means "No way. The author got God all wrong" (i.e. the slaying of the Amalekites)

    Would be a useful study aid for the discussions here on SN.

    (I normally try very hard not to copy and paste a previous post. But since this article is in many ways a rehash of previous articles, I feel a lot less guilty)

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      I was going to say, this seems familiar.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I wish I had that Bible too. And I don't. But one thing I am pretty sure of: nothing would be coded black, according to that schema. Nothing ever happened "exactly as it says", least of all the Resurrection. I believe that something profoundly real, something realer than real, actually happened. But if anything, a believer should assume that the normal categories of human language were very poor tools to describe the reality.

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

      As a Catholic, I find it confusing and ironic that we're criticized for being too rigid and intolerant in pronouncing black-and-white judgments on theological and moral issues, but then we receive proposals like this. It reminds me of G.K. Chesterton's quote about Jesus:

      "Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation… would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall… Perhaps (in short) this extraordinary thing is really the ordinary thing; at least the normal thing, the center. Perhaps, after all, it is Christianity that is sane and all its critics that are mad – in various ways.”

      One more note: the problem inherent in your proposal, Danny, is that it's fundamentally Protestant. It assumes that Catholics read the Bible in isolation, as though we held to sola-Scriptura. But we don't. Jesus, in his wisdom, established a Church which gives us all the tools we need to properly understand the meaning of any particular Scripture passage. This is the basic point of Mark Shea's series.

      • Danny Getchell

        It assumes that Catholics read the Bible in isolation, as though we held to sola-Scriptura. But we don't

        If that is your impression, then hoo boy, did I ever misrepresent myself.

        It's precisely because Catholic teaching (as explained here by many) indicate that this passage is historical fact while this one is allegorical and this one over here is questionable as of harmony with God's nature, that the Bible should be dissectible as I suggested.

        A Protestant view would be that the whole Bible, every verse, is equally a clear window into the mind of God. So the Protestant Bible is as I described my KJV - every verse the same color.

        And as some passages of the OT (in particular) are now considered here by Catholic scholars to be "dark passages" not reflective of God's will or nature, perhaps others (Leviticus 18?) can be similarly classified.

        • Lionel Nunez

          It can be dissected except that...

          The Bible isn't a book; it's a collection of books

          Each book addresses different issues or the same issues in different ways

          Each book isn't necessarily written in the same genre.

          Each book wasn't written in the same time period or cultural context.

          The people of each time period had different literary conventions and different idioms and it wasn't considered "nonacademic" to be as colloquial in serious writings as it is today.

          Even though the bible, like any well written piece of literature, can be subject to multiple interpretations; there is only one appropriate moral and spiritual interpretation that only the Catholic Church can declare to be definitively true.

  • Danny Getchell

    If it's acceptable to suggest that the murders apparently commanded by and conducted by God in the OT are in conflict with "the nature of God such as we understand it through reason" and therefore may be not be subject to what Benedict calls a "mechanical" interpretation.....

    .....may I not also suggest that the condemnation of a large number of human souls (or in point of fact, even one) to an eternity in hell is likewise in conflict with "the nature of God such as we understand it through reason", and likewise be considered open to question??

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      It's a good suggestion, except that others have already beaten you to the punch. It always has been an open question. Theologians have wrestled with it from the beginning, apparently with no end in sight. It remains a great question, because it forces us to think more carefully about God's nature and human nature, but it is by no means a settled issue.

  • Slocum Moe

    Catholicism is growing like topsy in sub Saharan Africa. Lot's of genocide there. Also state persecution of Gays up to and including the death penalty. Maybe Catholicism will help quell the violence against Gays and minorities but probably not. Probably Catholicism will exacerbate it.

    Where I am, Catholics are quick to call murderer on women who have abortions and medical professionals that perform them. That seems pretty inflammatory to me.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I just read this in the New Apologetics website and I think I supports and clarifies what Dr. Ramage is saying.

    New Apologetics You wrote: I can't see a merciful God "calling people" home by dictating that other people murder them.

    We reply:
    The Pontifical Biblical Commission disagrees with the Catholic Answers response. The Pontifical Biblical Commission wins.

    The account of the "ban" is legend:

    "The
    theme of the land should not be allowed to overshadow the manner in
    which the Book of Joshua recounts the entry to the promised land. Many
    texts speak of consecrating to God the fruits of victory, called the ban
    (chérèm). To prevent all foreign religious contamination, the ban
    imposed the obligation of destroying all places and objects of pagan
    cults (Dt 7:5), as well as all living beings (20:15-18). The same
    applies when an Israelite town succumbs to idolatry, Dt 13:16-18
    prescribes that all its inhabitants be put to death and that the town
    itself be burned down.

    At
    the time when Deuteronomy was written — as well as the Book of Joshua —
    the ban was a theoretical postulate, since non-Israelite populations no
    longer existed in Judah. The ban then could be the result of a
    projection into the past of later preoccupations. Indeed, Deuteronomy is
    anxious to reinforce the religious identity of a people exposed to the
    danger of foreign cults and mixed marriages.

    Therefore,
    to appreciate the ban, three factors must be taken into account in
    interpretation; theological, moral, and one mainly sociological: the
    recognition of the land as the inalienable domain of the lord; the
    necessity of guarding the people from all temptation which would
    compromise their fidelity to God; finally, the all too human temptation
    of mingling with religion the worst forms of resorting to violence."
    (THE PONTIFICAL BIBLICAL COMMISSION, THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR SACRED
    SCRIPTURES IN THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE)

    You
    wrote: How is this answer possibly helpful in any way to the poor
    person who posted the question? I find it incredibly harmful.

    We
    reply: The answer given makes murder wrong only because a human
    murderer is interfering with God's "right to kill first". The sanctity
    of human life is therefore reduced to something akin to "God has dibs on
    all killing". You are right to be upset about it. The answer is
    incredibly harmful:

    "Believers
    can have more than a little to do with the rise of atheism. To the
    extent that they are careless about their instruction in the faith, or
    present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral, or
    social life, they must be said to conceal rather than to reveal the
    true nature of God and of religion." (Catechism of the Catholic Church,
    2125)

    You wrote:
    And
    mentioning that Jesus died a brutal, painful death at the hands of
    humans doesn't justify God's alleged behavior in commanding brutality
    from His people.

    We reply:
    True. The suffering and death of Christ were caused by moral evil, not by God.

    "From
    the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and murder of
    God's only Son... God, by his grace that 'abounded all the more',
    brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our
    redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good." (Catechism of
    the Catholic Church, 312)

    "God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 311)

    • Andre Boillot

      If you must repeatedly post the thoughts of the Borg, could you at least edit them for the porpoises of lessening the creepy-factor of reading first-person plural?

      • Kevin Aldrich

        What?

        • Andre Boillot

          This is what New Apologetics sounds like to me (and I'm assuming most nerds):

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZEJ4OJTgg8

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That explains the wires sticking out of my ears!

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            It sounded a little like that to me too. I need to work on my assimilation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yeah, but what about what Locutus actually says?

          • Andre Boillot

            I find it hard to understand their points, for example:

            "We reply: The answer given makes murder wrong only because a human murderer is interfering with God's "right to kill first". The sanctity of human life is therefore reduced to something akin to "God has dibs on all killing". You are right to be upset about it. The answer is incredibly harmful:"

            What on Earth?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll re-edit it to leave in only the relevant parts. I was too lazy to put in all the context.

          • Renard Wolfe

            "Ring-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

            Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!

            Gering-ding-ding-ding-dingeringeding!"

    • Octavo

      "At the time when Deuteronomy was written — as well as the Book of Joshua —
      the ban was a theoretical postulate, since non-Israelite populations no
      longer existed in Judah. The ban then could be the result of a
      projection into the past of later preoccupations. Indeed, Deuteronomy is
      anxious to reinforce the religious identity of a people exposed to the
      danger of foreign cults and mixed marriages."

      Oh, now this is the most interesting thing I've read all day. This sounds like actual scholarship the Pontifical Biblical Commission is engaging in.

      The rest of this seems to be found at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/pcb_documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20020212_popolo-ebraico_en.html

      ~Jesse Webster

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    The thread below regarding who is and is not a Catholic would make great fodder for a separate post, covering topics such as:

    - What does it mean to be 'in full communion' with the Catholic church and to what extent can one infer the degree of communion that another person (not oneself) has with the Church?
    - Is it still considered useful to dichotomize between full / 'not full' communion, or would one more profitably speak of degrees of communion?
    - What is Karl Rahner's Anonymous Christianity all about, and to what extent does the Church embrace that concept?
    - To the extent that Anonymous Christianity is embraced by the Church, does that imply that all people of good will share a degree of communion with the Church (at least, to the extent that those people aren't offended by that description)?

  • Matthew Ramage

    Thank you all for your comments and discussion. I'll just make a couple comments before I return to my family. One of the difficulties we face in dialogue is understanding precisely what is meant by the term. For the official position, google Dei Verbum and look into sections 11-12. The Catholic doctrine of inerrancy is quite different and much less wooden than most people think. Indeed, the doctrine has developed alot over the centuries. Ditto with the Bible in that it developed quite a bit over the course of its composition. Benedict, whom I'm following here, is well aware that this may not be a convincing explanation to the atheist, but I at least reading Scripture and Catholic doctrine as a gradual progression much more satisfying than alternatives I've come across. I continue to use the term 'inerrancy' because it's a well-established Catholic doctrine with a long history and still taught at Vatican II and recent popes. I understand if one doesn't wish to use the term. A good example of one who doesn't do this yet maintains a reading very compatible with that of Catholicism is C.S. Lewis, in particular his Reflections on the Psalms. A Catholic, however, does not have this 'luxury.' One buys in whole-hog to Catholicism in its essential doctrines, or one does not buy in at all. For a helpful discussion of this, see Pope Francis' Lumen Fidei. From the outside (and indeed for many Catholics) this may seem a burden or imposition, but I actually find it quite freeing. We have required beliefs, yes, but we also get to use our intellects in the attempt to ascertain what these beliefs mean in themselves and for our lives. Thanks again for your comments.

    • David Nickol

      For just one example, read 1 Samuel 15. Within this chapter, God
      commands the extermination of an entire people and then proceeds to
      remove King Saul for office for not having fully carried it out!

      Maybe if we concentrated just on 1 Samuel 15 we could make additional headway. Here is the pertinent verse (3) from the New American Bible.

      Go, now, attack Amalek, and deal with him and all that he has under the ban. Do not spare him, but kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and asses.'"

      And here is a footnote:

      Under the ban: in such wars of extermination, all things (men, cities, beasts, etc.) were to be blotted out; nothing could be reserved for private use. The interpretation of God's will here attributed to Samuel is in keeping with the abhorrent practices of blood revenge prevalent among pastoral, seminomadic peoples such as the Hebrews had recently been. The slaughter of the innocent has never been in conformity with the will of God. [Italics added]

      But here is the pertinent verse from the New American Bible, Revised Edition:

      Go, now, attack Amalek, and put under the ban everything he has. Do not spare him; kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.”

      Here is the footnote from the Revised Edition.

      Put under the ban: this terminology mandates that all traces of the Amalekites (people, cities, animals, etc.) be exterminated. No plunder could be seized for personal use. In the light of Dt 20:16–18, this injunction would eliminate any tendency toward syncretism. The focus of this chapter is that Saul fails to execute this order.

      Here is Deuteronomy 20:16-18:

      But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage, you shall not leave a single soul alive. You must put them all under the ban—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—just as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, so that they do not teach you to do all the abominations that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the LORD, your God.

      And here is the footnote to 20:15:

      Deuteronomy makes a distinction between treatment of nations far away and those close at hand whose abhorrent religious practices might, or did, influence Israel’s worship. This harsh policy was to make sure the nations nearby did not pass their practices on to Israel (cf. chap. 7).

      I was startled when I noticed that "The slaughter of the innocent has never been in conformity with the will of God" was dropped when the NAB was revised, and I am still puzzled. I would like to believe it was not because those in charge of the revision believed that the slaughter of the innocent actually was in conformity with God's will. I tend to believe that the note was deleted because it is not the job of exegetes writing these kinds of notes to make statements about what they believe about God, but rather to give us information so we can understand the literal meaning of the text.

      In any case, it seems to me that the text of the passages cited above makes it very clear that the biblical authors of Deuteronomy believed that it was God's will, in general, that the Israelites utterly destroy nearby tribes (nations, cultures) lest some of the beliefs and practices of those tribes make their way into Israelite culture. And the biblical authors of 1 Samuel believed they had a specific case in which God demanded that what was written in Deuteronomy actually be carried out.

      So according to the Catholic Church, Deuteronomy and 1 Samuel are inerrant texts. Dei Verbum says:

      Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.

      It seems to me that—assuming that what the Catholic Church teaches is correct—one either has to argue that God did indeed will for the Israelites to slaughter whole cultures, or he did not. If He did not, how do we explain an inerrant text plainly asserting that he did? The idea that God gradually led a primitive people forward rather than issuing a set of commands that instructed them how to live in conformity with 21st-century standards of right and wrong has a certain appeal, but it is one thing for God to tolerate primitive ways while he slowly brings a people toward full understanding. It is another thing entirely for him to command them to commit genocide.

      I see no way out other than to maintain that God did not will that the Israelites commit genocide and did not command that they commit genocide. But it seems to me a very difficult task to explain away what we read in Deuteronomy and 1 Samuel if it is maintained that they say exactly what the Holy Spirit meant them to say. About the only way out for Catholics, it seems to me, is to maintain that what Deuteronomy and 1 Samuel teach is that (1) God must be obeyed and (2) that one must be on guard not to adopt the wicked ways of one's neighbors. But then it would seem to me that the more important lesson is that human beings can be terribly mistaken about what the will of God is, and they should be extremely hesitant to justify their actions by citing God's will, since even his chosen people thought it was their duty to commit genocide, and they had to be very wrong in believing so if violence is contrary to God's nature.

      • Matthew Ramage

        Eloquently stated, David. I think this captures several distinctions that need to be made. I was interested to learn about the revision to the NAB footnote, and I think the reasoning you gave for the change is probably right. Regarding the two lessons you indicate that Deut and 1 Sam seem to be teaching, I think I agree. And if one accepts the hermeneutic of divine pedagogy, it would make sense insofar as this would be about as much as God's pupil (Israel) could have grasped at the time given their cultural milieu. For a Catholic today, this is so critical because Benedict says many times that we can only interpret the OT correctly in light of Christ and the fullness of revelation entrusted to the Church. Thanks for this helpful contribution, David.

  • Steven Dillon

    I've noticed that several commenters are engaging in what could be called an adversarial style of argumentation. While this may have its place (maybe we all want a good spar now and again), I think it actually makes us poor thinkers. Hear me out.

    Treating arguments adversarially promotes cognitive skills like critical thinking (e.g. questioning premises) and inference (e.g. identifying difficult consequences of a conclusion) to the detriment of others, like creative thinking (e.g. can I alter the argument to avoid my initial objections? Would I object to an idealized version of this argument?).

    It also leaves you vulnerable to confirmation bias in fixating your attention on what's wrong with your "opponent's" argument.

    Finally, it encourages us to think that conceding points or making mistakes are 'embarrassing'. Because embarrassment is such *powerful* social influence, we're therefore more likely to try and avoid embarrassment than to find truth.

    A far superior approach is for each individual to try and strengthen the other's argument by identifying potential weaknesses and trying to correct them.

    • Paul Boillot

      With respect, I think your argument might be strengthened by noting that the scientific approach to finding truth requires a dialectic focused on paring away that which is not true.

      I think from Socrates on down, respectful-but-firm disagreement and asking tough questions have been the keys to strong arguments and avoiding poor thinking.

      That being said, I know that I recently upset someone with my rhetoric. Communication is a two-way street, and no matter how cheerfully an off-the-cuff, off-color comment may have been made; it also matters how it is taken.

      Embarrassing as it may be to admit, it's true that using war analogies is not appropriate. I did not mean to insult Brandon or other veterans.

      • Steven Dillon

        Oh I agree with you Paul, I just meant an effective way to demarcate true from false beliefs is to try and make your "opponent's" case as strong as you can. If it still seems unsuccessful after that, then you've got ample grounds for resisting it.

        The analogy I like to use with this style of argument is that of a mechanic: you are to an argument what a mechanic is to a vehicle. Run a diagnostic (e.g. does it commit any fallacies?), and try to tune it up (e.g. reword premises to reduce controversy), even beefing it up where you can (e.g. providing better support). Of course, some vehicles are just beyond the point of repair, just as some arguments can't be revised without creating an entirely new argument. Either way, this is a good way to figure out what's what.

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

    Hi, Geena--somewhere below, you asked: ****But you don't claim, I assume, that you have the right to 'delete' your adult children, or to lock them in your basement and torture them forever just because they don't love you.****
    The difference is this: I'm not the "author" of my children, adult or otherwise. Human parents don't "create" human children from nothing. The "Author-ity" that God has over creation is substantially different from parental authority.

    ****If God made us free, then, no, he doesn't have any right to take away our lives or impose nor allow unnecessary suffering. *****
    The Christian view is that God not only makes us but that He also *sustains* our existence by continually willing it. A creature cannot make claims to any "rights" toward the Creator in the way you suggest. Our freedom, rather, comes in being able to accept or rejects God's covenant of love that He offers us.
    The other aspect of this, from a Christian view, is that any experience of "unjust" suffering or death of the innocent in this life is overwhelmed by the experience of the eternal union with God that follows. Even where there may be years upon years of suffering in this life, God cannot be outdone in generously responding to such an experience by offering eternal peace and happiness to us even in the wake of the most extreme suffering. If one tried to figuratively "weigh" the difference between years of suffering and eternal happiness, one would be weighing something finite against the "infinite"....

    • Ben Posin

      Jim,

      Why does it make a difference if I "created children from nothing?" If I could produce my children by snapping my fingers, rather than the more traditional route, would I then be able to do with them whatever I wished? I don't think your answer explains anything.

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

        I'd say it makes all the difference--in one case we're talking about a process of "reproduction", right? We parents are neither creating something from nothing, nor are we responsible for the continuing existence of what we "re-produce".
        In the case of God and the universe--we're talking about the *only* thing holding everything in the universe in existence--the Divine Will. God *chooses*, in His Divine Will, to continually will the existence of everything.
        Thus, in this sense, it's really up to God to continue willing this existence, or to change the storyline, etc., if He so chose.
        There is probably some difficulty in understanding this from an atheistic viewpoint, since by necessity the atheistic viewpoint must separate morality itself from God's existence.
        But from the theistic viewpoint, one can't really sit in moral judgment of God by any standard that exists *apart* from God. That would be an unreasonable approach--and totally internally inconsistent--for a believer in God.
        And thus one explanation for anything God does that would seem questionable if done by a human being is that God is the "Author" Who can let the story unfold however He wills. Our task is then to do our best to see and understand what God has done in a way that corresponds to the Divine Nature.
        Thus the post above, wherein we can explore how and why violence is contrary to God's nature, despite the way in which God gets described in Scripture....

        • Ben Posin

          I still don't see any sense in your distinction between "reproduction" and "creating from nothing," and you haven't offered any real explanation yet. Why does it matter what materials or method I use in creating life?

          As to God being the only thing holding everything in the universe in existence: I've heard this claim before, and don't really understand it, or the basis of this belief in scripture or theology. Could you point me towards it so I can learn a bit more? But I don't see how it matters, except in certain circumstances I'll address. Let's say that my children were born with implants that can't be removed, hooked up to my brain, and their heads will explode if I don't continually will my children to remain in existence. How does that change the moral calculus at all? Can I now lock them in my basement and torture them, since they are dependent on my will to live anyway?

          The closest analogy I can make to your argument that has some force (and one sure to be uncontroversial on a Catholic/atheist discussion website) is that of a pregnant woman. The life of the fetus is depends on the mother, and exacts significant physical costs and health risks on the mother, and this is one of the justifications for a mother's right to abortion. But what cost does our continued existence impose on God? What sacrifices are entailed in continuing to choose, with his Divine Will, to keep us in existence? In any event, while a sufficient cost might give God the right to terminate our existence and relieve himself of it, how could it give him the right to torture us forever?

          As to a theist judging God by standards other than God's own choices, I've said the following before. I'm a firm believer in the validity of the Euthyphro dilemma, and think that there is no sense in the claim that morality is grounded in God or depends on God. When people talk about God being omnipotent, they usually qualify it by saying this means he can do whatever is logically possible; he cannot create a three sided figure with 90 degree angles, for instance. I say unto you that God can no more make a torturing humans eternally moral than he can alter the sum of the angles of a triangle.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ben, I agree with you that "good" cannot be two different things, depending on if you are God or a human being.

            You are right to reject a conception of God that would torture human beings eternally. But would you please show me where the Catholic Church teaches this doctrine?

          • Ben Posin

            I don't think I've said it does. I was responding to Jim's claim that God could be morally justified in doing so due to being our creator. I honestly still don't have a strong grip on what the Catholic hell entails. The last time I asked the answer I was given seemed to be that we are sentenced to eternal isolation, with no body, and exist absolutely alone as pure consciousness forever. I'd love to see some authority on this point, and some older statements from the church to see how the conception has changed. I suspect the term "hellfire"" exists for a reason.

            If this is what the Catholic church now teaches, it still sounds pretty awful. Most people would be horrified at the idea of spending the rest of their lives paralyzed, lying in bed unable to communicate or do anything. How much worse to be eternally trapped, with no external stimulation whatsover!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You can get an overview of what the Catholic Church says about hell here: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/epub/index.cfm#

            Type 1033 in the search bar and it will take you to the section on hell (1033-1037).

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin,

            Those sections tell us almost nothing about hell. They don't say whether one has a physical body there, whether one can hang out and talk to other people in hell, what the "landscape" (for want of a better word) is like, whether there is chocolate or table tennis, whether there are lots of biting bugs and insects and what not, or, well, almost anything about what the actual experience is like.

            I also note some pretty tricky word play! These sections affirm that hell is eternal, and that Jesus spoke of its unquenchable fires. The Church states that those who go to hell suffer the punishments of 'eternal fire," and then states that the "principal" punishment is separation of God. But that doesn't tell us about what the punishments other than this "principal" one may be, and it could be that the church judges being separated from God as so terrible that they can declare this the principal punishment even though people are also on fire or stabbed with skewers or what not.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            BP
            Those sections tell us almost nothing about hell.

            CCC 1033

            This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

            KA
            I think that is quite a lot. Communion with God and the blessed is heaven. Hell is self-chosen and permanent.

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin,

            What can I say? I hope you don't write travel brochures, and will not be calling on you to plan my vacations. I still have no about what hell is actually like, save for it duration.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know anyone who has been there.

            Meditate on the idea of communion to begin to get an idea. That is heaven.

            Then negate that, if you insist. I prefer to stick to heaven.

          • Ben Posin

            "I don't know anyone who has been there."

            This seems like progress to me in our conversation, in that it seems like (backhanded) agreement that neither of us has a real idea of what the hell described by the Catholic church is like. Though I find your choice of words interesting, as it seems to suggest that you see hell as in some sense a location, perhaps a common location for the damned, as opposed to hell being an individual state of being. Is that how you see it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Church describes heaven, purgatory, and hell as conditions not places.

            I imagine when we get our bodies back, then heaven and hell will need to be places, too. It's hard to imagine a body that is not some place.

          • David Nickol

            Since two people in heaven have bodies (Jesus and Mary), then heaven must be a physical place.

          • David Nickol

            How can separation from God be suffering for a human being if that person freely chose it and God granted it. It might be argued that we often are dissatisfied with our own choices. ( Saint Teresa of Ávila: "Answered prayers cause more tears than those that remain unanswered.") But surely the reason one is unhappy with getting what one wants is because the person was mistaken about what he or she really wanted. It is a common saying among Catholics that God answers all prayers, it's just that sometimes he says "no." Why should God refuse to grant a misguided prayer request for a person on earth but feel bound to grant a misguided choice to go to hell in the afterlife? If a person is profoundly mistaken in choosing hell, what kind of benevolent God would honor the choice? So it seems to me the only way to maintain that people choose hell and God is benevolent, is to assume that the people who choose hell are happy with the choice and do not suffer.

          • Ben Posin

            David: I've repeatedly said that I don't understand the current Catholic conception of Hell, at least as represented on this website (and in the catechism Kevin was kind enough to point me towards). My understanding is that hell sure used to be trumpeted as a place of very real and eternal suffering, a horrifying fate to be avoided at all costs, and that seems to be backed up by the scriptures themselves, which make reference to fire and suffering. The current catechism seems to acknowledge this by using the term "eternal fire," though quotes are put around the term, as apparently "eternal fire" might not actually involve fire, which seems a bit odd.

            I'm honestly not that interested or impressed by the distinction Catholics on this website and elsewhere make in asserting that it is people who choose Hell, not God who punishes them. God set up the rules, created reality, fixed the consequences with foreknowledge. He created people with skeptical natures and distanced them from the supposed miraculous proofs of his existence by millennia, giving them insufficient evidence to convince them that he even exists. I don't see myself as having a choice about whether or not I believe God exists any more than I can choose to believe I can fly through flapping my arms, and frankly think I'm going above and beyond by going out of my way to expose myself to God's apologists and trying to understand their arguments. Under the circumstances, I find the claim that people are making some sort of free and fair choice to go to hell...unpersuasive.

            But sure, even if we call it a choice I don't see how a benevolent God would set up the universe in such a way that people could choose an horrible fate for eternity. Were I building a house for my children to live in, I doubt I'd make one bedroom where the bed is nails, the floor broken glass, and the door unopenable from the inside, and then walk away bidding them to choose which room they prefer. Doesn't seem very responsible.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            BP
            Were I building a house for my children to live in, I doubt I'd make one bedroom where the bed is nails, the floor broken glass, and the door unopenable from the inside, and then walk away bidding them to choose which room they prefer.

            KA

            There is something wrong with your analogy.

            What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mt 7:9-11)

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin,

            So...you agree with me that arguing"people choose hell themselves" doesn't actually absolve God of moral responsibility for their eternal suffering (should hell entail that)? The scripture you cite says if you son asks for bread, you don't give him a stone; it doesn't say if your son asks for poison stew, you feed it to him.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the son would ask for help he would get it. The poison stew that the son eats is his sin. If the son would say, "I don't want this poison anymore," he'd get bread or fish or a Gordon Ramsay feast.

            Hell is self-chosen.

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin: I think you're intelligent person, and you certainly are polite and seem well intentioned. But I'm finding it incredibly frustrating talking with you about these issues, because I can never tell when we're on the same page, to the point where I hesitate to try to continue conversation. I think I know the answers to some of these questions, but if you feel like it could you give me a quick straight answer, no parable or metaphor, to the following:

            (1) Do you think the Catholic church currently gives a clear idea of what it's like to be in hell or heaven?

            (2) Do we have more information than eternal "communion with God" for heaven and eternal "separation from God" for hell, neither of which paint any sort of picture for me?

            (3) Do you think people in hell are suffering either physical or mental/emotional torment eternally?

            (4) If so, do you think God could have arranged things differently so that they do not suffer this torment--or so that they don't have to suffer this torment eternally?; and

            (5) Given the disparity of powers and knowledge between God and man, do you think God is absolved of all responsibility for this suffering if it's people's own choices that result in their going to hell?

            So as to be fair, my quick answers are:
            (1)-(2)I don't feel I understand the Catholic conceptions of heaven or hell, or think the church provides clear guidance on what these entail. I think it certainly permitted people for a very long time to think of hell as a place of eternal physical torment, that this view is consistent with the New Testament, and is not really contradicted by the current catechism.

            (3): can't really answer it as I don't believe hell exists, but see the above answer to (1) and (2): it sounds like it's supposed to be a place of suffering, with some tapdancing to make it more palatable to the public; if the Church wants to correct my impression though it should feel free.

            (4) Yes, even if people through their choices or sins somehow couldn't bear to be in God's presence, I don't understand why they couldn't live eternally in at least as much comfort as people can experience on earth, and presumably in a paradise where God just doesn't happen to stop by. He was able to provide this world for them even while they were sinning, after all.

            (5) Since God set up the rules and the world and created all the possible destinations, and carefully controlled our ability to reason and the evidence provided to us, he has some responsibility for the consequences of our choices, as well as the choices themselves. Or would, if he existed and Catholic theology was true.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll be happy to try to answer these tomorrow when I am fresh.

            But just to lay out a few points in advance, I'm thinking about the various ways we could talk about these conditions or places. Please excuse me if these seem too obvious.

            One would be by using concepts (like communion). Concepts are abstract, cannot be imagined, yet can be very meaningful.

            Another is by using images derived from the five senses (imagine the most beautiful landscape . . .). These are very powerful because our senses are how we take in the world.

            Another is using the passions and emotions. (like being in love). These are also vivid since they are so tied to the body.

            Still another is by analogy when we say something is like something else. It is almost impossible to escape analogy because even when we ask, "What is heaven *like*" we are already asking for one without much thinking about it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > (1) Do you think the Catholic church currently gives a clear idea of what it's like to be in hell or heaven?

            No and yes. "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9) would be a no. Heaven is beyond our vision. On the yes side, if we assume Anselm's definition of God as that being "than which none greater can be conceived" I think we could also think of heaven as that place or condition 'than which none happier can be conceived.' And since evil is a privation of good, hell would be that condition 'than which none more unhappy can be conceived.'

            > (2) Do we have more information than eternal "communion with God" for heaven and eternal "separation from God" for hell, neither of which paint any sort of picture for me?

            Communion means to be in union with or in friendship with. We are social beings and our happiness requires us to be in a good relationship with others. Heaven is the condition in which we are perfectly acceptable to other persons, including, foremost God, and they are also perfectly acceptable to us. Heaven can be imagined as the perfect party. We can also think of heaven as the enjoyment of all the "transcendentals": goodness, truth, beauty, love, and home. I think in our glorified bodies we will also enjoy pleasure and passion.

            Hell would be the privation of all these.

            (3) Do you think people in hell are suffering either physical or mental/emotional torment eternally?

            Yes. This is what the Church teaches.

            It is required to have a body to suffer physically and emotionally. If there are people in hell and they don't yet have bodies, they are not suffering physically or emotionally. Certainly they are suffering mentally. The demons, not having bodies are not suffering physically or emotionally.

            (4) If so, do you think God could have arranged things differently so that they do not suffer this torment--or so that they don't have to suffer this torment eternally?;

            All these questions require a book! I think the difficulty we face is that on earth we are always to some extent ignorant and always able to change our minds. We have a hard time imagining that not to be the case after death. We think if God would just check back with the souls who reject him eventually they would change their minds. However, if you see absolutely clearly that the final choice is between being with God and other persons and being alone and you freely choose the latter, then I can't think of how eternal hell could be avoided.

            (5) Given the disparity of powers and knowledge between God and man, do you think God is absolved of all responsibility for this suffering if it's people's own choices that result in their going to hell?

            God does not do evil and he does everything that can be done out of love for human beings.

          • Ben Posin

            Thanks Kevin. Now I have a better idea of where we stand. It's 4 or 5 where we're really far apart, to the point where I'm not sure where to go from here. Your answer to 5 seems the most interesting to me: when asked whether God is absolved from responsibility for this suffering, rather than answer yes or no you state that "God does not do evil and he does everything that can be done out of love for human beings." I really don't see that as a "are you still beating your wife" type question demanding a trick answer, and I wonder what it was that held you back from giving a straight answer that, despite the disparities in knowledge and power between Man and God, God has no responsibility for people doomed to hell for their own choices. I have to wonder if something in you rebels at that idea, and finds it unpalatable.

            Forgive my presumption, but I get the feeling that you are starting out with this basic answer--that God is good and does not do evil--and using that axiom as a way to avoid actually having to apply your own moral judgment to the situation. Why else avoid the question? I don't think, were you creating the world, it would have hell in it, either as a place or "state," and I think that you are more moral than the God you believe in,

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Here are some quotes which might shed more light on question 4, "Could God have arranged things differently so that lost souls don't suffer torment?"

            “These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

            “St. Paul affirms that ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Romans 6:23). Sin leads to death; not so much to the ‘act’ of dying – which lasts only a moment — as to the ‘state’ of death, that is precisely to what has been called ‘mortal illness,’ a state of chronic death. In this state the creature desperately tends to return to being nothing but without succeeding and lives therefore as if in an eternal agony.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

            “The much talked about eternity of hell does not depend on God, who is always ready to forgive, but on the person who refuses to be forgiven and would accuse God of lacking respect for his freedom if God were to do so.
” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin: the concept is very clear, I just think it's ridiculous when talking about an omnipotent, omniscient, creator God. If you want to claim that those who are in hell still choose, moment by moment, to stay there, fine, that may be a morally permissible situation, though it seems an unlikely one. But if after suffering in hell they change their minds or repent, or call out for a reprieve, are you really going to say that God is powerless to act? If your God exists, he is the one who determines the wages of sin. You (and your quotes) have provided no justification as to why God couldn't offer additional chances for a reprieve after death, or why God couldn't provide people with at least as comfortable an eternity as the life of an atheist can be on earth. I don't believe that God exists, and think that if God did exist as described he is in some ways monstrous; and yet I am able to live a life right now that wouldn't be characterized as torment...even lacking communion with God, one can find a tolerable existence through the companionship of like minded folk, chocolate, sports, literature, etc.

          • David Nickol

            I think another recent topic—whether we will have free will in the (alleged) afterlife—is very relevant to this one. One might say that the damned choose hell in the same way that convicts choose prison, but it seems to me that is a very superficial analogy. And of course convicts have a kind of free will that the damned are said not to. Convicts can have a change of heart in prison, can turn their energies to worthwhile pursuits, and can be paroled or complete their sentences and be released. The damned are (according to the Catholic Church) forever fixed in the state of mind that happened to be in when they died.

            There is no getting around the Catholic teaching that hell is a punishment, it seems to me, even if the chief pain of hell is being cut off from God—a not-very-credible assertion, since the claim is that the damned person chooses to be cut off from God.

            It seems to me no one would make an informed choice to undergo eternal suffering, and it also seems to me no benevolent God would accept anything other than an informed choice.

            Furthermore, what act could merit eternal punishment, and what is the point of eternal punishment? If we go by the standard of "an eye for an eye," then even the most monstrous villain who ever lived would deserve far less than the equivalent of, say, 125 billion lifetimes of suffering (assuming 125 billion is the number of all people living today added to the number of all the people who have ever lived). No one has caused anywhere near that much suffering. Yet compared to an eternity of suffering, 125 billion lifetimes of suffering is less than the blink of an eye.

            The idea of eternal punishment is not compatible with goodness or justice, let alone infinite goodness or infinite justice. Or so it seems to me.

          • Ben Posin

            This is a good statement of some of the reasons I cannot see the Catholic conception of Hell as being compatible with a just and benevolent (much less "omnibenevolent") God. I find myself frustrated with the attitude of some Catholics who don't seem to have reasonable arguments disputing this, but are unwilling or unable to recognize that their conceptions of Hell and God's nature are incompatible. As I said to Kevin, such people tend to be more moral than the God they believe in, and would never themselves condemn their neighbors or children to eternal suffering, but can't bring themselves to say that it is wrong if God does that--this even despite the fact that Kevin earlier stated that there is nothing that would be immoral for a person to do that would be moral for God to do!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am confident that given the principles that I listed under my further comments to question 5 that everything that is possible for God to do along the lines you desire he does.

          • Ben Posin

            What I like about this answer is that it seems to contain some of your own moral judgment applied to the situation: I interpret your answer as saying that it would be morally wrong for God to not offer those in hell continued chances to change their fate, or not to do what is in God's power to make hell a pleasant eternity rather than a terrible one.

            What I dislike is that you seem to want to straddle every fence possible in order to try to hold onto two inconsistent ideas: that God is omni benevelont/potent etc., and that the Catholic doctrines concerning the afterlife are correct. As noted above in this comment, you agree that an eternity of hell, given any other option, is immoral! So which is it: is the catholic church wrong (or being very tricky in its phrasing) and no one is actually condemned to suffer eternally, or is God powerless to act in the way I propose? If you want to suggest that God is powerless, which of my proposals do you doubt he has the power to perform?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            One interesting line of thought is that the joys of heaven and the pains of hell both come from the same source: the being of God radiating on all persons (like a sun).

            PB
            I interpret your answer as saying that it would be morally wrong for God to not offer those in hell continued chances to change their fate.

            KA
            If this line of thought is true, then (1) God is already offering them everything there is to offer and (2) the persons in hell don't need to change their fate; they need to change their response to God.

            It may be impossible for any change to take place if the damned understand perfectly what's up and are free to choose their response. If there is no new information for the damned to receive, what would move them to change?

            Here we are always in some degree of ignorance and swayed by passions and emotions. There, if we have perfect knowledge and perfect freedom, how can we change our minds?

            BP
            I interpret your answer as saying that it would be morally wrong for God not to do what is in God's power to make hell a pleasant eternity rather than a terrible one.

            KA
            If the damned have a self-chosen incapacity to enjoy anything, how can do this without overriding their freedom?

            BP
            What I dislike is that you seem to want to straddle every fence possible in order to try to hold onto two inconsistent ideas: that God is omni benevelont/potent etc., and that the Catholic doctrines concerning the afterlife are correct.

            KA
            There are all kinds of ideas that seem to be in conflict in Catholicism but are not (three Persons in one God and Transubstantiation are two).

            BP
            You agree that an eternity of hell, given any other option, is immoral!

            KA
            I can't agree with that.

            BP
            Is the catholic church wrong (or being very tricky in its phrasing) and no one is actually condemned to suffer eternally, or is God powerless to act in the way I propose?

            KA
            I thought your weren't trying to set a trap?

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin: your statements having logical implications isn't a trap. If you don't like what someone thinks are the implications of your statements, you can explain where they went wrong, or perhaps reconsider your statements.

            I'm pretty sure we've reached the end of our road, and I appreciate your taking the time to educate me on how you see Catholocism and hell. I'm intrigued by where your reasoning ends up, as a Catholic: that it may very well be that God must, by his nature, give people in hell opportunities to change their response to him and be saved from it, but that people in hell may be unable to change their response. This seems the only way to make the framing that people are in hell by their own choice work.

            Of course, from my point of view you're making up a bunch of nonsense as to why people might not ever be able to change their minds or response to God, without any recourse to what people are actually like on the whole (eager not to suffer eternally). These arguments are only necessary because you're trying to thread the needle of making hell eternal as the catholic church proclaims, but also making God moral and just. My impression is that your own moral judgments are being suppressed or tied into knots by your need to stand by Catholic dogma, which is in its way fascinating to watch. I mean it sincerely when I say I think you have a more highly developed moral sense than your God. But thanks again for your time.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd say thanks if it didn't entail approval of your judgment that I'm "making up a bunch of nonsense" and that I "have a more highly development moral sense" that my God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Regarding question 5, "Given the disparity of powers and knowledge between God and man, do you
            think God is absolved of all responsibility for this suffering if it's
            people's own choices that result in their going to hell?" I don't know the answer. I guess I don't even understand the question.

            Absolved of responsibility seems to imply responsibility of some kind. Absolved is a word we use when one is guilty of something but forgiven. The phrase "absolved of responsibility" therefore seems to me to be "loaded."

            So, all I can think to do is state the principles. I'll try to do that now more completely.

            > God is entirely just, so whatever responsibilities he has toward his creatures he carries out perfectly.
            > God is entirely good, so that he does no evil whatsoever, and, according to the nature of goodness, the good superabundantly exceeds any demands of justice.
            > God is omniscient, so he has the intellectual resources to be just and good.
            > God is omnipotent, so he has the power to be just and good.

          • Ben Posin

            Kevin,

            This is the sort of answer I'm complaining of: starting with the principle that everything God does must be right, moral and perfect, rather than considering the specific question in play. Can you see why this seems like a dodge to me--or, if not a dodge, a method that might let one accept the current state of affairs while avoiding having to bring one's own moral reasoning to bear on a problem? The word "absolved" isn't meant to be a trap, and we can reword this to a question you see as fairer.

            I think we're on the same page regarding the disparity between God and man's power, wisdom, intelligence, foreknowledge, abilities, etc. Let me know if you think we're not! Likewise, I think we agree that according to Catholic theology God created man, and indeed all of "creation." Given the existence of this gap between God's nature and man's, and God's role as creator, do you think God has some responsibility for people's suffering in hell, even if say that people's choices result in their going to hell?

  • Renard Wolfe

    Look, if you're going to say "X is wrong, so god doesn't want X, so X is wrong" just cut out the middle man and say whats going on: you think its wrong. Either base your morality on your God or don't. Don't pull this funky dance where you go between our opinion having the force of Gods authority and Ignoring gods authority.

    Option 1: Yawey is incredibly moral but ordered all of these atrocities anyway. (if not an outright contradiction, its close)
    Option 2: Yawey is moral but the bible isn't accurate.(means you can't use the bible to demonstrate.. well, anything.)
    Option 3: Yawey exists but isn't moral (Stargate hypothesis)
    Option 4: Yawey is the invention of a group of desert nomads who wanted to justify some pretty reprehensible actions.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      RN
      "X is wrong, so god doesn't want X, so X is wrong."

      KA
      "X is wrong, so God doesn't want it."

      That seems perfectly acceptable to me. It means that what is right and what God wants align perfectly.

      It also aligns with what I think any decent human being would want to be the case: "X is wrong so we do not want it."

      • Renard Wolfe

        The problem is that it starts with "I think X is wrong" which relies on what you think is wrong. If you're an atheist this isn't a problem, but its completely impossible to pick up deific sanction of your ideas that way.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I'm afraid I have no idea what you are claiming.

          Could you maybe put it in different words?

          • Renard Wolfe

            If the christian says

            God says this is wrong. It says so here in the bible. Therefore it is wrong.

            They have a fundamentally different argument than the atheist saying

            I think this is wrong.

            If the christian says "I think this is wrong, therefore it is wrong, therefore god thinks its wrong, so its wrong" they effectively have the exact same logic because everything after "i think this is wrong" is circular.

            In both of the later cases the real source of right and wrong is individual. In the last case the christian is taking what they think is right and wrapping it up in a veneer of religion to give it more legitimacy.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Renard, I invite you to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches about morality. The Church does agree with you that "the real source of right and wrong is individual" in that the natural moral law is "written in the human heart."

          • David Nickol

            . . . . the real source of right and wrong is individual" in that the natural moral law is "written in the human heart."

            This raises the question of why God had to bring human beings so slowly and gradually toward what is good and moral that he tolerated genocide committed in his name only a few thousand years ago. Perhaps what is written in the human heart is in very tiny type.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God tolerated Jews *thinking* he tolerated genocide in his name, a genocide which may never have actually been committed. If God exists he obviously tolerates all kinds of wrong-headed thinking and acting.

          • David Nickol

            God tolerated Jews *thinking* he tolerated genocide in his name, a genocide which may never have actually been committed.

            But if scripture is inspired, God inspired OT authors to write down (in a text that you say was written not just for its time, but for all times) that he commanded genocide. Furthermore, according to Catholic belief, revelation ended approximately 2000 years ago, so there can be no revelation that authoritatively denies God intended genocide. What we have, then, is an authoritative, sacred, inspired text that commands genocide. The only way of dealing with that text is coming to the conclusion (somehow) that God would never approve genocide, and working backward from there to an interpretation of the (inspired) text to explain away the fact that God commanded genocide.

            You are forced, then, to come up with a hermeneutic that guides you in interpreting the Bible not based on what it says, but on what you have arrived at independent of the Bible and must interpret the Bible to mean the opposite of what it says in order to preserve its authority as an inspired text.

            While giving God credit for inspiring a text that (unbeknownst to those writing it) was filled with references to Jesus and contains all kinds of "veiled" meanings that the Church, aided by the Holy Spirit, can "unveil," you also are apparently saying that God could not somehow have inspired a text that avoided attributing to him commands he would never give. The Bible, then, is this remarkable, supernatural document that contains all kinds of hidden meanings, but many of its obvious literal meanings must be interpreted to be the primitive understandings of a people just beginning on a long road toward moral development.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            DN
            You are apparently saying that God could not somehow have inspired a text that avoided attributing to him commands he would never give.

            KA
            If God does not do things just the way I would expect, then he must not be able to do them?

            For Catholics, the Magisterium of the Church both determines what the Sacred Scriptures are, what they mean (if something needs to be defined), and how to read them.

            The Magisterium says there are things in the OT which are provisional and imperfect.

          • David Nickol

            You are apparently saying that God could not somehow have inspired a text that avoided attributing to him commands he would never give.

            No, just the opposite. I am saying that God, as the true author of scripture, could have inspired the human authors to write things in a way that did not attribute directly to God rules in favor of genocide and specific instances where he commanded genocide. You and others have asserted that the Bible is a remarkable document that can contain "veiled" meanings that it requires supernatural help to read. I am saying that in such a remarkable document as you describe, and all-powerful God should have been able to prevent the human authors from depicting God as someone who ordered the slaughter of men, women, children, and cattle.

            To put it bluntly, the argument would be that a God who was inspiring human beings to write about him would certainly not have inspired them to depict him as a moral monster. Therefore, God did not inspire these people to write about him. It is a much simpler theory than the theory that we must read the Bible to say what we think it is supposed to say rather than what it plainly says.

            In the story of the Exodus, we must either accept or find some way to explain away that God sent Moses to make demands of Pharaoh and then deliberately prevented Pharaoh from acceding to those demands. We get it straight from God that he is deliberately manipulating Pharaoh so that he (God) can show his power by, for example, killing the first-borns of all Egyptians households. It would be perfectly easy for me or any literate person make minor edits to the passages so that Pharaoh is simply intransigent and God keeps escalating the punishments until they are finally effective. But that is not the account God (allegedly) inspired. Instead, he inspired an account which has Pharaoh prevented from acceding to God's demands (given through Moses). God sends Moses to make demands, prevents Pharaoh from acceding to them, and then punishes all of Egypt because Pharaoh gave the wrong answer, which is the answer God forced him to give. It scarcely takes a well-developed sense of reality to see that punishing a whole country for a wrong decision you forced the country's leader to make is unjust.

            What I am entertaining is the possibility that the most rational and simplest explanation is that God did not inspire human authors to depict him as blatantly unjust. He did not inspire them at all. I am proposing that the following be rejected:

            Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation.

            The books of scripture manifestly do not books of Scripture cannot be said to be "teaching solidly, faithfully
            and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation," since we must in numerous cases interpret scripture not to mean what it plainly says.

            The Bible, according to current thinking, must be interpreted disingenuously to mean not what it says, but what the interpreters want it to say and what they have decided independently as scripture what the Bible must mean. In effect, the Bible has no authority of its own if it must be interpreted to say what the Church wants it to say, especially when what the Church wants it to say is nowhere to be found in the text.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            DN
            The Bible has no authority of its own if it must be interpreted to say what the Church wants it to say, especially when what the Church wants it to say is nowhere to be found in the text.

            KA
            The Bible *has* no authority on its own in the sense that it requires an interpretation.

            The Bible is a subset of the Deposit of Faith which contains Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture which is authentically interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church.

            Two Catholic doctrines in the Deposit of Faith rule out that God would either commit or order genocide. One is that God is wholly good and does not approve of evil in any way. The other is the 5th commandment which includes a prohibition of murder.

            So back to the theme of the OP, "Violence is Contrary to God's Nature," the teaching you say is found nowhere in the text in some of the OT books is found in other places in the Deposit of Faith which includes the OT, the NT, and Tradition.

          • David Nickol

            If God does not do things just the way I would expect, then he must not be able to do them?

            No, rather, if God is said to have done something common sense tells us is morally objectionable, then knowing that God is omnipotent, we know we cannot justify what he was said to have done by rhetorically asking, "What else could he have done under the circumstances?" We conclude that an omniscient and omnipotent being is never backed into a corner and forced to do something that, under other circumstances, he would not have done.

            It is the very fact that we believe God is omnipotent and omniscient that forces us to abandon the argument that God was forced by circumstances to do something he would otherwise not have wanted to.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God irrevocably gives a power to person he is"forced by circumstances"--fidelity to his gift--to never take it back, otherwise the gift was not irrevocably given.

            God limits his omnipotence all day long by giving me freedom to choose to conform myself or not to doing what I understand his will to be.

          • David Nickol

            God limits his omnipotence all day long by giving me freedom to choose to conform myself or not to doing what I understand his will to be.

            Please note that I said,

            It is the very fact that we believe God is omnipotent and omniscient that forces us to abandon the argument that God was forced by circumstances to do something he would otherwise not have wanted to.

            I am willing to accept, for the sake of argument, that God tolerates human actions that he does not approve of. However, what I am referring to are the kinds of arguments in which it is claimed God is forced into action. For example, if memory serves me correctly, someone here defended God's ordering of genocide of neighboring people to the Israelites rhetorically asking, "What was he (God) supposed to do? Stand by and let the advances he had made in bringing the Israelites to a better understanding of the good all be lost by allowing them to be contaminated by contact with their primitive neighbors?" We have seen arguments here and elsewhere that OT times were different times, and slaughtering Israelite enemies was a good and necessary thing. We have seen an argument here that violence is contrary to God's nature means he uses violence only when he has to.

            I think I am on very solid Catholic ground in saying that God may refrain from acting, tolerating human evil for the sake of free will. But I do not think Catholic thought accepts the idea that God is forced by circumstances to act in ways that he would not otherwise act if circumstances were different.

            God limits his omnipotence all day long by giving me freedom to choose to conform myself or not to doing what I understand his will to be.

            If God values freedom above all, why did he "harden Pharaoh's heart"? There was a lot riding on Pharaoh's decision, and not just for Pharaoh himself. And there are numerous other stories in the Old Testament where God does the same to others.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            DN
            "What was he (God) supposed to do? Stand by and let the advances he had made in bringing the Israelites to a better understanding of the good all be lost by allowing them to be contaminated by contact with their primitive neighbors?"

            KA
            Like you, I reject this argument.

            DN
            If God values freedom above all, why did he "harden Pharaoh's heart"?

            KA
            You have the Jerome Biblical Commentary and probably others. I think you can easily find various ways to interpret "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" different than "God took away Pharaoh's freedom."

          • David Nickol

            I really cannot find a satisfactory answer. I believe the text is clear. God hardens Pharaoh's heart because God does not want Moses to be able to take "yes" for an answer until God has given a dramatic display of his powers. It is what the text says (Exodus 10:1-2):

            Then the LORD said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his servants obstinate in order that I may perform these signs of mine among them and that you may recount to your son and grandson how I made a fool of the Egyptians and what signs I did among them, so that you may know that I am the LORD.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            As Trent Horn points out in a Catholic Answers Q&A, according to James 1:13, “Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am
            tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself
            tempts no one.” To this I would add that if God would not tempt a real person to sin, he would not take away a real person's ability to resist sin.

            Therefore, some other explanation must apply. Like, "to harden someone's heart" means something other than "take away his freedom and make him do evil." Like, God let Pharaoh go his own way" for the reasons cited in Ex 10:1-2).
            Like, people have a tendency to attribute everything to God because they expect to receive everything from the hand of God.

          • Renard Wolfe

            So why ever refer to a bible if the person is a better guide as to what God wants?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not "a better guide."

            The Decalogue and the natural law

            CCC 2070
            The Ten Commandments belong to God’s revelation. At the same time they teach us the true humanity of man. They bring to light the essential duties, and therefore, indirectly, the fundamental rights inherent in the nature of the human person. The Decalogue contains a privileged expression of the natural law: (1955)

            From the beginning, God had implanted in the heart of man the precepts of the natural law. Then he was content to remind him of them. This was the Decalogue.31

            CCC 2071
            The commandments of the Decalogue, although accessible to reason alone, have been revealed. To attain a complete and certain understanding of the requirements of the natural law, sinful humanity needed this revelation: (1960, 1777)

            A full explanation of the commandments of the Decalogue became necessary in the state of sin because the light of reason was obscured and the will had gone astray.32

            We know God’s commandments through the divine revelation proposed to us in the Church, and through
            the voice of moral conscience.

          • Renard Wolfe

            I have never seen any difference between "natural law" and "I'm going to come up with stuff I like and don't like and call one natural law and the other a violation of natural law"

            You cannot seriously limit the entirety of the old testament to 10 lines. Its arbitrary and capricious. Jesus' very identity and reason for existence is tied to the being described in the old testament.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            RN
            I have never seen any difference between "natural law" and "I'm going to
            come up with stuff I like and don't like and call one natural law and
            the other a violation of natural law."

            KA
            Why do you assume that there is no connection between what you like and the moral law?

            RW
            You cannot seriously limit the entirety of the old testament to 10 lines.

            KA
            Remember the silver rule: "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself"? And the golden rule: "Do to others what you want done to yourself"?

            That is reducing OT morality to two lines.

            Or, "love God and neighbor." One line.

            Or "love." One word.

            RN
            Jesus' very identity and reason for existence is tied to the being described in the old testament.

            KA
            Exactly. It is not just about obeying the moral law.

            The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
            because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to
            the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor (Is 61:1-2).

            And Jesus returned in the power of the
            Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all
            the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being
            glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he
            went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he
            stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet
            Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
            preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the
            captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those
            who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." (Lk 4:14-19)

          • Renard Wolfe

            KA: Why do you assume that there is no connection between what you like and the moral law?

            ... I just said they're the exact same thing. How does that equate to "no connection" ?

            For starters I'm an atheist. I don't believe in "natural law" (which is vastly different from believing in natural lawS), In no small part because every time I see someone bring natural law into a discussion its nothing more than "I think its wrong". If that's all you have then you lose the authority of the bible, Toss it out, you're arguing on your OWN merits, not any others.

            .
            KA
            Remember the silver rule: "Do not do to others what you do not
            want done to yourself"? And the golden rule: "Do to others what you
            want done to yourself"?

            RW: Again, you're talking yourself out of religion entirely. If this is the case there's no need at all for Christianity or Catholicism.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            RW
            If it is the case that God wants everyone to follow the natural law, "there's no need at all for Christianity or Catholicism."

            KA
            If God didn't want people to follow the morality that is right in front of them but instead some reality they could not know unless specially instructed, God would be grossly unjust.

            RW
            What is the need for Catholicism beyond obeying natural morality?

            KA
            The forgiveness of sins, transformation into children of God, and eternal life in communion with God and all the blessed.

          • Renard Wolfe

            Don't paraphrase me if you're going to do it that badly.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm trying to accurately understand what you are saying.

            What are you saying?

          • Renard Wolfe

            There is no Biblical based morality: your need to dump the entire old testement demonstrates that.

            "Natural law is bunk. Hooey. Codswallop. Malarkey. It is the EXACT same thing as saying "I don't like X" and it should be pretty obvious that different people don't like different things. This makes an allegedly independent law entirely subjective.

            What that leaves you with is your own personal preferences. You have NOTHING else to appeal to, so stop pretending that you are "interpreting" the bible, the spirit of god, 'natural law', to gain some special insight as to what the right thing is.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Dump. Bunk. Hooey. Codswallop. Malarkey. Allegedly. Pretending.

            I think your avatar has taken over you comment.

          • Renard Wolfe

            I tried to put it in more polite terms, you didn't understand me.

            I do not believe in natural law. I do not believe in spiritual guidance. So if you're relying on either one for your objective answer, what conclusion can i reach except that its your own personal subjective feelings.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            By "spiritual guidance" do you mean Divine Revelation? If so, that would not at all be surprising since (I'm assuming) you are an atheist. If you are an atheist the idea that God "reveals anything" is absurd. I don't think any Catholic on this website is asking you to believe anything based on revelation, only reason.

            What about morality? You reject natural law ethics. Okay. Do you believe that any objective standard of morality exists? If so, what is it? If not, I have some questions to ask you.

          • Renard Wolfe

            ****By "spiritual guidance" do you
            mean Divine Revelation? ***

            I would include divine revelation, reading it "in your heart"
            etc.

            ****I don't think any Catholic on this website is asking you to believe anything based on revelation, only reason. ***
            But you think natural law is reason when its either divine revelation with the veneer of reason or subjective preferences with the veneer of objectivity.

            ***What about morality? You reject natural law ethics. Okay. Do you believe that any objective standard of morality exists? If so, what is it? If not, I have some questions to ask you.***

            I believe in the objectively existing wants of thinking beings. Sorting out the importance of competing, incomparable wants is complicated and subjective.

            I call it clonkism.

            1)I do not like being clonked on the head.

            2)From the way other creatures act, and what they tell me, they don't like being clonked on the head either.

            Since I am not all that different from other thinking beings, I=them

            If it is wrong to clonk "I" on the head (and I think it is)
            Then it is wrong to clonk "them" on the head.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            RW
            KA thinks natural law is reason when its either divine revelation with the veneer of reason or subjective preferences with the veneer of objectivity.

            KA
            Natural law is right reason looking into human nature and experience to find out what is really good for human beings and what fulfills them.

            It was first expounded by pagans like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero.

            It is not qualitatively different than not wanted to get clonked on the head. It includes all the other kinds of clonking. It begins with human needs and includes wants.

          • David Nickol

            I have never found the Decalogue to be all that impressive. For one thing, as it originally stood, it was a tribal code, not a set of universal laws. For example, the NAB says, in a note to Exodus 20:13:

            [20:13] Kill: as frequent instances of killing in the context of war or certain crimes (see vv. 12–18) demonstrate in the Old Testament, not all killing comes within the scope of the commandment. For this reason, the Hebrew verb translated here as “kill” is often understood as “murder,” although it is in fact used in the Old Testament at times for unintentional acts of killing (e.g., Dt 4:41; Jos 20:3) and for legally sanctioned killing (Nm 35:30). The term may originally have designated any killing of another Israelite, including acts of manslaughter, for which the victim’s kin could exact vengeance. In the present context, it denotes the killing of one Israelite by another, motivated by hatred or the like (Nm 35:20; cf. Hos 6:9).

            Prohibitions that don't define what they prohibit—for example, prohibitions against murder or theft—are not particularly helpful. They amount to saying, "Don't kill anybody you shouldn't kill," and, "Don't take what you ought not to take." As I have noted many times, adultery was sex between a man and a married woman. Sex between a married man and an unmarried woman was not adultery, because the wrongfulness of adultery sprung from violating a man's rights to his wife. Wives had no rights to their husbands. Also, Christians don't keep the sabbath. They didn't "move" the sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. They abolished it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            DN
            I have never found the Decalogue to be all that impressive.

            KA
            Then you might prefer the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ corrected and enlarged the Decalogue.

            DN
            Sex between a married man and an unmarried woman was not adultery,
            because the wrongfulness of adultery sprung from violating a man's
            rights to his wife. Wives had no rights to their husbands.

            KA
            Christ restored marriage to its original meaning and prohibited all adultery and any impurity in thought, word, or deed.

            DN
            Christians don't keep the sabbath. They abolished it.

            KA
            Right, because Christ rose from the dead on Sunday. However, we have kept the essence of the Sabbath as a day to worship God and to rest (which makes me wonder why I'm typing this!).

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    In so much of the discussion on this page, I see a legitimate concern that powerful religious world views can be tweaked with frightening ease to support righteous violence. Everyone should acknowledge those very real risks, certainly including the risks associated with Catholicism, as they are so plainly born out by the data.

    I wonder though: what atheist proposals exist to deal with this problem? I suspect that no one (or few, anyway) on this discussion would support the violent removal of religious worldviews from the face of the Earth. But I wonder if there isn't an implicit hope in many of these comments that somehow religious worldviews will eventually recede from human history by some slow nouveau-Englightenment process. Does anyone think that is a real possibility?

    What I'm trying to get at is whether some atheists are abstaining from religion simply because they don't want to support anything that might be associated with righteous violence. But do individual abstentions from religion really solve that problem?

    I know there is more to it than just this one issue, and let me be clear that I'm not advocating that anyone sign up for something that they don't believe in. But to the extent that one is tempted to adopt a religious worldview, what is the harm? If intelligent people like so many atheists on this list would join the religious ranks, it seem to me that that would help, not hurt.

    • Renard Wolfe

      [quote=HillClimber]n so much of the discussion on this page, I see a legitimate concern that powerful religious world views can be tweaked with frightening ease to support righteous violence.[/quote]

      I don't believe that tweaking is required. The old testament, Qur'an, and a lot of other religions do wholeheartedly support this sort of thing, especially against unbelievers.

      [quote]I wonder though: what atheist proposals exist to deal with this
      problem? I s But I wonder if there isn't an implicit hope in many of these
      comments that somehow religious worldviews will eventually recede from
      human history by some slow nouveau-Englightenment process. Does anyone think that is a real possibility? [/quote]

      Its already happening. People spend less and less time paying attention to religion and more time duct taping religion to their modern morality. Its no longer acceptable to kill the atheists, interacial couples can marry, and the religious have lost the battle against homosexuality with startling speed, In another 20 years homosexual marriage will be about as contraversial as interracial marriage is now.

      This article itself is evidence of bending the interpretation away from the bible and towards morality.

      [quote]What I'm trying to get at is whether some atheists are abstaining
      from religion simply because they don't want to support anything that
      might be associated with righteous violence. But do individual
      abstentions from religion really solve that problem? [/quote]

      I'm sure its on the list, but the main problem is you have a problem with very little evidence coupled with some very difficult claims. Religion claims to be a source of morality but, at bests, acts just like everyone else.

    • MichaelNewsham

      What I'm trying to get at is whether some atheists are abstaining from
      religion simply because they don't want to support anything that might
      be associated with righteous violence.

      I very much doubt it- at least I've never met such an atheist.
      OTOH, I disagree with some New Atheists that religion is-or has been- the cause of most of the violence in the world. Without religion, we'll just find some new excuse- nationalism and politics seem to have filled the bill handily.

      It's like the original Somalian situation- all the same race; all the same ethnicity,all the same language and all the same religion, so they turned their country into Hell on Earth over clan differences

  • David Nickol

    If "violence is contrary to God's nature," why is nature so violent? Certainly the alleged Fall can't explain why. Even if such a thing happened, it could not have been more than 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Even if it took place a million or five million years ago, we now know that nature was "red in tooth and claw" long before the existence of any creature that could be called human. We are supposed to know God through his creation, but the history of life on earth—going back long before the existence of humans—is really rather horrific. Death is as old as life. Injury, pain, predation, infection, and disease go back hundreds of millions of years.

    One important point. It is not immoral for a lion to kill and eat a zebra, but it is certainly violent.

    If the natural world is a reflection of the nature of God, then I think it is very difficult to maintain that violence is contrary to God's nature.

    • Matthew Ramage

      This is a great issue you raise, David. Not pretending that this is the definitive answer, I’ll share with you how I look it. Says Benedict in the volume God and the World: "It is in fact one of the great riddles of creation that there seems to be a law of brutality…In her faith the Church has always seen it in this way: that the destructive effect of the Fall works itself out in the whole of creation." This is almost an impossible point to make in a blog comment since it involves so much theology, but I wish to call attention to this theological hypothesis according to which God’s creative act already takes into account the Fall of man (and every other human action) from the first moment of creation. C.S. Lewis, whose opinion I also gravitate toward on this question, makes a similar proposal in his Letters to Malcom: "We have long since agreed that if our prayers are granted at all they are granted from the foundation of the world. God and His acts are not in time. Intercourse between God and man occurs at particular moments for the man, but not for God. If there is – as the very concept of prayer presupposes – an adaptation between the free actions of men in prayer and the course of events, this adaptation is from the beginning inherent in the great single creative act. Our prayers are heard – don't say 'have been heard' or you are putting God into time – not only before we make them but before we are made ourselves." Though Lewis is speaking of prayer here, the salient point is that God “adapts” (to use Lewis’ admittedly imprecise term) creation from the very beginning (beginning from our point of view as creatures in time), taking into account all that he knows will happen over its course. Anyway, just thought you’d find this stimulating even if you disagree.

      • David Nickol

        Thanks for taking the time to reply at length. It is very difficult to think of God, outside of time, and his interactions with the world, very much bound by time. So the following is not exactly accurate, but close I think. The theory seems to be that in "anticipation" of the Fall, God created a world that was already fallen. So Adam and Eve, before the Fall, were in an already fallen world. Perhaps if we had some way of talking about the "actions" of a God outside of time, some sense could be made of it. But it seems to me to raise all kinds of problems. It makes me think of the Immaculate Conception, in which Mary was conceived without sin in anticipation of what she was to do. But we can only presume that a person conceived without sin is going to be quite different from a person tainted by Original Sin, so consequently (it seems to me) forming Mary in anticipation of what she was going to be like was in fact making her what she was going to be. It is a bit like predestination. And in fact, why could it not be said that if God knew from all eternity that a given person was going to be evil, he just went ahead and created that person evil in anticipation of what the person was going to be?

        It is an interesting idea, and as you imply, it would take a great deal of effort to work through even a small number of its implications, but my initial reaction is that it would generate more problems than it solved. It seems to me that sometimes, as with the luminiferous aether, instead of coming up with very creative theories to explain mounting difficulties with an old theory, it is better just to abandon it.

        • Matthew Ramage

          Indeed, it is incredibly difficult to speak of God's act outside of time, and it's certainly something with which our imagination doesn't help much. Like you said, it does rub up against the question of predestination, as alot of these questions often seem to do! On your last point, I see and respect what you're saying, and on certain points of the tradition would agree--but I wasn't clear on what you were indicating we might abandon: the Fall, the complicated explanation I proposed, etc. On this one I fall on the side of Lewis/Benedict in proposing a very difficult to conceive explanation with the caveat "it still remains a mystery." The reason being that I find it problematic to disregard either a) the science that indicates there was death and violence well before man or b) the dogma of the Fall. If you have a follow-up on this, I'd be interested to hear it.

          • David Nickol

            As far as I know, my thoughts on this topic are heretical!

            I think the idea that there was a Fall is no longer credible. Or rather, I think the concept of the Fall might be kept if it is radically reinterpreted. What I think is no longer credible is the idea that the two "first" human beings, the "parents" of the human race, committed some kind of sin that altered human nature (or all of nature). Just as early scientific advances cause believers to give up the notion that the story of creation in six days and the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience were not literally true, further scientific advancements require giving up the notion that we are all descended form two and only two "parents." The Catechism's interpretation of the Fall does not regard it so much as figurative as a roman a clef. It may not have been Adam and Eve in a garden who were tempted by a serpent and ate forbidden fruit. But it was an unnamed man and woman like Adam and Eve who committed some act, presumably and act of disobedience, like eating forbidden fruit, and they were the biological parents of the whole human race and passed some thing down "biologically" that we call Original Sin.

            One simply has to go too far to reconcile the idea of "parents" of the human race with what is understood quite clearly of evolution and human origins. There were no "parents" of the human race. And the hypothesized corruption of all nature by Original Sin predates any possible time estimate for when Original Sin could have occurred. Once it become necessary to add hypothesis after hypothesis after hypothesis to salvage a doctrine, the credibility of the original doctrine is lost. Better to come up with a new interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve than to invent new theories to explain every objection to it.

            Benedict XVI (while still Cardinal Ratzinger) made some interesting conjectures about Original Sin which I will quote here, since I have lifted them from a site that uses them as evidence that Benedict was a heretic!

            "In the Genesis story that we are considering, still a further characteristic of sin is described. Sin is not spoken of in general as an abstract possibility but as a deed, as the sin of a particular person, Adam, who stands at the origin of humankind and with whom the history of sin begins. The account tells us that sin begets sin, and that therefore all the sins of history are interlinked. Theology refers to this state of affairs by the certainly misleading and imprecise term 'original sin.' What does this mean? Nothing seems to us today to be stranger or, indeed, more absurd than to insist upon original sin, since, according to our way of thinking, guilt can only be something very personal, and since God does not run a concentration camp, in which one’s relative are imprisoned, because he is a liberating God of love, who calls each one by name. What does original sin mean, then, when we interpret it correctly?
            "Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without--from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.' Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives--themselves--only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event--sin--touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it."

            The idea of all persons living not merely as individuals but in relationship to all other persons seems to me to be an insight into what a person is that would be useful and valid in discussions other than those about Original Sin. If, in some bizarre and immoral experiment, it was attempted to grow a human zygote in total isolation from all external stimuli of any kind, particular from any interaction with other human beings, it seems to me the entity you would wind up with would not be, in many meanings of the word, a person. It seems to me persons are not persons except in relationship with one another. Of course, one does not cease to become a person when one seeks out solitude, but if all an organism had ever experienced was solitude, I think it would not be (or function as) a person.

            The alleged effects of Original Sin that are so obvious to some that they are claimed to confirm Christianity can all be more reasonably explained as the result of evolved animals with individual wants and needs in part giving up some of those wants and needs, or delaying or foregoing the gratification of wants and needs as a trade-off to live in a human culture. Many human "flaws" are really adaptations of human nature to pre-civilized ways of life. Evolutionarily speaking, for example, it is adaptive for a man to have multiple sexual partners, but it is much less adaptive for a female to. There is no need to explain human nature by positing that it was once perfect and was damaged. Rather, what evolved and is now part of human nature did not necessarily evolve for civilized societies but for primitive life. Human nature seems imperfect because much of it was not "designed" to function in highly advanced civilization or even in primitive civilization. It is not that human beings were once perfectly suited to living in civilized societies and human nature was damaged. It is rather that civilization is a collective human invention that is achieved by controlling and reigning in human nature for the collective benefit of all, something human beings were not "designed" to do. It is not that humans fall short of living in civilized societies because they were once perfect and were damaged. It is that human beings were able to invent civilization in spite of the fact that they were not individually "designed" for civilization, and they must make personal sacrifices to act as civilized human beings in a civilized society.

          • Matthew Ramage

            Thanks for these comments, David. I like the quotes from Ratzinger. Some of my best Ratzinger material over the years has actually come from SSPX websites. Precisely where some think he is heretical is often where he is most brilliant. These texts you quote remind me of his comments from In the Beginning (perhaps they even come from there, but I can't recall)

  • Jun

    Consideration of variations in literature, historical & cultural context embodied in every book will somehow provide a proper 'attitude' for every objective reader in understanding every text and passages in the Old Testament. If I make our current modern culture a bottom line for understanding a "passage or text" expressed about 2000 years B.C. I may find a "meaning" outside(different) of its historical context. Most (if not all)of the biblical literatures in the Old Testament were resultant of the "decisive events" of Israel's long history. Hence, I may understand words and expressions in every passage or text within that particular period(decisive event) to grasp a possible objective meaning taken in its proper context.

  • nannon31

    Benedict simply was not qualified to comment herein on violence because he even misrepresents the prophets in VD section 42.

    Here is Pope Benedict's words in section 42 of Verbum Domini: "In the Old Testament, the preaching of the prophets vigorously challenged every kind of injustice and violence, whether collective or individual, and thus became God’s way of training his people in preparation for the Gospel."
    The statement simply is not true. There are prophetic verses against inter Jewish, often class violence (Jer.22:3, Eze.45:9, and Micah 6:12 " you rich men are full of violence") but the prophets were not against all violence.
    Elijah killed 552 men minimum (I Kgs.18:40 e.g.); Eliseus was mandated by God to kill those who escaped the sword of Jehu ( I Kgs.19:17); the prophet Samuel killed Agag since Saul did not as ordered by God; and Jeremiah says to the Chaldeans (Jer.48:10) that they must kill the Moabites with precision: " Cursed are they who do the LORD’s work carelessly,
    cursed those who keep their sword from shedding blood."
    Not one prophet opposed all violence because God used violence as a motivator ( in wars and in death penalties for mortal sin) prior to Christ bringing sanctifying grace (Jn.1:17) and prior to His reducing the devil's power (Lk.10:18).
    It is these last two creative acts of Christ that change things radically in those two areas though the death penalty for murder (not adultery etc.) perdures by implication in Romans 13:4 which echoes Gen.9:6 ...both being given to Gentiles ( thus the catechism could not condemn executions per se in ccc #2267 but tried to void them by saying life sentences are protecting people which is simplistic because arrest rates vary dramatically across the globe and life sentences protect you only from caught murderers (3% of murderers in Guatemala)).
    Prior to Christ, the Jews were weak without sanctifying grace and with the devil being strong prior to Luke 10:18 wherein Christ says, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning."
    Thus man lacking sanctifying grace and having a powerful devil at hand...man needed demonstrations of God's power and justice... in order to be good on a basic physical level so that Jews were to be stoned for adultery but not for coveting which was less damaging socially and less provable.
    Benedict in his desire to see Europe become religious again ( like John Paul II) was trying
    to have the Bible seem more likable by modern secular man but flattering the OT prophets while not noticing the truth about their orientation to violence is not a solution.

  • The Catholic Voyager

    I have not read through all the comments, but this is a very good article in that it hits the key hermeneutic for understanding the Old Testament---as typological events, whether any particular event is historical or figurative. Perhaps in a future post, you could give one or two examples, such as how the Amelkites are analgous to sin, and their "defeat" points to sin's defeat in the NT.

    • David Nickol

      examples, such as how the Amelkites are analgous to sin, and their "defeat" points to sin's defeat in the NT

      I very much endorse the idea of taking specific examples, but it seems to me that turning OT stories into analogies doesn't solve the problem, since if they are analogies, (1) they employ violence to make their point, and (2) that violence at least seems to have been considered legitimate by the OT authors, even if we interpret the stories today not to legitimize the violence.

      For those who believe the Holy Spirit is the author of scripture, the question must be asked why the Holy Spirit inspired the OT authors to use violence even in mythical or figurative accounts, even if everyone knew at the time the accounts were figurative.

      I think we would react much differently if the stories of God commanding genocide had the Israelites not just to kill the men, women, children, and cattle, but rape and kill the men, women, children, and cattle. (Of course, in cases where the Israelites kept the virginal women for themselves, let us not pretend that they wooed them, proposed marriage, and accepted no for an answer.) My point is that the idea of God ordering genocide does not shock a good many people in the way I think it ought to, making these "dark passages" not quite so dark to some people as to others. (God, after all, gave all human beings their lives, so why wouldn't he have the right to take those lives away himself, or to delegate the taking of any life? I want to make clear I disagree with the implication of that rhetorical question.) Being somewhat desensitized by this kind of thinking and by overfamiliarity with what should be very shocking stories, we might tend to think interpreting them figuratively solves the problem. But what I am saying is that even if we interpret them figuratively, we have to ask why the OT authors were inspired to attribute such shocking behavior to God, even if they, being products of ancient times and a primitive culture, found nothing shocking about it. Why certain things might have been viewed by the human OT authors in a certain way is not difficult to understand. But why the Holy Spirit would have inspired to write down time- and culture-bound ideas in literature that was meant for all times seems to me a very difficult question to answer.

  • Max Driffill

    This may be the most preposterous formulation I've yet to read here on Strange notions. If you assume that the god of Abraham is a real being and the bible and universe represent evidence of the character of this being one can only conclude the opposite. Violence is very much in this being's nature.

  • Alex Lim

    The nature of God??? How presumptuous of you to claim you know the nature of God so that His violent actions in the Old Testament contradicts this nature???

  • Alex Lim

    Have you seen the prayer of St Archangel Michael with his picture and that of the Devil? The picture shows an act of slaying the devil with a sword. Does that contradict the nature of God?

  • Alex Lim

    God is God. Why assess His nature using the same yardstick we measure human actions and inactions. Because He is God, He can do whatever He wants. At his pleasure. He is not subject to any law He himself makes, or some standard of behavior.