Pat Condell’s Case Against The Catholic Church

After a tasteless joke early on, he’s justly scathing and deserves to be heard:

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Christians are too blithe when they distinguish the evils perpetuated by Christian institutions from those same institutions’ claims to moral and spiritual authority as founded by God or, at least, to their being the church of God at all. How in the world could a morally perfect God create institutions expressly for the purpose of spiritually and morally perfecting human beings and let them become so utterly indistinguishable from any other institutions in terms of their possible corruptibility?

You can’t have it both ways, you can’t believe an institution is divinely formed for transmission of divine truths and simultaneously concede that it is as fallible as the human beings who run it. Because then why not just draw the logical conclusion, that those who instituted were simply fallible human beings, all its claims are fallible, and that it itself has no intrinsic claim to moral or spiritual authority? What besides brainwashing from infancy into considering the church somehow set apart, somehow a holy institution and an authority, when there is not the slightest evidence of any such thing?

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Gregory Smith

    “How in the world could a morally perfect God create institutions expressly for the purpose of spiritually and morally perfecting human beings and let them become so utterly indistinguishable from any other institutions in terms of their possible corruptibility?”

    God didn’t create the church. Who claimed He did?

    • Daniel Fincke

      Jesus, in Matthew 16:13-18. Christians think Jesus is God, they think what he says is true, they think he decided to “build his church” upon either Peter and the heirs to his throne (if they’re Catholic) or they interpret the text to mean that he meant to “build his church” upon the truth of his lordship and divinity (an alternative, Protestant reading of the text). In either case, Jesus is claiming to create a church.

      The very word church means “called out ones”—supposedly “called out” by God. To give any credence whatsoever to either the Christian founding texts or to its institutional history or to the word “church” itself is to claim that the historical church has some special relationship with God. Otherwise, well, you’re really beyond Christianity, now aren’t you?

      I mean, I’m fine if you want to chuck the whole “uniquely called out church” idea and say all humans are in the same boat, none specially called out by God to be vehicles of his truth in the world. But, that’s not the distinctively Christian position historically by any means. And if you don’t hold this historical position, that’s great, but I’m addressing those who do.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Unless, of course, you mean Jesus isn’t God, in which case, again, that’s great if you don’t think Jesus was God but others do, such that if Jesus creates a church, necessarily God has created that church. I am addressing those who think God specially created the church. And most of those people also think Jesus was God and that’s how we know that Jesus creating a church is God creating a church. I address these people above.

  • KM

    Aside from the fact that it would take quite a stupendous proof, I feel, to show that Jesus was calling for the creation of a church of any particularity, why does one take from those verses that Jesus was calling for the creation of any institutionalized church at all? Would it not take any amount of presumption to go beyond the fact that Peter was merely one who knew what he was talking about? Perhaps Jesus was validating Peter’s own existential commitment; perhaps it was a demonstration of Peter’s authority over the other disiciples. Regardless, it is completely independent, Dan, of whether or not one considers Jesus to be God or the instigator of a church of whatever ambigious sort.

    Regarding the video, it is an intriguing presupposition that widespread hatred of the Jews was a direct result of the second – so declared – great sin as seen by Christians (Catholics?). It is no uncommon knowledge that prior to the second WW and the “final solution”, Jews were disliked all over Europe – not just in Germany. Is this distaste also due to the Catholic church? How about the pogroms in Russia? The speaker in the above video – Pat was it? – said that if not for the Catholic church there would have been no holocaust. As one of Jewish ancestry, this of particular interest to me. I would ask Pat, if he were listening, to trace the line of causation. And could it perhaps not be that he mistook the effect for the cause? I am not one well-read in European history, but how can one not say that the Catholic church – a human institution, for the sake of this conjecture – merely adopted what were the commonplace societal views? Furthermore, while remarking on the fact that neither Hitler nor any Nazis where excommunicated from the Catholic church (a fact I cannot contest), the speaker does not endeavor to acknowledge those who were in agreement on the abhorency of such a position. If I’m not mistaken, Germany was ripe with an underground church movement that aimed to bring down the Third Reich, centered around what I believe was the Barmen Declaration – a movement that was completely counter to any semblance of anti-semtitism.


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