Rhode Island Bishop Very Concerned About Atheist Mayoral Candidate

The Bishop of the Providence Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin, is very concerned that the Democratic candidate for mayor of Providence, Rhode Island might be an atheist. And he tries the “not that there’s anything wrong with that” line but then puts his Christian privilege on display.

Question: is Jorge Elorza an Atheist?

Is Jorge Elorza, currently a candidate for Mayor of the City of Providence, an atheist or not? The question emerged early in the mayoral campaign and has reappeared in recent newspaper coverage. The issue comes about as a result of an article he wrote a few years back for the University of Pittsburgh Law Review. Since the question arose, I’ve had the chance to read the article and I’ve come across the following quotes…

“Specifically, science has disconfirmed the claim that the theist God has the power to violate the laws of physics.” And again, “In this section I argue that the disconfirmation of the theist God is not only hypothetically possible, but that it has already been achieved.”

When Mr. Elorza uses the term “theist God” I think he’s referring to the kind of God most of us believe in, the God who’s revealed in the Bible — a personal God, a God who can and has intervened in history, a God who cares about you and me every day.

In another section Mr. Elorza turns to psychiatry to argue that many religious experiences can be explained by epilepsy and that many religious founders and leaders have had epilepsy which he refers to as a “sacred disease.” This theory might come as a shock to many believers who have had personal religious experiences of their own.

Now I should emphasize that being an atheist would neither recommend nor disqualify him from being Mayor of Providence. But I wonder if an atheist mayor would be in a position to respect the sincere convictions of believers (of all faiths) and to encourage and support the many contributions the faith community makes in our city and state.

So, can anyone help determine: Is Jorge Elorza an atheist or not? It would be good to know before Election Day.

I’m betting that if someone suggested that a Catholic candidate might not “respect” (whatever the hell that means; this may be the most overused and underdefined word in the English language) the “sincere convictions” of Protestants, Jews, Muslims or atheists, Bishop Tobin would be outraged at the very suggestion.

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  • tuibguy

    Of course a Catholic would respect the beliefs of all faiths and not-faiths. They have proven through their 1600 year history that tolerance of other beliefs and faiths is a hallmark of Catholicism. Dude, do you even history?

  • Mobius


    That last paragraph. Just what I was thinking as I read the bishop’s statement.

  • matty1

    It’s kind of OT but why was what sounds like a philosophy article published in a legal journal?

  • had3

    Can he provide examples of sincere convictions of a believer that should be respected and those that shouldn’t and explain why the difference? Eg., ability of fathers to sell their daughters – respected belief or ridiculed belief?

  • raven

    Question: is Jorge Elorza an Atheist?

    Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin is Just Asking Questions you know? Next up. Is Jorge Elorza a liberal? A Democrat? Did he vote for Obama. Does he kick puppies and babies? Just Asking Questions.

    Is Bishop Tobin a pedophile, a child raper? The RCC has had long standing problems with supposedly celibate priests and child sexual abuse. Is he an Atheist? Anyone is guilty of suspected Atheism, even and especially Catholic priests.

    Is Bishop Tobin trying to influence an election? Is he a delusional rightwing nut? Is he a typical dumb, warped old man Catholic Bishop? Does he watch Fox Nonews?

    I’m Just Asking Questions here!!! Although most of the answers are going to be, “Yes”.

  • illdoittomorrow

    From the quote in the OP:

    ” …the God who’s revealed in the Bible — a personal God, a God who can and has intervened in history, a God who cares about you and me every day.”

    Apropos of nothing, here’s yet more evidence of what a sadistic shitheel the god that Xians worship is. If an omni-uber-everything god can intervene in history- i.e., change it- why is genocide a thing? Why let anyone suffer for eternity, when you can just turn back the clock until they do things your way?

    If your good cosmic buddy can do all of this, and doesn’t, and you grovel in simpering suckholitude at its feet anyway, what kind of person are you?

  • raven

    Question: is Jorge Elorza an Atheist?

    Is Jorge Elorza a heretic? A Fake Xian? Is Jorge Elorza going to Hell like most Protestants?

    If he isn’t a Catholic, the answer is yes, yes, and probably.

    Despite this being the 21st century, the old xian religious hatreds are still around in some places, particulary among the clergy. I’ve read sincere and vicious attacks on the RCC. Written by Orthodox xian priests. It’s only been 800 years since they split from the RCC so I guess it is too much to expect them to actually tolerate each other.

  • Nemo

    I don’t respect beliefs. I try to respect people.

    If I were mayor, the faith community would be on its own. I wouldn’t stop them from doing their thing, but I’d try to direct city funds to strictly secular purposes and institutions. If it proved absolutely necessary to rely on churches for their charitable functions, I’d at least be applying extra scrutiny to their operations if they received public money. So, that’s my evil atheist agenda.

  • matty1

    Is Tom Jobin a Papist?

  • Mike Morris

    Providence looks like it might re-elect Buddy Cianci, an independent (now) and a 2 time convicted felon.

    He was mayor 2 times, once as a republican and once as an independent for a total of 21 years. Both times he was forced out of office for felony convictions. He is running again and in the lead. Talk about forgiveness.

    Religious bullshit notwithstanding, Elorza’s being an atheist or not is seemingly small potatoes. Convicted felons have the clear path to office it seems.

  • dingojack

    Is Bishop Thomas Joseph Tobin just asking questions?

    Does the Pope shit in the woods?


  • dingojack

    (lucky the Bishop didn’t mock Jorge Elorza for being bald!)


  • colnago80

    Re Mike Morris @ #10

    Well, James Michael Curry was elected mayor of Boston while still serving time in the slammer.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    This theory might come as a shock to many believers who have had personal religious experiences of their own.

    What about deists who’ve had impersonal religious experiences?

  • jimmiraybob

    As a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, isn’t he technically a representative of a foreign sovereign political power – a sovereign city-state? Why are foreign powers meddling directly in our elections?

  • marcozandrini

    How do you say “Waaaaaaaa” in Latin?

  • vereverum

    @ marcozandrini #16

    How do you say “Waaaaaaaa” in Latin?

    That would be “Waaaaaaaa”.

    Odd how some things just never change.

    Though it would’ve been spelled with a u or v but pronounced as a w,

    from vagio -ire.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne


    My dictionary has vae, which would have been pronounced “wye” in Classical Latin (“vay” in Church Latin).

  • John Pieret

    matty1 @3:

    it’s a bit of a philosophy of law article that’s asking whether teaching the non-existence of the theist God in public schools would violate the the 1st Amendment establishment clause. It’s called “Secularism and the Constitution: Can Government Be Too Secular?” It’s quite long but you can read it here:


    Its conclusion is”

    Religion has come under intense scrutiny in recent years. Because of its tendency to issue categorical commands and to insulate itself from evidence and reason, Brian Leiter [a well known law professor] concludes that there is no principled basis for tolerating religion. Sam Harris is similarly critical in decrying religious groups for ignoring the standards of evidence that we all, even fundamentalists, apply in just about every aspect of our lives. Yet, when it comes to evaluating religious claims, people seem to “require no evidence whatsoever.” …

    The problem with religion however, is that when it makes an empirical claim, it is effectively disregarding science. Science is a process of acquiring knowledge that, if carefully employed, gives us confidence in the reliability of our conclusions. This allows us to better predict the future and to prepare for it. On the contrary, religion does not so much as pretend to provide a basis that can be evaluated for reliability and accuracy. Presumably, we are left with the conclusory and often conversation-stopping statement that these claims, particularly, empirical claims should be believed as a matter of faith

    simply because the theist God commands. While a deep, unflinching faith is sometimes the aspect of religion that is most admirable, whenever an empirical question is concerned, accuracy should be our ultimate goal. This is a principle that our legal system already adopts and that I believe should not be suspended whenever religions make empirical claims. The result may be that religion will sometimes be contradicted but since the deist and memist gods would remain, the effect would not be as great as some may initially suspect. …

    If the non-existence of the theist God comes to form part of a basic public school education, it will not spell doom for religion. Religion is, and has always been, a remarkably successful meme. It has evolved to fit the needs of the times and has adapted to the ever changing Zeitgeist. In an open marketplace, religion will flourish so long as it meets the needs of its consumers. With secularism on the rise in America, I suspect that the religious groups that will thrive are the ones that are best able to provide the sought-after sense of community and purpose without requiring its constituents to believe empirical claims that contradict good science.

    Without reading it, I seriously doubt that public schools would be allowed by SCOTUS to explicitly teach that science has established the non-existence of the theist God, though they can can certainly vigorously teach the empirical results of science, even on issues that some think bear on that issue, such as the age of the Earth or evolution, and allow the chips to fall where they may.

  • http://sidhe3141.blogspot.com JamesY2

    John Pieret (19):

    That’s a local address. If a file’s address starts with “file:///”, it means it’s stored on your machine.