You can be skeptical and friendly at the same time.
Follow Patheos Atheist:
[Link to video]
I am age 78, once a Catholic priest for five years (in the 1960's), then a math teacher for 44 years up to the present day. I became an atheist a few years ago. My hobbies are music and chess.
Thank you, Edward, for making these videos for the Friendly Atheist. They are interesting and informative, and I look forward to seeing the new one each Thursday.
Reddwynge, thank you. I invite you, between one Thursday and the next, to watch one or more of my 712 YouTube videos (search edward tarte). They are in playlists at my profile page. Among my 400 music videos you can watch and listen to me play on my piano the National Anthem of Iceland, or a Beatles medley. You can listen in high-fidelity stereo sound to the music that was performed outdoors to celebrate the demolition of the Berlin Wall. Among my math challenge videos you can try to figure out how many ambiguous date-names there are, and if you want you can have a prize if you are correct. That’s in addition to my 160+ religion videos.
My husband’s cousin was a priest in the ’60s. Before he could be ordained, he was required to go to his grandparents (who had left the Church years previously) to try to convince them to return, but he was unsuccessful. So he had to tell them that they were doomed to hell. Surprise: he left the church after a few years and married a former nun.
The eternal threat of hell was one of the reasons I couldn’t take Catholicism, or any religion, seriously.
Thanks for the interesting videos!
The Catholic Church today teaches that no one will go to Hell who did not knowingly reject the good that was presented to them, which is why we have hope that people from History like Socrates and Plato may be in heaven (and that isn’t new either, but has been an ongoing theme from early in Catholic tradition). As St. John of the Cross said, “At the evening of our life, we shall be judged on our love.” Anyone who really tried their best but in fact did not, as Bertrand Russell claims he did not, have enough evidence to believe and know Him, will not be condemned. Hell is not a threat, but the reality of our option to divorce ourselves from the love of God if we choose. Kat’s cousin (below) was mistaken in telling his grandparents they were definitely going to Hell, as only God and people themselves can know for certain their hearts, the reasons guiding their choices, and whether they pursued the Truth as they were able.
When the Catholic Church told me and my fellow seminarians soon to be ordained priests, Recite the Divine Office daily for the rest of your capable life or you will go to hell, every one of us understood that in the way that we had been taught very forcefully: it was a threat.
I am defending not what your catechist may have said, former Fr. Tarte, but what the Church currently teaches. And the Church currently teaches that God punishes those who, though they had the ability to pursue and accept the good, rejected it for lies that were more convenient. If you thought that reciting the divine office daily for the rest of you life was to your good, and yet you neglected it simply because you were lazy, and not because that seems like an intellectually stupid thing to believe, then I would say that yes, you are blameworthy, based upon your own belief, regardless of whether the divine office is or isn’t necessary. I can’t find anywhere in the Catechism that teaches that one must say the divine office daily or go to hell, and I assume that you too had access to the Catechism. Yet you did not search it for answers regarding the bizarre claims of your catechist. I am sorry if your catechist threatened you, but he did so misrepresenting Catholic teaching, a tradition which teaches that we can hope that righteous pagans like Socrates and Cicero may even be in heaven, and I know *they* didn’t recite the divine office. Rather than tar all of religion with the same brush, based upon your poor teachers in seminary, perhaps it would be fairer to look at what our Catechism actually teaches and judge us from that.
I think you’re being a little arrogant here, Foster. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic elementary school, and did my master’s degree at the Catholic University of America. The Catholic Church most definitely uses hell as a threat through catechism and the mass. To claim that isn’t the case or that a former soon-to-be priest did not know his catechism is not only willfully dishonest, but condescending as well.
What does the Church say about Hell in the Catechism? ”The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell.” (CCC 1035) So, what is mortal sin? ”To choose deliberately – that is, both knowing it and willing it – something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death.” (CCC 1874) Which proves exactly what I said: damnation requires that a person deliberately, and knowingly, chooses what is evil over what is good. If Mr. Tarte does not know the Catechism, how is this my fault, and how am I arrogant to correct him?
The Bible teaches that no “thing” we do saves us anyway, we’re save through faith in Christ alone.
And it also teaches that faith without works is dead. It’s a nice little contradiction that keeps Protestants and Catholics arguing endlessly about which verse is more important.
yes – the Bible teaches that works would be evidence of faith – but they’re not what saves us.
“Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
When Paul wrote those words, B, he was speaking against Jewish Christians who were telling gentile Christians they needed to circumcise themselves to be in accord with the Jewish law. Ignoring this context and the overall context of scripture is a fatal mistake. Catholics and Protestants agree that God’s grace is a necessary prerequisite to saving faith. Paul also wrote, “Therefore, work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is Christ who works in you.” James did not only write, “Faith without works is dead,” but also ”You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” See also what Christ says, “ ’Not every one who says to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens.” See what St. John says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” Both faith and works are necessary and integral to an ordinary Christian’s salvation, as the balanced witness of scripture makes clear.
Foster, you keep saying this is the official Catholic position on the subject, but provide no sources backing this up. Last time you did that your position ended up being exactly opposite of the official catholic position on the issue. So if you expect anyone to believe you this time you need to provide some official sources backing it up.
Not sure what you’re talking about with “last time.” I recall a conversation on this blog in which someone accused me of being against Catholic doctrine by supporting triage, and then cited an extreme case where a nine-year old girl had twins that the doctors aborted, so maybe you refer to that. What they did differs from triage, which the Church supports, in that they did not even give either of the infants a chance, when even younger girls have given birth without complications. This varies from the situation of an ectopic pregnancy, where the infant really has no chance of survival. I cited the Catechism on that occasion, but you may be thinking of something or someone else. Anyway, on to the present issue. What does the Church say about Hell in the Catechism? ”The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell.” (CCC 1035) So, what is mortal sin? ”To choose deliberately – that is, both knowing it and willing it – something gravely contrary to the divine law and to the ultimate end of man is to commit a mortal sin. This destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death.” (CCC 1874) Which proves exactly what I said: damnation requires that a person deliberately, and knowingly, chooses what is evil over what is good.
First, I cited two cases, neither of which you responded to. The second one involved someone who was guaranteed to die of heart failure.
Second, I also pointed out that your position in ectopic pregnancies does, in fact, directly contradict the Catholic Church’s official policy on the subject, which you also never responded to.
In fact, the Church’s official position is that it doesn’t matter at all whether the mother will die or not, all that matters is whether the abortion is “direct” (in that it directly removes the embryo from the mother) or indirect (in which it doesn’t). Even if a direct abortion is the absolutely only way to save the mother (as it was with the hypertension case), it doesn’t matter according to official catholic doctrine.
So your whole “triage” interpretation is completely ant totally bogus, it is completely and totally against Catholic doctrine.
Third, “Which proves exactly what I said: damnation requires that a person
deliberately, and knowingly, chooses what is evil over what is good.”
That depends on what the church considers to be evil and what it considers to be “knowingly”. The church’s position on abortion is that it is evil, but if someone believes it is good they will still get excommunicated, which means they cannot get into heaven (since they do not get the sacraments, which are a requirement for all believers). So it would be fully consistent that the catholic church thinks not believing in Jesus would be evil, and thus worthy of damnation.
And that is exactly he problem here. You interpret the Catholic doctrines the way that fits with your own idea of what is right and wrong. But we have already seen that your interpretation of those doctrines is not always the same as the Church’s.
If there were world enough and time, TBC, we could debate indefinitely, but I do not always have leisure to respond (or desire to scroll forever to get back to our discussion), nor is this the only way I spend what leisure I have. Sorry for being mortal. However, since you are obviously so put out by my neglect, and I do have some time now, I did go back and read through your second article too. You also misunderstand “direct,” as the Catechism explicitly refers to intention, rather than the physical vagaries of the abortion, as I pointed out in that thread. If *you* actually bothered to read the second article you cited, (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126985072) you would notice that the case was controversial, and there were canon lawyers who were on the woman’s side based upon US Catholic Directive 47 and canon law. As everyone quoted agreed, it was a hard case. Furthermore, as I also said to you in those comments, “I believe that everything the Church officially teaches regarding Faith and morality is correct and (by implication) does not contradict itself, but I do not always agree with the actions and policy decisions of its clergy, nor does any devout Catholic need to.” In other words, yes, sometimes Church officials may interpret Church law wrongly or make a bad call pragmatically. Seat belts kill people that otherwise would have survived car crashes. But the overall effect of seat belts is saving life, which is obviously the overall effect of the Church’s pro-life policy, too. Our society’s current problems funding social security and other entitlement programs is directly linkable to a population problem and decreased productive work force, physicians and medical funding, which comes as a result of having only 2.3 kids per couple and our culture of contraception and abortion. The Church’s doctrine on this issue makes sense and society would be happier if people abided by it. Since the Church teaches that innocent children who die, who cannot believe in Jesus, may go to heaven, obviously it would *not* be fully consistent to think the Catholic Church thinks not believing in Jesus would be evil, and thus worthy of damnation.
However, since you are obviously so put out by my neglect, and I do have
some time now, I did go back and read through your second article too.
I don’t have a problem with people leaving a online conversation. What I have a problem with is people demanding evidence that not even bothering to read it. If you aren’t going to continue the conversation, then don’t demand I do a bunch of research.
You also misunderstand “direct,” as the Catechism explicitly refers to
intention, rather than the physical vagaries of the abortion, as I
pointed out in that thread.
I have done a lot of reading from official Catholic sources on the issue, and this is the first time anyone has mentioned anything remotely similar to this.
This goes exactly against the official catholic position on ectopic pregnancies, which you still have totally ignored, and is the whole point of the discussion. Your insistence that this is the correct interpretation is exactly what calls into question your ability to interpret Catholic doctrine, so your continued refusal to address this issue is not helping you.
you would notice that the case was controversial, and there were canon
lawyers who were on the woman’s side based upon US Catholic Directive 47
and canon law
No, the article says nothing of the sort.
The article says the controversy was over whether that was enough to warrant excommunication or just a lighter punishment, it gives no indication there were any doctrinal controversy over whether her decision was against Catholic rules on the subject.
The canon lawyer said that Catholic rules on the subject are very clear, as does everyone else quoted in the article. The difficult the lawyer discusses is actually following these rules, not in figuring out what they are, since condemning someone to death when the person could easily be saved is not easy for reasonable people to do.
Maybe you should read the article before lecturing me to do. Glass houses and all.
As everyone quoted agreed, it was a hard case.
It’s not a hard case at all. Saving one life or none is not a hard decision here. The Catholic church made it hard with their policies, but the case itself is every simple.
But that doesn’t change the fact that your stance on ectopic pregnancies flies in the face of the official catholic position on the issue.
The rest of the post I completely and totally disagree with, but is irrelevant to the fundamental point, which is that you need to back up your opinions on official catholic policy with official catholic policy, not your cobbled-together interpretation of how you think various policies should fit together.
You have already shown yourself to be unreliable on a much simpler and clearer case that only depends on one catechism. Now you expect us to just take your word for it when you try to figure out how several, much vaguer catechisms fit together. I am trying to tell you that isn’t going to happen.
Since the Church teaches that innocent children who die, who cannot
believe in Jesus, may go to heaven, obviously it would *not* be fully
consistent to think the Catholic Church thinks not believing in Jesus
would be evil, and thus worthy of damnation.
We are talking about adults who could, potentially, believe in Jesus, so there would be no inconsistency there.
So, if I understand correctly, most of us Atheists do not have enough evidence to believe and know “him”, hence the reason why we are Atheists. Does this mean that we will not be condemned if, by some bizarre fluke, we are wrong? Sort of like Pascals Wager in reverse.
That is the question. Do you have enough evidence to lead you to the conclusion of God’s existence if you pursued the truth. There are many good excuses not to believe in God: for example, the complete freedom to live your life as you choose with no one to judge your misdeeds at the end of your life. Did you allow them to sway you towards unbelief when they really have nothing to do with the question? Did you really follow up on historical reports of miracles and deem the evidence to be incredible, or did you dismiss them as unworthy of your valuable time? Did you rely on the experts like Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens, who happened to agree with your view, and not even bother to read educated theistic writers, or did you practice the principle of charity and consider theistic arguments in their strongest possible form, rather than dismiss all religion based on straw men like the Westborough Baptists, or six thousand year/six day creationists, whose antirational definitions of “faith” do not represent all theists? If the evidence is really not there, yet you pursued a correct worldview diligently, then no, you won’t be condemned. Even if the evidence is there and yet you pursue it diligently and come up empty because of intellectual or cultural limitations, you will not go to Hell. God punishes those who, though they had the ability to pursue and accept the good, rejected it for lies that were more convenient. It’s not Pascal’s Wager in reverse. It’s an acknowledgment of the limitations of the human intellect to apprehend the truth, even if the will is good.
Sorry Foster but all the lipstick in the world won’t pretty up this pig. He’ll is a concept left over from a much more barbarous time, and is indefensible no matter who is supposed to end up there.
Instead of directing your scorn at the atheists who have been told that they deserve to be tortured for eternity (and are pissed off about that, for some reason) it seems to me that a more constructive target of your ire would be those people who are going around telling people that they deserve hell, wielding the authority of the church. They are the ones who are misinterpreting the ‘official’ and ‘totally real’ position on heaven and hell, after all, perverting and twisting the church’s teachings to fit their own biases. If you really believe your post above, then we’re here just muddling through, maybe finding our way into the grace of the creator, maybe not. Certainly these cretins going around blubbering about people going to hell are doing more harm to the good Catholic cause than those of us here griping about it?
To use a secular analogy, if this were a blog where people were discussing incidences of police brutality, then carrying Foster’s comments into that discussion would be telling those people to not worry, that this is not what police officers are taught. Sure, there are bad cops out there, but they’re doing it wrong and we shouldn’t really worry about it as long as we don’t run into any of those cops, so police brutality isn’t really a problem. Expressing this opinion is not only giving a lecture to the wrong people in the situation, it also comes off as blaming the victim.
The lecture should go toward the people abusing the power. Or, in your case, abusing your cherished teachings about the eternal torture dungeon.
I’m not scorning anyone, and I apologized to the former Fr. Tarte, for the misinformation about Catholic doctrine it seems he suffered under, as the modern Catechism and the older Baltimore Catechism are quite clear on that point, contradicting what he claims he was told. You are right to blame priests who misrepresented Catholic doctrine, but blaming a priest’s organization some 40 years later for his actions, without consulting the official teachings of the Church, and failing to mention that they contradict what he taught, is an incomplete picture and fails the principle of charity. It would be like me looking at Kim Jong Il, an evil atheist dictator, and then claiming that all atheists are complicit in his crimes by virtue of their similar world views. It just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Please tell me what globe-spanning all powerful atheist organization that Kim Jong Il was claiming to speak for, and perhaps your analogy will hold some water. I’m not talking about an abuse of generalizations here, I’m talking about an abuse of authority. The fact that this happened 40 years ago is irrelevant because, as evidenced by multiple posts here, IT IS STILL HAPPENING TODAY…..ALL THE TIME. These people claim the authority of the institution, make offensive claims, and the institution is silent or. It is completely valid to criticize the institution in this case.
To be perfectly blunt, the ‘official’ church teachings matter exactly SQUAT in this discussion for the simple reason that atheists do not subscribe to the existence of any gods, so any pleading for an atheist to study the ever-changing but somehow infallible modern church doctrine will likely fall on deaf ears. I don’t have to read Twilight to know it’s about vampires. I also don’t need to read it to know that Vampires don’t exist.
Like my police brutality analogy below, I could give a rats ass what the specific guidelines and subguidelines are regarding police brutality, I just want to get through the day without being beat up by a cop and having it ignored by the authorities. Similarly, an atheist would like to get through their day without being told that they deserve eternal punishment, and for that message to not be carrying the endorsement of one of the most ancient, powerful, organizations on the planet. The criticism belongs there, with those who are abusing the teachings of your valued institution.
Look, BK, I think there is criticism to go around. You and I both criticize priests who say they know who’s in Hell, and to the extent the Church fails to correct priests that it could correct when they err, we can criticize the Church. People sometimes abuse authority. When atheists get it, unprecedented large numbers of people can apparently be murdered. But I tell you now based on *my* anecdotal evidence, I’ve heard many priests say over and over again that we cannot know who populates Hell and who goes to Heaven. So to extend your analogy, you’re taking a few cases of police brutality and extended it to a police force of thousands of cops who are trained on how not to be brutal, the vast majority of whom are not brutal, and yet it’s on the police department, not the cops themselves. You’ve got statistics? Great, I’d love to read them. Please cite them. But stop making stupidly unwarranted blanket statements based on anecdotal evidence.
“ When atheists get it, unprecedented large numbers of people can apparently be murdered. ”
followed by:”But stop making stupidly unwarranted blanket statements based on anecdotal evidence.”
Means that this discussion is probably no longer worth having.
Please take your own advice, and I’ll try to do the same (though I’m having a hard time locating my stupidly unwarranted blanket statement, as the only statements I made were in regards to priests claiming knowledge of hell, and that justifying the critique of an institution that tacitly and explicitly allows it and has throughout history).
Regarding my police brutality analogy: You’ve got it!! it’s on the department!!! Just like it’s on the freaking church to EXPLICITLY say that people who damn people to hell are wrong!!! Yes!!!
“Similarly, an atheist would like … for that message to not be carrying the endorsement of one of the most ancient, powerful organizations on the planet. ” That’s one of the blanket statements I was referring to (since the church doesn’t endorse that message), as well as “cherished belief in the eternal torture dungeon.” (since the Church doesn’t teach that hell is anything but the direct result of one’s eternal choice to reject goodness, not the desire of God, as calling it a “torture dungeon” would suggest.) But if you did not mean what you said as blanket aspersions against the Church as a whole, then I apologize since in that case I misunderstood you.
Christians do evil in the name of Christianity. No one does evil in the name of atheism. Why do you lot never grasp that? Being an atheist or theist is not an ideology in itself.
Come back when you can find an example of a despot doing evil in the name of Humanism and being backed up by millions of evil dittoheads.
We grasp it. It’s just irrelevant, since the reasons people say they do things are often not the true and complete reasons they do things. If I grab a gun and shoot someone and claim I’m a humanist, is this evidence humanism is responsible? The relevant question is not whether I claimed to be X. The question is whether X caused me to do what I did. Humanism is such a nebulous term that I suspect it doesn’t really mean anything except “atheists who believe humans should do good things for each other.” If that’s the case, then Stalin’s communist platform would fall under the definition of “Humanist.” What exactly do you mean by Humanism? ”Being an atheist or theist is not an ideology in itself.” I call BS: You take on certain worldview assumptions that qualify as an ideology simply by being a theist or an atheist.
”Did you rely on the experts like Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens, who happened to agree with your view”
…if they agreed with my view at the time, wouldn’t I have already been an atheist before I read them.
It’s funny to see what you think are reasons for leaving Christianity. For me, it had nothing to do with all the bad things I wanted to do, but couldn’t as a Christian. I was constantly trying to find out more historical proof that the events in the Bible were true. I never read any famous atheist writings and if I had, it would only have been to try and make fun of them. I did believe in six day creation, but that is only a straw man with Catholicism, not at all with Christianity in general. I tried very hard to keep believing, but there was just no evidence
So I guess I can still get into heaven. That’s a pretty good deal. Though judging by the way you listed all this stuff, I’m guessing you were expecting it to disqualify most of us.
Obviously, I cannot speak to everyone’s experience perfectly, Julie. As for historical evidence that the events in the Bible occurred, the scholarly consensus today is that Jesus (whom some of us call Messiah) really lived as a Jewish rabbi in the early first century C.E. The early Christians were impoverished and persecuted, and papyrus deteriorated quickly, so we might expect that the writings we have would be copies of copies and scarce, while there would be a lot that would be passed on through oral tradition. Maybe I’m not speaking to the particular events you’re concerned with, and I’m all ears to hear why you think they probably didn’t occur, but I think they did, because people usually don’t get themselves martyred over nothing. Muhammed didn’t. Confucius didn’t, nor did Buddha. As for six day creationism, it may be what you are used to, but the larger Christian tradition has always viewed it as an allegory (because the two stories in Genesis about creation are written in an obviously allegorical style) to help us to understand our relationship to God and nature, not as dominator but as steward. I really hope you *will* be in heaven, Julie, and all I can ask is that you keep your mind open to all possibilities and diligently seek the truth, consequences be damned.
To name a few:
The Egyptians never wrote anything about the Israelites as slaves. It is understandable that they wouldn’t want to write much about the escape of so many slaves, but you would think that they might have mentioned them somewhere in the previous 400 years.
The fact that the gospels were written 35 – 70 years after Jesus’ death. I’m not saying they didn’t have stuff to do…but why would you wait 35 – 70 years after witnessing miraculous events, especially when people’s eternal salvation depends on it?
I stopped believing in six day creation before I stopped believing in God. I know it can be viewed as an allegorical story, and when I read it, it’s pretty clear that it’s meant to be a simplistic story for early cultures about how they think the world came it be. It is clearly not science. But that is not specifically what stopped me from believing in God, nor the historical inaccuracies (I know of some, but it’s not exactly my specialty). Really, it was reading about a god who clearly did not value women as much as men. A kind of god who would go over every little detail of “morality” to keep his people from eating the wrong kind of meat or wearing the wrong kind of fabrics, but made laws that would allow rape victims to be killed or forced to marry their rapists. Even ignoring the Old Testament, there is no excuse for Paul’s statement that women should be silent in churches and it disgusts me to this day that churches still hold on to this sexist teaching and do not believe women are worthy enough to lead a church, but will do everything they can to protect child molesters from facing legal punishment because, God forbid, that might make them look bad./rant
”the complete freedom to live your life as you choose with no one to judge your misdeeds at the end of your life.”
This long-debunked notion, and your trying to paint us as “making excuses” only tells us that you’re completely ignorant of the arguments and yet are talking anyway.
The intersection of “Did you rely on the experts… who
happened to agree with your view, and not even bother to read educated
theistic writers” and your very clear ignorance of secular and atheistic arguments displays blatant hypocrisy.
The evidence isn’t there. No one can produce it. You cannot produce it. The emptiness of your position shows that you haven’t done the least bit of what you condescendingly demand of others.
…wait, so you didn’t become an atheist for the booze and the sex parties? You had actual reasons?
Sticks and stones, my friend. I focus on the arguments. You’re focusing on insulting me. I’ve read God Delusion, End of Faith, God is not Great, a lot of Dennett, Sartre, Hume, and Nietzsche, to name a few, and quite simply, beings with conscious experience and consciences that cause us to do evolutionarily unfavorable things, do not belong in a materialist universe like what they describe. Miracles do not belong in the materialist universe they describe. Yet there are mass reportings of miracles, and they are claimed particularly frequently in the ancient Jewish and Christian traditions but not in others. Large numbers of people’s testimony has agreed that they saw Mary, or small children have spoken in inexplicably agreeing testimony of seeing her, or saintly people’s bodies have been inexplicably preserved from decay after death (see Saint Bernadette), and modern day saints have received medically unexplained stigmata (see Padre Pio). Somehow, against all odds, the Church has maintained doctrinal unity and survived as the oldest institution on the planet by far. I think the evidence suggests that I live in a more than materialist universe.
So basically we’re damned because we didn’t approach religion the way you wanted us to approach religion. As far as the Catholic church is concerned, it seems like atheists are supposed to start off with the assumption that your particular religion is true and investigate it intensely, yet no one has given us a reason to assume that it is credible or explain why we shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand, the same way that the vast majority of Catholics dismiss Jainism and Zoroastrianism without bothering to read any of their holy books or investigate their theology.
We don’t dismiss religion because we want to behave badly or because some theists believe in things like six-day creation. It’s because it’s all the same. No one has explained to me why believing that a deity impregnated a virgin is less ridiculous than believing that a god created the universe in six days. No one has explained to me why I should consider the Bible more credible than the Vedas and Upanishads. No one has given me a reason to believe that any religion’s supernatural claims are worth taking seriously.
“So basically we’re damned because we didn’t approach religion the way you wanted us to approach religion.” You misunderstand me, Anna. The ways I mentioned were how I would go about it, but the gist of it all was, “Did you try your best to know the truth, regardless of the consequences?” I agree that Catholics who condemn Jainism without knowing what it is are wrong as well, but if Jainism was right, and a Catholic honestly couldn’t tell and was doing his best to figure out what was true, then he’s not to blame either. The Bible is more credible to me than the religions you mentioned (in a nutshell) because it is based upon historical places and a historical person, because the Catholic Church has miraculously survived from the time of Christ to this day (yeah, house churches at the time of Christ, etc., but the apostolic succession has continued), the Church’s effect upon civilization is obviously good, the evidence for modern day Catholic miracles I find credible, and it jives well with what I find metaphysically tenable.
Well, I think your methods are evidence of a double standard. Catholics aren’t told that they should investigate other religions, read those religions’ holy books, and talk to those religions’ theologians before they accept Catholicism as true. You want us to take Christian writings and Christian theologians seriously, but you know as well as I do that the vast majority of Christians don’t take other religions seriously. They dismiss them out of hand.
Have you read the Vedas and Upanishads? The Zend Avesta? The Holy Granth Sahib? Or do you just believe that Catholicism is true and that the Hindu, Zoroastrian, and Sikh holy books aren’t worth your time? If you won’t take those religions seriously, then you have no business telling atheists that we ought to take your religion seriously. Catholics shouldn’t tell us we’re going to be damned for not treating their particular religion as a special case, when they do the exact same thing when it comes to other religions. It’s a huge double standard.
No, I have not read all of those books in their entirety (some not even extracts), but not for a lack of desire. I am open to being proven wrong and I seek the truth where it seems likely. I was born into a Protestant family and became a Catholic because I thought it more likely true. I have, however, studied the outlines of several of their teachings (rather than fastening on what some of their followers do) ignoring what the religion teaches. None of those books can make the claims I spoke of earlier, namely, they are not about historical people or documented places. Christianity and Judaism are unique in that respect. I have never heard of miracles being performed in their name. In the case of Buddhism, that is because the universe is an illusion (which metaphysical supposition I reject), so miracles would be meaningless. Zoroastrianism (or more correctly Mazdaism) poses a dualistic view of the universe which is logically untenable, since a bad god like Angra Mainyu (lacking in some good thing) would necessarily fall to a good god like Ahura Mazda. Good is always better and more powerful than evil by its own definition. Nevertheless I do strive to acquaint myself with other religions in the same way I believe atheists should who reject all possibility of a tenable religion. No doubt I am influenced by my Western context, not having grown up in semitic, sinic or indic culture, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying my best to apprehend the truth, even if I thought it did lead to atheism.
Foster, can you cite a passage in the Bible that says people who seek God diligently – but never find him – are saved? I love the idea of that, but The Bible is pretty clear that it’s faith in Christ alone that saves us, and nothing else. I would love to see some passages that clearly state your position.
Given that God is just, and anyone just would not condemn someone unless they chose to do what they knew to be wrong (which someone who diligently sought the truth and what is good would not), then I suggest the burden of evidence is upon you to demonstrate from Scripture that only people who explicitly believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior go to heaven, also bearing in mind that neither Abraham, Isaac, Jacob nor any B.C. Jew, nor small children who die before the age of reason, nor severely mentally challenged people ever did/do explicitly declare Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Are they all going to Hell too? What does faith in Christ really mean? Is not Christ the Logos, the reason that holds the universe together, according to John 1? What about people who believe in reason and who defend the Truth? What about people who defend the weak? Didn’t Jesus say that what you do unto the least of these, you do to me? It seems to me that a life of unwavering persevering love for those around us and for God as best as we can know him, is also a life of love for Christ, as the Bible presents the story, and also a life able to accept the grace Christ offers of freedom from any guilt of original sin. But I’m open to correction from any scriptures you’d like to share to the contrary.
Acts 4:12 None other name…whereby we must be saved
1Tim.2:5 One mediator between God and men…Christ Jesus
Jn.3:16 God…gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should…have everlasting life
Jn.3:36b He that believeth not the Son shall not see life
Jn.8:24 If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins
Jn.10:1 He that entereth not by the door…but climbeth up some other way…is a thief and a robber
Jn.10:9 I am the door: by Me if any man enter in…be saved
Jn.14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me
1Cor.3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than… Jesus Christ
1Jn.5:12 He that hath not the Son of God hath not lifeYou also keep mentioning works, when you know the Bible says,”all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64-6)as well as Romans 3:”Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”My part is easy, and I’m playing along but really the burden of proof is upon you since you are stating something contrary to scripture. It’s fine if you believe something other than what the Bible says – I was simply curious if you could back it up with verses – not long essays. Specifically any sripture that teaches that we may be saved apart from faith in Christ.
By the way: I would prefer yopur version to be true, since it’s a kinder, gentler gospel. Please back it up with a few verses!
Now that you have quoted scriptures supposedly to the contrary, you are correct, the burden of proof has now shifted to me to show how you have misinterpreted the scriptures if you think they necessarily mean that those who never had the opportunity to know Christ in this life must be damned: consider the magnitude of how many people must be damned simply because of their historical context, and not because of any evil that originated with their choices, if you are right! One shudders to imagine such a world. But since you are unmoved by this natural reason, let’s move on. First of all there are many counterexamples of people who didn’t have the opportunity to specifically believe in Jesus in the Old Testament that we know were saved, including Enoch (who was taken up to God and who predated Judaism (Gen5:24)), Elijah, and Moses (who spoke with Jesus at the transfiguration)(Mark9). This concern you failed to answer above. Also, I have since thought of the saying of Jesus, “Let the little children come unto me…for of such is the kingdom of heaven.(Matt19)” But small children are incapable of declaring Jesus as their Lord and Savior, so how do you explain that Jesus says they will be in heaven if belief is necessary? Maybe you will answer my concerns this time. You just tackled me with 12 scripture verses, so let’s take them down in stages. First of all, understand me, I agree that any human being who goes to heaven goes because of the work of Christ through God’s grace, although the person’s own faithfulness and works are also necessary. Rather I deny that it is scriptural that in this life they necessarily had to confess him as the Messiah in order to benefit from his mediation after death, especially if they were completely ignorant of his existence, as some people in the remote places of the earth still are. So, on that basis, I eliminate as threatening my position all your passages which do not mention belief or faith, leaving only Jn3:16,3:36,8:24,and Romans 3. Secondly, if your goal is to show that those incapable of belief cannot be saved, the passage must say something like “only belief in Christ saves you” rather than “belief in Christ saves you,” since the latter might leave open other ways to be saved by the grace of God. This leaves only Jn 3:36 and 8:24, which both seem to speak of belief, and speak in exclusive terms. Regarding 3:36, the operative term is “disobeys,” which is a more natural translation than “disbelieves” (See http://gospelbeyondbelief.blogspot.com/2012/04/john-336-and-word-apeithon.html). One cannot disobey someone that he never met, or never received commands from, which is consistent with my position. Finally, you have neglected the context of Jn 8:24. Unlike John 3:36, Jesus is speaking specifically to the Jewish teachers of the law, who were indeed to blame, because they knew the law and lived as though they believed it, claiming to believe it, yet they chose not to believe in Christ although they witnessed his miracles. So I still know of no scripture that definitely bars those who never had the opportunity to confess Christ as their savior, for whatever reason, from receiving the grace of salvation. If in fact there is none, knowing this, to suggest that God’s grace is unable to save people like this is to limit God, which is a sin.
I see, same old arguments. There is a teapot orbiting Mars and you can prove it to yourself if you make the extra effort to look for the evidence. If you don’t go thru the extra effort to launch a rocket into Martian orbit to check for yourself, then the fault is yours for not believing me when I say that there is a teapot orbiting Mars. Those of us who don’t believe in the teapot are saying that there is no evidence for something so preposterous. It’s up to the teapot believers to show me that the teapot is there.
This is getting so tiresome already.
The weirdness of conscious beings like mankind in a supposedly materialist universe completely composed of tiny bits of matter aggregating in ways predetermined by physical law is not far from a thinking person’s experience, like a teapot orbiting Mars, but is self-evident. Historical miracles are similarly accessible even to those incapable of philosophical reflection. How does St. Bernadette’s body, buried for 30 years, remain undecayed, despite the oxidation of her cross and rosary she was buried with? Hypothetically, if I did go to Mars and find said teapot, you saw me blast off, and I took a recording of finding the teapot which I showed you, then yes, the fault would be yours if you persisted in disbelieving me in the face of the evidence.
If you can honestly look at the “god” of the bible and call that good…I don’t know what to think of you. There’s nothing good about a deity that condones rape, murder, sexism, lying, slavery, racism, ETC. There’s nothing good about a being who would set up his so-called children to fail and then torture them for eternity when they do.
Ah, I’m wasting my breath. Keep your heaven, I don’t want in.
Any thinking person quickly realizes that a hell of eternal torture such as described by the Catholic church could only be created by an evil god. So to get around this the catholic church speaks out of both sides of its mouth. When it wants to threaten someone it uses hell as a threat. When it wants to seem rational to critics it makes up excuses like this one presented by Foster.
Show me where the Catholic Catechism uses Hell as a threat, and we can talk about it. All I’m saying is that if the former Fr. Tarte is trying to say that the Catholic Church officially teaches that if you don’t read the divine office every day, you’re going to hell, he’s wrong. Just plain factually wrong. If you asked a priest on the street that question, what do you think he’s probably going to say? What does the Catechism say? Tarte didn’t qualify what he said, with, “not all Catholics believe this tripe, but my particular catechist did,” so I’m making the qualification for him. It’s the principle of charity, friend: Don’t use straw men when there are more respectable targets available.
Let me give you some examples of the church using hell as a threat. First, about 40 years ago when i was a practicing catholic, I had a priest tell me my best friend was going to hell because she was Baptist and refused to accept catholism. It was a threat to get me to stop dating her and choose a good catholic girl. That was the beginning of my break with the church.
About 20 years after that I joined the Methodist church. My mother asked her priest about this and he said I was going to hell if I didn’t return to the catholic church. Once again a catholic official was using hell as a threat.
Fast forward to this week. Bishop Thomas Paprocki just issued a threat that people who do not vote as he wished might go to hell.
I stand by my earlier statement: the church wants to have it both ways. It threatens people with hell to enforce its power, but then it preaches a gentler message when it wants to seem reasonable.
Completely agree. It seems that Foster’s whole point is that the church has this disneyland feel-good ‘official’ stance about heaven and hell, but he/she concedes that some church officials twist this around and use the hell concept to bully and control others.
To which my reply is a very sarcastic
You can find examples of bad church officials, who contradicted Catholic teaching, and I can find plenty of examples of atheists who contradicted human decency and murdered unprecedented numbers of their people that dwarf in magnitude anything any Christian ruler has ever done. None of it is really convincing, since to blame these men’s words on the teaching of the Church (when the Church contradicts what they say), or those atheists’ mass murders on their atheism, violates the principle of charity.
My entire point, which you seem to be missing, is that whatever hypothetical atheist mass butcher you could come up with was not operating on behalf of all atheists, or any atheist organization or philosophy. Your attempts at equivalency fail at this point.
My entire point, which you seem to be missing, is that whatever hypothetical Christian mass condemner you could come up with was not operating on behalf of all Christians, or consistently with the Church’s teaching or the Bible.
You’re full of shit. Assuming your murderous atheist list is composed of Soviet Russia and Communist China – people were not killed in the name of atheism; they were killed in the name of the state. You want examples of a Christian ruler killing an unprecedented number of people? Go check out the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the wars between Protestants and Catholics. And that’s only a very small extrapolation of examples from the last 500 years or so. Furthermore, you can save the whole “my church is moral” routine with us. The RCC has repeatedly covered up for child rapists and other systematic abuses within their system for centuries.
By your logic, I could label you as an accessory to rape and murder by defending this type of petty bullying that the Catholic Church repeatedly indulges in. I won’t, because I don’t know you. Similarly, can the whole “atheists murdered millions” – Christians have murdered billions. Both of those statements are horrifying in and of themselves. Edward Tarte has a valid critique in this post. The fact that you can’t condemn such actions on their own merit speaks volumes of the mental gymnastics you must perform on a regular basis.
“By your logic, I could label you as an accessory to rape and murder by defending this type of petty bullying that the Catholic Church repeatedly indulges in. ” Actually, by my logic, you could not, since my argument is that blaming the philosophy or organization for everything that people who adhere to that philosophy do, especially when what they are doing is contrary to the philosophy (explicitly laid out), and contradicted by their fellow philosophy holders and organization members, is wrong because it violates the principle of charity, which compels us to consider the opposing viewpoint in the strongest, most viable form possible. I defy you to show that Christian rulers executed billions of people we would call innocent. That is simply not true.
As said above and I am absolutely certain you have read here before today, people don’t murder in the name of atheism. They have murdered in the name of totalitarianism doctrines which included atheism because, as Marx specifically noted, Christianity was competition. And that is because those ideologies are – Ta Da! – religious in nature.
Okay, Jim, I can definitely say that the first two cases you mentioned go directly against Catholic teaching, and I condemn the words of those priests if you’re reporting them accurately, as the Church does. As for Bishop Paprocki, you left out the fact that he’s speaking specifically to Catholic people, not to people in general. So the Bishop wasn’t saying that you, Jim, may go to hell, for example. I think that makes a huge difference, as these are people who have said that they will uphold everything the Church teaches as true at confirmation. The Church teaches that abortion is wrong and is murder, and these people claim to believe the Church. Yet they vote the other way. It’s hard to see how these otherwise rational people are not guilty of gross hypocrisy, yet the Bishop still only says they “may” go to hell as a result of their assent on the one hand that abortion is murder, and their voting support of what they said they believe to be murder on the other hand. I can see the Bishop’s point, and I don’t condemn him, so long as he says “may,” because we cannot know what is in people’s hearts, even though their positions may be grossly inconsistent, and ultimately their guilt is between them and God.
Bishop Paprocki is using his position as a catholic authority to threaten people with hell. That is the whole point of this blog post. It is common knowledge that organizations often have one official policy and another practicing policy. The catholic church is one such organization. I don’t care what your catechism says, as I and several others have pointd out, the practicing policy of the church is to use threats of hell as a way to intimidate or control its members.
Romans 8:1 says ”Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”Why would a priest say that Christians who are already forgiven in Christ “May” go to hell?
Again, see what Christ says, “Not every one who says to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens.” The obvious answer to your question is that those who fail to follow their consciences and who do what they know is gravely evil are not in Christ Jesus . Intellectual assent to a proposition is not enough for those who know what is good, but action to accomplish what they know to be good is also necessary. In the same chapter Paul speaks of the minds of those in Christ being governed by the law of the Spirit, and not governed by the desires of the flesh. Can this really be said of those who know what is evil yet do it anyway?
People who do what they know is “gravely evil” (God says that even our best deeds are as “filthy rags” – so there’s not much distinction between sins) are probably not in Christ to begin with. If they were in Christ, they would either not knowingly do an evil deed, or they would repent after doing it. Those things are evidence of faith. It’s not logical for Gods words to work both ways. If we are saved by grace, it’s not works doing the saving. If we are saved by faith and works, then God’s grace is not sufficient to do the saving – we are saving ourselves. We are not saved by the quality of our faith, we’re saved by the object of our faith- Jesus Christ.
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”"…No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law…”"…No One…”
You misunderstand my position, which affirms the necessity of God’s grace as the first action, but denies that faithfulness and good works are anything other than necessary for the sanctification of the person and his adoption into God’s family. Here is an apologetic that addresses a Catholic interpretation of the verses you have been reading with a Protestant interpretive lens:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. 9Not by works, lest any man should boast.”
You are repeating yourself, rather than addressing my words, since I have already addressed that scripture by putting it into its context (above) speaking specifically of the works of the Mosaic law, specifically circumcision and dietary law (See Galatians 2 and notice how Paul equates “the law” with the Jewish ritual law). In order to receive forgiveness and renewed life, one must repent of the evil one does. Consider what Paul says even in the same letter you quote: ”For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Eph. 5:5) Repentance from known evil and striving to do good are necessary attributes of those who are saved according to the Bible.
This. This has definitely been my experience personally and my general observation.
It reminds me of the way that politicians (more often Republicans…) have two different sets of arguments, one dumbed down for the base, the other more complex to sate their more educated membership. It was most obvious during Segregation and the Civil Rights movement, IIRC, when the educated segregationists were kept happy in their hate by pseudo-science about racial tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. You adjust the myth to the audience.
Threatening someone with hell is akin to a death threat. Can’t get to hell unless you’re dead so if he’s told to pray or go to hell they’re really saying “Pray daily or I’ll kill you.” Don’t worry though, it’s not illegal for Christians to threaten people’s lives.
No, you are incorrect. The Catholic Church was not threatening to kill me. It was simply threatening hell for me after I would die.
On a tangent: When a person tells someone that they’re going to hell, isn’t that claiming to know the will of God? If so, doesn’t that make that person a false prophet? If so, oh the irony.
Well, they do have a history of helping people along the process by executing them.
No threat of eternal torture and damnation is complete without torture during life and then execution.
Don’t be silly, they don’t want to kill you, they want you to suffer eternally. Which is somehow better.
…Which is quite strange, since the Bible contains no threat of hell for those who don’t pray daily (in fact it says we need as much faith as a “mustard seed”
There is also no such term in the Bible as “Divine Office.”
The Catholic Church (and many other Christians) goes far beyond what’s in the Bible. Also not in the Bible: the Trinity, Purgatory, Mary’s perpetual virginity, the immaculate conception, priestly celibacy, most of the events in the “14 stations of the cross”…
“The Catholic Church (and many other Christians) goes far beyond what’s in the Bible.” That’s complicated. Do we go beyond what is explicitly taught in the Bible? Yes. Do we teach beyond what the Bible warrants us to teach? No. Paul, a biblical author, taught in 2 Thess. 2:15 that Christians should “stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught , whether by word, or by our epistle.” In other words, the bible tells you here to believe technically extra-biblical stuff, namely the traditions of the apostles. We also interpret John 14:16-17 to mean that God sent down the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to the apostles and through them to His Church forever. The “forever” part would tend to suggest that they had successors, as would the fact that the apostles felt the need to appoint a successor to Judas Iscariot (Acts 1), not to mention that this is what Christians uniformly thought the scripture meant for at least a thousand years. The problem with “sola scriptura” is that it’s pretty useless to have an infallible guide, if you don’t have an infallible teacher to instruct you on what the guide says. OverlappingMagisteria is right, those concepts are not explicitly taught in Scripture, but the authority to teach them, according to an honest reading of the text, I believe *is* in scripture, and I am what you would call a convert to Catholicism. (I don’t really like the word “convert” because Protestants and Catholics have so much in common that it’s not exactly like I went from believing in Buddha to believing in Thor, or Islam to Christianity. I believe I just came to a fuller understanding of Christianity.)
As someone who doesn’t believe in the Bible or Catholic teachings, I do find both equally invalid. However, I do find it very amusing how many infallible teachings the church has that don’t originate from the Bible and that you believe because the church teaches it…but you don’t know why the church teaches it. For instance, there’s the perpetual virginity of Mary. The Bible never says she was always a virgin and that would be the most accurate source because it would be most recent. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later that it was commonly accepted as true. But what’s the point of believing it if the Bible doesn’t mention it and it seems pretty obvious that someone just made it up along the way?
It’s interesting you mention specifically the perpetual virginity of Mary, Mother of God, Julie. Naturally, being an atheist, you don’t really care about the biblical warrant for our beliefs, but then one never knows who may be reading with an open mind. I agree with you that the Bible never explicitly states she was always a virgin, but I think that even if we ignore Paul’s biblical command to the Christians at Thessalonica to hold to the oral tradition of the apostles (and we obviously have no record of that because it was oral) as well as what was written down, we still have a biblical reason to believe that Mary intended to remain a virgin throughout her life. The references to Jesus’s brothers or sisters may refer to children of Joseph by a previous marriage, and anyway, the greek word for “brother” can stand in for “cousin.” In Luke at the annunciation, the angel informs Mary that she will bear a son. But Mary says, “How can this be, since [and it's present tense in the Greek] I do not know a man?” This response makes little sense except in the context that Mary intended to remain a virgin even after she started living with Joseph her husband. If she had intended to have normal relations with him, the natural assumption would be that the angel was referring to a son she would have by Joseph after they come together. It’s also weird that she uses the present tense instead of the perfect (“I have not known a man”), if she’s just talking about her current virginity, but makes sense if she’s talking about her intended lifelong state of virginity.
Sure, it could have meant cousin, but that doesn’t prove anything either way.
Also, present tense is just present tense. If I don’t drink, it means that’s not currently something I do. That doesn’t mean I never will.
Why would Mary intend to get married if she wanted to remain a virgin? Why would Joseph be willing to marry someone who intended to remain a virgin?
It’s really not clear either way, but if it doesn’t explicitly state that she did remain a virgin, why would that be something that the church teaches?
Also, I know Catholics also teach that Mary was sinless. Where is there any evidence to support that?
Okay, Julie, using your alcohol parallel, let’s say that you’re 20 years old and have never drunk alcohol. An angel comes up to you and says the night before your 21st, “Now you will start having a non-zero blood-alcohol level.” Your natural response would not be, “How can this be, since I don’t drink?” It would be, “Yeah, I know, it’s great that I’m turning 21 tomorrow.” Mary’s response doesn’t make much psychological sense in the context of the narrative unless you understand her intended state of virginity as perpetual.
But that doesn’t quite work. You don’t decide to turn 21 and you don’t turn 21 because you want to drink. People do decide to enter into marriages and the purpose of marriage at that time was to produce offspring. If people knew that she remained a virgin, she must have made that information public. And if she had made that information public, why would Mary and Joseph’s families arrange their marriage?
“I don’t drink” could easily apply regardless of age. It’s generally taken to mean recent past, present, and near future. It doesn’t mean you’ve never drank, it doesn’t mean you never will, it just means it’s not something that you currently do. Engagements back in biblical times were arranged marriages. You could be engaged to someone since you were a child, so it doesn’t imply at all that she was going to marry him very soon. It could have been years away.
Okay, so it seems that you’re being inconsistent when on the one hand you say that “people decide to enter marriages,” applying that to Mary, and then tell me that Mary was in an arranged marriage to Joseph, but, letting that pass, your arguments against boil down to
1. Married people always had sex back then.2. Mary could have been years away from her marriage to Joseph, in which case the angel’s implication that she would soon bear a son would still seem strange even if she did (eventually) plan to have sex. So, in reply to (1), around the time of Christ, mostly celibate communities like the Essenes existed, according to Philo the historian. While we have no contemporary record of Jews living like modern day Shakers as couples in celibacy, that is not evidence that it did not happen, nor can we assume that just because it was not accepted custom, Mary did not feel it to be God’s unique will for her life (as I think the passage suggests she did), perhaps parallel with some Catholic girls who feel priesthood to be God’s will for their lives (albeit mistakenly). According to second century written Catholic tradition, Joseph was an older widower who took Mary as his wife as an act of economic kindness to a girl with no prospects, so it’s possible Joseph didn’t have enough motive in him to create an opportunity, if you know what I’m saying. Not all marriages were arranged (like Boaz’s with Ruth, for example), and the consent of the adult partners was always a prerequisite, regardless of what their families planned. As for (2), which offers an alternative psychology for what Mary said, given that Jesus was born after they were living together, the annunciation was less than nine months from their full marriage, close enough temporally to Mary living with Joseph to make his impregnating her a more natural assumption of what the angel meant if Mary had been planning on having sex with him, than that she was going to have a child without having sex. But it’s an inference, not a deduction, a reason, not the reason. The best reason to think the doctrine true is that it is part of the early oral tradition of the Church, witnessed by many of the early Church fathers, second century documents, and the later reflection of the Church in councils and statements of doctrine. Still, it’s fun to speculate just based upon a personal reading of our translation of the text we have.
And why would you have any reason to believe something written 300 years after the fact?
My point was: this is not in the Bible, people didn’t start believing it till hundreds of years later, isn’t it obvious someone made it all up? But part of your proof is oral tradition and documents from 300 years later. That’s my point! The verse says nothing about it. All you’ve got are speculations that you have no proof for. Believe it if you want, but you have to recognize that there’s a very good chance that it’s not true at all. Or is it true because the church teaches it?
The thread is getting too narrow. I’ll respond in a new thread.
And when a young boy feels he is called to the priesthood, that’s great. But if it’s a young girl, she’s obviously mistaken. What a great religion.
See my response above your other “women can’t be priests, therefore the Church is evil” criticism.
Bible verses, please!
Claiming that Mary was a virgin for life is entirely un-Biblical. It’s fine if you want to include traditions that are outside the Bible, but remember that’s what they are. (and we know the Bible teaches to be careful not to add anything to scripture). The Bible does not bestow any special status to Mary outside of her profoundly special status as the mother of Jesus. Other than that, she was human, and as we know from the Bible, like all women (and men) was imperfect.
(On the virgin topic, the present tense makes perfect sense too – lots of people speak that way every day. She just means, “How can this be, since I’m not having sexual relations with anyone.”)
Read my response to Julie below. The natural assumption for Mary to make if what you say is true, would seem to be that the angel was referring to offspring she would very soon be having with Joseph, when she started having sexual relations with her betrothed husband. The angel says nothing about a virgin birth to her until after that point, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason she should jump to the conclusion he means a virgin birth unless she wasn’t planning on the normal relations. Not all men are imperfect, Jesus was not imperfect. Furthermore, every man and woman in heaven is perfect (albeit having fallen and been saved). In our theology, Mary was only perfect due to divine intervention, looking forward to the merits of Christ, a unique outpouring of God’s grace upon mankind. Whereas we fell off the cliff and God saved us mid-fall before we hit the ground, God saved Mary before she even fell off the cliff, even at her conception. Contrary to common ignorance, the immaculate conception does not refer to the virgin birth of Christ, but to Mary’s conception.
Your answer to Julie (The 21st Birthday example) makes absolutely no logical sense. The response you give as the wrong one makes perfect sense! You’re trying to layer on a false construct. She was engaged to be married – she did not intend to remain a virgin. You have to go through linguistic gymnastics to make that one work!
On the other topic, there is absolutely no scriptural reference that “Immaculate Conception” refers to Mary’s birth. If there is, please cite the Biblical passage.
Well, if you think that’s the more natural reading, then there’s an end to it, because I simply disagree. As for the definition of “Immaculate conception,” that’s not a matter of biblical interpretation, just of cultural literacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immaculate_Conception
I’m not asking what Catholics say “immaculate Conception means – I was asking for a Bible verse that backs it up. Why take an insulting tone, Foster?
I personally don’t care whether a particular Palestinian woman 2,000 years ago ever got laid or not. You bring up what Paul said, but why should we care what Paul said either? He never met Jesus.
Was everything that Paul said/wrote divinely inspired?
Including the misogynistic bits?
Actually, Hannibal, we believe that he did meet Christ on the road to Damascus. In answer to your questions, yes, and no, respectively. Paul’s writings must be interpreted through the lens of his cultural context, which the Church has done. Most of the misogynistic-sounding Pauline passages must be understood in context of Galations 3:28: “In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek; there is no servant nor free man; there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” as the Church has done.
All it takes for you to believe someone’s outlandish story is that it is written down?
Did I ever tell you about the time I met Julius Caesar? I was walking to the corner store and he came in a flash of white light and told me a few things.
Do you believe me?
Regardless, Paul did write some misogynistic pieces of work, including 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”That certainly sounds like something the omnipotent, all-loving creator of the Universe would say.
You do not have the benefit of being miraculously the oldest surviving institution on the planet, nor do you have billions of followers, many of whom are brilliant and educated men, nor did your story inspire people to build the first charity hospitals, the first universities and the greatest art the world has ever known. Neither does believing your story about Caesar have any particular significance to my life, or answer questions about the nature of the world in a consistent way. The Church’s doctrine, which does permit women to speak and teach today, surprise, does.
Paul didn’t have any of that at the time either…
And your church does not allow women to become priests which is some misogynistic bullshit and there’s no way around it.
I disagree, Julie. Paul had the benefit of being able to perform miracles, which had I witnessed personally, I would have had to take account of as well. Let me ask you this: is it sex discrimination for an actor to be rejected for the role of “Juliet” just because he is a male? The priest acts “in persona Christi” and dramatically reenacts his sacrifice at the Mass. Women can be rejected for the role on the same basis as male actors for the part of Juliet, and aside from Mass and the other sacraments, I don’t know of any priestly-type duties a woman is not permitted to do. There are many female ministers in the Catholic Church, and the Church has lived up to every bit of Galations 3:28. If you’d like to respond, please do so in a separate comment thread, as I can’t read it very well when the text gets narrower than this.
You are correct. It seemed odd to me that a preist would fear something that was not even in his Bible.
Remember, the church has been claiming nonexistent Scripture pretty much since its inception. I’m sure you’re aware of how they used to keep the peasantry unable to read the Bible so they could use it to bludgeon people into submissive fear on any topic.
You still see variations of it today across the denominational board, with people who have been taught that passage X is literal and passage Y is metaphorical, according to whatever is convenient for those in authority and without regard to what the historical context actually indicates.
You’re right, but non existent scripture is much different than looking at and debating whether something is literal or metaphorical. Christians believe that the Bible is the word of God – so from that perspective, adding stuff in is quite odd to me.
That is a gross misrepresentation of History. The Church didn’t “keep the peasantry unable to read the Bible.” Until very recently, historically speaking, the peasantry were universally illiterate, and couldn’t read the Bible or anything else in any language as a result of the primitive state of agriculture and society and the difficulty of any kind of education at all. The Bible *was* translated into the common language of people who could read, namely Latin. That’s why the Latin Bible was called the “Vulgate” with the same root as “vulgar,” meaning common. The Church objected to men like Huss and Luther primarily because of their bad theology reflected in their translations, not because they didn’t want people to read the Bible. There is more you said above that is wrong, but that was the worst of it.
It would seem odd for a Protestant, but one of the main things that sets the Catholic Church apart from Protestants is they don’t derive their authority entirely from the Bible.
It’s amazing how little Catholic dogma has to do with the Bible. You have to wonder why groups like the Mormons get saddled with all the stigma when Catholicism is just as unbiblical with all their extra content.
The Bible also tells Christians to pray only in private, and not in public. If Christians actually followed(or read) their own book we wouldn’t be saddled with televangelists or churches taking up valuable(and taxable) real estate for no good purpose.
Thank you for another good video, Edward. Keep them coming!
“Beg me for favors, praise me, and kiss my ass constantly, or else I will throw you in prison and have you tortured eternally. Because I love you.”
If a human said that, they’d be considered a criminally insane tyrant, and/or a spoiled brat with ego issues.
Humans have said that. We used to call them Communists.
To be fair, that’s the shtick of pretty much every repressive regime, regardless of what ideology they follow.
Which “communists”? Todays Communist Party USA certainly doesnt say that. Hitler yes, also he was a conservative Christian/Catholic whose speeches have been regurgitated almost word for word by todays conservative Christians in the USA.
Nonsense. Do you live in an alternate universe. What Christian Conservatives are regurgitating Hilters speeches word for word?
… and Royality with divine rights.
i never understood eternal hell….i am suppossed to fear being sent some place where my body will burn forever…eventually i would just go crazy and not care and probably die. If they mean “soul”…how does one catch fire or burn if its not a solid or material?
The implication is that you’re kept in a state of perfect awareness, which further implies that God is eternally propping up your sanity and consciousness to make sure you suffer forever.
The other side of the coin is that in order for God to make people eternally happy in Heaven, he has to remove their empathy for and knowledge of Hell and its inhabitants, which inarguably means he is radically altering their personalities to the point that they are no longer people. Absolute, eternal brainwashing to ignore suffering = Good?
It’s not really supposed to make sense. It’s just supposed to scare people. It’s sad because people wouldn’t fear hell if they weren’t indoctrinated to believe in such a thing as young children.
I know about the Catholic church’s doctrine on hell, but not all Christians believe in an eternal hell.
Julie said, “And why would you have any reason to believe something written 300 years after the fact?
My point was: this is not in the Bible, people didn’t start believing it till hundreds of years later, isn’t it obvious someone made it all up? But part of your proof is oral tradition and documents from 300 years later. That’s my point! The verse says nothing about it. All you’ve got are speculations that you have no proof for. Believe it if you want, but you have to recognize that there’s a very good chance that it’s not true at all. Or is it true because the church teaches it?”
I disagree with you if your claim is “There is no biblical warrant for believing Mary intended to remain a virgin for life,” which is what “the verse says nothing about it” suggests you mean. I think that based upon the text we can draw conclusions that this was more likely the case (see our debate above). I agree with you if your claim is “There is less evidence of Mary’s perpetual virginity according to a plain reading of scripture than for the crucifixion, or that Joseph died before the crucifixion occurred (otherwise, why would Jesus give Mary to John’s care?), nor was witnessing to Mary’s perpetual virginity a primary concern for the biblical authors speaking to their original audiences.” We agree on those points. Oral tradition even from the time of Christ is not an irrefutable proof in itself unless the Church is credible for other reasons, I agree. But I mention it because it speaks to Protestant-type claims that Catholicism is not credible because it teaches things not in the Bible that were supposedly made up hundreds of years later, otherwise wouldn’t they be in the Bible? No, not everything worthy of belief *is* in the Bible: as I said in my response to OverlappingMagisteria, the Bible clearly tells Christians to believe things that were not written down in the Bible (2 Thess. 2:15), so *sola scriptura* is, ironically, not scriptural. You have no evidence that what the Church teaches was not believed until hundreds of years later. You only have a lack of written evidence from the time of Christ, which can be accounted for by biblically attested oral tradition. I believe the Church’s worldview to be true not because the Bible tells me so, but because the metaphysical and historical evidence leans that way. Atheism is not credible to me, on account of the out-of-place-ness of human conscious experience in a world completely composed of little bits of matter, nor do I think humans always act in evolutionarily beneficial ways (for example, our care for what the truth is, consequences be damned, does not seem to tie in well with a brain whose only function is to ensure survival.). Our ideas about some transcendent “justice” are misplaced in a universe entirely composed of little bits of matter. As I see it, Catholic Christianity is the best representative of theism. I find reports of modern miracles like Padre Pio’s stigmata, which were medically examined, or St. Bernadette’s dead body, among others, that refuses to decompose like ordinary dead bodies, credible. I find it unlikely that the historical Jesus (since the scholarly consensus is that he lived) would martyr himself for a lie, or that his followers would do the same. The mere survival of the Church as an institution over at least a thousand years (far longer than any other single government) and its positive impact upon civilization as mediator between monarchs, and inventor of charity hospitals and universities, is also remarkable. Once we establish there is something true about Christianity, then I say that Catholicism is also the best conclusion from a plain reading of Christian scripture (which the Church itself preserved) for the reasons I gave OverlappingMagisteria.
Show some verses from the Bible, please.
“And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
Okay, B, I don’t think you’re following me very well, because I already stated that the primary reason I believe the doctrine is because the Church teaches it to be true, based upon its oral tradition. I’ve already stated the scriptural reason I think it’s likely, but if you’re not convinced, then there’s an end to it. The real question, my Christians-should-only-believe-things-clearly-taught-in-scripture friend, is what does Paul mean when he teaches in 2 Thess. 2:15 that he wants the Thessalonicans to hold fast both to both the traditions written down, and the ones given to them orally. Because that’s the death blow to *sola scriptura*: The Bible itself contradicts it. The verse you have quoted above I interpret synonymously with “Anyone who changes the Book of Revelation is going to Hell,” which I haven’t done. So I’m not sure how it’s relevant. Care to elaborate?
No need to elaborate, you’ve made it extra clear that the Catholic Church is OK “making it up as they go along” without needing scripture to back it up. I get it, I really do – but it’s a dangerous path.
I really am curious how you reconcile 2 Thess. 2:15 with your belief that only things explicitly in the Bible are worthy of belief.
Restarting thread since it got narrow
“Let me ask you this: is it sex discrimination for an actor to be rejected for the role of “Juliet” just because he is a male?”
“and aside from Mass and the other sacraments, I don’t know of any priestly-type duties a woman is not permitted to do. ”
Men have played the role of Juliet and the first players of Juliet were men (women weren’t allowed to act in public in Shakespeare’s time and place).
Admittedly the early Christian church did have women in roles not usually associated with them later. Paul describes Junia as an apostle, Phoebe is described as a deacon. Pliny the Younger when investigating the church in his province arrests two deacons, both women, and puts them to torture.
As for the second, in the Catholic church most positions of power are now restricted to the ordained (e.g., electing a Pope is restricted Cardinals who in turn have to be ordained, running a diocese is restricted to bishops, running a parish is restricted to priests).
I am aware of that historical Shakespearian fact, Erp, but would you really blame a modern director for making such a judgment call for his “Juliet” if he wants a good play? If you wouldn’t blame him, then don’t blame the Church. There are women in many leadership roles in the Church, who have every kind of duty that priests have (even though they cannot exercise those duties as Bishopesses and Popesses), except for administering the sacraments. Julie did not complain that women were not permitted to be bishops, cardinals or Popes, just that they were not allowed to be priests. Now you expand her concern. Before I answer yours, let me address your biblical arguments.
As you are no doubt aware, Erp, there is a great deal of controversy over whether Junia was a male or female according only to a plain reading of the text, and the word you translate as “deacon” is not the same word as that translated as “deacon” elsewhere and is similarly controversial. Just based on the text, without any reference to Church History or tradition, it could go either way. Pliny the Younger also probably thought that the Christians were cannibals, like other Romans did, but that does not make it so. Considering he wanted to slaughter all the Christians, it’s easy to see how he might misunderstand their authority structure. That’s an interesting factoid that I didn’t know though, so I’ll have to look up more details on it.
Okay, back to “Why can’t I be Popess?” As I said, today the Church has no problem with Catholic women performing every kind of administrative function, including being CEOs of companies, teachers, political leaders, everything in secular life. Even in the Church Abbesses and Prioresses, lay ministers of every kind perform every kind of administrative function. The Church today is obviously not against women having power. So, granting that, why exactly is it that you care that a woman can’t be a priest or a Pope? You’re complaining that women aren’t allowed to
hold up a cracker at Mass and declare it to be Jesus, whom you don’t believe
in, and you need a woman to be allowed to be in charge of all of the
(so-you-think) cracker-worshippers. Why do you care?
In secular life, Catholics believe a woman can do whatever a man
can. As far as you’re concerned,
my atheist friend, I’d think that kind of equality would do it, since I doubt that
you’d want your daughter to be Pope of the cracker-worshippers anyway.
But here’s the thing. We think Jesus was God, and therefore
he did things exactly the way they should be done. He never cow-towed to anyone and almost seems to make it a
point to anger the Pharisees, Sadducees, and all the other authorities by what he did in the Gospels. So if he had wanted women to be
priestesses and bishopesses, regardless of the cultural circumstance, he would have instituted
it, no matter who it would have pissed off, because it was (hypothetically) the right thing to do. Mary certainly would have been
a priestess and bishopess, holy woman that she was. But she wasn’t, and he didn’t: all of his apostles (whom we believe were the first bishops) were men, and they have been ever since in the Catholic Church for the simple reason that Jesus clearly wanted men to be in these unique positions of authority and symbolic identity with himself.
So, we’re going to go with Jesus on that one, not with you, or what is
politically correct. Women do not suffer from being excluded from being Popess, and they can achieve far greater worldly power by becoming a CEO, which we’re fine with, and far more heavenly glory by becoming a saint, which we’re more than fine with too.
Follow Patheos on
Copyright 2008-2013, Patheos. All rights reserved.