Christians Are Creating a Scouting Group of Their Own… Because the Boy Scouts of America Is Too Inclusive(?!)

It’s not like the Boy Scouts of America isn’t godly already.

The Scout Oath requires members to promise “To do my duty to God and my country.”

The Scout Law requires members to be “reverent.”

And, because the BSA offers no alternatives to those two things, the organization effectively bans atheists from becoming members.

That’s still not enough for John Stemberger and Rob Green. Because the BSA is now allowing gay scouts to join the organizations, they’re retaliating by creating a Christian alternative. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it does have a website:

“The organization’s membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation,” Green said in a conference call with reporters.

“The issue with Scouting is just that when you’re going to allow a young man to be in the program to be openly flaunting sexuality, that’s just inappropriate and parents do not think that’s a clean and safe environment for their kids,” [Stemberger] said.

I would love to know what Stemberger and Green consider “flaunting” one’s sexuality and how gay kids do it in a way straight kids do not… I’m guessing they’re just talking out of their ass.

They even take a jab at the Girl Scouts in the process:

The Boy Scouts could easily go the way of the Girl Scouts if they open the door to allow open expressions of sex and politics in the program.

Please… the Boy Scouts could be so lucky as to be like the Girl Scouts.

In any case, it sounds like gay kids can’t join their group.

What about everyone else?

It will be open to all boys irrespective of race, religion, ethnicity, or national origin. Parents from all faiths are welcome to place their children in the program. While boys may come from every religious background, adult leaders in the program — from the National Board level to individual unit volunteers — will adhere to a standard statement of Christian faith and values.

Leaders will have to be Christian even though the children won’t… which makes this sound like a glorified way to proselytize to kids of non-Christian faiths.

One thing isn’t clear in that statement, though: Are atheists allowed to join? It says people of all faith backgrounds are welcome, so are we part of that mix?

I asked them that question (via Twitter, email, and phone) and have not yet received an answer.

The organization will launch on January 1, 2014 — the same day the new gay-inclusive BSA policy goes into effect.

Overall, we’re looking at a group that wants to be just like the Boy Scouts, but with a few more restrictions as to who can join. The upside is that it’s explicitly Christian — that means it may siphon off the fundies from the BSA and it means they will not receive money or land from the federal government.

The downside is that it means there are actually people out there who look at the BSA’s current policy and think that it’s too inclusive.

These guys actually sat down and had the idea “Let’s copy the BSA but make it even more discriminatory!”

It’s all in the name of Christianity, though, so I guess Jesus approves.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • fatherdaddy

    My dad was a group leader for a Christian scouting group about 10 years ago. Fundies have been complaining about BSA before this. Now, it’s just more popular.

  • ShoeUnited

    Why stop at sexual orientation or lack of religion? Keep going until you’ve got your own little Klan and then a party of one.

  • A3Kr0n

    This sounds a little like Spanky’s He-man Women Haters Club. It’s on YouTube, I don’t want to make a big box here.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      “The sign says ‘No Pedos‘. We’re allowed to have one.”

      /TheSimpsons

  • Gus Snarp

    I wonder if the BSA has a trademark on the Fleur de lis as a logo of a youth organization. Because that logo looks like pretty clear trademark infringement to me.

    • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

      It actually appears to be a direct ripoff of the logo shown on this page:

      http://troop41.cgtechsolutions.net/?page_id=27

      I can’t figure out if this is specific to this troop or if it’s an official Boy Scout logo or what. Alas, I’m on my way out the door and don’t have time for Googlefu right now.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        Oh, “the On My Honor Award is the Latter-day Saint religious award for Boy Scouts.” I’m not sure that this is the award, though; this may be something different. In any event, the image above does appear to be a BSA design, barely altered.

        https://www.lds.org/callings/aaronic-priesthood/leader-resources/scouting/on-my-honor

        NOW I’m on my way out the door. Darn Google, sucking me in that way!

        • Gus Snarp

          Oh wow, following links there led me to this site where you can buy your temple garments: http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Category3_715839595_10557_21160_-1_N_image_0

          Also, I think the On My Honor award is different from the logo above. The phrase comes from the Scout Oath, so it gets used all over. I’m pretty sure the BSA has a solid copyright or trademark infringement case against this organization if they keep using that, but IANAL.

          • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

            I agree (and I’m still here, darn it); upon further reflection I don’t think that’s the On My Honor award. I think that’s a ribbon. Still, it’s a BSA symbol and they ought not to be using it. Also, their Facebook page is entitled OnOurHonorBSA when they’re actually anti-BSA, which seems rude.

    • DavidMHart

      I’m just enjoying the fact that the fleur-de-lys looks, just for a moment, out of the corner of your eye, like an erect-knob-and-bollocks doodle that a mischievous boy scout might draw. Unwittingly appropriate?

      • Gus Snarp

        Your ability to see phallic symbols is stronger than mine. Does that say something about you? ;-)

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTRGK-DPq_M

        • The Other Weirdo

          Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a symbol really does look sort of phallic. You know, like Cathedral entrances all look like vaginas.

          • Machintelligence

            A dirty mind is a thing of joy forever.

          • GubbaBumpkin

            Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…

            Yeah, I remember the jokes about that from the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.

          • Tainda

            I will never look at another cathedral entrance the same way

            • The Other Weirdo

              Then my job here is done. :)

      • Darren

        Considering that the founder of Scouting had a, shall we say, keen appreciation for tween boys… especially when swimming naked.

        or so rumor has it…

    • Rain

      I wonder if the BSA has a trademark on the Fleur de lis as a logo of a youth organization. Because that logo looks like pretty clear trademark infringement to me.

      Yep it’s in there:

      http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/Licensing/Protecting%20the%20Brand/Boy%20Scouts%20of%20America%20Trademark%20Listing.aspx

      And they don’t like infringement:

      http://www.scouting.org/sitecore/content/Licensing/Protecting%20the%20Brand.aspx

    • Amor DeCosmos

      Google image search: http://bit.ly/13MkMqR

    • Rod

      Both Quebec and the Prince of Wales use the same logo. Don’t think that BSA or ayscout organisation has a lock on it.

      • Gus Snarp

        Obviously the fleur de lis is far too old and common for anyone to trademark it outright, but according to the link posted by Rain below, they do actually own a trademark on it when used in association with scouting activities, like this case.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        The fleur de lis has a lengthy history in European heraldry, although more often that not it stands for French heritage. The Prince of Wales does not have French ancestry, but rather German, and his symbol is Prince of Wales’s feathers, to indicate his intellectual prowess, with the slogan “Ich dien.” The resemblance to a fleur de lis requires squinting.

        • Ewan

          “his symbol is Prince of Wales’s feathers, to indicate his intellectual prowess”

          Indeed. He’s a bird brain.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Yeah, I thought that right off also. This new group is not going to get to use that. The fact that they’re fool enough to even try is a strong indicator that they’re going to fail badly.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

    There’s already one such group in existence, the Royal Rangers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Rangers

    I was unaware of them until a recent case in my area. A school official who had previously worked at one of my daughters’ schools was recently arrested for a child molestation incident that had happened a few years before on a Royal Rangers camping trip.

    Such an improvement over the BSA. Sheesh.

  • Gus Snarp

    The issue with Scouting is just that when you’re going to allow a young man to be in the program to be openly flaunting sexuality, that’s just inappropriate and parents do not think that’s a clean and safe environment for their kids

    Yeah, because the last thing twelve to eighteen year old boys are going to talk about when they get away from their parents for a weekend is sexuality. Sure, that’s not the first and most prominent topic of conversation when boys get to have a quiet moment away from grown ups.

    Parents: please stop pretending your kids are different from the way you were at their age.

    • Art_Vandelay

      I can actually say with certainty that I wasn’t this way.* Any talk of sex in my adolescent years made me wildly uncomfortable and wore on my conscience. Part Catholic guilt and part just being afraid to let go of my childhood, I think.

      *No, I won’t be holding my kids to the same standard nor do I think it’s a remotely healthy one to have.

  • C Peterson

    If deliberately involving your kids in an openly divisive, discriminatory, and exclusive organization isn’t bad parenting, if not outright abuse, I don’t know what is.

    The parents are assholes; the kids are victims. Victims who will form the next generation of assholes.

  • phantomreader42

    The organization’s membership policy will focus on sexual purity rather than sexual orientation
    You know who often has an obsession with sexual “purity”? Pedophiles.

  • edb3803

    I’m sure atheists will be welcome, as long as they completely hide the fact that they are atheist, and vocally acknowledge that god does exist.

  • Erp

    There are some that will think even this new organization is too inclusive (not denominational enough). They are explicitly saying they are going to work with American Heritage Girls which splintered from the Girl Scouts some 20 years ago so that is probably a good place to see what some aspects will be (accepting all girls who can take the oath but adults have to be ‘proper’ Christians is straight AHG).

    BTW one big difference between the BSA and the GSUSA is the Latter Day Saints will not be leaving the BSA and so will remain a large block within the organization.

  • Michelle

    The nation as a whole is becoming more progressive and less religious. A lot of Christians I know are more like Deists than Christians and essentially ignore the entire old testament. Let the fundamentalist Christians form their super inclusive groups and soon enough they’ll be extremely outnumbered (if they aren’t already) that they’ll just be an ignorant joke to everyone. I see all of this as their last ditch effort to force their religion on the masses, they’re losing and they know it.

  • edb3803

    What is up with their insane obsession with sex???

    • Andre Villeneuve

      Perhaps the idea that sex is beautiful and sacred and should be a total gift of self to one’s spouse, and that promiscuity, perversion and acts of sodomy should not be promoted as “normal” or glorified, especially not in organizations of kids.

      • Oranje

        The beginning is all socially constructed. Sex is beautiful. I’m not sure what sacred means or what a total gift of the self is. Promiscuity and perversion are remarkably subjective words, aren’t they? Acts of sodomy. Yeah. Because whatever is defined as sodomy isn’t practiced by straight couples, too.

        And the end is not what anyone actually thinks. Glorified? Are you expecting there to be a scout badge for gay sex or something? Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING is going to change, other than some people being a bit more welcoming to people different from them and discovering that they’re more alike than they thought.

        • Andre Villeneuve

          I’m not against discriminating against anyone who may be struggling with same-sex attraction. However this seems like yet another step on the slippery slope of the normalization of perversion and immorality as is amply documented in the case of the girl scouts (see link to girls scouts in the article above).

          You may think that promiscuity and perversion are “remarkably subjective” but this view is only the product of the morass of moral relativism in which we are quickly sinking (and yes, I agree with you that there is plenty of immorality also practiced by straight couples). Actually there is an objective truth regarding the meaning of sexuality, for example as expressed here: http://goo.gl/FPr8F

          • unclemike

            The vatican?? Objective?? Hahahahahahaha…

            Ha, I say!

            • Gus Snarp

              Yes, I always turn to a bunch of “celibate” old men as the arbiters of sexual morality!

          • SinginDiva721

            Perhaps that is YOUR objective truth (and that’s perfectly fine…for you!). But I am not catholic nor have I ever been so this is not my objective truth. I care very little about what the Vatican thinks of mine, or anyone else’s, sex life. If they don’t like it, sounds like it’s their problem.
            Also, please note that the Vatican has been covering up for pedophile priests for decades if not centuries. I’m pretty sure that no matter what religion or lack thereof you follow, that’s pretty fucking immoral. So I don’t think they’re in a position to preach to anybody.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              “YOUR objective truth” is an oxymoron. That would be a subjective opinion, not an objective truth. Objective truth, by definition, means a truth that is universal and applies to all people, such as the law of gravity, or in the case of moral laws, things such as “you shall not murder” or “you shall not commit adultery”.

              Ironically, you seem to believe in objective truth too wen you say that “no matter what religion or lack thereof you follow, that’s … immoral”.

              Is pedophilia just immoral “for you”? Or for everyone? If the latter, then who are you to decide that it’s wrong for them? Why are you imposing your values on others?

              Do you see the inconsistency of your position?

              Now I agree with you that the sexual scandals (by about 4% of priests) and their cover ups (by a small minority of bishops) are immoral and scandalous – for everyone.

              Still, the failures of some clergymen to live up the Church’s teachings does not invalidate these teachings – quite on the contrary. Perhaps they are worth considering for their own worth (it was a reply to the comment above asking about the meaning of sexuality), rather than obsessively falling back on the scandals at every opportunity (I knew someone would bring them up sooner rather than later).

              • Oranje

                The inconsistency in your opinion is that you believe the world to be seen in completely binary terms, when reality is a grey place. Jumping to extremist examples like pedophilia, lumping non-consent in with incidences of consent, is wrong.

                How do you define adultery? Sex outside of marriage? With deceit and with consent? Why do you consider that universal?

                It is intellectually dishonest of you to point out an example of non-consent and then claim it as an inconsistency of opinion when it was never defended in the first place. If you cannot see these shades of grey, well, perhaps there can be no convincing you.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Actually that’s incorrect, I view the world not in binary terms but as incredibly complex. I am not the one who brought up pedophilia, I was merely responding to another comment.

                  How do I define adultery? Sex with someone who is someone else’s spouse. Sex outside of marriage? Seems pretty self-explanatory to me… Why I consider these things universal? See the document that I posted earlier (http://goo.gl/FPr8F). While it is a Catholic document, it does try to articulate the meaning of love, marriage and sexuality in a broader way that a series of “thou shalt nots”.

                  I agree with you that deceit is bad and consent is important, but who is to say that consent is the only standard to follow for the sexual act to be good? Is that not a rather binary way of seeing things?

                • edb3803

                  “Actually that’s incorrect, I view the world not in binary terms but as incredibly complex.”

                  hahahahahahahaha!

                  Either it’s the pope’s interpretation of this 2000 year old book or nothing! Sounds incredibly complex! I guess those interpretations can get rather twisted and tangled up as modern culture keeps progressing.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sure, drawing a laughable caricature of Catholicism that no Catholic holds immediately settles the argument. How did I miss out on that gem of wisdom until now?

                • Oranje

                  If I may borrow the style of Eric Holder…

                  “Is that not a rather binary way of seeing things?”

                  No.

              • Tainda

                As long as the act is between consenting ADULTS, no one has any right to say it’s wrong or not normal. “Normal” is boring anyway.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  “As long as the act is between consenting adults, no one has any right to say it’s wrong or not normal” – is that just “YOUR truth” or is this an objective truth for everyone? By what universal standard do you get to decide for everyone that consent should be THE absolute norm for all? and even more, by what absolute authority do you claim to decide who has the right to say what?

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  The secular, Western standard for morality: It involves consent and doesn’t harm others.

                  The Yahweh standard: It’s immoral because I said it is.

                  Asking the same questions you’ve been given the answers to before on FA (and certainly other sites) doesn’t magically make a “gotcha”. It just makes you a dishonest douche who thinks he can win by aggressively demanding answers to whatever he can make up.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, it just shows the inconsistency of your position: pretend you are so enlightened while actually being quite intolerant of anyone who doesn’t agree with your own views (while of course distorting and falsifying these other positions, such as the incorrect claim that biblical morality is just “immoral because I said it is”)

                • TheG

                  And this response shows your dishonesty. You ignore specific questions so that you can bring up your dribble again, forgetting that someone already addressed your point. You are a walking, typing, breathing little metaphor of your own religion! How adorable.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sorry, it’s a bit hard to discuss with about 10 people simultaneously. I don’t have time to answer all the questions, especially when I perceive such arrogance as yours, where you are obviously not interested in a real dialogue.

                • baal

                  “hard to discuss with about 10 people simultaneously”
                  I agree completely. Consider being selective in how you reply. Hint, you get points for addressing arguments and it’s not counted against you for ignoring plain insults.

                • TheG

                  Arrogance? This coming from the one who thinks he stumbled upon the way he is going to exist forever and judges others for their non-harmful, consensual behavior?

                  Wait, I forgot. You aren’t judging someone. It is the deity that you chose that just happens to have all the same biases you do.

                • baal

                  “being quite intolerant of anyone who doesn’t agree with your own views”
                  Actually, we’re fairly specific in what we don’t tolerate. Generally, we like facts that are backed up by science and social positions (politics) that maximize weal and minimize woe. We don’t tolerate the opposite of those and we are a contentious lot about how much to weigh the weals and woes.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Most of your post is made up, and thus lying, Nazi. The last sentence requires you to actively ignore what I wrote.

                  Does Jesus love that you have to lie for him, Nazi? Does he love that you drive people away from him with your lies?

                • TheG

                  Because that poster won’t torture someone forever and ever and ever and ever for disagreeing. That is the difference.

                  When a truth is it’s own reward rather than being shoehorned in so that someone is seeking an external reward or avoiding a punishment, that is when it is universal. You know, as in the opposite of arbitrary.

                  Look, just because the Bible stumbles onto a few universal truths doesn’t mean it is objectively right. Those isolated accidental good moments don’t give credence to all the moments where it was wrong and arbitrary (shellfish, the Earth is flat, slavery is not condemned, no mention of iPhones…)

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Anyone who goes to hell will not be surprised that they are there. They will know themselves that it is the place where they belong because they have suppressed the truth in their own conscience. In other words, people who go to hell go there really by their own choice, not because God positively wills it. His positive will is the salvation of all people.

                • TheG

                  So, your god creates the universe, but can’t be held responsible for the results? It reminds me of the times that my big sister would stand in front of me while swinging her fists in a windmill and then walked towards me. It wasn’t her fault I got punched.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Clever analogy but it doesn’t work. God is the source of life and love, and He calls us to partake in His life and love. Since he made us free, we have the choice to say either yes or no to this invitation. Saying no is crazy, but it’s the result of free will. People going to hell are the equivalent of a fish deciding to leave the ocean and go for a trek in the desert. How could they blame anyone else for their death?

                • The Other Weirdo

                  But he didn’t make us free. He made us thought-slaves, to live lives empty of meaning, to adore him always, to obey authority without thought. It wasn’t until the incident with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil that the first humans were cursed with freewill.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I don’t feel like a “thought-slave” at all. Every morning when I get up I can choose to do good or evil, to follow God or reject Him. I believe you are in the same situation.

                  And your last statement is incorrect. It is standard Christian theology that Adam and Eve had free will from the first moment of their existence.

                • b s

                  Standard christian theology teaches that two people who never existed had free will? That’s…useful.

                • 3lemenope

                  When the world is set up pretty much in every way so as to convince a fish that the desert is exactly what they need, it’s hard to blame the fish. Who made the desert, again?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Of course, the analogy limps. The “desert” means a state of definitive self-exclusion from the eternal source of goodness, truth, life and love. Listen to your conscience, begin to turn away from evil and you will eventually understand.

                • 3lemenope

                  Does everyone have a conscience?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Yes, but you can certainly trample it and numb it.

                • Nate Frein

                  I know, right? It takes a heck of a lot of trampling to justify the Catholic Church

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Sorry, no. The existence of sociopaths is one of the reasons that it is trivial to disprove the doctrine of free will. They don’t have consciences, even if you like to pretend they do. And they’re extremely common.

                  And that’s only those who are born sociopathic. It can certainly be beaten into people, as you have admitted, and THAT disproves “Free Will”.

                • TheG

                  In your analogy, your viewpoint is that of the fish. And anyone that lives on the land must be dying from lack of water. Except living in the water is not the only way to live. Heck, some species can even live in the desert. Believing that going onto land means certain death is the perfect analogy for your religion induced myopia.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  of course the analogy limps. You are obviously more interested in arguing for the sake of arguing than in understanding another perspective. Continue you walk in the desert my friend.

                • TheG

                  I actually was once a Christian.
                  I have considered the position you hold, and rejected it.
                  Continue to live with your head under water.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  That’s a very bold assertion. I don’t suppose there is anything to back it up.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I’d be shocked, actually. All evidence suggests consciousness just ceases when we die; the mere fact of continued existence as myself in any form would be immensely surprising. To find out that the Yahweh/Jesus/Spirit trilogy was the actual deity(ies) would be even more shocking, given how much sense it (they) do not make.

                  I reject all things that don’t make sense. Christianity is only one of a multitude of not-real-things I don’t believe in; I don’t believe in magic or fairies or fae or unicorns or zombies or werewolves or yetis or spirits or ghosts or Zeus or Odin or Tlaloc or Izanagi and Izanami or Vishnu or Gaia either. Stop thinking my rejection of Christianity is special- it really isn’t. It goes in a very big box of “supernatural bullshit” with a whole lot of other stuff.

                • Tom

                  Pretty much how I’d react. I’d like to add, however, that after the initial shock of discovering that they existed, I hope I would still have the moral strength not to start obsequiously worshipping such callous, narcissistic monsters anyway, torture for my continued noncompliance notwithstanding.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Then humbly seek goodness and truth with an open mind and heart, and don’t limit these to the very narrow confines of your own intelligence. There is much more out there than we think.

                • Nate Frein

                  I prefer evidence based reasoning to decide if an action is “good”.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  You wound me! To suggest that I’m arrogant enough to think I know everything or to limit things to my own intelligence. The universe of what I don’t know is very, very large; I know some thing, really quite a lot of things compared to most, but it’s a tiny fraction of all the things out there to know.

                  Here’s the thing, though. Everything I know came about that way through a method we like to call ‘science’. It started with an idea, got tested, got refined, got tested more, and eventually went into the “99.9999999% likely true” category. The things I reject went through the same process, except they failed out of testing. Thus far, this method has brought us cars, computers, AC, central heating, antibiotics, sewer systems, and open heart surgery. It works. The ones that failed out of testing failed for a reason- they didn’t work or there wasn’t any evidence for their existence. I’m standing on the shoulders of giants; should I, in my limited knowledge and intellect, reject the world as it has proven to be for the world that has no evidence for it at all? That seems awfully non-humble and really pretty stupid.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, you shouldn’t “reject the world as it has proven to be”. As I said before, faith doesn’t contradict reason. It builds upon it. But if you limit your knowledge to the strictly empirical that can be measured , then you are blocking out a vast, whole other realm of the spiritual.

                • Nate Frein

                  If the spiritual world has an impact on reality, then it can be measured. If it has no impact on reality, it can be ignored.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  OK, could you please give me a precise, empirical measurement of the love of the person who cares the most for you?

                • Nate Frein

                  I can show you her brain lighting up with an MRI machine when she thinks about me. I may not be able to precisely quantify the emotion, but I can show you the direct physical processes responsible for the emotion.

                • Hat Stealer

                  Not to mention the surge of chemicals and hormones, as well as the change in heart rate, increased production of sweat pheromones, and the words “I love you” coming out of her mouth.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  If it has no evidence, I see no reason to believe it exists. This vast, whole other realm of the spiritual has precisely zero evidence for its existence, so why would I do anything but reject it? Faith is believing in something without evidence, and I try not to do that.

                • baal

                  “There is much more out there than we think.”
                  Like Agent Scully?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Nah, she was the debunker. Mulder was the “I want to believe” one.

                • 3lemenope

                  Except, ironically, when it came to religion. Then, Scully was the committed Catholic and Mulder the skeptic.

                • baal

                  What?! I didn’t make the list of unbelieved deities? I’m going to have to stop doubting myself.

                • Octoberfurst

                  Oh I get so tired of this “You send yourself to Hell” nonsense. As if God has no power to prevent you from going there. He’s just helpless I guess. And what person in their right mind would CHOOSE to be tormented throughout eternity? In every sermon I ever heard about the matter God JUDGES the person and sends him/her to Heaven or Hell. So yes, God wills it! And it it his will for “the salvation of all people” why does he let his will get thwarted? Not much of a God is he if puny humans can prevent him from doing what he wants. Your “reasoning” gives me a headache.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Oh God has plenty of power to prevent you from going to hell – but He will not violate your free will. He is calling you today: turn away from sin, seek goodness and truth, call upon Him, and turn to Jesus Christ who loved you and gave His life for you so that you may have eternal life. The invitation to eternal life is there; what you do with it is your choice.

                • Nate Frein

                  What about my free will to not have existed in the first place?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Good point. There is the saying: “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us.

                • Nate Frein

                  Meaningless rot.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Gibberish.

                • Octoberfurst

                  Hmm. We have “free will” to reject God. Of course if we reject him he will torture us forever. Kinda f*cked up don’t ya think?

                  What if a robber accosted you and pointed a gun to your head and said “I am going to give you a choice, You can either ‘freely’ hand over your money to me or I will shoot you in the head.” Would you consider that a “free choice”? I mean, the robber IS giving you an option right? You can freely choose to NOT give him the money. Of course the consequenses are rather dire. So that is really not a free will thing is it? Same with your God. Love me and grovel to me or I will burn you in Hell. Call me crazy but that makes your God look a bit psychotic.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty
                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Really bad comparison. The robber is offering two bad options, so there is no real choice at all. God is the very source of your life. Everything you enjoy in life comes from Him. He is to you what the water is to the fish. Your view of him is really distorted.

                • Nate Frein

                  Your view of him is really distorted.

                  I’ve heard quite a few people say that about an abusive partner.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Fuck, I’ve said it myself!

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  It’s really sad to project abusive partners onto God as if He were like that. He could not be any more different.

                • Nate Frein

                  And again you offer no actual rebuttal, simply saying “nuh uh”.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You will find the rebuttal in the gospels.

                • Nate Frein

                  There’s no evidence the gospels are true.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Well at least you can see a certain picture of a loving God in the Gospels that is miles apart from the monster that people on this forum here picture him to be.

                • Nate Frein

                  Not really, no. Considering I got my not so pretty picture of god from reading the gospels, I’d say you’re wrong about that.

                  The gospels show me an abusive god, and your posts here show me an abused victim telling me “but you really just gotta get to know him”.

                • Michael Harrison

                  Well, reading the Old Testament with the notion of God as abuser in mind becomes a creepy experience. “We suffer because we didn’t live up to God’s love of us!”

                • Octoberfurst

                  Personally I think it is a fine comparison. We are talking about being offered “options” & free will. But if you don’t like that one how about this. A man tells his son that he loves him and wants him to love him back and be totally obedient to him. However he also says that if the son does not give him the love and obedience he demands that he will severely beat his son every day. The son it told he is free to choose which option he wants. Is that a free choice? Say the son thinks his father is crazy and does not want to obey his bizarre orders. So if the child is disobedient can the father say the son freely chose to be beaten? Can the father claim he had no choice in the matter? That is how your God operates. Love & obey me or be tortured. Nice guy that God of yours.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The analogy is a bit better but still fatally flawed because you still portray the father as a cruel tyrant – still a big distortion of God. A better one would go like this: a man tells his son that he loves him and gives him everything: shelter, food, pocket money, education, counsel, love. One day, the son decides to leave home, slamming the door without saying goodbye. He goes in a faraway country, after living a dissolute life eventually loses everything that he had and is forced to feed pigs. Eventually he realizes his misery and looks back at how good he had it in his father’s house. Humiliated, he returns, expecting the sad and icy glare of his father, but still willing to endure the humiliation just to have a roof over his head. But as soon as he appears on the horizon, his father, who had been looking out for him every day, sees his son, runs to him, embraces him with great joy, takes him home, slaughters the fatted calf and throws a big feast for him, because his beloved son who was dead had returned home.

                  I honestly began to write the analogy not really knowing where I would go with it, until I realized that the story has already been written in the parable of the prodigal son. That is the character of God, not your sad images of a cruel tyrant.

                • Nate Frein

                  : shelter, food, pocket money, education, counsel, love

                  “God” gave us none of that. When we needed it, we found it for ourselves.

                • Michael Harrison

                  Funny you should mention that parable. I remember being taught in church that in that story, all three characters have committed a sin of some kind. (First Baptist Church in Plaquemine, LA, if you’re curious.)

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Really? Even the father? I’ve never heard such an interpretation before.

                • Michael Harrison

                  I think it involved the way he sowed jealousy in the loyal brother. Keep in mind, this was back in the ’90s.

                • Octoberfurst

                  Poor, poor analogy Andre. (And like I didn’t recognize that as the prodigal son story right off the bat.) To be a fair analogy you would have to have the son leave and the father refuse to take him back saying that he “made his choice” and that he deserves to suffer for the rest of his life. Because, and correct me if I am wrong here, once you go to Hell there is no reprieve. No mercy. No 2nd chance. God sends you to eternal misery and no matter how much you beg you still go to torment—-forever! So yeah your God IS a tyrant and a sadistic psychopath. (After all what kind of sick mind would create the torture chamber that Hell is?) Eternal horrid punishment for a finite amount of “sins” committed in this life.
                  It makes of mockery of your claim that your God is a god of love.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Do you not see the irony that God who is the author and source and origin of your very life lovingly invites you every day of your life to forgiveness, reconciliation, and eternal joy and blessedness with Him, and in the same breath as you reject his invitation you have the nerve to blame him for the fact that some people will freely choose to remain separated forever. If you ever go to hell (and I sincerely hope you don’t and that you will come to your senses in time), you will know with absolute clarity that your eternal destiny will be entirely your fault, that God has lovingly reached out to you all your life.

                • Octoberfurst

                  What is it with you that you can’t answer a simple question? I keep asking you why would a “loving” God create an eternal torture chamber like Hell and all you do is keep responding with “God love you–don’t choose Hell” like a retarded parrot. Ok I get it. You can’t answer my question so you resort to stupid talking points. Tell ya what, go away & stop wasting my time unless you can come up with an intelligent argument. .(Which I don’t think you can do because frankly you’re an idiot.)

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Restating a large number of unconvincing stock phrases, especially when you’ve stupidly done it before, doesn’t turn them into an argument, Nazi.

                  It’s trivial to disprove the doctrine of Free Will: Brain damage, hormones, mental illness, and environmental factors affect one’s ability to make decisions.

                  It’s likewise trivial to demonstrate the disconnect between a person’s actions and any reward or punishment due to a theoretical “soul”: The “soul” has no effect upon decision-making; if it did, there would be human actions that had no accompanying neural activity. Thus a soul, if it were to exist, is not responsible for the actions of the person. Punishing it is thus not even merely irrational; it’s insane. It’s stomping on a puppy because its mother ate a baby squirrel for food to produce milk for the puppy.

                  You’re welcome.

                • Hat Stealer

                  In other words “Do what I say, or I will force feed you feces in the shape of your own mother for all eternity.”

                  Nothing, NOTHING, ever justifies eternal torture, last but not least hurting your god’s ego by not accepting him.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  God has no ego. Those who go to hell freely choose it by stubbornly choosing evil and rejecting God, his goodness and his forgiveness until the moment of their death. If you would spend less time with sophisms and more time humbly seeking your own salvation you would be much better off.

                • Hat Stealer

                  God made the punishment for rejecting him torture forever. Choosing not to worship someone hardly justifies such a draconian course of action. Like I said, nothing ever justifies eternal torture, especially something so petty as rejection.

                  I’m beginning to see the parallels between the Christian god and an abuser more and more. You just can’t imagine that it’s God’s fault for torturing us forever. It must be because we deserve it. He’s too good; it’s not like all the thumbscrews and the racks and the branding irons and the burning and the raping and the agony are his fault, right? You just keep repeating the mantra of “it’s all our fault; he’s too perfect; it’s all our fault; we deserve it” over and over. Whenever someone brings this up, your response is inevitably “No! God is Love and Goodness and you just don’t understand him and blahblahblablabla.” You refuse to see him as the problem, just like someone in an abusive relationship. It makes me sick.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  It makes me sad, ‘cuz I want him to find the courage to leave.

                • Hat Stealer

                  You realize there are people who will never hear the gospel of Jesus in there lifetime, right? Or is this some Mormon magic, where you aren’t raped in the ears with red hot screws (read: hell) unless someone tells you about Jesus before you die, but you still don’t accept him?

                  If you are right, then there are billions and billions of people right now screaming and crying and begging and burning and being tortured forever and ever until the end of time. And the numbers will only get bigger. In other words, if you’re right, then the universe sucks, and the best course of action humanity could take would be to try and overthrow God. Probably with iron chariots. He seems to be weak against them for some reason.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 847

                • Olive Markus

                  And I would claim that it’s not our fault that our brains literally don’t allow us to believe in something that is based on absolutely no evidence, as if that’s even a bad thing.

                  You work on the assumption that we KNOW God and Catholicism to be true but choose to reject it anyway – because – who the hell knows? We like to have recreational abortions every couple of months?

                  I’d also claim that God could, very easily, provide all of the evidence that people like me need to believe it to be true. If he truly is Omnipotent, why is it impossible for him to provide new ways of teaching and providing evidence for people who find current teachings to be illogical and unreasonable? New teaching models do not deny us “free will” in any way. And didn’t he make our brains this way? If he is our designer, then he knows that my brain simply can’t see the logic in Catholic teachings, and he should be able to help me out a little without any effort or infringement on my free will at all.

                • Hat Stealer

                  You’re not supposed to questions God’s logic; you’re just supposed to repeat the words “it’s all my fault” over and over and over.

                • Olive Markus

                  You’re more correct than you think. So incredibly correct that I learned this exact skill so unbelievably well that I put myself through years of an abusive relationship as an adult, because I was so utterly convinced that “it’s all my fault” and “he has his reasons” and “he really is a good guy, deep down, when you try to understand him” and “he shows me how much he loves me in his own way.” Even NOW, even though I know better, I still blame myself.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  *gentle non-threatening hugs*

                • Olive Markus

                  hugs back. thank you

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  If the words of a random Internet stranger mean anything, then hear this: It’s not your fault. You’re strong and capable and you got out. It’s not your fault.

                • Olive Markus

                  Thank you very much. It means a lot.

                • Really?

                  Actually that “consent of the persons involved” represents the highest standard of OBJECTIVE morality can be shown by every non-relativistic philsophy developed in the last 200 years.
                  Kant would define that as central to the categorical imperative
                  Neitzche would identify the point of mutual concent as the point at which both persons maximize their own growth
                  Mill would say that concent of both persons involved clearly promotes the greatest happiness
                  Rawls would say that concent of both partners is the only just outcome of mutual interaction because it is the only outcome that were both individuals alloted to their postions randomly they would both accept.

                  Actually, I think we could do even do say Jesus
                  who when asked what the most important commandment is
                  responds in mark 12:31 “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these”
                  or again in Mathew 7:12 where he states “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets”
                  So if you acutally are a true believer and believe that Jesus was God and said the things he supposedly said in the bible, then the words stright from Gods mouth are
                  “There IS NO RULE more important than never taking an action that you would not concent to have your neighbor do back to you.” None, its the grand summary of all old and new testament law and it fundamentally implies that mutual consent is the final standard of morality recognized by the god of abraham.
                  So basically, mutual concent is the highest objective moral standard.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I don’t deny that mutual consent constitutes an important building block for morality. The question is, is it the ULTIMATE and ONLY criteria for morality?

                  We see its flawed and dangerous results in the “culture of death” of abortion and euthanasia. Those who are most weak and unable to express their “consent” are brutally put to death whenever they become inconvenient.

                  Moreover, if mutual consent is all that counts, then there is no moral problem with someone taking a massive heroin overdose if he feels like it? Suicide is perfectly OK since it’s up to the person’s own choice? What’s the problem with acts of bestiality if a man wishes to do so and his dog doesn’t mind?

                  You may quote your philosophers, but to lump Jesus in the same category is quite wrong if not dishonest. According to Mark 12:13, Jesus refers to the commandment of love of neighbor as the SECOND most important. The first and most important is “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mar 12:29-30)

                  Since the love of God is expressed elsewhere as keeping His commandments, I think you will agree that this flies in the face of any theory of “mutual consent” as the highest standard of morality – at least according to Christianity.

                • DavidMHart

                  What does it matter if it’s an ‘objective truth for everyone?’ It’s a truth that applies to the people who happen to be involved. If A and B do something that does no harm and risks no harm to anyone else, then there is no one who can conceivably say that they have been wronged by it, and therefore no plausible basis for saying it is wrong – because the morality or immorality of an action has to be judged on its outcomes (or its likely outcomes averaged across many iterations, in the case of things like drunk driving).

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I understand that from a civil/secular perspective the “mutual consent” appears to be your best bet for establishing moral standards. However the fact that just about every religion (and most secular societies until recently) considered homosexual acts debased does say something about timeless human wisdom, not to speak about the fact that if God exists, it’s a serious/mortal sin according to pretty much all religions.

                • DavidMHart

                  Actually, I think it says more about timeless human bigotry. Remember that other forms of xenophobia, like racism and belief-in-witchcraft have also been more-or-less universal for much of human history. No one seriously thinks they are intellectually defensible now, so if you think that homophobia is intellectually defensible, you’ll need to defend it intellectually, not just point to less tolerant people in less tolerant times.

                  And given that your religion is the only one that has the concept of ‘mortal sin’ as such, you ought to think more broadly. I don’t know what the various flavours of Hinduism, John Frum cargo cult-ism, Buddhism, Mayan polytheism, Shinto, etc make of homosexuality, but they certainly don’t feature your particular god, or, in some cases, anything you would recognise as a god at all, so if you can point to people who believe totally incompatible things from you about the supernatural and use them to try to underpin your particular brand of supernatural-based bigotry, then that strikes me as a little too convenient.

                  It seems much more likely that we simply have a tendency to be suspicious of those who we perceive to be sufficiently different from us, which can spill over into serious mistreatment if not corrected for. This underpins racism, nationalism, class-based hatred, religious divisions that turn bloody, the persecution of minority drug users (such as, in the USA and other places), alcohol users demonising cannabis users). It seems rather likely to me that the historic persecution of sexual minorities is just another manifestation of the same tendency. But of course, if you have good evidence that your god actually exists and actually wants what you say he wants, then you’re welcome to present it.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Every religion considered the solar system and the universe to be constructed in ways that they are not. Thank God your lot (eventually) shut up enough to let the less stupid members of the tribe gather actual information.

                  Funny how you’re now reduced to exploiting other religions as being true as a defense for Catholicism.

                • gimpi1

                  As long as an act is between consenting adults, that’s all anyone needs to be concerned with. If no force is involved, what other people get up to in the privacy of their own homes is none of your business. You can disapprove all you want, but you have no right to use force of law. You seem to want to compel obedience because you can no longer convince.

                  Tandia’s position imposes on no one. Yours does, Andre. You appear to want to force people to follow a code they don’t believe in. Why? How is anyone harmed by other people’s consensual acts? If no harm is caused, how does society justify intervening?

                  Your church no longer has the ability to pass laws or force compliance. No church in the first world does. And it’s a better place for that.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I never said that I would like the Church to impose morality laws on everyone. I was merely pointing out the logical inconsistency of Tandia’s moral relativism. When she says “no one has the right to…” that sounds a lot like an imposition to me. I did not speak in such terms…

                • gimpi1

                  Then what do you want? If you simply want to disapprove of other people in the privacy of your own home, go at it. No one can, or will, try to stop you. I, personally, find it a bit perverse, against the whole “judge not” thing, but it’s really not my business. Whatever floats your boat.

                  What I took Tandia to mean is that you have no right to compel anyone to live by your view of morality. If you just want to pontificate, but have no desire to pass laws banning gay marriage, restricting birth control, or whatever has your moral views in a twist, then I, and I think Tandia, have no problem with that.

                • Olive Markus

                  Working to block the rights of homosexuals to marry is the church imposing morality laws on everyone… just to be clear.

              • SinginDiva721

                My point is your rules are your rules. They are not my rules and no one should be required to follow them. Your religion’s rules do not get to dictate what others do behind closed doors. Gays having sex do not have any impact on your life whatsoever. Just like your sexual habits have no impact on them.
                As for the pedophilia, children can’t consent. Adults can. That is where the difference lies.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You are indeed not required to follow what you call “my rules.” However does that mean no one has the right to present any other vision of sexuality that is different from your own?

                • SinginDiva721

                  ” However does that mean no one has the right to present any other vision of sexuality that is different from your own?”

                  Um, no. There are different visions for everyone and that’s what I’m trying to say. For some people that includes homosexuality. You’re the one who seems caught up that only heterosexuality is the correct one and everyone else is just a dirty sinner. You envision heterosexuality as being the only way it should be. That is your opinion and you are entitled to it. But I don’t see it that way. There are many different facets of sexuality that I find beautiful.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Fair enough. You have the right to your opinion too, obviously. You believe in moral relativism and I don’t.

                  And by the way, we are all sinners, though I don’t think the adjective “dirty” is necessary to qualify ourselves.

                • TheG

                  No, you just believe so strongly in your own relativism that you don’t see it as such. Your viewpoint is the only correct absolute and everyone else is just rationalizing away from your truth.
                  BTW. This is exactly how rapists go about their day.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Make up your mind – am I an absolutist or a relativist?

                  Answer: yes, I am an absolutist regarding divine law. But divine law doesn’t seek to regulate everything. God’s law is the way to freedom and abundant life. Sin is what enslaves us.

                  Your comparison of Christian beliefs in the dignity of sexuality with rapists shows the bankruptcy of your moral relativism. So in other words, Mother Teresa, who was an absolutist regarding God’s law, was just as bad as Hitler, who was an absolutist regarding the supremacy of the Aryan race and subhuman status of Jews?

                • Nate Frein

                  Mother Theresa was a twisted individual who prolonged suffering out of a misguided notion of “love”.

                • Hat Stealer

                  The question I like to ask to determine who has better morals is “Is eternal torture just?” You believe it is, I don’t.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  The RCC has incredibly long and silly lists of rules for when someone is allowed to have sex. The rules are here: http://exconvert.blogspot.com/2012/12/medieval-sex-flowchart-for-penitents.html. They include no sex on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, while naked(!), during the day, during feast days, during fast days, during Lent, during Advent, during Whitsun week, and during Easter week. Also no sex until you’ve been married three days. Also no sex while the woman is menstruating, pregnant, or nursing. Also, the only acceptable position is missionary (man on top) and there is no oral sex, foreplay, or kinky stuff allowed. Anal sex (sodomy) is, of course, right out.

                  By what right does the Church micromanage the sex life of its own members, let alone anyone else? You can follow all of those rules if you like- the moment you try to get those rules put into the lawbooks of the USA, we have a serious problem. Legislating against homosexuality is exactly, 100% the same thing as legislating that no one is allowed to have sex during Lent.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  Do they have a rule that reads, “Have no sex in the presence of or with little children.”?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Nope! Well, they do say no sex outside of marriage … that sort of covers it? It makes adultery with a consenting adult, open relationships, premarital sex, and nonmarital rape all the same level of sin/crime, though, which is clearly immoral. The sin/crime isn’t the rape or pedophilia, it’s the extramarital sex, and marital rape isn’t a sin/crime at all in the RCC.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Listen, you can critique the Church as you like but that doesn’t give you the right to say outright lies. You are intelligent enough to know that rape and pedophilia are considered grave (mortal) sins in Catholicism. If you don’t know it, at least have the honesty to read up before writing such nonsense. This is where it becomes obvious that your argumentation is not made with good will but is downright malicious.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Actually, rape, pedophilia, adultery, open relationships, and premarital sex are all in the same box of “sexual sin”, with all being considered mortal sins, none of which is any more serious than another. So yes, rape and pedophilia are seen as mortal sins, but they are not distinguished from other much less bad (or not even bad at all) “sins”.

                  I hope you understand why that’s a problem.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Not true. Where there is an act of violence (rape, pedophilia) in addition to the sexual sin, the sin is greater.

                • Nate Frein

                  [citation needed]

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Not in any of the Catholic teachings I’ve read, and you’ve linked a lot of them, plus you’re not my only source.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Feminerd, once again your understanding of Christianity and Catholicism is very, very basic. If you’re not sure of something, perhaps you should refrain from making such sweeping judgments about the Church.

                  http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/2356.htm

                • Nate Frein

                  Or how about you actually cite the precedent that proves her wrong? Assuming it exists, of course…

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Assertions made without evidence may be dismissed without evidence.

                • Andre Villeneuve
                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  That’s the same link as before. It says rape is a grave sin; already knew that. Go find the links for the verbiage for premarital sex and adultery and link those too, please?

                • Andre Villeneuve
                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  They’re all grave sins. None of them delimit punishments, nor does the language suggest that rape is seen as worse than adultery, considering that adultery is compared to idolatry. Adultery also is called a threat to human society in general, while rape is seen an individual wrong though a very bad one.

                  Still not seeing where the RCC says rape is worse than consensual polyamory.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Frankly, to refer to a rather humorous chart from an anonymous “Medieval history book” claiming to represent a medieval Catholic view of sexual morality is hardly honest. As the user comment following the article rightly points out, even if the chart faithfully represents *some* medieval manuals/penitentials, it doesn’t mean this represented the universal teaching of the Church (anyone who understands anything about Catholicism knows it obviously doesn’t). Such things are the result of localized customs, not of authoritative Church teachings. And I fully grant you that you will find plenty of weird aberrations in localized Catholic customs throughout history.

                  The Church doesn’t try to “micromanage the sex life of its own members.” It proposes a beautiful and fulfilling vision of love, marriage and sexuality. I am thankful that it helps us to understand right and wrong for those who wish to hear it.

                  Issues of legislation affecting an entire society are another thing – the question of the common god.

                  “Legislating against homosexuality is exactly, 100% the same thing as legislating that no one is allowed to have sex during Lent.”

                  It is beyond me that you fail to see how the two cases are entirely different – one is rooted in biology and the very nature of marriage and the family (impossible in the case of homosexuals), while the other indeed is an entirely arbitrary custom.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Nope, they’re both rooted in arbitrary custom, or we wouldn’t see any homosexuality or anything other than man/woman pairs anywhere in human cultures.

                  We do see lots of variations, though. We see polygamy, polyandry, loose sexual relationships that don’t always lead to pair-bonding, strict pair-bonding, serial monogamy, hijras and other transgender categories, belief in the sacredness of hermaphrodites as being both male and female in some Native American tribes, Japanese erotic wood carvings that show male/male pairings, Greek warrior relationships, and so on. Remember, if sex was purely rooted in biology, anal sex wouldn’t feel good (to a lot of people). Neither would scissoring. Neither would PIV sex at unfertile times, for that matter, or sex between people too old to procreate.

                  Homosexuals can procreate if they want- they just usually don’t want. They can adopt and often do. Your argument that gay people can’t form families is one reason why we call you a bigot- you’re denying people one of the intrinsic things that make us human, which is forming families. Families come in all shapes and sizes; your arbitrary dismissal of several types of family is incredibly hurtful to people who have fought long and hard to see those families recognized.

                • Anna

                  What really galls me about fundamentalist Catholics is that that they are so dismissive of other people’s relationships. For someone like Andre, a gay relationship can never be anything but inferior. By default, gay love is inferior to straight love. Gay families are inferior to straight families. They do not see the hatefulness in their comments.

                  And the ironic thing is that they state these terrible things while also claiming to respect people’s dignity! I haven’t forgotten the previous Pope using his Christmas message to assert that people like me are evidence of the disappearance of human dignity. How is it respecting someone’s human dignity to say that their very existence erases it? I’ll never understand that.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Yes, sin has always existed. If you would try to rationalize it and seek a pure heart, you would see differently.

                • Nate Frein

                  [citation needed]

                • Anna

                  I’m glad to know it’s impossible for homosexuals to have families. Clearly, my brother and I must not exist, because we were conceived and raised by lesbians!

                  By the way, about that micromanagement thing, you do know that the Vatican has very specific rules about where a husband is allowed to ejaculate, right?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Your dignity as a human person is equal to that of every one else, quite obviously. And I’m not discrediting the two women who surely invested much to raise you. However, did you never miss the presence of a father in your life?

                  And yes, the Church does say that every sexual act must be open to life, I do know that.

                • Stev84

                  You are truly a disingenuous, lying piece of shit, you know that?

                • Anna

                  Forgive me for not finding it respectful of my human dignity to claim that I shouldn’t exist. The previous Pope stated that children of same-sex couples are an “attack” on the “true” structure of the family, evidence of the disappearance of “human dignity,” and contrary to “essential elements of the experience of being human.”

                  And this was in his Christmas message, too! Forget peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Why waste an opportunity to bash gay people?

                  And I’m not discrediting the two women who surely invested much to raise you. However, did you never miss the presence of a father in your life?

                  Only you are discrediting them, because you think they are inferior. You think their love for each other is inferior, that their relationship is damaging to them and to society, and you obviously don’t believe that they could have been as good parents as a straight couple. Or else why would you ask me a question like that? You start off with the assumption that two mothers can never be as good, that they can never be equal to a mother and a father.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  If you exist, it’s not because of two lesbians, you are the daughter of a mother and a father. The two women who raised you may be wonderful, but of course they can never be “equal” to a mother and a father. A woman, by definition, can never be a father.

                • Nate Frein

                  Yeah. No way they could be equal to a father tho was deployed more than half the time and a mother who curled up on the couch and ignored her kids.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Again, I said that they may be wonderful women, and yes, there are a lot of bad fathers and mothers out there. However, the most wonderful woman in the world will never be able to be a father.

                • Nate Frein

                  So you’re saying I’d have been better off with a father who wasn’t there than two mothers who were?

                  Keep digging. This is getting juicy.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, not necessarily. Just as it is better for a child to be put in an orphanage than to remain with abusive parents. Neither is ideal. The ideal is a loving mother and father.

                • Nate Frein

                  No, the ideal is a stable life with at least two parents. There’s no evidence that supports your statement that the parents must be opposite genders.

                  And don’t cite Regneros. It was a faulty study.

                • Dez

                  Wow what a hateful person you are to insult her parents as inferior. This is why people are rejecting your religion and views.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I never said they are “inferior”. I said that a woman could never be a father.

                • Dez

                  Yes you implied that they are not equal to opposite sex parents.

                • SteveO

                  A woman doesn’t know how to raise a man… why is that so hard to grasp, Dez? Use your “intelligence”… even a shred of brain power is enough to realize there is a difference between man and woman (and not just between the legs).. feminism is seriously a delusion on women

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Shoo, troll, don’t bother me …

                • Dez

                  More intelligence then you have. A child does better with two parents no matter their gender as long as they are involved in the child’s life. An idiot like you forgets that many people have extended family, friends, and other loved ones that are male and female that also help raise a child. I know to you a misogynist that equality for women is a bad thing. Then you can not oppress us anymore.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Same damn difference.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  no. A man is also not qualified to be a mother. Different doesn’t mean inferior, it means different.

                • Nate Frein

                  And yet you won’t (or can’t) articulate what a man brings to the table that a woman can not.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  The almighty PENIS, of course!

                • Olive Markus

                  And you’re saying that not having a father means that her upbringing was Not As Good. Not As Good = Inferior.

                  You just say stuff without realizing what they mean, don’t you?

                • RobMcCune

                  So you’re prejudiced against not only gays, but women as well?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, I’m just saying that two women, even if they are wonderful, in their very nature cannot replace the complementarity of mother and father.

                • Nate Frein

                  So you subscribe to “separate but equal”?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I would say equal in dignity but different in roles.

                • Nate Frein

                  You do know the history of “separate but equal”, right?

                  Or are you really that misogynistic as well as homophobic?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Oh, he is that misogynistic. He’s said, more than once, that women not having an official voice in the Church is totally fine because they are superior spiritual beings and don’t need any actual power or say in their own lives. Women are also best as wives and mothers after having been virgins- those are the epitome of “womanhood”. He also doesn’t think women should control their fertility (sex is for babies) or have access to abortion, as once pregnant the woman is relegated to “walking incubator” status.

                • Nate Frein

                  “But it’s not hate!”

                • Hat Stealer

                  … so separate but equal. Gotcha.

                  What I love about these guys is that they admit how immoral they are, but they just don’t care. They don’t see what they promote as immoral, even when it obviously is so.

                  Separate but equal.
                  Torture forever.
                  God made gays, but just to be a collosal dick he told them they couldn’t have sex because they were perverts.

                  You have to be a pretty sick person to adhere to any of this stuff.

                • RobMcCune

                  Ok then what’s that special something that only men can bring to parenting?

                • Anna

                  I’ve been asking that for years, and I’ve never gotten an answer!

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  manhood and fatherhood :)

                • Nate Frein

                  And what is so special about “manhood”?

                • Anna

                  They almost never elaborate. When they try, they either get very Freudian or invoke a bunch of gender stereotypes.

                  In the past, I’ve asked for a list of specific examples of parental actions that are dependent on the gender of the parent and have never been provided one.

                • Michael Harrison

                  I personally prefer the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. This reduces, for me, any hypothetical risk of not having a male or female role model.

                • Anna

                  Gee, thanks. I’m glad to know my parents can never be equal. And you wonder why people think your rhetoric is hateful? You have declared that my family is inferior. You’ve never met my parents. You know nothing about the circumstances of my birth. You know nothing about how my brother and I were raised. We’re just not as good simply because the Catholic church says so.

                  And, actually, if my parents hadn’t been gay, I wouldn’t exist at all. Perhaps my mothers would have had other biological children, but I, as an individual, would never have been conceived in the first place. So there goes your assumption.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I never said you’re “not as good.” Really, it is not my intention to offend you, nor to say that you shouldn’t exist.

                • Nate Frein

                  *cough*

                  The two women who raised you may be wonderful, but of course they can never be “equal” to a mother and a father.

                • Anna

                  I don’t care about being offended. I’ve heard much worse over the years, but there seems to be quite a bit of inconsistency in your comments.

                  You said my parents could never have been equal to a mother and father. Yet now you’re saying they weren’t “not as good?” I don’t think that what you’ve said allows for the possibility that two mothers could be an ideal family, equal to a family with a mother and a father. So of course we’re not as good, by your own definition.

                  And as for my existence, you don’t believe my conception was immoral and should not have happened? I’m sure the Vatican would disagree with you there, since the Pope’s message was all about how such conceptions shouldn’t happen and how they’re damaging to children, families, and society.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Again, I don’t mean to hurt you or offend you. True, I don’t believe hat two mothers can be an “ideal family” because I happen to think that manhood and fatherhood are important and irreplaceable in a family. But you are right, it’s a fine line to walk on. The Church believes that every child has the right to be conceived from an act of love between father and mother, not to be the product of test tubes (during which many embryos are destroyed in the process). At the same time, children born of such unions are to be unconditionally accepted and loved. I’m really sorry if this is offensive to you but that’s what I believe. Do you know your father at all?

                • Nate Frein

                  Again, I don’t mean to hurt you or offend you.

                  Intent isn’t magic.

                • Anna

                  Again, I’m not hurt or offended. I’m an adult, and this is an Internet comment thread. While the simple fact that you hold certain views can’t hurt me, the Catholic church’s constant attempts to legislate their views (and denigrate those they disapprove of) has a negative effect on not only my family, but on young children in the families who are affected by those attempts and that negative rhetoric.

                  If the leaders of your church are actually serious about respecting human dignity, perhaps it would behoove them to remember that the people they are talking about are not hypothetical. Children of same-sex parents actually exist in real life. We hear what you say about us on the news. We read what you write about us in the papers. When you hold up signs proclaiming that we shouldn’t exist, we tend to take it personally.

                  Frankly, the Catholic church’s bizarre fixation with how children are conceived baffles me. I wasn’t conceived in love because I wasn’t the result of sexual intercourse? Intercourse doesn’t equal love. Intercourse is just one way to make a baby. I also think you must not know much about other ways of conception if you think that every baby not conceived through intercourse is created in a test tube. Your church’s opposition to surplus embryos doesn’t apply to simple insemination techniques, which don’t require fancy technology. The first recorded successful artificial insemination happened in the late 1700s.

                  In any case, you’re entitled to hold the view that my family is not ideal, but that’s exactly the reason people think you are so bigoted. It’s a prejudice that isn’t based on anything in real life. You declare that families are not equal without ever even having met them. All that matters is that my parents don’t have the “right” equipment, and therefore they can never be as good as a mother and a father.

                  Incidentally, why are you so curious about my biological father? I do not know him, but I am very grateful that he chose to donate his sperm so that my brother and I could be born. To use a “religious” analogy, if you believe life is a gift, then I am thankful for that gift. For someone to say that my conception shouldn’t have happened, well, I just don’t understand why. I’m happy to be alive. I don’t see why I shouldn’t exist.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You are right that the people born of such unions are not hypothetical and it’s certainly very different to talk to one than to discuss theoretical abstractions. I do feel challenged and rather humbled talking to you, first because I don’t want to offend you and certainly not make you feel that you shouldn’t exist, but also as I said because I feel quite convinced that the father/mother pair as basic unit of the family is irreplaceable. And yes I am aware of the various forms of artificial insemination. I know that I must sound like a hopeless jumble of contradictions, but I would just ask you to try to respect the nuances I’m trying to underline. Again, I do not wish to undermine the work and love of the two women who have raised you, just like the work of single mothers. I asked about your biological father because you owe your life to him as well, and you are a part of him. You probably look like him. Can it really be true that you don’t feel anything lacking in that you don’t know your own father? that you have never heard him say “I love you”?

                • Anna

                  I do feel challenged and rather humbled talking to you, first because I don’t want to offend you and certainly not make you feel that you shouldn’t exist, but also as I said because I feel quite convinced that the father/mother pair as basic unit of the family is irreplaceable.

                  What you are basing that on? Just the Catholic church’s say-so? You’ve apparently never met or spoken to anyone raised by two mothers or two fathers, so you’ve formed your conclusion about our families in complete ignorance. You’ve declared that we’re not as good without actually knowing anything about us.

                  That’s why your claims come across as so prejudicial. It’s judging people you don’t even know. You say that a mother and a father are irreplaceable, yet no one with your views has ever provided me with concrete examples of parental actions that are dependent on the gender of the parent. Quite frankly, it seems absurd to me to reduce a person’s parenting to what kind of genitals they were born with. What matters is how people parent. It matters how they relate to their children. It matters that they provide a safe, stable, loving home.

                  I asked about your biological father because you owe your life to him as well, and you are a part of him. You probably look like him. Can it really be true that you don’t feel anything lacking in that you don’t know your own father? that you have never heard him say “I love you”?

                  I realize this may be hard for you for you to understand, but I already have two parents. My mothers are the ones who raised me. They’re the ones who told me they loved me, who took care of me when I was sick, who helped me with my homework, and who put me to bed at night. As I mentioned, I am extremely grateful to my biological father for providing sperm so that I could be born. I do owe my life to his generosity, so of course I wish him the best. But I don’t consider him a parent, and I don’t feel there was anything lacking in not having a third parent.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Ok, I hear you. But of course I don’t reduce “a person’s parenting to what kind of genitals they were born with” – manhood and womanhood, fatherhood and motherhood are much more than genitals obviously.

                • Anna

                  Well, I’ve heard that a lot, but since no one seems to be able to provide concrete examples, it’s hard to accept that that claim has any validity. What specific actions can a male parent perform that a female parent cannot?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  It’s not so much what they do, it’s who they are. Have you not noticed that men tend to be different than women (not just physically)? That they have a mutual complementarity and that they complete each other (not just physically)? Have you ever read the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” or anything similar?

                  By the way, do you think that we are just the random product of a blind evolutionary process?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  1: That’s bullshit, and you know it.

                  2: Oh, you’re the product of something blind, all right…

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Actually, I haven’t noticed men being different from women in any way that wasn’t clearly cultural. Oh, men tend to be taller and have more upper body strength, but I’ve met very tall and strong women before too, so it’s definitely not an absolute difference, just overlapping distribution curves.

                  The only thing men can do that I can’t is piss their name in the snow. The only thing I can do they can’t is have babies and bleed out my crotch once a month. Personality, interests, friendship, emotional vulnerability and range, intelligence, creativity; all of that is merely human and I’ve seen no difference between men and women. I certainly haven’t noticed any sort of complementarity.

                • Anna

                  It’s exactly that sort of vague allusion to “who they are” coupled with the refusal to provide details that makes your argument so unconvincing.

                  If you can’t actually provide anything concrete (and I’ve asked this question for years, and no one ever has), then how am I supposed to take your claim seriously? All men are different, and all women are different. There is no set of attributes that is unique to one sex, and there are no parental skills that are limited to one sex. Male or female, gay or straight, each person is unique.

                  And, uh, I have to say that if your research into human sexuality and relationships has been limited to sexist nonsense like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, then I don’t wonder that you might not have any idea of how an egalitarian relationship or egalitarian parenting might work.

                  I’m an atheist, so I don’t see any reason to assume a supernatural cause for evolution. I’m not particularly interested in science, though, so I’m not the best person to discuss the origins of the universe.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I think that until recently the question of the fundamental difference between man and woman was so much taken for granted as a matter of complete common sense that people are now taken aback and unprepared for the question. It’s my case anyway. Why do you think Men are from Mars… is nonsense? Ok, it’s not a scientific book, but it seems to me to speak a lot of common sense too. Why do you suppose it is so incredibly popular then? Surely it must resonate somehow in people who are trying to understand their spouse better.

                  You speak of “egalitarian relationship/parenting.” What do you mean by that? If you mean equal in dignity and value, then of course I totally agree. If you mean “absolute sameness” then of course I disagree. What is wrong with men and women being different and complementary? It doesn’t make any one less than the other.

                  Did you have a look at http://www.marriageuniqueforareason.org/ ?

                  I also found this (from the same initiative): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_i6yvKBd8g

                  You may think it’s superficial, but again it seems to me to be common sense. If I find something more substantial I will let you know.

                • Anna

                  Your persistence in seeing all men as alike and all women as alike puzzles me. And since you won’t provide details, I have to assume that you’re referring to stereotypes. You haven’t provided anything concrete. Saying it’s a matter of “common sense” is just as vague as saying it’s “who they are.”

                  There is no personal characteristic that is restricted to one sex. Both men and women can be warm, funny, nurturing, strong, kind, brave, etc. There is no specific action that is restricted to one sex. Both men and women can cook a meal, clean a house, plant a garden, play a sport, etc.

                  If I am wrong, then please give me something (anything!) that is limited to one sex. If there’s something a man can provide in a romantic relationship that a woman cannot, then what is it? If there’s some action he can perform with his kids that a woman cannot, then surely such an action would be obvious. The refusal to provide details is what, IMO, dooms your argument to failure.

                  As far as Men Are From Mars… is concerned, my problem with it is that such books traffick in stereotypes. They fail to account for the diversity that exists within a single sex. They assume that all men are one way, and all women are another. Not all people conform to stereotypes, and I think it is particularly unhelpful to act like men and women are so different that they might as well be from different planets. Each person is a unique human being, and someone’s personality and interests cannot be reduced to what’s between their legs.

                  If you’re interested in a critique of this kind of stereotyping, you might want to explore:

                  http://therebuttalfromuranus.wordpress.com/

                  By egalitarian relationships and parenting, I meant ones in which roles are not predetermined by the sex of the partners. The people involved decide what they want to do based on desire and aptitude, not societal convention. An egalitarian romantic relationship, for example, would have both partners fulfill financial and domestic obligations . It does not mean that they have to do the exact same thing. It just means that they don’t divvy up their responsibilities based on sex.

                  Egalitarian parenting means that both parents assume equal responsibility for childcare. This is still fairly rare among heterosexual couples, but there is a movement for equally shared parenting:

                  http://equallysharedparenting.com/

                  It’s more common among lesbian couples, and it’s how I was raised. My parents split everything 50/50. They didn’t divide into primary and secondary caregivers, which is what most heterosexual couples do.

                  I watched your video, but it’s exactly the same kind of prejudiced, vague, stereotypical nonsense that I’ve heard a million times before, accompanied by a heavy dose of religious claims. I just find it very sad. Those people are extremely invested in their stereotypes, and they’re going to be passing them down to the next generation.

                  Anyone who thinks that a straight couple is in any way special or unique clearly just hasn’t spent any time around same-sex couples at all. All couples are different. Straight couples are as different from each other as gay couples are.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  The Almighty Penis, of course.

                • Anna

                  You kid, but that’s certainly how it appears. I don’t think people like Andre believe they are reducing people to genitals. I think they genuinely believe in some mystical “essence” that is restricted to people of a certain sex.

                  However, if such a thing existed, then there ought to be some evidence. The fact that there is no personality trait or action that is confined to men or confined to women doesn’t help their argument. And that’s problematic because they want us to accept their claim without providing evidence for it.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Again I am baffled that you would need to have this spelled out. What could be more evident that men and women are essentially different – physically, emotionally, intellectually? Every culture, every people in every age has always taken this basic fact of our humanity for granted until our own age of deconstructionism in the West. Just study the cultural habits and social mores of any of them – take your pick. Even today, people of more traditional cultures on all 5 continents, of whatever religion they may be, would be completely astounded by your question. Or is it a coincidence that people of practically all times and cultures were all backward bigots who somehow were all indoctrinated to believe the same thing – that men and women are different?

                  The differences are anchored in our very biology and anatomy. No I don’t mean to say that it’s just the genitals (what a strange idea), but our differences are evident just looking at each other. I feel that I could give a bunch of examples but you will just dismiss them all as “stereotypes” so I don’t really see the point. Only a woman is able to be a mother, a nurturing sanctuary of life. Only she is able to nurse her child. Only a man is able to be a father. In most cultures they have tended to be the protectors and providers of their families. Women tend to have more finely tuned emotional sensitivity (creating different strengths and different weaknesses). Men tend to be a little less relational and more action-minded. Women relate to and talk with women very differently than men talk with men. Of course for every example I give, you can find exceptions, but I don’t know how you can deny the obvious and common sensical fact of our essential differences. What’s wrong with that? I thought liberals were always advocating “diversity” and yet you deny the most obvious, undeniable, and beautiful case of diversity there is in our humanity?

                  And by the way, I never said that I see “all men as alike and all women as alike”. Who is denying that there is also plenty of diversity within a single sex? Of course every human is unique as well.

                • Anna

                  Well, just as I thought, you haven’t given examples of personality traits or actions (beyond nursing, which not all women do), but simply rather mystical-sounding appeals to them being “essentially different.”

                  We’re on different planets (perhaps different universes), so I’m just not sure we’re ever going to see eye to eye. I see your comments as reducing people to genitals and not respecting diversity, while you seem to think I’m the one not acknowledging diversity. But I’m trying to get you to see people as individuals, not as representative of a larger group. There are more differences within a single sex than there are between people of different sexes.

                  It depends on the person. There are men who are not “action minded.” There are men who are emotionally sensitive. There are women who have a strong instinct to protect and provide for their families. You do know that there are straight couples where the woman has a career and the man stays at home with the children, right? Is that wrong according to Catholic teaching, too?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You do know that there are straight couples where the woman has a career and the man stays at home with the children, right? Is that wrong according to Catholic teaching, too?

                  No it’s not.

                  But I’m trying to get you to see people as individuals, not as representative of a larger group. There are more differences within a single sex than there are between people of different sexes.

                  You are beating a dead horse. I never denied for a moment that there are profound differences between people as individuals.

                  you haven’t given examples of personality traits or actions (beyond nursing, which not all women do), simply rather mystical-sounding appeals to them being “essentially different.”

                  It seems to be that the ability to nurture life in one’s womb is not exactly trivial. How about this then:

                  http://www.livescience.com/20011-brain-cognition-gender-differences.html

                  http://www.livescience.com/9652-dads-key-making-human.html

                  http://www.livescience.com/10140-stress-brings-difference-male-female-brains.html

                • Anna

                  Well, if it’s not wrong for a Catholic couple to have a stay-at-home dad and a working mom, then what’s the problem with non-traditional gender roles? If it’s okay for a man to be the primary nurturer, to stay home with and care for an infant, then what is your objection to a child being raised by two fathers? If a man doing the “mothering” is okay in a straight family, then why not in a gay one?

                  And if there are profound differences between individuals, then I just don’t understand why you seem to be acting like all straight couples are alike in some important manner. Do all the straight couples you know relate to each other in exactly the same way? How is a straight couple different in how they relate to each other? What’s special or unique about them?

                  This is what I really don’t get. If all people are different, and all couples are different, then why would you assume all straight couples share the same behavior or actions? From our previous discussions, it seems like you haven’t spent time getting to know same-sex couples. Have you ever spent time with a gay or lesbian couple? Have you seen how they relate to each other?

                  I know many, many lesbian couples. I know many, many gay male couples. And I know many, many straight couples. I have a lot more experience (apparently) than you do, and I’m not seeing these supposedly massive differences. Couples are couples. How they relate to each other and to their children depends on their personalities, not their sex.

                  The ability to give birth is restricted to women, sure, but that has nothing to do with parenting once the child is born. Your articles are interesting. I’ve read quite a bit about gender differences, and I’m of the opinion that there are biological and social components. However, I’m really not seeing how it’s applicable to the situation here. One can talk about generalities, but people are individuals first and foremost.

                  And there are no personality traits or actions that are restricted to one sex, which is what I’ve been saying all along. It’s possible for women to protect and provide for their families. My parents certainly did. I always felt safe and secure in our home. It’s possible for men to be warm and nurturing and take care of young children. If it’s possible and the people want to do it and have the aptitude for it, then what’s the problem?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Well, if it’s not wrong for a Catholic couple to have a stay-at-home dad and a working mom, then what’s the problem with non-traditional gender roles?

                  Because when you have a stay-at-home dad and working mom, you still have a father and a mother raising the children. The mother may be a little less present than in the traditional roles, but she is still in the picture.

                  you seem to be acting like all straight couples are alike in some important manner

                  I have never said that all straight couples are “alike” or that they “share the same behavior or actions.” Obviously each couple is unique. I don’t understand why you keep coming back to this.

                  What’s special or unique about them?

                  Refer to the previous articles I sent you e.g. on fatherhood. I will let you know when I find more info on the topic.

                  Have you ever spent time with a gay or lesbian couple?

                  to be fair, no I haven’t. And again, don’t get me wrong: I’m absolutely and obviously not saying that everything in their relationship is wrong. I’m not denying that there is some legitimate love there (the philea love of friendship). I’m not saying that they are unable to raise children (on the same level as, say, two sisters or brothers living together who adopt a child). I just think the homosexual act is always wrong, and that their union shouldn’t be called a “marriage” because marriage is not something that we have the right to invent and reinvent. Can we agree to disagree?

                  Ultimately, I am realizing that it’s very difficult to have fruitful conversations on moral issues when we have a completely different understanding of reality and the world: if we are just the product of a random process of evolution, then yes, why not just determine morality according to the consensus of the majority and on the basis of the “rights” of any minority group? however, if we have been lovingly created by a good God who wants the best for us, then we are invited to discover the moral order in the world and we have no right to make it up. I think this moral order can be discovered in a way without reference to faith in God (using “secular principles” as you say), but it’s much more difficult, and we can make some major errors along the way, the cost of which could become apparent only after years.

                • Anna

                  But if she’s not performing the traditional role, then what is the importance of her being female? If she’s not the one doing the “mothering,” why is her sex important? A man is the one who is the primary caregiver: nurturing the baby, feeding the baby, changing the baby, singing to the baby, putting the baby to bed, etc.

                  I keep coming back to the whole special and unique claim
                  because I’m still not clear on what you think all straight couples share.

                  Refer to the previous articles I sent you e.g. on fatherhood. I will let you know when I find more info on the topic.

                  I did read the article. It referenced (yet again) stereotypical things like roughhousing. Not all fathers roughhouse with their children. Mothers can also roughhouse with their children. Futhermore, since when is a child’s well-being dependent on a parent performing a specific action like roughhousing? Are children whose parents don’t throw them around and wrestle with them disadvantaged in some way? If they are, I’ve never heard about it. I imagine many quiet and reserved children don’t care for that sort of thing, anyway.

                  And for the record, my mothers used to carry us on their shoulders, give us piggy-back rides, toss us into the air, spin us around, and “fly” us to bed when we were little enough. They did all of that perfectly well, so I don’t see why a father would have been necessary.

                  to be fair, no I haven’t. And again, don’t get me wrong: I’m absolutely and obviously not saying that everything in their relationship is wrong. I’m not denying that there is some legitimate love there (the philea love of friendship). I’m not saying that they are unable to raise children (on the same level as, say, two sisters or brothers living together who adopt a child).

                  I think if you spent time with same-sex couples, you would find that they do not relate to each other differently than opposite-sex couples do. That was really my original point. Anyone claiming the uniqueness of straight couples clearly just hasn’t spent any time around gay couples.

                  I just think the homosexual act is always wrong, and that their union shouldn’t be called a “marriage” because marriage is not something that we have the right to invent and reinvent. Can we agree to disagree?

                  I would make no attempt to force your church to revise its definition of marriage. If they want to limit holy matrimony to heterosexuals, that’s their business. It’s sad for gay and lesbian Catholics, but I would encourage them to leave and find a more accepting religion. If you personally do not want to call a same-sex marriage “marriage,” that’s also your business. You can call it whatever you want. However, we cannot agree to disagree about civil marriage. I do not find it acceptable for your church to meddle in secular marriage laws.

                  Ultimately, I am realizing that it’s very difficult to have fruitful conversations on moral issues when we have a completely different understanding of reality and the world: if we are just the product of a random process of evolution, then yes, why not just determine morality according to the consensus of the majority and on the basis of the “rights” of any minority group? however, if we have been lovingly created by a good God who wants the best for us, then we are invited to discover the moral order in the world and we have no right to make it up. I think this moral order can be discovered in a way without reference to faith in God (using “secular principles” as you say), but it’s much more difficult, and we can make some major errors along the way, the cost of which could become apparent only after years.

                  Well, then I think that’s the price of living in a secular democracy. If you’re really concerned about the will of your god being done, then it seems to me a democratic, pluralistic society is not the one best-suited for you. In the United States at least, it’s already been determined that religion cannot be the basis for civil law.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Anna, you have challenged me to look more deeply into these questions, and I am motivated to do some more readings about this topic. I remain very puzzled at how you fail to see the obvious essential difference between man and woman, father and mother – a difference that transcends any particular activities that they may do. You seem to dismiss their essential sexual difference and complementary roles in procreation as marginal or almost insignificant, and to reduce the essence of manhood and womanhood down to the ability to act in a certain way. I confess that I have some difficulty in articulating what most people in most cultures in most ages have viewed as self-evident, but I will make sure to try to better inform myself on the topic.

                  It’s sad for gay and lesbian Catholics, but I would encourage them to leave and find a more accepting religion.

                  You seem to think that people are entirely predetermined (or born) as gays and lesbians. Do you really think that we are determined by our attractions and feelings? Should our attractions determine our moral choices and acts, or should an inner sense of morality rather guide and determine our actions – sometimes by denying our own whims, attractions and desires?

                  Also, what do you think of the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a “gay gene”? How is it possible that you can have twins (so with the same DNA) where one ends up as a homosexual and the other heterosexual? What do you think of “ex-gays” who successfully come out of the gay lifestyle, get married and had kids (I know a few)? Or what do you think of gays who also affirm that the homosexual lifestyle is ultimately the result of a choice? For example:

                  http://socialinqueery.com/2013/03/18/no-one-is-born-gay-or-straight-here-are-5-reasons-why/

                • tsara

                  I’d bet that Anna has done quite a bit of thinking about sex, gender, and sexuality. I’d guess that she’s done more than you have, actually. Gender is way more complicated than than you seem to think — I’m genderqueer.
                  And sexuality is more complicated than you seem to think, as well — I’m asexual.
                  I recommend that you do some gender and sexuality 101 reading. This website is an excellent, easy-to-understand, and facts-based resource:
                  http://www.scarleteen.com/

                  People are not entirely predetermined. They are predisposed to be certain ways; the interaction of genetics, psychology, and the environment (to oversimplify) is incredibly complicated. Cool word to google: epigenetics.

                  I hope like hell that the ‘ex-gays’ you know are actually bi, or at least otherwise happy with their lives. Ex-gay therapy is demonstrably harmful, to the point where only the most hardcore homophobes will allow themselves to be associated with it anymore — even Exodus International has stopped claiming it works.

                  And, obviously, living in any particular way is a choice. That’s not the question. The question is, can you demonstrate that it is immoral? Can you demonstrate that it is harmful? What do you think you know, and how do you think you know it?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  what do you mean exactly by “genderqueer” and “asexual”?

                  Ex-gay therapy is demonstrably harmful

                  of course the success of such therapy in many cases (some of which I know personally) is very inconvenient to those who insist on pushing the gay agenda at any cost. The only solution for them is surely to try to label anyone who disagrees with that agenda as “homophobe”, “bigot” or , or to try to legislate against such therapy. And then they have the nerve to go around and speak of “choice” and “tolerance”!

                  Regarding your last paragraph, I have had extensive discussions on the topic in the last few weeks and unfortunately don’t really have the time or energy to start another one. But the fact that just about every major religion and faith in every culture and every age (apart from our current age of moral relativism and social deconstruction) agree that homosexual acts are disordered should perhaps make us stop and think for a minute.

                • tsara

                  re: asexual, genderqueer.

                  Do you want to know about what they mean to me, or in general? And do you want to know out of genuine curiosity, so that you can understand better? Because I’m not up to being treated like a circus freak or an abomination today.

                  re: reparative therapy.
                  Try reading some peer-reviewed research. Here’s a place to start:
                  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=reparative+therapy+homosexuality

                  “But the fact that just about every major religion and faith in every culture and every age (apart from our current age of moral relativism and social deconstruction) agree that homosexual acts are disordered should perhaps make us stop and think for a minute.”

                  That’s a terrible reason to make people as miserable as (not just) the conservative portions of the culture is making LGBTQ people.
                  Further, don’t you think we’ve ‘stopped and thought’ enough? There’s literally no evidence of harm. None. Zero.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  re: asexual, genderqueer – what they mean to you, and yes I am genuinely interested.

                  re. reparative therapy – I have heard many claims to the contrary, including friends who have come out of the gay lifestyle and were grateful for this change. I will look into some of the research, but I suspect that it is agenda driven rather than based on fact, or resting on false presuppositions such as the idea that we should passively allow our actions to be driven by our desires/attractions.

                • tsara

                  re: reparative therapy.

                  My sources are from within the medical and psychiatric communities and constitute the best available evidence. I can imagine that there are reasons why some people would be more comfortable living as though they are straight, whether they actually are or not. And as long as reparative therapy is presented as spiritual (rather than genuinely medical) therapy, and is given only to adults (and not minors), I don’t object all that much. I see no reason, though, why I, as an atheist, should be expected to make myself miserable for the sake of Catholic doctrine.

                  re: asexual, genderqueer.

                  My asexuality means that I do not experience (or understand) sexual attraction. I have no desire to ever have sex (and I’m actually mildly repulsed by the idea) and it takes effort to think sexually or experience arousal. I’m also perfectly fine with this, though open to the idea that the necessary conditions for experiencing attraction just haven’t occurred yet (I’m fairly young) — and if they do, I’ll reconsider the label. It’s just a word that currently seems to describe me well.

                  ‘Genderqueer’ is a word that I’ve only much more recently started to describe myself with. It’s also considerably more complicated, and a hell of a lot touchier a subject for me. Fair warning.

                  Genderqueer is something of a catch-all term for people who don’t identify (or don’t identify exclusively) as either men or women. For myself, I could probably (currently) be described equally well as ‘questioning’, ‘unidentified’, or ‘uncomfortable’. It’s the last one of those that’s really the key: I am uncomfortable with my body. I am uncomfortable with the way people interact with my assigned role. I am uncomfortable with both of the gender binary labels. I am uncomfortable with the way gender binary labels make people assume things about my body and my mind. I am uncomfortable with the way society cares about what’s between my legs. And, repeating for emphasis, I am uncomfortable with my body.
                  On the positive side, being referred to with gender-neutral pronouns gives me happy feelings. Looking androgynous gives me happy feelings. I’ve been looking at HRT and the idea of changing my voice really appeals to me — not because there’s anything wrong with my voice, but because it could be so much more awesome.

                  Is that making sense?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  thanks for sharing that about yourself. Interesting. May I ask how old you are?

                  I have no desire to ever have sex (and I’m actually mildly repulsed by the idea) and it takes effort to think sexually or experience arousal.

                  I don’t see anything wrong with that, actually it could be an advantage. Just a random desire to have sex pertains more to instinct than to love, obviously, and it is best kept in check anyway. Sex is supposed to be the deepest expression of love between two spouses who love each other and are committed to each other for life. Perhaps the desire will come when you meet the right person?

                  As for your other thoughts on sexual identity, I would encourage you to turn to God and ask Him to give you some clarity on that. He created you and loves you unconditionally. You are more than your feelings, and you will be happier by discovering the purpose for which he has made you, rather than trying to somehow invent it on the basis of passing feelings.

                • Anna

                  I didn’t even think of that, but you make a good point. Catholics see gender and sexuality in black-and-white terms.

                  What does the Vatican say about androgynous individuals, for example, who identify as genderqueer or agender? If someone is biologically female and marries a biological male, is that okay even if the person is androgynous and has absolutely none of the feminine “essence” Andre seems to believe in? What about an androgynous person becoming a parent?

                  And what does the Catholic church do about intersex people? If a person has XXY chromosomes, what sex is that person allowed to marry? Both? Neither? How about someone with a female body but XY chromosomes? Or what about people born with ambiguous genitalia? Are they ever allowed to marry, or are they supposed to be celibate their entire lives?

                • tsara

                  SRS is considered ‘mutilation’ and is an abomination of some kind unless it’s performed on intersex people — because there’s something physically ‘wrong’ with intersex people and they must be corrected to emulate Adam and Eve, the cookie cutters we must all conform to. Androgynous, agender, trans, and genderqueer people don’t really exist, they just need spiritual correction.

                  (note that this is not what I believe, but what I’ve read about Catholic teachings.)

                • Anna

                  Anna, you have challenged me to look more deeply into these questions, and I am motivated to do some more readings about this topic.

                  If you’re sincerely interested, I could suggest some books.

                  I remain very puzzled at how you fail to see the obvious essential difference between man and woman, father and mother – a difference that transcends any particular activities that they may do. You seem to dismiss their essential sexual difference and complementary roles in procreation as marginal or almost insignificant, and to reduce the essence of manhood and womanhood down to the ability to act in a certain way.

                  We’re equally puzzled then, because I’m still not understanding this “essential difference.” The way you’re talking about it, it seems magical or mystical. Even using the word “essence” makes it difficult to pinpoint exactly what you mean.

                  Frankly, I just don’t see a person’s biological sex as all that important. I’m female. I was born female. I’m comfortable being female. But I don’t see this as my primary characteristic. I don’t think it dictates my personality or interests or that it gives me some “essence” that is impossible to define.

                  Similarly, I’m heterosexual. I’m attracted to men and have only had relationships with men, but I don’t see those relationships or that attraction as being different from the same-sex attractions and relationships experienced by my gay and lesbian friends and family members. I don’t think being a straight couple makes my boyfriend and me special or unique, and I abhor the notion that it makes us superior in some way.

                  In my eyes, “mother” and “father” are just the words our society uses for male and female parents. A parent is a parent, and parenting skills do not depend on sex. I firmly believe (and have experienced!) that either sex is capable of properly providing for a child’s needs. I don’t believe that men and women need to have certain roles or be restricted to relating to their children in a certain way based on their sex.

                  You seem to think that people are entirely predetermined (or born) as gays and lesbians. Do you really think that we are determined by our attractions and feelings? Should our attractions determine our moral choices and acts, or should an inner sense of morality rather guide and determine our actions – sometimes by denying our own whims, attractions and desires?

                  Why on earth should anyone deny attractions and desires that hurt no one? There’s no “inner sense of morality” that makes people anti-gay. People don’t feel bad about being gay unless they’re told to feel bad about it. And, yes, I believe all evidence points to the fact that people’s sexual orientation is innate. That goes for everyone: gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, etc.

                  Also, what do you think of the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever for the existence of a “gay gene”? How is it possible that you can have twins (so with the same DNA) where one ends up as a homosexual and the other heterosexual?

                  If you’re really curious, you might want to do some reading on sexual orientation. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that sexual orientation is biological.

                  What do you think of “ex-gays” who successfully come out of the gay lifestyle, get married and had kids (I know a few)?

                  Every reputable medical organization has condemned so-called “reparative therapy.” It is harmful and does not work. Even the “ex-gays” themselves will tell you that their same-sex attractions do not disappear.

                  Or what do you think of gays who also affirm that the homosexual lifestyle is ultimately the result of a choice?

                  Sexuality can be fluid, especially for women. However, if it is truly a choice for some people, then I would assume they are bisexual to some degree. I think it would be impossible to have a fulfilling sexual and romantic relationship with someone you are not attracted to. Regardless, what does it matter? If someone wanted to “choose” to identify as gay, it is no one else’s business.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sure, feel free to suggest some books.

                  You may want to look into these (I’m not endorsing them as I have not read them, but I might pick some of them up)

                  http://goo.gl/9k9Z5
                  http://goo.gl/Q7yI6
                  http://goo.gl/PAXGy
                  http://goo.gl/jWQqk
                  http://goo.gl/Ph4JO

                • Anna

                  Let me think on it. I’ve read dozens (if not hundreds) of books about gender and sexuality over the years, but I’m hard pressed to think of what I could recommend to someone who doesn’t believe that homosexuality is a legitimate orientation and doesn’t accept that gay people feel the same love for their partners as straight people do.

                  As for the books you linked to, if you read any of them, let me know if they give examples of specific actions that are limited to fathers. I’ve been asking for years, and no one’s managed to provide anything so far.

                  Most of the books seem to be about the experiences of children who are fatherless due to family disruption. Social scientists already know that events such as death, divorce, and abandonment (and the economic deprivation that frequently results) are bad for kids. I wouldn’t argue otherwise.

                  The problem comes when you try to equate children from planned, intact families with children who have suffered the permanent loss of a parent. There’s no comparison, and studies bear this out, too.

                  http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2010/06/07/peds.2009-3153.full.pdf

                • Anna

                  Well, I’ve thought about it a little. If you’re really interested in these topics, I might suggest these:

                  Raising Boys Without Men by Peggy Drexler and The Family of Woman by Maureen Sullivan (planned lesbian families)

                  Gender Shock by Phyllis Burke and Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine (sex differences)

                  Unhitched by Judith Stacey and A Society without Fathers or Husbands by Cai Hua (matrilineal and non-monogamous families and societies)

                  But I kind of wonder what the point is. If you’re never willing to change your mind, what’s the use of reading a book with a different point of view? No matter what you see or read or hear, your views will always stay the same.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Thanks for these titles. I have written them down. Indeed, I will probably not change my mind, but I do want to understand the issue better. As we both know, I think, the fundamental difference between us is not whether this or that particular moral act or situation is right or wrong. The fundamental difference lies in the question of whether we *invent* our own morality and purpose in life (because we are just the random product of chance), or whether we are called to *discover* the purpose for our existence and the laws that govern it (because we have been created by a loving God who wants the best for us).

                • Anna

                  While you’re at it, I would also recommend books on anthropology, tribal cultures, and non-Western religions. I don’t know if you’ve done any research in those areas, but I find them quite fascinating.

                  There’s at least one culture which has no gods and no creation myth, the Piraha Indians of the Amazon rainforest. I’d recommend the book Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes, which explores their society.

                  Similarly, if you think all religions have the same attitude towards sexuality, you might want to take a look at Shintoism and Hinduism. Not only has there not always been stigma towards homosexuality, there’s quite a lot of gender-bending and homosexual sex mentioned even in their scriptures.

                  Interesting story from the Ramayana:

                  In some versions of the Krittivasa Ramayana, the most popular Bengali text on the pastimes of Lord Ramachandra (an incarnation of Vishnu), there is an interesting narrative of two queens that conceived a child together. When the famous king of the Sun Dynasty, Maharaja Dilipa, died, the demigods become concerned that he did not have a son to continue his line. Lord Shiva therefore appeared before the king’s two widowed queens and commanded them, “You two make love together and by my blessings you will bear a beautiful son.” The two wives, with great affection for each other, executed Shiva’s order until one of them conceived a child. Unfortunately, however, the child was born boneless, but by the blessings of a sage, Astavakra, the child was restored to full health and continued the dynasty. Astavakra accordingly named the child “Bhagiratha” – he who was born from two vulvas . Bhagiratha later became a king and is credited with bringing the Ganges River down to earth through his austerities.

                  There are also many traditional societies that have recognized more than two genders. I can’t imagine limiting myself to thinking that one culture is more important than another. From my perspective, just because you’re born in a certain culture, it doesn’t make sense to discount all the others in the world.

                  And, yes, the central disagreement is that you see a supernatural basis for morality, and not only a supernatural basis, but one which you believe trumps not only a secular basis, but all other supernatural bases as well.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Yes I am aware that all cultures have their myths and that homosexuality has existed in every culture, but even in those cultures where it has been relatively accepted, I’m not aware of any serious precedent in trying to redefine the institution of marriage.

                  I don’t discount all the other cultures in the world. Every culture has good and praiseworthy things to offer. But every culture also has its own sins. Moral relativism proposes to “invent” morality on the shifting sands of public consensus, but this lack of any firm foundation is a recipe for disaster.

                  And once again, I don’t believe that a supernatural basis for morality “trumps” a secular basis. On the contrary, I believe that it elevates natural morality to a higher level and leads us to our highest self-actualization.

                • Anna

                  You describe them as myths, but those stories are from the Hindu scriptures. Their holy books. Hindus don’t believe that they are just fairy tales.

                  And there’s a lot more than just that one story:

                  http://www.galva108.org/deities.html

                  You are operating under the false assumption that every religion stigmatizes homosexuality. It’s simply not true. And it’s not true that no other societies have given recognition and blessings to same-sex unions.

                  As for discounting them, you are basically saying that your church’s view is the only valid one. Other cultures’ gods aren’t to be taken seriously, nor are their views on gender, sexuality, marriage, or any other topic. Have you ever actually considered that their beliefs might be the ones that are true?

                  And once again, I don’t believe that a supernatural basis for morality “trumps” a secular basis.

                  Sure, you do. Your believe it should be the basis for law, even in a secular democracy. You’re advocating that marriage be restricted to heterosexuals because you think it’s what your god commands. It doesn’t matter that the courts have decided that it’s in the interest of the common good to provide people with equal benefits and protections.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I’m sure you can find some exceptions, but the fact is that most people in most cultures have been able to see quite easily that children always come from a mother and father. It’s impossible for them to be conceived otherwise, and that is why marriage has always been considered to be in its very essence the union of one man and one woman. This is not a “supernatural basis” for marriage but a most natural and commonsensical one.

                  you are basically saying that your church’s view is the only valid one. Other cultures’ gods aren’t to be taken seriously, nor are their views on gender, sexuality, marriage, or any other topic. Have you ever actually considered that their beliefs might be the ones that are true?

                  I understand that the claim that there is “one truth” is annoying to those who embrace metaphysical and/or moral relativism, and who believe that the human person is free to determine/create his own reality and moral principles. But I think you will agree that all positions can’t be right. On the other hand, you are annoyed by my claims that the Church teaches “the” truth, but at the same time, you are also making claims of absolute truth, saying that the secular/materialist/atheistic point of view is the “right” one, that Christianity/theism is in error, etc… So how do you reconcile you support for moral relativism (morality is just determined by the consensus of the majority, detached from any objective truth) while at the same time making such absolutist claims? It seems to me that relativism is in its very nature inconsistent and self-contradictory.

                  Truth, on the other hand, is narrow. 2+2= 4. *only* 4, not 5, 7, or any other number. There is one correct answer to the equation, but an infinite number of wrong answers. Likewise, while I can believe that every religion may contain elements of truth, not all can be equally right in all matters.

                  Yes, I have seriously considered whether other points of view may be true. But Hinduism, for example, rests on an absurd metaphysical foundation (that there are multiple gods), so I am hardly well-disposed to believe its moral positions as authoritative. This contradicts right reason, which leads us to believe that there can only be one, infinite, eternal, spiritual being that caused the world to come into existence. (if there were many, none of them would be all powerful or infinite; and which one would ultimately be a reliable guide in moral matters?)

                • Anna

                  I’m sure you can find some exceptions

                  So it’s universal, except when it isn’t? You point to ancient and non-Western cultures as long as you think they support your position, but when it’s pointed out they don’t, you backtrack. Contrary to what you have stated, not all societies and religions have stigmatized homosexuality and discouraged or refused to acknowledge same-sex relationships. And then when you do admit the existence of those societies, you proclaim them to be inferior and discount them. I just think it’s a very duplicitous treatment of the subject.

                  but the fact is that most people in most cultures have been able to see quite easily that children always come from a mother and father. It’s impossible for them to be conceived otherwise, and that is why marriage has always been considered to be in its very essence the union of one man and one woman. This is not a “supernatural basis” for marriage but a most natural and commonsensical one.

                  No, it is not. Same-sex couples have children. Marriage is not restricted to heterosexual couples who wish to procreate. Infertile couples, elderly couples, couples who prefer to adopt children, and couples who do not wish to raise children are all allowed to get legally married, and their marriages are celebrated and encouraged. Again, I will point out that U.S. law must have a secular basis and that religious detractors have been asked many, many, many times to provide secular reasons why their definition of marriage should be used, and they have not been able to do it. That’s why they’ve been losing in the courts.

                  But I think you will agree that all positions can’t be right.

                  Exactly. All positions can’t be right. Yet you proclaim your position to be true. The only one that should be given special consideration. You are proclaiming one god out of thousands of others, one religion out of thousands of others, one moral view out of thousands of others. And you expect me to just accept your claims based on your say-so. Why should I take your assertions seriously? Why should I pay attention to the Catholic church’s notions of sexual morality? Why aren’t Buddhism, Hinduism, or Shinto worthy of the same consideration?

                  On the other hand, you are annoyed by my claims that the Church teaches “the” truth, but at the same time, you are also making claims of absolute truth, saying that the secular/materialist/atheistic point of view is the “right” one, that Christianity/theism is in error, etc…

                  I’m not annoyed by the claim itself. I’m annoyed by attempts to force the claim into secular law. I do not accept your supernatural assumptions and assertions and do not believe that the views of any supposed deities should factor into the laws of a secular democracy.

                  As for me claiming absolute truth, I’m not making claims. I don’t proclaim there are no gods. It’s possible there could be deities lurking somewhere in the universe. I am simply going by the evidence that I have been presented with. I see no reason to doubt the natural world, which has been shown to exist. An invisible supernatural realm has not been shown to exist. No one is born believing in deities or in the supernatural. Your side is the one making a claim and failing to provide evidence for it. You can certainly believe in the supernatural if you want. I have no moral objection to that. I just don’t happen to believe it has any rational basis.

                  So how do you reconcile you support for moral relativism (morality is just determined by the consensus of the majority, detached from any objective truth) while at the same time making such absolutist claims? It seems to me that relativism is in its very nature inconsistent and self-contradictory.

                  I’m not making absolutist claims, and who said anything about moral relativism? There are certainly secular arguments to support objective morality and many proponents of that view. If you’re interested in learning more about that, I would recommend The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris.

                  To flip your question around, your morality is based on an ancient book. Why is that superior to morality based on societal consensus? This is a book that contains positive depictions of genocide, slavery, homophobia, etc. Simply having an objective source for morality means nothing if the source itself is corrupt. Not to mention the fact that there is no reason to believe the source is true.

                  Why should the consensus of the old men in Rome be worth more than the consensus of the people of the United States? We’re all human beings. Just because the men in Rome claim divine connections does not mean that they actually have them.

                  Yes, I have seriously considered whether other points of view may be true. But Hinduism, for example, rests on an absurd metaphysical foundation (that there are multiple gods), so I am hardly well-disposed to believe its moral positions as authoritative This contradicts right reason, which leads us to believe that there can only be one, infinite, eternal, spiritual being that caused the world to come into existence. (if there were many, none of them would be all powerful or infinite; and which one would ultimately be a reliable guide in moral matters?)

                  So you simply proclaim it to be absurd. You dismiss polytheism out of hand. You assume that gods must have certain properties, that they must guide morality, and that there can only be one of them.

                  I would like to know much time you’ve actually spent seriously considering Hinduism. After all, you expect me to put a ton of effort into ruling out Christianity, but it doesn’t seem that you’ve done the same for other world religions. Which Hindu texts have you read? Have you read any of their philosophers or theologians?

                  I haven’t, but I don’t need to in order to rule out Hinduism. There’s simply no reason to accept that their supernatural claims and assumptions are true. Hinduism is a fascinating religion. I’ve been fascinated by it since I did a term paper on it at age 14, but I have never seen any reason whatsoever to suspect that it is based on anything real. Just like Catholicism. Just like every other religion.

                  Why is your religion less absurd than any other?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I just think it’s a very duplicitous treatment of the subject.

                  It’s probably time to agree to disagree on this topic. Anna, please. I realize that because of the way you were raised you will not agree with me, but please stop splitting hairs. Yes there has always been homosexuality, and yet how can you deny that the nearly-universal norm in most cultures has been that the union of a man and a woman constitutes the standard for marriage, despite the obvious fact that you will find exceptions (you will always easily find exceptions to every norm when you deal with sociological issues). But ultimately, history shows that might (or the majority) does not make right, and so I suppose that the whole point does not decisively prove anything either in my or your favor.

                  No, it is not. Same-sex couples have children. Marriage is not restricted to heterosexual couples who wish to procreate. Infertile couples, elderly couples, couples who prefer to adopt children, and couples who do not wish to raise children are all allowed to get legally married, and their marriages are celebrated and encouraged.

                  All these cases are radically different from that of same-sex couples. Couples who are infertile or elderly still remain generally oriented in their nature towards the procreation of children – even if they are unable to do so because of particular circumstances. Gay couples will never, ever be able to procreate on their own. You will always ultimately need a man and a woman to generate new life. If you are unable or unwilling to concede this commonsensical point, then I rest my case.

                  Exactly. All positions can’t be right. Yet you proclaim your position to be true…

                  But you do exactly the same thing: you proclaim your secularist, atheist position to be true, despite being among a very small minority in the history of human experience where by far the greatest majority has believed in some kind of deity. That’s perfectly your right, but please let’s avoid the double standards.

                  Why should I take your assertions seriously? Why should I pay attention to the Catholic church’s notions of sexual morality? Why aren’t Buddhism, Hinduism, or Shinto worthy of the same consideration?

                  It’s really up to you as to which assertions you will take seriously or not. As I said before, I don’t think moral questions are the best point of departure in the search for truth. Metaphysical and theological questions are a better foundation to begin: Is there a God? Has He spoken to man? If so, under what form? What does He have to say, according to the various religions/philosophies? Does this revelation resonate with our human experience and our search for truth, goodness and beauty?

                  In a nutshell, Buddhism is almost more of a philosophy than a religion; it doesn’t even really claim that there is a personal God; so while its moral teachings may contain some wisdom, why should they be authoritative or universally binding? Hinduism, by positing the existence of many gods, is metaphysically absurd; it provides even less of a solid foundation for an authoritative morality. Christianity is the only religion that claims that God loved us so much that he became man and spoke to us in this way. Of course between understanding this claim and accepting it as true there is a wide gap, but it seems to me that it is one that is at least worthy of serious consideration. For if the claim is true and we reject it, we are rejecting the very reason for which we were created and missing out on the ultimate purpose of our lives.

                  your morality is based on an ancient book. Why is that superior to morality based on societal consensus?

                  Actually not. Here you are reflecting a fundamentalist understanding of Christian morality, not a Catholic one. Catholic morality derives many principles from Scripture, of course, but it is also based on natural moral law, on the teachings of Christ (God-made-man) and on Sacred Tradition which Christ has promised to guide infallibly by the Holy Spirit. Also it’s very important to understand that the morality presented in the Old Testament grew out of Ancient Near Eastern mores and mentality, and it was never intended to be a perfect, universal moral standard.

                  See the Catechism if you’re interested in better understanding the Catholic foundation for morality: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc2.htm

                  (It’s a long section, going from paragraphs 1691 to 2557)

                  Just because the men in Rome claim divine connections does not mean that they actually have them.

                  That’s true, but what if they do?

                  You dismiss polytheism out of hand.

                  I don’t dismiss it “out of hand.” I dismiss it because logic and reason dismiss it as absurd. Polytheism is by its very nature metaphysically impossible. The moment you have more than one God or supreme power, then each one cannot be all powerful, each one cannot be infinite, each one cannot be the ultimate cause for everything else.

                  Only monotheism is really metaphysically coherent. And if there is really a God, then it would make most sense that His revelation be accessible to all people through some universal religion, not some small, obscure, localized sect. So that leaves Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the three main candidates.

                • Anna

                  It’s probably time to agree to disagree on this topic. Anna, please. I realize that because of the way you were raised you will not agree with me, but please stop splitting hairs.

                  I’m not sure what it has to do with how I was raised (I didn’t know anything about ancient cultures except what I learned in school), but I’m not splitting hairs. You point to other cultures to support your idea of morality, but then discount ones that don’t match your existing bias as having inferior morality anyway. If you think these cultures and their religions are invalid, then why are you pointing to any of them in the first place? Regardless, no need to belabor the point.

                  Yes there has always been homosexuality, and yet how can you deny that the nearly-universal norm in most cultures has been that the union of a man and a woman constitutes the standard for marriage, despite the obvious fact that you will find exceptions (you will always easily find exceptions to every norm when you deal with sociological issues).

                  I’m not denying anything. Most marriages are heterosexual because most people are heterosexual. Surely you’d think that would be obvious. But contrary to what you have claimed, not all cultures and not all religions have stigmatized or discouraged homosexuality. Good grief, look at ancient China!

                  The political ideologies, philosophies, and religions of ancient China regarded homosexual relationships as a normal facet of life, and in some cases, promoted homosexual relationships as exemplary. Ming Dynasty literature, such as Bian Er Chai (弁而釵/弁而钗), portray homosexual relationships between men as more enjoyable and more “harmonious” than heterosexual relationships. As in Ancient Rome, homosexual relationships were prevalent in ancient China and were not regarded as morally deviant prior to the influence of foreign cultures. Writings from the Liu Song Dynasty claimed that homosexuality was as common as heterosexuality in the late 3rd century … Confucianism, being primarily a social and political philosophy, focused little on sexuality, whether homosexual or heterosexual. … Although Taoist alchemy regarded heterosexual sex, without ejaculation, as a way of maintaining a male’s “life essence”, homosexual intercourse was seen as “neutral”, because the act has no detrimental or beneficial effect on a person’s life essence.

                  I guess you think none of this counts, but it makes no sense to keep pointing to other cultures as a way to bolster your claim because this “universal” treatment of homosexuality that you assert does not exist.

                  But ultimately, history shows that might (or the majority) does not make right, and so I suppose that the whole point does not decisively prove anything either in my or your favor

                  I only brought this up because you claimed that all cultures and all religions have the same view about homosexuality. It doesn’t “prove” anything except that your claims aren’t true.

                  All these cases are radically different from that of same-sex couples. Couples who are infertile or elderly still remain generally oriented in their nature towards the procreation of children – even if they are unable to do so because of particular circumstances. Gay couples will never, ever be able to procreate on their own. You will always ultimately need a man and a woman to generate new life. If you are unable or unwilling to concede this commonsensical point, then I rest my case.

                  You think it’s common sense. I think it’s a ridiculous claim. This is a wholly religious argument based on your church’s obsession with procreation. There is no “radical difference” between homosexual and heterosexual couples. Some raise children. Some do not. Legal recognition of their relationships is not based on their ability or willingness to procreate.

                  Incidentally, I’ve always been curious. If a girl is born without ovaries and a uterus, and she knows that she does not have ovaries and a uterus, is she allowed to get married in the Catholic church? The sex she and her husband have will always be sterile and for pleasure, not procreation.

                  But you do exactly the same thing: you proclaim your secularist, atheist position to be true, despite being among a very small minority in the history of human experience where by far the greatest majority has believed in some kind of deity. That’s perfectly your right, but please let’s avoid the double standards.

                  I don’t consider it a double standard for two reasons. 1) Atheism is the default position. 2) I’m not actually making any positive claims. I do not claim for a fact that deities do not exist.

                  I’m aware that I’m a minority, yes, but I think the huge number of deities and religions is a point in atheism’s favor. As we both agree, they can’t all be true. The ones people consider likely to be true are based entirely on the culture and era in which they were born. I do not believe this is a point in favor of any particular deity.

                  It’s really up to you as to which assertions you will take seriously or not. As I said before, I don’t think moral questions are the best point of departure in the search for truth. Metaphysical and theological questions are a better foundation to begin: Is there a God? Has He spoken to man? If so, under what form? What does He have to say, according to the various religions/philosophies? Does this revelation resonate with our human experience and our search for truth, goodness and beauty?

                  But you obviously think I should take Catholicism more seriously than Hinduism or Buddhism. I mean, you keep telling me to read more Christian authors, but I’m sure you don’t think I need to read Hindu or Buddhist ones, even though I’ve already done way more reading about Christianity than I’ve ever done about any Eastern religon.

                  Frankly, metaphysical and theological questions strike me as rather useless. We are all human beings. Some of us believe in gods. Some of us write down our thoughts about those gods and create arguments to justify belief in them. Reading about any religion will just tell you what the people in the religion believe to be true. It will not tell you what is actually true.

                  In a nutshell, Buddhism is almost more of a philosophy than a religion; it doesn’t even really claim that there is a personal God; so while its moral teachings may contain some wisdom, why should they be authoritative or universally binding? Hinduism, by positing the existence of many gods, is metaphysically absurd; it provides even less of a solid foundation for an authoritative morality. Christianity is the only religion that claims that God loved us so much that he became man and spoke to us in this way. Of course between understanding this claim and accepting it as true there is a wide gap, but it seems to me that it is one that is at least worthy of serious consideration. For if the claim is true and we reject it, we are rejecting the very reason for which we were created and missing out on the ultimate purpose of our lives.

                  There are so many assumptions in there I would hardly even know where to begin. You think your religion’s features somehow make it more worthy of consideration because you already believe those things to be important. It’s so circular. “These things are important in a religion because my religion says they’re important in a religion.”

                  Actually not. Here you are reflecting a fundamentalist understanding of Christian morality, not a Catholic one. Catholic morality derives many principles from Scripture, of course, but it is also based on natural moral law, on the teachings of Christ (God-made-man) and on Sacred Tradition which Christ has promised to guide infallibly by the Holy Spirit. Also it’s very important to understand that the morality presented in the Old Testament grew out of Ancient Near Eastern mores and mentality, and it was never intended to be a perfect, universal moral standard.

                  Surely you would agree that it’s based on an ancient book. Yes, I’m well aware there are other writings in the Catholic canon, but in general the Bible is the basis for Catholicism since it is your original founding document, so to speak.

                  But you’re missing the point. Your morality is based on something that was written down by human beings. In effect, a book, or a series of books. Those were written by human beings. Now, perhaps you believe those human beings had divine connections, but this is what strikes me as problematic.

                  There is no reason to believe that any of those people had divine connections. It’s an absurd a claim to me as it would be to you if a Hindu told you the Hindu scriptures should be taken seriously because the ancient scribes had special knowledge about and connections to the Hindu deities.

                  Claiming that a book is supernatural does not make it supernatural. Just because a book claims the existence of a deity, it doesn’t make that deity real. It doesn’t make your holy spirit real, or your god-made-man real. Why on earth should I take any of this seriously?

                  Also it’s very important to understand that the morality presented in the Old Testament grew out of Ancient Near Eastern mores and mentality, and it was never intended to be a perfect, universal moral standard.

                  If you believe that, you might want to quit linking to William Lane Craig, who happens to think otherwise. He offers up a rather robust defense of biblical genocide and biblical slavery.

                  That’s true, but what if they do?

                  If they do? Then I’m out of luck. But I think it’s as ridiculous and absurd a claim as saying that any other men (or women) have divine connections. There’s just no reason to believe that.

                  I don’t dismiss it “out of hand.” I dismiss it because logic and reason dismiss it as absurd. Polytheism is by its very nature metaphysically impossible. The moment you have more than one God or supreme power, then each one cannot be all powerful, each one cannot be infinite, each one cannot be the ultimate cause for everything else.

                  No, your religion dismisses it as absurd. Many other people and many other cultures and religions have no problem with the idea of more than one god. There are so many assumptions thrown in there. Why does each god have to be all powerful? Why can’t more than one god be infinite? Who says that each must be the “ultimate cause” for anything at all, let alone everything else? This is a very biased, very Christian, very monotheistic way of looking at gods. Other people’s conceptions of their gods are considerably different.

                  Only monotheism is really metaphysically coherent. And if there is really a God, then it would make most sense that His revelation be accessible to all people through some universal religion, not some small, obscure, localized sect. So that leaves Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the three main candidates.

                  Well, that’s incredibly convenient. Declare your version of theism to be the only one that’s “metaphysically coherent” and (surprise!) the only god that’s possible is the one you already believe in.

                  Seriously, don’t you find it even a little bit suspicious that the only god you consider likely to be real is the one you were taught was real when you were a small child? The only one that everyone around you believed in? The only one that’s popular in the country where you were born? Even discounting all the other problems with your theology, I couldn’t get past that.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  This is a wholly religious argument based on your church’s obsession with procreation. There is no “radical difference” between homosexual and heterosexual couples.

                  Once again, I understand that you strongly disagree with me, but please let’s avoid the nonsense that “this is a wholly religious argument.” If this were only a “religious argument”, then how do you explain, for example, the tenacity of the several hundreds of thousands of protesters against same-sex “marriage” in ultra-secular France? Many, many people from all walks of life and faiths (including not a few homosexuals) support marriage as the union of one man and one woman because of the obvious fact of their sexual complementary and capacity for procreation.

                  See the picture. All indoctrinated religious fanatics?

                  http://www.20minutes.fr/societe/diaporama-3233-manif-tous-sous-haute-tension

                  If a girl is born without ovaries and a uterus, and she knows that she does not have ovaries and a uterus, is she allowed to get married in the Catholic church? The sex she and her husband have will always be sterile and for pleasure, not procreation.

                  Yes, there is absolutely no moral problem for her to get married in the Church. The idea is that a married couple must be “open to life” but life still remains God’s gift. Sterility is not the couple’s fault. In other words, they do their part, and God does his. On the other hand, “antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature” (Code of Canon Law 1084).

                  And who ever said the Catholic Church was against sex? :)

                  Atheism is the default position.

                  Ehm, a rather subjective statement, perhaps? There is nothing “default” about atheism. As I’ve mentioned several times, most people consider it absurd and illogical that a complex universe would come into existence by itself, and that people with a natural longing for love and immortality would be destined to a short and rather meaningless life. This doesn’t prove the theist position, but it seems to me that this certainly disqualifies atheism as a “default position”.

                  Frankly, metaphysical and theological questions strike me as rather useless. We are all human beings. Some of us believe in gods. Some of us write down our thoughts about those gods and create arguments to justify belief in them. Reading about any religion will just tell you what the people in the religion believe to be true. It will not tell you what is actually true.

                  that sounds to me like an abdication of the use of reason and logic, and an a priori rejection of the very possibility of objective truth. Why?

                  You think your religion’s features somehow make it more worthy of consideration because you already believe those things to be important. It’s so circular. “These things are important in a religion because my religion says they’re important in a religion.”

                  No, not at all. Again you seem unable to break out of your mold of thinking in purely subjective, sociological terms. The statements that I made are facts. Forgive my directness, but if they are false, then please refute them with facts instead of constantly falling back on the subjective indoctrination argument. All religions show man’s various attempts to find God. Of all great religions, Christianity alone presents a man who claims to be divine, indeed God himself, who says “I am the way, the truth and the life”, who claims to have the authority to forgive sins, and who was raised from the dead. These claims don’t make them automatically true, of course, but they do show the objective uniqueness of the claims of Christianity.

                  Claiming that a book is supernatural does not make it supernatural. Just because a book claims the existence of a deity, it doesn’t make that deity real. It doesn’t make your holy spirit real, or your god-made-man real. Why on earth should I take any of this seriously?

                  yes, that’s true. The claims are there as an invitation, but not as a decisive proof. It’s up to you if you want to take up the invitation and investigate it further. My job is only to testify that it’s true, that it works, that it’s well worth the effort, and that it’s a source of great meaning and joy. I can’t do much more than that.

                  Why does each god have to be all powerful? Why can’t more than one god be infinite? Who says that each must be the “ultimate cause” for anything at all, let alone everything else? This is a very biased, very Christian, very monotheistic way of looking at gods. Other people’s conceptions of their gods are considerably different.

                  These are complex questions. Here is an attempt at an answer. It presupposes the arguments for the existence of God as described here: http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/lamp24.htm

                  Once it is ascertained that the universe logically requires an uncontingent, necessary being and uncaused cause, then we can ask some questions about the nature of this uncaused cause. As the cause of the world, it must have all the perfections that are actually in the world (for there can be no perfection in the effect which is not in the cause). So this necessary being must be infinitely perfect. It must also be simple, i.e. not made of parts.

                  These arguments are expounded in greater detail here:
                  http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/lamp25.htm

                  Next, there can only be one of these infinite beings for the following reasons (these are rather dense):

                  1. If there were more gods than one, they either could or could not will opposite effects; if they could not, they would not be free and independent, not infinite; if they could will such effects, they could not give efficacy to their contradictory wills, they could not be all-powerful. But a being that is not every way infinite is not God.

                  2. If there were more gods than one, there would be various infinite beings; but this cannot be. For, being infinite, such gods would have all perfections, and therefore everything that the one had the other would also have; they would then not differ except numerically. But they could not differ numerically; for this would suppose that their individuality would be really distinct from their essence, since the essence is really separated in the second god from the individuality of the first… Therefore there is only one God.

                  Moreover, this infinite, perfect being must be immutable, eternal, and omnipresent. These points are explained here: http://www3.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/lamp26.htm

                  You are free to reject or refute these arguments if you wish, but then please provide a real rebuttal and not again the subjectivist/sociological/indoctrination argument.

                  Seriously, don’t you find it even a little bit suspicious that the only god you consider likely to be real is the one you were taught was real when you were a small child? The only one that everyone around you believed in? The only one that’s popular in the country where you were born? Even discounting all the other problems with your theology, I couldn’t get past that.

                  This prejudice is highly problematic. Firstly, North American culture is now much more secularist than Christian, and this has been the case for at least a couple of generations. Second, your objection can easily be flipped around. While the fact the I grew up somewhat influenced by Christianity does not automatically make it true, even less does it automatically invalidate it. Why should I reject a priori the claims of Christianity just because it is part of my family’s religious heritage? How is this argument even relevant? Should the actual claims of the religion not be considered for their own worth?

                • Anna

                  Once again, I understand that you strongly disagree with me, but please let’s avoid the nonsense that “this is a wholly religious argument.” If this were only a “religious argument”, then how do you explain, for example, the tenacity of the several hundreds of thousands of protesters against same-sex “marriage” in ultra-secular France?

                  Ultra-secular France? Are you even aware of the work the Catholic church is doing to try to stigmatize and delegitimize same-sex couples and families in France? Religiously-inspired homophobia is alive and well even in European countries, and it is constantly promoted by religious bodies which seek to restrict people’s rights based on certain religious views.

                  And for the record, I would dispute the claim that France is ultra-secular:

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_France#Statistics

                  It’s a lot more secular than the United States, but the majority of the population still claims Christianity as their religion, and the Catholic church has had a tremendous influence on the culture over the years.

                  Many, many people from all walks of life and faiths (including not a few homosexuals) support marriage as the union of one man and one woman because of the obvious fact of their sexual complementary and capacity for procreation.

                  Once again, this “obvious fact” is only important or “obvious” to people who already espouse your views, and that number is shrinking. People can believe whatever they want, but personal opinions are irrelevant. The bottom line continues to be that U.S. law cannot be based on religious doctrine, and opponents of marriage equality have been unable to provide valid secular arguments for their side. The willingness or ability to procreate is irrelevant because the law makes no distinction between couples based on that feature.

                  See the picture. All indoctrinated religious fanatics?

                  Yes, I would say so. They certainly weren’t born with anti-gay views. They got them from somewhere. In most cases, I would suspect childhood religious indoctrination, but such views can also be the result of being raised in an atmosphere where homosexuality is treated as a taboo subject, not discussed, stigmatized, or made the butt of jokes.

                  Yes, there is absolutely no moral problem for her to get married in the Church. The idea is that a married couple must be “open to life” but life still remains God’s gift. Sterility is not the couple’s fault. In other words, they do their part, and God does his. On the other hand, “antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature” (Code of Canon Law 1084).

                  Why am I not surprised at the hypocrisy? Sterile, for-pleasure-only sex is bad, except when it isn’t. Only since 1917, though. Before that, infertile and post-menopausal couples had to stop having sex. And it looks like impotent men and women who were born without vaginas are still out of luck.

                  And who ever said the Catholic Church was against sex? :)

                  Oh, they are. They’re against it in every single case unless the requisite heterosexual married couple is “open” to conceiving a baby. They’re obsessed with it. They reduce people and their relationships to genitals and sexual acts. I find that very sad.

                  Ehm, a rather subjective statement, perhaps? There is nothing “default” about atheism. As I’ve mentioned several times, most people consider it absurd and illogical that a complex universe would come into existence by itself, and that people with a natural longing for love and immortality would be destined to a short and rather meaningless life. This doesn’t prove the theist position, but it seems to me that this certainly disqualifies atheism as a “default position”.

                  I mean how we’re born. We aren’t born believing in gods. I’ve already explained in great detail why I think people come to believe in the supernatural, so I won’t go over that again, but I do not think it is controversial to say that atheism is the default position. A baby does not believe in any gods. There’s not even the intellectual capability for a baby to believe in gods. That belief is acquired later on through cultural exposure.

                  that sounds to me like an abdication of the use of reason and logic, and an a priori rejection of the very possibility of objective truth. Why?

                  Objective truth? What is objective about someone else’s subjective opinion? I’m not understanding your position, or maybe you’re not understanding mine, but I don’t get how someone making a claim means that their claim should be taken seriously. I don’t find anything logical or reasonable about such claims.

                  No, not at all. Again you seem unable to break out of your mold of thinking in purely subjective, sociological terms. The statements that I made are facts. Forgive my directness, but if they are false, then please refute them with facts instead of constantly falling back on the subjective indoctrination argument. All religions show man’s various attempts to find God.

                  That’s not a fact. It’s an opinion. Not all cultures have gods. And not all religions involve the worship of gods. Buddhism, for example, is not about “finding God.” Why do you keep pretending this element is universal when it so clearly isn’t?

                  Of all great religions, Christianity alone presents a man who claims to be divine, indeed God himself, who says “I am the way, the truth and the life”, who claims to have the authority to forgive sins, and who was raised from the dead. These claims don’t make them automatically true, of course, but they do show the objective uniqueness of the claims of Christianity.

                  So what? Why on earth is “uniqueness” relevant? All religions are different. What makes your religion’s difference important? What makes that difference worth special consideration? You think it’s important because you were taught to think it was important, that’s all.

                  yes, that’s true. The claims are there as an invitation, but not as a decisive proof. It’s up to you if you want to take up the invitation and investigate it further. My job is only to testify that it’s true, that it works, that it’s well worth the effort, and that it’s a source of great meaning and joy. I can’t do much more than that.

                  Okay, fine, but then I remain completely unconvinced as to why I should take any of this seriously. You make a lot of assertions, but I still have not come across a reason to think that your religion is worthy of special consideration. The fact that you like your religion isn’t a reason. Other people find joy and meaning in their religions, too. They also think their gods are real. They also think their holy books are true.

                  These are complex questions. Here is an attempt at an answer. It presupposes the arguments for the existence of God as described here: http://www3.nd.edu/Departments

                  This is the problem. These types of arguments are simply not convincing to atheists. The people who create them start off with certain foundational assumptions. I disagree with the assumptions right off the bat, and I consider these justifications for theism to be subjective opinions, no more or less valid than anyone else’s subjective opinion. I know you find these arguments convincing. But I do not, and this is not the first time I have heard them.

                  On top of all of that, none of these arguments are evidence of the supernatural. The question of the supernatural is my main objection to theism to begin with. It’s not that I object to the claim of your deity or other deities. The problem for me is supernatural claims in general. Before someone tries to prove a certain type of theism, it would help to first establish the existence of this invisible supernatural realm. Establish it as an actual fact, one which is universally accepted.

                  You are free to reject or refute these arguments if you wish, but then please provide a real rebuttal and not again the subjectivist/sociological/indoctrination argument.

                  The clearest way to explain this is to say that I reject the claims as absurd. I find them unworthy of serious consideration because none of the foundational assumptions have been established.

                  This prejudice is highly problematic. Firstly, North American culture is now much more secularist than Christian, and this has been the case for at least a couple of generations. Second, your objection can easily be flipped around. While the fact the I grew up somewhat influenced by Christianity does not automatically make it true, even less does it automatically invalidate it. Why should I reject a priori the claims of Christianity just because it is part of my family’s religious heritage? How is this argument even relevant? Should the actual claims of the religion not be considered for their own worth?

                  It’s relevant because people tend to believe in the gods found in their own culture and not other cultures. Or at least consider those gods more likely to be real than other gods. You don’t often see people raised in Western countries adopting radically different gods, because the biblical deity is so thoroughly entrenched in our culture. Even Westerners who reject the biblical god still hang on to their concept of a single universal spirit which shares traits with that deity, such as omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence.

                  And I would dispute your claim that North America is more “secularist than Christian.” I don’t know about Canada, but that’s absolutely not true in the United States. Even those of us who were raised in more secular environments were still exposed to Christian ideas of the supernatural. It’s a constant, consistent exposure, present every time we read a book, turn on the television, or even go out in public. From my perspective, this supernatural exposure is the reason most people believe in a particular god.

                  Of course being raised in a religion does not mean it’s automatically invalid, but if I were you, I’d find it incredibly suspicious that the only god you think is true is the only one popular in the culture and era in which you were born. Such a situation is not proof of it being false, but it would give me tremendous pause. Just on a personal level, I could not get past that.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Are you even aware of the work the Catholic church is doing to try to stigmatize and delegitimize same-sex couples and families in France?… And for the record, I would dispute the claim that France is ultra-secular.

                  Oh for goodness sake. Have you ever been in France? It is hyper-secularized. The Wikipedia statistics do not reflect the reality at all. While 54% may be baptized or call themselves Christian, Church attendance is probably lower than 5%. It’s not because people are Christian on paper that they are so in belief. For some reason, you seem unable to admit that very many thinking, non-religious people might be opposed to same-sex marriage not for religious reasons but for the sake of the common good.

                  Why am I not surprised at the hypocrisy? Sterile, for-pleasure-only sex is bad, except when it isn’t. Only since 1917, though. Before that, infertile and post-menopausal couples had to stop having sex. And it looks like impotent men and women who were born without vaginas are still out of luck.

                  By golly, you seem tenaciously intent on maligning the Church and distorting her teachings in the worst light no matter what. If people can’t have sex, they can live together and love each other, it’s just not a binding marriage. It would be more akin to a brother-sister relationship. You place yourself as a very harsh judge over something of which you have very little understanding.

                  They’re against it in every single case unless the requisite heterosexual married couple is “open” to conceiving a baby. They’re obsessed with it. They reduce people and their relationships to genitals and sexual acts.

                  no, it is our secularist/hedonist culture that is obsessed with sex. The Church isn’t. The Church stands for faithful and pure love. It’s very simple really: sex has a dual role, unitive and procreative: it joins spouses together in a powerful bond of love, and it makes babies as the tangible sign of this love. The two dimensions should not be separated: contraception and homosexuality harm the procreative dimension; artificial reproductive technologies and sex with “no strings attached” harm the unitive dimension.

                  I don’t get how someone making a claim means that their claim should be taken seriously

                  what I mean is that all attempts at rational arguments in favor of the existence of an uncaused first cause have bounced off you like rain drops on an umbrella. Basically your only argument against the existence of God throughout this discussion has been “it must be false because people are indoctrinated/told by others that it is true”. This is an abdication of reason.

                  That’s not a fact. It’s an opinion. Not all cultures have gods. And not all religions involve the worship of gods.

                  You’re right. What I meant was that all religions show man’s various attempts at finding the truth, or the meaning of life, while Christianity is the only one that claims that God came to man. That’s a pretty significant difference, objectively, just in the nature of the claim.

                  The problem for me is supernatural claims in general. Before someone tries to prove a certain type of theism, it would help to first establish the existence of this invisible supernatural realm.

                  it seems to me that you are locked in a closed circle. On the one hand, you ask for evidence of the supernatural realm, yet on the other you reject the evidence as soon as it is presented to you, every time on the basis of “indoctrination.” Do you not see that you have made yourself immune against any kind of reasoning that might transcend your own worldview?

                  Perhaps a beautiful sunset, or a Bach sonata, or someone you love might be a better “proof” than rational arguments – though you also seem to be immune to non-rational arguments. What is love to you anyway? Does it exist, does it have any real meaning, or is it just waves in the brain?

                  Of course being raised in a religion does not mean it’s automatically invalid, but if I were you, I’d find it incredibly suspicious that the only god you think is true is the only one popular in the culture and era in which you were born. Such a situation is not proof of it being false, but it would give me tremendous pause. Just on a personal level, I could not get past that.

                  it has, indeed, caused me to pause. For about 5 years (that was about the time of my agnosticism). My return to Christianity and then Catholicism was slow, hesitant, and reluctant for good parts of the way. But eventually I found it too compelling to continue rejecting it.

                • tsara

                  “If people can’t have sex, they can live together and love each other, it’s just not a binding marriage. It would be more akin to a brother-sister relationship.”

                  Hey now, I object to that. Non-sexual romantic love looks nothing like sibling love. It does exist, and it should be recognized as valid.
                  Cuddles: they are awesome.

                • Anna

                  I don’t think Andre or the Catholic church in general recognizes a difference between sexual and romantic orientation. Plus, they don’t accept homosexuality, so would they accept asexuality as a legitimate orientation?

                  It doesn’t sound like they would allow an asexual couple to marry. They seem very obsessed with the idea of the couple having intercourse. If a couple can’t have intercourse (impotence, lack of penis, lack of vagina, etc.) then they’re out of luck in the marriage department.

                  I think if you’re not planning to have intercourse, then the Catholic church won’t marry you. It will just say you’re supposed to live together “like brother and sister,” which is not only super creepy, it also doesn’t allow for the possibility of other sexual activity for those who would want to have it.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yes, cuddles are made of awesome.

                  I miss my mate. :(

                • Anna

                  Oh for goodness sake. Have you ever been in France? It is hyper-secularized. The Wikipedia statistics do not reflect the reality at all. While 54% may be baptized or call themselves Christian, Church attendance is probably lower than 5%. It’s not because people are Christian on paper that they are so in belief.

                  Yes, I’ve been to France. And Spain, and Italy, and many other countries in Western Europe. And you’re doing a classic case of moving the goalposts. Other people’s beliefs aren’t good enough for you. Even though the majority of the population asserts supernatural beliefs and self-identifies as Christian, that isn’t enough for you to think of them as Christian, despite the fact that many of their supernatural and moral views have been formed through exposure to Catholicism.

                  The only part of this which is relevant is the fact that the Catholic church in France has been very active in trying to stigmatize and delegitimize same-sex couples and families. In fact, it is even worse than in the United States! Much worse. I cannot tell you how evil I think it is to target children and prevent them from having legal ties to both of their parents. Can you imagine how children with same-sex parents in France feel when they see those terrible signs? I suppose you don’t care how they feel, since it’s “for their own good” to treat them like their families are inferior garbage.

                  For some reason, you seem unable to admit that very many thinking, non-religious people might be opposed to same-sex marriage not for religious reasons but for the sake of the common good.

                  Yes, I do not believe that. Where are they? All polls show a negative correlation between acceptance of homosexuality and religiosity. All of the anti-marriage equality organizations in the United States are entirely religious in nature. Even when they try to dress up their objections in secular language, they make no secret of their religious origins. There are no organized groups of secularists who are fighting gay rights. All of the opponents are coming from a “my god doesn’t like it” perspective.

                  By golly, you seem tenaciously intent on maligning the Church and distorting her teachings in the worst light no matter what. If people can’t have sex, they can live together and love each other, it’s just not a binding marriage. It would be more akin to a brother-sister relationship. You place yourself as a very harsh judge over something of which you have very little understanding.

                  Very little understanding? Forgive me, but I do think it’s a tad ironic for a self-proclaimed virgin to be lecturing me on my lack of understanding about love and relationships. I’m in a long-term committed relationship. I know what it’s like to be in love with someone and share my life with someone, and sex is a part of that. For the Catholic church to deny people a fulfilling sexual and romantic relationship is just horrible. I understand they’re not doing it to be malicious, but that doesn’t make it any better. It has a terrible effect on the people who are adversely affected by all of their (IMO) ridiculous restrictions.

                  Yes, I will judge your religion harshly when it treats people in such an awful way. Gay and lesbian people, intersex people, transgender people, etc. are people just like everyone else. They deserve to have the same type of affirmation and acceptance of their relationships that everyone else does. I will speak out against those who attempt to deny them that, to tell them that they can never get married, must be celibate, live together “like brother and sister,” etc.

                  no, it is our secularist/hedonist culture that is obsessed with sex. The Church isn’t. The Church stands for faithful and pure love. It’s very simple really: sex has a dual role, unitive and procreative: it joins spouses together in a powerful bond of love, and it makes babies as the tangible sign of this love. The two dimensions should not be separated: contraception and homosexuality harm the procreative dimension; artificial reproductive technologies and sex with “no strings attached” harm the unitive dimension.

                  I see it just the opposite. Your church has an obsession, and that obsession harms people. It harms everyone, even straight people who want to have children, because of the incredible intrusion into their lives and the guilt and shame they are told they must feel if they dare to have any type of unapproved sex. I just think there’s something deeply sick about a religion that attempts to regulate the orgasms of its members.

                  And your church doesn’t stop at trying to limit the lives of its members. It tries to limit the lives of everyone else in society, too. When it has had the power to limit access to birth control, it has done that. It’s lost that fight in the United States, so now it is focusing on same-sex marriage. I am not naive about what the Catholic church could do if it thought it could get away with it. Your religious leaders’ “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude makes them think they can do anything they want.

                  what I mean is that all attempts at rational arguments in favor of the existence of an uncaused first cause have bounced off you like rain drops on an umbrella. Basically your only argument against the existence of God throughout this discussion has been “it must be false because people are indoctrinated/told by others that it is true”. This is an abdication of reason.

                  They’ve bounced off me because I don’t accept them as valid. I’ve heard all these arguments before. I don’t consider them rational or reasonable. I don’t know how to be clearer about that.

                  You’re right. What I meant was that all religions show man’s various attempts at finding the truth, or the meaning of life, while Christianity is the only one that claims that God came to man. That’s a pretty significant difference, objectively, just in the nature of the claim.

                  There are other religions in which gods interact with men and also pose as human beings, so I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that it’s unique. But regardless, even if it were true, I would not see this as a significant or important difference. Why does it matter if your religion’s claims are unique? How does that make it worthy of special consideration?

                  it seems to me that you are locked in a closed circle. On the one hand, you ask for evidence of the supernatural realm, yet on the other you reject the evidence as soon as it is presented to you, every time on the basis of “indoctrination.” Do you not see that you have made yourself immune against any kind of reasoning that might transcend your own worldview?

                  No, not at all. It’s just that what people are offering as evidence does not seem to me to be evidence. A feeling is not evidence. An unexplained occurrence is not evidence. An ancient book is not evidence.

                  Forget gods for a minute. If the supernatural is actually a real thing, then why isn’t there universal acceptance of it? Why can’t it be proven? And why does it vary so much from culture to culture and from era to era? If there are any kind of supernatural forces going around, then why aren’t they the same in all places? It’s not like they need a passport to travel, so why do different countries and continents have different ones?

                  Perhaps a beautiful sunset, or a Bach sonata, or someone you love might be a better “proof” than rational arguments – though you also seem to be immune to non-rational arguments. What is love to you anyway? Does it exist, does it have any real meaning, or is it just waves in the brain?

                  That’s exactly why there’s such a disconnect. A sunset, or music, or love isn’t evidence of anything beyond the natural world. Love is a human emotion. I see nothing supernatural about it. What makes meaning “real?” Why would something have to have a supernatural origin to be meaningful? It’s meaningful to the people who are alive to experience it.

                  it has, indeed, caused me to pause. For about 5 years (that was about the time of my agnosticism). My return to Christianity and then Catholicism was slow, hesitant, and reluctant for good parts of the way. But eventually I found it too compelling to continue rejecting it.

                  Well, at least you did spend a lot of time thinking about it. I remain confused as to why you found the religion compelling, either morally or intellectually, but I do think one’s background has a lot to do with this. If you’ve never had a non-supernatural worldview, then maybe you can’t fully understand my objection to the kinds of things you are presenting as evidence.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  you’re doing a classic case of moving the goalposts. Other people’s beliefs aren’t good enough for you.

                  Good grief. No one is moving any goalpost. A pretty standard of orthodoxy is that to be Christian, you have to believe that Jesus Christ is Messiah, Savior, Son of God. Go ask ten Frenchmen or Spaniards on the street if they believe that. I will be very surprised if you find one out of ten who does. You will find even much less than one out of ten who gives any credibility at all to what the Church says. Europe is as good as spiritually dead. Alas, the vacuum will soon be filled by the Muslims. Just doing the math with the demographics, it will only be one to two generations until we see a full fledged Islamic Eurabia in what used to be Christian Europe.

                  For the Catholic church to deny people a fulfilling sexual and romantic relationship is just horrible.

                  When I wrote that you have “very little understanding”, I meant not of relationships in general, but of the Catholic understanding and vision of love and marriage. You don’t even know any faithful Catholics, to whom your strange talk of “obsession” “guilt and shame” could not be further remote and alien from our experience. I know both worlds very well, the secular and the Catholic. I have studied both in a secular jazz school and a (faithful) Catholic university and experienced first hand the contrast between the dark despair and meaninglessness of the secularist “anything goes” sexual ethos, and the joy and freedom of gladly living chastely and pursuing holiness in communion with God and others. Trust me, your black picture of faithful Catholicism has nothing to do with reality.

                  Why does it matter if your religion’s claims are unique? How does that make it worthy of special consideration?

                  well, what if these claims were true? What if the eternal God really decided to humble himself to the point of becoming one of us, sharing in the hardships of human existence to show us who He is and lead us to Him? As we say at Mass, he “humbled himself to share in our humanity so that we could share in his divinity.” That’s a pretty astounding claim. What if it were true?

                  If the supernatural is actually a real thing, then why isn’t there universal acceptance of it?

                  actually there always was a nearly universal acceptance of the supernatural until our modern, skeptical age. Atheists have always been a tiny minority, and they continue to be a small minority outside of the secularized West.

                  There are variations in the many religions for a number of reasons. As I wrote earlier, they all represent man’s attempt to find some kind of truth or meaning to life. Also, because of original sin, our intellects are darkened and our wills are weakened, so we are easily tempted to either flee God or to remake Him in our own image: a wimpy imaginary god who suits our whims and desires is certainly more manageable than one who wishes us to live up to some serious moral standards. The temptation to idolatry is not just a temptation of the past, it’s a perennial one. Finally, and I write this knowing well that you will scoff at how one could possibly believe in such medieval superstitious rubbish, but the devil, Satan, and his demons also prowl around the world sowing confusion in the minds of people and leading them to sins that bind them and close their minds and hearts to the Gospel that could save them.

                • Anna

                  Good grief. No one is moving any goalpost. A pretty standard of orthodoxy is that to be Christian, you have to believe that Jesus Christ is Messiah, Savior, Son of God. Go ask ten Frenchmen or Spaniards on the street if they believe that. I will be very surprised if you find one out of ten who does. You will find even much less than one out of ten who gives any credibility at all to what the Church says. Europe is as good as spiritually dead. Alas, the vacuum will soon be filled by the Muslims. Just doing the math with the demographics, it will only be one to two generations until we see a full fledged Islamic Eurabia in what used to be Christian Europe.

                  You’re quibbling about supernatural details, but it seems clear (from polling) that the vast majority of people in France do believe in the supernatural and that they have been influenced (at least culturally) by Catholicism. I would not call that “ultra-secular,” but this is really beside the point. I believe the original point was that the Catholic church’s anti-gay views still have traction in France. Isn’t that how the discussion started? There aren’t organized groups of secularists staging those kinds of rallies. The Catholic church is behind them, and they have been very active in trying to garner support.

                  When I wrote that you have “very little understanding”, I meant not of relationships in general, but of the Catholic understanding and vision of love and marriage. You don’t even know any faithful Catholics, to whom your strange talk of “obsession” “guilt and shame” could not be further remote and alien from our experience.

                  Well, I’ve lurked on the Catholic Answers forum several times, where you can find many of your fellow fundamentalists perpetually worried/obsessed/distressed over what they are allowed to do sexually. I’ve read books and articles by people who have come out of sexually repressive religions. There are many people who believe that the sexual teachings of the Catholic church affected them in extremely negative ways. In fact, there have been articles about it on this very blog.

                  I have fortunately never experienced sexual repression firsthand (beyond a lecture I heard at Mormon camp one summer), but I’ve done enough research to form a solid opinion that such repression hurts people. You yourself were hurt by it, although I’m sure you don’t see it that way.

                  I know both worlds very well, the secular and the Catholic. I have studied both in a secular jazz school and a (faithful) Catholic university and experienced first hand the contrast between the dark despair and meaninglessness of the secularist “anything goes” sexual ethos, and the joy and freedom of gladly living chastely and pursuing holiness in communion with God and others. Trust me, your black picture of faithful Catholicism has nothing to do with reality.

                  And your black picture of secular culture has nothing to do with reality. Your hyperbolic reference to the “dark despair and meaninglessness” of engaging freely with one’s sexuality bears no resemblance to anything I have ever experienced in my own life.

                  You were obviously taught to think of unmarried sexuality as bad. Don’t you think this might account for your negative perceptions of it? I find it very sad that you felt wrong and guilty about whatever intimacy you had with women because those were not natural feelings. The guilt and the shame and the feeling of “wrongness” came from your religious culture. It wasn’t something that would have occurred otherwise.

                  well, what if these claims were true? What if the eternal God really decided to humble himself to the point of becoming one of us, sharing in the hardships of human existence to show us who He is and lead us to Him? As we say at Mass, he “humbled himself to share in our humanity so that we could share in his divinity.” That’s a pretty astounding claim. What if it were true?

                  You didn’t answer my question. All religions are different. All religions make different claims. Why does it matter if the claims are unique? Why does that make them worthy of special consideration? How does that make them more likely to be true?

                  actually there always was a nearly universal acceptance of the supernatural until our modern, skeptical age. Atheists have always been a tiny minority, and they continue to be a small minority outside of the secularized West.

                  That’s also not answering my question. It’s not universal. The way you talk, it’s like you think the supernatural is out there in plain view, visible to everyone. But it’s not. The existence of it has not been established. It’s still controversial. And if it were actually real, then there shouldn’t be any doubt whatsoever. Yet people have always had doubts, even before our modern scientific age.

                  There are variations in the many religions for a number of reasons. As I wrote earlier, they all represent man’s attempt to find some kind of truth or meaning to life.

                  Yes, that’s the logical reason. People from all cultures attempted to find truth or meaning through supernatural concepts. But I’m talking about the supernatural as it actually exists (as you say it does). Why do stories of the supernatural vary so much if it is actually a real thing? Why don’t the same supernatural forces show up everywhere? If they are universal, then why wouldn’t people’s stories about them be at least a little bit similar?

                  Also, because of original sin, our intellects are darkened and our wills are weakened, so we are easily tempted to either flee God or to remake Him in our own image: a wimpy imaginary god who suits our whims and desires is certainly more manageable than one who wishes us to live up to some serious moral standards. The temptation to idolatry is not just a temptation of the past, it’s a perennial one.

                  I’m not really sure how that’s relevant to the question at hand. Most cultures with other gods created those gods long before they ever heard of your god.

                  Unless you’re talking about modern people making up new gods? It’s pretty rare to make up an entirely new god. Most people in Western society with warm-fuzzy gods still call their god “God” and give him (it’s usually a him, and singular) a lot of the same attributes as the biblical deity. He just has a nicer personality, LOL.

                  In any case, they’re just as convinced about their nice god as you are about yours. You’re free to condemn them for that, but I think it’s better than what you happen to believe. While I might bemoan their lack of critical thinking skills, at least I give those people credit for being moral and humane and trusting themselves enough to know that a god who hurts people isn’t worthy of love or worship.

                  Finally, and I write this knowing well that you will scoff at how one could possibly believe in such medieval superstitious rubbish, but the devil, Satan, and his demons also prowl around the world sowing confusion in the minds of people and leading them to sins that bind them and close their minds and hearts to the Gospel that could save them.

                  I’m certainly not surprised you would believe this, but, yes, I think it’s medieval, superstitious rubbish. I also think it’s harmful to promote such beliefs. And I think it’s a convenient way to avoid having to tackle the persistence of unbelief. People not buying the church’s story? If you tell yourself they’re just being blinded by Satan, then you don’t really have to grapple with any of their objections.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You’re quibbling about supernatural details, but it seems clear (from polling) that the vast majority of people in France do believe in the supernatural and that they have been influenced (at least culturally) by Catholicism.

                  This is simply factually incorrect. First, to posit that basic belief in Christ is an unimportant “detail” in determining whether someone is a Christian or not is rather preposterous. Second, belief in a vague “supernatural” is meaningless. The generic “supernatural” does not hold moral positions. Hitler, Bin Laden, Ghandi, and Mother Teresa all believed in the “supernatural” and they all came to pretty radically different moral views, didn’t they? When I studied music in Austria, most of my fellow students were nominal Catholics who believed in some kind of wishy-washy, new-agey “supernatural,” but that doesn’t mean they embraced any of Christianity’s teachings or anything the Church said, and it didn’t stop most of them from living hedonistic lifestyles.

                  Well, I’ve lurked on the Catholic Answers forum several times, where you can find many of your fellow fundamentalists perpetually worried/obsessed/ distressed over what they are allowed to do sexually.

                  I’m sure there are some, but once again you seem fixated on the negative. Catholicism is about pursuing holiness and goodness. Avoiding sin is only a side effect of that.

                  As for guilt, I think that unjustified/imaginary guilt (scrupulosity) is not good, but guilt for true sins or wrong doings is a good thing. It’s to the soul what pain is to the body. Pain is not good in itself, but it can reveal an injury or an illness so that remedial action can be taken. If someone who had a tumor didn’t feel any pain, the cancer would just grow unnoticed until it was too late. Pain alerts him that something is wrong with his body and urges him to seek treatment.

                  Likewise with guilt. Catholics don’t have a guilt problem, we have the solution to it (in Christ’s sacrifice, in the sacrament of reconciliation, which of course does not exclude making peace first with our neighbor). Non-Christians have the real guilt problem, because they have no solution to sin. So the attempted solution is to deny guilt and sin, or blame Catholics for propagating the idea. Whether or not you believe there is a God, one’s sins and hurts in life can accumulate into quite an unbearable burden. And denial rarely helps in the long run.

                  You were obviously taught to think of unmarried sexuality as bad. Don’t you think this might account for your negative perceptions of it?

                  no, I don’t. I just think there is something deeply wrong to give your most intimate self to another person without a corresponding commitment to love that person for life. Sex outside of marriage, to me, is a lie spoken with the body: “I love you” (or do I just enjoy this feeling?) “totally” (well, for now, anyway, sort of, though this may pass).

                  Why does it matter if the claims are unique? Why does that make them worthy of special consideration? How does that make them more likely to be true?

                  I partially answered that in the other thread. Ultimately, there can be good evidence that a religion is true, but you will never get 100% proof that will do away with the need for faith. And it seems that this is what you want: an infallible proof. But it doesn’t work that way. The way of the Gospel is that when you believe and begin to act accordingly, the truth will set you free.

                  Still, I think there is good evidence that something extraordinary happened around 32 A.D. that changed the lives of countless people who were willing to give up everything they had to go tell the story of the empty tomb to the ends of the earth. It seems to me that this should cause us to pause.

                  Why don’t the same supernatural forces show up everywhere? If they are universal, then why wouldn’t people’s stories about them be at least a little bit similar?

                  again, there are many religions that show man’s attempts to concoct a way to find the truth/meaning of life/God. These may all reveal some elements of truth, but they are bound to all be flawed (like the famous saying where several blindfolded people approach an elephant, one touches the leg and thinks the elephant is like a tree; another touches the tail and thinks the elephant is like a rope, etc…). The difference with the Gospel is that God came down to us to show us the way to Him. Yes, to you that’s just a subjective claim which is still not proven true, but the claim is radically different than that of all other religions.

                • Anna

                  This is simply factually incorrect. First, to posit that basic belief in Christ is an unimportant “detail” in determining whether someone is a Christian or not is rather preposterous. Second, belief in a vague “supernatural” is meaningless.

                  Okay, well, I don’t really have any interest in arguing about this, since it seems quite tangential to the original point. I will just reiterate that I think the people of France have been influenced by the moral and supernatural teachings of Catholicism. True, the church has lost its once iron grip, but I do not think they have yet become insignificant, nor do they plan to “go into that good night” quietly. They’re still putting up a fight and working hard to influence public policy. My original point was (I believe) that they are the reason those anti-gay rallies are happening.

                  I’m sure there are some, but once again you seem fixated on the negative. Catholicism is about pursuing holiness and goodness. Avoiding sin is only a side effect of that.

                  When “sin” includes nearly everything to do with sexuality, it is no wonder many people suffer negative consequences. They are being adversely affected. Perhaps you are happy with your celibate state, but you cannot speak for everyone else in your religion. There are many personal testimonies from those who feel that the teachings you cheerfully accept hurt them tremendously.

                  As for guilt, I think that unjustified/imaginary guilt (scrupulosity) is not good, but guilt for true sins or wrong doings is a good thing.

                  And the problem is that “true sins” include things which don’t hurt others, like consensual relationships and masturbation. Maybe you don’t mind feeling guilty and confessing to a priest every time you masturbate, but the very fact that you think it is appropriate to do so speaks volumes. There is nothing healthy about making young children feel guilty and ashamed about their developing sexuality, and there is nothing appropriate about telling them they must reveal such personal details to a strange adult, out of fear of punishment from an all-powerful deity.

                  Likewise with guilt. Catholics don’t have a guilt problem, we have the solution to it (in Christ’s sacrifice, in the sacrament of reconciliation, which of course does not exclude making peace first with our neighbor).

                  The problem is that you feel guilt in the first place. People who are not indoctrinated with this mindset aren’t in need of your “solution” because they recognize that there is nothing wrong with them to begin with.

                  Non-Christians have the real guilt problem, because they have no solution to sin. So the attempted solution is to deny guilt and sin, or blame Catholics for propagating the idea. Whether or not you believe there is a God, one’s sins and hurts in life can accumulate into quite an unbearable burden. And denial rarely helps in the long run.

                  On the contrary, you’re the one who’s convinced yourself that you’re sick and that your religion offers you a cure. I have no such burden because I am quite aware that there is nothing wrong with me.

                  no, I don’t. I just think there is something deeply wrong to give your most intimate self to another person without a corresponding commitment to love that person for life. Sex outside of marriage, to me, is a lie spoken with the body: “I love you” (or do I just enjoy this feeling?) “totally” (well, for now, anyway, sort of, though this may pass).

                  So the fact that people who were not indoctrinated into your religion feel no guilt or shame about their sexuality doesn’t make you think twice? I find it hard to believe you could be this unaware of the effect that your upbringing had on you. Or is it that you think everyone else feels there is something “deeply wrong” with their sexual relationships, and they’re just hiding it?

                  I partially answered that in the other thread. Ultimately, there can be good evidence that a religion is true, but you will never get 100% proof that will do away with the need for faith. And it seems that this is what you want: an infallible proof. But it doesn’t work that way. The way of the Gospel is that when you believe and begin to act accordingly, the truth will set you free.

                  I’ll check the other part of the comment section, but this isn’t even an attempt at an answer. It’s a redirection.

                  Still, I think there is good evidence that something extraordinary happened around 32 A.D. that changed the lives of countless people who were willing to give up everything they had to go tell the story of the empty tomb to the ends of the earth. It seems to me that this should cause us to pause.

                  So what is this “good evidence” you’re talking about? I still have no idea why you think any of the stories actually happened.

                  again, there are many religions that show man’s attempts to concoct a way to find the truth/meaning of life/God. These may all reveal some elements of truth, but they are bound to all be flawed (like the famous saying where several blindfolded people approach an elephant, one touches the leg and thinks the elephant is like a tree; another touches the tail and thinks the elephant is like a rope, etc…). The difference with the Gospel is that God came down to us to show us the way to Him. Yes, to you that’s just a subjective claim which is still not proven true, but the claim is radically different than that of all other religions.

                  And that’s still not an answer. You’re talking about human ideas about the supernatural, and I’m talking about the supernatural itself and how strange it is (if it actually exists) that the same supernatural entities don’t show up everywhere.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  People who are not indoctrinated with this mindset aren’t in need of your “solution” because they recognize that there is nothing wrong with them to begin with.

                  again, to me your comments underline the difficulty of having any serious moral discussion with non-believers, because we have a completely different understanding of the human person. If you believe that the human person is little more than an animal, then yes, you can try to live out your sexuality on the basis of mutual consent and principles that are barely more than what we find in the animal world. However, I don’t think anyone can be genuinely satisfied with that.

                  If, on the other hand, you believe that we have been created in the image and likeness of an infinitely loving God who calls us to be holy as He is holy, then this completely changes not only our perception of ourselves but also how we should act, especially regarding our sexuality.

                • 3lemenope

                  You deprecate the inherent value of animals to no good purpose. Nietzsche had your number when he pointed out that much of the practical effect of the Christian’s obsession with their invisible world is a denigration of the visible material one, leading to all sorts of unhealthy habits of mind and body.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No I don’t. Animals and the material world are good. They too, reflect the glory of God. Atheists are the ones who deprecate the inherent value of humans by making them to be little more than animals.

                • 3lemenope

                  little more than animals

                  It’s your insistence on this construction that makes me confident in the claim that you unnecessarily deprecate animals.

                  To be crystal clear, atheists don’t generally think that humans are “little more than animals”. We think, as biology teaches fairly clearly, that we *are* animals. So, we could either be the most exalted of animals (huzzah!) or the most broken of spiritual creatures (boooo!). Which one depreciates the value of humanity is clear.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  atheists don’t generally think that humans are “little more than animals”. We think, as biology teaches fairly clearly, that we *are* animals.

                  fair enough regarding the atheist view.

                  To clarify the Christian perspective, we are indeed broken spiritual creatures, but much more importantly, we are also redeemed and loved spiritual creatures called to eternal life and love.

                • 3lemenope

                  “You are irreparably, hopelessly broken…but for the low low price of your unquestioning undying loyalty, we have a tonic for what ails ya! Don’t pick a competitor, or YOU WILL BURN FOREVER. Just saying. Don’t put off your exercise of this faaaaabulous offer. *some restrictions apply, void where people are different in an inconvenient way”

                • Anna

                  However, I don’t think anyone can be genuinely satisfied with that.

                  Well, that’s quite presumptuous. You believe that the only people who can be “genuinely satisfied” are those who follow your religion’s incredibly narrow restrictions on sexuality. The problem is, why should I believe that when it flies in the face of everything I have ever seen or experienced?

                  Do you really think people are lying when they claim to have happy romantic and sexual relationships? You don’t think a couple that uses birth control can be genuinely satisfied? Or a couple that has chosen not to have children? Or a couple that prefers not to get legally married?

                  You must not, although I can’t imagine what type of blinders it would take to maintain such a belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Only a tiny fraction of humanity follows your religion’s sexual rules, yet there are millions (if not billions) of couples who experience happy, fulfilled relationships.

                  As for the rest of it, yes, we obviously have different worldviews. You’re convinced that “sin” exists, and I’m equally convinced that such a concept is sick and twisted, as well as imaginary. I have no shame, guilt, or burden because it seems perfectly obvious to me that “sin” was only invented to exert control over people and make them feel bad about being human.

                • tsara

                  “Likewise with guilt. Catholics don’t have a guilt problem, we have the solution to it (in Christ’s sacrifice, in the sacrament of reconciliation, which of course does not exclude making peace first with our neighbor).”
                  I present to you some song lyrics: “I could really use/To lose my Catholic conscience/’Cause I’m getting sick of feelin’ guilty all the time.”
                  (why, yes, I have spent a fair amount of time on the east coast of Canada.)

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  May be a nice song, but really bad theology :)
                  The “Catholic guilt” thing is a myth, as I’ve written above. The problem is not guilt, the problem is sin. Christ has provided the ultimate solution to both, which He gives us through the Church and especially the sacrament of reconciliation.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Vast numbers of Catholics disagree with you about “Catholic guilt”.

                  If there is a soul, it’s unconnected to bodily processes, making it moronic to hurt the soul with guilt or other emotions. It doesn’t affect what the body does – if it did, we’d see evidence of that – so punishing it for what the body is abuse, whether by emotion or by psychotic divine decree of hellfire.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Of course, fallen away Catholics will disagree. Once a Catholic (or any person, for that matter) becomes enslaved to sin and abandons the journey to holiness, he also forsakes the remedy and solution to sin and guilt. In this case, yes, there will be a guilt problem. But the guilt is only the symptom, not the root of the problem, which is sin.

                  And why would you imagine such an artificial disconnect between body and soul and deny the undeniable psychosomatic bond? It’s well known that mentally unstable people or those who have suffered mental/ emotional traumas commonly become physically sick.

                • 3lemenope

                  Your truths are so incredibly fragile. Too fragile to be truths.

                • Stev84

                  Wow. You don’t even realize how disgusting and offensive your words are. But you keep telling yourself that you say them out of “love”.

                  Just because someone contributed some sperm doesn’t necessarily make them a father. That’s more of a social role than just biology. The same is true for straight people. Someone whose biological father left before they were even born would not call him their “father”. At least not with the meaning of the person who raised them.

                • Tainda

                  So you equate my daughter, who was just raised by me because her father is a piece of shit abusing mother fucker, as being less than because she was raised by a woman? In your view I should have stayed with him because it would be better for my daughter to see him constantly abusing me and threatening to kill me than to be without a man in the house.

                  I’m done being the nice little humorous atheist that I usually am. You sir, are a fucking piece of shit.

                  Everyone in this discussion needs to just stop talking to you (wish I had taken my own advice) because you are a waste of air and one day, hopefully soon, people will wake up to the hate and sadness that your kind promotes and turn away from it.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sorry to hear you are putting a bunch of things in my mouth that I never said. I never said your daughter was “less”, nor that it was in any way better to stay with an abusive father. What do you get from making this stuff up? That’s not a way to have a conversation. I think it’s wonderful that you raised her. I just said that the ideal and normative situation in which a child should be raised is with a loving mother and father, and that two mothers, as good as they may be, could never replace a father because neither is a man. However there are lots of other situations and I very much respect those who do invest their lives to raise children, e.g. single mothers, orphanages, and other arrangements. Perhaps you should calm down.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  She’s not “putting a bunch of things in your mouth that you never said.” She’s making logical inferences from your previous posts.

                  And really? Telling her to calm down? Misogynistic, much?

                • Hat Stealer

                  You are allowed to present a vision, just don’t try to force others to follow your vision by making it the law.

                • Tom

                  According to you, apparently not.

                • Stev84

                  You aren’t just presenting a different vision. You try to force everyone to adhere to it by both passing laws and by threatening eternal torture. You want to punish people in this life and the next for not adhering to your ideas.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Arguing for your right to call other people inferior for how they love one another is disgusting, Nazi.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                I KNOW you’ve been told before about consent and how it relates to pedophilia. Why do you lie for Jesus?

                Acting pissy about the Church’s now-public immorality doesn’t magically negate its relevance. You’re terrible at this, Liar For Jesus.

              • Tofu

                The fact that Andre’s posts get so heavily downvoted is proof that nobody here wants an honest, civil debate. Different opinions get dogpiled whether they’re dumb, thoughtful, or anywhere inbetween. That’s a shame.

            • Monika Jankun-Kelly

              Please stop equating secularism with hedonism, and being gay with hedonism. Don’t you know there are monogamous, loving gay couples who have been together for decades? Do you think the gay and the secular all have sex just for physical pleasure? That said, why should you or I or anyone be bothered if someone has casual sex, provided no one is hurt physically nor emotionally? That has zero effect on my relationship, on what I do, what I feel.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            There is no morality more subjective than “Because I said so”, which is what Yahweh preaches (and practices for that matter). Feel free to try again.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              Quick to judge I see. You have obviously not read anything of the article (which speaks quite a bit about the nature of love, and not just of commandments as divine diktat). Sexual morality is not just based on the Bible. Many people, whether religious or not, reject the emptiness of secular hedonism and agree with a similar vision of the dignity of marriage, love and sexuality.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                Quick to make up things I see, since my response doesn’t rely on the gibberish contained in that article. YOUR version is based on the ultimate subjective morality. Feel free to try again.

              • Hat Stealer

                The article is a bunch of religious and philosophical bullshit. When you posted it, you were essentially saying “How can I preach to a bunch of atheists? I know! I will quote the teachings of the Vatican! That ought to persuade them!”

                The problem with this approach is that we think the Vatican is full of shit as well.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Fine for you if that’s your response. Good luck.

                • Andrew S. Balfour

                  That’s very kind, but we won’t be needing luck.

                  After all, if you’re right, we’ve got nothing to look forward to but eternal torment at the hands of a loving, benevolent sky-tyrant, so luck is irrelevant.

                  On the other hand, if we (and all available evidence) are right, then luck doesn’t even enter the conversation, because we already know where we’re going (the ground, in most cases, though I’d rather like to be shot into the sun).

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  God is calling you to his love and salvation every day. Just repent from sin, turn to Him and seek His forgiveness found in Christ.

                • Nate Frein

                  And my abusive ex boyfriend still calls me now and then.

                  Doesn’t mean it’s healthy for me to answer.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  that comparison is really sad. God could not be more different than an abusive ex boyfriend. He is pure love and goodness.

                • Nate Frein

                  As has been pointed out here already (so I shan’t relink to it), the Christian “god” almost perfectly parallels an abusive relationship.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  It’s just plain wrong. People who say that obviously have had no experience or encounter with God.

                • Nate Frein

                  And yet you offer no evidence for how this view is wrong.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  My time is running short. If you are truly interested in Christianity, there are plenty of books and testimonies out there.

                • Nate Frein

                  I grew up christian and Catholic, asshole.

                  Burden of proof is on you.

                • SteveO

                  We don’t need the burden of proof. We’re the majority, we make the rules. Survival of the fittest, if atheists were superior, you’d be in charge, eh? Now get back in your place, “monkey”

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Funny, because my experience of god(s) had absolutely nothing to do with sexuality whatsoever. Just love. Love, and Do No Harm.

                  What consenting adults do with and to each other in their own bedrooms is irrelevant, so long as they are not harming others (children, animals, other adults). The gay couple down the street aren’t causing you any harm whatsoever, and just want to be treated equally to you and your wife.

                  You, on the other paw, are causing harm to that gay couple down the street by way of denying their civil rights based solely upon badly-written goat-herder fan-fic that has no bearing on actual, demonstrable, observable reality.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  I will be more than happy to spam that link whenever and wherever it is needed.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Because he says he is. Just like abusers do.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Don’t worry, you will be eventually.

              • Tom

                Accused of being quick to judge by a Catholic. Whoa.

              • Rose

                This sneering at secular hedonism is exactly why I no longer attend church. You know what all these hedonistic non-Christians are doing? They’re settling down, finding a steady job, raising kids, buying a house, maybe getting married. In my late twenties I see very little difference between the lives of Christians and non-Christians except that the Christians may get married a little earlier.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  If that’s your case, good for you. But I have personally observed quite a bit of empty materialism and hopelessness among those who have rejected God. But you are right that many Christians are also at fault for not living much differently from those who don’t know God.

          • edb3803

            You are absolutely discriminating against homosexuals. You are calling them perverted and immoral. Go away, and take your prejudiced beliefs with you!

            • Andre Villeneuve

              I didn’t call anyone anything. You are confusing the person with the act. *People* with same-sex attraction are created in the image of God, unconditionally loved by Him, and called to chastity and sanctity. Homosexual *acts* are perverted and immoral and the person who engages in them will never be genuinely happy. I realize you may not agree but the distinction between the person and the act is essential.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                Your sick claim that people should never find a partner and love them because you think they were born wrong is twisted and evil.

                Your claim to know what people are “really” feeling, thus claiming that you have the wisdom of God, is noted. See you in Hell, false prophet.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Define love. I am all for “loving” a partner. Love between two persons of the same sex has an ancient name: it’s called “friendship.” Love is wanting the best for the other person, not wanting to satisfy one’s urges. For this reason, acts of sodomy have nothing to do with love. I’m not discounting the fact that two men or two women can have a genuine element of love for each other, only that the sexual element in the relationship doesn’t fulfill that love but damages it.

                • edb3803

                  You can twist and redefine abstractions to try and feel better about being a bigot, but your argument is still just a subjective opinion showing your homophobic prejudice.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I’m not twisting terms, you are. A “phobia” is an irrational fear of something or someone. I am neither irrational nor fearful nor prejudiced. I have nothing against people with same-sex attractions. I just think that homosexual acts are morally wrong. You are free to disagree, but please don’t use nonsensical terms like “homophobia” when they don’t apply.

                • 3lemenope

                  If you cannot articulate a rational and persuasive reason why homosexual acts have the moral status you believe they do, then that belief is nonetheless irrational.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Just look at human anatomy. It doesn’t take a genius. Most previous generations in the history of humanity would think you’re insane for even asking the question. Of course, according to you, most people in previous generations were bigots.

                • RobMcCune

                  Looking…. Looking… I’ve looked at human anatomy, and I just don’t see it. I will keep looking though.

                • Nate Frein

                  I see…lots of nerve clusters in lots of places that seem to enjoy stimulation…

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You have a really reductionist view of the human person if that is all you see.

                • Nate Frein

                  You said to look at human anatomy. I did.

                  You are the one guilty of a “reductionist view” of humanity if you think that (not so) simple anatomy is enough to prove your case.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  it’s not enough, but it’s a good start.

                • Nate Frein

                  but it’s a good start

                  Except it’s not

                • Stev84

                  Look in a mirror. It’s you who is obsessed with genitals and anatomy. It’s you and your sick cult who can’t see anything else.

                • Michael Harrison

                  Are you willing to say that individuals who have lost their reproductive organs to cancer should be banned from marriage? Should old couples have their marriages annulled if it’s been decided they’re too old to have children?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No of course not. It is the teaching of the Church that man and woman are still naturally ordered for each other, even if they are sterile. So the cases you name are not moral problems at all.

                • Michael Harrison

                  So it is written; so it shall be done. No need for thought anywhere in the process, or stubborn questions, like “Why?”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sure there is room for thought and asking why, but unfortunately I don’t have time to answer every question in detail.

                • Michael Harrison

                  One question only. According to the Genesis story, woman was made to keep man company; and once mortality was introduced into the story, the difference between the sexes was the main tool for being fruitful and multiplying. So why is it “the teaching of the Church that man and woman are still naturally ordered for each other, even if they are sterile”? If sex is about procreation, and marriage is there to provide a framework for conceiving and raising children, how is this at all consistent?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The goal of marriage is not *only* to conceive children. It is also, one might say even primarily, to join together a man and a woman who love each other. So as long as they are open to life, i.e. don’t make an intentional decision to not have children, they are not obliged to be fertile. In other words, they do their job and God does his. The Bible is full of stories of barren women who are given a child by God. If they are not blessed with the gift of a child, then it’s not their fault. Their marriage is not worth anything less.

                • 3lemenope

                  Just look at human anatomy.

                  OK.

                  [...]

                  Hold on, I thought you said no porn?!

                  It doesn’t take a genius.

                  Apparently it does, because after having seen many examples of human anatomy, your point still seems excruciatingly stupid.

                  Most previous generations in the history of humanity would think you’re insane for even asking the question.

                  That’s hilariously, ridiculously false. It takes breathtaking ignorance of sexual practices throughout history to even contemplate writing something that wrong.

                • Hat Stealer

                  yes!

                  Most people in previous generations thought that black people shouln’t vote! Or that mixed-race couples were immoral! Or that slavery was okay! Or that we should burn Jews!

                  Most past generations would think we were insane for asking the question! Some would even burn us at the stake for it! That’s because they were BIGOTS!

                • TheG

                  This is exactly the kind of crazy where someone doesn’t know they are crazy. OF COURSE you don’t think you are irrational or prejudiced! It seems so logical to you. Which is why I laugh so hard whenever you complain about how closed minded some people are…

                • edb3803

                  Okay, you’re not a homophobe. You’re a homo-bigot.

                • Anna

                  Considering how bent out of shape these people get about the word “homophobic,” it’s easier just to go with “anti-gay.” I don’t think they can plausibly deny that.

                • 3lemenope

                  Nah, I like homophobic *because* it gets them bent out of shape. I don’t give choice-of-title to bigots, as a rule.

                • Anna

                  It does, but it also allows them to go down the rabbit hole of “phobia means fear…blah…blah…blah.” I like the word homophobic, too, but I don’t usually have the patience to deal with their obfuscation.

                • RobMcCune

                  So then you must believe in celibate friendship marriage, since sex has nothing to do with love.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I never said that sex has nothing to do with love. There are different kinds of love: phileo (love of friendship), eros (erotic/sexual love), agape (divine, self-giving love). Sex has everything to do with love. But because it’s such a powerful way of expressing love, it can easily become debased and perverted.

                • RobMcCune

                  So which kinds of love are impossible for homosexuals to express? Or if they are capable expressing the three you just mentioned, why should they be denied the opportunity to do so?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  We are all called to chastity, i.e. to the right ordering of our sexuality to God’s plans and purposes, resisting temptations and evil inclinations. Abstinence is much better than sin.

                • RobMcCune

                  That doesn’t really answer either question, you said that gay people having sex does not express love, and infact damages it. I am asking why. Either you believe sex damages love and no one should have it, or you believe the problem is with gay people and I am asking you to elaborate.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  sorry, I’m running out of time. See here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/pcfsexed.htm

                • Nate Frein

                  And why should this apply to nonbelievers?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  take it for its own worth I guess…

                • Nate Frein

                  It’s “worth” about as much as a cookbook written by an anorexic.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  you’re wrong, and really missing out

                • Nate Frein

                  you’re wrong

                  You keep saying that. You have yet to actually cite evidence for it.

                  and really missing out

                  Yeah. I’m missing out on the hate and intolerance of the church I left.

                • Atheistduuuurp

                  You left the Church because something “bad” happened to you and you didn’t get your way so you decided God doesn’t exist like most atheists do. Fucking pussy.

                • Michael Harrison

                  I left my church because I read Isaac Asimov on the Bible, and realized that there’s a better explanation than the BS that I’d been fed by my church. Now, can you engage in discourse without resorting to name-calling?

                • Nate Frein

                  I never believed “God” existed in the first place. I left because I realised the church is abusive.

                • RobMcCune

                  Quit throwing a fit because other people won’t go along mythical bullshit.

                • RobertoTheChi

                  Missing out on what exactly?

                • Michael Harrison

                  “The Pontifical Council for the Family therefore urges parents to have
                  confidence in their rights and duties regarding the education of their children,
                  so as to go forward with wisdom and knowledge, knowing that they are sustained
                  by God’s gift.”

                  Does this apply only to sexuality, or is it advocating a parental to lie to children about, say, settled scientific issues? (Sort of my hot button.)

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  That particular document is about sexuality, but obviously the Church is not against any settled scientific issues. Faith does not contradict reason but builds upon it.

                • Michael Harrison

                  I shall rephrase. Regarding the “rights and duties regarding the education of their children,” do parents have the right, under the guise of education, to tell their children things which contradict psychological and sociological evidence supporting a biological basis for sexual orientation?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No they shouldn’t contradict firm scientific evidence, but if you’re referring to tenuous and unproven theories regarding gender based on psychology and sociology, then these certainly don’t constitute solid scientific ground. Other studies contradict them, e.g. the theory that one is “born gay”

                • Michael Harrison

                  Birth order, twin studies, correlation between being gay and having gay relatives. If you like, I could give you actual names and dates. What about these studies of yours?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  again, I’m trying to wrap up… sorry, I don’t have infinite time for these discussions. Here’s a position from a gay site – not a scientific study, but interesting nonetheless. You might think it’s not enough but that what I have to offer for now.

                  http://socialinqueery.com/2013/03/18/no-one-is-born-gay-or-straight-here-are-5-reasons-why/

                • Michael Harrison

                  Also, the site you reference says that a notion of sexual orientation is recent; I personally think this is true in a way, but not in the way they think. For instance, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_the_militaries_of_ancient_Greece

                • Tom

                  Funny thing, you’ve said you’re running out of time at least four times now, then you come back and argue some more, but continue to ignore those arguments you originally said you had no time to answer.

                • Stev84

                  There is no such thing as sin. That’s something the church invented to control people. Invent the sickness and sell the cure, knowing full well that people soon be sick again.

                • Whatyougonnado?

                  Typical atheist denying sin so he can’t be held responsible for his immoral actions. This is why you’re the minority and Christians are in the majority, and you’ve just got a boner for hating on religion. Fucking pansy.

                • Nate Frein

                  Nice. Gendered slurs.
                  We have no problem being held accountable when we wrong our fellow humans. If anything, you Christians have set up a fantastical system where you’re no longer held accountable for the harm you cause to others.

                  If anything, it is you Christians who are cowards. Unable to face your inevitable deaths. Unable to stand up and be accountable for the harm you cause to living people. Instead you mouth platitudes to a godhead for which you have no evidence.

                • AtheistStomper

                  You really do have a problem. You have so much sexual harassment and rape accusations associated within atheist groups it’s sickening. You treat rape as a joke on sites like Reddit and at atheist conventions. Then when AA gets slapped with racist accusations or we see a video of some crazy atheist berating a silent street preacher, atheists brush it off as fake or not true. They cannot accept the wrongs in their own society because they want to look “perfect” and can’t stand when their own members make them look bad. Accept your own problems before you attack the beliefs of others, dipshit.

                  In the meantime, we Christians are the majority, which means we affect many of the laws in society. We will decide what is best for you because clearly you aren’t capable of doing so yourselves.

                • RobMcCune

                  Why do loving christians hate Freedom and America?

                • Nate Frein

                  This coming from a supporter of the religion that brought us the Catholic Church, known pretty much since it’s inception for being rife with pederasty.

                  You treat rape as a joke on sites like Reddit

                  Reddit is not the sum total of all atheist communities. I think you’ll find plenty of atheists and plenty of atheist communities who are actively working to excise the misogynistic elements.

                  atheists brush it off as fake or not true

                  [citation needed]

                • Michael Harrison

                  Also, I think the problem there is that it’s *Reddit*.

                • Stev84

                  It’s Christians who think they can be forgiven for the most heinous actions. Not by asking forgiveness from the people they have wronged but by praying to their god. It’s the ultimate get out of jail free card as there is nothing they can’t get away with.

                • RobMcCune

                  Typical christian, using his religion of love to unleash his boundless hate. How about you pick a name and stick with it coward.

                • Tom

                  That’s not a very persuasive argument to make in a forum full of atheists, or to a secular government.

                • Tom

                  Nonsense – if sex damages love, then why wouldn’t it damage heterosexual relationships as much as homosexual ones?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I didn’t say that sex damages love within its proper context of marriage between a man and a woman. It’s the most profound and beautiful expression of life-giving love. I said that debased/disordered sexual acts damage love.

                • Stev84

                  And again, you are just obsessed with sexual acts.

                  This comes to mind:
                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=nt1v5ficjQA#t=158s

                • RobertoTheChi

                  Debased/disordered sexual acts. Are you referring to priests who molest children?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I wasn’t referring to them, but of course these are debased and disordered as well, worse actually.

                • Tom

                  Isn’t that circular reasoning? “Disordered” sex damages love, and homosexual sex is disordered because it damages love?

              • Tainda

                “and the person who engages in them will never be genuinely happy”

                And on that note, you’ve lost every argument you have or will have here. You have NO idea the happiness of others. You cuddle up to your fictional deity and live your life in blissful ignorance and leave others alone.

                Have a nice day.

                • Yoyo

                  It really must burn you to know your country is run by many of those people that believe in a fictional deity? Maybe because it reminds you how inferior you are compared to the dominant group, Christians. Survival of the fittest!

                • Tainda

                  The majority doesn’t necessarily equal the superior with humans anymore. It just means you all breed like rabbits.

                  Watch Idiocracy at some point. That will open your eyes to the truth.

                • Michael Harrison

                  I disagree with the invocation of Idiocracy. Randall puts it well: http://xkcd.com/603/

                • Tainda

                  Come to Missouri and see how many kids the rednecks have and then you would change your views.

                  It’s a comedy so of course it’s going to be blown out of proportion (not knowing water helps plants grow and a wrestler for a president) but there is truth in it.

                • Michael Harrison

                  I live in Louisiana. I went to high school in Livingston–as backwoods as you can get and still have water treatment funded by tax dollars. Yes, there are stupid people, but the number is lower than in the past; plus, selection forces (e.g., job market) favor increased STEM knowledge.

                  Yes, a wrestler (and conspiracy nut) was elected to state office; yes, people are susceptible to advertising (though I would say that Brawndo’s slogan is nothing more than the hypnopedia of Brave New World). Is this a sign of stupidity, or merely people having different interests than us? I would argue the biggest threat is not ignorance, but misinformation. Science has political clout, which is why people are trying to hijack it. Years of having science be touted as a cure-all have backfired, making their job easier. But those of us who value science can fight this. Always remember: fitness is defined by environment.

              • edb3803

                Really? So, love the sinner, hate the sin, huh? I’ve never heard that argument before :D . I guess that helps you sleep at night. But you are still a bigot.

              • baal

                “Homosexual *acts* are perverted and immoral and the person who engages in them will never be genuinely happy.”
                Fuck you.
                Your definition of genuine happy is wrong and wrongful.

              • RobMcCune

                You don’t make that distinction. You think merely allowing someone who is attracted to the same sex to participate is ‘glorifying sodomy.’ Maybe you should start practicing what you preach, rather just making the distinction when convenient.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I’m not against discrimination against anyone who may have a same-sex attraction. I did not equate this with ‘glorifying sodomy’

                • RobMcCune

                  So then what was this referring to?

                  …and that promiscuity, perversion and acts of sodomy should not be promoted as “normal” or glorified, especially not in organizations of kids.

                  The BSA has no such policy that I know of, though they did recently change it’s policy of not allowing openly gay scouts.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I think I was referring to the Girl Scouts, as documented in the link in the original article. It seems like the Boy Scouts indeed have not yet gone down that path.

                • TheG

                  But gay Girl Scouts cannot, by definition, engage in sodomy. So, you’re totes cool with them, right?

                • RobMcCune

                  Oh, what are the Girl Scouts doing to glorify sodomy?

                • Stev84

                  You are just a nutcase obsessed with genitals and sex

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                If I have anal sex with a man, that’s not perverted and immoral, then? What about fellatio? Can I use a strap-on with him? Can he use a dildo on me? We’re assuming, of course, that I’m married to said man, because we all know Catholics are not OK with premarital sex, so lets take that complication out of the picture.

                But if a man does it with another man, that’s just a horrible, awful, perverted and immoral act? Even though it’s the same sex act(s) between two consenting adults? That doesn’t make any sense.

                • Stev84

                  Everything but penis-in-vagina sex without contraceptives is bad according to the Catholic Church. They also hate mutual masturbation.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Yeah, I know. But Andre doesn’t call that sort of sex perverted and immoral when it’s between a man and a woman, so I want to know what makes it uniquely bad when two men or two women do the exact same act. The RCC doesn’t like any of it, but it doesn’t go after, say, a man performing cunnilingus on a woman at noon nearly as much as it goes after two men doing any sex acts together. I want to know why some “immoral sex acts” are considered more perverted than other “immoral sex acts” when done between consenting adults.

                  If the RCC is going to be an asshole about sex, it should at least be a consistent asshole.

                • Scott_In_OH

                  Actually, the RCC is OK with all of that stuff as long as (a) it’s between a husband and wife and (b) the man doesn’t ejaculate anywhere but inside his wife’s vagina. So Feminerd’s point stands.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I don’t even know the meaning of some of the terms you mention, and frankly, I don’t want to know. All of these (as much as I understand them) are immoral. You are right, a double standard between men and women would not make any sense.

                  However, it’s not accurate to think that the Catholic view on sexual morality is just focused on prohibitions. The underlying idea is to learn love fully and beautifully, as expressed in the document I posted earlier (in case you missed it: http://www.ewtn.com/library/curia/pcfsexed.htm)

                • b s

                  “I don’t even know the meaning of some of the terms you mention, and frankly, I don’t want to know.”

                  Terms like “two consenting adults”?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  They’re really normal stuff- fellatio is oral sex performed on a man. Cunnilingus is oral sex performed on a woman. The RCC doesn’t like either, even though they can make sex a lot more fun and enjoyable.

                  Are you really going to tell me that oral sex and (tame) sex toys are immoral? If you want to love fully and beautifully, isn’t it best to figure out how to please one’s partner?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The Catholic position, as far as I understand it, is that foreplay etc… is ok, as long as every sexual act be open to life, meaning that its completion happens in the complete sexual union. Yes, I think that pleasing one’s spouse is great, however within certain boundaries. Pleasure is not the be all end all goal of sexuality.

                • Nate Frein

                  Pleasure is not the be all end all goal of sexuality.

                  So?

                • Tom

                  How long a pause is allowed? Suppose I give fantastic orgasmic bliss via oral sex to my partner, then follow that with Catholic-approved unsafe PIV sex, say, five minutes later? Twenty minutes? A couple hours? A day later? A year? What if I’m only a couple of seconds past the deadline, is that enough for me to have to burn forever?

                • RobertoTheChi

                  You really don’t know what oral sex is???Riiiight….

              • Tom

                Well in that case, send the acts to hell and let the people into heaven.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Everyone is invited to heaven, but there will be no sin in heaven. So turn away from sin and seek goodness and holiness. They are found in Christ.

                • Nate Frein

                  If god were real I would prefer hell.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  God is real, and you completely misunderstand him.

                • Nate Frein

                  Then he needs to be a better communicator.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  He’s actually a very good communicator, but normally He reveals himself only to the humble and pure of heart. He remains hidden to the proud. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Cor 1:18)

                  “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Pe 5:5)

                • Nate Frein

                  *snort*

                  Yeah, okay. God supposedly gives me a rational brain, makes human advancement possible only through rational thinking…and then decides rational thinking is pride.

                  Not buying it.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I never said that thinking is pride. I do a lot of it myself :)

                • Nate Frein

                  Oh, I see.

                  It’s only prideful if you don’t agree with the results.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  So… what? All those years of sincerely seeking your god just weren’t good enough?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yeah, just like I “completely misunderstood” my abuser, and he was doing it “out of love”.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, abuse is by definition the very opposite of love. Whoever abused you didn’t love you, no matter what words he used.

                • Nate Frein

                  I think you’re onto something here!

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I’m glad we finally found something we can agree on :)

                • 3lemenope

                  Everyone is invited to heaven, but there will be no questions in heaven. So turn away from the desire to know and seek contentment in ignorance. They are found in Christ.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, the Christian faith completely rejects ignorance. Just read St. Thomas Aquinas or any of the doctors/theologians of the Church

                • 3lemenope

                  I have, at length.

                  But you of course know well that Christianity is a big fan of only certain very policed domains of knowledge. “Worldly” knowledge (e.g. how things work, on whom, and why) is treated mostly as garbage and deprecated as worthless. .Cf. 1 Corinthians 3, for example.

                  Church fathers like Aquinas and Augustine indeed could credibly say they expanded the frame of curiosity that comfortably fits within Christianity, but that ignores just how much resistance they individually dealt with in the church due to their explorations (and so how far they had to depart from the Church’s status quo ante on these matters to get anywhere), and how little, ultimately, is contained even within these expanded spheres of appropriate consideration.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You forget that Western civilization, including most of its greatest minds in all fields of science, arts and humanities were Christians until a couple hundred years ago. They did surprisingly well considering that they lived in nations so thoroughly oppressed by a Church obsessed with keeping people in ignorance, stifle and suppress knowledge, according to you.

                • 3lemenope

                  Cum hoc ergo propter hoc? Really?

                  And I think you best check your facts on exactly what the Church’s role was in scientific exploration. It certainly isn’t as dour as most popular treatments on the subject make it out to be, but the Church was very firmly into stifling findings of fact and assertions of theory whenever they encroached upon a cherished element of its Biblical-Aristotelian world-model. That meant punishing and discouraging research into several areas, not least astronomy, biology, and psychology.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  *ahem*
                  *points at Catholic anti-condom propaganda*

                  Your church claims that condoms don’t stop the spread of things like HIV, which is not only ignorant, it’s killing people.

              • DavidMHart

                So why does your god create people with same-sex attraction? It seems mightily unfair of him to make some of us with an in-built desire for ‘perversion’ and some of us with an inbuilt desire for sanctity. If he wants sanctity, and he is capable of creating most of us with the desire for god-approved sexual acts, why can’t he just make all of us with that desire?

                You can claim he’s mysterious, if you like, but you can’t then also claim that he’s un-mysterious enough for you to be able to know what he does and doesn’t want consenting adults to get up to behind closed doors.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  God certainly doesn’t create people with same-sex attraction. No one is born gay, as many people, including homosexuals themselves acknowledge. See here on this gay website for example:

                  http://socialinqueery.com/2013/03/18/no-one-is-born-gay-or-straight-here-are-5-reasons-why/

                  We may all feel different attractions but it doesn’t mean that they are all good or that we must act on them. We are not slaves to our urges and desires. We all suffer different temptations and evil inclinations that we should resist, not indulge in.

                • Stev84

                  Cynthia Nixon is bisexual. What she chose to do is be in a same-sex relationship. A comment which she later clarified. Them using her as an example discredits everything else they could ever say.

                  Also, that article it just one person’s personal opinion. It doesn’t mean shit. The author generalizes way, way too much and simply extrapolates a few points and assumptions onto everyone. Lots of fail there.

                  In any case it doesn’t matter if it’s a choice or not. If it were a choice it’s one people are allowed to make, no matter what your shitty cult thinks about it.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Well, lots of people share her opinion. There is also no scientific proof whatsoever of a “gay gene” that causes people to be “born gay.” Also, ex-gay therapy has been successful in many cases. I know a few myself.

                • Stev84

                  You fail as badly at science and genetics as the author. But what else to expect from a religious nut?

                • DavidMHart

                  No one is born knowing that they are gay, or straight. Just like no one is born knowing that they will grow up to prefer the taste of chocolate to vanilla. But the point is that we do not consciously author our preferences. Whatever our preferences, in choice of sexual partners, in choice of ice-cream flavour, in choice of music, in favourite colour etc, we do not decide to like them; we discover that we like them. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you are straight, that you like vanilla ice cream more than chocolate ice cream, you’d rather listen to death metal than klezmer, and your favourite colour is red. Did you decide to have these preferences? Of course not – no more than someone who is gay, prefers chocolate, would rather listen to klezmer and likes green.

                  If your god creates us, then you have absolutely no basis for claiming that he doesn’t create the parts of us that sift what we find we enjoy from what we find we don’t enjoy. Thus you cannot pin the credit for our existence (or the credit for straight people’s straightitude) on your god, while pinning the blame for gayness on the people who happen to be gay.

                  And thus, if you believe that your god prefers people to be straight, you still need to answer the question: why does he make it so much harder for some people than others to do what he wants?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  To paraphrase (and possibly mangle) both Weird Al and Lady Gaga — “You can bite me, baby, I was born this way.”

              • gimpi1

                So if I know a happy gay couple, does that disprove your “never be genuinely happy” theory?

                Happy gay couples, speak up. Let’s gather the data.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  of course you’ll find plenty who claim they are happy here and now, but they won’t be in the long run… certainly not in light of eternity.

                • gimpi1

                  I know you firmly believe that, but you must know you have no proof.

                  Also, what about that whole “saving grace” thing. Is a happily gay married person beyond God’s grace? Many people don’t repent of things you most likely consider sinful. Is God obliged to report to you? I’d like to see that memo.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  nobody is beyond God’s grace, but His kindness leads us to repentance. The way to salvation is having the humility to admit that many of the things we do are wrong. His forgiveness and grace are infinite, but we need to do our part as well. And sometimes that’s not easy at all.

                • gimpi1

                  So where does your need to sit in judgement of others fit into all that? Again, does God answer to you? Perhaps you should look to your own faults, and let others do the same.

                  Also, I was referring to your beliefs. Remember, they are only beliefs. You have no evidence to back them up.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I don’t sit in judgment. God does. The evidence is found in Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Tradition. Jesus has asked his followers to spread the good news to all the world, so we try to do it: repent from sin, turn to God’s forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. It’s not that complicated.

                • Stev84

                  And you wonder why people think you are sick and immoral when you just wash yourself of any responsibility for your thoughts and actions like that.

                • gimpi1

                  The way you phrase your arguments, it appears that you believe you are speaking for God. You do sit in judgment when you tell someone their “sins” are so profound as to require a complete lifestyle change, while ignoring other more common“sins” such as gluttony or greed. I don’t see you advocating for closing Golden Coral or chastising Wall Street, but you believe gay people are “called to celibacy.” Really? YOU are the one making that judgement.

                  As to your statements regarding Scripture and Tradition, you realize it would be just as valid to say, “The evidence is found in the Holy Koran and the teachings of the Imans,” don’t you? Your belief in the validity of any source doesn’t verify it.

                  This is why I like the scientific method. The first thing any good scientist does upon developing an idea is try to prove it wrong. Only after they have tested their beliefs in the crucible of experimentation are they offered for peer review. Then those reviewers also try to prove it wrong. Only after that testing process is it dignified by recognition.

                  With that said, I have a few suggestions. Take them for that they are worth. If you’re serious about spreading your Good News, you might want to do some baseline research into your own beliefs. Develop a a grounding in reason and history from outside the church. Know both the strengths and weaknesses of your beliefs. Learn to differentiate between a belief and a fact. Be able to explain why you believe something based on that. Citing Church tradition convinces no one outside your church.

                  You might also want to work on your presentation. You say you aren’t judging, but you present as though you are. You come off as arrogant and condemning. More use of qualifiers such as “I believe,” or “I think,” can go a long way in changing that.

                  Then and only then are you ready to face the peer review of offering your witness. I’m your target audience. I’m interested in belief, fairly well-read, reasonable and open to reasoned argument. Your rather ham-handed approach misses the target. I offer these suggestions to help you improve your aim, if that’s what you really want to do.

                  Of course, if all you want to do is display your beliefs, you have that down. Never mind.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I do genuinely appreciate your suggestions and your taking the time to express them. I see what you mean re. using qualifiers such as “I believe” and I see the value of that. If I come across as arrogant I should really rethink the way I express myself. The problem with using “I think” and “I believe” all the time is that this language seems to reaffirm the doctrine of relativism, i.e. that whatever I say is just “MY truth” or something completely subjective and only valid for myself. The Christian claim of course, is that it is “THE” truth proposed to everyone. That is why Jesus commanded the disciples to preach it to all nations. I do realize that is why so many people hate it, because Jesus calls everyone to salvation, not just Christians. Still, I don’t want to give the impression that I’m affirming relativism, and thus the dilemma.

                  As for providing evidence for my beliefs, yes I hear you too. I actually do have evidence, but I have been overwhelmed with dozens of simultaneous conversations in the last 2-3 days, spending way too much time on this thread, and so probably quality was sacrificed for quantity. It’s hard to give thorough explanations for such complex topics in a nutshell. On the other hand, I do get the clear impression that most people on this thread are not really interested in any explanations. They are interested in bashing Christianity first, and asking questions later (or not at all). In any case, thanks again for the suggestions.

                • gimpi1

                  Thank you for your appreciation. I’m glad you weren’t offended by my suggestions.

                  I understand you believe you have “THE” truth. I hope you understand it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to simply accept that. I get that these conversations get overwhelming and scattered. No answer for that, it’s the web. However, myself, I try to go for quality over quantity. (You’d never guess that from the length of my posts, right?)

                  I think you feel people are “bashing” Christianity when what they are doing is objecting to the way it is presented, or to the place of privilege it sometimes seems to expect. Having your creed’s beliefs recognized in law is not the same as having your beliefs respected. I respect your beliefs. I don’t believe you have the right to use force of secular law to force me to comply with them. I think that’s the main objection you’re seeing here.

                  Here’s an example of what I was referring to in my earlier post regarding tone:

                  “I do realize that is why so many people hate it, (your beliefs) because Jesus calls everyone to salvation, not just Christians.”

                  It’s not hateful to disbelieve. It’s neutral. I don’t know anyone who hates your beliefs. I know many people who don’t share them. Calling doubt or disbelief hate is both dishonest and off-putting. Viewing them as hate can mess up how you relate to people, often the very people you are trying to reach. Just a thought

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You’re right that it’s not hateful to disbelieve, and the two are not equivalent by any means. I know lots of people who don’t believe without hatred. However, if you look at some (many) of the responses I have been getting here, it’s hard to believe that some (many?) of the people on this forum don’t have an outright hatred of Christianity.

                  Also, I am not interested in having any of my beliefs, as beliefs, recognized in law. However, do you understand that big issues such as abortion and gay “marriage” go beyond religious beliefs: they have to do with the dignity and definition of human life and its protection, the identity of marriage and the family, the education of children, and the common good of society. That’s why I think it is entirely legitimate that these issues be affected by legislation, since they have a direct effect on the day to day life of society, for better or for worse.

                • gimpi1

                  Thanks for this discussion I’ve been enjoying it.

                  I understand your concerns about abortion, though I don’t share them. That’s a discussion worth having. Perhaps later.

                  However, your concerns with marriage equity seem, to me, to be an example of trying to legislate your beliefs. You’re taking your belief that two people of the same sex marrying somehow weakens marriage and society (with no facts to back it up) and expecting the country to enshrine it in law. You have no real reason, except for your belief that gay sex is a sin before God. That sure looks like expecting your beliefs to be give the force of law, from the bleachers back here.

                  You appear to believe that people of the same gender marrying somehow affects you. It doesn’t. It may change some definitions, but they change all the time. You’re aware that marriage has changed many times over the years, right? I’m no longer my husband’s possession. I can own property in my own name and sign contracts without his permission. He has no right to beat me, or to force himself on me. Our marriage wasn’t arranged by our parents. We chose to marry because we love each other. All those are changes in marriage, good ones, most of us think. Change can be good.

                  Expanding the definition of marriage to gay couples allows them to make more lasting bonds, to sanctify their relationships in ways that are meaningful to them, and gives their children more security. No harm, no foul, as far as I can see.

                  Your beliefs are your own. You can still believe that gay sex is a profound sin. The supreme court decision just doesn’t allow you to deny gay people the right to marry, a right you (I assume) have. You say you don’t judge. If that is true, what, exactly have you lost? All I see is the privilege of having your view enforced in law, something you say you don’t want. I admit I find that confusing.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You really think that redefining marriage will not affect everyone? What do you think of this?

                  http://news.yahoo.com/lesbian-activist-surprisingly-candid-speech-gay-marriage-fight-144222847.html

                • Stev84

                  “redefine marriage” – Have another drink!

                  First off, asshole, “The Blaze” is not a credible source even if you deceptively try to dress up in a Yahoo article. Second, you have a habit of taking fringe opinions and presenting it as something that everyone believes in. Also something you should avoid if you want to be taken seriously.

                • gimpi1

                  Sorry for getting back so late, I’m on a weird schedule at work right now.

                  I think she’s out of her mind. I can show you “Christian” extremists who advocate for stoning disobedient kids, denying women the vote and forced marriage at puberty. I’m corresponding with one. I assume you support none of those positions. I have to regard the fellow I speak of as several bubbles off plumb. In my opinion, so is she. Seeing a person advocating crazy position for a group in no way affects sane people in the group, any more than you, as a Catholic, are personally responsible for priestly child abuse.

                  Let me give you an example from my life: my co-worker. She’s married to a woman. They have adopted two kids, both with some degree of disability. The kids and their moms are doing great, the kids certainly better than they would have been in the foster-care system or an orphanage, which would have been the other option.

                  I’m also married, to a man. We married quite late, I in my early 40′s, he in his late. It’s my first marriage, his 2nd. Because we both have issues with caring for aging parents, we elected not to have kids, so I had a tubal-ligation. We’re doing great, and quite happy.

                  Both of these marriages are not typical, my co worker because she married another woman, mine because of our ages and the decision not to have children. Many people would deny both of us our choices, yet those choices affect no one but our own families, which, as I said are fine.

                  How do you think those choices affect you?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You’re right, these choices don’t affect me directly, if at all. (They affect you, of course, and you will see their consequences clearly in light of eternity). I agree that people should be free to make their personal choices. However when such choices are enshrined into law, they affect everyone. Here’s one attempt are articulating the consequences of legalizing same-sex “marriage”. http://downloads.frc.org/EF/EF11B30.pdf

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  the FRC is a SPLC-designated hate group, and therefore NOT a reliable source. They LIE. They destroy lives.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Right, label them a “hate group” because they happen to disagree with your own views. Another fine example of liberal “tolerance” and open mindedeness.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Dude, it’s documented fact.

                • gimpi1

                  OK, now you’ve dropped back into judging and arrogance. “…you will see their consequences clearly in light of eternity.” And how, exactly, can you prove that? I, personally, believe, if there is a divine motive force, that force would be more pleased with my devotion to equal rights and justice than your devotion to legalism and privilege. (See how I used a qualifier, “I, personally believe…” there, instead of just condemning you.

                  As to the points in your post, here we go:

                  #1`. The cost is minimal, since gay people only represent 10% or so of the population. Most large employers already offer such benefits to same-sex couples. The government should. The same arguments were used in the past regarding domestic and farm work, to keep minorities from accessing such benefits, and they were just as mean-spirited. I have no problem with a small cost to make a fairer world. The kids of gay couples should have access to social security. Claiming that the parent wasn’t a legal adoptive parent is a bit disingenuous, since the author does not favor allowing same-sex couples to adopt. Catch 22 anyone?

                  #2. Schools have no business affirming or denying any relationship, period.

                  #3. Your conscience is not affected, except that you seem to feel your conscience demands that you condemn others. Many people in the old South thought it was a matter of conscience to not do business with black people. Some of those objections were and are religious. (See the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian.) Your rights to your beliefs are not affected, just your right to discriminate based on your belief. I don’t understand why you want that, anyway. Doing business with someone in no way denotes approval of them, any more than a layoff indicates dislike of the person let go.

                  #4. Silly at best, and stands in direct conflict with #1. If few gay people will marry, where, exactly are those costs?

                  #5, #6, #7, #8. All just silly. The author makes leaps of logic that would span the Grand Canyon, and cites discredited studies to bolster negative stereotypes. Again, similar arguments have been made against legal equality for women. Most have been baseless, and those changes that have happened has been a change for the better, in my opinion.

                  #9. YAY! Humanity is facing a population crisis. If gay marriage leads to fewer children. that’s great. I don’t think it will, of course, see the author’s point 4, but if it did, so what? Humans are in no way endangered.

                  10. How so? That’s a different question,and can be argued on its own merit. Apples and oranges, to my mind.

                  Do you see how two people can look at something and come to totally different conclusions? The difference is, I am not trying to force others to conform to my viewpoint, and lead lesser lives, by force of law. You, and the author you cite, are. I want a fair world, where beliefs, all beliefs, mine and yours both, are equally respected. You want a world where you are privileged, and your beliefs not just respected, but enshrined in law, and you are allowed to discriminate based on them. See the difference?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  sorry, I really don’t mean to convey “judgment and arrogance”. But do try to understand that some people (and I am among them) have had a strong and very real experience of God, so to speak of Him and of his revelation as if it were all just vague speculation is difficult and unnatural. For many people God is more real than the things we see around us. The fact that we speak with confidence about someone we know and love does not mean that we are trying to be judgmental or arrogant.

                  Apart from that, thanks for your responses. I guess we can agree to disagree. We are speaking from totally different perspectives, myself from the point of view that there is a rational moral law in nature that we should humbly discover, yourself (I think) that we can just make up moral laws as we please, as long as the majority agrees. I believe we will see the great social cost of the deconstruction of marriage after the harm is done, but it might take us some time to get there.

                  Just one thing on #9: the so-called “overpopulation crisis” is a myth. Certainly in Western countries the contrary is true, where after two generations of “contraceptive mentality” people are no longer having children, and the birth rate is below the level of sustainability:

                  http://overpopulationisamyth.com/

                • gimpi1

                  I understand about your “strong and very real” experience, But I’m sure you understand that has to be regarded as subjective. You can tell me about it, but you can’t really share it with me. As such, I can’t use it to base my judgements on. My discussion as to tone was meant more to refer to how to communicate effectively. If you want people to listen to what you’re saying, it helps not to insult them.

                  You have a totally mistaken view of my morality, for example. I’m about results. I want a world where as many people as possible are happy, healthy and able to live in peace. I think what makes that possible changes as our technology changes, and much of the time we’re scrambling to keep up with our own inventions. So, timeless morals are only possible if we stop changing the world all the time. That’s unlikely.

                  To me, justice matter more than almost anything. Being fair is the most basic responsibility than any culture has. To require some people to live under restrictions, such as not being able to legally marry who you love, while others have no such restriction is unfair. To me, unfair is pretty much the same thing as immoral. So, for that reason, I think you’re correct about the “agree to disagree” statement.

                  As to your link regarding overpopulation, it’s just wrong. You can find plenty of “outlier” pseudo-scientific information around the web. This is kind of like climate change and evolution, other issues we might disagree on.

                  There’s no real doubt that we can’t feed and care for the number of people on this planet now. I don’t want to see children born, only to starve or die of treatable diseases, because there’s not enough food, clean water or resources to go around. That’s happening now. It will get worse. No one reputable doubts that. I want to prevent as much pain as possible. In that, we most likely agree.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I understand about your “strong and very real” experience, But I’m sure you understand that has to be regarded as subjective.

                  yes I do understand that from your point of view, my experience is subjective.

                  To me, justice matter more than almost anything. Being fair is the most basic responsibility than any culture has.</blockquote

                  So what if people in favor of polygamy (say, some Muslims) begin to argue that they are being discriminated against and want their polygamist marriages recognized by the law, would you agree to legalize polygamist marriage so that they can have 3-4 wives? Or perhaps legalize incest marriage, or marrying minors (if enough people begin to demand this). My point is: is "justice" just letting everyone do what they want, as long as you have enough people who demand it?

                  As for the overpopulation myth, sorry but it's just a plain fact. There may be overpopulation problems in large urban centers in the third world. But it's just plain fact that because of the contraceptive mentality western countries are shrinking. They are below the sustaining level for growth. In many of them the population is sustained only because of immigration. Just look at the numbers on Wikipedia:

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

                  The growth necessary for a population to remain stable is 2.1 children per couple. It makes sense: if all couples would have only one child each, the next generation would have half the number of people. To account for child mortality and differences in numbers between men and women, the necessary growth rate is 2.1.

                  Now, look at the chart on Wikipedia. On the U.N. chart on the left, of 230 countries, only 46 have a growth rate above 2.1 – and not a single European or North American country!

                  So overpopulation is a myth. Will you believe the facts or continue hanging on to the myth?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sorry, actually regarding the overpopulation myth, I mixed up the stats, the Wikipedia numbers are actually the growth rate in percentage and not the number of children per couple, so I believe the sustainability level would not be equal to 2.1%. But the Wikipedia table still shows how the growth rate of Western countries is extremely low – very far from any kind of overpopulation problem.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Riiight, ‘cuz only Western nations matter. *rolleyes*

                  Thing is, all those “non-Western” nations ARE overpopulated, many to the point where people are starving to death because there’s no food. And there’s no education, no health care, no contraception, so they’re just popping out baby after baby, each doomed to fucking DIE because your moronic religion refuses to actually help.

                • gimpi1

                  The problem I see with your statement is that overpopulation is a global problem. First-world countries are limiting their population growth, but third-world countries still have exploding population problems. First-world countries also use more of limited resources per-capita, leaving less for the people in those countries with surging populations.

                  Again, for me, it comes down to reducing misery. There simply isn’t enough food, clean water, energy or land to provide for our current world population. We just don’t feel it much in the West, since we’re rich enough to buy whatever we need from the shrinking resource pool. But that pool is finite. If the whole world isn’t more responsible about our numbers, more people live in misery and more die in misery. And that, to me, is a moral issue. A much greater a moral issue than whether a couple of guys in love can marry.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I just don’t think this is factually correct. Fly anywhere in the world and look down: even in third world countries you will mostly see empty space. Yes, reducing misery is important, but the way to do this is not to force people to have smaller families (such strategies are typical of totalitarian regimes). The problem of under-development is not necessarily related to the population size. Often the contrary is true: economies shrink because of under-population and the standard of living rises with population growth.

                  http://overpopulationisamyth.com/content/episode-4-poverty-where-we-all-started

                • gimpi1

                  I think the problem with your first statement is that most land in the world isn’t really habitable. The earth needs open spaces to purify water and air. Not all areas are suitable for cultivation. Deserts support little life. Other species need wild spaces. I, personally don’t want to live in a Soylent Green dystopian world.

                  As to force, the only country I am aware of that used force to prevent people having children was China. No one is talking about force, simply making birth-control technology available as widely as possible.

                  For example, for several reasons, from parents who needed care to genetic reasons, my husband and I chose not to have kids. I had a tubal. My insurance paid for it. The only ones I have spoken to who advocated force are those religious (mostly Catholic) folks who have told me I shouldn’t have been able to make that choice. I have spoken to people who regarded that as “mutilation” and believe it should be outlawed, or at least I should have had to pay cash, instead of having normal medical coverage. I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. That, to my mind, is the extreme position.

                  I have worked for various news publications, and to close, I’ll give you a tip for free. Take it for what it’s worth. If you see the in the title of a website or file a something like “Overpopulation is a Myth,” what you have found is propaganda, not research. Real, reputable researchers use titles such as “Affects of Overpopulation.” It’s kind of like using a site titled “Bush Crimes” and claiming it’s an objective appraisal of the Bush administration. When checking story-notes, proofers and fact-checkers are warned about this sort of thing. It really helps winnow the wheat from the chaff.

                  I know you’re sincere, and I’ve enjoyed this conversation. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree. And that’s fine.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Yes, we will have to agree to disagree since I also don’t believe that a tubal constitutes “health care” which, it seems to me, should be about protecting and saving life, not preventing it. I also wish you well and have appreciated to be able to discuss with you respectfully on these difficult issues. God bless!

                • gimpi1

                  Did you miss the part about genetic reasons for our decision? I suffer from an aggressive form of rheumatoid arthritis that is inherited. My mother had it, and it’s a good bet any female children I were to have would develop it. (Males bear a reduced risk.) Also, one of the medications that keep it in check, methotrexate, is highly toxic to a developing fetus. If I went off my meds for the duration of a pregnancy, I would most likely wind up confined to a wheelchair, as my mother did. My child could also be born with severe birth defects, since I would have been taking this drug until I knew I was pregnant, and some damage to the developing fetus would likely already have been done.

                  No offense meant, but sometimes I don’t think men understand just how complicated and risky pregnancy and childbirth can be. There are very real medical reason not to have kids.

                  I agree, though, nice discussion!

                • Stev84

                  Word salad. Translation: the sky is falling!!

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  That’s such an awful philosophy, by the way- be miserable now to be happy in the afterlife! The environment? Pah! Who has to care about that, you’re only on earth for up to 110 years, eternity is forever! Create, innovate, build community? That’s a terrible plan. The healthier and happier people are, the longer they live, so they don’t get to Heaven as fast. Divorce is a sin, so stick with the abuser. Deny yourself love, affection, and happiness in the only life you have, for the hope of heaven later. The more you talk, Andre, the more I know that Madalyn Murray O’Hair was talking about your sick, twisted religion when she spoke these words:

                  “An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Feminerd, you seem to be unable to post a single thing without completely misrepresenting Christianity. It does get really annoying. This world and this life are really important. I wrote in my previous post about those who “claim to be happy.” You know well that there are plenty of people who know how to put on a happy face but are really miserable inside. Christianity is about being genuinely happy in this life, even if sometimes in the face of suffering, and eternally happy in the next. Create, innovate, build community, live long… all these are great. No one is asked to stay with an abusive spouse, nor to deny oneself “love, affection and happiness.” Sin is the only thing that enslaves and makes us miserable, and sin is the only thing that the Church fundamentally opposes. And your final quotation can be just as easily said by a Christian, except that there is no conflict between good deeds and saying prayers. On the contrary, prayers give us redoubled strength to do good deeds. That’s why when you look down history (and today) you will find infinitely more Catholic hospitals, schools, universities, orphanages, soup kitchens and organisms of social help than atheist ones.

                  Also, we don’t “escape into death” but are freed from death so that we can live fully now.

                  Please stop talking about Catholicism as it is evident at almost every word you say that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  You said, straight up, that gay people can’t be happy in gay relationships. You also said that the fake-happy (because gays can’t be genuinely happy) means they’re fucked in the afterlife. You did not say that some people pretend, you said that anyone who is gay and happy is not really happy. You also said that it was ok for gay people to be miserable in denying themselves happiness, because it would make them happy in the afterlife.

                  I merely applied that logic to other issues. Not my fault if it shows your religion in the ugly light you painted for it.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Christ, this guy’s an asshole.

                • Anna

                  So your assumption is that all same-sex couples are really miserable inside? That they’re just putting on a happy face for the public?

                  It sounds like it’s incomprehensible to you that a gay or lesbian couple would not see their relationship as a “sin.” You don’t accept that there are people who are happily gay, or happily childfree, or happily atheist, or happily anything that doesn’t match what the Catholic church promotes.

                  Speaking of which, have you completely ceded control of your life to this organization? Do you just blindly accept everything they say, no matter what? I cannot imagine that type of mind control, never being allowed to come to an independent conclusion on anything without having to check to see if it matches what the authorities tell you to believe.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Actually I used to be fiercely anti-Catholic for many years, and I went through quite a long conversion process when I thought everything through. There is no “mind control” at all. I have plenty of independent conclusions… I just happen to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he established the Church to lead us in knowing God’s salvific truth.

                  I’m sure same-sex couples have many genuine happy moments. Perhaps I really did overstate myself. Again, the fact that they engage in some sinful acts (everyone does) does not mean that everything they do or are is wrong, quite obviously.

                • Anna

                  Well, would you ever be willing to go against something the Vatican says? I do find it odd that all of your personal opinions would just happen to coincide with official doctrine.

                  For the most part, I agree with my political party, but I don’t agree with every single position or every single thing mentioned in the platform. To declare that I would just always agree with every declaration made by an organization strikes me as mind control.

                  I realize you’re a convert. It seems like most of the more zealous Catholics (at least on this blog) are converts. Out of curiosity, what religion were you raised in?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The Church is very different from a political party. What makes it different is that it claims to be divinely guided by the Holy Spirit and infallible in matters of faith and morals (obviously not in matters of customs, disciplines, of personal opinions or holiness of priests, bishops, or even the pope). Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead His Church into all truth and guard it from doctrinal error. This is a very bold claim (you probably think it’s preposterous and/or insane). So when I (and usually most serious converts) consider the claims of the Church, it’s more or less a package deal. If the claim of infallibility is true, then the Church speaks for God and I had better accept it as such. If it’s false, then the whole thing is a fraud and I should pay no attention to it at all.

                  So my gradual thought process was more or less like this:

                  - strongly disagreed with and/or hated the Church’s teachings (in large part influenced by Catholics poorly living out their faith) and thought that the claim of infallibility was idiotic
                  - came to acknowledge that a few of its doctrines were not as stupid as I thought
                  - came to respect and admire many of the Church’s teachings, while still seriously skeptical of its claim of infallibility
                  - gradually came to agree with all of its doctrines, and so finally accepted its claim to infallibility.

                  Again, the infallibility refers to official matters of doctrine and faith. I am more than aware of all the weaknesses and sins of the Church’s members, beginning with mine. So I still have plenty to criticize about the Church, just not her doctrines and teachings, which I think are not easy but the best way to encounter Christ, conquer sin, and grow in holiness and goodness.

                  I was raised nominally Catholic, became agnostic for a few years, then evangelical Protestant (very anti-Catholic), then reluctantly, kicking and screaming, back into the Catholic Church. In retrospect, it’s the best thing I ever did, though I know that you will probably shake your head in disbelief at such a statement.

                • Anna

                  It’s certainly quite baffling to me. I also think it’s a tad disingenuous describe yourself as a convert when you were raised in the exact same religion you now espouse!

                  As I’m sure you know, the vast majority of people raised in Catholicism don’t become fundamentalist Catholics later in life. Most practice a much looser form of the religion, and many leave the religion entirely. I don’t know what makes you so different from most of the others, but I do see your brief spell as an evangelical Protestant reflected in your comments.

                  Your thought processes make no sense to me. I just don’t get how anyone raised in regular, mainstream society could all of a sudden switch to adopting such an “abnormal” (in the eyes of Western culture) view of sexual morality. To go from seeing most forms of sex as normal and natural to all of a sudden seeing them as evil strikes me as extremely odd.

                  strongly disagreed with and/or hated the Church’s teachings (in large part influenced by Catholics poorly living out their faith)

                  I’m interested in this. Which teachings did you hate? I can think of a lot of the teachings I hate, but I wonder if it’s different from the ones you had a problem with. Did you grow up to disagree with the Catholic church’s anti-gay teachings? Anti-female priest teachings? Anti-birth control teachings? Anti-sin and hell teachings?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Didn’t mean to be disingenuous… true, I am technically more of a revert than a convert, but given that I was only nominally Catholic and then anti-Catholic when I grew up, it does feel quite a bit like a true conversion.

                  Of course I have to disagree with the label “fundamentalist Catholic” – I am merely trying to be a faithful Catholic, faithful to what the Church teaches. A little bit more about myself: I have an MA in jazz saxophone from a music academy in Austria, and a PhD in religious studies from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. For the better part of the last two decades I have lived, studied and worked in very non-Catholic environments, so I’m afraid I cannot accept your suggestion that I have been indoctrinated (actually you suggest this more in your other post than this one).

                  What Catholic teachings did I hate… hmm, good question. Let’s see if I can remember. What mostly comes to mind are the things I disliked when I was evangelical: the concept of purgatory, Mary’s role in the Church, the pope, statues and saints, the history of Christian anti-Semitism, sacraments and rituals, to name a few. Really more theological than moral issues. Before that, when I was agnostic, I was actually quite ignorant of the Catholic faith. I very much disliked the very concept of sin, I didn’t like the Sunday obligation to go to Mass. I didn’t think at all about birth control, homosexuality, or the possibility of female priests, as far as I can recall. As I said, I was only nominally Catholic and had much different interests than moral and theological ones back then. I thought the Church was legalistic and just had a long list of prohibitions to offer. The difference was that I had not yet had a life-changing encounter with Christ, and that is what changed everything.

                  I know that my views may seem “abnormal” in the eyes of Western culture, but I have come to believe that Catholicism is really about finding the truth and love that is most beautiful, fulfilling and freeing for the human person. The problem in these discussions here, I am beginning to find out, is that we get bogged down in relatively narrow, controversial moral topics where people get angry and start insulting each other, and the conversations end up not being very fruitful. You mentioned elsewhere that you are amazed at how Catholics seem to be obsessed with sex. You know, it’s not true.. I rarely talk about such topics with my friends. It just happens that this was the topic that began this discussion. But just as I write this I can see that when we only discuss these kinds of moral topics (which are actually peripheral and secondary to the relationship with Christ) I can come across as conveying the same legalism that I fled when I was young. Perhaps I should indeed avoid these discussions on moral issues altogether and try to focus more on God’s love. They are draining and for the most part unpleasant, but I must say that I’m learning a lot through them.

                • Anna

                  Thanks for providing so many details. I do find this conversation fascinating, and I’m glad you’re willing to have a discussion. IMO, it’s much better than just sparring back and forth.

                  I’m curious, when you say you were nominally Catholic, what exactly do you mean by that? Were you taken to church? Were you taught how to pray? Did you go to Catholic school or CCD classes? Did you make your sacraments? I’m interested in this because I think the early childhood years are the most formative, and that’s generally when children learn to interpret the world in a supernatural way.

                  That’s actually what I meant by indoctrination. It’s not so much the things that happened to you later in life, but the supernatural claims that you were taught to accept when you were very young. It seems to me that there are very few children in modern society who escape all forms of supernatural indoctrination, and for the vast majority, those views have an impact on them for the rest of their lives.

                  What Catholic teachings did I hate… hmm, good question. Let’s see if I can remember. What mostly comes to mind are the things I disliked when I was evangelical: the concept of purgatory, Mary’s role in the Church, the pope, statues and saints, the history of Christian anti-Semitism, sacraments and rituals, to name a few. Really more theological than moral issues.

                  That’s actually pretty fascinating to me. When I think of my objections to Catholicism, none of those things would ever make my list. All of mine are focused on their supernatural assumptions, claims of moral authority, and treatment of various minority groups.

                  Before that, when I was agnostic, I was actually quite ignorant of the Catholic faith. I very much disliked the very concept of sin, I didn’t like the Sunday obligation to go to Mass. I didn’t think at all about birth control, homosexuality, or the possibility of female priests, as far as I can recall.

                  From that list, the only thing we seem to have in common is the dislike of the concept of “sin.” I think it’s fundamentally twisted and immoral and the cause of a lot of pain and suffering for people who are taught to believe in it. Other than that, I really don’t care very much about what kinds of supernatural claims the church makes, since I think they’re all equally false. As long as they’re not causing harm, I would just tend to ignore them.

                  You mentioned elsewhere that you are amazed at how Catholics seem to be obsessed with sex. You know, it’s not true.. I rarely talk about such topics with my friends. It just happens that this was the topic that began this discussion. But just as I write this I can see that when we only discuss these kinds of moral topics (which are actually peripheral and secondary to the relationship with Christ) I can come across as conveying the same legalism that I fled when I was young. Perhaps I should indeed avoid these discussions on moral issues altogether and try to focus more on God’s love. They are draining and for the most part unpleasant.

                  I’d have less of a problem with the Catholic church in general if they avoided discussion of moral issues, at least outside their own churches. I don’t really care what they teach in Catholic schools or Catholic churches. For me, the main issue is when they seek to limit the rights of other people who do not accept that this organization has any moral or legal authority over their lives.

                  And to me, yes, your church seems extremely legalistic. I know you don’t like the term “fundamentalist Catholic,” but I use it to distinguish between the vast majority of “regular” Catholics who don’t accept many things the hierarchy says, and those (like yourself) who are committed to following everything to the letter, no matter what. You may not personally think or talk much about the sexual restrictions, but if you lurk on a place like the Catholic Answers forum, you will find many of your fellow fundamentalists perpetually worried and obsessed over what they are allowed to do.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Nominally Catholic: yes I went to church with my family… sheepish and indifferent at first, then reluctant and rebellious, and for some time I borrowed the car and pretended to go while actually going to the library instead :) We prayed the rosary in our family but not very frequently. Yes I received the sacraments but quit after a while. I went to public school; in Quebec back then we had catechism classes which were boring (my perspective then) and awful (my perspective now), totally liberal and really a watered down humanism rather than actual catechism.

                  re. your suspicion of indoctrination: do you ever ask yourself “what if it’s true?” – I mean, the whole Christianity thing? What if Christians, though flawed and often not the most effective at presenting well what they believe (like myself) actually had a true experience with the risen Christ – Jesus who was risen from the dead and is the way to encounter a living and loving God who is calling us to holiness and to a fulfilled and meaningful life?

                  Why would the concept of sin be “fundamentally twisted and immoral”? We all do things we are ashamed of, don’t we? We are all selfish. We all hurt others. Why deny it? The whole stigma or joke about “Catholic guilt” is actually really misplaced, because of all people we are the ones who have the definitive solution to guilt in the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). As someone who didn’t benefit from it for several years in my non-Catholic days, I cannot emphasize enough what peace and joy it is to receive Christ’s forgiveness in the sacrament and get rid of that burden of sin/guilt.

                  Again, the essence of Christianity and Catholicism is not to follow a set of rules but to enter into a loving covenant relationship with the God who is love and is calling us to eternally share in this infinite love with him.

                • Anna

                  That’s certainly not “nominal” Catholicism! That’s actual Catholicism. You were raised just as Catholic as all the other Catholics I know.

                  A nominal Catholic would be Catholic in name only. Someone who was perhaps baptized and told he or she was Catholic, but someone who wasn’t repeatedly exposed to the rituals, prayers, doctrine, etc. A nominally Catholic child wouldn’t even know what the rosary was; he would certainly never have prayed it with his parents.

                  re. your suspicion of indoctrination: do you ever ask yourself “what if it’s true?” – I mean, the whole Christianity thing? What if Christians, though flawed and often not the most effective at presenting well what they believe (like myself) actually had a true experience with the risen Christ – Jesus who was risen from the dead and is the way to encounter a living and loving God who is calling us to holiness and to a fulfilled and meaningful life?

                  I’m afraid I don’t see that as any more likely than Hinduism or Scientology or Mormonism. I find all supernatural claims equally lacking in evidence. Religious people understand the power of indoctrination, by the way. I believe it was a Jesuit who coined the “give me a child until he is seven” phrase. If such claims are true, then there should be no problem with leaving children alone and then presenting evidence for the parents’ religion when they are 18 years old. That way, a child would actually have a free choice about whether to start believing in gods. It wouldn’t be something they were told when they were babies and toddlers.

                  Also, it’s not like I’m in ignorance of Christianity, Catholicism in particular. I live in a heavily Catholic area. Much of my extended family is Catholic. One of my parents still identifies as Catholic (though she doesn’t believe a lick of the theology). My boyfriend (now atheist) was raised Catholic, and his parents are practicing Catholics. I also went to a Catholic university. Of course, I have never met a fundamentalist Catholic in real life. All of the ones I know have no problem with birth control, same-sex marriage, or anything along those lines.

                  Why would the concept of sin be “fundamentally twisted and immoral”? We all do things we are ashamed of, don’t we? We are all selfish. We all hurt others. Why deny it?

                  Because it’s unnecessary to bring the supernatural into it. And “sin” is an offense against a deity, not against other people. That’s what this whole discussion is about. It’s why the Catholic church says I shouldn’t exist and that my parents shouldn’t be allowed to get married. It’s not because anyone is being hurt. It’s because your deity supposedly hates people having unauthorized orgasms.

                  As someone who didn’t benefit from it for several years in my non-Catholic days, I cannot emphasize enough what peace and joy it is to receive Christ’s forgiveness in the sacrament and get rid of that burden of sin/guilt.

                  I just find it very sad that you have a “burden of sin/guilt.” I’m sure most of the things you’re confessing to don’t hurt other people at all, yet you still feel ashamed and guilty. As for relieving your burden, whatever happened to making amends to the person you actually hurt? If you hurt someone, apologize and try to make it up to them. Your conscience should trouble you if you haven’t gotten forgiveness from that person. Substitutionary forgiveness seems completely unwarranted to me. It might make you feel better, but what about the person you wronged?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Catholics who pick and choose their beliefs irrespective of what the Church teaches are known as “cafeteria Catholics” or (a new expression) “Pelosi or Biden Catholics”. They are hardly representative of Catholicism if they violate what the Church teaches. Having been there, I know that generally they either have never actually encountered God, or are hanging on to some sin that they are unwilling to let go of. Sin enslaves us; it’s forgiveness and grace that sets us free to live and to love.

                  leaving children alone and then presenting evidence for the parents’ religion when they are 18 years old”

                  what a strange idea – another product of modern secular humanism, completely foreign to the most natural human instincts known in every culture of passing on our understanding of God to our children. This can be done with understanding and respect for other religions. You prone liberalism but it doesn’t occur to you how radical your own views are?

                  “sin” is an offense against a deity, not against other people.

                  (thanks for the tip re. quoting text)

                  Actually, sin is always an offense against a deity, but most of the time it is also an offense against people. Looking at the Ten Commandments, the first three refer to God, and the last seven refer to our neighbor (but when we sin against our neighbor we also sin against God).

                  It’s not because anyone is being hurt. It’s because your deity supposedly hates people having unauthorized orgasms.

                  Oh my, what nonsense. Sin *always* hurts people. Did it never happen that you did something that felt fine when you did it, only to realize later (sometimes years later) that it either really hurt yourself or another person? It will be the same for every sin – we don’t always understand the consequences or our actions now, but we will in the light of eternity (usually long before that). The etymology of sin in Hebrew, by the way, is “missing the mark” – it can be intentional or unintentional, but we all do it. Your vision of Catholicism is so much more negative than anything I’ve ever heard coming from any Catholic.

                  Everyone has a “burden of guilt” at different points, whether we acknowledge it or not. Of course if you sin against someone, you must make amends with the person. It’s actually a requirement to do this in order to receive absolution in confession (along with true repentance and genuine resolution to try to not sin again). But sometimes there are cases when complete reparation is impossible (e.g. murder, unintentional homicide), not to mention the sins against God (e.g. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul and all your mind).

                • Anna

                  Well, of course I’m not surprised that you would be upset about the existence of liberal Catholics who don’t accept the dogma, but such Catholics are (fortunately, IMO) the majority in the United States. Even though I still think they are wrong about the supernatural, I don’t have too many problems with them. No offense, but I’d much rather deal with their kind than yours.

                  what a strange idea – another product of modern secular humanism, completely foreign to the most natural human instincts known in every culture of passing on our understanding of God to our children. This can be done with understanding and respect for other religions. You prone liberalism but it doesn’t occur to you how radical your own views are?

                  I understand it’s a natural impulse, but if your religion could actually stand on its own, then there would be no need to indoctrinate children. The fact that most religions work feverishly to do just the opposite strikes me as problematic.

                  And I never pretended not to have “radical” views, although truth be told I don’t think (aside from being an atheist) I differ much from most people where I live. In some ways, I’m actually quite conservative. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t smoke cigarettes. I’ve never tried illegal drugs. I’m in a committed, monogamous relationship. I’m quiet and reserved, not wild or reckless. Heck, if it weren’t for the whole god thing, I’d make a pretty good fundamentalist!

                  Actually, sin is always an offense against a deity, but most of the time it is also an offense against people.

                  Most of the time? I really don’t think so, given the emphasis put on sexual “sin” and various forms of thoughtcrime.

                  Oh my, what nonsense. Sin *always* hurts people.

                  So who was hurt when I was conceived? The Catholic church takes a strong stand here. It says my conception was sinful and should not have happened. Since they’re telling me I shouldn’t exist, then they need to provide a concrete reason why not. Which people were hurt? How were they hurt? Why would it be better if I hadn’t been born at all?

                  Did it never happen that you did something that felt fine when you did it, only to realize later (sometimes years later) that it either really hurt yourself or another person? It will be the same for every sin – we don’t always understand the consequences or our actions now, but we will in the light of eternity (usually long before that). The etymology of sin in Hebrew, by the way, is “missing the mark” – it can be intentional or unintentional, but we all do it. Your vision of Catholicism is so much more negative than anything I’ve ever heard coming from any Catholic.

                  Actually, no, I try my best not to hurt people. I have many faults. I can be very lazy. I can be messy and disorganized. I can be a terrible procrastinator. But cruelty is not something I struggle with. If I do inadvertently hurt someone, it wouldn’t take me years to figure out. And if I do hurt them, then I would go to them and sincerely apologize.

                  But of course “sin” in your church’s eyes doesn’t have to prove harm on earth. It passes the buck and simply invokes eternal consequences. Since you can’t provide evidence of actual harm done by my parents to each other or to me or to society, you’ll just go to your fallback position that everything will become clear in your religion’s afterlife.

                  And I’m not surprised you find my view of Catholicism negative. It is negative. I don’t like what your religion stands for. I think the official version of Catholicism is just as bad as fundamentalist Protestantism, ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and fundamentalist Islam.

                  not to mention the sins against God (e.g. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all you soul and all your mind).

                  I just find that very sad. Do you really not see the parallels between your religion and George Orwell’s 1984? Your deity punishes people for thoughtcrime. It’s like the ultimate Big Brother. “Love me or else.”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Well, of course I’m not surprised that you would be upset about the existence of liberal Catholics who don’t accept the dogma

                  I’m not upset about their existence. There are plenty of lukewarm believers in every religion. They just should not make any pretense of representing Catholicism. Apostates like Biden or Pelosi would be more honest if they would just leave the Church altogether rather than pretending to be faithful Catholics while publicly flaunting much of what Catholicism stands for.

                  if your religion could actually stand on its own, then there would be no need to indoctrinate children

                  Catholicism stands very well on its own. Countless very good and very intelligent people have converted into the Church in every age without any kind of “indoctrination.” (Have you heard of Leah Libresco who used to have an atheist blog on this very website and recently became Catholic? http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/)

                  And again, please stop it with the unfair prejudice. It’s perfectly possible to educate your children in the faith without indoctrinating them. And as if the atheists here on this forum, for example, don’t indoctrinate their kids (or at least those who still believe in having kids) against religion. I can honestly say I have not met a single person here so far who has even a passable understanding of Catholicism – so I can just imagine the nonsense they tell their children about it. Misrepresentations and caricatures are the order of the day (including yours, sorry, but your understanding of Catholicism is anything but correct or mature in any way. What serious Catholic book(s) have you read, actually, to back up your claim that you understand the religion?).

                  So who was hurt when I was conceived? The Catholic church takes a strong stand here. It says my conception was sinful and should not have happened. Since they’re telling me I shouldn’t exist, then they need to provide a concrete reason why not. Which people were hurt? How were they hurt? Why would it be better if I hadn’t been born at all?

                  You were hurt in that you grow up deprived of a dad.

                  And once again, you keep fighting against the imaginary claim that “it would have been better if you hadn’t been born at all” while I never said such a thing. A lot of people are conceived in a situation that involves some sin, e.g. out of wedlock or even children conceived in rape. While the sexual act in many cases is morally problematic, it doesn’t mean that the children born out of these situations “shouldn’t exist.” That would be awful… nowadays probably half of all children born “shouldn’t exist.” So can you please leave that claim to rest? According to the Church you are loved and welcomed in this life just as much as anyone else.

                  But of course “sin” in your church’s eyes doesn’t have to prove harm on earth. It passes the buck and simply invokes eternal consequences.

                  another misrepresentation. Should I begin counting them?

                  I think the official version of Catholicism is just as bad as fundamentalist Protestantism, ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and fundamentalist Islam.

                  Such statements are to me a good proof of the idiocy and total lack of common sense of liberal moral relativism (pardon my candidness). So according to you, all that is bad is to believe in absolute truth, irrespective of the content of this truth? If I follow your train of thought, Mother Teresa and John Paul II are no better than Bin Ladin or other proponents of Islamic Jihad. Our “fundamentalist” beliefs that we should protect the life of babies in the womb and the elderly, that it’s better that kids get married before they have sex, that we should love our neighbor and forgive our enemy, is pretty much equivalent to the islamic beliefs that beating your wife is ok and that blowing yourself up in a restaurant full of kids for the cause of jihad will get you a straight ticket to paradise? (and yes, these actions are based on the teachings of the Quran) How can you, being a smart girl, can seriously say something of such utter stupidity?

                  Do you really not see the parallels between your religion and George Orwell’s 1984? Your deity punishes people for thoughtcrime.

                  Ridiculous. Another misrepresentation. You also have a conscience, and you know very well that your conscience condemns you if you do something wrong. Where does that moral sense come from?

                • Anna

                  I don’t know why liberal Catholics stay in your church, either. I’d encourage them to leave, although for different reasons than you would. I don’t think that decent people should help to support such an institution. Regardless, neither of us can make them leave. If there have to be Catholics, I’d rather have ones like Pelosi and Biden. Obviously, you’d prefer the opposite.

                  Catholicism stands very well on its own. Countless very good and very intelligent people have converted into the Church in every age without any kind of “indoctrination.” (Have you heard of Leah Libresco who used to have an atheist blog on this very website and recently became Catholic?

                  I don’t think it does stand on its own. It is very rare for a person who was not indoctrinated into believing in gods as a young child (which, remember, is almost everyone) to start believing in gods as an adult. I’m not saying they were specifically indoctrinated into Catholicism, but they were indoctrinated with god-belief, certainly, as well as other supernatural beliefs.

                  And, yes, I’ve heard of Leah. I read a couple of posts she made before her official conversion, and I was entirely unsurprised that she became a theist. She was already a dualist, not a materialist. That’s supernaturalism, so her embracing god-belief is not surprising.

                  And again, please stop it with the unfair prejudice

                  I don’t know why you see it as unfair prejudice. You can indoctrinate your kids if you want. I’m just calling it like I see it. Telling children that gods are real is indoctrination in my book. Children aren’t given an option. They’re not presented with the other side. That’s not honest or fair. I see it as manipulating a child’s mind and taking advantage of the fact that children are not intellectually capable of critically examining what the adults are telling them.

                  My boyfriend went to Catholic school. His parents saved all their school material, so I have examined the books from his religion classes. His kindergarten religious textbook was called We Love God. The book tells children that a particular god is real. There’s no other side. There’s no indication that it’s an opinion. It’s presented as a fact. And this book is for five year olds!

                  And as if the atheists here on this forum, for example, don’t indoctrinate their kids (or at least those who still believe in having kids) against religion.

                  Actually, most of us are not fond of indoctrination. I do not plan on telling my children that gods are imaginary. I plan to present them with accurate, objective information about all world religions (past and present), arm them with critical thinking skills, and leave them to figure out what they believe on their own.

                  What serious Catholic book(s) have you read, actually, to back up your claim that you understand the religion?).

                  I need to read specific books to understand your religion? I went to a Catholic university and took three separate religion courses there. I feel I do have quite a good understanding of Catholic theology. I understand why they oppose things like birth control and homosexuality. I just think their reasons are nonsense.

                  You were hurt in that you grow up deprived of a dad.

                  I don’t agree. How was I hurt? What was a father supposed to provide me that my mothers couldn’t? Please be specific.

                  So can you please leave that claim to rest?

                  It’s not an imaginary claim. The previous Pope went out of his way in that Christmas message to say conceptions like mine should not happen. In an ideal Catholic world, I would not have been conceived. Neither would other “out of wedlock” children. That’s telling us we should not exist. I don’t understand how you can act like the Catholic church is totally okay with my existence when they say outright that my conception should never have occurred.

                  another misrepresentation. Should I begin counting them?

                  I apologize if you feel I was misrepresenting you, but you have stated numerous times that the consequences of “sin” are eternal and that they will be clear in the afterlife. I took that to mean that you don’t feel like you have to provide evidence of harm on earth. If that is not the case, then please provide evidence of specific harm my parents have done to each other, me, or to society.

                  Such statements are to me a good proof of the idiocy and total lack of common sense of liberal moral relativism (pardon my candidness). So according to you, all that is bad is to believe in absolute truth, irrespective of the content of this truth? If I follow your train of thought, Mother Teresa and John Paul II are no better than Bin Ladin or other proponents of Islamic Jihad.

                  Sorry, what? I never said anything about terrorism. The vast, vast majority of fundamentalist Muslims are not terrorists. They do, however, follow a fundamentalist religion that I see as intellectually, socially, and psychologically no better than fundamentalist Catholicism, fundamentalist Protestantism, or fundamentalist Judaism. I think they’re all harmful, although the degree of harm also depends on other factors in society, such as theocratic governments. It’s not about believing in what they see as truth; it’s about the harm fundamentalism does to people and to society.

                  Our “fundamentalist” beliefs that we should protect the life of babies in the womb and the elderly, that it’s better that kids get married before they have sex, that we should love our neighbor and forgive our enemy, is pretty much equivalent to the islamic beliefs that beating your wife is ok and that blowing yourself up in a restaurant full of kids for the cause of jihad will get you a straight ticket to paradise? (and yes, these actions are based on the teachings of the Quran)

                  Wow, so you think all Muslims blow themselves up in restaurants and beat their wives? Make no mistake. I abhor fundamentalist Islam. It’s horribly sexist, horribly anti-gay, and horrible for society in general. But so is fundamentalist Catholicism. I think your views on social issues are equally abhorrent.

                  How can you, being a smart girl, can seriously say something of such utter stupidity?

                  Girl? I guess there’s nothing like a bit of extra sexism. I’m a woman, not a girl. How old are you? I may even be older than you are, LOL.

                  Ridiculous. Another misrepresentation. You also have a conscience, and you know very well that your conscience condemns you if you do something wrong. Where does that moral sense come from?

                  Well, it seems readily apparent to me. You say not loving your god is a “sin.” It’s a crime simply to think or feel certain things. A deity that demands love and worship on pain of torture seems very much like Big Brother in the world of 1984. It’s a supernatural dictator instead of an earthly one, but it will torture you all the same. I don’t understand how anyone wouldn’t see the parallels.

                  Of course I have a conscience. I never said people don’t have consciences. I said there was no reason to feel bad or guilty or ashamed of things that don’t hurt other people. There’s no reason anyone would ever feel bad about a loving, consensual relationship unless they had been told that it was wrong.

                  As for a “moral sense,” why on earth would anyone think that something that originates in our brains would have anything to do with the supernatural? There are plenty of books written about the biological and social origins of empathy, altruism, etc.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I don’t think that decent people should help to support such an institution.

                  Here’s the answer to your other post where you asked when you ever expressed condescending views. Yes, you do it in subtler (and more respectful ways, which I do appreciate) than others on this page but it’s hard to deny the condescending tone. I’m not really phased or troubled by it. I’m just pointing it out to illustrate the double standard. You are really upset at points of view that are contrary to yours (such as Emily’s) because they suggest that their world view is “better” than yours, but really you are arguing from the same assumption: that atheism is much more enlightened and better than any religious point of view. Which is ok by me – I respect that you think your point of view is superior to mine.

                  It is very rare for a person who was not indoctrinated into believing in gods as a young child (which, remember, is almost everyone) to start believing in gods as an adult

                  another incorrect statement. Actually there are tons of people, many of them quite intelligent, who grew up with no particular religious belief and then become religious, whether Jewish, Christian or other. Actually, it is your own atheism that doesn’t hold any water and cannot stand on its own if you give it enough critical reflection. Worlds and universes don’t just happen on their own. What caused the Big Bang according to you? What is logic or rational about a massive cosmic explosion occurring in an absolute void and caused by absolutely nothing, resulting in a beautiful and ordered universe, somehow randomly evolving into generating life, and then rational, intelligent life, where people discuss philosophical and religious ideas, where people have an insatiable longing for truth, beauty and goodness? You might as well throw a hand grenade in a supermarket and hope that the explosion will result in in a neatly arranged festive dinner for two, all set up on a table with dishes, cutlery and candles. Really, what is rational about atheism? It violates the basic philosophical of sufficient reason: an effect cannot be greater than its cause. Things don’t come into existence out of nothing – much less a whole universe.

                  The book tells children that a particular god is real. There’s no other side. There’s no indication that it’s an opinion. It’s presented as a fact. And this book is for five year olds!

                  Are you seriously saying that you are disturbed by the fact that a book intended for 5-year olds does not present a whole range of points of view??? That’s really weird. Of course if it’s a catechism text, the idea is to pass on the faith. Again, lots of people have experienced God and know that He is real. You may think that raising children as blank slates, teaching them to believe that there is no such thing as God or truth is good. That secularist point of view is at odds with the universal human experience of all cultures – that it is actually good to pass on the knowledge that we have (especially about God) to our children.

                  I plan to present them with accurate, objective information about all world religions (past and present), arm them with critical thinking skills,

                  ehm, seriously? You really think your point of view on Catholicism is “accurate” and “objective”. You really want me to take you seriously on that? You have repeatedly disproved yourself by your own statements on the matter. Sorry, but your understanding of Christianity is extremely basic. In our discussions you have repeatedly failed to grasp some very elementary concepts.

                  I need to read specific books to understand your religion?

                  actually yes. Not read the Catechism? Thomas Aquinas? Teresa of Avila? Edith Stein? John Paul II? Ratzinger? You cannot name one serious Catholic text you have read, and in the same breath claim that you have “a good understanding of Catholic theology”?

                  I went to a Catholic university and took three separate religion courses there.

                  What kind of a Catholic university? Which one? A faithful one that actually teaches Catholicism or an apostate one like Georgetown or the like?

                  And taking three (vague) religion courses makes you knowledgeable about Christianity? Which courses? What texts did you read? Forgive my skepticism, but I see no evidence that you actually understand Christianity

                  I understand why they oppose things like birth control and homosexuality. I just think their reasons are nonsense.

                  Actually you can’t fully understand the reasons because you have no relationship with God. You have not had a living encounter with Christ, and it’s impossible to fully understand the nature of love (and why these things are harmful to love) without such an encounter.

                  In an ideal Catholic world, I would not have been conceived. Neither would other “out of wedlock” children. That’s telling us we should not exist.

                  No. This is a good example of your repeated failure to understand a very important (and paradoxical) nuance: that yes, there is plenty of sin in the world, and many children are conceived involving some form of sin, and at the same time we ought to welcome into the world and love unconditionally every child, no matter in what circumstances they were conceived.

                  The vast, vast majority of fundamentalist Muslims are not terrorists. They do, however, follow a fundamentalist religion that I see as intellectually, socially, and psychologically no better than fundamentalist Catholicism, fundamentalist Protestantism, or fundamentalist Judaism.

                  I abhor fundamentalist Islam. It’s horribly sexist, horribly anti-gay, and horrible for society in general. But so is fundamentalist Catholicism. I think your views on social issues are equally abhorrent.

                  These statements really show well the intellectual bankruptcy of the moral relativism you espouse. Notice your logical fallacies: I was not talking about people, I was talking about ideologies. Yes, the majority of Muslims are not terrorists. Yes, there are good Muslims and yes there are bad Christians, but that is not the question. What the religions teach is the question. The Quran allows men to marry up to 4 women; it sanctions wife-beating; it encourages jihad, i.e. holy war against non-Muslims; it knows no concept of forgiveness The New Testament and Catholicism stand for forgiveness and love of enemies, the dignity and protection of life from conception to natural death, the dignity and equality of women (though not absolute sameness of roles as you would like), self-sacrifice for the sake of the other, the brotherhood of all people created in the image and likeness of God. Despite these very radical and profound differences in content, you basically equate Islam with “fundamentalist Catholicism” and then have the nerve to say that you understand Christianity?

                  Of course, the ideology does have a real effect: notice where most wars are situated today. Chances are, they will involve Muslims on one side or another. When was the last time you heard of a Christian blowing himself up for the sake of Christianity, screaming “Jesus is Lord!” Yet you make such incredibly misplaced moral equivalencies and want me to take you seriously regarding your opinions of Christianity?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  For the (unfortunately not) last time, we don’t know what caused the Big Bang. That’s the only honest answer we have. We don’t know. Better honest confusion than false certainty, though. And considering how much of the universe is empty space, very close to a perfect vacuum, it’s totally within the bounds of randomness theory and probability that there would be pockets of complexity and order. If the whole universe were full of life, that would be pretty unexplainable, but the fact that a tiny speck of rock on the outskirts of one galaxy has complex life? That’s not weird.

                  It is wrong to indoctrinate five year olds. I don’t intend to indoctrinate mine if I can help it. I’ll tell them some people believe in gods of various types, I’ll teach them myths from all over the world, and I’ll teach them the scientific method. Then I’ll let them decide. I won’t tell them there aren’t any gods, I’ll tell them I don’t think there are any gods.

                  And Anna’s right, fundamentalist anything is really awful. Your ideology is just as bad as fundamentalist Islam, fundamentalist Judaism, fundamentalist Hinduism, fundamentalist Buddhism, or fundamentalist anything. Suicide bombers at least have the courage of their convictions; Christians bomb things or shoot people without suiciding. Scott Roeder and Eric Rudolph are two such examples, as are members of the IRA, Serbian paramilitaries, people burning “witches” alive in Africa, and Timothy McVeigh. Do you know who I suspected in the Boston bombings? Christian or Muslim extremists. I wasn’t able to rule out homegrown American Christian crazy, when I live in the state where a Christian extremist tried to fly his prop plane into an IRS office several years ago. Don’t tell me your religion is “better”, when it too can justify people doing such things.

                  There aren’t very many wars going on today. In Myanmar, Buddhists are killing Muslims, but it’s not a war. In Syria, there’s a civil war, but that’s got pretty much nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being a post-colonial dictatorship that ruled through divide-and-conquer. The Congo is torn apart by civil war(s), but I honestly don’t know the dominant religions in the area. One could kind of call Mexico in a war against drug lords; I don’t know if that counts or not, but the military has definitely been heavily deployed and involved in gun battles. Oh, and Israel/Palestine of course, though that’s not terribly war-like right now. The world is actually pretty peaceful right now, historically speaking.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Feminerd, I know I had a previous discussion with you about the Big Bang. You admitted that you don’t have a satisfactory answer. No matter how you try to explain it away, a self-creating universe is a metaphysical impossibility. Here I was raising the question to Anna.

                  Sorry, but your comments about fundamentalism are morally and intellectually bankrupt. Yes, culturally “Christian” nations go to war, but not *because* they are Christian (at least not since the 16th century, and everyone agrees that if they did previously, it was in total contradiction of Christ’s teachings). Yes you can find (very few) people of Christian background who commit acts of terrorism, but no one tries to justify them as based on Christ’s teachings. Your comments only show that you must be totally ignorant of the difference between the New Testament and the Quran. Have you even read either?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  The universe existed before the Big Bang. It was all condensed into a single point of massive potential energy is all. We don’t know where that energy came from, nor what caused it to go from quiescent to explodey, but all that potential energy (and mass, because energy is mass and mass is energy), but it definitely existed before the Big Bang.

                  I didn’t claim Christians have gone to war as “Christian nations” in a long time. I said fundamentalist Christians are just as bad as fundamentalist anyone, and that is true. The people who bomb abortion clinics or shoot doctors are totally justifying their actions on Christ’s teachings. They are applauded by other Christians who think they stopped mass- murderers, because Jesus taught that conceptuses are people too. I mean, you believe it, so Jesus must have said it, right?

                  I found the Qu’ran to be slightly more war-like and slightly more progressive socially than the New Testament. There’s beautiful poetry and godawful teachings in both. The fact that in Christian countries, secular Enlightenment principles have overriden a lot of the crazy while in Muslim nations, they haven’t, doesn’t mean that Christians are inherently less wrong than Muslims. It means they have better leashes.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The people who bomb abortion clinics or shoot doctors are totally justifying their actions on Christ’s teachings. They are applauded by other Christians who think they stopped mass- murderers, because Jesus taught that conceptuses are people too.

                  Could you please give me some solid evidence to back up your outrageous statement? I mean, not the isolated statement of some lunatic, but examples of “other Christians,” communities or respected pastors who “applaud” the bombing of abortion clinics or shoot doctors?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I have nothing but anecdotes, unfortunately. I unfriended many people on Facebook.

                  And truthfully, “applauded” was too strong a word. Rationalized or supported would be better terms. There was a lot along the lines of “Murder is wrong, but …”. No. Murder is wrong. It’s like saying “I’m not a racist, but …”. The next words out of your (generic your, not you specifically) mouth will almost inevitably be horribly racist.

                  There were a lot of organizations taking that line. If you click here, you will get a lot of links to individuals supporting him and organizations talking around their support for him.

                • Anna

                  On the “decent people” remark, you are right. That could certainly be seen as condescending, which was not my intent.

                  This is a difficult issue. I’m sure you believe you are a good person. I don’t think you have bad intentions. I believe you are sincere. I’m sure you’re trying to do what you think is right. However, I do think your views are fundamentally harmful and immoral, and thus not “decent” in any way.

                  I’m not sure I could call you a “decent person,” based on what you’ve advocated here. That’s not to say you’re all bad. If it helps, I think a lot of good people are trapped in bad religions.

                  another incorrect statement. Actually there are tons of people, many of them quite intelligent, who grew up with no particular religious belief and then become religious

                  Quite true, but most of those people were still taught to assume that gods either exist or are likely to exist. “No particular religious belief” does not mean that they weren’t taught that the supernatural is real.

                  As for your comments on the origins of the universe, as I said somewhere else, I’m really not big on science, but I would encourage you to read more on the topic if it interests you. There are tons of books examining evolution from a non-supernatural point of view.

                  This has no relevance to atheism, however. Atheism is merely a lack of belief in deities. It says nothing about the ultimate origins of the universe. All I would say is that the response to a current scientific mystery should simply be “We don’t know yet,” rather than making up an answer.

                  Are you seriously saying that you are disturbed by the fact that a book intended for 5-year olds does not present a whole range of points of view??? That’s really weird. Of course if it’s a catechism text, the idea is to pass on the faith.

                  Of course it’s expected. I’m just explaining why I find this to be indoctrination. The Catholic church even calls it “faith formation.” The children weren’t born with the faith. The faith has to be formed by adults. The children aren’t told that the supernatural concepts the book presents are simply one opinion out of many.

                  Again, lots of people have experienced God and know that He is real. You may think that raising children as blank slates, teaching them to believe that there is no such thing as God or truth is good. That secularist point of view is at odds with the universal human experience of all cultures – that it is actually good to pass on the knowledge that we have (especially about God) to our children.

                  If they’re your kids, you can do that. Again, I was just explaining why I find it to be indoctrination. It’s not giving them a free choice.

                  ehm, seriously? You really think your point of view on Catholicism is “accurate” and “objective”. You really want me to take you seriously on that?

                  I didn’t say I would talk to my children about Catholicism. Obviously, I have a negative opinion of it, and I would like my children to form their own opinion. I believe I said I would present them with accurate, objective information about all religions, past and present. How about The Usborne Book of World Religions, for a start? I have a copy of this book all ready and waiting to go. I would challenge you to find any bias in its contents.

                  http://www.amazon.com/Usborne-World-Religions-Susan-Meredith/dp/0746067135/ref=dp_ob_title_bk

                  actually yes. Not read the Catechism? Thomas Aquinas? Teresa of Avila? Edith Stein? John Paul II? Ratzinger? You cannot name one serious Catholic text you have read, and in the same breath claim that you have “a good understanding of Catholic theology”?

                  We did read Aquinas. I’m not sure if we read any of the others. Fair enough. I’ll concede your point that I am not an expert on Catholic theology. I feel I have a good basic understanding of it, but I am an outsider, and I am not particularly interested in every little detail.

                  What kind of a Catholic university? Which one? A faithful one that actually teaches Catholicism or an apostate one like Georgetown or the like?

                  Ah, of course, it was not a “real” Catholic university. According to you, it couldn’t have been, because I didn’t meet any fundamentalist Catholics there. I did have some nuns as professors. Also a former Jesuit priest. He was quite interesting. Of course, I’m sure you would tag all of them as apostates.

                  And taking three (vague) religion courses makes you knowledgeable about Christianity? Which courses? What texts did you read? Forgive my skepticism, but I see no evidence that you actually understand Christianity

                  Old Testament, New Testament, and Social Psychology of Religious Values. The last was the most heavily religious. I also took some philosophy courses. It’s so long ago I don’t recall every text we read. New Jerusalem Bible, for sure, accompanied by lectures, Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore, I’m sure we read something by Aquinas. There’s no doubt more I’m not remembering.

                  Actually you can’t fully understand the reasons because you have no relationship with God. You have not had a living encounter with Christ, and it’s impossible to fully understand the nature of love (and why these things are harmful to love) without such an encounter.

                  Well, that’s convenient. You’ve just declared that no one outside your religion can understand your religion. The only way I can understand it is if I already agree with you.

                  No. This is a good example of your repeated failure to understand a very important (and paradoxical) nuance: that yes, there is plenty of sin in the world, and many children are conceived involving some form of sin, and at the same time we ought to welcome into the world and love unconditionally every child, no matter in what circumstances they were conceived.

                  Okay, well, we will have to agree to disagree. A Catholic priest tells a woman “you should not conceive this child!” She doesn’t listen and gets pregnant anyway. The priest then says the child should be welcomed and loved, but he still says the child should not have been conceived in the first place. I don’t see that as welcoming or loving or accepting, but further arguing on this point seems a tad futile.

                  As for your views on Muslims, for such a devout Catholic, you seem unaware that you’re supposed to have a friendlier attitude towards Islam:

                  But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 16, November 21, 1964).

                  The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet… (Second Vatican Council, Nostra Aetate (3), October 28, 1965).

                  Again, I never said their theology was identical, merely that I see no major differences between the fundamentalists of one sect and the fundamentalists of another. I see all fundamentalism as harmful. How much reading have you done about Islam in America, by the way? I just finished a book about a fundamentalist Muslim college in California. You’d fit right in with the founders of that college. They are true-blue social conservatives, just like you are.

                  http://www.amazon.com/Light-without-Fire-Americas-College/dp/0807001635

                  I would not want to live in a Muslim theocracy, but I would similarly not want to live in a Catholic one.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Atheism is merely a lack of belief in deities. It says nothing about the ultimate origins of the universe. All I would say is that the response to a current scientific mystery should simply be “We don’t know yet,” rather than making up an answer.

                  As I said elsewhere, atheism is metaphysically irrational, impossible and untenable. See the link in my other post.

                  The Usborne Book of World Religions: seems like a decent introductory book, had not heard of it.

                  of course, it was not a “real” Catholic university. According to you, it couldn’t have been, because I didn’t meet any fundamentalist Catholics there. I did have some nuns as professors. Also a former Jesuit priest.

                  seriously, which university was it? Is it really so unfair to say that if you want to get a fair picture of Catholicism, you would best learn from people who believe it? Would I learn more about orthodox Judaism by studying with a rabbi over a sabbath meal, or with a liberal agnostic Jew over some pork chops? It doesn’t strike you as a little bit odd and problematic that you got your knowledge of Catholicism from a *former* priest and don’t know a single Catholic who actually believes in Catholicism?

                  You’ve just declared that no one outside your religion can understand your religion.

                  you can understand it partially, I suppose, but only partially. This is because Christianity is not primarily about following doctrines or rules, but about a personal encounter and living relationship with the risen Christ.

                  I know the passages you have cited about Muslims. Note again the same distinction that you keep missing: these passages don’t talk about *Islam* (the ideology/religion) but about *Muslims* (the people). The Vatican II documents try to find and affirm common ground between Christianity and people of other religions including Islam. This doesn’t mean that there are substantial and profound differences in many other respects.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I’m going to leave most of this alone, but the stuff at the very bottom. It’s the same distinction you make between attacking gay people and attacking gay people’s homosexuality. It’s equally erroneous in both places. Do you really think a Muslim is going to feel better if you say, “I like you as a person but your religion is an abomination”? No. They’re going to (rightly) feel attacked. I mean, you yourself have proved it over and over. Every time people say that you seem a nice enough guy, but Catholicism is immoral/evil/wrong/unsupported by evidence/anything negative, you get very defensive. You feel attacked, even though the “sin” and the “sinner” have been separated. That’s because we simply can’t separate them like that; religious identity is at the core of who we feel we are. So is sexual orientation.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Actually I don’t think that’s true. Yes I defend Catholicism because I agree with it, and I don’t like to see it distorted, but I don’t feel personally attacked. All in all, with just a few slips, I find that Anna has been fairly respectful with me though pretty aggressive against Catholicism – so I give her credit for that.

                • Anna

                  As I said elsewhere, atheism is metaphysically irrational, impossible and untenable. See the link in my other post.

                  Well, atheists would disagree! This is, of course, the central disagreement between theists and atheists. Both sides have been arguing about it for thousands of years, so I’m sure neither of us is going to come up with anything new. If you want to understand atheism, I would recommend books written by atheists. What Is Atheism? by Douglas Krueger would be a decent introduction.

                  I’d rather not give the name of the university I attended, merely because it’s small and I still live in the same city, but it’s a well-respected school founded by an order of nuns. And, yes, I did not encounter any fundamentalists there. Although to be fair, perhaps some of my nun professors were, but we didn’t talk about religion in secular classes. Based on their demeanor and what they talked about, my impression is that the nuns were quite progressive. There seemed to be no problem about homosexuality or birth control on campus, for example.

                  I’m well aware you don’t think people who disagree with the Vatican should call themselves Catholics. But just like orthodox Jews are not the only Jews, fundamentalist Catholics are not the only Catholics. In fact, they’re a minority of Catholics, at least in the United States. I’d actually prefer liberal Catholics to leave, although for different reasons than you would. I’m not interested in their theological disagreements. I care about what their belief system does to the world around them.

                  In any case, I know you think I should have been educated by priests and nuns who were loyal to the Vatican and that my Catholic university was not really Catholic. Fair enough, but I just pointed to that to show that I have a basic understanding of your religion. I mean, I did slog through the entire New Jerusalem Bible, so give me some credit for that, LOL. I may not be an expert on every detail, but since I don’t even accept the foundational premise, arguing about theological details seems a little silly.

                  you can understand it partially, I suppose, but only partially. This is because Christianity is not primarily about following doctrines or rules, but about a personal encounter and living relationship with the risen Christ.

                  Well, it just seems awfully convenient to declare that the only people who can fully understand are those who already accept that your claims are true.

                  As for Islam, I don’t believe I ever tried to argue that your religions were similar theologically, only that I don’t see the fundamentalists of one as being different from the fundamentalists of another. Heck, if Hinduism and Buddhism have fundamentalists, I’ll throw them in with the Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, too. I don’t care about theology. It really doesn’t even interest me. I’m looking at the way those religions expect their followers to behave.

                • 3lemenope

                  Based on their demeanor and what they talked about, my impression is that the nuns were quite progressive.

                  Nuns tend to be progressive, to the point where disagreements between the female orders and the church hierarchy have become downright vicious. It is, for my money, the most underplayed inside-the-Vatican story out there and the one most likely to seriously undermine the continuity of the church going forward.

                  Heck, if Hinduism and Buddhism have fundamentalists, I’ll throw them in with the Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims, too.

                  They do indeed. Pretty nasty ones, too. Even Sikhs and Jains have fundies. Two fundie Sikhs assassinated the Prime Minister of India not so long ago.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Sadly, those other religions do have fundamentalists too. Fundamentalist Hindus stir up trouble in India on a regular basis (by “trouble”, I mean “mobs that go through Muslim sections of town burning things and beating people”). The Buddhists in Myanmar discriminate horribly against the Muslim minority; a law was recently proposed to limit Muslim families only to two children. I don’t know if it passed or not.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Well, atheists would disagree! This is, of course, the central disagreement between theists and atheists.

                  they might disagree but that can’t answer the claim that a universe can’t self-create. Atheism is ultimately irrational. What is there to understand about it? That there is no God and that we are the result of pure chance, little more than intelligent animals, and that our ultimate destiny is to lose everything we hold dear and rot in the ground?

                  I’m well aware you don’t think people who disagree with the Vatican should call themselves Catholics.

                  no, I’m fine if they call themselves Catholics, they just shouldn’t claim to represent Catholicism.

                • Anna

                  Claiming that atheism is irrational doesn’t make it so. Although atheism has nothing to do with the origins of the universe, I’m not the best person to discuss that. I’d have to point you to actual scientists. There are plenty of books written on the subject. I’m sure someone else could suggest titles.

                  What is there to understand about it? That there is no God and that we are the result of pure chance, little more than intelligent animals, and that our ultimate destiny is to lose everything we hold dear and rot in the ground?

                  I understand the appeal of afterlife scenarios, but I’m afraid I don’t think there is evidence to support any of your supernatural assumptions. Out of curiosity, have you read any books on atheism?

                  no, I’m fine if they call themselves Catholics, they just shouldn’t claim to represent Catholicism.

                  Fair enough, but I don’t think either of us can stop them.

          • Oranje

            That would be an objective truth only if they still had the power of the Inquisition. Otherwise it’s a statement of faith, by definition subjective. I do not believe moral relativism is any form of sinking. It is the discovery that difference is not something to fear and that what is right for one (or even the majority) is not necessarily right for all. I am not in a conventional relationship (my wife and I are open) and I rather resent the implication that somehow how I live is below anyone else.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              Since you are for diverse opinions, then why not be open to other points of view then?

              • TheG

                Being open to viewpoints that are for refusing to accept other viewpoints just isn’t the same. For example, intolerance of bigots doesn’t make someone a bigot. Not tolerating pedophiles isn’t a negative viewpoint. You’re just trying to use semantic mumbojumbo to obscure the point.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I agree with you that some actions need to be absolutely rejected, and in some cases viewed as criminal (e.g. pedophilia).

                  However, define “bigot”: many would like to define it as “anyone who doesn’t agree with secularist/hedonist views of just about anything goes in matters of sexuality.”

                  I find it to be very problematic that people who view marriage as the faithful union between man and woman to be increasingly viewed as “bigots”. Now that is totalitarianism.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  I reject your attempt to combine secularism and hedonism. You don’t speak for me, you don’t know me.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Fair enough, perhaps is was too much of a sweeping generalization, but it seems to me that both often go hand in hand.

                • 3lemenope

                  What atheists do you hang out with?

                  And why do you get invited to all the hedonistic drug and sex parties? The invitations are wasted on you. Where’s *my* invitation?! :)

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Before and up to my conversion, most of my friends were atheists and/or agnostics. Many of them remain my friends, so it’s not like I”m making this up.

                • 3lemenope

                  So, what were your favorite activities at the sex and drug parties? Any good combos?

                • Blacksheep

                  Sorry Andre – I’m pretty much on your side here but I laughed out loud when I read this. maube it’s the combination of the line and the deadpan photo of 3lemonope.

                • b s

                  Personally, I like snorting meth off the ass of a male hooker.

                  Oh, wait, that was someone else.

                • TheG

                  Again, assuming that your experience is the only one. I’m aware of drug and sex parties, but I’ve never been to one that was exclusively or even mostly with secularist people. That doesn’t mean I assume that there aren’t those kind of parties out there, but then again I have more than one marble rolling around in my head.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  If they remain your friends, you must not be sharing this new attitude of yours with them.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  Which is why I prefer to actually investigate and ask people questions. What seems to someone often has a nasty habit of being totally bogus.

                • TheG

                  With Catholics having a lavish, gold encrusted city, megachurch pastors having their own mansions and jets, whole holidays centered around feasts and presents, and entire banks founded on religious monies, I’m sure the same argument could be made that hedonism goes hand in and with Christianity.

                  Boy, you aren’t very good at this game.

                • Oranje

                  You’re arguing a strawman there, don’t you think? The application of the term bigot has much more to do with those who would deny equal rights to people different from them. If you are applying your brand of morality to everyone through being in a position of power, then that’s a problem. But you’re beating up a statement that is skewed to make you look innocent.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  There’s no such thing as absolute equal rights regarding roles in society: a six-year old child doesn’t have the “right” to drive; a blind person doesn’t have the right to get a pilot’s license; an 80-year old man doesn’t have the ‘right’ to be a policeman. A woman doesn’t have the “right” to be a father. This doesn’t detract from their equal dignity as human beings, but it does show that there are different roles for different people.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  And you’re trying to force unequal roles on people for no legitimate reason. Good job, Nazi.

                • TheG

                  I’m sorry, but there is no equality between positions. If I tell a child not to bully other children, that doesn’t make me a bully.

                  The problem with your definition is that it has several fallacies (that have been pointed out to you many times before) such as that secularism = hedonism (it doesn’t), hedonism = “anything goes” (it doesn’t), and that calling someone a bigot for trying to limit the rights of others is totalitarianism but limiting the rights of others for reasons outside of the law is not totalitarianism.

                  Why is it totalitarianism when you are on losing side but not totalitarianism when you are on the winning side? I mean, other than blatant hypocrisy?

                  ETA: The reason I’m not a bigot for calling people who hold the viewpoint of “traditional marriage” is because I’m not advocating that such small minded people should have their rights restricted. If any of the supposed defenders of marriage said “I believe in man-woman marriage only, but I don’t have the right to stop same sex couples from getting married”, I wouldn’t think they were ALL bigots. As soon as I say “You’re a Christian, you can’t own land” or “Christians can get married, just not to others of the same faith”, then I can be called a bigot.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  That’s reasonably fair. I concede that secularism is not necessarily equal to hedonism for everyone, but the fact is that they often go hand in hand.

                  Question is, who gets to define marriage? Is it a purely social construct? If so, what prevents you from declaring polygamy or bestiality as alternate forms of “marriage”? There are plenty of arguments against the redefinition of marriage that are not necessarily based on religion. Undermine the basic cell of society and you (or the next generation, if they are not all contracepted or aborted) will certainly see the bitter fruits of such dangerous social experiments.

                • Michael Harrison

                  Andre: When you can sell a house to a dog, I’ll buy your claim of bestiality equivalence. Until then, your comparison of a consensual same sex relationship to sex with animals is disgusting.

                  As for me, it’s been my experience that most secular folk buy into the typical relationship pattern of one couple, committed to each other (I personally couldn’t bring myself to subject another person to being stuck in a relationship with someone who has my issues).

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I realize the comparison is disgusting, but the point was that a morality exclusively based on “mutual consent” doesn’t go very far.

                • Nate Frein

                  No, the comparison is entirely not germane (in addition to being disgusting).

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  How not? Mutual consent excludes things that hurt unwilling participants and people unable to give consent. That rules out rape, pedophilia, and bestiality. It requires that all participants consent, which rules out cheating on one’s partner (the partner is part of the relationship, so must consent to any and all sex both within and outside of the relationship). It lets adults set their own rules, while protecting children and others who cannot consent for whatever reason. It sets up rape as the worst sexual crime one can commit, which is accurate; it respects all persons as persons who can decide for themselves what sexual rules to follow. If a Catholic wants to follow RCC rules, a consent-based framework allows that. What more could you possibly ask for than an ethical framework that allows choice while still protecting people?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  As I said, I think consent forms an important part of civil morality. I just think it also has its limits. As I wrote elsewhere, if consent is the only norm, then you have the culture of death of abortion and euthanasia (where those unable to give their consent can be disposed of at will), overdosing on heroin would be no problem (since the drug addict wants it). Suicide would also not be a moral problem, since the person chooses to die.

                  I just think we are called to a much higher moral standard than that.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  A “much higher moral standard”, where women are forced to get pregnant, forced to remain pregnant, and forced to give birth, and forced to raise the resulting children in crushing poverty ‘cuz after all, if she didn’t want a baby, she shouldn’t have spread her legs, the whore! Where the terminally ill are forced to suffer, because it’s “immoral” to allow them to die with a little fucking dignity — meanwhile we treat Fido and Fluffy far better, “putting them down” when they’re too sick or in too much pain to keep living.

                  Yeah… that’s a “higher moral standard”…

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  sigh… it is saddening to see that you continue to draw these ridiculous caricatures of Christianity. I’m sorry you have been so wounded that you have such a distorted picture of it. I wish you knew some of my beautiful women friends who love God, the faith and the Church. My Catholic women friends are the most beautiful, radiant and joyful girls I know.

                • Stev84

                  It’s not a distortion, but the cold, naked truth:

                  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brazil-rocked-by-abortion-for-9yearold-rape-victim-1640165.html
                  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/05/chile-abortion-debate_n_3551960.html
                  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22763510

                  And Catholic hospitals in the US are commanded by bishops to ignore (non-Catholic) patients’ wishes about end-of-life care if they conflict with church dogma. You can look it up in black on white.

                  Again, you’re living in an alternate reality.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  ignore wishes about end-of-life care? That’s ridiculous. “Church dogma” only speaks in favor of preserving life. So it will oppose abortion and euthanasia obviously, but never end-of-life care.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Church dogma will not allow people’s DNRs to be respected. It won’t allow people to be taken off respirators when they and their families wish it. They will forcefully keep people alive who have no hope of ever living again, against the wishes of that person.

                  That is all part of end-of-life care. As Stev84 showed, the RCC cares so much about its dogma it doesn’t care about hurting real people who come to them for care. That doesn’t even take into account people like Savita Halappanavar- the Church murdered her.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Except my wishes for end of life care include euthanasia.

                  I don’t want to be kept alive and in pain just because your stupid church wants to “preserve life”.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Ok, but putting someone to death is not “care” in any sense of the word.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  So, you admit that your church advocates “preserving life” at the cost of a person’s quality of life, dignity, and bodily autonomy. And all because God.

                • Stev84

                  More lying for Jesus. Why don’t you read your cult’s own documents?
                  http://www.usccb.org/about/doctrine/ethical-and-religious-directives/

                  “The institution, however, will not honor an advance directive that is contrary to Catholic teachings.”

                  “The free and informed judgment made by a competent and adult patient concerning the use and withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures should always be respected and normally complied with unless it is contrary to Catholic moral teaching.”

                  Nothing but doublespeak. Again, they are doing this to non-Catholics who have no choice but to be there because there are no alternatives available, since the Catholic Church bought all the hospitals in the area.. Your sick cult glorifies suffering and misery. See also Mother Theresa.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Only people can give consent. Fetuses aren’t people. And even if they were, the mother’s bodily autonomy comes first. You know that. If I don’t get to steal your liver lobe, a fetus doesn’t get to steal my uterus. Consent has to be mutual, remember, so if a woman doesn’t consent to be pregnant, she doesn’t have to be. It’s the exact same moral reasoning that says if one person wants sex and the other person doesn’t, sex doesn’t happen because people get to control their own bodies.

                  As for euthanasia, if the person doesn’t give consent we call that murder. If they do consent, I don’t see a moral problem. Some people want to suicide and are simply too sick to do it themselves; that’s the point of euthanasia being allowed. Consent operates perfectly in the cases of abortion and euthanasia both. Try again.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  great. You’ve just rationalized away the callous murder of over 50 million babies in the womb (not to mention the inevitable slippery slope of the many cases in Holland, Belgium, etc… where people are increasingly “euthanized” without their consent). And then you wonder why many people see secularist morality as problematic if not sub-human.

                • Michael Harrison

                  A girl living in poverty, gets an abortion? Oh, she deserves whatever risk she takes with a back-alley procedure. Death from punctured uterus is too good for her.

                  But plenty of these anti-abortion activists, if their precious little angel gets knocked up, they’ll make the appointment themselves. Take care of the hypocrisy in your own ranks first.

                • Nate Frein

                  (not to mention the inevitable slippery slope of the many cases in Holland, Belgium, etc… where people are increasingly “euthanized” without their consent).

                  Citation seriously fucking needed, asshole.

                  And “babies” aren’t killed in the womb. parasites are. Cancer is as human as a fetus is, and getting rid of an unwanted fetus is as immoral as excising a cancer.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  You’ve just stupidly equated killing a blastocyst with murder, and then you wonder why you’re dismissed as an idiot.

                  That fifty million number, by the way, includes all lifesaving abortions and documented miscarriages. It was deliberately inflated for the same reason the people who manipulate you with lies about womens’ health use dishonest language: to keep you outraged and doing their bidding. You’re pretty gullible, Nazi.

                • Nate Frein

                  Not to mention that, by that logic, “god” is the worst abortionist in history…

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  “Callous murder of babies in the womb” How many people die on organ transplant waiting lists? Were they all callously murdered by people who are just too damned attached to controlling their bodies and couldn’t be bothered with the inconvenience of organ donation?

                  People euthanized without consent- [citation needed]. I’ve seen that claim before, but shockingly, when it got studied by reputable researchers, they didn’t find anything like that. Instead, they found that the laws intended to make sure that people really truly mean it, aren’t depressed, and aren’t being coerced do actually work. You really need to expand your sources outside of RCC failpropaganda sites.

                  You think people simply can’t be trusted to control their own lives. And then you wonder why many people see Catholic morality as problematic if not sub-human.

                • Michael Harrison

                  DOGS CAN’T CONSENT.

                • RobMcCune

                  Fortunately dinosaurs can.

                  http://youtu.be/k7cX5TdR8iM?t=8s

                • Michael Harrison

                  I’m pretty sure a Silurian would take offense at being called a dinosaur.

                • b s

                  “I concede that secularism is not necessarily equal to hedonism for everyone, but the fact is that they often go hand in hand.”

                  Exactly what definition of secularism are you using to come to this conclusion?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Since secularism has no real standard of morality apart from mutual consent, it easily follows that “anything goes” as long as two (or more) people agree to do it. I realize not everyone takes the idea to this logical conclusion, but it’s certainly easier to get there than when you have a divine lawgiver who is the author of an objective morality binding on all people.

                • Nate Frein

                  Since secularism has no real standard of morality apart from mutual consent, it easily follows that “anything goes” as long as two (or more) people agree to do it.

                  *bzzzt*
                  Wrong!

                  That does not follow. At all. Two people deciding to do something that harms a third party (or imposes on a third party in a significant way) without the consent of a third party is still wrong.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  yes, but just about anything goes between consenting partners: polygamy, orgies, etc… a bunch of consenting people can do pretty awful things together

                • Nate Frein

                  How does it hurt you?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You’re right, it doesn’t. They only hurt themselves. As long as they don’t try to legislate such things as equivalent to marriage.

                • Nate Frein

                  How does giving gay couples the same secular benefits as straight couples hurt you?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  I’m sorry, what? “They only hurt themselves”?

                  No, sweetie, what’s hurting me (and others) is YOUR HATRED AND BIGOTRY.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  I’m guessing he’s upset that he’s never invited to those fabulous hedonistic drug-fueled orgies…

                  <100% tongue in cheek, no malice intended.>

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yeah, pretty awful things that harm nobody. That’s just the worst. thing. EVAR.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  By engaging in sexual immorality they harm their own ability to truly love (giving themselves as a total gift to their spouse), not to mention the spiritual effects of the sin.

                • Nate Frein

                  Side effects you have no evidence for…

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  true, but human experience can attest that multiple partners reduces one’s ability to fully give oneself in total faithfulness to one’s spouse.

                • Michael Harrison

                  And some people can’t give themselves in total faithfulness to one’s spouse even without other mates.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  yes certainly… faithfulness for life is not easy even in the best circumstances. However God’s grace makes it possible.

                • Nate Frein

                  Funny, my experiences with my past partners taught me how to be a better partner to my future partners.

                • Michael Harrison

                  From the textbook used in the physiological psychology course I took. “Bailey et al. (1993) found that the concordance of female monozygotic
                  twins for homosexuality was 48 percent, while that of dizygotic twins
                  was 16 percent.” Looked up the article title: “Genetic and Environmental Influences on Sexual Orientation and Its Correlates in an Australian Twin Sample”

                • Michael Harrison

                  Totally wrong article title — that one was from 2000. I used Google Scholar this time:

                  Heritable Factors Influence Sexual Orientation in Women

                • Michael Harrison

                  Also, “Another study, by Pattatucci and Hamer (1995), found an increased
                  incidence of homosexuality and bisexuality in sisters, daughters,
                  nieces, and female cousins (through a paternal uncle) of homosexual
                  women.” Article title:

                  Development and familiality of sexual orientation in females

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  That would not surprise me, but who says it’s genetic and not the product of the education/conditioning of the environment in which they grew up?

                • Michael Harrison

                  A fair question; I have no idea how they’d control that variable. Studying gay women and any blood relatives adopted out of the family would be problematic.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  It’s a combination of genetics and epigenetics. The latter affects how the former is expressed. Please read about something before spending your life being a bigot over it.

                • b s

                  “Since secularism has no real standard of morality apart from mutual consent, it easily follows that “anything goes” as long as two (or more) people agree to do it. ”

                  As nate just beat me to it, you are wrong. Even if you want to state that secularism has no standard of morality, how do you get from that to it and hedonism often going “hand in hand”?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  No it isn’t. Totalitarianism would be to say you’re not allowed to say that or think it, with fines and/or jail time for it. Calling people who think that some people’s loves are worth less than other people’s loves because of arbitrary measures of genitalia bigots is just accurate. It carries nothing but social stigma. You’re still totally allowed to believe and/or say your awful, bigoted things; almost everyone here has repeatedly assured you of that.

                  Totalitarianism: that word doesn’t mean what you think it means.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I appreciate your magnanimity in allowing me to speak my “bigoted” views. However, the tendency towards anti-Christian totalitarianism is not exaggerated. For example: http://goo.gl/2wKKT

                  And by the way, human anatomy (not just “genitalia”) seems to me to be anything but “arbitrary”. If that’s not an objective criterion, then what is?

                • Michael Harrison

                  From the link Andre provided: “German history teaches us that long before NAZIs got to the stage of
                  people ovens, first came the systematic vilification of Jews in society
                  and gradual suppression of their legal rights.”

                  Care to take a guess as to what other groups might have been persecuted by the Nazis?

                • Michael Harrison

                  For the record: I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume you didn’t read the article with enough attention to notice the invocation of Godwin’s law. Because the comparison of a few emotional outbursts, no matter how scary, to the SYSTEMATIC, GOVERNMENT-SANCTIONED MURDER of members of groups considered undesirable is where I draw the line.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  He didn’t even read it with enough attention to notice its attempt to paint victimizer as victim in order to justify others. Y’know, as the Nazis are documented as having done.

                  I think I’ll refer to Andre as a Nazi from here on out. He wanted to lay down with dogs, so hey.

                • Michael Harrison

                  Is that really necessary? I get a gut feeling telling me it cheapens the historical tragedy, and I don’t think Andre’s worth it.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  who? homosexuals? no one here is talking about persecuting homosexuals. The question is about whether people have a right to redefine marriage.

                • Nate Frein

                  When the term “marriage” is attached to secular benefits and responsibilities, then those secular benefits should be given without sectarian restrictions.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You may think that marriage is a purely arbitrary human arrangement that people have the right to construct and deconstruct as they wish. Lots of people of many different faiths disagree with that.

                • Nate Frein

                  Why should your (and their) views impact my ability to get government benefits?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Dammit Nate, why you gotta be all concise like that? I was going my usual overly-verbose route and you just cut right to the chase.

                  Well done.

                • Nate Frein

                  I love your posts. You articulate complex arguments much better than I can.

                • Stev84

                  So what? Why should we care what people of faith think? Legislation (ideally) isn’t based on faith. Such laws get passed now and then, but unless they have an additional secular justification they will be struck down by the courts eventually.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Right, like the people of the Christian and Jewish faiths from 90% of those faith’s histories, when marriage was primarily a business matter that didn’t even involve the woman’s opinion.

                  Oh, that pesky history.

                • Stev84

                  There we go again with the silly buzzwords.

                • Scott_In_OH

                  The question is about whether people have a right to redefine marriage.

                  Surely you have seen some of the many, many discussions of how the definition of “traditional marriage” today is vastly different from what it was in, say, biblical times. People have redefined marriage time and again. (And each time, social conservatives have objected vehemently right up to the point when they realize God was actually OK with, say, inter-racial marriage all along.)

                • Dez

                  Thankfully marriage was redefined by the Loving case so now I can marry my boyfriend of another race. Many racists have used the same arguments that you have used to deny marriage to gays.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  These are not the same at all. No one chooses to be born of a certain race. There is nothing moral or immoral about one’s race.

                  http://www.cfcidaho.org/isn039t-banning-gay-marriage-just-banning-interracial-marriage

                  By contract, no one is born gay, as this gay website honestly affirms: http://socialinqueery.com/2013/03/18/no-one-is-born-gay-or-straight-here-are-5-reasons-why/

                • Nate Frein

                  So when did you choose to be straight?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I choose to reject sin and seek holiness every day of my life (with varying degrees of success). And I do my best to nottry to rationalize sin in order to continue committing it.

                • Dez

                  Since you choose to be a Christian can we then discriminate against you since it a choice we feel is wrong and harmful to society?

                • SecularStomper

                  Discriminate all you want, but if you believe in evolution, then you
                  believe in ‘survival of the fittest’… Christians have done a great job
                  at climbing to the top of society’s hierarchy and pushing atheists back
                  into the closet (and the Internet) so you can keep crying and picking
                  on him and other Christians all you want but it doesn’t change the fact
                  that YOU are the minority because Christians are superior, otherwise,
                  atheists would be the majority XD, hence why you ARE inferior, Dez

                • Michael Harrison

                  If you’re going to use the notion, at least don’t misuse it. Evolutionary success does not indicate moral rectitude–in fact, the tendency of an ichneumon wasp to bury its young in a living caterpillar horrified Darwin. (Politics warning!) Should we also celebrate bankers who thrived off screwing over poor people? No–science tells us how the world is, not how the world should be. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE.

                • phantomreader42

                  But learning is the most unthinkable and unforgivable sin in his sick death cult.

                • Nate Frein

                  Last I checked, the non-religious demographic was growing, cupcake.

                • LovingChristian

                  Aww, I bet that little statistic makes you feel better huh? Maybe we’ll have an atheist President in the future and we won’t have to hide online anymore :(

                • Nate Frein

                  Cupcake, I’m as open about my atheism offline as I am online.

                • RobMcCune

                  You know you’re saying that to a person who used their actual name online SecularStomper atheistduuuurp Whatyougonnado AtheistStomper LovingChristian

                • LovingChristian

                  Your point? It doesn’t subtract the cowardice associated with atheism. But I guess it feels safer for you atheists online in your little shells, not being the majority and all :(

                • RobMcCune

                  I’m fine not being in the majority, you on the other hand are coward despite going around bragging about how much supposed “backup” you have.

                • Stev84

                  And like a typical Christian you don’t understand what “survival of the fittest means”.

                  Though it could be argued that Christians have perfectly adapted to their social niche: parting fools from their money.

                • RobMcCune

                  You shall know christians by their love, which in this case is hateful bigotry.

                • Dez

                  Lol. Are you for real? So much to unpack. Atheism doesn’t equal belief in evolution. It’s just the lack of belief in deities. Also you just admitted Christians have successfully persecuted atheists. It’s disturbing you find that as a great quality of being Christian. Then you assert the majority is always right because there is more of them. So you’re proud to be a superior , stronger, and religious majority that can persecute a minority. Do I really have to state the obvious example from history why that mindset is horrifying?

                • SecularStomper

                  History is written by the winners. If WW2 went the other way, YOU (Dez, a black woman) probably would not exist, or you’d be a slave most likely, born into servitude. Progress isn’t always pretty but at the end of the day someone comes out on top. Consider yourself lucky that it is only Christians in the majority and not the Nazis, Taliban or something. As for Christians persecuting atheists, well, it happened to us too, but we came out on top, thus we are superior, so stop bitching about being “persecuted”

                • Dez

                  Wrong. If it were not for our secular government Christians will still be enslaving my family and killing more Jews. Our secular laws keep Christians from the savagery sharia law inflicts on the middle east. Despite Christians anti-gay, anti-woman, and anti-religious freedom views society is progressing without you. I was able to marry my boyfriend of another race because society fought back against Christian bigotry against interracial marriage.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Better yet, we have actual proof of Christianity harming society!

                • Dez

                  And no evidence that gays have or will harm society. If there was prop. 8 supporters would be celebrating. Lol

                • Hat Stealer

                  Silly Dez! You’re only allowed to do that if you’re in the majority!

                • Dez

                  Sorry but not in this country. Thankfully we are not a theocracy. The middle east would be more your taste.

                • Hat Stealer

                  Thankfully. However, this seems to be the mentality of many Christians and conservatives in this country right now. “This country was founded with me in mind; I am in the majority; therefore I can do whatever I want.” It’s a problem.

                • Nate Frein

                  Since I don’t believe in sin, I have no need to rationalize it.
                  On the other hand, you’ve been spending most of your time in this thread rationalizing your hate.

                • Tom

                  So when did you choose to be straight?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I answered you. We all have temptations, whether to same-sex or to opposite sex, that should be resisted and rejected, not indulged in. I do my best to reject such temptations every day.

                • Tom

                  So when did you choose to be tempted only by straight people?

                • Tom

                  Or rather, only by people of the opposite sex, which is what I meant to say and would make my last post not be nonsense.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  we don’t choose temptations, they come to us. Yield to them and they turn into sin, then vices and addictions. Resist them, with God’s help, and you will grow in virtue and holiness.

                • Tom

                  You do realise you just flat-out admitted that being gay isn’t a choice, right?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  yes, I know that same sex attraction isn’t a choice in many cases.

                • Tom

                  You directly contradict yourself. In this very thread, you have already plainly stated that you believed nobody is born gay, and used this to argue the falseness of the analogy between racist bigots and homophobic bigots.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, there is no contradiction. If someone is “born gay” does that mean that someone can be born an adulterer or with an addiction to pornography? Is it one’s fault that a man feels attracted to a woman who is not his wife, or generally to pictures of naked female bodies? No. Was he born that way? You could say that because we are sexual beings he has the potential for feeling all sorts of attractions. It doesn’t mean that these attractions are good and should be indulged in, or that anyone is “born an adulterer” because he feels attractions to women other than his wife.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  That entirely depends on if his wife is OK with an open relationship or not, actually. Some couples do accept extramarital sex, though most do not. Sexual feelings aren’t inherently wrong. Acting on the feelings isn’t inherently wrong. The only wrong is in doing things one’s partner(s) haven’t consented to. The cultural norm is exclusive monogamy, so anything outside that has to be very carefully negotiated and communicated, but people do make it work and are happy with the results. As long as gay people aren’t cheating on anyone, there’s nothing wrong with gay sex. So long as it’s safe, it’s not like the sex itself is a moral problem!

                  Heck, married couples engaging in threesomes isn’t that uncommon!

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Who is it who was adamant that secularism doesn’t lead to hedonism? Where are they now? It sounds to me pretty much like “anything goes” as long as they agree to it?

                  For someone who advocates a relativistic morality, you speak using a lot of absolutes.

                  Acting on the feelings isn’t inherently wrong.
                  Says who? Evidence?

                  The only wrong is in doing things one’s partner(s) haven’t consented to.
                  Evidence?

                  As long as gay people aren’t cheating on anyone, there’s nothing wrong with gay sex.
                  Nothing wrong according what standard? Your own?

                  So long as it’s safe, it’s not like the sex itself is a moral problem!

                  Evidence?

                  What troubles me more about this vision of morality: what is true love to you? Is this the vision of “love” that you had when you were younger and more innocent?

                • Stev84

                  And again with the “relativism” BS. You are a broken record.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Secular morality is anything goes so long as it harms no one. Hedonism doesn’t have that important little caveat at the back end of it, which is why it has so many negative connotations. Pursuing pleasure at the expense of everything else isn’t healthy. Denying pleasure because an invisible sky wizard said so is also not healthy. There is a middle ground.

                  Evidence that poly relationships work? There haven’t been a lot of studies, but I know people in them. JT here at Patheos is or has been poly. So is Greta Christina over at FTB. Read what they have to say about it. Anecdotally, poly relationships seem to be just as healthy or moreso than monogamous ones, because the communication required is constant and honest. Constant, honest communication is absolutely necessary to a relationship working. I unfortunately don’t have any better evidence than anecdotes, but then again, you have no evidence whatsoever, so …

                  Any sane moral standard would see nothing wrong with any sex between mutually consenting adults. It’s the only way to both protect people and preserve liberty at the same time. The evidence is all around us; gay sex hasn’t ushered in the apocalypse. Neither did free love or swinging. Neither have polyamorous relationships. Society works just fine so long as everyone respects everyone else’s boundaries; it actually works better in an ethical system based on mutual respect for personhood instead of “Godsaidso”. That is based on centuries of empirical evidence. Sex is not immoral or dirty or shameful. That’s a uniquely Christian thing. It’s one of the worst things about the religion, how it twists people’s natural sexual desires into something to be ashamed of.

                  True love, to me, is an emotional connection. It involves wanting the best for another person, while knowing that they want the best for me. It means helping the other person grow into the best version of themself they can be, and they help me do the same. It means supporting each others’ dreams and hopes and goals. It also means finding the ways we can’t help each other and finding other ways or other people who can. It means being open and honest and trusting; it means being vulnerable. It certainly can include sexual fidelity, but it doesn’t have to. My marriage is monogamous- I am not naturally so, though it’s not a huge burden either, but my husband is, so when we talked it over I decided that I loved him enough to give up on a polyamorous relationship. The key point is we talked about it; we had a hard, brutal, open conversation touching on our most vulnerable thoughts and feelings. Would our love be any less if we’d jointly decided I could seek outside our marriage for sex, instead of deciding I couldn’t? And no, this isn’t exactly how I though of true love when I was younger, but aren’t we supposed to learn and grow as we get older? I’d be ashamed to be stuck in a teenage girl’s whimsies for my thoughts on just about anything, love and relationships especially. Like everyone, I was an idiot at 16.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  your secular morality sounds a lot like hedonism to me.

                  By the way, no Christian thinks that sex is “immoral or dirty or shameful.” Another point for misrepresenting Christianity.

                  Are you seriously saying that you think you can have sex with someone else than your husband without this affecting your love for him? Do you really think you can honestly give your body and what is most intimate in you without something of your deepest self remaining with that person?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  If secularism sounds like hedonism to you, that’s because you haven’t been paying attention. It’s about first principles. Secular humanism’s* first principle is similar to the Hippocratic Oath- “First, do no harm”. Hedonism’s first principle is “Do what feels good”. That’s hugely different, even if some of the activities both condone are the same. The reason they are ethical is different, which makes all the difference in the world for it being a valid or not-valid ethical structure.

                  Have you never been to an abstinence only sex ed class? They tell girls that sex makes them impure. They compare the girls to a broken rose petal, a cup of spit, a worn shoe, dirty useless tape, and other such lovely images; it was sex that dirtied them, and how could sex make you dirty if it wasn’t dirty itself? They tell girls that those who have sex are immoral, dirty, and shameful. Don’t tell me I’m misrepresenting how Christianity represents sex- if they didn’t see sex as being dirty, why would Catholics venerate the Virgin Mary? You really don’t understand what your words mean, do you?

                  The heart is not a loaf of bread. Giving some of it to someone doesn’t reduce what I feel for other people. And yeah, I’ve had sex with people before that was just fun; friends with benefits has its place.

                  *What you’ve been calling secularism is actually secular humanism. Secularism is much more political and less philosophical- it requires governments and public accommodations to be entirely neutral (secular) and not give any privilege to any religious position, nor disadvantage any religious position. In other words, stay out of religion entirely, and keep religion out of government entirely.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The Hippocratic Oath? Seriously? How do you reconcile that with your support for the slaughter of the unborn? It seems to me rather inconsistent – oh right, you said they are not human, they are just parasites… Don’t know if you heard of this recent story: http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/our-son-lived-only-minutes-after-birth-but-has-touched-thousands/

                  By the way, I am a professor of theology and Scripture. I think I can tell when someone is misrepresenting Christianity. Believe me, you more than qualify. Once again, the Church sees sex as something wonderful. How could it be otherwise? If God who is absolute goodness (in our view) created the world including humans, it means that he is the one who came up with the idea of sex for us to love each other and procreate. Since God made man in His image as male and female, this means that the sexual union in marriage is not only good, it reveals something about God’s own nature. This is the basis of John Paul II’s extensive teachings on love and sex that are now called the “Theology of the Body” (http://www.theologicalclowning.org/totb.html)

                  The fact that we love the virgin Mary does not mean that sex is bad. Her virginity is exalted not because she avoided something bad in sex, it is exalted because she was totally consecrated to God. It’s not a contrast between good and bad, it’s between good and better.

                  I have never heard of such an awful abstinence sex class like the one you describe. Was this really your experience? If so it must have been a real stroke of bad luck. I can’t imagine something teaching sexuality like that. There are gentler and better ways to encourage kids to save their virginity.

                  Are you absolutely sure that deep down, when you look back, even though you casually dismiss your sexual experiences as harmless, you have not been profoundly wounded by some of these experiences? (you don’t have to answer, just something to think about)

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  If sex is wonderful, why does it tell women they’re better if they’re virgins? Seriously, at least half the female saints have their virginity emphasized as what makes them special. You really think that won’t twist people, when you tell them the best and most important thing about them is that they haven’t done something yet?

                  If virginity is better, and you just said it was, you’re by definition saying that non-virginity is worse. That people are less pure, dirtier, because they had sex. The act of having sex made them less-good than someone who didn’t have sex. That’s a horrible, unhealthy way to view anyone. This is especially focused on girls and women- boys and men who aren’t virgins aren’t treated nearly so awfully, and their sexual purity isn’t nearly as focused upon. Why is women’s sexual purity so much more important than men’s sexual purity? The men never get compared to rose petals or cups of spit.

                  And yeah, I’m quite sure I wasn’t wounded. It was quite healthy, actually. I’d left a relationship that started well but was heading towards quite bad, and that sex/friendship helped me see myself as beautiful and desirable again. I also learned a lot that my now-husband rather appreciates :)

                  I’m not sure what that story is supposed to say. It’s horrible she miscarried, and I feel for her grief. She lost a very wanted child, and that sucks a lot. Still doesn’t change the fact that at 19 weeks, the fetus could not survive outside her body. It was, unquestionably, a biological parasite. Her grief is because she wanted the child, and lost out on having one. The tragedy is her and her family’s grief and loss of a wanted child, not the death per se. Perhaps she can take some comfort in that the fetus never suffered- at 19 weeks the nerves and brain simply aren’t developed enough to register pain. If you ban abortions at 19 weeks (which the woman did not have), you have more women dying in agony like Savita Halappanar. Dying of sepsis is one of the worst deaths a human can have; your organs break down and rot while you’re still alive, until you die in agonizing pain. Given the choice between a tiny, almost-baby that can’t feel pain and a grown woman who can, I will pick the grown woman every time.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  If someone robs a bank, killing the bank teller, and then goes and has a nice meal at a restaurant with the money, would anyone say that banks are bad, or money is bad, or restaurants are bad, or food is bad? Of course not. Do you not see that this is the kind of flawed reasoning that you are using? The sin is located in the disordered action, not in the things themselves. Same thing with sex. The sex is not the problem, the problem is in the disordered used of something good for one’s selfish ends.

                  EDIT/CONTINUED:
                  on the Catholic appreciation of virginity: what is so hard to understand about the fact that there is a difference between bad/good and good/better?

                  on the loss of a child: “The tragedy is her and her family’s grief and loss of a wanted child, not the death per se.” Interesting. You express very well here that your idea of morality and values is entirely subjective. The grief is not based on the objective, intrinsic good of life, but merely on the subjective feeling that the loss caused to the woman. So if we apply this philosophy to another context, if someone loses a car in a fire with her baby in it, and she is more distressed about the loss of the car, then wouldn’t this mean that the car is somehow more valuable than the baby?

                  Have you ever read CS Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man”? The book is about how such a loss of the sense of objective value and shifting the entire focus of morality on subjective feelings lies at the root of humanity’s decline.

                  You are called to much more than that Feminerd.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Oh, quit making shit up. “Virginity” is bullshit, and it’s bad for you.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Life is not the question. I destroy life every time I eat a steak or a salad. I murder it gleefully when I kill off fire ant nests. My continued existence requires the death of billions of viruses and bacteria over the course of my lifetime, and I feel not one iota of guilt over any of those death. Personhood is the question. When personhood begins is a very hard question with no clear answers. Fetuses are generally only invested with as much personhood as the woman they live inside invests them with; no one but the woman can determine the personhood of the parasite inside her. That is because the woman is unquestionably a person.

                  The reason your car example fails is that an infant is also a person. If a fire breaks out, killing a pregnant woman, and the woman’s parents and partner mourn her more than her fetus, that makes sense. They mourn the actual person lost and the potential person of the fetus, but the actual person creates a hole in their lives, while a potential person is just that- potential. Not-yet-fully-realized. Miscarriages and stillbirths are horribly painful for everyone involved because of the loss of potential, but they are less painful than the loss of a child one has met and nurtured, at least from what I understand, though I have never faced the death of a fetus or child.

                  C. S. Lewis’s crappy apologetics have been thoroughly torn apart elsewhere. I haven’t read his books, nor do I intend to, because he’s arguing that society has declined. Bullshit. I live in a world my great-great-grandmother could never have imagined. I and my children won’t die of polio, scarlet fever, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, smallpox, cholera, whooping cough, or chicken pox. I can control when I have babies and how spaced apart they are. I have indoor plumbing, central AC, and central heating. I have computers. I am not told that if I get educated, my womb will shrink, and I am actually encouraged to get an education and have a career. I can travel the world by plane. We’ve sent people into space! I can have open heart surgery or chemotherapy if I need it. I live in a world where slavery is downright illegal, and the idea that some people are unworthy of equal rights based on the color of their skin is dying a deserved death. I can access the sum total of human knowledge through my phone. I know that I am a person, and that I have value as a person; I know that the possession of a penis isn’t what makes people valuable. Lewis lived in a time when none of that was true, so you can take your “decline of humanity” nonsense and stuff it! You, you are the one called to so much more than venerating a 2,000 year old dead guy with shitty morals and bad teachings. Why is is so damned hard for you to understand that people are people?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Your sad, reductionist view of human life, having lost all sense of mystery and transcendence in the fact that we have been created out of God’s love and for the sake of love, is to me the best evidence of the decline of humanity. What is the point of advances in technology and of a longer life if man has lost the very reason why he/she exists?

                  Frankly, between a man of the calibre of CS Lewis whose superb and brilliant inspiration has drawn many into discovering this sense of love’s transcendence and mystery, and your worldview, it’s not a hard choice. You are quick to judge someone you haven’t read, and frankly, the alternative you propose is anything but appealing.

                  I just thought of you as I just read an article on the atheist conception of love. If there is no spiritual world, no soul, no creator, and no ultimate purpose in life, if we are just the product of a blind evolution and a complex concoction of atoms and molecules how can there even be such a thing as true love? Isn’t it just either instinct or hormones, as the article asks? http://goo.gl/BCnlO

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Do you really think that us being purely physical means that love doesn’t exist? It’s hormones, instinct, conscious effort and will. We don’t understand very much about our brains, but we know that they are immensely complex. Is it so hard for you to grasp that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts yet still reducible to its parts?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  you didn’t answer the question nor relate to the article. What’s the meaning and the point of love then if you’re just a collection of atoms and the random product of a blind process of evolution? You were outraged at sex abuses recently… why even care about any moral issues at all?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Because I feel. I have empathy towards others- I don’t want to be hurt, and seeing others hurt hurts me. It is both selfish and altruistic, like most human actions.

                  What’s the meaning and point of love? Why, to love. To feel. To leave the world a better place than we found it. To enjoy the life we have. We give love its meaning, just as we give our lives their meaning. We scrape and claw and suffer, we laugh and love and cry, because we’re human and that’s a fine thing to be. Why does our existence being random chance negate any of that?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Because it’s just not logically consistent with your ideology. Sure you feel, but how are those feelings and this desire to not get hurt anything more than just self-preservation instinct or hormones then? How do you get any deep satisfaction from that?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Why shouldn’t I? It’s all there is, and that’s enough. I like my life, I like living, and I want to matter, which means I want to leave the world a better place than I found it. I don’t want people to hurt, which tells me what “a better place” means; it means a place where people don’t get hurt as much. Trees and flowers and intellectual curiosity and wild monkey sex with my husband and friends and D&D and arguing with random people on blogs and writing and just being … why do you think there needs to be more than life?

                  How is any of this inconsistent? What don’t you understand?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  It just doesn’t make any sense. I mean, I don’t disagree that we like and are attracted to the “good things” in life, but it seems to me that true love is inconsistent with your ideology claiming that you are just a complex, random collection of atoms. What makes you more than any animal then? Why should you be concerned about sexual abuses and women’s rights when dogs and monkeys don’t have those kinds of concerns?

                  Also, what do you think of this?
                  http://www.catholicvote.org/foolproof-advice-for-improving-your-love-life-with-pictures/

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Empathy and reason. It always circles around to those. I care because of empathy, and my reason tells me both that it is good to care (societies that care are better places to live) and how best to help.

                  Emotions are no less real because they have physical causes and pathways. Love, hate, joy, and sorrow- the lived experience is no different just because we’re starting to understand them. Why do you need things to be a mystery for them to be special? Isn’t understanding them what makes them so amazing? I mean, have you ever really studied chlorophyll and how plants take solar energy and turn it into sugars? It’s absolutely fascinating. Grass is boring and all, but every now and them I look at it and go “Holy fuck it eats sunlight and it looks green because it’s absorbing all the colors except green, which is because the earliest organisms on Earth were purple-ish so plant forebears had to make do with the light left over (that is, the red and purple ends of the spectrum instead of the stuff in the middle), but chlorophyll is more efficient than whatever mechanism the purple-ish plants used so that’s why we have green plants”, which is awesome in the original sense of awe-inspiring. Understanding the hows and whys of science, even a little bit, makes even plain old grass interesting. How much more with something as complex as emotion?

                  EDIT: I think that link is bullshit. It’s saying that homosexuals can’t feel romantic, familial love. It doesn’t matter what else it says, that right there tells me whoever wrote it doesn’t understand what love is. Also it assumes you must have some sort of god-belief. It assumes friends can’t also be family. It tries to make love into neat, tidy, quantifiable packets that people are only allowed to feel for certain other people. It completely neglects self-love, also known as self-esteem.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Ok, thanks for your thoughts, though I still feel you’re not answering the questions, and don’t understand how life and all of that can really have any meaning if, according to your worldview, your ultimate destiny is to rot in the ground and be completely forgotten in one or two generations at the most. Don’t you have a longing for something more in your deepest self?

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Yeah. I want to matter. To make the world a better place. To get off my butt and make a real difference in the world; whether that’s by increasing literacy rates, doing my part to ensure women are treated as people, expanding health care in this country and around the world, or whatever, I want to have left a mark on the world (even if no one can trace it to me).

                  Do I want to live forever singing praise songs to God and watching the world but being unable to do anything to help fix it? That sounds like Hell to me, personally, so no I definitely don’t want that. Why would I want more than to exist as fully as I can before I go out like a guttered candle?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Do I want to live forever singing praise songs to God and watching the world but being unable to do anything to help fix it? That sounds like Hell to me, personally, so no I definitely don’t want that.

                  It seems like the case for atheism can only be made by constantly representing and mischaracterizing Christianity – almost every time! Why do you insist on doing that? No Christian has such a passive view of life as you describe it. The praise of God gives us redoubled strength, energy and motivation to change the world for good. If you study a bit of history you will notice that most advancements in Western civilization (science, education, health care, social work) are owed to Christians.

                  http://www.kairosjournal.org/misc/FINAL.%20Legatees%20of%20a%20Great%20Inheritance.pdf

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  I’m talking about after you die, Andre. That’s what Heaven has been described like to me, and it is not appealing.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Oh. Even in this case, according to divine revelation, your argument doesn’t work for two reasons: a) saints in heaven actually have power now to influence things here on earth through their intercessory prayer; many people testify to this all the time b) the world as we know it, in which good and evil are intermixed, will one day come to an end, replaced by a “new heaven and new earth.” Don’t know exactly how this will look, obviously, but there will be no more evil, and so there will not be any kind of “eternal frustration” at wanting to fix a broken world from above.

                • tsara

                  I, personally, am a fan of the Douglas Adams quote, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe there are fairies at the bottom of it?”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Personally, if I see a beautiful garden, I would intuitively like to congratulate and thank the gardener for his good work, rather than dismissing him as a fairy tale and believing that the garden just became beautiful on its own. :)

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Again, what IS it like over there in Cloudcuckooland?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  The unborn do not have the right to use a woman’s body without her explicit and ongoing consent.

                  End of.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  How did the unborn get into the woman’s body in the first place? You make it sound like they just appeared there like a virus.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Doesn’t matter, because consent to sex IS NOT consent to pregnancy.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  and that is exactly the problem: the contraceptive and “recreative sex” mentality that has split up sex from its life-giving role within the covenant of marriage.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  You don’t exactly know your history, do you? Marriage as a thing is much less old than humanity, and teenagers have been having sex outside of marriage since the beginnings of that institution. If sex was only for procreation, it wouldn’t feel good, it wouldn’t sometimes be an expression of emotional as well as physical intimacy, and it would always result in pregnancy.

                  The “natural” result of human living is to die by 45 of disease or infection. We defy nature and give it the big raised middle finger on all kinds of things. We’re humans; we make tools to change the environment around us to something we like better. We wear clothes, use fire, build houses, make medicines, do agriculture, tame wolves, build cities, build sewers, build hospitals, make scalpels, make cars, build roads, build planes, build satellites. Birth control is just another tool we use to control our environments and make them better for us. That’s not a problem, that a feature of human progress.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  You’re a fucking idiot. Sex is pleasurable, it’s MEANT to be pleasurable, and I am in no way obligated to risk my health or my life with a pregnancy. And no, I am not going to consign myself to a boring, meaningless, sexless life just because YOU think I should be a Broodmare for Christ.

                  Fuck you and your “life-giving” bullshit.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  your nastiness, vulgarity and inability to have a civil conversation doesn’t exactly give a lot of credibility to anything you say, unfortunately.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Your “civility” is bullshit. You just don’t like that a woman is daring to defy your edicts about her own body.

                  Go fuck yourself with a crucifix while you lick the Pope’s ass clean.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  By the way, no Christian thinks that sex is “immoral or dirty or shameful.”

                  Then stop talking about it like it’s immoral or dirty or shameful.

                  Sex is normal, natural, and pleasurable. Whether one is married to one’s partner, or it’s just a one-night fling, sharing pleasure with a willing partner isn’t a bad thing.

                  You keep talking about it like it’s some kind of horrible universe-shredding abomination for two unmarried people to share pleasure, moreso when they are the same gender.

                • Michael Harrison

                  My question: if they hurt only themselves (in some sense that hasn’t been made precise, beyond vague statements regarding their spiritual well-being), and the only evidence we have of this is that an old book says so, and they’ve heard this all before, what does it matter what their temptations are? Your point is made; what confuses me is why this isn’t enough.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  you’re right Michael… as far as I’m concerned, I have said what I had to say about it.

                • Dez

                  You are using the same arguments. For example: God made everyone a different race for a reason. The children will be harmed because they do not know what race they are. It will harm the definition of marriage. All the same bullshit reasons you give, but nothing was harmed.

                • Dez

                  Fuck you!!! How dare you tell me what I was born with. I born with black skin and bisexual. I chose who to have sex with not who I am attracted too or love. I can not change my skin color anymore than my sexual orientation.

                • AthiestStomper

                  Aww, you atheists are so cute when you’re angry

                • Dez

                  Awwww you Christians are so cute when you try to use your brains. No worries atheists actually use ours or else we would be Christians.

                • AtheistStomper

                  If it wasn’t for Christians, you’d still be in chains, Dez. At least my people weren’t stupid enough to be sold into slavery by their own tribal chiefs. Hundreds of years from now and your people still haven’t gotten your shit together… pathetic. You are the LAST person to talk about one group’s progress in society or their intelligence.

                • RobMcCune

                  How does Jesus feel about your racism?

                • AtheistStomper

                  Since when is it racist to state historical facts?

                • Dez

                  What facts? All you have said is racist and wrong.

                • Dez

                  Wrong again. My ancestors were in chains, raped, killed, and torn apart because of Christians and their fantasy book. Yea sorry for being decent human beings and trusting others to act like human beings. It says a lot about you that you are on the side of slave owners. Yet the president is black so that destroys your argument. Your lack of intelligence is very obvious in the fact you know nothing about the history of black Americans. Hypocrite much?

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Right, like you’re given a checklist in-utero, and got to check off the list, “yeah, I think I wanna be disabled, that’ll be fun…”

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Ignoring the overwhelming and easily available evidence online only makes you more of a liar, Nazi.

                  Not knowing that your lot use the exact same arguments against gay marriage that your grandparents did against interracial marriage merely makes you immensely dull-witted and ignorant.

                • Michael Harrison

                  The cite you referenced tried to draw a parallel between Jews in concentration camps, and the poor, persecuted anti-gay movement. That’s my point–you aren’t talking about persecuting gays! You’re referencing a cite that’s comparing its “suffering” to suffering THAT GAY PEOPLE EXPERIENCED. AND THE WEBSITE IS CONVENIENTLY IGNORING THAT FACT.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Um, penises fit in anuses. A lot of people (men and women both) enjoy the sensation. There’s also dildos for that purpose. Human anatomy, if you are to claim it as a criterion, doesn’t support your assertions at all. By your logic, we wouldn’t have pleasure-reporting nerve endings there if we weren’t supposed to, or at least able to, use them.

                  I’ve read that article before, and it’s no more compelling the second time around. Canada has gay marriage, and it’s not led to persecution of anyone. Government officials are required to perform ceremonies for people who meet the requirements for marriage- it’s their job. Government officials aren’t allowed to break the law for their own personal religious reasons. When you say awful things in public that make it look like you can’t do your job of teaching impressionable children, you get fired (just as racist and sexist people get fired). He didn’t get fired for “supporting traditional marriage”; he got fired for saying gays are icky and gross and perverted and immoral or words to that effect, which means he’s likely unable to treat his gay students fairly. If a teacher in my city wrote a letter in the newspaper arguing that African-American students were all criminals and female students were all stupid, you’d better believe he’d get his ass fired. That attitude is going to stop him from doing his job. Anti-gay teachers are apparently treated just like all other bigoted teachers in Canada; no better and no worse.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Human anatomy means that humans are almost hairless, and thus have little protection against the weather. So by your argument, humans shouldn’t wear clothing because anatomy says we’re meant to be exposed. Oops!

                • b s

                  “And by the way, human anatomy (not just “genitalia”) seems to me to be anything but “arbitrary””

                  And just look at the shape of a banana! (oddly enough, this works on more than one level here)

                • Gus Snarp

                  What’s with shortening the links? This isn’t Twitter, there’s no reason to do that, unless you’re trying to obfuscate and hide the low quality and biased nature of your sources.

                • Blacksheep

                  Atheism does not accept theism as a valid viewpoint.

                • Nate Frein

                  Yeah! How dare we ask you for evidence to support your viewpoint!

                  Especially when you want to justify legislation with that viewpoint!

                • 3lemenope

                  As an atheist, I notably cannot speak for other atheists, but for my part I do not consider the theist viewpoint to be an invalid viewpoint for a person to hold.

                  In order for a position to be considered by me invalid to hold as a human being, it needs to be incomprehensible to me how a person could look at the universe or any subset thereof could arrive at the provisional conclusion, given their experiences. A deity is, in this sense, certainly not beyond the pale. I think where the vast majority of atheists agree is upon the apparent unsoundness of theism; that is, it certainly can make sense for an individual given their experiences, but given the sum of all available information, it isn’t exactly the best or most parsimonious explanation. What particular features that deity is implied as having can slide this analysis into a more or less sound direction, depending on whether those features concord with observable features of the universe.

              • Oranje

                Now you’re just being intentionally obtuse.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Snerk. For a while yesterday, all of your posts were showing up as Blacksheep’s. This one raised an eyebrow.

          • RobMcCune

            The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy, fyi.

          • TheG

            I’m sorry, but the biggest moral relativism going on in this country these days isn’t among those asking for equal rights and the neutrality of government.

            It is among the religious, especially Christians in the United States.

            Christians have a figurehead that dictates helping the poor, eschewing the collection of wealth, that no sin is greater than another, and private expressions of faith. This is quite different from the followers that use relativism to explain why they don’t give healthcare to everyone or their employees, have vast megachurches and their own opulent cities, ignoring some vices while criminalizing others, and forcing the public to fund and listen to their prayers.

            Plus, Christians, in an extreme lack of irony on relativism, often have the same opinion as you.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              I think it’s totally fair to critique Christians and hold them up to the standard that they preach. However, do keep in mind that no one claims that Christians are perfect, they are forgiven and a work in progress (yes, I know, oversimplification, no need to begin argument on that one).

              But actually most of the examples you propose are wrong:

              helping the poor: yes

              eschewing the collection of wealth: not really, Christianity warns against the *love* of money/wealth and avarice; it doesn’t say that wealth is an intrinsic evil (how can you help others if you don’t have anything?)

              no sin is greater than another: incorrect, see Mt. 23:23-33

              private expressions of faith: incorrect; Jesus warned about praying in public to attract praise. He never said anything about keeping one’s faith to oneself, quite on the contrary (Mt 5:14-15)

              • TheG

                Moral relativism. Thank you for the dazzling demonstration.

              • TheG

                Can you also demonstrate how Christians are full of love by belching out hateful catchphrases? I love it when that hypocrisy is on display as well!

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Calling people to repent from self-destructive sin and turn to God’s love and salvation is not a “hateful catchphrase.” It’s actually caring enough for people, even though many of them are hostile to the faith, to wish for their salvation. You may disagree, but do you not see that there is a good intention behind it?

                • TheG

                  No.

                  YOU see it as a “good intention”. I know YOU think of it as a positive thing.

                  For many people, they see it is nothing more than hate towards those that are different, smugness, and an attempt to curry favor with daddy.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Please stop the primitive fallacy of equating rejection of certain sinful acts = “hate towards those that are different”. You can very well disagree without having to twist the facts.

                • TheG

                  Please stop the arrogant fallacy of assuming that the viewpoints of a primitive culture are absolutes and that they can or should be imposed on consenting adults up to 6000 years later.
                  ETA: If it was just a “rejection of certain sinful acts” and there was no attempt to force other adults to act in the same way, I don’t think anyone would give two damns about those beliefs.

                • 3lemenope

                  You see, you keep saying this, and all we keep hearing is “hate towards those that are different for really good reasons, I swear, so I couldn’t possibly be a bigot!“. Which is the sentence, twists and turns aside, uttered by literally every bigot ever.

                  Of course you feel justified by your metaphysical opinions on sin, whatever that is, which separates you from exactly nobody. Everyone has reasons they think are good. Doesn’t mean they are.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  IT IS NOT HATE!!!!

                • TheG

                  TO YOU!!!

                  The rest of us see it in reality.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I know myself quite well and I know what hate is. I hold no ill will against any of you, though certainly you annoy me tremendously in deciding that I “hate” you just because I disagree with certain moral behaviors. Confusing the act with the person is such a infantile fallacy, and yet you pretend to have an intelligent discourse about these things…. makes it very hard to take it seriously.

                • baal

                  “Confusing the act with the person”
                  Most of the folks who are more capable thinkers than me are convinced that you cannot split a person from their acts. Unless you’re a robot or a puppet on strings, your acts are your responsibility and arise from you personally as a person.

                • C.L. Honeycutt

                  Congratulations on this admittedly bizarre and backwards argument that you made here that souls are irrelevant.

                • SteveO

                  What you call “reality” is nothing more than the hedonistic vision you want to project on the rest of us. Why is it that the morals of modern Christians (pro life, pro family, pro values) are better suited than yours (pro infanticide, pro hedonism).. stop deluding yourself and let the adults make the decisions for what is right and wrong because you children clearly have no moral compass or understanding

                • TheG

                  Lol.

                  The same “Pro Values” that gets us both child-rape AND the cover up? “Pro Family” like Newt Gingrich and Ted Haggard? “Pro Life” like “500th Execution” Perry?

                  Where is the value in hateful families, murderous leaders, philandering scholars, and revelers in ignorance.

                  I think the only thing more juvenile than your “values” is your hypocrisy. Clean up your own house, read more than one book, and come back when you are able to compete with someone older than a seven year old.

                • 3lemenope

                  Let me ask you, do you think it possible that a person could be motivated subconsciously by a motive they weren’t exactly aware of?

                  See, you have access to the conscious parts of your mind. We have access to what you say. What you say seems to concord perfectly with the “uncomfortable bigot” archetype; you’re a bigot who, either due to social pressure or a lingering conscience isn’t wild about being called out on being a bigot in public. You claim otherwise, but it isn’t all that persuasive mainly because human beings are motivated primarily by machinations of mind they themselves are not aware of.

                • TheG

                  I am almost more comfortable with the bigots that are proud of it and make no excuse for it than the intellectually vapid crowd that tries to make excuses for it.

                  It reminds me of an old Louis C.K. routine from over a decade ago.

                  “People make excuses for racists. ‘Oh, that’s just his way. He grew up on a farm.’”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I’m sure that we all have some subconscious motivations. Perhaps do you just as much (or more) than me?

                  The “bigot” and “hate” insult is so stupid, infantile and irrational… of course one gets annoyed at hearing it all the time, so probably you will notice a tone of impatience in my posts. I should be more patient but it’s not that easy.

                • Stev84

                  The truth hurts

                • blasphemous_kansan

                  Screams the bigot, calmly.

                • Nate Frein

                  Yeah. Keep telling yourself that.

                  Bigot.

                • baal

                  “IT IS NOT HATE!!!!”
                  mmmmm. I suppose we could split that up a little and say you aren’t personally feeling hateful when you type statements that look and feel like hate to the people on the other end of your statements. This disconnect is an element of being a psychopath but could also arise from merely sloppy thinking or even intentionally trained behaviour.
                  People on the receiving end can be in error but I don’t think that’s the case here.

                • Anna

                  You can tell yourself that all you want, but those who are negatively affected by anti-gay rhetoric find it very hateful indeed.

                • Olive Markus

                  It is hate.

                  It is your very line of reasoning that convinced my 37 year old gay cousin to jump off a cliff because he couldn’t come to terms with the idea that he was somehow as incredibly horrible as the Church made him believe.

                  It is your very line of reasoning that made my next-door life-long friend kill herself in her garage using carbon monoxide two weeks before she graduated high school, because our religion told her her entire life that her same-sex attractions were wrong, and yet she couldn’t quite rationalize in her head how she was bad when she had no choice in the matter. She wanted love and relationships like the rest of us, but was told by PEOPLE LIKE YOU that her desire for these things was destructive to herself and society.

                  You ARE hateful and you do real damage. I certainly hope that if any of your children are gay, they end up with a healthier sense of self than my cousin and friend did and think critically enough to know you’re full of shit.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I’m really sorry to hear about your friend and cousin. By calling sins sins, we certainly don’t mean to say that people who sin are “horrible”. I’m a sinner too. I think I do my best to love and respect people while not necessarily agreeing with all their actions. Certainly Christians could learn to be more sensitive with these matters.

                • Olive Markus

                  You just don’t understand, do you? You think you can be hateful while walking away and pretending that you know nothing about it. What does love and respect mean to you, might I ask? Catholics can’t do anything but claim that everything that comes out of their mouths is love and respect, but I believe you use those words to hide behind without a single clue about what they really mean and how your actions actually fit into their meaning.

                  These people grow up knowing there is something “wrong” with them, that their feelings are responsible for the downfall of society, the devolution of the family, the disgust of their peers, and yet they feel at the same time that they aren’t bad people and that they have absolutely no control over their same-sex attractions. They want love and affection, but the idea of getting those things from the opposite sex is as vile to them as the idea of getting it from men would be to you.

                  You do NOT place being homosexual on the same level, as say, lying, so don’t you dare use that “a sin is a sin, and we’re all sinners” garbage. It is trite and completely meaningless and even you don’t believe it. You Catholics use the same reasoning to pardon child abuse coverup. You only claim that sins are equal to all other sins when you are being called out on the real hurt you cause, so you try to wash your hands by trivializing it only in that moment. I don’t recall your Bishops lobbying DC to ban astrology or using God’s name in vain, do you? Nor do I recall them blaming child rape on Ouija Boards.

                  You don’t have to be screaming insults into their faces to cause the greatest harm. My cousin was out but my friend was not. Nobody but I and one other friend of hers even had a clue about her feelings. Nobody taunted or teased her. I don’t think anybody even suspected. She probably would have been better off if these hateful messages came to her in explosive ways, as at least, maybe there is a chance she’d been able to process how wrong the message is.

                  How do you sleep at night knowing that the very things you believe drive others to feeling as though death is better than the shame of facing a world full of people like you?

                • Stev84

                  Because it’s not him saying those things. It’s really his god. So he isn’t responsible for anything. And hey, it’s loving, because if he didn’t say such horrible things, people will be tortured for eternity. So better to torture them in this life if it can prevent torture in the next. All out of love.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I appreciate what you’re saying and can see why you are upset. On the other hand, it was not the will of Christians to bring up the whole gay “marriage” battle. Believe me there are many other things I would prefer to do rather than talk about these things. I have no problem with letting homosexuals do what they want and with treating them with respect and love. There have always been homosexuals, but here is the difference: no one has ever tried with such boldness to deconstruct and redefine marriage, the cornerstone of any sane society. The battle was brought about not by Christians but by incredibly aggressive, often anti-Christian gay lobby groups who are trying to remake this fundamental institution. To answer your question, no one is trying to enshrine ouija boards, astrology, or lying in law as a “right” that you have to accept and affirm or else you’re called a hateful bigot or sued for not conforming. That’s why no battle is necessary regarding these things. But now they want to brainwash children in schools, telling them that the gender you marry is a purely arbitrary choice, and sexual behavior is more or less morally indifferent, Christians are sued if they don’t want to sell flowers or rent a hall for a gay “wedding”. And you expect Christians to just say “ok, that’s fine”? Respect has to be a two-way street.

                  Again I think we should treat all people with compassion, and it is very tragic that instances of bullying lead to suicides. It should certainly make us pause on how these things can be avoided. But I just don’t believe that affirming sin or calling it OK – let alone enshrining it in law – is ever a good solution.

                • 3lemenope

                  On the other hand, it was not the will of Christians to bring up the whole gay “marriage” battle.

                  This, right here, is–beyond the bigoted stuff–why people just can’t take you seriously. “Why oh why can’t I have a private opinion which is really a public opinion which is really my desire to maintain a law restraining other people’s behavior I disapprove of? Why is everyone so mad at me? Why am I being called a bigot? I just want my right to my private opinion which is my public opinion which is my desire for a law restraining other people’s behavior I disapprove of!”

                  Some folks wanted permission from the state to do something Christians think is baaaaaad. And so Christians soldiered up and fought hard to prevent them from doing that thing. A thing which affects literally nobody but those who participate in it.

                  Again I think we should treat all people with compassion, and it is very tragic that instances of bullying lead to suicides. It should certainly make us pause on how these things can be avoided.

                  Many, many, many people have already told you, and Christians in general, that it is what you do that causes these things. Not *how* you do it. What you do. When you tell someone there’s an in-born wrongness inside of them that they should be ashamed of and desperately try to expunge, it does not matter that you doll it up in cute language and smiles and platitudes.

                  It’s the message that kills.

                • Olive Markus

                  Nobody has tried to redefine marriage? Holy crap. Complete and utter lie. Another Catholic talking point you’ve never done any research on. You’re also saying exactly the same things over and over again in slightly different ways, as if it changes the core of your message. THE CORE IS ROTTEN. Oh, and what was it you said earlier that you didn’t believe that your church had any right to impose morality laws on the rest of the world? Do you not realize that using your religious belief regarding homosexuality and working to prevent marriage equality, you are doing EXACTLY THAT? You honestly refuse to see that?

                  http://prospect.org/article/marriage-already-redefined

                  http://www.kjonline.com/opinion/columnists/marriage-has-been-redefined-through-the-ages_2012-10-17.html

                  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-joseph-meszler/redefine-marriage-absolutely_b_3032849.html

                  http://www.ecalpemos.org/2013/02/how-marriage-has-been-redefined-over.html

                  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2013/04/02/op-ed-yes-i-am-redefining-marriage

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  All these links are besides the point – in fact, they actually prove my point. Yes, of course there have been changes to the form and customs of marriage throughout the years. I should have written “no one has ever tried with such boldness to deconstruct and radically redefine marriage in its deepest essence”. Do you not notice that despite all the (minor) changes in marriage customs over the years, no society was ever insane enough to think of changing the fundamental and common sensical premise that marriage is in its very nature between a man and a woman?

                • Olive Markus

                  You mean like every other country that has legalized same sex marriage?

                  Nope, never heard of such a thing.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  This madness only began about ten years ago, it’s a pretty recent social experiment.

                • Stev84

                  “Social experiment”. Everyone, take another drink!

                  If you want people to take you seriously, asshole, you should stop calling it “madness” or “insanity”. But you just can’t stop denigrating a whole group of people. But, hey, it’s not hatred according to you, and you are just regurgitating what you think your god tells you to, so it’s ok.

                • Olive Markus

                  Yeah, madness. People actually standing up for themselves and demanding to be treated with respect and full human rights. It’s hideous. Really.

                  And next time you want to have a conversation, it’s helpful if you actually address what the other person is saying. That you can’t cover the points I bring up probably has exactly the opposite effect you intend by being here and only reinforces the fact that you don’t have meaningful answers.

                • Mira

                  I want to downvote this (and many other posts) so hard it becomes tangible. Just like 99% of people watching Game of Thrones want to slap the living shit out of Joffrey.

                • Olive Markus

                  And why is this beside the point?

                  What you REALLY mean to say is that this is the definition of marriage that you want to be correct, because it makes you feel good about yourself and your life choices, therefore, any deviation from this specific, familiar version makes you feel less special.

                  Also, nobody gives a fuck about how Catholics choose to define marriage for themselves. Keep your marriages exactly the same. I hope the Catholic Church never, ever performs a same-sex marriage. Nobody cares. Just stop preventing others from marrying legally.

                  You can’t define the marriage of others. Why aren’t you fighting marriage between two atheists who have no intentions to have children? This goes against all Catholic definitions of marriage, as well. Marriages of any other religion or non-religion are none of your business and do not involve the church at all, and the marriage between two men or two women is exactly the same. As long as nobody is forcing Catholics to a) participate in a same-sex marriage or b) force the church to perform same-sex marriage (neither of these things ever to happen in any circumstance) it shouldn’t matter to you one bit.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Why this is besides the point? Actually I just edited my post above: your links are not besides the point, they actually *prove* my point. You have provided examples of cosmetic or minor changes to the understanding of marriage throughout the age. But they have in common that no one until recently has seriously thought of undermining the foundational premise that marriage is between a man and a woman.

                  “this is the definition of marriage that you want to be correct, because it makes you feel good about yourself and your life choices” – not at all. Legislation, whether good or bad, does not affect my feelings. It’s just naive to think that such a seismic change in the most foundational unit of society will not affect everyone.

                  http://www.frc.org/brochure/the-top-ten-harms-of-same-sex-marriage

                  There are already increasing instances of anti-Christian persecution in several countries where such redefinitions have taken place, for example my native Canada where freedom of speech is already seriously stifled:

                  http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/that-way-lies-tyranny-a-warning-to-america-about-redefining-marriage

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Your “freedom of speech” isn’t stifled, numbskull. You’re just not allowed to spread malicious, deliberate, hateful lies about gays, because it harms them.

                • phantomreader42

                  The only sources you can find to back up your bigotry and your martyrbating are KNOWN LIARS. Isn’t that imaginary god of yours supposed to have some sort of problem with bearing false witness?

                • Olive Markus

                  You’re seriously crying Christian persecution while condemning homosexual marriage?

                  Do you consider that we no longer require a victim of rape to marry her rapist as “trivial”?

                  I am NOT going to take seriously something from the Family Research Counsel, who essentially makes shit up to support their own biases and bigotry. Aside from religious wishful thinking, there isn’t a single study or piece of research that has decided that homosexual marriage is bad for society. If you are going to claim problems for “society as a whole” then don’t use non-research opinion pieces from only within religious circles. It doesn’t work that way. You’d better find data-enforced studies that actually represent society as a whole, not the opinions of people who already have a bias and are too blind to see beyond it. I believe it will affect everyone, but what kind of expert are you to claim that it will be a devastating affect?

                  Crying Christian persecution within America and Canada is a massive INSULT to the Christians in other parts of the world that ARE being persecuted – killed, abused, imprisoned, driven out of their homes. There is nothing of the sort here for you. And once again, no facts to back up the assertions one.iota. It is getting old, and when you cry persecution, what you’re really doing is throwing a tantrum because you can’t discriminate and because your up-until-now societal privilege is being challenged.

                  What you call “serious” persecution, we call you not being able to discriminate against those you think are less than anymore. I looked into the story more, and I am not an expert in law and I don’t know the Canadian system well, so I can’t give a valid opinion on whether or not this man’s freedom of speech was actually prohibited in technical terms. However, I will ask you this: If you found out a school teacher was publicly and forcefully advocating for the reinstatement of slavery and believed it was valid due to the “intellectual inferiority” of African Americans, would you believe that he should be allowed to continue saying these things while being in charge of teaching children? Because, to me, and to many people, these things are equivalent. Hate Speech.

                • Stev84

                  Careful. Next we are going to see a link to the so-called “dutch study”, which claims that gay men have up to a dozen partners on the side. Never mind that it was made before same-sex marriage become legal. And most importantly, it deliberately excluded all monogamous couples because the study was really about the spread of HIV.

                  They always distort serious study or manufacture their own fake science (like Regnerus).

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  A good rundown of “the Dutch Study” is here

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You’re right, we are not yet at the stage of persecution of Christians in North America, especially not when compared with what’s happening with Christians in the Middle East. We are certainly heading in that direction though with the increasing stifling of free speech, being labeled “bigot” and all possible names for disagreeing with the gay agenda, Christians being sued for not wanting to cooperate with it, etc… there are plenty of documented cases.

                  The data on the effects of gay “marriage” is still sparse because the phenomenon is still quite new. Our kids will reap the bad fruit in a generation or so, if we even make it there.

                • Olive Markus

                  You are not headed that direction, and that line of thinking is so steeped in self-pitying martyrdom that I can’t even respond to it with an intelligent answer. You are not being persecuted and you are not going down the road of Catholics being crucified for their beliefs. The only thing that is happening is that you are losing the control over society that you once had, and you and your leaders have decided that it is persecution because a good persecution complex in the face of an almighty enemy is the only thing that keeps religion together.

                  You’re right. The “data” on gay marriage is sparse. So stop declaring that it is detrimental simply because your religion wants it to be when you don’t have the slightest clue either way.

                • Stev84

                  “Gay agenda”. Have another drink!

                  Scare quotes around “marriage”. Have another drink!

                  The sky will fall any day now. Have another drink!

                  Your mask is really slipping. Until now you’ve pretended to be a little bit reasonable, but you are having trouble keeping up the pretense.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Once again, calling you out on your hate and bigotry is not persecution.

                • Olive Markus

                  “Canadian Parliament Seeks to Declare April 2nd “Pope John Paul II Day.”

                  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/07/14/canadian-parliament-seeks-to-declare-april-2nd-pope-john-paul-ii-day/

                  Awww… You poor, persecuted Catholics. Your government is totally out to get you.

                  Thanks for opening my eyes to the horrors you are exposed to in your totally anti-Catholic nation.

                • Olive Markus
                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Well written but completely flawed. The first part seems to me to be just an attempt at justifying the labeling of Christians as “bigots” and whatever offensive name you can think of just because they don’t agree with the gay agenda. And then you pontificate to me about respect for free speech?

                  All in all, the whole article is based on the flawed premise that there is such a thing as “gay rights” and that gays are oppressed because they can’t get married like everyone else. What is a “right” anyway? Any particular group’s demands, no matter how arbitrary, that their desires be enshrined in law? (along with the vilification of those who don’t agree)

                  You think that marriage is a totally arbitrary and subjective construct that a group of people have a right to deconstruct and reshape according to their whims. Heck, why should marriage be limited to two people? Soon those who declare themselves polyamorous will complain that their “rights” are being trampled upon, and we will be called bigots for resisting the legalization of polygamy. You can view marriage as an arbitrary construct if you like, but lots of people, whether religious or not, disagree. Pretty much all religions (and many non-religious people) agree that it is based in the natural complementarity of the sexes and is just not a social construct that we have the right to modify at our whim..

                • Olive Markus

                  Ok, I’m done.

                  You’re right. The only oppressed in this world are the poor, pitied Catholics who can’t exercise their full God-given right to control, abuse and manipulate all of humanity at their whim. I weep for you. I can’t believe I ever thought that gays were human beings deserving of happy, fulfilling lives.

                  The only thing I can say is that my conversation with you made me happier than I’ve ever been that I am no longer religious and I don’t have to tie myself into knots to make nonsensical and hateful things “true”.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  So much for any reply to the fact that once the door is open to any arbitrary, social deconstructions of marriage based on “rights”, nothing can logically prevent its further unraveling. All the best and God bless.

                • Olive Markus

                  The slippery slope argument is old and is debunked by just about any reasonable human being on this planet. Look it up.

                  Your God Bless reads as a “Fuck You” by the way, and I’m not so stupid that I don’t see. Every religious person does the same thing. Stop hiding behind false religious love and just use your real words.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Actually it was genuine.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Intent Is Not Magic, cupcake.

                • Stev84

                  “God bless” is just Christianese for “fuck you”

                • Olive Markus
                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  What’s it like in Cloudcuckooland?

                • Stev84

                  Why do you never post credible sources? FRC? LifeSiteNews? All your links go to right-wing sites, hate groups and religious fanatics. FRC is one of the most virulently anti-gay groups in existence. It’s their whole purpose.

                  Your stupidity and ignorance is mind-boggling. You are nothing but a troll and we have indulged you far beyond anything that’s reasonable.

                • Olive Markus
                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Of course there was polygamy in the Old Testament, but no one (not even orthodox Jews) is trying to establish morality on the basis of the OT alone. This too proves my point that it’s always been taken for granted that marriage, despite its variations through the ages, has always been understood as between man and woman.

                • Stev84

                  That’s just as much meaningless word salad as everything else you have ever written.

                • Stev84

                  If you want to be sensitive, just shut up about it and let people live their lives. Free from your interference and condemnation. How about that? If your god exists, he can sort it out in the afterlife.

                • 3lemenope

                  But then he doesn’t get any points for “rescuing” them. Sin scalps for Jesus…

                • Blacksheep

                  Amen.

              • The Other Weirdo

                I’m pretty sure there was a verse about a very distraught young man who had to give up all his wealth to become a Christian..

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  yes, that’s true. Wealth is certainly a snare, but not an intrinsic evil. The fact that the rich young man didn’t want to part of his wealth to follow Jesus shows how he was attached to it. However you can also be wealthy and very generous. Is that supposed to be a sin?

                • The Other Weirdo

                  Yes, it is.

                  Matthew 19…20The young man said to him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21Jesus
                  said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and
                  give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and
                  follow me. 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. …

                  There are also several verses against the collecting of wealth and possessions(how you become rich). Generosity is meaningless; you’re supposed to give it all up to follow Jesus.

                • 3lemenope

                  And the generosity of the poor is greater than the generosity of the rich, even when the rich give more. It’s all in the book.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  That’s what the Franciscans and other orders do. It’s a radical way of following Jesus indeed, but not absolutely required. You know you’re just playing games to try to trap me.

                • 3lemenope

                  Ananias and Sapphira.

                  Optional?

                  I suppose, in a very demented sort of way.

                • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                  Well yeah! Optional in exactly the same way going to Hell is optional.

                  “Do what I say or I’ll kill/torture you” is totally giving you options, didn’t you know that?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  The problem is that they intentionally lied and tried to deceive the apostles, not that they had possessions.

                • 3lemenope

                  More specifically, it is that they lied in order to withhold some of their possessions from the group. Plenty of characters lie in the Bible. Not all of them are struck dead. The X factor had to be some other detail. Or is this too much logic to use when reading the Bible?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  If you try to squeeze God into your small minded logic, you will obviously not discover Him. Yes the verdict with Ananias and Sapphira seems pretty harsh. Bottom line, sin will be judged.

                • Nate Frein

                  Hah.

                  That “small minded logic” is the reason you’re blithering away on a computer in the first place.

                • 3lemenope

                  So, that would be a yes, then? Too much logic?

                • Nate Frein

                  Sounds like relativism to me…

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You are confused about the nature of relativism. Or you read the Bible like a fundamentalist. Or you have this caricature of Christians in mind, thinking that we have a narrow box and predetermined answer for every single moral question.

                • Nate Frein

                  Or you have this caricature of Christians in mind, thinking that we have a narrow box and predetermined answer for every single moral question.

                  I don’t know about caricature, since that seems to be the very essence of “absolute”.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  I am not playing games. It is what’s written in the Bible. What’s more, this is what Jesus himself has said, according to the Bible. This isn’t Paul or anybody else after Jesus’ delayed respawn coming and saying things. This is Jesus himself issuing commands on a particular topic, what to do about wealth and what must be done to be his follower. This doesn’t appear to me to be optional.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You read the Bible like a fundamentalist. Catholics understand the Bible through sacred Tradition, and the official teachings of the Church’s Magisterium. Jesus said lots of things that aren’t meant to be take literally, such as plucking out your eye if it leads you to sin.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  See, here’s the thing. When Jesus is speaking in parables, he is very clear to say, “I am about to tell you a parable.” There is no such bracketing in any of what we’re talking about here. What this tells is me that early Christians read the Bible, saw it was nonsense and came up with their theology, paying only lip-service to the Bible itself except for those parts they really, really LOVE, like what to do with homosexuals and that every fetus is more precious than the woman in possession of it.

                  Jesus is quite clear on a number of things. Christians don’t like it and don’t want anything to do with it, so they rationalize it away as as being metaphorical. That’s fine, it’s all nonsense anyway, but at least have the fortitude to admit it. Of course, without the Bible, you have absolutely no basis for your religion, but it would be the decent thing to do.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No. Selling your belongings is indeed a Christian ideal to perfectly follow Christ. Being attached to your possessions and wealth is indeed dangerous if it will prevent you from following him. Total poverty is not an absolute requirement. But it seems you know better than the whole history of Christian tradition.

                  As for your comment on the fetus, you’re misrepresenting Christians again.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  It’s one of those ideals Christians pay only lip service to, like no divorcing or marrying divorcees.

                  And no, I am misrepresenting nothing.

                • baal

                  “try to trap me.”
                  Well, beware the tricky atheists. For we are filled with the words of Satan. Or reason and logic and empathy. One or the other.

                • Blacksheep

                  Matthew 19 – continued:

                  22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

                  23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

                  25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

                  26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

                  Notice that the disciples, who had already given up wealth and possessions to follow Christ, were “greatly astonished” and said, “who then can be saved?” In other words, they recognized what Christ was saying was much deeper than money, it was about giving up what we cling to and identify with. Otherwise, the statement would have made perfect sense to them. They may have thought, “Exactly. We gave up everything, and we are saved. Good for us!”

                • TheG

                  Relativism.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You are really confused about the nature of relativism

                • TheG

                  And you are confused about its definition.

              • 3lemenope

                Your argument about prayer would be more convincing if it weren’t for the passage’s context, where Jesus follows his criticism of the public preening prayers of the Pharisees with a positive prescription of proper penitence. He doesn’t just tell them how not to do it, he tells them how to do it. And he doesn’t garnish it with any sort of caveat that it is a training-wheels sort of prayer that the more humble Christians can deviate from without risk of doing it wrong.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Yes, penitence should be private too. But the claim that the Christian faith should be kept to oneself is preposterous. What did Jesus do throughout his whole ministry? Preach the kingdom of God. What did he commission the apostles to do? Go out into all the world and preach the good news.

                • The Other Weirdo

                  He also repeatedly told his followers not to tell other people about it, to keep it private, an order they repeatedly disregarded.

                • 3lemenope

                  The first rule of Christianity is, you do not talk about Christianity.

                  The second rule of Christianity is, you do not talk about Christianity.

                  Third rule is, If someone says “stop”, goes limp, taps out, it’s probably just the Holy Spirit goofing off.

                  Fourth Rule: Only three persons to a Trinity.

                  Fifth Rule: One commandment at a time. Six hundred and thirteen is just too damn difficult.

                  Sixth Rule: No hats, no jeans.

                  Seventh Rule: Sermons will go on as long as they have to.

                  And the eighth and final rule is, if this is your first night in Christianity, to the dunk tank with you!

                • b s

                  You missed one:

                  No poofters!

                  And there is NO…rule six

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Not to tell other people about what? the faith? did you ever even read the New Testament? It’s all about spreading the Gospel to all nations.

                • Blacksheep

                  Half right…. During the early part of his ministry, he wanted things kept under wraps. But His last commandment, also known as the Great Commission, was for the faithful to share the Good News with the world. he also said that if we kept quiet about who he was, that the “stones would cry out.”

                • Tom

                  According to the book, he also commissioned his apostles to steal livestock, whipped people, got angry at a tree, and wandered off into the desert to starve himself.

          • baal

            Hidden jump link targets to the vatican’s RCC guide to fucking while god watches.

            • RobMcCune

              Not to mention the Vatican has terrible page layout making those 7 pages of text nigh unreadable.

              • Andre Villeneuve

                Yeah, that’s true. I’ll grant you that one :)

          • Gus Snarp

            I don’t think you actually know what objective means. Just because you and the Pope say it’s objective does not make it so.

          • Michael Harrison

            Ah, this game.

            Thing 1: “Gay sex is unnatural!”
            Thing 2: “What? But there are plenty of species in nature that engage in same-sex coitus.”
            Thing 1: “Oh, so if animals do it, it’s all right? Sure, go eat your young!”
            Thing 2: “Wait — are we playing a game of Miss the Point? You didn’t tell me!”

      • talkingsnake

        Anything other than the missionary position is off-limits, damn it! It’s perverted I tell you!

      • edb3803

        What is considered “normal” (as you appropriately quote) is your opinion, and based on your religious beliefs, at least what you have been taught by your authorities. And your opinion should be kept to yourself — once you push your opinion onto others through organizational rules and laws, you have just crossed the line into authoritarinism. Please don’t define for everyone what *you* think is “normal”.

        • Andre Villeneuve

          “your opinion should be kept to yourself” – that sounds a lot like authoritarianism to me!

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            When you’re reduced to defending yourself with a tu quoque, true or not, you’ve lost. Go eat some carbs and wake up.

          • edb3803

            What part of ‘once you push your opinion onto others through organizational rules and laws’ did you misunderstand? Have your opinions and prejudiced beliefs — just don’t make them into laws that others are supposed to adhere to — that’s authoritarinism!

            • Andre Villeneuve

              What am I “pushing”? You have the right to your opinion and the right to reject mine. So you are basically saying that whoever doesn’t agree with your idea of sexual morality has no right to speak. Therein lies the true authoritarianism.

              • edb3803

                I never said what you are claiming I said. Sorry, but now you are being dishonest.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Apologies if I misunderstood you, but that is certainly the basic vibe that I’m getting from others here. Disagree with the secularist idea of libertine sexuality and you are vilified and called all names.

                • baal

                  “secularist idea of libertine sexuality”
                  Consenting adults should not have negative consequences added to otherwise harmless activity (this world!) by religionists or the state. Yes, such a disagreeable statement that.

              • Matt D

                Don’t pretend you stumbled onto this website by accident, Andre, nobody here thinks your tragic self portraits are appealing.

          • baal

            You can only be happy if you follow the Vatican’s sex guide sounds like authoritarianism to me.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              Not at all. You are free to do whatever you want.

              • Matt D

                Then why are you here?

                • Michael Harrison

                  I think this is the religious version of “I’m not touching you!”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Read the article and then got sucked into these discussions. Probably my own fault for that…

                • baal

                  As my wife says, “Never read the comments.”

                • Matt D

                  You didn’t get “sucked” into this discussion anymore than a child is “sucked” onto a playground at recess.
                  In any case, you didn’t answer my question, so let me reiterate. If people are “free to do whatever they want” then why are you here saying they are not?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Yes yes, so I take responsibility for being mired down in the discussions.

                  People are free to do what they want. However, not all things are good. I’m here I suppose partially because I’m too weak willed to just bail out of all conversations (though I will soon), and also because I somehow care about your salvation.

                • Matt D

                  If you cared about salvation of others, then prove it.
                  Show me where you’ve had these discussions with any of the thousand of other faiths in the world, and then I’ll know that you are truly interested in salvation, and not just using the tolerance of Atheists to bolster your existing theism.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  tolerance of atheists?? *cough cough* I should have counted all the insults I have been getting in the last few hours.

                • Nate Frein

                  How about the hateful, insulting, bigoted language you’ve used?

                  Does that not count?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  you guys keep confusing the person with the act.

                  Liberal “tolerance”: claim to accept all ideas, hate the people who think otherwise.

                  Christian tolerance: reject sinful ideas, love the people who embrace them

                • Nate Frein

                  Liberal “tolerance”: claim to accept all ideas, hate the people who think otherwise.

                  No, we reject your hateful ideas, and we hold you accountable for trying to spread them.

                • Stev84

                  More sex-obsession and Orwellian double-speak

                • Michael Harrison

                  “Baby, you know I love you. And if you truly loved me, you would change yourself for me, to be closer to my vision for you.”

                  Yep, that sounds healthy.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Been there, done that, it nearly killed me.

                • Stev84

                  Nobody has to tolerate intolerance

                • Tom

                  You’re not clear on the whole tolerance concept, are you? That we tolerate you doesn’t necessarily mean that we like you.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  and that’s the difference between so-called secularist tolerance and Christian love.

                • Tom

                  Correct – but do you think that’s an argument in your favour? You’d have to be either a damn fool or suffering from a serious case of Stockholm syndrome not to prefer being openly disliked but fully tolerated over being “loved” but suppressed, because that’s an abusive relationship, right there.

                • Nate Frein

                  Shit, I’d rather have secular tolerance than your “christian hatelove”.

                • Stev84

                  There is no such thing as “Christian love”. You just redefine words to make yourself feel better about how narrow-minded and intolerant you are. Most churches simply don’t accept anyone who doesn’t confirm. Church is all about putting people into boxes and controlling them.

                • phantomreader42

                  Yeah, “Christian love” tends to involve raping, murdering, and torturing people.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  And that’s on a good day…

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Thank you for caring, but how about leaving it between, you know, the individual and… whatever might be out there, yeah?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  fair enough, God bless.

              • Stev84

                “But if you don’t follow our rules our master will torture you for eternity.”

                And of course for most of its history, the church did the torturing itself.

      • Carmelita Spats

        Pedophile priests are not “normal”, especially “not in the organization of kids”. Let’s talk “abnormal”…Being impregnated by a ghost is NOT “normal” or “natural”, is it? I’d even venture to say that ghostly insemination, opening Mary’s capacious vaginal dimensions to Yahweh’s black cosmic goo, is hot and sticky “paranormal parthenogenic perversion”. Mary’s biology responded in the manner of aphids. Yes? The Bible should really, really, go into more detail and explain how, exactly, did a horny teenager named “Mary” become inseminated, by a Space Ghost known as Yahweh, with Himself so as to sacrifice Himself to Himself. There was no consent because, you know, she couldn’t say “NO” to Yahweh’s *cough* charms. Promiscuity? We have no way to gauge Yahweh’s promiscuity because we don’t know how many other “lucky gals” received his black cosmic goo. Furthermore, since the Father and Son are ONE, this means that Jesus was his own father! EWWWW! Not even in Alabama!

        This is all so completely abnormal and NO CHILD should EVER be exposed to a creepy manger scene! Decent, responsible, parents are forced to explain to a MINOR that Joseph was not Jesus’s real daddy because Mary had a special, special, baby-maker who was really Jesus-In-Ghost-Form so Jesus made a baby (himself) with his own mommy which means that in family court, Jesus could very well end up paying child support to himself and having custody of himself.

        Mary’s Fling:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X41FANcPohk

        Let’s think of the children: Keep ALL paranormal perversions OUT of the public square and on TAX-EXEMPT property. Praise!

        • Andre Villeneuve

          I never said that pedophile priests are “normal.”

          Your blasphemous, angry ranting is completely off topic and not worthy of a response. Try a different approach if you are genuinely interested in discussing these issues.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            You’d be more credible if you weren’t either too stupid or too dishonest to actually discuss things instead of repeating yourself over and over whenever you think enough time has passed for people to forget that your questions have already been answered on FA multiple times.

            Not to mention your being too stupid or dishonest to know the definition of a basic word like “angry” and how it doesn’t apply to Carmelita’s post. It does, however, apply to your reaction to it. Would you like some tweezers to help extract that plank?

          • Gus Snarp

            Blasphemous? Fantastic, sounds like she got her point across then.

          • TheG

            “Your blasphemous, angry ranting is completely off topic and not worthy of a response.”

            And, yet, you responded.

      • Hat Stealer

        In other words, the idea that sex is magic. For those of us who don’t believe in magic, your words ring hollow.

      • Matt D

        First, don’t describe my sex life as “sodomy”, or I’ll describe yours as “rape”.
        Second, I was a Life Scout and my BF (seven years now) was an Eagle, and we had zero sexual experiences, yet were in the BSA until we were 18.
        Third, We had secular scoutmasters. So it seems the problem here is letting religious authority figures lead children, and considering their history of abusing them, that’s a mistake.

      • Frank

        Exactly!

      • Spuddie

        In other words the fundamentalist notion that one should abide by the most extreme notion of human relations, kept under strict control by the religious leader of choice.

        • Andre Villeneuve

          No, as a fellow citizen, on the civil level, I would say that you can do whatever you want. As a Christian concerned for your salvation, I would encourage you to turn away from sin and seek salvation while there is still time.

          • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

            And legislate it. That’s the part we’re all against. You want your personal religious beliefs to be the law of the land.

            We won’t stand for it. We think you’re wrong, but you’re allowed to be wrong. You’re just not allowed to impose your wrongness upon us with the force of the state.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              No I didn’t say anything at all about legislation here.

              • Nate Frein

                But I bet you voted against marriage equality.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  That’s another topic, but indeed, the very term “marriage equality” is a misnomer, since there is no such thing as gay “marriage”. It’s an oxymoron. Marriage is not a humanly built social construct.

                • Nate Frein

                  Marriage is not a humanly built social construct.

                  The parts involving the human built government are.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  That’s another topic, but indeed, the very term “marriage equality” is a misnomer, since there is no such thing as gay interracial “marriage”. It’s an oxymoron. Marriage is not a humanly built social construct.

                  Same shit, different era.

                  Same old stench of bitter hatred.

              • C.L. Honeycutt

                This post is nothing but you trying to defend yourself through a misleading statement. Does Jesus love your dishonesty?

            • Joe

              “We won’t stand for it. We think you’re wrong, but you’re allowed to be
              wrong.”

              We think you’re wrong too, but you’re allowed to be wrong, but the truth of the matter is, history is written by the winner, so as long as you oppose our beliefs, we will oppose yours.

              Not every Christian is anti-abortion, anti-gay etc. but you can’t say they’re “wrong” because you disagree with them. I wouldn’t want some little boy flirting with or touching my son in an inappropriate way at a Boy Scout campsite, doesn’t mean I hate gays.

              • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

                Do you think little straight boys flirt with or touch your daughter in inappropriate ways sometimes? The best way to deal with that is to teach children boundaries- my body is mine, no one is allowed to touch it without my permission, no means no, verbal harassment is still harassment, and if someone doesn’t stop then tell an adult. This is true for all children. Being hit on can be extremely uncomfortable, especially if you’re not interested in the person trying to flirt, but that’s not exactly unique to male-on-male flirting. Just teach your child to gently tell the person they’re not interested and ask them to stop, and if that doesn’t work (it usually does work for children and adult gay men, for adult straight men hitting on women, not so much. Straight guys are taught to disrespect women’s boundaries, but that’s a whole nother can of worms) go get authorities involved.

                When your wrongness involves telling children that some people are less than other people, when it involves advocating the death penalty for loving the wrong person (thanks Leviticus!), when it involves denying people basic human rights (marriage is so defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), then yeah, you can legally (but not ethically) teach your bigotry to your kids. But we will not let you enforce it with the law, and that means Boy Scouts either gives up all federal and state accommodations or it stops discriminating.

          • baal

            “As a Christian concerned for your salvation”
            As a humanist and an atheist, please stop being concerned about my salvation. The expression of your concern often lands in what I call the ‘harms’ bucket.

          • Spuddie

            Yet you expect everyone else to adhere to the same religious notions as yourself. Organizations to follow your beliefs to the exclusion of others. You expect the Boy Scouts to share your religious/sexual hangups as well.

            As for the rest of your post, it is seen often enough for everyone here to know that “concern for my sin” is the fundamentalist Christian way of saying “go fuck yourself”. Nobody is fooled here.

            Your “concern” for my salvation is really just an attempt to lift your ego and attack my beliefs. It drips with condescension and hostility under a friendly demeanor. There is no honesty or sincerity in your words. Very unChristlike yet characteristically Christian. =)

      • Anna

        Wow. I find this to be a revealing comment on the destructive and, shall we say, perverted nature of childhood indoctrination. You weren’t born thinking such terrible things about LGBT people, and you weren’t born born with the desire to advocate for such bizarre restrictions on human sexuality. It’s just very sad that you can’t conceive of people of the same sex having happy and fulfilling romantic and sexual relationships.

        • Andre Villeneuve

          I wasn’t indoctrinated at all. I came to these conclusions myself after years of study and observation of human nature. How do you know YOU aren’t the one indoctrinated? After all, it is the LGBT idea that is a totally new social experiment/construct. If you would have tried to push this stuff with anyone even 30 years ago (or at just about any time in human history, for that matter) they would have thought you’re out of your mind.

          • Anna

            So you just came to be judgmental of LGBT people and their relationships out of the blue? Where did you get the idea that same-sex relationships were “sinful” or inferior? You sure weren’t born thinking that way. Children don’t come into the world with anti-gay attitudes. Preschoolers don’t judge the romantic relationships of the adults around them, unless they are told that certain relationships are wrong.

            Did your “study and observation of human nature” involve having actual LGBT people as part of your life? I can’t imagine anyone who actually had gay friends and family members all of sudden deciding to believe that their relationships were inferior.

            And 30 years, really? Aside from everything else, you have a poor sense of history. You’d think most people would know that Stonewall took place in 1969. The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis were founded in the 1950s. Heck, the first American gay rights organization was founded in 1924. LGBT people have always been around, and they’ve been fighting for their rights for a very long time.

            • Andre Villeneuve

              Actually, most children tend to naturally understand that man is made for woman and woman is made for man. This can become obfuscated by our tendency to sin, but especially through brainwashing like what we’re seeing today. The argument that LGBT people have always been around means nothing. Sin has always been around too. Again, we are all sinners, it doesn’t take away our human dignity but God is always calling us to turn away from sin and to seek His kingdom.

              • Nate Frein

                Actually, most children tend to naturally understand that man is made for woman and woman is made for man

                You just love your unevidenced assertions.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I tend to still believe in common sense. And I don’t have time to find evidence for every sentence I say.

                • Nate Frein

                  “Common sense” tends to be wrong. If common sense could be relied on, quantum physics wouldn’t work.

                • Tom

                  So, what, you say stuff and *then* you go find out if it’s true or not, if you have the time? If you don’t already know something to be true, in a debate, don’t bloody well say it.

                • Erp

                  Most children are fairly egocentric and also heterosexual so I suspect they would tend to think man/woman sex seems the most attractive (once they start thinking about sex). However they probably feel that being right handed is natural also. And we all know how sinister left-handed people are.

              • Michael Harrison

                Most children also think that objects will keep moving in a line until it stops, and only then it will start moving downward.

              • Anna

                Actually, most children tend to naturally understand that man is made for woman and woman is made for man.

                Wow. That is quite a claim. I’d love to see some evidence that children inherently possess anti-gay feelings.

                It seems to me to be exactly the opposite. Children have to be “brainwashed” (to use your word) into being anti-gay. They have to be kept away from gay people and told that homosexuality is strange, wrong, or unnatural. I defy you to find a preschooler anywhere in the world who sees something wrong with a same-sex couple, unless that preschooler has been told there is something wrong with them.

                Incidentally, this is why conservatives are so upset about children having actual knowledge of LGBT people, rather than just being exposed to negative propaganda about them. A child who has met a same-sex couple in real life will know from firsthand experience that there is nothing bad, strange, or wrong. A four-year-old doesn’t care if she has two aunts or if her classmate has two daddies. Children generally judge adults by whether they’re nice and fair. Sexual orientation is highly unlikely to even cross their minds, let alone be a factor in their judgment.

                By the way, you didn’t answer my question. Where did you develop your negative feelings about homosexuality? Have you had actual friendships or familial relationships with anyone who’s LGBT?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Just another clarification: I’m not asking you to agree but just that you perhaps understand a little better. As Catholics we believe that the sexual act between two persons of the same sex is sinful. It doesn’t mean a wholesale condemnation of them, or to say that these persons are awful in every respect. We are all sinners. So the moral problem is in the sexual act, not in everything they are or have done. So in this way I could praise the two women who raised you in many ways, just not agree that certain acts are morally right. Again, I’m not asking you to agree, just to try to understand the distinction.

                  My negative feelings about homosexuality comes from my study of human nature, love and marriage. It’s a long story. I did/do have some friendships with homosexuals (and some ex-homosexuals). These feelings and thoughts are not fixated on homosexuality but rather on the wider purpose of love, marriage, and human life in general, and on the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God, called to repent from sin and accept God’s love, salvation and eternal life. Of course it’s very difficult to summarize this in an nutshell.

                • Anna

                  Of course I understand that Catholics believe that gay and lesbian sex is “sinful.” I understand that perfectly well; it’s just that it’s so bizarre to me. Frankly, official Catholic doctrine is so much more repressive about sex than any other religion I’m aware of. Even fundamentalist Protestants leave husbands and wives alone. They don’t make them account for every orgasm between them. Fundamentalist Catholics have so many extreme rules, so much obsessing over when and where it’s appropriate to have an orgasm. Even the ultra-orthodox Jews aren’t that extreme, and goodness knows no one could ever accuse them of lacking too many rules.

                  Also, I find it a bit strange (or not) that you keep referring to “the two women who raised me.” Such odd phrasing would seem to suggest that you’re opposed to even considering them my parents. Anyway, if my parents are “sinners,” then surely a heterosexual couple who uses birth control are equally “sinners,” so why single out same-sex couples for shame and condemnation? Do you also think couples who use birth control are unfit to have kids? Presumably they’re going to hell, too.

                  Your “study of human nature, love and marriage” sounds awfully vague to me. How exactly have you “studied” these things? I see you were raised Catholic after all, so it really doesn’t seem like you were ever in a position to accept LGBT people as equal. It doesn’t appear as if you were raised in a non-judgmental environment and then decided to develop anti-gay feelings later in life. Did you have them from childhood, then?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I personally think that the Catholic teachings on chastity are challenging for everyone (for example, I’m single, so I’m abstaining), but they are the best way to protect and foster faithful love. Though I understand that they appear restrictive when viewed from the outside, I find them anything but repressive. The Catholic view treats love and sexuality as something wonderful and actually something sacred that needs to be protected from our own tendency towards self-destruction. What is good about the sexual morality out there “in the world” nowadays? Kids sleep around, transmit STDs to each other, girls fix themselves with hormones with the Pill to avoid pregnancy, when that doesn’t work they abort their children, they haven’t even reached the age of 20 when they have experienced everything and are heartbroken, boyfriends and girlfriends move in together so they have hardly anything more to look forward to when (or if) they get married, divorce rates hover around 50%, etc, etc… You don’t think there’s a problem?

                  But the irony is that the same broken people then vilify Catholics for saying “save yourselves for marriage, be faithful to your future spouse, don’t kill your babies in the womb, resist temptations and don’t indulge in them.” Just as I might seem incredibly odd to you, I admit that I have also come to view the secularist morality as totally baffling, with its near complete lack of moral principles (apart from mutual consent), and still defending the same ideas that led to the disastrous results of the sexual revolution of the last few generations (yes I know I’m generalizing and there are exceptions).

                  Yes I confess that I feel uncomfortable referring to your “two moms” or “parents” for reasons that we discussed. There is no intention to shame them or you, and yes we are all sinners, but as I said I cannot agree to a redefinition of terms such as marriage, parents, mother or father, etc… I do apologize as I know that this is very personal to you.

                  I did not have any anti-gay feelings growing up. I never thought about this topic. I knew a few homosexuals in my early 20s and they were nice guys as such, but even in my agnostic phase I couldn’t agree that gay sex can be morally ok. As such I still wouldn’t say that I’m “anti-gay” today (again, distinction between acts and persons), but I must confess that the aggressive push to redefine marriage, along with the increasing anti-Christian persecution coming with it (e.g. in my native Canada) does not exactly predispose one favorably towards the advocates of the movement.

                • Anna

                  If you want to personally abstain from all sexual activity, including masturbation, that’s your choice. I have no problem with other people’s sexual choices. As long as you’re not harming anyone else, it’s absolutely none of my business.

                  However, when people start advocating that this is “the best way” to live and that everyone should follow their rules (under penalty of law or social stigma), then that’s when I feel the need to speak up. I find it horrible that innocent children are taught to experience guilt and shame about their sexuality, and that they grow up to be adults who feel that they must repent if they happen to have an orgasm the “wrong” way.

                  What is good about the sexual morality out there “in the world” nowadays? Kids sleep around, transmit STDs to each other, girls fix themselves with hormones with the Pill to avoid pregnancy, when that doesn’t work they abort their children, they haven’t even reached the age of 20 when they have experienced everything and are heartbroken, boyfriends and girlfriends move in together so they have hardly anything more to look forward to when (or if) they get married, divorce rates hover around 50%, etc, etc… You don’t think there’s a problem?

                  Wow, talk about a biased view. This sounds like a fundamentalist’s fevered imaginings rather than any accurate reflection of modern sexual and romantic relationships. I find your view of sex so archaic and repressive. I don’t think there is anything good in it at all, because it makes people feel bad about their sexuality. Masturbation is normal, healthy, and completely harmless. Two consenting adults wanting to have (and having) sex with each other is perfectly natural. For the vast majority of adults, intimate relationships are important. Responsible adults also take steps to ensure that their sexual activity does not result in unwanted pregnancies or disease. I fail to see anything problematic or “broken” in that.

                  You don’t have to answer if this is too personal, but have you ever had an intimate relationship? It seems like you see it as ugly rather than beautiful. I can’t imagine anyone who’s had a loving relationship seeing it as bad, because when two people are in love, there’s a closeness and intimacy that is quite wonderful. It’s not just about sex. You also care deeply about each other’s well-being, like each other, and respect each other. Marriage doesn’t have anything to do with that. You can live with someone for years and have a mutually loving, respectful relationship. Sexual intimacy just heightens the bond.

                  Yes I confess that I feel uncomfortable referring to your “two moms” or “parents” for reasons that we discussed. There is no intention to shame them or you, and yes we are all sinners, but as I said I cannot agree to a redefinition of terms such as marriage, parents, mother or father, etc… I do apologize as I know that this is very personal to you.

                  Really, even “parents” bothers you? Surely you’d think even the Catholic church would consider my biological mother to be my parent. FYI, although I suppose your church wouldn’t recognize it (just as they refuse to recognize other civil proceedings they disagree with), my non-biological mother is also my legal parent. My family went through the second-parent adoption process back in the early 90s.

                  Out of curiosity, if a divorced woman remarried, and her new husband legally adopted her young children and raised them as his own, would you have the same objection to calling him those children’s father or parent?

                  I did not have any anti-gay feelings growing up. I never thought about this topic. I knew a few homosexuals in my early 20s and they were nice guys as such, but even in my agnostic phase I couldn’t agree that gay sex can be morally ok.

                  Interesting. It seems like you deeply absorbed teachings on Catholic sexual morality. Otherwise, why would you ever have had a problem with gay sex? It’s very puzzling to me because you must have gotten your negative attitude from somewhere. Complete non-exposure can make someone uncomfortable, sure, but to judge consensual sexual activity as not “morally ok” obviously takes quite a bit more than that.

                  As such I still wouldn’t say that I’m “anti-gay” today (again, distinction between acts and persons), but I must confess that the aggressive push to redefine marriage, along with the increasing anti-Christian persecution coming with it (e.g. in my native Canada) does not exactly predispose one favorably towards the advocates of the movement.

                  Well, that’s the problem. Your religious group does not own civil marriage. I do not accept that a bunch of old men in Rome, who have written their anti-gay teachings down in books, are relevant to the discussion of civil marriage. They are not legal authorities, and I do not accept them as moral authorities. I do not think they should be able to dictate my country’s laws.

                  If those men want to deny gay people the right to marry in their churches, that’s fine. They deny Hindus and atheists and divorced people, too. I might think it’s bigoted or silly, but it’s their private club. They can do what they want. But they should not have the ability to interfere with people’s legal rights just because they disagree with something.

                  I find it especially annoying because, claiming that they have divine connections, these men have set themselves up as gods to rule over the world. But they are not gods. They are human beings just like any other human beings. They have no supernatural powers. Obviously, millions of people who are not members of that religion disagree with the idea that they are speaking for a deity.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  by the way, how do you do the thing with the gray bar on the left to quote text?

                  Personally I think there are three levels of moral discourse (and I realize we will have to agree to disagree on this one):

                  1) on a societal level, personal acts that don’t have a major impact on society and the common good – here I agree with you that it’s not my business nor the business of law to intrude in people’s private lives.

                  2) on a societal level, acts that have a major impact on society and/or the common good – issues of life and death and of fundamental social structures, such as the protection of the unborn and weakest, and the nature of marriage. These are not just “private issues” but important enough to impact society as a whole, and thus are inevitably affected by legislation.

                  3) on the spiritual level, as Christians we feel we have an obligation to testify that God is real, that sin is real, and has it has real (eternal) consequences. If we evangelize, it’s not because we like to annoy people. It’s because we actually don’t want them to be lost. Heaven and hell are real, we believe (and some of us have experienced), and we know that eternity is at stake. We are all called to eternal joy and blessedness, beginning here in this life, and Jesus has come to show us the way there – so we can’t really remain silent about it.

                  Why is my view of the landscape of sexual ethics “biased”? Is it not true? Are 1.5 million abortions a year, broken relationships/hearts everywhere we turn and 50% divorce rates something that can be denied or dismissed? Don’t you think it points to a deep malaise in how sexuality tends to be lived out nowadays?

                  Thing is, Anna, we are all called to love. The essence of love is generous self-gift. The opposite of love is selfishness and self-indulgence. That’s why masturbation and pornography are bad. They take what was meant for self-gift and loving communion and turn it into outlets for selfish self-gratification. The more we become addicted to that kind of self-centered pleasure and self-indulgence, the less we are able to truly love. It’s not being repressive, it’s protecting what is most intimately beautiful in the human person, our capacity to love.

                  I have more or less succeeded in waiting for my spouse (if I do eventually get married), but of course there is a range between total chastity and having sex. If I have any regret, it’s for having taken/given anything from women who were not to become my wife. What more beautiful sign of love can there be than to have the courage to forsake fleeting pleasures for the sake of belonging totally to the love of your life? We are a union of body and soul. For every act of intimacy, something of us remains with the other person. There is no way we can be promiscuous with a bunch of other people without this affecting our capacity to love and be faithful to one’s spouse. Would you want your spouse to keep framed pictures of all his “exes” on the walls of your family home? We don’t exactly tend to be proud of past sexual relationships. There is a reason for that.

                  Yes I suppose I could call your mother and her partner your “parents” though it does feel odd. Of course your mother is your mother (and thus parent), that goes without saying. You know my views on the rest. And yes I would call “parents” a divorced and remarried woman.

                  As you know, a “negative” attitude towards homosexuality is not rare. Is it so strange to conceive that people who know something about human anatomy might intuitively perceive gay sex as “unnatural”? Must you really find a source of “indoctrination” for such attitudes?

                  On your last point, the “old men in Rome” actually don’t have any authority to change or make up doctrines or moral teachings. They pass them down from Jesus and the apostles. So the role of the Church is chiefly one of preservation, not of innovation. Yes there are changes and adaptations to new situations, but they always derive from Biblical principles and from Jesus’ teachings. I fully understand that you would find this claim to divine authority preposterous and tremendously annoying, especially given the well-publicized failures and scandals that have come out in recent years. This was one of my chief stumbling blocks too in my non-Catholic years. But if God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ and actually decided to pass on his teachings in such a way, this changes everything.

                • Anna

                  We agree on your first level of moral discourse. As for the others…

                  2) on a societal level, acts that have a major impact on society and/or the common good – issues of life and death and of fundamental social structures, such as the protection of the unborn and weakest, and the nature of marriage. These are not just “private issues” but important enough to impact society as a whole, and thus are inevitably affected by legislation.

                  Then they should be apparent using secular arguments and secular evidence. The fact that anti-gay detractors have been asked repeatedly to provide those things and have been entirely unable to provide them is the reason that they have been losing in the courts. If there are secular reasons to oppose reproductive rights, gay rights, or anything else the Catholic church doesn’t like, then they need to convince us. “My god thinks it’s icky” is not an acceptable reason in a secular democracy.

                  3) on the spiritual level, as Christians we feel we have an obligation to testify that God is real, that sin is real, and has it has real (eternal) consequences. If we evangelize, it’s not because we like to annoy people. It’s because we actually don’t want them to be lost. Heaven and hell are real, we believe (and some of us have experienced), and we know that eternity is at stake. We are all called to eternal joy and blessedness, beginning here in this life, and Jesus has come to show us the way there – so we can’t really remain silent about it.

                  If you want to stand up in your church and decry birth control or homosexuality, have at it. No one’s stopping you from doing that. It’s the attempt to legislate your religious views that is the problem here. My country wasn’t founded as a Catholic theocracy, and I don’t want it to become one. Religious arguments should have no place in determining the laws of a secular democracy. Again, if there are secular reasons to oppose those things, then they should be able to provide evidence that will convince the rest of us to take their arguments seriously.

                  Why is my view of the landscape of sexual ethics “biased”?

                  Because it’s a ridiculous caricature, your fictional 20 year old woman who has had countless heartbreaks, STDs, uinplanned pregnancies and abortions. Believe it or not, most people manage to make it to the age of 20 without all of those things happening to them. That’s like pointing to the alcoholic on skid row and saying that he’s the reason alcohol should be banned, while ignoring all the millions of people who enjoy alcohol responsibly.

                  Sure, there are people who are irresponsible in their sexual habits, just as there are people who are irresponsible in their eating habits, drinking habits, driving habits, etc. But we don’t outlaw food or wine or cars because some people don’t know how to be responsible.

                  It’s particularly ironic because the failure to educate people about sexual health is the cause behind the problems you mentioned. Countries with comprehensive sex education have lower rates of STDs, unintended pregnancies, and abortions. Yet fundamentalists in the United States fight against that at every turn. The states with the highest rates of those things are Bible Belt, abstinence-promoting states. Often, it’s not that people want to be irresponsible. It’s that they have been systematically denied access to proper education and health care.

                  Thing is, Anna, we are all called to love. The essence of love is generous self-gift. The opposite of love is selfishness and self-indulgence. That’s why masturbation and pornography are bad. They take what was meant for self-gift and loving communion and turn it into outlets for selfish self-gratification. The more we become addicted to that kind of self-centered pleasure and self-indulgence, the less we are able to truly love.

                  Are you even aware how ridiculous this sounds? Masturbation (the ultimate in harmless sexual expression) is being touted as making it impossible for people to “truly love.” I know you’re serious, which just makes it all the more depressing. If masturbation prevented people from truly loving each other, then pretty much everyone on the planet would be so afflicted.

                  I also find it ironic that (if I’m reading your comments correctly) you’re a virgin who is expounding on the beauty of married sex and the ugliness of unmarried sex, neither of which it seems you have actually experienced. I suppose this is par for the course in the Catholic church, where people are expected to take relationship advice from priests, who have (supposedly) never experienced romantic or sexual love.

                  I have more or less succeeded in waiting for my spouse (if I do eventually get married), but of course there is a range between total chastity and having sex. If I have any regret, it’s for having taken/given anything from women who were not to become my wife.

                  It’s your attitude towards sex that I find problematic here, that you see it as taking and giving instead of sharing. Assuming of course that these were consensual relationships, those women chose to share a level of intimacy with you. You did not take it from them, and they did not give it away. It was not yours to take.

                  There does not seem to be any concept of bodily autonomy in the Catholic church. My body belongs to me. I decide what happens to my body. If I am married, my body still belongs to me. It does not belong to my husband. He does not have the claim ownership of my body, just as I don’t have the right to claim ownership of his. Couples make the decision to share intimacy with each other.

                  What more beautiful sign of love can there be than to have the courage to forsake fleeting pleasures for the sake of belonging totally to the love of your life? We are a union of body and soul. For every act of intimacy, something of us remains with the other person. There is no way we can be promiscuous with a bunch of other people without this affecting our capacity to love and be faithful to one’s spouse. Would you want your spouse to keep framed pictures of all his “exes” on the walls of your family home? We don’t exactly tend to be proud of past sexual relationships. There is a reason for that.

                  I just find this incredibly creepy as well as sad. It seems like the Catholic idea of marriage is of ownership. The only thing that matters in your scenario is whether or not people have had previous relationships because “belonging totally” (ew) seems to mean never having shared intimacy with anyone else. And, no, I would not want or expect my husband to be a virgin. In fact, I would find it very odd if a potential romantic partner (at my age) had not had any previous sexual relationships.

                  As for not being proud of past sexual relationships, well, I suppose if you’ve been indoctrinated to believe that all unmarried relationships are evil, that might be the case. I have absolutely no guilt, shame, or regret about my past relationships. I met my current partner in my early 20s. I see no reason why I should have been a virgin until that time. My earlier relationships were meaningful and powerful, and I’m glad I had them because they taught me a lot about myself and what I wanted out of a relationship.

                  Yes I suppose I could call your mother and her partner your “parents” though it does feel odd. Of course your mother is your mother (and thus parent), that goes without saying. You know my views on the rest. And yes I would call “parents” a divorced and remarried woman.

                  At least that’s more consistent. I don’t think even the most fervent Catholics refuse to acknowledge divorce and remarriage, even though they don’t approve of it. What bugs me is when religious people single out the LGBT community for shame and condemnation. If all sexual sins are really equal, then divorced and remarried people ought to be equally stigmatized. Except they’re not, even in Catholic circles. I can’t even count the number of divorced and remarried Catholics I know who are active in their parishes and send their kids to Catholic schools. A lot of those schools would never enroll a child from a same-sex family, yet they have no problem enrolling a child from a remarried one.

                  As you know, a “negative” attitude towards homosexuality is not rare. Is it so strange to conceive that people who know something about human anatomy might intuitively perceive gay sex as “unnatural”? Must you really find a source of “indoctrination” for such attitudes?

                  Yes, actually. Children aren’t born knowing anything about the sexual taboos of their culture. From what you’ve said about your childhood, you were raised with complete non-exposure to LGBT people, indoctrinated with Catholic theology, and probably exposed (as most of us are) to gay slurs and gay jokes in school, on television, etc. It’s no wonder that such an environment was not conducive to accepting homosexuality. IMO, for an “agnostic” not to find sex between consenting adults “morally ok” would take quite a bit of previous indoctrination.

                  And of course it’s still not rare to find negative attitudes about homosexuality, but it is getting much rarer. I assume in fundamentalist Catholic circles, you run into many people who share your views. In my circles, expressing disapproval of homosexuality would not be accepted. My friends and family members are generally educated, upper-middle class people. Most are either secular or loosely to moderately religious. I don’t hang out with fundamentalists, and even the Catholics I know are completely accepting of same-sex relationships.

                  Yikes, this is getting long!

                  On your last point, the “old men in Rome” actually don’t have any authority to change or make up doctrines or moral teachings. They pass them down from Jesus and the apostles.

                  Right, and that’s the problem. They think claiming divine connections gives them legitimacy. It doesn’t matter who the old men in Rome think they are channeling. That’s like saying the head of the Mormon church should be taken seriously because he’s following the example of Joseph Smith. If Smith wasn’t legitimate, then subsequent “prophets” aren’t either. Obviously the Catholic leaders think they’re speaking for a god. For those of us who don’t believe in their god or their religion, their claims of authority ring hollow. We don’t accept that their claim is legitimate, and we sure aren’t going to stand for them attempting to control the lives of people outside their organization.

                  I fully understand that you would find this claim to divine authority preposterous and tremendously annoying, especially given the well-publicized failures and scandals that have come out in recent years. This was one of my chief stumbling blocks too in my non-Catholic years. But if God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ and actually decided to pass on his teachings in such a way, this changes everything.

                  Only for members of that organization, not for the entire world. You haven’t managed to convince the rest of us that your god is real and that your religion is true. Also, while the recent Catholic scandals are certainly horrific, they’re not a “stumbling block” to joining the Catholic church for me. Even if priests were perfect, I still wouldn’t think their claims were true.

                  BTW, to use quotes, put (blockquote)(/blockquote) around the piece of text, only replace the paretheses with pointy brackets.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Then they should be apparent using secular arguments and secular evidence.

                  that sounds a lot like “ok you can play the game, as long as you agree to play it by MY rules”. Regardless, the Church does not try to influence legislation on the basis of religious beliefs but rather for the sake of the common good of society. (will continue another day)

                • Anna

                  Yes, in a secular democracy, you have to play by secular rules. You can’t offer religious arguments as the basis for legislation and expect to be taken seriously. If you want a country where law is based on religion, then that’s a theocracy. My country is not a theocracy.

                  And I’m well aware that your church thinks it’s doing it “for our own good,” but that doesn’t change the fact that their arguments are based solely on religion. The entire reason they’ve been losing in the courts is because they have failed to provide convincing secular evidence. I know you are in Canada, but in the United States there has to be a legitimate secular purpose to a law.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I basically have no problem to discuss moral issues on the basis of what you call “secular rules” and what I would call “natural law” – that is, using arguments based on reason and not on divine revelation as basis for legislation.

                  By the way, what do you think of this?
                  http://www.catholicvote.org/foolproof-advice-for-improving-your-love-life-with-pictures/

                  EDIT: oh, and this previous article of hers (linked in the first one) also makes some interesting points:
                  http://www.catholicvote.org/love-lies-and-bigotry-a-sorting/

                • Anna

                  But do you understand the reason your side keeps losing in the courts? It’s because they have not provided convincing secular arguments. They try to dress up their religious objections in secular language, but it doesn’t work. Judges aren’t buying it anymore. The public isn’t buying it anymore. There simply aren’t legitimate secular reasons to deny people rights.

                  I read your articles. Not sure what you want me to say about them? I think they’re wrong and depressing. They make me angry, the arrogance of people who sit in judgment and think they can dictate the lives of others. The condescending “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude. The offensive declaration of other people’s love as inferior, and the refusal to understand that there is more to a lifelong intimate partnership than sex.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Are you aware of your double standard?

                  On the one hand, you preach “tolerance” but then you get angry at someone who happens to have a view different than yours. You are upset at the “arrogance of people who sit in judgment” and yet for the last week you have rather arrogantly judged people of faith (i.e. the majority of human beings in history) as “indoctrinated”, brainwashed and more or less unable to think for themselves. You complain about a “condescending” attitude, but you have repeatedly stated in very condescending manner that Catholic morality is essentially stupid, primitive and harmful. You don’t like the “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude and yet you have said more than once that you wish that theists would abandon their God mumbo-jumbo and join the ranks of enlightened atheists like you.

                  You don’t see a little problem here?

                • Anna

                  Double standard? I’m not the one persecuting people here! Yes, the article (the second one, in particular) made me angry. I think it’s horribly wrong, and I found the author’s snide attitude unbearable.

                  However, I’m not attacking her right to say what she wants. She has the right to publish her article on the Internet. I’m not trying to shut her up. And I’m sure not trying to take away her civil rights. She has the right to equal protection under the law.

                  This is the old “you’re not tolerating my intolerance” routine. In fact, I am tolerating her right to hold intolerant views. But I will not tolerate attempts to force those views on others. And when she says condescending, terrible things about people, she should expect to hear criticism.

                  You are upset at the “arrogance of people who sit in judgment” and yet for the last week you have rather arrogantly judged people of faith (i.e. the majority of human beings in history) as “indoctrinated”, brainwashed and more or less unable to think for themselves.

                  I never used the word “brainwashed” or said that they were unable to think for themselves. The very fact that most Catholics are not fundamentalists shows that the vast majority do think for themselves and have the ability to come to their own conclusions.

                  However, the choice to believe in the supernatural was not theirs to make. They were taught to believe a god was real, were not told that it was an option, and were presented ideology as fact, not opinion.

                  I also don’t see what is arrogant about using the dictionary definition for indoctrination:

                  1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles. 2. To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view.

                  That’s what it is. If I wanted to be negative, then I would have used “brainwashing,” but I didn’t.

                  You complain about a “condescending” attitude, but you have repeatedly stated in very condescending manner that Catholic morality is essentially stupid, primitive and harmful.

                  That’s absolutely not true. I have said it is harmful, yes, because I believe it is very harmful. I have not used the words “stupid” or “primitive.” I don’t know what you want me to say here. You ask me what I think of some articles (the second of which was quite demeaning), and then you attack me for being honest? What was I supposed to say? I do think Catholic morality is wrong. I think it’s false and harmful. It makes me sad that people believe in it. Is merely stating that condescending? I haven’t called anyone names.

                  You don’t like the “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude and yet you have said more than once that you wish that theists would abandon their God mumbo-jumbo and join the ranks of enlightened atheists like you.

                  What? Please point out where I said any of that. I never called theism “mumbo-jumbo” nor have I expressed any desire for people to become atheists. I do wish people would abandon fundamentalism, but it does not follow that they need to become atheists.

                  Furthermore, you’re creating a false equivalency. If I had a “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude similar to the one Catholics have, then I would attempt to use the law to stigmatize and delegitimize them for being Catholic. But I’m not doing that. I would never do to them what they try to do to me and my family.

                  Maybe you don’t fully understand that your church’s negative rhetoric is not merely an annoyance for the LGBT community. It’s not just that you’re irritating same-sex couples and families by refusing to grant them equal rights. People actually kill themselves because of the kinds of things Emily wrote in that article.

                  Try to imagine, if you can, being told that you are intrinsically disordered, that the love you feel for another person is unnatural and harmful, that you do not deserve to ever have any kind of relationship, that you may never have a spouse or children. That you must live your life alone. Further, that a god you’ve been taught to believe in disagrees with the very core of your being and will punish you for following your natural instincts.

                  Baffling though it may be to a lifelong atheist like myself, people are attached to their religions. LGBT people are cast out of their places of worship. Imagine growing up in a church, expecting to always be involved, and then becoming aware that you will never be welcome there as an adult, that your spouse and children will never be welcome. That you will never be able to get married in that church. That you will never be able to have your children christened in that church.

                  And let’s not forget family disapproval. Many LGBT people are still cast out of religious homes. Their relationships are not recognized by their families. They must either stay in the closet their entire lives or risk being disowned by their parents and siblings. Try to imagine, if you can, being forced to spend every Thanksgiving and Christmas apart from your family because your parents won’t accept your partner, or else having to leave your partner on holidays so you can spend time with your family of origin.

                  And to top it all off, as if the religious condemnation weren’t enough, people like Emily want to use the law to make the lives of LGBT people even more difficult. It’s apparently not sufficient to shame and guilt them in their churches. They want to make sure they’re stigmatized and delegitimized everywhere, that they don’t have equal protection under the law.

                  The problem is not with LGBT people, who merely want to be treated equally. The problem is with your side. The arrogance comes from the fact that they believe they should be able to dictate other people’s lives, that they have the right to use the law to interfere with people’s civil rights. The condescension comes from the “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude. It’s a little pat on the head. “We know best.” But why should everyone accept that people like Emily know best?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Double standard? I’m not the one persecuting people here!

                  Yes, double standard, definitely. I’m not persecuting anyone either. We are discussing ideas and morality, no need to fall into persecution syndromes.

                  This is the old “you’re not tolerating my intolerance” routine. In fact, I am tolerating her right to hold intolerant views.

                  The fact that she has a point of view different than yours does not make her “intolerant.” Your claim of intolerance is entirely subjective and arbitrary, based on the fact that you think a minority group should have the “right” to call their unions “marriage” on the basis of their whims and desires. I don’t deny your right to argue these views, but you have no right to label as “intolerant” those who happen to disagree with you.

                  I never used the word “brainwashed” or said that they were unable to think for themselves. The very fact that most Catholics are not fundamentalists shows that the vast majority do think for themselves and have the ability to come to their own conclusions.

                  Anna, please, who are you kidding? You know very well that the term “indoctrination” is pejorative and implies in some way blindly and uncritically accepting some doctrine without thinking much about it. Also, think about the statement you made above: in other words, the Catholics who actually think for themselves are “not fundamentalists”, i.e. dissenters, fallen away, or apostate Catholics. They are the ones who think for themselves. Apparently I do not think for myself since I actually agree with the Church on moral issues. Say what you want, I don’t mind, but please don’t give me that crap that you don’t have a double standard or a contemptuous tone… (perhaps it’s intentional and you don’t really notice)

                  If I had a “we’re doing this for your own good” attitude similar to the one Catholics have, then I would attempt to use the law to stigmatize and delegitimize them for being Catholic.

                  Who is trying to use the law to “stigmatize and delegitimize” atheists? Lots of people disagree with gay “marriage” because they think it will be bad for society. This is not the same as stigmatizing and delegitimizing people.

                  People actually kill themselves because of the kinds of things Emily wrote in that article.

                  If people kill themselves for such opinions, then it is tragic but they are the ones who have a huge problem, not Emily. What a nice way to stifle freedom of expression. In other words, don’t support gay “marriage” (no matter how respectfully) and you are (at least indirectly) to blame for the suicide of innocent people.

                  Try to imagine, if you can, being told that you are intrinsically disordered

                  another serious failure in grasping important nuances. It is homosexual *acts* that are disordered, not the person (unless we understand the term in a much more general sense that we are all in some way “disordered” because we all have a tendency to sin”.

                  …that a god you’ve been taught to believe in disagrees with the very core of your being

                  that is your own subjective and arbitrary opinion. How do you prove that a same-sex attraction constitutes the “very core” of someone’s being?

                  LGBT people are cast out of their places of worship.

                  I don’t think they should be “cast out” but they should also have the honesty and integrity to respect the Church’s belief. The Catholic Church believes that homosexual acts are a sin. Many Catholics with same-sex attractions accept this to be true; they resist their temptations, grow in virtue and in chastity, some seek help, some find healing and are able to change. Homosexuals who disagree with the Church’s teachings are completely free to find a spiritual home elsewhere in some other church. But it’s pretty hypocritical to insist on acting out one’s homosexuality and at the same time insist on remaining in the Church and then try to undermine its teachings.

                • Anna

                  I did not mean to accuse you of personally engaging in persecution, but I do believe the Catholic church as a whole engages in such activity and encourages its followers to do the same. Perhaps we have different opinions on what persecution entails. I would call attempting to strip away people’s legal rights persecution. I’m sure you would disagree.

                  The fact that she has a point of view different than yours does not make her “intolerant.” Your claim of intolerance is entirely subjective and arbitrary, based on the fact that you think a minority group should have the “right” to call their unions “marriage” on the basis of their whims and desires. I don’t deny your right to argue these views, but you have no right to label as “intolerant” those who happen to disagree with you.

                  She does not want same-sex couples to have equal civil rights, and she is in favor of using the law to prevent them from having those rights. If that’s not intolerant, I don’t know what is. What word should I use? She’s obviously prejudiced against homosexuality. She thinks it’s a bad thing, and that homosexual love is inferior to heterosexual love and does not deserve to be recognized or legitimized by the government or by society as a whole. Her views are certainly not accepting of homosexuality. So what word should I use that means the opposite of accepting?

                  About indoctrination, I actually do not see the word as a pejorative on the same level as brainwashing, but I think it necessarily involves teaching children opinion as truth, presenting them with biased material, and expecting them not to challenge those claims.

                  An atheist parent could certainly indoctrinate their children into atheism by presenting atheism as the only viable choice, providing biased material supporting atheism (and only atheism), and not letting their children know that they have the option to believe otherwise. There are some atheists who do this, and I disagree with it just as strongly.

                  Does the Catholic church not tell children that a god is real and that a god loves them, and are the children not supposed to uncritically accept those assertions? Is a five-year-old encouraged to question the claims made in the We Love God textbook? I’m not saying it’s evil to indoctrinate, but I don’t understand pretending that’s not what’s happening. The children in that kindergarten class aren’t being given a free choice.

                  Also, think about the statement you made above: in other words, the Catholics who actually think for themselves are “not fundamentalists”, i.e. dissenters, fallen away, or apostate Catholics. They are the ones who think for themselves.

                  I was using it to counter your claim of brainwashing, the fact that many religious people do question their church’s claims and come to different conclusions. I don’t think most religious people are brainwashed. Indoctrinated with supernatural assumptions, sure, but not brainwashed.

                  Apparently I do not think for myself since I actually agree with the Church on moral issues. Say what you want, I don’t mind, but please don’t give me that crap that you don’t have a double standard or a contemptuous tone… (perhaps it’s intentional and you don’t really notice)

                  Well, you’ve already decided preemptively that you’re going to agree with everything the Vatican says, even things in the future which you have no knowledge of, and that you’re not willing to ever change your mind and go against what they say. I’m honestly not sure how that’s thinking for yourself.

                  I don’t mean to be contemptuous. If it helps, I don’t think you’re incapable of thinking for yourself. Obviously, you left Catholicism once to become a fundamentalist Protestant, so you made your own choice there. Now you’ve made the choice to follow Catholicism again. But it doesn’t seem to me like you’re currently engaging in independent thought, if everything you think echoes the Vatican perfectly.

                  However, I don’t honestly believe (this is just my personal opinion) you were given a free choice about acquiring supernatural beliefs, given what you were taught as a child. I think you were indoctrinated, but that’s not unique to you. I think children from Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, etc. families are also indoctrinated with certain supernatural assumptions.

                  Who is trying to use the law to “stigmatize and delegitimize” atheists? Lots of people disagree with gay “marriage” because they think it will be bad for society. This is not the same as stigmatizing and delegitimizing people.

                  You see religion as a protected class (which it is), but where I live, so is sexual orientation. If I had the same appalling “we know best” attitude, then I would attempt to take away Catholic people’s civil rights (under the pretense of their religion being harmful), the same way they tried to take away the rights of the people I love and care about.

                  Are you honestly trying to say that the Catholic church does not attempt to use the law to delegitimize people? Are you familiar with what happened in California in 2008? Same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. The Catholic church came in and attempted to delegitimize those couples and take away their civil rights. I live here. I heard all their speeches and and saw their signs. It was non-stop stigmatization.

                  If people kill themselves for such opinions, then it is tragic but they are the ones who have a huge problem, not Emily. What a nice way to stifle freedom of expression. In other words, don’t support gay “marriage” (no matter how respectfully) and you are (at least indirectly) to blame for the suicide of innocent people.

                  Wow. I don’t know how you could say that. It’s a vulnerable teenager’s fault if he kills himself after being told horrible things about homosexuality his entire life? Such a statement seems to me entirely lacking in empathy and humanity.

                  Yes, your culture of stigmatization leads to people’s deaths. I’m sorry if you don’t like that, but it’s true. Many people have killed themselves, and many more have tried to kill themselves. It’s not just about gay marriage. It’s about telling people that their love and their relationships are harmful, unnatural, and inferior.

                  Emily has the right to freedom of expression. But that’s why I think it is important to speak out (strongly!) against what she has to say.

                  another serious failure in grasping important nuances. It is homosexual *acts* that are disordered, not the person (unless we understand the term in a much more general sense that we are all in some way “disordered” because we all have a tendency to sin”.

                  Such a “distinction” is meaningless to people who find themselves in crisis because of what they have been told about homosexuality.

                  that is your own subjective and arbitrary opinion. How do you prove that a same-sex attraction constitutes the “very core” of someone’s being?

                  Most people are not asexual or aromantic. The vast majority of people desire to share their lives with an intimate partner. Is a straight man’s relationship with his wife and children not the “very core” of his being? Many people describe their spouses and children as their “heart.” Those are the kinds of feelings that accompany intimate relationships.

                  I don’t think they should be “cast out” but they should also have the honesty and integrity to respect the Church’s belief. The Catholic Church believes that homosexual acts are a sin. Many Catholics with same-sex attractions accept this to be true; they resist their temptations, grow in virtue and in chastity, some seek help, some find healing and are able to change. Homosexuals who disagree with the Church’s teachings are completely free to find a spiritual home elsewhere in some other church. But it’s pretty hypocritical to insist on acting out one’s homosexuality and at the same time insist on remaining in the Church and then try to undermine its teachings.

                  Tough luck then, for the gay and lesbian Catholics who actually feel attached to their church. Look, I think they should leave, too, but only because reform is futile. There’s no mechanism for reform in the Catholic church. It’s a top-down hierarchy. Anyone trying to agitate for change is just in for a lot of pain and suffering. I don’t blame them for wanting to reform it, though.

                  I just think you display an astounding lack of empathy on all of these fronts. No sympathy for vulnerable people who kill themselves because they’ve been made to feel there is something wrong with them, no sympathy for people who are forced to choose between a religion they love and being able to live an honest life.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I would call attempting to strip away people’s legal rights persecution. I’m sure you would disagree.

                  I don’t disagree with your statement, I disagree with your premise and definition of terms. Define “legal rights”. It seems to me that you really mean by that the arbitrary whims and desires of any potential minority pressure group, detached from the natural law and common good. Whatever arbitrary “rights” you claim for gay marriage may as well work with claiming equally arbitrary “rights” for polygamists or fans of incest as “marriage.”

                  Indoctrinated with supernatural assumptions, sure, but not brainwashed

                  actually, belief in the supernatural is very rational. Wholesale rejection of the spiritual world is irrational following simple metaphysical principles. In the ancient world, the great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle (not “indoctrinated” by any religion) came to the conclusion based on reason alone that a world in constant movement made of contingent beings cannot go back in a chain of infinite regress, or have come into existence out of nothing. So Plato concluded that all beings originate from “the Good” and Aristotle arrived at the notion of a spiritual “Unmoved Mover.” It’s basic metaphysics. Atheism is irrational and the product of a lack of metaphysical reflection. (I forget if I already posted this link for you, but it comes to mind now: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm)

                  Same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. The Catholic church came in and attempted to delegitimize those couples and take away their civil rights. I live here. I heard all their speeches and saw their signs. It was non-stop stigmatization.

                  again, I think that the core of our disagreement lies in what constitutes “legal rights” – should they be based on the arbitrary whims of any minority group or rather on the natural law and common good.

                  It’s a vulnerable teenager’s fault if he kills himself after being told horrible things about homosexuality his entire life? Such a statement seems to me entirely lacking in empathy and humanity.

                  what I meant to say was not to blame your hypothetical teenager for his suicide (in cases when it happens it really is tragic, but I don’t think empathy is required for hypothetical scenarios). My point was that I completely reject your attempt at stifling free speech by guilt trip, trying to put responsibility on people like Emily as allegedly responsible for teen suicides. This is completely unacceptable – a form of thought police (and you were complaining about that very idea not long ago). Following this rationale we would be muzzled from any moral discourse just because we might hurt someone’s sensitivity.

                  no sympathy for people who are forced to choose between a religion they love and being able to live an honest life

                  that’s an oxymoron. What would you say about a bunch of guys who love to eat steak but adamantly insist on being members of a vegetarian’s club, and then get offended when they are told that their lifestyle is inconsistent with the club’s very identity? If people act out on their homosexuality, they obviously do not “love” Catholicism and would be much better somewhere else.

                • Anna

                  I don’t disagree with your statement, I disagree with your premise and definition of terms. Define “legal rights”.

                  Okay, when a group has been granted the right to marry, then it is a legal right. Same-sex marriage was already legal in California. Then religious conservatives decided to strip away the already-existing legal right. I would define that as persecution.

                  Frankly, I’m a little confused why you seem so interested in American politics? You’re in Canada, and Canada already has nationwide same-sex marriage. It’s been legal there since 2005. So your country’s religious conservatives have already lost that battle.

                  actually, belief in the supernatural is very rational. Wholesale rejection of the spiritual world is irrational following simple metaphysical principles. In the ancient world, the great philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle (not “indoctrinated” by any religion) came to the conclusion based on reason alone that a world in constant movement made of contingent beings cannot go back in a chain of infinite regress, or have come into existence out of nothing.

                  The ancient world was hardly devoid of supernaturalism! It would seem ridiculous to me to claim that Plato was not taught about the supernatural as a young child, as Ancient Greece was brimming over with gods and goddesses. Are you trying to suggest Plato was raised in ignorance of them? Plato was surely exposed to those deities just as modern children are exposed to the biblical god today. Plato was also a human being, with no magical or supernatural powers. The people in his society believed in the supernatural for the same reasons that people in modern cultures believe in the supernatural: because they were told it was real.

                  what I meant to say was not to blame your hypothetical teenager for his suicide (in cases when it happens it really is tragic, but I don’t think empathy is required for hypothetical scenarios). My point was that I completely reject your attempt at stifling free speech by guilt trip, trying to put responsibility on people like Emily as allegedly responsible for teen suicides. This is completely unacceptable – a form of thought police (and you were complaining about that very idea not long ago). Following this rationale we would be muzzled from any moral discourse just because we might hurt someone’s sensitivity.

                  When did I ever advocate stifling free speech? Emily should absolutely have the right to post things that I think are horrible, even things which may lead vulnerable people to kill themselves. People are allowed to express unpopular, harmful views. I would make no attempt to stop her from speaking. However, the fact that her views are so harmful is the very reason why I think it’s important to speak up about them. I would like to see her views disappear due to education, not force.

                  Yes, I do think Emily and everyone else who contributes to the culture of stigmatization in our society shares responsibility for LGBT suicides. They happen all the time, and people who survive their suicide attempts talk about what drove them to that level of desperation. I can’t force Emily or anyone else to feel guilty. But I can certainly say that I think they should feel guilty.

                  If people act out on their homosexuality, they obviously do not “love” Catholicism and would be much better somewhere else.

                  So, again, tough luck. It doesn’t matter how they feel. It doesn’t matter how much pain and suffering they’ve experienced over the issue. After having been indoctrinated into those beliefs in the first place and developing the emotional attachment the church wanted them to develop, they’re just told to get out.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  when a group has been granted the right to marry, then it is a legal right

                  you seem to confirm my impression that you understand “rights” as the purely arbitrary whims and desires of any interest group. How does your definition of “rights” differ from, say, those who would want marriage extended to polygamy or incestual relations?

                  Plato was surely exposed to those deities just as modern children are exposed to the biblical god today.

                  your comment suggests that you have not read Plato. Have you? Plato’s philosophy is completely removed from the Greek myths. Of course he knew of them, but his writings have nothing to do with them. You keep hanging onto the strange fallacy that if anyone grew up with some knowledge of the “supernatural” then it seems to invalidate any subsequent argument or validity in their worldview (the “indoctrination” argument). By the same reasoning I could dismiss in an instant everything you have ever said to me: since you grew up in a “non-supernatural” setting you have been “indoctrinated” to think that way (and I doubt that studying with dissenting Catholics really gave you a balanced or accurate picture of Christianity).

                  When did I ever advocate stifling free speech?

                  you are indirectly stifling free speech by insinuating that the respectful critique of certain moral actions are to be blamed for suicides. That’s just ridiculous. By the same reasoning, I could go around blaming you and other atheists who critique Christianity for the suicide of any Christian who was thrown into an existential crisis and lost his/her faith due to your writings.

                • Anna

                  you seem to confirm my impression that you understand “rights” as the purely arbitrary whims and desires of any interest group.

                  No, legal rights are granted by the government, which bases them on what’s found in the constitution. In California in 2008, same-sex couples had the right to legally marry. They weren’t pretending to have that right. They already did, and then the religious conservatives came in to strip it away.

                  How does your definition of “rights” differ from, say, those who would want marriage extended to polygamy or incestual relations?

                  I’m not following. I suppose those people could advocate for marriage rights, but they don’t currently have them.

                  your comment suggests that you have not read Plato. Have you? Plato’s philosophy is completely removed from the Greek myths. Of course he knew of them, but his writings have nothing to do with them.

                  Yes, I read Plato in college. I did not mean to say that Plato’s writings had anything to do with the Greek gods, only that he was exposed to them just as surely as modern children are exposed to the Christian god.

                  You keep hanging onto the strange fallacy that if anyone grew up with some knowledge of the “supernatural” then it seems to invalidate any subsequent argument or validity in their worldview (the “indoctrination” argument).

                  Well, close enough. Being taught to believe in the supernatural biases people towards supernatural assumptions. If they’re told it’s real, they’re more likely to believe it’s real or assume that it’s likely to be real.

                  By the same reasoning I could dismiss in an instant everything you have ever said to me: since you grew up in a “non-supernatural” setting you have been “indoctrinated” to think that way

                  Uh, I was exposed to the supernatural, too. Every child in American society is. The main difference between me and other children is that adults never told me it was real, at least not directly. I did come across assertions that it was real in books, in movies, and on television. Still a certain level of bias, but no one ever told me to believe in a god or told me to believe in an afterlife. That’s the opposite of indoctrination. I could have started believing it was real, but if I had, it would have been the result of free exploration, not something drilled into my head when I was three years old.

                  (and I doubt that studying with dissenting Catholics really gave you a balanced or accurate picture of Christianity).

                  That wasn’t my only exposure to Christianity. I’ve read a ton of books about many different Christian (and other) denominations. I’m really not sure what else you would have wanted me to do. I read the Bible, I read C.S. Lewis, I’ve been to plenty of religious services. I really don’t think I need to study with fundamentalists to understand what they believe.

                  you are indirectly stifling free speech by insinuating that the respectful critique of certain moral actions are to be blamed for suicides. That’s just ridiculous. By the same reasoning, I could go around blaming you and other atheists who critique Christianity for the suicide of any Christian who was thrown into an into an existential crisis and lost his/her faith due to your writings.

                  Let me know when we have an epidemic of former Christian suicides, and I’ll consider your argument to have some validity. There is nothing respectful about what Emily wrote (seriously, did you read her second article?) and there is nothing respectful about telling people their love and their relationships are harmful, unnatural, and inferior and working to ensure that they are delegitimized by the government and stigmatized by the rest of society.

                  You don’t really seem to care about the effect the culture of stigmatization has on people. If people feel hated and not loved, don’t you think there’s a problem? If people are killing themselves, don’t you think your church might be failing in its mission to convey the idea that they respect people’s dignity?

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  No, legal rights are granted by the government

                  does might makes right? since when does government endorsement for anything automatically make it good or just? History is littered with bad laws passed by governments.

                  I’m not following. I suppose [polygamists] could advocate for marriage rights, but they don’t currently have them.

                  my point is that your understanding of “rights” is completely arbitrary, based on the subjective whims of any pressure group rather than on the natural law and common good of society. According to your view, any interest group could make demands to have its “rights” recognized and legalized by society or the government. If homosexuals demand to have their unions recognized as marriage on the sole basis that they want it so, abstracted from human nature, natural law and the common good, then there is no real basis for denying similar recognition of polygamous unions, incest unions, etc…

                  Being taught to believe in the supernatural biases people towards supernatural assumptions.

                  how is this even relevant? This is not an argument. Teaching kids the laws of addition and subtraction biases them to believe in the laws of mathematics. Teaching them the laws of grammar biases them towards knowing the English language. What people are being taught is not the crux of the issue. What counts is whether it is true or not. Plato and Aristotle arrived at the concept that there must be one Creator purely by intellectual, logical, philosophical thought. You keep coming back to the topic of “indoctrination” but to be honest it looks like a cop-out. You have repeatedly ignored the metaphysical questions that I have raised and failed to give any kind of coherent response to the problem of the origins of the universe and of life (which, by the way, pertains more to the realm of philosophy/metaphysics to that of empirical science). You have not responded to any of the arguments for the existence of God raised in the article by Kreeft (http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/20_arguments-gods-existence.htm)

                  I am well disposed to believe you when you say that you have read a bit of Christian literature, and I understand your objections to Christianity (though I maintain that you don’t understand it very well), but it seems to me that your self-declared atheism rests on no rational foundation at all. It seems like you don’t believe in God because you don’t *want* to believe in God.

                  Hypothetical question: if God would somehow show up in your life in an unmistakable way, revealing Himself to be absolutely good, loving, and just, and would prove to you beyond any doubt that he became man in Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way, the truth and the life for which we were made (i.e. revealing that the way he taught is the way for us to be truly good and happy), would you follow him? Or would you hang on to your current atheism and moral values no matter what?

                  If people feel hated and not loved, don’t you think there’s a problem? If people are killing themselves, don’t you think your church might be failing in its mission to convey the idea that they respect people’s dignity?

                  I think that true love for a person means to love him/her unconditionally and at the same time gently telling him/her if they are doing something wrong. You would not let a friend take heroine or drive while completely drunk and say “I love you and respect your dignity, just do whatever you want and I’m fine with it,” would you? Christians and churches should love people, they should show kindness and respect to all and not tolerate any kind of bullying, but they certainly not remain silent regarding mortal sins. That would not be love at all but just cold, indifferent apathy when people’s salvation and eternity is at stake.

                • Anna

                  Of course there can be bad laws. I’m not really sure what you’re getting at. You asked me how I defined persecution, and I said I think attempting to take away people’s civil rights qualifies. That you don’t like the right doesn’t make it any less legal. The courts have seen fit to grant same-sex couples the right to legally marry. Religious conservatives are attempting to delegitimize them.

                  Once again I will point out that laws in the United States cannot be based on religious doctrine, and that opponents of same-sex marriage have been asked repeatedly to provide secular reasons why it should not be legal. They have not been able to do so, which is why they keep losing in the courts.

                  my point is that your understanding of “rights” is completely arbitrary, based on the subjective whims of any pressure group rather than on the natural law and common good of society.

                  It’s not arbitrary. The rights of American citizens are determined by what’s found in the constitution. Loving v. Virginia (1967) already established marriage as a civil right, and the courts have found that it is in the interest of the common good for same-sex couples to be able to legally marry and protect each other in the same way that opposite-sex couples are able to. Your church’s assertion of a supernatural “natural law” has no relevance here.

                  According to your view, any interest group could make demands to have its “rights” recognized and legalized by society or the government. If homosexuals demand to have their unions recognized as marriage on the sole basis that they want it so, abstracted from human nature, natural law and the common good, then there is no real basis for denying similar recognition of polygamous unions, incest unions, etc…

                  Of course any group can petition the government if it thinks it is being treated unfairly. They’ve always been able to do that. Whether they could convince the courts is another matter. Marriage is a dual-party system, so people involved in polyamorous relationships would have quite a bit of work to do, as most of the laws would have to be rewritten for them. Incestuous first-cousin marriages are legal in 26 states, and they are recognized in others and by the federal government due to the “full faith and credit” clause. Closer incestuous unions are so rare as to be negligible. There simply isn’t any demand for sibling marriages, for example, and thus no need for them to petition the government for rights.

                  how is this even relevant? This is not an argument. Teaching kids the laws of addition and subtraction biases them to believe in the laws of mathematics. Teaching them the laws of grammar biases them towards knowing the English language. What people are being taught is not the crux of the issue. What counts is whether it is true or not.

                  I happen to think it is the crux of the issue, because no one would even remotely entertain the idea of it being true had they not been raised in an atmosphere where it was assumed to be true. You can’t believe in something you’ve never heard of .

                  Plato and Aristotle arrived at the concept that there must be one Creator purely by intellectual, logical, philosophical thought.

                  And…? It’s like you think just because someone was intelligent and lived a long time ago that they were automatically right or likely to be right. Plato and Aristotle were wise men, absolutely, but they had no supernatural powers. They were not privy to the secrets of the universe. They tried as best they could to explain the ideas they formed in their own heads, and I believe the supernatural assumptions they were exposed to naturally biased them in favor of trying to argue for the existence of the supernatural.

                  You keep coming back to the topic of “indoctrination” but to be honest it looks like a cop-out. You have repeatedly ignored the metaphysical questions that I have raised and failed to give any kind of coherent response to the problem of the origins of the universe and of life (which, by the way, pertains more to the realm of philosophy/metaphysics to that of empirical science). You have not responded to any of the arguments for the existence of God raised in the article by Kreeft (http://www.peterkreeft.com/top

                  I haven’t ignored them. I’ve just said that I’m not the best person to discuss them. I’m not a scientist or a philosopher, but there are many atheist scientists and philosophers who have addressed your questions quite thoroughly. I’m sure someone could recommend a relevant book. If you are interested in philosophy, perhaps Atheism: A Philosophical Justification would be helpful.

                  http://www.amazon.com/Atheism-Philosophical-Justification-Michael-Martin/dp/0877229430#_

                  I am well disposed to believe you when you say that you have read a bit of Christian literature, and I understand your objections to Christianity (though I maintain that you don’t understand it very well), but it seems to me that your self-declared atheism rests on no rational foundation at all. It seems like you don’t believe in God because you don’t *want* to believe in God.

                  No, I don’t believe in any gods because I do not think there is evidence to support the idea that they exist. I have no emotional feelings about deities one way or the other. To me, it seems obvious that gods and goddesses are the creation of human societies. All societies have different ones. No one is born believing in a deity. The deities that people consider likely to exist are based entirely on the culture and the era in which they were born. And, of course, not all societies have gods, though all do share belief in the supernatural.

                  That all human societies share supernaturalism is not surprising to me. All modern societies evolved from ancient societies, and all ancient societies were wholly ignorant of the world around them. It’s no wonder they created supernatural reasons to explain what they did not understand. We have no idea if people not exposed to supernatural but raised with access to scientific knowledge would also invent deities or other supernatural entities. I would love to know the answer, but unfortunately such social experimentation is not feasible.

                  Hypothetical question: if God would somehow show up in your life in an unmistakable way, revealing Himself to be absolutely good, loving, and just, and would prove to you beyond any doubt that he became man in Jesus of Nazareth to show us the way, the truth and the life for which we were made (i.e. revealing that the way he taught is the way for us to be truly good and happy), would you follow him? Or would you hang on to your current atheism and moral values no matter what?

                  It would seem quite absurd to remain an atheist if I had incontrovertible proof of a deity! Of course I would not be an atheist in that scenario. As for whether I would follow the deity, well, that would depend on its character. I’m quite repulsed by the idea of deities who hurt people. I suppose I could pretend to love and worship a deity like that, but if it was omniscient, it would see right through me. I guess I would find myself damned anyway.

                  I think that true love for a person means to love him/her unconditionally and at the same time gently telling him/her if they are doing something wrong. You would not let a friend take heroine or drive while completely drunk and say “I love you and respect your dignity, just do whatever you want and I’m fine with it,” would you? Christians and churches should love people, they should show kindness and respect to all and not tolerate any kind of bullying, but they certainly not remain silent regarding mortal sins. That would not be love at all but just cold, indifferent apathy when people’s salvation and eternity is at stake.

                  This seems to be the central problem with conservative religious people. They just don’t seem to understand how much harm they are doing to others. It doesn’t matter how many people tell them that they feel hated. It doesn’t matter how many people are driven to suicide. They cannot consider the idea that they might be wrong, and they will always put what they think their god wants above the interests of human beings.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Sorry it’s taken me so much time to answer. I have been very busy.

                  Marriage is a dual-party system, so people involved in polyamorous relationships would have quite a bit of work to do, as most of the laws would have to be rewritten for them

                  Coming back to the arbitrary nature of your underlying presuppositions: who says that “marriage is a dual-party system”? Of course I agree with you on that one. But almost every society, ancient and modern, except our own modernist, deconstructionist society has assumed the commonsensical idea that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for the sake of bringing children into the world and forming a family. Now you come and arbitrarily question and undermine the “man/woman” part, saying that same-sex couples equally qualify to form a marriage. So since it’s not necessary to have a man and a woman, and the definition of marriage should only depend on arbitrary “rights” (=whims) no longer intrinsically connected with the natural procreation of new life, by what standard must we maintain that marriage should consist of only two people? Polygamists can easily use the same arguments you use: they can say their “rights” are trampled, and they are discriminated against unless the state also recognizes trios, quartets, etc… as “marriage.”

                  one would even remotely entertain the idea of it being true had they not been raised in an atmosphere where it was assumed to be true

                  once again, this is patently false. Many people who grew up atheists or agnostics come to realize that such a world view is ultimately irrational, and they reason themselves to the logical conclusion that a world of contingent, mutually dependent, evolving beings cannot exist on its own in a chain of infinite regress, but must go back to one self-sufficient, infinite, spiritual being. It’s a fundamentally reasonable proposition.

                  I don’t believe in any gods because I do not think there is evidence to support the idea that they exist.

                  It would seem quite absurd to remain an atheist if I had incontrovertible proof of a deity! Of course I would not be an atheist in that scenario.

                  I asked my hypothetical question because I have the impression that you hang on to your atheism because you *want* to, not because it’s particularly rational, logical or convincing. As I said, the fact that you keep reverting to the very weak argument of “indoctrination” why dismissing, avoiding, or refusing to answer the arguments that I have proposed seems to me to be an indication of this.

                  I guess I would find myself damned anyway.

                  This is connected to my last observation. Those who are damned, according to our faith, are those who voluntarily and persistently suppress truth and goodness. It’s not like God takes pleasure in damning people; it’s more like people damn themselves. On the other hand, the Church acknowledges the possibility that any honest seeker may be “saved”:

                  “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (Catechism 847) http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p123a9p3.htm#III

                  So you might want to ask yourself the question: is your goal just to defend your position no matter what, or are you open-minded enough to consider whether it might be true that there really is an all-loving and all-powerful God who loves you and has a good purpose for your life.

                  (On this note I just discovered this relatively new website dedicated to atheist/Catholic dialogue that you might find interesting: http://www.strangenotions.com/)

                  they will always put what they think their god wants above the interests of human beings

                  that’s not true. If God is all-good, then what He wants is precisely in the best interest of human beings. Did it ever happen to you when you were small that you really, really wanted something (like play with a knife or dangerous object) and your parents said “no”? Likewise, can you conceive that there are some things that we might want while not realizing that they are ultimately harmful to us, and this is why God says “no” to these things?

                • Anna

                  Coming back to the arbitrary nature of your underlying presuppositions: who says that “marriage is a dual-party system”?

                  The government of the United States. We were talking about marriage in American society, weren’t we? It is not required that marriage be a dual-party system. Other cultures have other systems.

                  Marriage is a legal contract, one which is established by the government. I am not talking about religious marriage. I’m talking about civil marriage. In America, it’s a dual-party system. If a group wanted to change that, it would require a massive overhaul of the system. That’s not to say it couldn’t be done, but given the fact that (outside of Utah), there is no cultural precedence for polygamy in American society, I think it is unlikely to happen.

                  Of course I agree with you on that one. But almost every society, ancient and modern, except our own modernist, deconstructionist society has assumed the commonsensical idea that marriage is the union of one man and one woman for the sake of bringing children into the world and forming a family.

                  So, you’re just discounting all those ancient societies that practiced polygamy, even though they’re found in your own holy book? I find that very odd indeed.

                  Now you come and arbitrarily question and undermine the “man/woman” part, saying that same-sex couples equally qualify to form a marriage. So since it’s not necessary to have a man and a woman, and the definition of marriage should only depend on arbitrary “rights” (=whims) no longer intrinsically connected with the natural procreation of new life, by what standard must we maintain that marriage should consist of only two people? Polygamists can easily use the same arguments you use: they can say their “rights” are trampled, and they are discriminated against unless the state also recognizes trios, quartets, etc… as “marriage.”

                  Sure they can, and they’re free to do that. There’s a heck of a lot of historical precedence for polygamy. The main stumbling block to legalizing it in American society would be a) having to massively overhaul the legal system and b) cultural unfamiliarity.

                  Do you want me to say polyamory is bad, or something? I don’t think having more than one spouse is harmful. I think the main problem with polygamy is not that people have more than one spouse, but that it typically occurs in patriarchal societies in which there is a vast power imbalance between men and women. That’s a set-up which is ripe for abuse. It doesn’t matter if a man has one wife or two wives if the society tells him that he is allowed to rule over his spouse.

                  I don’t think there would be any problem with an egalitarian polyamorous culture, although to my knowledge, there are no societies in which both polygamy and polyandry are accepted, and which grant equal status to both men and women.

                  once again, this is patently false. Many people who grew up atheists or agnostics come to realize that such a world view is ultimately irrational, and they reason themselves to the logical conclusion that a world of contingent, mutually dependent, evolving beings cannot exist on its own in a chain of infinite regress, but must go back to one self-sufficient, infinite, spiritual being. It’s a fundamentally reasonable proposition.

                  You’re not understanding my point at all. Even people who grow up atheist or agnostic are exposed to supernatural assumptions. This is crucial! We have no data on whether children raised in complete ignorance of supernatural ideas would develop belief in the supernatural. Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what a fascinating experiment it would be, but it simply can’t be carried out. Human experimentation is frowned upon in modern society.

                  I asked my hypothetical question because I have the impression that you hang on to your atheism because you *want* to, not because it’s particularly rational, logical or convincing.

                  Then you are completely misunderstanding not only me, but atheism in general. I have absolutely no emotional feelings about deities. I was not predisposed to think of them as bad. In fact, I have no moral objection to believing in a pleasant deity that offers a pleasant afterlife, provided that one could be shown to exist. I don’t want to be an atheist. I simply am an atheist because I have never come across any reason to be otherwise.

                  Atheism is the default position. I don’t have to try to “hang on” to it. It doesn’t take any effort. The whole reason that I’m an atheist is because I think it is the most rational and logical position, and I have never found anything to convince me to believe in an invisible supernatural realm. It’s not just deities; it’s the whole supernatural package!

                  As I said, the fact that you keep reverting to the very weak argument of “indoctrination” why dismissing, avoiding, or refusing to answer the arguments that I have proposed seems to me to be an indication of this.

                  Why do you keep saying this? I’ve done more reading about theism that you’ve apparently done about atheism, and somehow I’m the one with a closed mind? You’re the one who’s already declared you will never change your mind, ever, no matter what new information you come across. I’ve also done way more reading about Christianity than I’ve done about any other world religion, and that’s still not enough?

                  Good grief, what do you want me to do? I took philosophy courses in college. I find philosophical arguments for theism unconvincing. I do not accept their foundational assumptions. If you have actual empirical evidence that would suggest the existence of a deity, then feel free to present it, but the fact that intelligent people who were indoctrinated to believe in the supernatural managed to come up with fancy arguments to rationalize their belief in the supernatural is not going to convince me.

                  So you might want to ask yourself the question: is your goal just to defend your position no matter what, or are you open-minded enough to consider whether it might be true that there really is an all-loving and all-powerful God who loves you and has a good purpose for your life.

                  I could ask the same thing of you! You’re the one who has said you will never change your mind. If someone could present me with actual evidence of the deity in question, then I’d be more than willing to change my mind. But you are so wrapped up in your culture-box that you seem unable to comprehend that not only is your deity not obvious to others, it’s not even the only one out there. Why should I take your deity and your religion more seriously than I take any other? An accident of birth is not a good reason.

                  As for damning ourselves and whatnot, that’s a convenient way to excuse brutality. Even if I somehow became convinced of your deity, doesn’t your deity also demand that I love and worship it? I can’t force emotions like that. I don’t choose to be tortured, either. If your god is going to torture anyone I could not love it, and yet, I’ll be punished for having basic human empathy. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

                  that’s not true. If God is all-good, then what He wants is precisely in the best interest of human beings. Did it ever happen to you when you were small that you really, really wanted something (like play with a knife or dangerous object) and your parents said “no”? Likewise, can you conceive that there are some things that we might want while not realizing that they are ultimately harmful to us, and this is why God says “no” to these things?

                  So you’re basically just abdicating responsibility to your fellow human beings. If your god wants it, it doesn’t matter how many people are hurt. It doesn’t matter if LGBT people commit suicide or self-harm or descend into alcoholism or drug abuse because of the terrible things your church teaches.

                  You’ve failed to convince me that your god exists. You’ve failed to provide evidence of any real-world harm of homosexuality. You are aware of the fact that U.S. laws cannot be based on religious doctrine. And yet you still think you have the right to dictate other people’s lives based on the say-so of your deity, completely discounting the wishes of people who believe in different deities, other versions of the same deity, and those who do not believe in any deity at all.

                  I’d still love to know how my conception hurt me. You said I was hurt because I didn’t have a father, but you wouldn’t say how. Since your church is in the business of telling people which families are worthy enough to exist and which children ought to be conceived, I think I’m owed an explanation. And a real explanation, not a vague allusion to “essence” or “essential difference.”

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  It’s hard not to read your initial comments as a confirmation that advocates of “gay marriage” are really in favor of (or at least not opposed to) a complete deconstruction of marriage as we have always known it in Western civilization for the past few millennia. Again you seem to view it as a purely arbitrary social construct. Would you really like to share your husband with a few other wives? (or husbands for that matter?)

                  Even people who grow up atheist or agnostic are exposed to supernatural assumptions. This is crucial!

                  But why is this “crucial”? Again you make it sound that people come to faith only or largely because they were exposed to “supernatural assumptions” – again the topic of conditioning/indoctrination, while you continue to shirk/avoid the actual intellectual arguments.

                  I’ve also done way more reading about Christianity than I’ve done about any other world religion, and that’s still not enough?

                  It’s not up to me to tell you what is “enough” but I just have been observing that your understanding of Christianity is very, very basic.

                  Atheism is the default position. I don’t have to try to “hang on” to it. It doesn’t take any effort. The whole reason that I’m an atheist is because I think it is the most rational and logical position, and I have never found anything to convince me to believe in an invisible supernatural realm.

                  Again, what is “rational” and “logical” about the idea that an beautiful, ordered, expanding yet finite world, that clearly had a beginning, just came into existence on its own?

                  Related to this, I have just discovered this yesterday. What would you answer to it?
                  http://youtu.be/COJ0ED1mV7s

                  If you have actual empirical evidence that would suggest the existence of a deity, then feel free to present it

                  your request is an oxymoron. A deity, by definition, is a spiritual being. “Empirical evidence” deals with material beings, not with immaterial, spiritual beings. Trying to prove or disprove the existence of God using empirical science is like trying to prove or disprove the existence of love using the laws of music theory. It’s a different field altogether. So the potential existence of a deity must be proved or disproved using reason and philosophy, not empirical science. But alas, you continually refuse to engage the philosophical arguments that I have proposed to you.

                  You’re the one who has said you will never change your mind.

                  I have already radically changed my mind at least twice in my life, on the basis of (a) what I believe to be strong rational and intellectual evidence for God, Jesus and Christianity; (b) undeniable personal experiences with God which led to a transformation of my life for the better; (c) countless testimonies of people who have encountered the risen Christ, including a few who had near-death experiences and actually saw him; (d) miracles that I witnessed (e.g. bind people recovering sight, etc… like in the Gospels);

                  Why should I take your deity and your religion more seriously than I take any other?

                  Anna, the search for God involves the whole person. The head/intellect is very important, but even more so is the heart. There is no way I could ever convince you that “my deity” is the right one. But I can testify to this: God promises that He will let Himself be found by those who sincerely seek Him. This means that you have to have a true, sincere, genuine desire to find the truth. Ultimately, this truth is what will set you free and lead you to real happiness. Why don’t you say the “skeptics’s prayer”? (e.g. “God – if you exist, save my soul – if I have a soul”). Seriously, if you are interested in discovering your Creator and the One who loves you more than you could ever imagine, then ask Him in all humility, and with perseverance, that He reveal Himself to you. By humility I mean that you must lay down any desire to “win an argument” and have at least a general willingness to accept that if God is, then you are willing to let Him call the shots instead of you. Why don’t you try it? What have you got to lose? It’s not a monologue or just mind games, but a dialogue and loving relationship. God will never violate your conscience or what is genuinely true and good; on the contrary, He leads us to our most genuine self-identity and to everything that is most true, good and beautiful. So just ask. He hears you and loves you.

                  As for your conception, just look within yourself. Deep inside, don’t you wish you knew your father? That he could be in your life, telling you and showing you that he loves you?

                • Anna

                  It’s hard not to read your initial comments as a confirmation that advocates of “gay marriage” are really in favor of (or at least not opposed to) a complete deconstruction of marriage as we have always known it in Western civilization for the past few millennia.

                  So all those countries that allowed and still allow polygamy somehow don’t count in your worldview? There are still traditional (and very anti-gay!) societies that have legal polygamy. You’re the one trying to argue that it’s only ever been one way, but a quick look at history and even current marriage laws in other parts of the world will tell you that that’s not the case.

                  Again you seem to view it as a purely arbitrary social construct.

                  Because that’s exactly what it is. I’m talking about civil marriage. It’s a legal contract. The government defines what it is. I don’t subscribe to supernatural or mystical views of marriage.

                  Would you really like to share your husband with a few other wives? (or husbands for that matter?)

                  It’s not my preference, but I have no problem with whatever consenting adults do. No one’s saying that polygamy should be mandatory. In fact, no one’s advocating for polygamy at all. As I already stated, America has no cultural ties to polygamy. It is incredibly unlikely that it would be ever be legal here, but of course (as I said to begin with) any group can petition the government. Even unpopular ones. You seem to think that’s a bad thing? Or a new thing? But it’s always been that way. Minorities have always been able to rely on the courts to obtain rights, which are again based on what’s found in the Constitution.

                  But why is this “crucial”? Again you make it sound that people come to faith only or largely because they were exposed to “supernatural assumptions” – again the topic of conditioning/indoctrination, while you continue to shirk/avoid the actual intellectual arguments.

                  It’s crucial because you can’t believe in something you’ve never heard of. Do you think people spontaneously start believing in things they’ve never been exposed to? Maybe you do, but there’s no evidence of that. You have to have someone tell you what a god is before you can start to believe in a god or consider believing in a god.

                  It’s not up to me to tell you what is “enough” but I just have been observing that your understanding of Christianity is very, very basic.

                  You obviously think your religion is special. But no understanding of other religions is required in order for you to reject them, right? How much do you know about Sikhism, Jainism, or Zoroastrianism? Have you read their holy books? Have you explored their philosophers and theologians? Do you have more than a “basic” understanding of those faiths?

                  You think I should treat your religion as a special case, simply because I was born in a society where your religion is the most popular. That makes absolutely no sense. Even though cultural proximity has led me to read more about your religion than any other, I’m still supposed to do more? Why?

                  Again, what is “rational” and “logical” about the idea that an beautiful, ordered, expanding yet finite world, that clearly had a beginning, just came into existence on its own?

                  What is rational or logical about assuming the existence of an invisible, undetectable supernatural entity that is somehow responsible for the universe? I don’t know the ultimate origins of the universe. Not even the most educated scientist knows that. But the answer to something that we don’t know is to say “We don’t know.” Not to just make things up. The argument from ignorance or incredulity strikes me as very poor indeed. Again, no one is born believing that the universe has a supernatural cause.

                  As for the Cosmological argument? And William Lane Craig? I see no reason to assume that anything posited in that video has legitimacy. People who are biased in favor of the supernatural are going to construct elaborate arguments to rationalize their belief. Those people have no supernatural connections or superhuman intelligence. They have no special insight that the rest of us do not. They simply declare things and expect other people to accept them as true.

                  Again, there are many books that explain non-supernatural views of the universe. You could certainly read some of them if you are interested. Personally, I am not terribly curious about this topic. I’m really much more interested in social science than I am in physical science. Sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc.

                  your request is an oxymoron. A deity, by definition, is a spiritual being. “Empirical evidence” deals with material beings, not with immaterial, spiritual beings. Trying to prove or disprove the existence of God using empirical science is like trying to prove or disprove the existence of love using the laws of music theory. It’s a different field altogether. So the potential existence of a deity must be proved or disproved using reason and philosophy, not empirical science. But alas, you continually refuse to engage the philosophical arguments that I have proposed to you.

                  How convenient. You have no evidence to present, which is exactly why I’m not convinced. Philosophical arguments are not evidence. I’m sorry, but they will never convince me to believe in the supernatural. I need actual empirical evidence. If something cannot be seen, heard, smelled, touched, or detected in any way, there is simply no reason to believe it is there. Especially since it is something that no one is born believing in.

                  I have already radically changed my mind at least twice in my life, on the basis of (a) what I believe to be strong rational and intellectual evidence for God, Jesus and Christianity; (b) undeniable personal experiences with God which led to a transformation of my life for the better; (c) countless testimonies of people who have encountered the risen Christ, including a few who had near-death experiences and actually saw him; (d) miracles that I witnessed (e.g. bind people recovering sight, etc… like in the Gospels);

                  So you’d be willing to change your mind again? I thought you said you wouldn’t.

                  Anna, the search for God involves the whole person. The head/intellect is very important, but even more so is the heart. There is no way I could ever convince you that “my deity” is the right one. But I can testify to this: God promises that He will let Himself be found by those who sincerely seek Him. This means that you have to have a true, sincere, genuine desire to find the truth. Ultimately, this truth is what will set you free and lead you to real happiness.

                  I am always truly, sincerely, and genuinely interested in the truth. However, your assertions are just that: assertions. It’s not an answer to my question. You simply declared your religion’s deity to be real. Why should I consider your god more likely than the Hindu gods? An accident of birth is not a good reason. Obviously, you think it’s real, but remember I did not grow up assuming your god existed.

                  Why don’t you say the “skeptics’s prayer”? (e.g. “God – if you exist, save my soul – if I have a soul”). Seriously, if you are interested in discovering your Creator and the One who loves you more than you could ever imagine, then ask Him in all humility, and with perseverance, that He reveal Himself to you. By humility I mean that you must lay down any desire to “win an argument” and have at least a general willingness to accept that if God is, then you are willing to let Him call the shots instead of you. Why don’t you try it? What have you got to lose? It’s not a monologue or just mind games, but a dialogue and loving relationship. God will never violate your conscience or what is genuinely true and good; on the contrary, He leads us to our most genuine self-identity and to everything that is most true, good and beautiful. So just ask. He hears you and loves you.

                  Good grief. Really? I thought we were actually getting somewhere in the conversation. But you show here that you have absolutely no understanding of atheism. Atheists don’t believe in gods. We can’t pray to them. We can say the words to a prayer, but it’s just play-acting. It’s like asking you, a devout Catholic, to make a sincere prayer to Vishnu.

                  If there are gods lurking out there somewhere in the universe and they want me to believe in them, then they know exactly what they have to do to convince me. I am more than willing to believe in gods (one, two, a billion, it doesn’t matter) if they can be shown to exist.

                  As for your conception, just look within yourself. Deep inside, don’t you wish you knew your father? That he could be in your life, telling you and showing you that he loves you?

                  And this! It’s clear here that your mind is sealed shut. You are simply not willing to believe what I say about my own life, even though I’m the one who’s living it! I tried to explain to you earlier, but you refuse to accept it. Besides everything else, I find it very arrogant and condescending to think that you know more about my life than I do.

                  Okay, so I will explain once again. I have two mothers. They are my parents. They are the ones who told me and showed me how much they loved me. I am very grateful to my biological father for providing sperm so that I could be born, but I do not consider him one of my parents. I don’t feel like I need a third parent. I wish him the best, but, no, I do not wish I knew him.

                  If I had wanted to meet him, you know, I could have tracked him down. I know his name. My conception was not completely anonymous. There was some basic information provided. But I have never contacted him because I simply have never felt the need to. Your insistence that I must really want him in my life stems from your church telling you that it must be the case. But it is not. I suppose you will not believe me, though.

                  This attitude is also very insulting. It’s like saying biology trumps everything else. What if I had been adopted at birth by a heterosexual couple? Would you still be insisting that I must really want to track down my biological parents and have them tell me that they love me? As if my adoptive parents weren’t good enough? Love isn’t based on biology, and it’s not based on gender either.

                  I’m still waiting for evidence of supposed harm. My brother and I are fully-functional adults. We’re good citizens. We have jobs, and friends, and relationships, and everything that everyone else has. I know for sure that we are both very happy to be alive, and I continue to be offended by the suggestion that we should never have been created in the first place.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  You have to have someone tell you what a god is before you can start to believe in a god or consider believing in a god.

                  Actually not. This is your “indoctrination argument” that seems to underline every one of your points. You’re right that when we arrive at the idea of divine revelation (God having something to say to man), then you need someone to communicate it to you before you can start believing it (e.g. the contents of the Christian faith, the person of Jesus, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection). However people from all kinds of cultures, by reflecting on the world and the human person, have always come to the logical conclusion that some eternal spirit must be responsible for its creation. For some reason, you seem unwilling or unable to seriously think this through.

                  How much do you know about Sikhism, Jainism, or Zoroastrianism? Have you read their holy books? Have you explored their philosophers and theologians? Do you have more than a “basic” understanding of those faiths?

                  You’re right, my understanding of them is basic, but I have thought it through. As I said in another post, I think their metaphysical positions are intellectually untenable. That isn’t to say that there isn’t some wisdom to be found in every religion, but it’s hard to take them seriously as divine revelation. (and logically it’s impossible to take more than one seriously as divine revelation, as God would not totally contradict Himself on the most important realities of the world and human life).

                  You think I should treat your religion as a special case, simply because I was born in a society where your religion is the most popular.

                  you’re right, I think everyone on his/her search for truth should be able to give a fair hearing to all serious philosophies or religions. By all means, do so. Personally, I think that sound thinking eliminates pretty quickly a lot of the candidates. As I mentioned, polytheism is metaphysically absurd (I will expand on this in the other thread). Atheism is rationally untenable as the universe could not come into existence on its own. Only monotheism is really intellectually coherent, and there are not that many candidates that fall into that category.

                  How convenient. You have no evidence to present, which is exactly why I’m not convinced. Philosophical arguments are not evidence. I’m sorry, but they will never convince me to believe in the supernatural. I need actual empirical evidence. If something cannot be seen, heard, smelled, touched, or detected in any way, there is simply no reason to believe it is there. Especially since it is something that no one is born believing in.

                  wow. Now that is a really loaded one. How convenient? So you insist in trapping your concept of the spiritual world in a box of hopeless self-contradiction with no exit. You set the terms of what constitutes “evidence”, no matter how irrational. You have decided that spiritual realities must in fact be proven by material evidence, no matter how illogical and untenable this is. You have decided a priori to shutdown your mind to philosophical reflection. You have decided that love must be proven by mathematical equations or else it doesn’t exist. Don’t you see how you are shutting your mind and heart to the entire spiritual world (in case that it exists) by these preconditions?

                  And it’s also very easy to turn around the refrain that you keep repeating: “no one is born believing”. Really? Are children born predisposed to believe that they are nothing but the blind product of evolution? That the words “I love you” are really meaningless since there are no such things as spiritual realities? That their ultimate destiny is to be one day entirely forgotten and to rot in the ground and be eaten by worms? Who is born with a predisposition to believe in such a sad, hopeless destiny? Yes, no one is born with belief, but it seems to me that certainly children have an inner sense of a capacity for faith, a capacity and desire to believe that they are loved, wanted, important, unique, and have an meaningful, joyful, eternal destiny.

                  So you’d be willing to change your mind again? I thought you said you wouldn’t.

                  I still constantly change my mind, but now these are more small “course corrections” than radical changes of worldview. No one radically changes his/her worldview every day or even every year. We would go insane. I have done my homework and find Catholicism extremely convincing, compelling, and attractive. However, anyone is welcome to question or challenge me about it. That is how we grow. How many times have you changed your own worldview?

                  Good grief. Really? …Atheists don’t believe in gods. We can’t pray to them. We can say the words to a prayer, but it’s just play-acting.

                  yes, I understand very well that atheists don’t believe in gods, but “God doesn’t believe in atheists.” It may feel like play-acting to say the skeptics prayer, but every person has to begin somewhere. The skeptic’s prayer is honest: “God, if there is a God, then I am willing to discover you.” What is there to lose? You have the capacity for God written on your heart, Anna. Nothing will ever be able to take that away from you. The shadow of your mortality hovers over you. One day you will lose everything you hold dear. Perhaps sooner, you will lose people you hold dear. Everything that has meaning to you today will crumble into dust and ashes. In the best of cases, you will rot in the ground and fade into nothingness. In the worst of cases, you *might* (if you’re wrong) one day face your loving Creator who will ask you why you rejected Him, the author of love, all your life. What kind of a life is that? You were made for much more, and the way to discover this “more” is to ask and express your willingness to know it.

                  God will be more than happy to reveal Himself to you, but for that we need humility (as expressed in the skeptics prayer), not to set absurd, self-contradictory standards that are impossible in of themselves.

                  As for the last point, I will let it go. I can’t refute your own testimony and feelings, and I know that love isn’t based on biology, but still seems odd to me that you would have no interest in knowing your biological father, to whom you owe much of who you are.

                • Anna

                  Actually not. This is your “indoctrination argument” that seems to underline every one of your points.

                  Actually not? There is no way you can claim that. Where is your evidence that people can start believing in gods without ever having heard of gods?

                  You’re right that when we arrive at the idea of divine revelation (God having something to say to man), then you need someone to communicate it to you before you can start believing it (e.g. the contents of the Christian faith, the person of Jesus, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection). However people from all kinds of cultures, by reflecting on the world and the human person, have always come to the logical conclusion that some eternal spirit must be responsible for its creation. For some reason, you seem unwilling or unable to seriously think this through.

                  I have seriously thought it through, and I find it a bit annoying for you to claim otherwise simply because I have come to a different conclusion than you have. I keep trying to explain my position, but it doesn’t seem as though you understand it. So I’ll try one more time:

                  People don’t develop their beliefs in a vacuum. Every person alive today, in every culture, was exposed to supernatural assumptions. Those supernatural assumptions did not originate with the child, who was born wholly ignorant of them, but with what the adults told the child. The development of certain beliefs is a matter of cultural exposure.

                  Every modern culture evolved from an ancient culture, and every ancient culture was ignorant of modern science. From my perspective as an atheist, it is not at all surprising that people in those societies developed and then maintained various supernatural beliefs. I don’t know how to be any clearer about this, but I see no reason to assume that children born into a secular, scientifically advanced culture and not exposed to supernatural assumptions would invent gods and goddesses.

                  Modern ethical concerns prohibit human experimentation, but I think it would be absolutely fascinating to take a group of babies and raise them in isolation, provide them with all the information modern science has to offer, but withhold supernatural beliefs. Then 18 years down the road, we could see what the children think. We could learn if any of them had an inclination towards supernatural thinking.

                  And by the way, the “external spirit responsible for creation” belief is not universal. The Piraha Indians don’t have any gods, and they also don’t have any form of creation myth.

                  You’re right, my understanding of them is basic, but I have thought it through. As I said in another post, I think their metaphysical positions are intellectually untenable.

                  I understand, but then I don’t think it makes sense to apply different standards to different religions. I’ve done basic research into all of the major world religions, and I do not think that one of them is more likely to be true than any other, and I do not agree with your belief that some metaphysical positions are more tenable than others. But we can continue this in the other part of the comment section.

                  wow. Now that is a really loaded one. How convenient? So you insist in trapping your concept of the spiritual world in a box of hopeless self-contradiction with no exit. You set the terms of what constitutes “evidence”, no matter how irrational. You have decided that spiritual realities must in fact be proven by material evidence, no matter how illogical and untenable this is. You have decided a priori to shutdown your mind to philosophical reflection. You have decided that love must be proven by mathematical equations or else it doesn’t exist. Don’t you see how you are shutting your mind and heart to the entire spiritual world (in case that it exists) by these preconditions?

                  If there is nothing about the supernatural that can be detected, what makes you think that it is a real thing? I don’t understand that. You can’t simply declare that this spiritual realm is real and then say it’s completely off limits to any form of evidence whatsoever. It doesn’t even make sense because Catholics believe their god actually does interact with the world. And if that were true, then we would have evidence of such things occurring in the natural world.

                  I think our worldviews are just so drastically different you don’t really understand where I’m coming from. From my perspective, anything that originates with human beings is natural. It’s not supernatural, by definition, because humans are not supernatural. We exist in the natural world, and our minds are also part of the natural world. Our minds are what make us capable of writing books and constructing arguments, but those books and arguments don’t drop down out of the sky. They come from us.

                  And it’s also very easy to turn around the refrain that you keep repeating: “no one is born believing”. Really? Are children born predisposed to believe that they are nothing but the blind product of evolution? That the words “I love you” are really meaningless since there are no such things as spiritual realities? That their ultimate destiny is to be one day entirely forgotten and to rot in the ground and be eaten by worms? Who is born with a predisposition to believe in such a sad, hopeless destiny? Yes, no one is born with belief, but it seems to me that certainly children have an inner sense of a capacity for faith, a capacity and desire to believe that they are loved, wanted, important, unique, and have an meaningful, joyful, eternal destiny.

                  Children aren’t born with an opinion about religion, but of course they’re also not born with an opinion about anything else. And yes, of course they are very, very easily led to belief in the supernatural. Children are naturally prone towards magical thinking, which is why it’s so easy to get them to believe in a religion. They don’t have critical thinking skills or the intellect of an adult, and small children are predisposed to accept whatever adults tell them.

                  As for your negative feelings about atheism, I can’t change your mind about that, but since I’ve been an atheist my entire life, I will say that I find nothing sad or hopeless about it. While I understand the psychological appeal of immortality, I think it is far healthier to accept death as a natural part of life.

                  I still constantly change my mind, but now these are more small “course corrections” than radical changes of worldview. No one radically changes his/her worldview every day or even every year. We would go insane. I have done my homework and find Catholicism extremely convincing, compelling, and attractive. However, anyone is welcome to question or challenge me about it. That is how we grow. How many times have you changed your own worldview?

                  I’m not sure I’ve changed it as much as refined it over the years. I’ve always been an atheist, but of course I was not always conscious of it. I’ve always been open to changing my mind about things. I’m open to being convinced by new evidence. I often come to a political issue, for example, undecided, but then arrive at a conclusion based on the evidence I encounter. I would do the same for religion. It’s true, though, that I have never undergone any radical changes. There’s nothing I’ve come across that would incite me to make a radical change in any area of my life thus far.

                  yes, I understand very well that atheists don’t believe in gods, but “God doesn’t believe in atheists.” It may feel like play-acting to say the skeptics prayer, but every person has to begin somewhere. The skeptic’s prayer is honest: “God, if there is a God, then I am willing to discover you.” What is there to lose? You have the capacity for God written on your heart, Anna. Nothing will ever be able to take that away from you.

                  And this shows how much you don’t understand atheism. Emotional appeals like that strike me as absurd. I mean, you’re an intelligent man. You’ve got to know how you would react if a Hindu said that to you. You think Hinduism is false. You know it would be impossible for you to make a sincere prayer to a Hindu deity, as you believe polytheism to be absurd.

                  It’s the same for atheists. We can say the words to a Catholic or a Hindu prayer, but it’s not sincere. If you don’t believe you’re actually talking to a deity, it’s not a prayer at all. It’s a piece of performance art. I’ve been down this road many times, with other fundamentalists, and I said words to various prayers aloud when I was younger, just to show them that I’m not afraid of it. Refusal to even mimic prayer comes across as though you might be afraid it has special powers, and I’m certainly not afraid of that.

                  In any case, if there are gods, and they want me to believe in them, then like I said, I’m open to their existence. But if they are omniscient beings, they already know what they need to do to convince me.

                  The shadow of your mortality hovers over you. One day you will lose everything you hold dear. Perhaps sooner, you will lose people you hold dear. Everything that has meaning to you today will crumble into dust and ashes. In the best of cases, you will rot in the ground and fade into nothingness.

                  Scare tactics? We are all mortal. I know that I will die one day, and that all my friends and family members will die, too. I’ve already lost people that I care about. Death can be very sad, but it’s also an inevitable, natural part of life. I accept the fact that I will not live forever.

                  In the worst of cases, you *might* (if you’re wrong) one day face your loving Creator who will ask you why you rejected Him, the author of love, all your life. What kind of a life is that? You were made for much more, and the way to discover this “more” is to ask and express your willingness to know it.

                  You’ve got to understand that I think there is a near zero chance of your deity being the correct one, but if this were to happen, then I would hope your god would respect the fact that I used my intellect to the best of my ability, and that I looked at all of the evidence and did not find it convincing. And if it didn’t respect that? Well, then it’s not an honest or a fair god. If it hurts people for using their minds, then it shouldn’t have given us minds to begin with.

                  God will be more than happy to reveal Himself to you, but for that we need humility (as expressed in the skeptics prayer), not to set absurd, self-contradictory standards that are impossible in of themselves.

                  Your god is a tricky one, LOL. Why doesn’t it just reveal itself to everyone? Why does it make people jump through a bunch of hoops? Honestly, I think I’m plenty humble. I’m not the one claiming to know everything about the universe, and I don’t think there’s anything absurd about asking for evidence. As someone famous once said, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.”

                  As for the last point, I will let it go. I can’t refute your own testimony and feelings, and I know that love isn’t based on biology, but still seems odd to me that you would have no interest in knowing your biological father, to whom you owe much of who you are.

                  I’m not sure if you think my biological father is important because he’s male or because we share genes, but regardless, think of it like adoption. Not all people who are adopted go in search of their biological parents. Plenty of them just aren’t interested. They consider their family to be the people who raised them. That’s how I’ve always felt about it. Just because you share genes with someone doesn’t mean that you have an emotional connection.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  Every modern culture evolved from an ancient culture, and every ancient culture was ignorant of modern science. From my perspective as an atheist, it is not at all surprising that people in those societies developed and then maintained various supernatural beliefs. I don’t know how to be any clearer about this, but I see no reason to assume that children born into a secular, scientifically advanced culture and not exposed to supernatural assumptions would invent gods and goddesses.

                  yes, you are quite clear on this. The problem is that you seem fixated on the sociological aspect: people apparently only believe in the supernatural because they have been told to do so. But looking at what was passed on from one generation to the next, while informative, is not a criteria at all for determining truth (in any discipline). You might as well question every single thing you were taught in school, because your teachers were taught (indoctrinated?) by others. But that’s not how it works. Human beings are not blank slates. We learn from others. But this point is mostly irrelevant when considering the veracity or lack thereof of any claim.

                  I do not agree with your belief that some metaphysical positions are more tenable than others.

                  metaphysics seems to be the greatest weakness in your thinking: no serious philosopher holds that a multiplicity of deities can be rationally coherent. If you have many distinct gods, then none of them can be all-powerful (this is why the great ancient Greek philosophers – Plato & Aristotle – dismissed as rubbish the Greek pantheon and arrived at the notion of a supreme being).

                  If there is nothing about the supernatural that can be detected, what makes you think that it is a real thing? I don’t understand that. You can’t simply declare that this spiritual realm is real and then say it’s completely off limits to any form of evidence whatsoever. It doesn’t even make sense because Catholics believe their god actually does interact with the world. And if that were true, then we would have evidence of such things occurring in the natural world.

                  no, there is evidence for the supernatural, it’s just not empirical evidence that is scientifically verifiable. Though I should qualify that statement: God indeed interacts with the world. There are, in fact, countless documented miracles testifying to God’s supernatural intervention in the lives of people (I have witnessed a few myself), including miraculous healings and the testimony of people who had near death experiences and came back to life to tell their story. Again, love is not something that you measure, is it? Does that mean that love doesn’t exist? The spiritual/supernatural world is not in opposition to the natural world, it goes beyond it. Grace builds on nature and faith builds on reason.

                  If you don’t believe you’re actually talking to a deity, it’s not a prayer at all. It’s a piece of performance art.

                  If you found somewhere a house that seems abandoned and decided to go explore it, would you not shout just in case “hello? is anyone in here?” , especially if you had heard rumors that someone might be living there? Why would this be a “piece of performance art”? Even if you are 95% sure the house is empty, and you might very well be talking to the walls, would you not call out those words if there were even a remote chance that someone was in there?

                  In any case, if there are gods, and they want me to believe in them, then like I said, I’m open to their existence. But if they are omniscient beings, they already know what they need to do to convince me.

                  you make it sound like you would be doing the gods a favor by believing in them, and so they had better act if they want that to happen. That’s not the way it works at all. God has nothing to gain from your belief or lack thereof. Faith and eternal life is a free gift he is offering to you. He has already acted, most especially by sending His son to die and rise from the dead. Actually the resurrection of Christ would be a good place to start if you’re looking for some historical/empirical evidence for Christianity. Here’s an example: http://www.bible.ca/d-resurrection-evidence-Josh-McDowell.htm

                  Scare tactics? We are all mortal.

                  Reflecting on death is not a scare tactic, it’s a tragic reality. And perhaps there is a real solution to it…

                  I would hope your god would respect the fact that I used my intellect to the best of my ability, and that I looked at all of the evidence and did not find it convincing. And if it didn’t respect that? Well, then it’s not an honest or a fair god. If it hurts people for using their minds, then it shouldn’t have given us minds to begin with.

                  Yes, He does in fact very much respect your ability to use your mind. But this is where humility comes in: most of the time we are a bundle of mixed motivations. We all search for truth and for the meaning of life, and there is something attractive about a God who loves us, forgives us and offers us eternal life. But we also tend to flee from a God who claims to know better than we do how to live our life, and who actually expects us to keep his commandments. The ancient temptation of trying to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (i.e. pride) is as relevant today as ever. That’s why our search cannot be limited to the intellect; it must also (and especially) involve the heart)

                  Why doesn’t it just reveal itself to everyone? Why does it make people jump through a bunch of hoops?

                  God doesn’t make people “jump through hoops” at all. He has a unique way of revealing himself to each person. However He doesn’t reveal himself to all humanity at once because of what I just wrote above: that most people don’t want God. They want to be their own gods, or rather recreate a god in their own image and likeness. That’s why God “courts” us in more hidden ways.

                • Anna

                  The problem is that you seem fixated on the sociological aspect: people apparently only believe in the supernatural because they have been told to do so. But looking at what was passed on from one generation to the next, while informative, is not a criteria at all for determining truth (in any discipline). You might as well question every single thing you were taught in school, because your teachers were taught (indoctrinated?) by others. But that’s not how it works. Human beings are not blank slates. We learn from others. But this point is mostly irrelevant when considering the veracity or lack thereof of any claim.

                  Well, we just plain disagree. I think it is absolutely crucial because we have no frame of reference for human beings coming to believe in the supernatural without having already been exposed to supernatural assumptions. To me, this seems a very strong indication that belief in an invisible supernatural realm is the result of growing up in an environment which promotes this belief.

                  Unlike math, for example, which works even if you don’t “believe” in math or have not previously been exposed to math, the supernatural is something which remains controversial. It’s an opinion, not an accepted fact. If it were obvious to everyone, we would not be having this conversation.

                  metaphysics seems to be the greatest weakness in your thinking: no serious philosopher holds that a multiplicity of deities can be rationally coherent. If you have many distinct gods, then none of them can be all-powerful (this is why the great ancient Greek philosophers – Plato & Aristotle – dismissed as rubbish the Greek pantheon and arrived at the notion of a supreme being).

                  So all the polytheists in the world are just ignorant or stupid? Why should I take your philosophers more seriously than Hindu philosophers? For that matter, why on earth should I accept the claim that Plato or Aristotle had special knowledge about this? Why should I pay attention to any philosophers? Just because certain philosophers claim something doesn’t mean that other people are compelled to consider it.

                  Nothing you say about philosophers strikes me as relevant to the question of the supernatural at all. I’m not sure if I’ve been clear enough on this point, but I don’t see such arguments as evidence. They are created by human beings. The people who constructed them weren’t supernatural. Those people had no special powers or knowledge that the rest of us don’t have. From my perspective, those arguments originate in the human mind, created by people who were indoctrinated with supernatural assumptions and seek to justify those assumptions.

                  no, there is evidence for the supernatural, it’s just not empirical evidence that is scientifically verifiable. Though I should qualify that statement: God indeed interacts with the world. There are, in fact, countless documented miracles testifying to God’s supernatural intervention in the lives of people (I have witnessed a few myself), including miraculous healings and the testimony of people who had near death experiences and came back to life to tell their story. Again, love is not something that you measure, is it? Does that mean that love doesn’t exist? The spiritual/supernatural world is not in opposition to the natural world, it goes beyond it. Grace builds on nature and faith builds on reason.

                  Bold claims, but where is the evidence? If there are, in fact, documented instances of the supernatural interacting with the natural world, then why is the supernatural not universally accepted? Where are the photographs and the video footage and the corroboration of such events by impartial, outside observers?

                  I learned the folly of relying on hearsay and unreliable eyewitness testimony back when my third grade class had a debate on the existence of Santa Claus, and one little girl swore up and down that she had seen him with her own eyes. She was obviously either mistaken or lying, and I was wise to retain my skepticism despite her bold, confident assertions.

                  How much do you know about science, by the way? As I’ve mentioned before, I’m no scientist, but even I would know better than to point to NDEs as evidence of the supernatural. Scientists have a good handle on what causes them, and they can be induced under laboratory conditions by stimulating a certain part of the brain.

                  If you found somewhere a house that seems abandoned and decided to go explore it, would you not shout just in case “hello? is anyone in here?” , especially if you had heard rumors that someone might be living there?

                  We have evidence that houses exist and that people generally live in them. The same is not true of deities. I might as well start talking to any number of supernatural creatures. Would it not be ridiculous to start calling out to unicorns in a forest if I had heard rumors that unicorns lived there? Maybe if I was 5 years old I might have done it, but a rational adult knows it’s absurd.

                  Why would this be a “piece of performance art”? Even if you are 95% sure the house is empty, and you might very well be talking to the walls, would you not call out those words if there were even a remote chance that someone was in there?

                  You have to understand that from an atheist perspective, deities are just as ridiculous as other supernatural beings. There’s absolutely no difference. The chance that a deity is listening to a prayer is the same as the chance that a leprechaun might be hiding under a four-leaf clover. Talking out loud to a deity is a piece of performance art when you know that there’s not even a remote chance that one is listening to you.

                  By the way, I’m curious about your agnostic phase. What does the word “agnostic” mean to you? It seems to me that you really don’t have any idea of what it’s like to have a non-supernatural worldview. When you identified as agnostic, did you stop believing in the supernatural as a whole? Did you start thinking of the biblical god as false, or as equivalent to other deities from other cultures?

                  you make it sound like you would be doing the gods a favor by believing in them, and so they had better act if they want that to happen. That’s not the way it works at all. God has nothing to gain from your belief or lack thereof. Faith and eternal life is a free gift he is offering to you.

                  Again, I don’t consider your particular god more likely than any other, and if the gods want me to believe in them, then, yes, the ball is in their court. I don’t care either way. I’m happy being an atheist, but I would be equally happy being a theist provided there was some reason to become one. And provided that the deity or deities in question didn’t hurt people. Warm-fuzzy gods with warm-fuzzy afterlives are very popular. I know plenty of liberals who believe in them. The reason I don’t is because I think a nice fantasy is still just a fantasy.

                  He has already acted, most especially by sending His son to die and rise from the dead. Actually the resurrection of Christ would be a good place to start if you’re looking for some historical/empirical evidence for Christianity. Here’s an example: http://www.bible.ca/d-resurrec

                  Wow. If you aren’t aware of the reasons why the Bible isn’t evidence of the supernatural, then this conversation is even more doomed than I thought, LOL.

                  Reflecting on death is not a scare tactic, it’s a tragic reality. And perhaps there is a real solution to it…

                  I understand the appeal of immortality, but I just don’t think it’s healthy. There’s no reason to believe that consciousness can survive the destruction of the brain, and I think refusing to accept the finality of death is detrimental not only to one’s own psyche, but to humanity as a whole. The life cycle is what it is. Paraphrasing Charlotte’s Web, “we’re born, we live a little while, and we die.” All creatures do. I’ve always accepted that fact. Even when I was a little girl, I knew that I would not live forever.

                  Yes, He does in fact very much respect your ability to use your mind. But this is where humility comes in: most of the time we are a bundle of mixed motivations. We all search for truth and for the meaning of life, and there is something attractive about a God who loves us, forgives us and offers us eternal life.

                  Uh, speak for yourself? I find nothing at all attractive about that proposition. I have never understood the appeal of having a supernatural parent, especially one that would treat you like you’re 5 years old. It seems like it would mostly appeal to people who had not had their emotional needs met in childhood. Maybe if someone’s parents didn’t love them, maybe if they were neglected or abused or grew up in an unstable home, they would find that appealing. I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t appeal to me.

                  Similarly, I have no desire to be forgiven. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with me or that there’s anything wrong with being human, and I find the notion of “sin” deeply sick and twisted, as well as fundamentally immoral. That and hell are my chief moral objections to your form of religion. Supernaturalism doesn’t need to mean debasement of humanity, but in your religion it does.

                  The immortality bit is attractive, I admit. I understand why people want it. Who wouldn’t want to see their deceased loved ones again? Who wouldn’t want to retain their consciousness for eternity? It’s a nice idea, but I think it’s only a fantasy. And, anyway, if I wanted to believe in something like that, I could just invent my own version of an afterlife (many people do) that is far more appealing than what your religion has to offer.

                  But we also tend to flee from a God who claims to know better than we do how to live our life, and who actually expects us to keep his commandments. The ancient temptation of trying to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (i.e. pride) is as relevant today as ever. That’s why our search cannot be limited to the intellect; it must also (and especially) involve the heart)

                  Well, I think it’s a weak religion that has to rely on emotional appeals. If your religion is true, then it should be able to convince people solely on the strength of evidence. Appealing to my “heart” is not going to convince me to believe in any religion, not just yours, because I have no emotional connection to any religion. Frankly, it just comes across as creepy and manipulative, more of a cult tactic.

                  God doesn’t make people “jump through hoops” at all. He has a unique way of revealing himself to each person. However He doesn’t reveal himself to all humanity at once because of what I just wrote above: that most people don’t want God. They want to be their own gods, or rather recreate a god in their own image and likeness. That’s why God “courts” us in more hidden ways.

                  Well, if your god wants to “court” me, then it knows where to find me. It knows what will convince me. But I thought you said it had nothing to gain from my belief? Regardless, if your god is going to hide away from humanity, you can’t blame people for not believing in it. And your god would hardly be honest or fair if it punished people for lack of belief after deliberately concealing itself.

                  Good grief, it’s like a giant cosmic game, and human beings are the pawns. I can’t even fathom the mindset it would take to actually believe in any of this. It makes for an interesting conversation, but our worldviews are just so totally opposite. I don’t understand how you can accept these things as true. Or even remotely consider them likely to be true.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  From my perspective, those arguments originate in the human mind, created by people who were indoctrinated with supernatural assumptions and seek to justify those assumptions.

                  I rest my case. To me this seems to me nothing less than the total abdication of reason.

                  Bold claims, but where is the evidence?

                  hmm, it can be found. If we take Lourdes, for example:

                  http://www.miraclehunter.com/marian_apparitions/approved_apparitions/lourdes/miracles1.html

                  How much do you know about science, by the way?

                  I’m not a scientist, but I don’t think it’s that relevant to the discussion, because as I said before, the spiritual realm is outside of the realm of science, which can only deal with the material world.

                  You have to understand that from an atheist perspective, deities are just as ridiculous as other supernatural beings. There’s absolutely no difference. The chance that a deity is listening to a prayer is the same as the chance that a leprechaun might be hiding under a four-leaf clover. Talking out loud to a deity is a piece of performance art when you know that there’s not even a remote chance that one is listening to you.

                  such a “hard” atheist position seems to me supremely arrogant. I have much more respect for the agnostic position (“I don’t know if there is a god”). But how can anyone know with confidence that “there’s not even a remote chance that one is listening to you” when millions of people claim otherwise? It sounds like a blind man saying that there is “not even a remote chance” that there exists such things as colors, because he has never seen any. Humility invites us to be at least open to the fact that there might be many, many things that we have never seen or experienced – but this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

                  I’m curious about your agnostic phase. What does the word “agnostic” mean to you?

                  When I was agnostic, as far as I can recall, I basically suspended belief and lived more or less according to my conscience as if there were no God. I didn’t definitely reject the Christian faith, I decided that I didn’t know whether it was true or not. I was essentially a secular humanist, though I also dabbled with some eastern stuff (I even hung around some Hare Krishna people who gave me a Baghavad Ghita which I read with curious interest but no more than that).

                  Warm-fuzzy gods with warm-fuzzy afterlives are very popular.

                  As you know, the God of Israel is anything but a “warm-fuzzy” one. He is both infinitely merciful and infinitely just.

                  If you aren’t aware of the reasons why the Bible isn’t evidence of the supernatural, then this conversation is even more doomed than I thought.

                  You have apparently not seriously reflected on the claims of the resurrection and on the question as to how Christianity began and spread as quickly as it did. Did you even look at the link?
                  http://www.bible.ca/d-resurrection-evidence-Josh-McDowell.htm

                  I have no desire to be forgiven. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with me or that there’s anything wrong with being human, and I find the notion of “sin” deeply sick and twisted, as well as fundamentally immoral.

                  so, there was nothing wrong with Hitler? Or Stalin? Or [look at today's news and pick your murderer or rapist of choice]. If the notion of sin is “sick and twisted”, then please explain how you view these people. Also, does this mean that you have never lied? stolen? been selfish? manipulative? envious? lustful? prideful? never hurt anyone?

                  If your religion is true, then it should be able to convince people solely on the strength of evidence. Appealing to my “heart” is not going to convince me to believe in any religion… Frankly, it just comes across as creepy and manipulative, more of a cult tactic.

                  while it is possible and true that some people come to faith solely (or mostly) on the strength of rational evidence (e.g. CS Lewis, I believe), your statement is absurd. If God created the universe out of his infinite goodness, if he made you and loves you, then what is logical about limiting your search to cold cerebral deductions and excluding the heart/? The Scriptures specifically address this point, where Jesus affirms that the learned will have a harder time finding God than the humble at heart (and the proud will not find him at all).

                  I can’t even fathom the mindset it would take to actually believe in any of this… I don’t understand how you can accept these things as true. Or even remotely consider them likely to be true.

                  Yes, it’s certainly a very different way of looking at reality indeed. But you know, many, many people much smarter than you and I found the evidence quite compelling, actually. :)

                • Anna

                  I rest my case. To me this seems to me nothing less than the total abdication of reason.

                  Well, then we have different definitions of “reason.” I find nothing reasonable about those people’s subjective claims. I consider their assumptions entirely unfounded and unsupported, and I do not think their arguments are evidence of anything other than their own thought processes.

                  I don’t know how to explain it better than that. If you want me to believe in the supernatural, you’re going to have to provide something other than people declaring things to be true by fiat. There’s no reason for me to believe that those people have special knowledge or special powers or that anything they say is worthy of special consideration.

                  hmm, it can be found. If we take Lourdes, for example:

                  If that’s the kind of evidence you mean, then no wonder we’re not on the same page. I can’t believe anyone would seriously present a link like that and expect an atheist to see it as evidence of the supernatural.

                  I’m not a scientist, but I don’t think it’s that relevant to the discussion, because as I said before, the spiritual realm is outside of the realm of science, which can only deal with the material world.

                  Fair enough, but then it would be wise not to point to things like NDEs as evidence of the supernatural, since scientists do actually have a good handle on what causes them, and there’s no reason to think there is anything other than a biological explanation.

                  Frankly, that goes for just about anything. The answer to a current medical or scientific mystery is to simply say “We don’t know what caused it.” Just because we don’t have an explanation doesn’t mean that we should make one up. It means that we should do investigation and research until we find the actual answer.

                  such a “hard” atheist position seems to me supremely arrogant.

                  Why is that more arrogant than you claiming that the Hindu deites are absurd? You’re not agnostic about them. If someone told you to talk to one of them, you would “know” instinctively that it wasn’t listening to you.

                  By the way, I’m using “know” colloquially, not in the sense of being able to prove it 100%. In the same way that I “know” Poseidon doesn’t cause ships to sink, I also “know” that the biblical deity is not listening to prayers.

                  I have much more respect for the agnostic position (“I don’t know if there is a god”). But how can anyone know with confidence that “there’s not even a remote chance that one is listening to you” when millions of people claim otherwise?

                  Oh, sure, there might be gods lurking out there in the universe. I think it’s highly unlikely, but I’m agnostic about the existence of general deities. I would feel comfortable taking a stronger stand about specific deities. I’m confident saying that I “know” your god is not listening to prayers, in the same way that I “know” other supernatural creatures are not real. That’s what makes the prayer a piece of performance art. It’s just acting.

                  As for millions of people claiming otherwise, just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s true. There are more than a billion adherents of Hinduism, yet you and I are both completely comfortable declaring their deities to be false. I’m just willing to go one god further.

                  It sounds like a blind man saying that there is “not even a remote chance” that there exists such things as colors, because he has never seen any. Humility invites us to be at least open to the fact that there might be many, many things that we have never seen or experienced – but this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

                  There’s a lot we don’t know about the universe, but again, if there’s zero scientific evidence for the supernatural, and the only “evidence” we have is hearsay and people’s feelings and arguments which are the fruit of childhood exposure and indoctrination, then I think it’s perfectly reasonable to conclude that such things originate in the human mind, not from anything out there in the universe.

                  In my mind, the supernatural is a package deal. I wouldn’t declare some aspects of it more likely to be true than others, so it doesn’t make sense to me to treat one religion’s god as a special case.

                  When I was agnostic, as far as I can recall, I basically suspended belief and lived more or less according to my conscience as if there were no God. I didn’t definitely reject the Christian faith, I decided that I didn’t know whether it was true or not. I was essentially a secular humanist, though I also dabbled with some eastern stuff (I even hung around some Hare Krishna people who gave me a Baghavad Ghita which I read with curious interest but no more than that).

                  Thanks! I suppose it’s evident that you were always attracted to supernaturalism, given your interest in the Hare Krishnas. And that you never gave up supernaturalism, which is why it seems so hard for us to understand each other’s worldviews.

                  It’s interesting, though, that you identified as a secular humanist, particularly since it seems you never let go of your religion’s beliefs about sexuality. I mean, why would a self-identifed secular humanist still be judging sexuality by Catholic standards? How long were you an agnostic, by the way?

                  As you know, the God of Israel is anything but a “warm-fuzzy” one. He is both infinitely merciful and infinitely just.

                  Sure, that’s why I think it’s such a poor god. It’s not very appealing in modern society, which is why many people invent their own versions of it that are considerably warmer and fuzzier. Of course, creating a new god is silly, but to me it’s no sillier than believing in an old god.

                  I have close friends who are (their term) “symbolic Pagans.” I find their supernatural beliefs very silly, but ultimately quite harmless. I have no moral objection to what they believe. My objection is just intellectual. If the Catholics didn’t cause harm with their beliefs, I would feel the same about them.

                  You have apparently not seriously reflected on the claims of the resurrection and on the question as to how Christianity began and spread as quickly as it did. Did you even look at the link?

                  Yes, I looked at your link. There’s nothing new there. It’s the same thing I’ve seen hundreds of times before. Frankly, I don’t even know where to begin because I’m surprised you think pointing to the Bible would convince me. Surely you have to realize that atheists don’t consider the Bible evidence of anything other than ancient people writing down stories about their supernatural beliefs. Most religions have holy books. Why on earth should I take the supernatural claims of any of those books seriously?

                  so, there was nothing wrong with Hitler? Or Stalin? Or [look at today's news and pick your murderer or rapist of choice]. If the notion of sin is “sick and twisted”, then please explain how you view these people.

                  “Sin” is a religious concept, specifically an offense against a deity, hence our long discussion about homosexuality supposedly being a sin. I find that concept abhorrent. It has nothing to do with ethics. I don’t use the word “sin” as a synonym for “bad” or “unethical.” It’s not a useful word because it throws a bunch of supernatural assumptions on human actions.

                  My main objection is to the idea that people are born bad, that there is something inherently wrong with them, that they are tainted with (IMO, imaginary) “original sin.” There is no need to bring the supernatural into it.

                  There are many reasons why a small minority of people become rapists or murderers, but the notion that they were “born bad” is ridiculous to me. A child’s sense of empathy can be blunted or even destroyed by abuse, indoctrination, desperation, etc. This is why it’s so important to take care of children properly, to raise them in a humane way, to teach them to love and respect others, and to make sure that they have their basic needs met.

                  Also, does this mean that you have never lied? stolen? been selfish? manipulative? envious? lustful? prideful? never hurt anyone?

                  Three of those things (lust, pride, envy) are thoughtcrime, and only in your religion’s view. I would certainly dispute the claim that there’s anything wrong with them. Human beings do generally like to feel proud of their accomplishments. Envy itself is not bad. It can spur people to work harder to improve their own lives, although it can also be detrimental if they become consumed by it. Similarly, lust is simply sexual desire. Feeling desire is not wrong.

                  One major problem here seems to be that your religion makes no distinction between thought and action. Envy is not bad. Stealing something because you feel envy is bad. Pride is not bad. Insulting someone for not winning an award because you feel pride is bad. Lust is not bad. Having sex with an unwilling person because you feel lust is bad. See the difference?

                  As for the other things on your list, yes, of course I have done them. I just don’t label them “sin,” and I do not believe I need forgiveness from a supernatural entity for any of those things. I try not to hurt people, but if it does happen, then I apologize to the person directly. Substitutional forgiveness is, frankly, immoral. If the person I hurt doesn’t forgive me, then I should not feel like everything’s okay. I should work to get their forgiveness, and if it’s not possible, then I should live with the consequences of that and make a serious effort to prevent such a situation from ever happening again in the future.

                  This really isn’t that hard. I very rarely do things that I feel guilty about. Part of that may just be my personality. I’m not reckless or impulsive. I don’t do things without thinking them through first. I also don’t like to hurt people, so cruelty isn’t my thing. I’m quite confident saying that I am a nice, decent person who treats others with respect. Of course I occasionally make mistakes, but there is no shame in that. I don’t hold myself to a standard of absolute perfection.

                  I always wonder what on earth religious people are doing all the time that they think they need to be forgiven for. I assume you’re going to confession constantly, if you’re a devout Catholic, and I’d bet 90% of the things you tell your priest wouldn’t strike me as bad at all. It seems to me that many religious people tie themselves up in knots over things which don’t harm anyone else.

                  while it is possible and true that some people come to faith solely (or mostly) on the strength of rational evidence (e.g. CS Lewis, I believe), your statement is absurd. If God created the universe out of his infinite goodness, if he made you and loves you, then what is logical about limiting your search to cold cerebral deductions and excluding the heart/? The Scriptures specifically address this point, where Jesus affirms that the learned will have a harder time finding God than the humble at heart (and the proud will not find him at all).

                  Well, I understand it’s what your religion says, but it’s not going to work for me. I have no emotional connection to your religion or any other. And if your god really wanted to “court” me, it would know that. It would know everything about me, including how my brain works. Appealing to emotion simply doesn’t do it. It just comes across as creepy and manipulative, and this goes back to my whole problem with the way your religion treats children. The children are encouraged to develop a highly emotional attachment, which hinders their ability to think about the topic objectively.

                  Yes, it’s certainly a very different way of looking at reality indeed. But you know, many, many people much smarter than you and I found the evidence quite compelling, actually. :)

                  I certainly don’t think it’s matter of intelligence! IMO, native intelligence has very little to do with religious belief. I hope I didn’t give you the wrong impression. Many smart people are religious, but I think the reason they find that evidence (such as it is) convincing is because of childhood indoctrination and emotional attachment to certain supernatural ideas.

                  I don’t think anyone raised in a non-supernatural environment would, as an adult, find any of it compelling if they had not already been taught to accept specific supernatural assumptions much earlier in life.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  I can’t believe anyone would seriously present a link like that and expect an atheist to see it as evidence of the supernatural.

                  If I were to summarize our discussion in a nutshell, the impression I get is the following:

                  - God exists and loves you!
                  - That’s creepy. Don’t appeal to my emotions. If there is a god, then show me the tangible, empirical evidence.
                  - God is spirit. You can’t measure spiritual things empirically.
                  - Then you’re just indoctrinated. You only believe it because others told you it’s true.
                  - No, actually, here are some philosophical arguments. For example, it makes more sense to say that the world was created than to say that it randomly came into being on its own.
                  - Why should I believe any philosopher? They were indoctrinated too.
                  - What about the universal human belief in God?
                  - They were all indoctrinated.
                  - And all the miracles that people have attributed to God’s intervention in their lives?
                  - Show me the evidence.
                  - Here it is, hundreds of documented healings.
                  - Why would anyone take such anecdotes seriously? This is not evidence.
                  - Then what do you say about the resurrection of Christ? Why would hundreds and thousands of early Christians lay down their lives and die as martyrs for a lie, or a hallucination, or a deception?
                  - They were indoctrinated.

                  apart from that…

                  I suppose it’s evident that you were always attracted to supernaturalism.

                  That’s probably true, but I don’t think it was an emotional attachment. As I said, it just doesn’t make sense to me that a complex, beautiful world came into being on its own. Or that we have an insatiable longing for love and immortality that is meant to remain frustrated until the day we die. Likewise, regarding sexual morality, I never felt it was right (whether there is a god or not) to sleep around. I always felt that sex must be for something greater. And anytime I got into a relationship, I found myself regretting rather than cherishing any physical bond that I had had with a woman – like giving part of myself away to someone with whom I ultimately didn’t belong.

                • Anna

                  LOL, that’s actually pretty much spot on!

                  From my perspective, those are extremely valid objections and huge impediments if you want an atheist to consider accepting your religion as true.

                  That’s creepy. Don’t appeal to my emotions. If there is a god, then show me the tangible, empirical evidence.

                  Don’t you think it’s manipulative, though? It does come across that way. I’d also say that it’s counterproductive if you’re talking to a lifelong atheist who has no emotional attachment to your religion or to any other.

                  What about the universal human belief in God?
                  They were all indoctrinated.

                  True about the indoctrination, but also the belief in a god isn’t universal. Supernaturalism is, but gods aren’t. I don’t think that’s a point in your religion’s favor.

                  - Why would anyone take such anecdotes seriously? This is not evidence.

                  Yes, an unexplained occurrence is not evidence of the supernatural! And I said documented by outside, impartial observers. The Catholic church and their most fervent followers hardly qualify.

                  Why would hundreds and thousands of early Christians lay down their lives and die as martyrs for a lie, or a hallucination, or a deception?

                  Well, how about because they thought it was true? Something doesn’t have to be true (obviously) for someone to think it’s true. Many unfortunate people have martyred themselves throughout history for many different religious and political causes.

                  The whole reason I reject the Bible as evidence of the supernatural is because there’s no evidence that any of the supernatural events described actually took place. It is no different from any other ancient scripture. They all contain stories of supernatural events. What would ever make you think that the stories are real?

                  That’s probably true, but I don’t think it was an emotional attachment. As I said, it just doesn’t make sense to me that a complex, beautiful world came into being on its own. Or that we have an insatiable longing for love and immortality that is meant to remain frustrated until the day we die.

                  Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you because you were taught that it shouldn’t make sense to you? Also, I would not describe the longing for love as frustrated or the desire for immortality as insatiable. Actually, the latter is incredibly far from my own experience. I’ve never believed in an afterlife, and I can’t remember it ever bothering me. I wasn’t taught to expect immortality, so maybe that’s why I don’t feel bad about not having it. Sure, it would be nice if everything was kittens and puppies and rainbows and unicorns forever, but that’s not real life. Death doesn’t have to be tragic. If it comes at the end of a long and happy life, it can be accepted and even welcomed.

                  Likewise, regarding sexual morality, I never felt it was right (whether there is a god or not) to sleep around. I always felt that sex must be for something greater. And anytime I got into a relationship, I found myself regretting rather than cherishing any physical bond that I had had with a woman – like giving part of myself away to someone with whom I ultimately didn’t belong.

                  Well, I don’t think you would have naturally felt those things. I think those emotions were the result of having been exposed to Catholic teachings. I truthfully find it sad if you’re not able to freely enjoy your sexuality with another person (or by yourself) because of what you were taught as a young child. I mean, what if you never get married? Is that part of yourself meant to be perpetually unfulfilled? It seems like a tremendous sacrifice on your part, and from the atheist perspective, that sacrifice will be for naught in the end.

                • Andre Villeneuve

                  From my perspective, those are extremely valid objections and huge impediments if you want an atheist to consider accepting your religion as true.

                  But your “indoctrination argument” is not an argument, it’s a cop-out. It’s really just a variation on the genetic fallacy – where the person making the argument tries to invalidate a position based on how the position originated, instead of grappling with the actual argument:

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

                  Don’t you think it’s manipulative, though? It does come across that way. I’d also say that it’s counterproductive if you’re talking to a lifelong atheist who has no emotional attachment to your religion or to any other.

                  As I said, it’s only consistent that if there is truly an omniscient and good God, then he would not only engage the mind but the whole person. We are not just walking brains. (Yet I would be equally adamant against those Christians who suggest to leave your brain at the door and “just believe” without engaging the faith with your mind). The Christian tradition emphasizes “faith seeking understanding” – in St. Anselm’s words: “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.”

                  What would ever make you think that the stories are real?

                  (a) The very fact that Christianity got off the ground. Why would twelve uneducated fisherman, tax collectors and other rabble leave their quiet livelihood and families, and follow a failed rabbi for three years. see him brutally executed by the Romans, and then all of a sudden travel around the world and proclaim that the guy was raised from the dead? What advantage did they get from this? Torture and martyrdom? Why would anyone do such a thing? And if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, why didn’t the Jewish or Roman authorities just produce the body, and that would have been the end of the story? (b) the testimony of countless people through history who have had their lives transformed by an encounter with the same risen Christ; (c) my own experience of a transformed life thanks to an encounter with the risen Christ.

                  I mean, what if you never get married? Is that part of yourself meant to be perpetually unfulfilled?

                  Yes, it is a sacrifice, but one that’s worth it. I am not “unfulfilled.” Abstinence is probably impossible when attempted out of one’s natural strength, but it’s possible in communion with Christ. Sexuality and human love is but a foretaste of the great eternal nuptial union with God. This is why Jesus used parables of a wedding feast to describe the kingdom of God. And many saints and mystics also describe their experience with God in nuptial terms (e.g. St. Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross).

                • Anna

                  But your “indoctrination argument” is not an argument, it’s a cop-out. It’s really just a variation on the genetic fallacy – where the person making the argument tries to invalidate a position based on how the position originated, instead of grappling with the actual argument:

                  I’ve already explained why I don’t think the positions are valid: because they rely on unfounded assumptions. I have not been provided with any reason why I should take these assumptions, assertions, declarations, and opinions seriously.

                  How they originated is a big part of why I don’t find them compelling, but it’s not the whole story. Another reason I don’t find them compelling is the utter lack of evidence accompanying them, along with the lack of a reason to believe that any of the people who make these arguments have any special knowledge about the subject at hand.

                  As I said, it’s only consistent that if there is truly an omniscient and good God, then he would not only engage the mind but the whole person. We are not just walking brains.

                  Well, okay, but I’m just telling you that they don’t resonate with me. On the contrary, I have a negative reaction when I feel like people are trying to manipulate my emotions. Those types of emotional appeals simply do not work on those of us who have never believed in the supernatural.

                  (a) The very fact that Christianity got off the ground. Why would twelve uneducated fisherman, tax collectors and other rabble leave their quiet livelihood and families, and follow a failed rabbi for three years. see him brutally executed by the Romans, and then all of a sudden travel around the world and proclaim that the guy was raised from the dead? What advantage did they get from this? Torture and martyrdom? Why would anyone do such a thing? And if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, why didn’t the Jewish or Roman authorities just produce the body, and that would have been the end of the story? (b) the testimony of countless people through history who have had their lives transformed by an encounter with the same risen Christ; (c) my own experience of a transformed life thanks to an encounter with the risen Christ.

                  All popular religions had to get off the ground at one point. You don’t believe Hinduism and Buddhism are valid, yet they have billions of followers. As for the rest of it, you still haven’t explained why you think any of the stories in the book are true. You seem to believe that they’re true, but I’m not understanding why you think the book is accurate. What makes you think any of the stories in the book actually happened?

                  And surely you’re aware that Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and those from other religions also experience conversions and feel that their lives have been transformed by belief. What makes your personal testimony more valid or more important than theirs?

                  Yes, it is a sacrifice, but one that’s worth it. I am not “unfulfilled.” Abstinence is probably impossible when attempted out of one’s natural strength, but it’s possible in communion with Christ. Sexuality and human love is but a foretaste of the great eternal nuptial union with God. This is why Jesus used parables of a wedding feast to describe the kingdom of God. And many saints and mystics also describe their experience with God in nuptial terms (e.g. St. Catherine of Sienna, St. John of the Cross).

                  Well, it’s your life. There’s nothing wrong with celibacy if it is freely chosen and makes a person happy, but I do not agree with the tactics your church uses to guilt and pressure people into believing there is something wrong with engaging with their sexuality. I feel the belief system is not natural or healthy, and therefore would speak out against attempts to indoctrinate children with this mindset or push it into public policy. Beyond that, there’s not much I can say.

                • Andre Villeneuve