Americans and Obedience: Oil and Water

It’s a rare thing when Julie Davis climbs up on a soapbox; she is the most genial of ladies, and not one to kick up a fuss, but she’s got something to say, today and it’s worth hearing and pondering:

Why did God highly exalt Christ Jesus? Why did God bestow on him the name above every name, that at that name every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth? Why shall every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father?


He took the form of a servant, did not count equality with God something to be grasped (even though he could have), and became obedient unto death.
Let’s all stop. Really stop. And read it again. Slowly, aloud, thinking about it. [...]

Beginning with Adam and Eve, disobedience is the original human sin. It is the one that makes us ignore our inner voice of “what is right” and do what we want anyway.


It sounds fine until it interferes with what we’d really like.

Then, in fine American independence we spit the word “obedient” as if it is a curse and defiantly stamp to emphasize our right to do what we like.

You’ll want to read the whole thing.

Talk to any religious — a nun, a monk, a sister — and they will all tell you that Obedience is the toughest of their vows. Occasionally, you might find the rare one who will say they find it “restful” and “freeing” but for the most part, they’ll tell you that the urge to make up one’s own mind and settle something for oneself is ingrained and tough to control.

It’s tough for all of us. But it is the largest lesson Jesus taught us during his life on earth, and from the cross: obedience works toward God’s purposes, which we cannot always understand when we’re in the moment, but His plan becomes apparent. later. Sometimes twenty years later; sometimes three days later.

Obedience, or really, our refusal to practice it, is at the heart of most of our troubles, because disobedience serves so much within ourselves that ought not be given in to. Our egos; our pride; our selfishness; our need to self-medicate, our greed — it all gets served by disobedience to the first and fundamental things. Disobedience is at the heart of the LCWR story, too, to some extent.

But Julie is on to something when she ties Americanism to Disobedience and finds something troubling in the mix. Our ingrained independence doesn’t understand the idea of something not being a democracy, subject to a campaign and a vote. Someone sent a rant to me the other day, written by a Catholic who was insisting that if “the Spirit of Vatican II” is not honored, then the Roman Church may no longer be considered as being influenced by the Holy Spirit.

This, of course, is an opening salvo in a move toward schism and the creation of an “American Catholic Church” that some would love to see. But if the Holy Spirit is indeed moving the more enlightened toward schism, he is being awfully insular about it; outside of North America such a thing is not seriously being imagined. In Europe, people either leave the church or remain; in Africa and Asia the church is of course growing and determined in its orthodoxy. Only in America do you see this insistence that a “spirit of Vatican II” that arose in the early 1970′s — and that often has nothing to do with the actual documents of VCII — must flourish; it (and these proponents) must increase, while Rome must decrease.

A well-connected minority of these Catholics won’t be happy until they schism, and become everything the Church of England has become, although, for little while — energized by newness, and praised unto vomitous excess by the mainstream press — their pews will be fuller than hers; fuller ever, perhaps, than Rome’s.

I can see it happening, because American politics and religion is too closely entwined. As the government increasingly encroaches upon religious freedom in service to secular political agendas, there will be a point where these rising interests converge — everything that rises must converge — and the “American Catholic Church” will be only too glad to receive the bounty of government fines and levies against the Roman one, and to bring their new church into conformity with the government. In the “spirit,” of course, of Vatican II.

I love the Second Vatican Council; reading its documents helped me find my way back to church. But I somehow doubt that the Holy Spirit’s intention was to align the Bride of Christ, which is the Church, with secular governments, interests and perspectives. It never has been, before. Quite the opposite, in fact are we not supposed to be a sign of contradiction to the world?

I think Benedict understands all of this, which is why he predicted long before he was ever Benedict, that the church would become smaller.

Smaller, but perhaps more powerful in its concentration because — as Jesus showed us — obedience brings the power.

We must pray for each other in the church, particularly here in America, where we all think we are always so much more right about everything than anyone else, or any generation before our own.

Oil and Water Photo Courtesy of

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    A study of the etymology of the word obedience is always in order. It comes from a deep listening, not simply marching in lockstep and forcing oneself into something.

    That is so often the problem – when some want to do one thing, like follow in lockstep, even with the best of intentions, but without the deep listening. The other problem is the recalcitrant not-following, for equally shallow reasons.

    In Christ Jesus, God made our faith relational. Without listening, there is no relationship. Jesus is not a general to be followed without deep assent nor is he to be thumbed off, as if he did not matter.

    Yet, both poles seem to take precedence over actual obedience. And each side feels so justified in mocking the other.

  • Mark Greta

    Fran, Catholic teaching on this word obey calls for us “TO LISTEN TO” what Christ Church teaches us and details how this is essential to forming our conscience. When we obey, we listen attentively to the Word of Christ, handed on to us in the Church, we believe what we hear and we put what we believe into practice.

    Here is what Cardinal Burke the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura in the Vatican had to say on obedience within the Church.

    “Obedience to the Magisterium is difficult for man in every age. The practice of the “obedience of faith” is difficult to master. The difficulty comes both from within us and from outside of us. We suffer the effects of the sin of our First Parents, which fundamentally was a sin of prideful disobedience, of rebellion against God’s will. The grace of the Holy Spirit, poured forth into our soul through Baptism, strengthened and increased in our soul through Confirmation, and nourished within our soul through the Holy Eucharist, alone helps us to overcome our inherited tendency to rebellion and disobedience.”

    “From outside of us, Satan never rests in proposing to us the same temptation which he proposed to our First Parents, the temptation to act as if God did not exist, to act as if we are gods. The world around us, the culture in which we live, to the degree that it is has succumbed to Satan’s deceptions, is a source of strong temptation for us. Our culture, in fact, has been described as “godless” both by the late and most beloved Pope John Paul II and by Pope Benedict XVI. Our culture teaches us to act as if God did not exist. At the same time, it teaches a radical individualism and self-interest which lead us away from the love of God and from the love of one another.”

    “Often the lack of obedience to the Magisterium is not total but selective. Our culture teaches us to believe what is convenient and to reject what is difficult for us or challenges us. Thus, we can easily fall into “cafeteria Catholicism,” a practice of the faith, which picks and chooses what part of the deposit of faith to believe and practice. A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.”

    “The lack of integrity in obeying the Magisterium is also seen in the hypocrisy of Catholics who claim to be practicing their faith but who refuse to apply the truth of the faith in their exercise of politics, medicine, business and the other human endeavors. These Catholics claim to hold “personally” to the truth of the faith, for example, regarding the inviolability of innocent and defenseless human life, while, in the political arena or in the practice of medicine, they cooperate in the attack on our unborn brothers and sisters, or our brothers and sisters who have grown weak under the burden of years, of illness, or of special needs. Their disobedience pertains not to some truth particular to the life of the Church, that is, not to some confessional matter, but to the truth of the divine natural law written on every human heart and, therefore, to be obeyed by all men.”

    Listening depends on who we are listening to and dangerous if we do not listen to the Church Christ gave us and promised to be with until the end of time. Like a loving parent, they know that teaching us to now run into the street holds more weight than telling us to brush our teeth. There are teaching which if we fail to listen and obey, go to the core of our existence in heaven and others which are serious and can lead to cavities. Some choose to ignore this very simple fact of life just like a child and they need loving parents to grab them from time to time to save their butts from being run over by Satan.

  • Pete

    Mark – In your response to Fran you claim that satan proposes to us “the temptation to act as if God did not exist”. What do you think happens to someone if they give in to this temptation? I do not mean in a heaven/hell way but what happens to them as a human on this planet?

    Thanks, and remember, there is no god.

  • Mark Greta

    Pete, you are one reason for this comment.

    I stated over at Deacons that I am leaving this blogging comment world because I have seen it cause me anger that has not been good or productive to my life of prayer and journey of Christ. Catholic blogs where those in league with satan run rampant spewing their lies are not a good place to spend our time. I also believe that these blogs are becoming the target of the supporters of the party of death who want to distort Church teaching for political purposes to cover their support of the holocaust that kills 4,000 babies a day. However, I sing praises of those with talent such as those that the Anchoress has assembled to fight that grave evil and to teach the faith to those with a desire to hear.
    I simply need to get away from the comboxes and devote all that time to prayer that God will send St Michael to protect us from Satan running rampant in our land. So I am banning myself and signing off. Anchoress, thank you for all you do. Keep the faith and keep up the work. I will let you deal with the like of Peter. You will be in my daily prayers.

  • Pete

    Mark – Wow. I did not expect you to give up and run so easily. What was so offensive or difficult about my genuine question? You shouldn’t get angry over comments on blog like this. I do not care how it affects you ‘life of prayer’ etc etc, but it certainly isn’t good for anyones mental wellbeing.

    I disagree that atheists ‘run rampant’. I, for one, certainly don’t and try to remain as polite and constructive in my criticism and questions. Also, I do not comment on everything that is post and hope for a response. I read everything that is posted (both articles and comments) and if something catches my eye I will mention it.

    I disagree completely on your views on abortion, but that is for another time maybe.

    I once again urge you to remove yourself from religion, god and prayer and think about things logically. If only for a week. There is no reason to waste your life devoting yourself to something that doesn’t exist. Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, etc. These might seem like ‘christian’ virtues, but they are not. They are simply virtues. I am a life-long atheist, and never had any connection with religion apart from to study it from an atheist viewpoint, and I am just as moral, kind and virtuous as any religion man or woman. Also, I think to my credit, I do it out of my own sense of morality (not one handed down by ‘god’), and not because I want to go to heaven (selfishness) or because I want to avoid hell (cowardice).

    Thank you, and remember, there is no god.

  • homeschooler

    Elizabeth, I wanted to comment on your statement that only in America do you see the spirit of Vatican II, etc. I am a convert, so probably ignorant, and wondered what you think is the cause of the problems with the Church in Canada (Quebec) then?

    I have a dear friend who lives in Montreal, and he mourns the loss of the Church in Canada like the death of a loved one. My friend was born in Italy, but no longer attends weekly Mass or confession so it could be argued that he is part of the problem. He breaks my heart when he talks about the churches being converted into condos, church furnishings for sale in antique shops, etc.

    I know they have had poor leadership in the past, but do you think the US influence is in some part to blame? Truly, I am asking in ignorance as I have only been Catholic for 5 years.

    [Actually, I had written North America in my first draft, which got eaten when we went down for a while. -admin]

  • Gerry

    No thanks, troll, and remember that Stalin was his own god.

  • Pete

    Gerry – I am not a troll. ‘Trolling’ is the act of posting inflammatory remarks online with the intention of provoking an emotional response that is not conducive to the previous comments. It is also done by people who, for the most part, act anonymously and I do not do that. My name is real, as is my e-mail address which is also required but not posted.

    I would, in fact, suggest that you are a troll. Your remarks are meaningless in the conversation, offer nothing to further the conversation and were said to get a reaction that is not conducive to the topic.

    Thanks, and remember, there is no god.

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    Really, if comments are going to deteriorate to “you’re a troll!” “No, You’re a troll” I’ll just shut them down. I can’t think of anything more pointless.

  • Pete

    Elizabeth – Point taken, won’t hear it again from me.

  • Kristen indallas

    I’ll try not to judge your intentions, they may be genuine… assuming that you truly do intend to be moral, kind and virtuous, I wanted to point out that the last sentence of both posts (tagline?) can be seen as pretty offensive, given the context. Remember, in the context of a combobox, there are no smiles indicating approachability, winks indicating sarcasm, or shrugs of self doubt. If you truly want to engage in healthy debate, I highly encourage it — but it means being prepared to listen as well as talk. You may be prepared to listen… but the tagline indicated otherwise. This is a crude analogy, but it’s sort of like asking someone to prove to you that long distance relationships can work, but before hearing their argument, telling them to remember that there is no such thing as love, essentially that they aren’t allowed to use that in their argument. When you chose to debate a secondary premise (here, whether or not people who do believe in God should obey) both sides have to agree on the principle condition (that their is a God… otherwise the argument is pointless and one-sided). I’m not saying YOU personally have to believe in God, just that the argument you seem to be engaging in presupposes it. It would be a much better use of your time (and the time of your faith-driven counterer) to argue the first point – whether or not God exists. There are lots of awesome places to do that… here is a bit of a stretch.
    PS – for what it’s worth, the desire to go to heaven as “selfishness” only works for people that view heaven as some kind of cosmic goody bag: streets of gold, virgins, all the peeled grapes you can eat. ;-) For me, heaven is a lot less concrete- more like a big giant hug from God. I don’t need to speculate on the the whole eternity, never dying thing because when you get to hug someone you love, who you’ve missed… even one moment can seem eternal. When my 2yo son does something good with the goal of getting a hug from me… I don’t consider that selfish. I consider it love. Food for thought….

  • kenneth

    If Americans came from obedient stock, there would be no America. In some ways, I see this potential schism/shrinking as a good thing for all involved. Love it or hate it, Rome is saying “this (and not that), is what we stand for, take it or leave it.” After decades of sort of bobbing along on cultural inertia, people are having to decide what they really believe in and act on it. If some schismatic American Catholic Church forms, so what? Rome will be left with its true believers, the rest won’t be hanging on the Church’s neck to make it something its not.

  • Roz Smith

    Well done Kristen. Had I attempted to reply I am afraid my post would have been full of unchristian like phrases such as puerile attitude and supercilious tone. You did a much better job.

    I marvel at the obedience of those in religious orders. I’ve often thought it would be far easier to be one of the hermit saints eking out an existence in the wilderness than a member of a religious order.

    One of the ironies of those who want schism is that in the long run there is a good chance a religion tied to the values of the political state will demand far more in the way of obedience than the Catholic Church. Indeed when you look at the modern politically correct culture about the only thing they don’t attempt to control is sexual license. Fatty foods, smoking, exercise, drinking, what one can say in public, the list of rules one needs to follow to be considered one of the enlightened elite grows ever longer. With the exception of fornication it is a sort of secular Calvinism- no fun and no salvation.

  • Andy s

    Schism would be horrible…for this hypothetical American Catholic Church. However, like we are seeing in many places around the world, solid, lovingly truthful orthodoxy grows the true Church. We are tired of rebellious, heretical priests and religious and are longing for leadership that truly leads…as opposed to leading us astray.

  • doc

    Pete, putting aside your deliberately provocative tagline (on a Catholic blog, no less), what do you find admirable about abortion? Surely you’re well-read enough to know that abortion terminates a human life. I mean, you’re not anti-science, are you? Assuming you grasp this fact, can you tell us if there are additional types of innocent human beings who should be targeted for legal killing?

  • Adam

    If there is no God, then virtue is merely a human invention, devoid of ultimate meaning. It is an arrow pointing on a compass with no true North to judge itself against. It is followed merely because it feels right, lacking any absolute to judge its correctness.

    If the rightness of your compass is based purely on the fact that you have chosen that direction, then you lack any basis to judge the compass of any others: they have chosen their directions on no less valid a basis than yours. You should not be surprised, then, that when you find no error in the mass slaughter of one group of persons (the unborn), others are willing to accept the mass slaughter of another (jews, blacks, or any other group).

    If there is no God, then virtue and vice are facades you have imposed on a morally blank world. Law is merely the popular consensus on what that facade should be. I hope the facade continues to work in your favor; someday, 51% of the population may think that it’s virtuous to exterminate you. Who are you to complain?

  • http://Pathos Bill Hall

    I read the falling apart of the North American Catholic CHurch with great interest. I was brought up in the Episcopal CHurch and needless to say they have had extreme problems.
    For instance the church I was brought up and my parents generation helped build in the late fifties has in recent years had numerous problems. Lots of this started with the retirement of a priest who did a good job and was well liked. I don’t recall how many came after him, but one totally ruined the congration. he called himself an Anglican whatever that means? I know it is extremely conservative and drove most of the people who had been longtime members out and the people who replaced them where from a local evengalical bible school. This went on for several years and finally the local diosce had enough as they did not want to be a part of the larger community. For the past two years the church haas been in rebuilding process. This is especially true of the congregation. When I grew up on special times such as Easter and Christmas it was an SRO crowd. Now for Easter they where doing well to get forty people. Here is something that I know will be very upsetting to lots of Orthdox Catholics, it is run by women! Day to Day it is run by a perpetaul deacon who along with her husband puts everything she has into making sure everything works well. For a Priest we now have a lady who is a part time priest for the diocese and a college professor.On a recent visit by the Bishop he very highly praised the work the Deacon is doing to keep things going and trying improve things. There a few new people in the pews just not enough. When I go all I see for the most part are people like my Mother who is 81 and going strong doing whatever they can to keep it going. I am sure there are many churches like this of all denominations. This is located on the outer edge of Portland Or and when it started seventy years ago was suburbia. Now it is just another city neighborhood.
    What so much of the problem between those who want to keep everything as it was or how they think it was is fear. I don’t think Jesus was into preaching fear, I always thought it was love and understanding? We need more of this and the world will be a much better place for everyone!

  • Elaine S.

    “In some ways, I see this potential schism/shrinking as a good thing for all involved.”

    I don’t, except maybe in the sense that having both your legs cut off is a “good thing” because you might die of gangrene otherwise, or that getting a divorce is a “good thing” because your spouse is beating you and the kids regularly. I think I get what Pope Benedict was trying to say — that the Church could emerge stronger and more vibrant from a period of purging. But at the same time I am also reminded of something C.S. Lewis (an Anglican) wrote in “The Screwtape Letters”, speaking in the voice of Screwtape the demon, about how “we” (Satan and his minions) want the Church to be small, not only so that fewer men will know the Enemy (God) but so that those who do will acquire the “defensive self-righteousness” of a clique or exclusive club. Now, Lewis was NOT arguing that the Church should believe in nothing or tolerate open sin or disobedience; but he was pointing out a spiritual danger that comes with being part of an unpopular minority, and I fear some Catholics are already falling into that trap.

  • Pete

    Kristen – I would disagree that the ‘tagline’ at the end of my posts goes so far as being offensive. I agree it may be unusual to read but I think it perfectly sums up my beliefs and main point that I wish to convey. I am prepared to listen to any debate or argument regarding religion, indeed, any religion, but I am not listening from a ‘agnostic-looking-for-answers’ position and my position about religion won’t change. However, I do think it is a healthy idea to engage in debate and conversation because it opens everyone up to more ideas and opinions which can only be good.

    As you suggest, I would much rather engage in the debate of whether or not a god exists and why you believe in him/her/it. However, it didn’t seem right to hijack a blog post about obedience to fill the comment boxes with whatever I decided was more important.

    I agree that you hugging your 2 yo son is not selfish but love, however ‘love’ from someone who forces you to say you love him and accept him on pain of eternal torture is not love.

    Roz – I disagree I have a puerile attitude.

    Doc – It is a simple sentence that sums up my beliefs and reason for commenting quite succinctly. I do not find abortion admirable, I find it necessary to have the choice in modern life. In fact this is a great example of religion acting out of line. Foetuses are not human life but potential human life. If they cannot survive outside the womb they are technically speaking, a parasite. I do not believe that it is wrong to terminate a pregnancy if it can be done safely for the mother. But, going back to religion stepping on toes. If a catholic woman is pregnant and believes abortion is a sin/wrong/etc then she has the choice to have her child. If someone who doesn’t believe becomes pregnant and has no moral/religious objection to abortion then they can have it terminated. The problem comes when people who think their beliefs are better/more moral/more worthy than others are allowed to influence the decisions of others. I don’t have a problem with abortion, and I don’t care that you do. The idea of imposing rules and regulations on people who don’t believe the same stories as you but without ANY evidence that your stories are real/true/the correct version, is moronic, abhorrent and something from the dark ages.

    Adam – The idea that humans need a god in order to be moral is ridiculous. I have no problem with abortion but I would have a problem with the killing of people as they are people, not potential people.

    But talking of morality of ‘god’ the Judeo-Christian god was a terrible entity. Genocide, murder, rape, slavery, torture are all permitted and even encouraged and ordered from god. I follow the teaching of no-one but seem to be living a normal, happy, and moral life. ‘Treat others as you wish to be treated’ seems to be a good way of going about it. I am aware that appears in the bible, but was first said many years earlier. Also, what of humans before jesus and god appeared. Were they immoral? Also, why ‘your’ god. Why not Ra, Thor, Odin, Zeus, Vishnu, etc etc. There have been approximately 2500 man-made deities over human civilisation, who is to say you have the right one?

  • Gail Finke

    Pete: I will answer your question. I am sure you are a kind person. Christ tells us that being kind is not enough. Anyone can sacrifice for friends and family, anyone can be nice (if it’s not too much trouble) to strangers they feel sympathetic to. If you would like to know what I think happens to a person who behaves as if God doesn’t exist, that’s my answer: For a while at least, he or she will probably be a pretty nice person, at least in this country, where we value people being pretty nice. You think you are logical. Well, looked at with a cold eye, history shows us that people generally behave in whatever way their culture encourages. Christian culture, so long as it was mostly Christian, encouraged people to go beyond being nice. Not that they did it in huge percentages, not that they did it very often — but they did it, and that’s why Western countries are the ones that developed hospitals and schools and cared for the poor and so on. Without that, you get the strange, hollow ads that I used to see and hear at the beginning of the Obama administration, encouraging people to volunteer every now and then because it’s a nice thing to do and will make them feel good. Sure, that will last a little while. But how long? And what if there’s a cost? What would be the cost to you, for instance, of not taunting people who annoy you? (“Wow. I did not expect you to give up and run so easily.”) What would be the cost to you of not going on Catholic web sites and challenging people for the fun of it while pretending that you are doing it to be nice? Not a whole heck of a lot, but that is how you would rather spend your time. Perhaps you might consider, instead, being a foster parent or working with terminally ill people or cooking for the homeless or rebuilding houses damaged by disasters or tutoring poor teens or otherwise helping people who can’t ever pay you back and will not care whether or not you are the smartest person on the planet. Being a nice person who occasionally helps others is not the same as being virtuous, it’s just being a normal person.

  • doc

    Pete, does it bother you that your parasite description of the babe in the womb has been used by socialist totalitarians in the recent past to terminate those they considered parasites (Jews, Gypsies, the disabled, and more for the Nazis, Kulaks and many more for Stalin, tens of millions for Mao, educated city dwellers for Pol Pot, etc…)?

  • Pete

    Gail – I think you make some good points although my main disagreement is being told that I am immoral because I don’t believe in a higher power. I am a moral person, just as many christians are moral. However, immorality exists within both religious groups and atheists. If all the atheists from the US were deported then the country would lose only 0.2% of the prison population. I think we need to take god and religion out of the equation. It clearly doesn’t help keep people moral, anymore than it makes atheists immoral.

    Doc – No it doesn’t bother me as I was using the scientific description of a parasite; i.e. an organism that cannot survive without the host. Why are you so against people having the choice of what to do with their bodies?

  • Manny

    There is a difference between obedience to government and obedience to God. American Catholics understand that. There is not going to be a schism between the US and Rome. Fallen Catholics are no different than all people who are not devout. They generally believe but don’t properly adhere.

    As an American I do have a problem with obedience, and rightly so when it comes to government power over the individual. I think we can compartmenatlize that with obedience to God and to the Church. I’ve debated a number of issues that I’ve disagreed with the church (minor issues, actually) here on the Catholic blogs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t obey them, or at least try to obey them, and acknowledge the Church’s authority. Actually it was Mark Shea that got me thinking about obedience on my disagreements with the church when I was arguing with him on one such issue and he called me a Protestant. I am no Protestant! LOL.

    And this is a running quibble I’ve had with Anchoress. The Catholic Church is not going to get smaller, at least not substantially so. Our good Papa is wrong on that.

  • Manny

    Oh, and Pete is a troll. He diverted the whole theme of this blog entry to a debate on his atheism.

  • Pete

    Manny – Why do obey teachings from the church if you disagree with them? Why does the church have authority? On what grounds has it earned this reverence and authority over people?

    Also, see my above post on ‘trolls’.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Because, of course Pete, you’re here to save us from our belief in God, because you care about us so! You have a deep, personal concern for Pete, and the rest of us! Why, you love us! You’re going to save us from our belief in God! Pete, the atheist true believers, and our bestest friend in the world! He’s here to save our souls. . . except, of course, he doesn’t believe in souls. So, what is he here to save us from, exactly? Having un-Pete like thoughts?

    /Hokay, sarc. off.

    If you want to see what the world is like without belief in the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible, Pete, just study history, the Marxist tyrannys of Russia, Red China, Cambodia, etc., and the worship of the state, in Nazi Germany.

    Since the 20th Century on, many have been trying to save us poor, deluded religious types. It starts with them saying how much they want to help us, and ends in the Gulag, re-education camp or torture chamber; thanks, but no thanks, Pete.

    As for whether or not you’re immoral, that’s a question only your friends, family and God Himself can answer; not you. People who claim they’re moral, usually aren’t. Anyway, this isn’t all about you. (Shocking, I know! /Sarc.)

    Remember, there really was a Stalin.

    P.S. Pete, why do you hate children, and why are you opposed to reproduction?

  • Pete

    Rhinestone – I am not here to save you, but if I were, it would be from obeying something for which there is no evidence. Open your mind and realise that there are plenty of miraculous things that occur in nature through no influence of a higher power. There is no reason to accept close-minded and archaic teachings and to do so is in detriment to you and society as a whole. I don’t think anyone who believes in ‘god’ or anything of the supernatural should, for instance, hold a position of political power. Thus, without religion we will advance quicker as a society without the burden of medieval superstition playing a part in out lives.

    The examples you state are the most often used by christians to make an example of atheism. I can’t say how childish that looks. To believe that these people, if instead they believed what you believed, wouldn’t have acted the way they did is just infantile. I could name many atrocities committed in the name of ‘god’ (any god by the way) but it would just be pointless. Religion doesn’t make people moral anymore than atheism makes people immoral.

    I do like your second piece of sarcasm though; ‘this isn’t all about you’. I know it isn’t, and I think the more people who realise that on a much bigger level the better. Christians seem to believe that they are the ultimate product of god. That you were created, along with the world, to worship him and enjoy the earth until you ascend into heaven. How vain and deluded is that?! This life isn’t about you anymore than it is about me. We are the product of natural selection and evolution and whilst we might argue that we are the highest form of intelligence on the planet that doesn’t mean we are special.

    I do not hate children, and I am not opposed to reproduction hence I am pro-choice, not pro-mandatory-abortion. People have the the right to choose without having to listen to people like you.

  • Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    Elizabeth, you have a fine post here, but let me say this much… this comment thread reminds me of why I might not comment too often.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Glad you liked the sarcasm, Pete.

    No, it really isn’t all about you—-and, no, we’re not obligated to give up our belief in God, just to make you feel good about yourself.

    As for your morality—or lack thereof—that’s not something you (or anybody) can claim for themselves. Are you moral? We’d have to ask your family, friends, co-workers, etc., to ascertain that. The fact that you feel the need to come to a religious blog, and lecture the people there because they have beliefs you don’t approve of, and play the troll—-well, we won’t bring morality into it; let’s just say it hints at a lack of self-esteem, and an overweening desire for approval.

    I notice, by the way, that you really don’t want to address the issue of the official atheism of Marxist governments—-governments that slaughtered millions of people, during the 20-21st centuries; you just get angry at me for bringing it up, and sputter.

    Remember, there really was a Stalin. And a Pol Pot.

    P.S. It’s incorrect, by the way, to compare pregnancy to parasitism—pregnancy is reproduction; your offspring are not parasites. And I’m all in favor of women doing what they want with their own bodies, as long as they don’t hurt somebody else’s body in the process. Sadly, what with the prevalence of abortion, a lot of baby girls are now being aborted, because their parents want a boy, instead. They never get to choose at all.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Mark/Greta, God bless you. You will be missed.

    I know He will comfort and sustain you, and I know He has Greta in His care, and she’s praying for us all.

    I will start praying for God to send out Michael Archangel as well. We need him in this hour!

  • Pete

    Rhinestone – You aren’t obligated to give up any beliefs but I think the burden of proof lies with you and until you can prove, or how about provide a scrap of evidence for, the existence of ‘god’ or anything else supernatural, I don’t think you have any right to tell people what to do, who is moral/immoral, etc.

    I have no problem addressing the issues of the Marxist regimes that have slaughtered millions and I agree that the majority of them rejected the idea of religion. They also rejected democracy, free speech and promoted hate. However, I disagree that this was solely because they were atheist. They happened to be atheist, sure, but both Stalin and Hitler happened to have moustaches. Have we ruled out facial hair as a cause for their anger? I do not get angry for you bringing it up but one must then bring up other instances that support my argument such as the Catholic run extermination camps in Croatia in 1942-43 run by Ante Pavelic, Rwandan massacres, David Berkowitz (killed more than 10 women because god told him to), Jeffery Dahmer, and not to mention the crusades and countless wars by the Roman empire. And of course, let’s not forget the systematic sexual assault and rape by people in religious ‘authority’ that has been covered up and the perpetrators left unpunished.

    If that is what YOU believe about abortion then YOU shouldn’t get one. I fail to see where your beliefs mean that someone else shouldn’t have an abortion.

  • Manny

    Notice how the discussion shifted from the topic on hand. It would be best if people didn’t acknowledge trolls who come here with an agenda. If I have to go through another atheism/theism debate I’m going to vomit. I bet people would stop coming to the Catholic portal. These debates are so tedious and redundant, going over the same old ground endlessly. I really don’t care what atheists think. I come here to listen to Catholics discuss Catholic issues.

  • Pete

    Manny – If you feel so strongly I suggest you don’t read the comments left in this thread. I understand that you find it hard to explain the inexplainable (I would to) but just because you are unable to see past what you were told as a child to keep you in line, does not mean everyone else is too.

    I also come here to listen to Catholics discuss Catholic issues but I take issue when the ‘catholic’ issues are not ‘catholic’ at all but societal (e.g. abortion, gay marriage, etc etc).

  • Manny

    Oh Pete, I don’t need your condescension. You’re just a trouble maker.

  • c matt

    I once again urge you to remove yourself from religion, god and prayer and think about things logically.

    Well, I would urge you to do the same. First, you are simply scientifically incorrect to state the fetus is not human life. Take any embryology text and educate yourself.

    Moving on to ethics from atheism. Your position seems to be that an atheist can be ethical, that ethics can exist apart from God (God meaning a Supreme Being/Creator, leaving aside any particular conception of Him – e.g., Jewish, Christian, Muslim). You are correct to an extent. An atheist can be ethical, and can subscribe to a certain system of ethics. But he does not have to. IT does not follow from atheism that one MUST be ethical, only that one can act in an ethical manner. Atheism cannot claim any universal system of ethics follows from an atheist world view.

    In short, for the atheist, being ethical (or more accurately, subscribing to a particular set of ethics) is completely optional. If there is no God, no ultimate judge, then only you (individually) are the judge, and you can judge whatever and however you want. As can everyone else. You have no more basis to claim abortion is ethical than someone else has to claim it unethical. You have no more basis to claim I should not impose any particular practice on you, than I should claim I do. Now, you may have more power to claim these things because the current legal structure may support you, and you may have the power to make your preference imposed on others, but you have no rational basis to argue something is “good” or “bad.” Only one ethic necesarily follows in an atheist world – power. Do unto others what you can.

    Now, please take your advice and before you respond, really think logically about the above. Put yourself outside your atheist mindset, put aside any concern that you might be seen as completely amoral or a bad person, and truly honestly think about this objectively. What you need to do is see the unavoidable logical conclusions of atheism, and put aside the examples of individual atheists who may be nice guys. That is not what the issue is about. OF course there are pleasant, nice atheists. The issue is whether that is strictly logically consistent with an atheist world view.

  • Catholic Law Student

    @Pete. The very nature of Catholicism is two dimensional in a certain regard, namely that we ought to love God and love our neighbors. The greatest commandment, therefore, implies that we order society to the common good. This is what Catholics refer to as social doctrine. As such, we cannot merely extricate the issue of abortion from the practice of Catholicism.

    Catholic social science notwithstanding, perhaps you can help me. You see Pete, I am a little confused. That should not come as a surprise to a person as yourself. After all, theists are the dullest sort. So maybe you can lend me your keen intellect for a moment.

    You stated that you “come here to listen to Catholics discuss Catholic issues but I take issue when the ‘catholic’ issues are not ‘catholic’ at all but societal (e.g. abortion, gay marriage, etc etc).” What culture war issue within the present article caused you to take issue? Because I have to say, I read the article. Actually, I read the article twice. Each time I failed to find such an issue. I am not a very smart guy, so please take this with a grain of salt, but it appears that you in contravention of your own policy.

  • Pingback: Obedience, Oil, and Water » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  • Tim D

    Excellent post Anchoress! Father Barron has a commentary related to this subject over at his wordonfire website. He discusses the issue of obedience in relation to the story of Abraham and Isaac, and the difference in obedience due to God and our relation with the secular.

    The issue of obedience is key for our church at this time in history. Our bishops should call us to obedience to the faith delivered, and they should set the example by aggressively taking up the New Evangelization and Year of Faith propounded by Pope Benedict. This could be a great force for unity within the Church, a means of catechizing our woefully uncatechized members, and a call to the many Christians and others looking for the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  • Pete

    Manny – Thanks for your opinion of me, although it wasn’t required. For the sake of decency, I shall keep my opinion of you private.

    c matt – While I agree that a foetus is human life, it is not viable human life. It has the potential the grow into a human, the same was an apple can grow into a tree. But you wouldn’t call an apple an apple tree would you?

    I agree that an atheist can be ethical but doesn’t have to be. However, you fail to mention that this is completely applicable to theists as well. Christians don’t live ethical lives any more than atheists do. There are christian serial killers as well as atheist ones. Take a look at the thousands, tens of thousands, cases of overly friendly priests in the Catholic church. These men are supposed to be the leaders of the faith! You have a point though that atheists do not have a prescribed system of rules or universal system of ethics to follow and that is true. However looking at some of the rules and ‘ethics’ of just Christianity (genocide, murder, rape, slavery, etc) I think we are actually doing better not to have a set of rules than follow a set that is utterly barbaric.

    I do not claim abortion to be ethical, I am for the opinion that it is completely up to the person in question to choose whether or not they would like it. The individual’s decision. I think it is entirely unethical for a christian to tell someone else that they shouldn’t have an abortion purely based on the fact that they (the christian) think it is wrong. Who cares?! You don’t like abortion? Don’t have one, but don’t tell other people what to do. Especially if your motive for doing so is based on the existence of an unprovable deity.

    I disagree with your atheist ‘mantra’. I think one that is much better, and that I myself follow, treat others as you wish to be treated. This is mentioned in the bible. But also for centuries beforehand too, implying that people did have an idea of ethics and morals long before jesus didn’t show up.

    Catholic Law Student – Everything that is brought about under the umbrella argument of the ‘Catholic viewpoint’ (all religions actually) is inherently affected by the same problem. Catholics are influenced and live their lives according to an idea and belief in a god. However, this deity is completely unprovable so if you like to believe in it, go ahead, that’s fine, but until you can prove that your beliefs are guided by something more than fairytales and superstition they should hold no weight in normal society. It is like me saying that eating oranges on Saturday is illegal because the purple tiger in the sky says so. He also says that if we keep eating oranges on Saturday he will come down and kill us all. Well, surely the burden of proof is on me to prove the big scary tiger is telling the truth, or exists at all, right?

    Mark Greta 9.29pm May 1st brought up the topic of abortion and it has gone from there. I never mentioned it before then but as it was mentioned I decided to comment on it.

    Thank you, and remember, there is no god.

  • Joseph D’Hippolito

    Elizabeth, the question isn’t “obedience,” but obedience to whom?

    What if the Church decides to promote and encourage blatant revisionism, as it’s doing with capital punishment? (See

    What if bishops (or their mouthpieces) decide to treat laypeople who raise legitimate issues as “disobedient”? (see: and

    What if the Pope cannot or will not discipline malfeasant, if not heretical, bishops — as Benedict refused to do to a German bishop who denied on television the idea that Christ received God’s full anger at sin?

    What if “obeying” the Church means disobeying God?

  • Manny

    It wasn’t an opinion. It was an evident fact. Anyone that comes to a Catholic blog with that tag line is trying to stir trouble. And you did. How childish.

  • Pete

    Manny – Your last post is in fact quite interesting as I think it illustrates quite well how and why religion comes about. Your opinion of me as a ‘trouble maker’ is exactly that, and opinion. However, you state that it wasn’t an opinion but ‘evident fact’. Just like that!

    That is how dangerous religions start. One person voices an opinion and it only takes a few people shouting loud enough, with no evidence at all of course, that this is now ‘fact’ and the rest of the people will follow. Of course, if they don’t follow just threaten them with eternal torture after they are dead or maybe kill them on the spot. That is the great thing about the Christian teachings; if they didn’t agree, kill them. What a perfect set of ethics you follow Manny.

  • vicent Ayebare

    Proud to be born African!
    As a catholic here in Uganda, alot of confused groups (American sponsored) come up, but the only true church grows stronger. Issues of arbotion, homosexuality, remain illegal in many African states.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Remember, Pete, there really was a Stalin.

    He wasn’t religious.

    But he was very dangerous. And, like you, he was determined to try and stamp out “Wrong thinking.”

    P.S. Pete, do your family and friends—assuming you have any—not give you enough attention? Are you bored? Do you feel unappreciated in your real life? Do you think becoming a troll on a religious blog will, somehow, make everything better? Or are you just very, very, very desperate for attention?

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Manny, I do think Pete is here for the attention. Like many people who pull this stunt, he’s, basically, an attention junkie. Like the Cat in the Hat, he’s (verbally) jumping up and down, screaming “Look at me, look at me, look at me now!” It’s really best to ignore him, and stop responding to his posts.

    Let me put it this way—I seriously doubt Pete does the same thing at Islamic blogs, because the sort of attention he’d get there is not the kind of attention he wants at all! He wants to pester Christians, because he knows he can get away with it, and it makes him feel brave, and like he’s accomplishing something. He needs a hug, or a cookie, or to change his life out in the real world, but debating him is futile. That’s not what he’s here for.

    Pete, God bless you. Now, go and do something real with your life, away from the internet; if you can’t stay away from the internet, at least stay away from Islamic blogs, because you could get into real trouble, there!

    And remember, there really was a Stalin.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Yes, Vincent, I remember when I was still a member of the Episcopal Church, it was its black African members who were always the staunchest supporters of marriage, and against homosexuality.

  • Pete

    Rhinestone – I am aware that there was a man called Stalin. I am also aware of what he did. What is your point? I only ask because there have been several times now when you have mentioned him but simply only to remind me he existed? I don’t think your point can be that because he was atheist he acted in the way he did because I have dealt with that on a couple of occasions. I also don’t think that you are using him as an example of how atheism is wicked because there are plenty of christian examples of that too. So, I really don’t know what you are trying to achieve.

    I like the post-script though. I do have family and friends. Many of them actually. I don’t feel unappreciated. I am not a troll (see above posts for discussion about that). I don’t think it will make everything better but I think that perhaps one person maybe changing their views about religion would certainly be a step in the right direction.

    However, whilst I make points that have meaning, room for discussion, etc, you seem to just retort with silly child-like arguments and, seeing as your replies come as thick and fast as mine, I would suggest all of your post-script points might apply to you.

  • Pete

    I have had debates at blogs of all faiths and actually found that Muslim believers were much more open to my atheism and willing to discuss fault with their religion much more openly than christians ever did. So to answer your presumption about me, yes, I do ‘do this’ at Islamic blogs and with a lot of success.

    Thanks and remember there is no god.

  • Manny

    You’re probably right. I guess it’s a mixture of attention seeking and delusion that if he goes to a Catholic blog he can successfully prosletize his non-belief beliefs. He’s really a fundementalist with a juvenile personality. The fact that he has to stick in that silly tag line shows that he’s a case of arrested development.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Manny, exactly.

    Best to ignore him, and say “Our Father” for him, when you get the chance.