How Should I Call Out Nasty Atheists?

In a post earlier today, I disagreed with the conclusions of Jen Fulwiler’s critique of Atheist Awareness Week, but there’s an element of truth in her article I want to acknowledge.  There’s something exhausting and unpleasant about spending a lot of your writing/thinking time trying to argue with people you don’t respect.  When you think of your job as smacking down morons, it hard to imagine you approach it with a spirit of charity, and it’s more than likely the contempt and arrogance you practice could spill over into other spheres of your life.

But atheists aren’t uniquely at risk for this kind of behavior.  Political operatives and pundits often fall into the same trap.  And, although everyone in my ideal line of work could stand to behave a lot better, it’s hard to remain patient and nuanced and kind when you debate with people who are irrational or nasty.  I wouldn’t want to write a blog that primarily addressed fundamentalist evangelical beliefs or actions for many of the same reasons I would hate to spend all my time discussing politics with fans of Glen Beck; I’m sure it would be bad for me.  It would be dispiriting and feed into some of my worst tendencies.

I can bow out, but someone needs to respond to these people; they’re too popular to be ignored.  Taking on that job will definitely take a toll on your spirit, so I end up torn about how to respond to nasty or dismissive atheists.  I have plenty of sympathy for the people who put themselves in the middle of a really unpleasant and necessary fight, but I don’t want their behavior to be admired or imitated by anyone else.

Talking about people martyring their own character for the sake of the cause or to keep back the barbarian hordes takes a bad situation and gives it a tragic, romantic quality that can be very attractive.  That kind of rhetoric is very close to praising people for what we call “a willingness to get their hands dirty” but is really just the courage to do bad things.

I stick with calling out behavior I think is disrespectful or counterproductive and keep my sympathies private.  If I were Christian, this is the kind of context in which I would like to pray for the offending person to rise above the stress and temptation of their circumstance, but, as an atheist, I don’t have a way to help these public figures I don’t know personally.  I put my focus on the people I might reach, atheists who shouldn’t take this behavior as inspiration and Christians who should know it’s not indicative of us all.

I’d be interested in all of your thoughts on the best tack to take.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • Patrick

    I think its too contextual to give a good answer without examples.I think a large part of the problem is that it is far, far, FAR too easy to take a person's religious beliefs more seriously than they do.For example, William Lane Craig believes that God actually exists and ordered his followers to attack the Canaanites and murder all of their children in a bloodbath of infanticidal genocide. If you take everything he's said on the subject, he believes all of the following:1. That sometimes God orders his followers to do horrible things, including murder children en masse.2. That we should not expect to understand why God orders these things.3. But that we should still do as we're told, and trust that God knows what's best.4. Even if doing what we're told revolts our moral sensibilities, and leaves us traumatized.Now a person who actually believes this should be institutionalized for the safety of those around them. So should we react to Craig as if he believes these things, and treat him as if he's one fevered delusion away from shooting up a preschool?Well… no. Because its all crap. Craig doesn't believe that stuff. He just thinks he has to profess to believe it because otherwise his belief in biblical inerrancy is threatened. He takes this set of ideas out whenever he's attacked in a particular way ("What about Canaan? How's that square with your loving God?"), and then he puts it away. And he goes on to make his Moral Argument, which of course flatly contradicts his Canaan apologetics, in that it claims that the same personal conscience he says that God's chosen murderers must ignore is in fact an indicator of timeless, changeless, objective moral truths.I think a lot of atheists get really hung up on how to deal with this sort of thing. Do you treat Craig (and by extension his faith and his holy text) as monstrous, since that's what his interpretation makes them? Do you treat him as an idiot, because you know he's not a monster even though anyone with two brain cells can see that he's describing a God that's literally indistinguishable from a Nazi version of Cthulhu (read up on Craig's conception of "cultural pollution" as a justification for murdering kids)? What do you do?Its a hard question, particularly for atheists, many of whom became atheists because they weren't any good at separating professed beliefs from actual, real life belief.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    I stick with calling out behavior I think is disrespectful or counterproductive and keep my sympathies private.Can't behavior can be disrespectful without being counterproductive? It seems to me that it depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10845051786114528609 Julie Robison

    I like to take on St. Padre Pio's attitude of, "In all things, charity." I had a very unpleasant experience last week with a Lutheran friend of mine (i.e. a fellow practicing Christian) whose disrespect towards Catholicism makes it difficult to have a respectful dialogue. (He asked a question; I responded.)You are right: it takes a toll on one's soul. I become physically exhausted. In terms of calling our nasty Atheists, what do you think about addressing their arguments and responding in a clear, concise manner? If you are on the same page, there is your starting point. Then go on from there. But in all things, charity. Even in non-religious discussions, people's unkindness in debate and discussion immediately turns me off. I don't want to listen to people acting like immature children who obviously cannot defend their position any better than name-calling and over-generalizations.I think the same goes for calling people out. It is sometimes necessary and even, the kind thing to do- to help point another in the right direction, so to speak, or at least help them think about something in a different way. To have a relationship with any person (as close as a dear friendship or as impersonal as in the blogosphere), you don't need to necessarily agree, but you should at least seek a common understanding and keep the discussion fruitful by seeking understanding and truth, not I'M RIGHT/ YOU'RE WRONG. I was just talking about this last night with one of my best friends, actually. She is a Reformed Presbyterian and I am a Roman Catholic, and we do a weekly Bible study together. She was telling another Protestant friend about it, and the person said, "You do Bible study with Julie? Alone?" …what?! But it is a common misconception among many Protestants thatA) Catholics do not read the BibleB) Catholics do not care about the BibleC) Catholics do not study the Bible, etc.I admit my feelings were ruffled a little bit, but I read a great quote by Saint Teresa of Avila this week: "The saints rejoiced at injuries and persecutions, because in forgiving them they had something to present to God when they prayed to Him."So I do; I pray for people who hurt my feelings. I didn't respond badly about it, either; I needed my friend to know that our mutual love of Christ raises us above the pettiness. I think, even in the secular sense of the word, witnessing is important. You do not need to put out your own personal feelings into the argument, per se, but you should be able to make a case using other resources. By verbalizing another point of view, this could at least plant a seed. I am not saying always engage, but a defense of keeping discussion civilized is important.My advice: if you do it, charity, charity, charity. (You already do a great job with that, though! And it is much appreciated by me, at the very least.)p.s. today is the first day of the Vatican's open dialogue with Atheists summit! Cardinal Ravasi (president of the Pontifical Council for Culture) said last week, “We don’t dialogue to broadcast a theory, but to share a vision that has an impact on our lives.” :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @Julie Robison: p.s. today is the first day of the Vatican's open dialogue with Atheists summit!When Pope Benedict announced this initiative, he declared, To the dialogue with other religions we must add dialogue with those for whom religion is something unknown, for whom God is unknown and who nevertheless don't want to remain without God but want to get closer to him at least as an unknown.In a spirit of reciprocity, I would like to announce my willingness to engage in a dialogue with Catholics for whom atheism is unknown and who nevertheless don't want to remain with God but want to get closer to atheism at least as an unknown.

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    I think that any successful social reform movement needs a diversity of approaches to succeed. We've seen it with the feminist movement, with the civil rights movement, with the gay rights movement, and there's no reason why the atheist movement should be any different. We need our polemicists and our rabble-rousers, but we need our diplomats too. (This would be the nature of my disagreement with accommodationists like Chris Mooney, who believe we should only use the latter approach.)So yes, by all means, chastise atheists who go far beyond the bounds of civility. But if that gets too emotionally exhausting, there's another option: just be a nice atheist! Show people that there's more than one way to be a nonbeliever, and refute stereotypes to the contrary simply by example. It's a surprisingly effective way of changing minds.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17394136098594570091 Timothy

    I feel for you bloggers. It can't be easy stomaching some of the comments that show up on blogs.One of the good things that the internet lacks is a moderator or someone to keep the conversation on point. Back when I was in law school, there tended to be some heated arguments between students and it was beneficial to the conversation and the class that a professor would occasionally interrupt to bring the students back on point.It's nice to think that if you let all available viewpoints be expressed, the truth will eventually prevail. But I think it is becoming apparent these days that that is not the case, and some viewpoints can only be harmful.So, as anti-free speech as it sounds, I would suggest moderating comments or maybe having someone you trust moderate comments.

  • Anonymous

    I'm probably what you would consider a "nasty" Atheist. But what would you rather me do? Stop believing that faith is a vice and an ultimate danger to humanity? You'll have to find a way to convince me, until then I will take the PZ Myers approach, and my feelings about frivolous beliefs will be out in the open.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Anonymous:"But what would you rather me do? Stop believing that faith is a vice and an ultimate danger to humanity?"Here's what I don't understand. Why does it have to be either "I am civil and polite in my disagreement", or "I believe that faith is a vice and an ultimate danger to humanity"?Why can't it be both/and? I believe that atheism is a vice and an ultimate danger to humanity, yet I strive to be civil and polite when I dialogue with atheists (sadly, I don't always succeed, but I'm working on it).

  • Anonymous

    I would consider myself civil and polite, but most people consider my thoughts to be offensive in their own right.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    If people consider your thoughts offensive in their own right, it's probably because you're stating them in such a manner that is less than tactful and civil. For example: "I believe that Catholic priests are all dirty old pedophiles who use their job as an excuse to bugger little boys." That is extremely offensive and will probably earn you some heated responses, or will cause your comments to be dismissed and ignored.Better: "I have concerns about the amount and number of Catholic priests who have engaged in pedophilia. Specifically, [this news story, perferably from a reputable news source that at least strives for some level of objectivity] reports [these facts]." I think the most important thing to remember is that there is a person on the other end of the keyboard, and to act accordingly. If you wouldn't say it to their face, don't say it online. (This is why I very rarely comment anonymously… I'm a firm believer in owning my own thoughts and beliefs, and also that it's easier to imagine that person on the other side of the keyboard if you have a name to refer to them by — even if it's a pseudonym — instead of simply "Anonymous.")

  • Anonymous

    This isn't as easy as you make it seem. For instance, I just clicked on your profile and it says that you are a Catholic mom raising three kids. Now I can logically assume that you are raising these children catholic, per catholic doctrine. I believe you are abusing your children. Not because of any priest sexual abuse, but because telling children that there is this all mighty god in the sky, for which you can present no evidence is promoting ignorance. Compounding matters is the fact that you have probably told them, or will soon tell them, that if they don't follow your god, and his supposed morality they are condemned to eternity in hell. At some point you will turn words to make it sound like love.This is pure emotional abuse, I went through it as a child, and would never, ever present it to any children I may have in the future. However telling someone they are abusing their children almost certainly offends them, but how else should I present it?Hey don't teach your kids that believing in things without evidence is acceptable? Telling your kids about hell and all the things they do that are bad will send them there is not a good idea?Sorry, I believe that it is abuse, and I believe that you are abusing your children, I see no reason to skate around this issue.-Andy (same anonymous as before)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Hi Andy (thanks for the name!),Now I can logically assume that you are raising these children catholic, per catholic doctrine.You would be correct.I believe you are abusing your children.How to phrase this more civilly and tactfully:"I believe that it is detrimental to children to raise them with a religious upbringing."Not because of any priest sexual abuse, but because telling children that there is this all mighty god in the sky, for which you can present no evidence is promoting ignorance.How to phrase this more tactfully:"I believe that there is no compelling evidence that God exists, and being raised in this belief may cause children harm."(To respond to this, I believe there is ample compelling evidence that God exists, and I intend to teach my children, in an age-appropriate matter, how I arrived at this conclusion and the evidence I used to do so, as well as the logic, reason, and evidence that led me to my conversion to Catholicism.)Compounding matters is the fact that you have probably told them, or will soon tell them, that if they don't follow your god, and his supposed morality they are condemned to eternity in hell.How to phrase this more tactfully:"I believe it is detrimental to children to teach them that everyone who does not believe in their religion is condemned to hell." (To respond to that, incidentally – I will not and would not teach my children that because the above is not Catholic teaching, nor has it ever been Catholic teaching. At this point in the discussion I would ask you to please find out what Catholics actually believe instead of setting up a straw man and knocking it over.At some point you will turn words to make it sound like love.I wouldn't have to "turn words around" to do that, actually, because God is love.This is pure emotional abuse, I went through it as a child, and would never, ever present it to any children I may have in the future.I don't believe your subjective childhood experiences are a fair or objective method with which to critique Catholic teaching and doctrine."However telling someone they are abusing their children almost certainly offends them, but how else should I present it?"See above.

  • Anonymous

    And here we go.First, it was not a strawman, see the Catechism paragraph 846. Do not tell me to seek what the Catholic Church actually teaches, when you apparently do not understand it yourself. You have accused me of making a straw man when I have not, you did not provide any evidence as to why it was a straw man.Second, while you may present your evidence for God, it will entirely be emotionally based, and not at all based on any tangible, observable evidence. Christianity has had 2000 years to do so and they have failed. Furthermore I highly doubt you are only presenting "your evidence" you are most likely schooling them in a Catholic church or sending them to PSR classes, where they will further have this truth shoveled upon them as if they are complete truths, not to be explored to as if they are correct.Thirdly, your way of making my words more civil changed their message quite a bit. It is not only detrimental to teach that non Catholics go to hell, but it is also detrimental to teach children that THEY go to hell if they have unforgiven mortal sins (see catechism 185) when they die. Again, this is abuse, not just a detrimental teaching.It's amazing to me how you could seek to lesson me on civility in a post dripping with angst, and ignorance. You, however, will probably not get called out on it by such "accommodationists" Atheists like the author of this blog for "nasty" behavior.-Andy

  • Anonymous

    The second catechism reference was meant to be 1858, not 185-Andy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Hi Andy,Why the defensiveness and anger? I think you're making inferences that I didn't intend. The Internet is a difficult medium in that regard because the tone and facial expressions that you'd be privy to in a face-to-face manner aren't discernible. I assure you I didn't mean to convey any of what you seem to think I did.First, it was not a strawman, see the Catechism paragraph 846. Do not tell me to seek what the Catholic Church actually teaches, when you apparently do not understand it yourself. You have accused me of making a straw man when I have not, you did not provide any evidence as to why it was a straw man.Okay, I'm confused. You say 846, and later clarify that you meant 1858. This is paragraph 1858 in the CCC: "Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother." The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger."This is para. 1846, in case the above was also a typo: "The Gospel is the revelation in Jesus Christ of God's mercy to sinners. The angel announced to Joseph: 'You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' The same is true of the Eucharist, the sacrament of redemption: 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'"Neither of these say, as you claimed, "if they don't follow your god, and his supposed morality they are condemned to eternity in hell." Can you clarify, please? "Second, while you may present your evidence for God, it will entirely be emotionally based, and not at all based on any tangible, observable evidence."Why do you say that?"Christianity has had 2000 years to do so and they have failed."That's your opinion. I believe otherwise. "Furthermore I highly doubt you are only presenting "your evidence" you are most likely schooling them in a Catholic church or sending them to PSR classes, where they will further have this truth shoveled upon them as if they are complete truths, not to be explored to as if they are correct."Actually, my daughter attends public school. She does go to Religious Education classes once a week, but as she's only in kindergarten they haven't yet started in on any really deep theology. When she is old enough, I intend to teach her the principles of logic, the Socratic method, and other tools she can use to examine the evidence for and against Christianity. "Thirdly, your way of making my words more civil changed their message quite a bit."I apologize for that; it wasn't my intention to change your meaning. I went by what I thought you were trying to convey.(continued below…)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    (continued from above…)"It is not only detrimental to teach that non-Catholics go to hell, but it is also detrimental to teach children that THEY go to hell if they have unforgiven mortal sins (see catechism 185) when they die. Again, this is abuse, not just a detrimental teaching."I won't teach my children that all non-Catholics go to hell, as that's not what the Catholic Church teaches. As for the belief that people with unforgiven mortal sins will go to hell — which is dependent upon that person's individual level of culpability, so can't be used as a blanket judgment — I will indeed teach my children that objective aspect of Catholic doctrine, with the caveat that it is impossible for us to know that about another person and thus it is impossible to definitively make the judgement that someone is either going to or is in hell.I will teach my children the truth as I discern it, just as you will. Whether teaching that truth is a form of abuse is something that, I believe, can't be objectively measured. My criteria of abuse is not yours, and vice versa. I don't see any credible evidence to believe that raising my children in the Catholic faith is abuse."It's amazing to me how you could seek to lesson me on civility in a post dripping with angst, and ignorance." I'm sorry, Andy, it wasn't my intent to "drip with angst" or to display ignorance. Can you clarify what I have misconstrued? Bear in mind I was just trying to give examples of how potentially offensive statements, as you gave them, could be worded more accurately. I wasn't trying to judge you in any way."You, however, will probably not get called out on it by such "accommodationists" Atheists like the author of this blog for "nasty" behavior."Do you think you will succeed in persuading Christians of the "truth" of atheism with sarcasm, condemnation, and verbal abuse? That's an honest question. I very much appreciate Leah's blog, and I will say that it's given me a much better opinion of atheists than I previously held.

  • Anonymous

    I am sorry for the confusion on the Catechisms. I quoted two separate paragraphs, the first time I used the correct paragraph (846) To note that according to the Church ONLY people who are saved by the church go to heaven. There is an exception made in 847 for people who are not aware of the church, but in this day and age I think it's safe to assume that 99% of the world at a minimum knows of the Catholic Church. Again, this IS what it teaches, and you are still accusing me of straw men (although in this case it may have been because of my mixup with the typos).You have also missed the point entirely of why I condemn the practice of teaching children of mortal sins. When you tell children that if they happen to be guilty of a mortal sin when they die you introduce an intense fear into them of whether or not THEY may go to hell. I'm not referring to how they should see others. Introducing that fear is abuse. (This is covered in paragraph 1858)Finally, I have not been sarcastic in this exchange. I have said that your practices are abusive, if you want to consider that condemnation, or verbal abuse. However Catholic theology is BUILT upon condemnation, and to a lesser degree verbal abuse as well. I do not seek to convert you, true believers will not be convinced by logic, as faith is an entirely emotional appeal. However I take a hard stance because when I left Catholicism it was hard questions, and hard realizations that had me come around.

  • Anonymous

    Also I would like to ask you what observable, tangible evidence the Church has made for it's claims.-Andy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    "I am sorry for the confusion on the Catechisms. I quoted two separate paragraphs, the first time I used the correct paragraph (846) To note that according to the Church ONLY people who are saved by the church go to heaven."Thank you for clarifying. "There is an exception made in 847 for people who are not aware of the church, but in this day and age I think it's safe to assume that 99% of the world at a minimum knows of the Catholic Church."Actually, no, that's not the case at all. To quote Archbishop Fulton Sheen, "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be." You may want to learn the difference between invincible and vincibile ignorance, and the context in which it is used in moral theology."Again, this IS what it teaches, and you are still accusing me of straw men (although in this case it may have been because of my mixup with the typos)."Well, it seems to me that you have a problem with what you think the Catholic Church teaches, as opposed to what it actually teaches. For example, you don't have a clear idea of what constitutes invincible ignorance."When you tell children that if they happen to be guilty of a mortal sin when they die you introduce an intense fear into them of whether or not THEY may go to hell."See, to me, this displays ignorance about the nature of mortal sin. If you don't know FOR SURE that you are in mortal sin, you're probably not. Mortal sin involves absolute intent to reject God. This blog post, written by my friend Leila, is a good general overview of mortal sin.That's why I also intend to teach my children about the sacrament of Reconciliation, which was established by Christ so that his children could be absolved of mortal sin. :)"I'm not referring to how they should see others. Introducing that fear is abuse. (This is covered in paragraph 1858)"Interesting perspective. Do you feel that teaching children to obey civil law is also wrong, as that may also instill fear?"Finally, I have not been sarcastic in this exchange."I was speaking in a general sense, and I apologize for not being more clear. You in particular have not been sarcastic, but other atheists (such as P.Z. Myers) are."I have said that your practices are abusive, if you want to consider that condemnation, or verbal abuse. However Catholic theology is BUILT upon condemnation, and to a lesser degree verbal abuse as well."I wholeheartedly disagree with you. I've been studying Catholicism for nearly a decade and I've come to the exact opposite conclusion. When I began studying Catholicism, I was a member of the ELCA and was intent to prove Catholicism false, but I found that I could not. "I do not seek to convert you, true believers will not be convinced by logic, as faith is an entirely emotional appeal."One can, however, come to faith via logic and reason, as I have and as many others have. "However I take a hard stance because when I left Catholicism it was hard questions, and hard realizations that had me come around."It's funny, the exact same questions and realizations led me to the Catholic Church.Thank you for this dialogue.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Also I would like to ask you what observable, tangible evidence the Church has made for it's claims.That is entirely too long for a combox reply, or even a blog post, so I will refer you to the following resources:Can You Prove God Exists? by Peter KreeftMere Christianity by C.S. LewisOrthodoxy by G. K. ChestertonIntroduction to Christianity by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)The Godless Delusion by Patrick Madrid and Kenneth HensleyThe Case for Christ by Lee Strobel…and many, many more.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @JoAnna: You write:"I believe it is detrimental to children to teach them that everyone who does not believe in their religion is condemned to hell."(To respond to that, incidentally – I will not and would not teach my children that because the above is not Catholic teaching, nor has it ever been Catholic teaching. At this point in the discussion I would ask you to please find out what Catholics actually believe instead of setting up a straw man and knocking it over.With regard to your statement, "Nor has it ever been Catholic teaching," I note (for example) that in the bull Cantate Domino, 1441, Pope Eugene IV declared, "It [i.e., the Catholic Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart 'into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels'(Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    Hi P.Coyle (by the way, I'm working on a reply to the our other conversation, although it may take some time, as it's a complex conversation).To reply, I would direct you to the following articles, which explain the historical context of that papal bull as well as how Catholic understanding of that doctrine has developed over time:Can Non-Christians Be Saved?andNo Salvation Outside the Church (This Rock: December 2005)

  • Anonymous

    Actually I do know the difference between invincible/vincible ignorance, and your application of them in your argument is shaky at best. Regardless of the state of one's understanding of the Church's teaching that it is the one true church founded by Christ himself (and trust me, everyone knows that you guys believe this), if they do not seek God in a way that pleases him they still do not receive salvation. Considering that worshiping other Gods is high on the list of things that displease your God (see the ten commandments) that blocks all other religions. Your article even confirms this towards the bottom.Ah reconciliation, where you sit down in front of the priest, tell him how wrong and bad you are, and he commands you to do penance. You're really putting up a great fight over the abuse subject! Just admit you're a terrible being and all is well!Furthermore there is a distinct difference between a list of arbitrary sins as decided by the whims of old men in Rome who decide God dislikes, and crimes that we as a society decide to enact for our protection and advancement. There is also a distinct difference between jail and hell. If I really have to point that out, it really worries me what you do teach your children.Since you converted to Catholicism since you couldn't disprove it I will now ask you to disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Since you can't do that either, I welcome you, my pastifarian sister!(You can now claim that I've been sarcastic, just like mean old PZ).Lastly, I read the Case for Christ, Strobel did not produce tangible evidence for the Jesus hypothesis. I also read Mere Christianity, and Lewis did not produce any either. I suspect the other books you've listed have not either.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    "Actually I do know the difference between invincible/vincible ignorance, and your application of them in your argument is shaky at best." Actually, what you write below disproves the above."Regardless of the state of one's understanding of the Church's teaching that it is the one true church founded by Christ himself (and trust me, everyone knows that you guys believe this),"You'd be surprised, and I don't think you can really make sweeping generalizations about what "everyone" knows."if they do not seek God in a way that pleases him they still do not receive salvation."That's a basic, if incomplete, understanding."Considering that worshiping other Gods is high on the list of things that displease your God (see the ten commandments) that blocks all other religions."That's where invincible ignorance comes in. Catholicism teaches that all other religions have elements of the truth, whereas the Church has the fullness of truth. It's possible that a Jew or Muslim, for example, who sincerely lives according to the truth that he knows, and does not know the truth of Christianity through no fault of his own, can be saved. The bottom line is that we can make objective declarations of who can and cannot be saved, but we can never make a subjective declaration; that is, we can never say, "X is definitely in hell" or "Y is definitely going to hell," because no one knows an individual's heart and mind at the time of death except for God, and only He can make that judgment."Ah reconciliation, where you sit down in front of the priest, tell him how wrong and bad you are, and he commands you to do penance. You're really putting up a great fight over the abuse subject! Just admit you're a terrible being and all is well!"It's more complex than that, actually. We tell Christ, THROUGH the priest, our sins, and we also express our regret and contrition. We do penance as a voluntary act to display our contrition. "Furthermore there is a distinct difference between a list of arbitrary sins as decided by the whims of old men in Rome who decide God dislikes,"*sigh*"and crimes that we as a society decide to enact for our protection and advancement."You recognize that there is a legitimate authority to which one can voluntarily submit, but you won't recognize the same in a religious context. "There is also a distinct difference between jail and hell." I agree. You can get out of jail."If I really have to point that out, it really worries me what you do teach your children."It's an imperfect analogy. My children will know the difference."Since you converted to Catholicism since you couldn't disprove it I will now ask you to disprove the Flying Spaghetti Monster." First show me the logic and evidence that points toward the possibility, if not the reality, of the FSM's existence."(You can now claim that I've been sarcastic, just like mean old PZ)."So noted."Lastly, I read the Case for Christ, Strobel did not produce tangible evidence for the Jesus hypothesis. I also read Mere Christianity, and Lewis did not produce any either."What do you mean by "tangible evidence"?"I suspect the other books you've listed have not either."Why not give them a try and find out?

  • Anonymous

    And now we get into the eternal game of religious calvinball (see: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/03/calvinball_no_more.php). You have completely reworded those catechisms and introduced concepts completely outside of their scope. When faced with direct evidence that the church does believe that outsiders almost always go to hell, you've danced around it with word games and claims that the church has changed its mind (see your response to Coyle). You do not reference where the church believes that other religions also may see truths that please god, and you are most certainly straying from the definitions from the Catholic Answers article on ignorance. Specifically worshiping false gods is most certainly a mortal sin, even if it is arrived at by "invincible ignorance" it is still a great separation that will quite likely keep you from salvation. But saying others go to hell is such a drag, so let's introduce this great out where we just say we can never really know.I've asked you several times for evidence of your claims, you've danced around that as well, instead of giving me one instance of what is a list so large it can't even fit in a reply, you pointed me to books where some authors make some incredibly iffy claims. For instance Strobel and his interview subjects never address that there is no evidence from the time of Jesus' supposed life (as in before his death) of his existence. William Lane Craig even has the gall to say that because there are differences in the gospels they're probably true! This is tangible evidence? no. Lewis makes a lot of claims about morality, and even drops Pascal's wager, but does he provide tangible evidence for Jesus? No.What I'm asking for is this: I'd be happy to say God exists if I could observe him. What observable evidence can you provide of his existence? How can I detect him, and how can I be sure that he is who you say he is?http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm-Andy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    "You have completely reworded those catechisms and introduced concepts completely outside of their scope."Proof, please? "When faced with direct evidence that the church does believe that outsiders almost always go to hell, you've danced around it with word games and claims that the church has changed its mind (see your response to Coyle)."Interestingly, you've done exactly the same when faced with direct evidence that you're completely misinterpreting the Church's teachings based on your own personal analysis, not to mention completely ignoring the concept of dogmatic development."You do not reference where the church believes that other religions also may see truths that please god, and you are most certainly straying from the definitions from the Catholic Answers article on ignorance.""Specifically worshiping false gods is most certainly a mortal sin,"If the action meets the specific criteria for mortal sin, yes."even if it is arrived at by "invincible ignorance" it is still a great separation that will quite likely keep you from salvation."Very true, but only God can judge who is and who is not saved."But saying others go to hell is such a drag, so let's introduce this great out where we just say we can never really know."People will go to hell, certainly. There is objective criteria for determining who may go to hell. But we cannot make that judgement on an individual, subjective level without knowing that person's heart, mind, and soul — something that is only possible for God."I've asked you several times for evidence of your claims, you've danced around that as well, instead of giving me one instance of what is a list so large it can't even fit in a reply, you pointed me to books where some authors make some incredibly iffy claims."In your opinion. "For instance Strobel and his interview subjects never address that there is no evidence from the time of Jesus' supposed life (as in before his death) of his existence."No evidence of that kind for Plato exists, yet do you also disbelieve his existence?"What I'm asking for is this: I'd be happy to say God exists if I could observe him. What observable evidence can you provide of his existence? How can I detect him, and how can I be sure that he is who you say he is?"I ask, again, what constitutes tangible evidence? Did you read the essay series by Peter Kreeft that I linked to?I also question your need for tangible evidence. I have no tangible evidence that dark matter exists, for example, but I believe scientists who theorize that it does.

  • Iota

    Just a link to another resource, that specifically addresses the Cantate Domino bull. I should probably warn that it's LONG.http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2010/08/salvation-outside-of-church.htmlAdmittedly, the blog does not have an imprimatur so for complete certainty you'd do good to actually ask a priest for confirmation of what Joe Heschmeyer writes there.

  • Anonymous

    Now we can get at the heart of it.First evidence of that kind DOES exist for Plato we have his continuous writings, as well as those of Aristotle. But we do not have that for Socrates. Nonetheless the value of Socrates are in the ideas attributed to him, whether he was real or a character of Plato's creation. Furthermore no one claimed he was the son of a deity, who will either damn me or send me to heaven.As for tangible evidence, in what way can I observe God? I'm not the one claiming he exists, you are, so do you have a way that I can also observe him, and also verify that these observations are of the God you claim. Unless you can not observe God?I've read the argument from Creation, first cause and so on, perhaps they do point to a creating force, but where does that prove the God of the Bible? (His arguments from conscience, history, pascal's wager, and desire are very poor).Dark matter is a great hypothesis with plenty of tangible evidence (google will help you here), and it appears quite likely to be true. There are, however, alternative theories, and most people would say it is not proven yet.-Andy

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    "First evidence of that kind DOES exist for Plato we have his continuous writings, as well as those of Aristotle." No, we have a series of writings attributed to Plato and Aristotle. What tangible evidence do you have that Plato and Aristotle actually existed?"But we do not have that for Socrates. Nonetheless the value of Socrates are in the ideas attributed to him, whether he was real or a character of Plato's creation." How do we know that Plato wasn't a creation as well? "Furthermore no one claimed he was the son of a deity, who will either damn me or send me to heaven."Pretty crazy claim, isn't it? Seems to me that 1st century Jews wouldn't go to all the trouble of discrediting a man who was a figment of collective imagination."As for tangible evidence, in what way can I observe God? I'm not the one claiming he exists, you are, so do you have a way that I can also observe him, and also verify that these observations are of the God you claim. Unless you can not observe God?"We can observe God working in our lives, and in the lives of others. Can the existence of God be demonstrated in a laboratory? No. But there are many intangible concepts in life that can't be scientifically proved; for example, emotions. We can view the effects of love, and countless people will give testimony about how love has worked in their lives, but there is not a tangible thing called "love" that we can put under a microscope and examine.Jen at Conversion Diary has a good post along these lines.If the specific proof you were looking for existed, there'd be no need to have faith, which would negate our free will. "I've read the argument from Creation, first cause and so on, perhaps they do point to a creating force, but where does that prove the God of the Bible?"Because the more I studied the God of the Bible, and the teachings of the Church that Christ established, the more the world made sense to me. "(His arguments from conscience, history, pascal's wager, and desire are very poor)."In your opinion."Dark matter is a great hypothesis with plenty of tangible evidence (google will help you here), and it appears quite likely to be true. There are, however, alternative theories, and most people would say it is not proven yet."From the link I cited:"Classical particle-like solutions of field equations such as general relativity, could account for dark matter. Such particles would not interact quantum mechanically and would have negligible interactions apart from gravitation."Are these particles tangible evidence for you? For example, have you seen them with your own eyes? If not, what proof do you have of their existence other than the word of a scientist?

  • Anonymous

    Are you trolling me, or are you really that dense? Do we have absolute 100% proof that a guy named Plato actually wrote those things? No (still more then Jesus), but again, the value is in the ideas, even if Plato was created by someone else. Your Jew comment is irrelevant.Love can be examined, we can find the places in our brain where emotions are assembled and affect them using certain chemicals. We can even use chemicals to stimulate the feeling of God. Neuroscience is pretty cool stuff, but it doesn't point to God.Jen's article, is also fantastically irrelevant. I'm glad her grandfather was a cool dude, but because he didn't need proof of God does not mean God exists.You have no evidence for God, you (and Kreeft) are getting fantastically desperate attributing every abstract concept to God. Then you play the ultimate cop-out, because apparent evidence would mean we don't have free will. You have displayed an unbelievable arrogance in this blog post, from your handling of your own church's beliefs to the very reasoning for your own faith. It is quite pathetic, and why I continue to believe faith is such a blight on humanity.I'm done here, accomadationist Atheism continues to yield nothing but help the irrational feel better about their delusions. "Nasty" Atheism at least continues to expose religion for what it is. Helpless theories based on complete abstractions with no good reason to believe.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    "Are you trolling me, or are you really that dense?" Ad hominem."Do we have absolute 100% proof that a guy named Plato actually wrote those things? No (still more then Jesus), but again, the value is in the ideas, even if Plato was created by someone else."You've gone from saying that we have evidence of Plato's existence to that we don't have evidence of his existence, but it doesn't matter. Pick one and stick with it."Your Jew comment is irrelevant."Not at all, it goes to historical credibility."Love can be examined, we can find the places in our brain where emotions are assembled and affect them using certain chemicals. We can even use chemicals to stimulate the feeling of God. Neuroscience is pretty cool stuff, but it doesn't point to God."Those are the effects of the feeling of love in our brain, not love itself."Jen's article, is also fantastically irrelevant. I'm glad her grandfather was a cool dude, but because he didn't need proof of God does not mean God exists."Just because you need proof, or don't believe in the evidence presented, doesn't mean that He doesn't exist, either."You have no evidence for God, you (and Kreeft) are getting fantastically desperate attributing every abstract concept to God."If God is the author of all creation, then every abstract concept is attributable to Him."Then you play the ultimate cop-out, because apparent evidence would mean we don't have free will."How is that a cop-out? Would you prefer that God created us to be puppets who had to believe in Him whether we wanted to or not?"You have displayed an unbelievable arrogance in this blog post, from your handling of your own church's beliefs to the very reasoning for your own faith."I apologize. It was not my intent to be arrogant. What you infer to be arrogance is simply certainty of the truth on my part."It is quite pathetic, and why I continue to believe faith is such a blight on humanity."I'm sorry you feel that way."I'm done here, accomadationist Atheism continues to yield nothing but help the irrational feel better about their delusions."Thank you for the discussion."'Nasty' Atheism at least continues to expose religion for what it is." It does the same for those who practice it, as well."Helpless theories based on complete abstractions with no good reason to believe."Again, in your opinion. Have a good weekend.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    A clarification:"'Nasty' Atheism at least continues to expose religion for what it is."It ["Nasty" Atheism] does the same for those who practice it, as well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @JoAnna: You wrote:To reply, I would direct you to the following articles, which explain the historical context of that papal bull as well as how Catholic understanding of that doctrine has developed over time….Neither of those articles dealt with Eugene IV or Cantate Domino, so your reply is not entirely satisfactory. It is true that in the second article Father Ryland asserts, "Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus does not mean that only faithful Roman Catholics can be saved. The Church has never taught that," and that is what you had claimed. On the other hand, there is a group within the Catholic Church itself that says that Father Ryland was wrong, and that the Church did indeed once teach precisely that. This group consists of followers of Father Leonard Feeney, who was excommunicated in 1953 but "reconciled" to the Church in 1972 without having to abandon his interpretation of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. These followers style themselves "Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary."There are those who go even farther than Feeney and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart and assert that, because all popes since Paul VI have lapsed from the proper interpretation of the extra Ecclesiam doctrine and otherwise embraced the heresy of "Modernism," the papacy is properly vacant. These folks are the "sedevacantists." The father of Mel Gibson is one of the leading sedevacantists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    P. Coyle,Apologies, I must have been thinking of a different article. I can't find the one I'm thinking of at the moment, but this link provides some historical context.Re: the Feeneyites and similar schismatic groups, yes, I'm well aware of their existence and their theology. I'm not sure why you think it's relevant, however. Feeney's bishop at the time, Abp. Cushing, sent Fr. Feeney a statement (with the approval of Pope Pius XII) telling Feeney that his beliefs did not reflect the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Other schismatic groups have received similar instructions from the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. Just because a group calls themselves "Catholic" doesn't mean their beliefs are in keeping with the Vatican. (Case in point: Catholics for Choice.)There's some dude in Kansas who calls himself Pope Michael I but I don't subscribe to his theology, either. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @Joanna:The link you posted is quite interesting. Dr William Carroll (whoever he is) asserts that "The Church has always taught that no soul is lost except by its own fault, its rejection of truth and charity. Simply adhering to another religion does not necessarily mean such rejection." However, Eugene IV's Cantate Domino plainly asserts that pagans and Jews, unless before they die become members of the Catholic Church, will go to the "eternal fire." As an outsider, I have to say that the claim that the Church has "always taught" otherwise seems highly dubious.Re: the Feeneyites and similar schismatic groups, yes, I'm well aware of their existence and their theology. I'm not sure why you think it's relevant, however.It's only relevant to the extent that I have already pointed out: there are a few people even within the Catholic Church who reject the notion that the Church has always taught what you say the Church has always taught. And there are those who go beyond that to say that the claim that the Church has always taught what you say it has always taught is heresy (and, per Eugene IV, heretics will join the pagans, Jews, and schismatics in the eternal fire).Feeney's bishop at the time, Abp. Cushing, sent Fr. Feeney a statement (with the approval of Pope Pius XII) telling Feeney that his beliefs did not reflect the official teaching of the Catholic Church.Indeed, but the letter only asserted what the teachings of the Church then were. It did not assert that the Church had always taught them. The claim that the Church had not always taught them is central to the Feeneyite case.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    P. Coyle, as my links (as well as the thorough and excellent one provided by Iota) state, there are three principles of "No Salvation Outside the Church" that have always been upheld by the Church:1. The Church is visible.2. There is no salvation outside the visible Church.3. Some of those saved may not be visibly members of the visible Church.The Feeneyites et al are in schism. In effect, they are Protestants, because they are protesting against the authority of the Church. Their beliefs are as authoritative in terms of Catholic teaching as are the beliefs of Lutherans, Baptists, or other non-Catholic denominations – that is to say, not at all.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00769117142960558423 Northlander

    @JoAnna: Those indeed may be the three principles of "No Salvation Outside the Church" that the Church currently upholds, but the question on the table is whether the Church has always upheld them. It might be the case that the Church currently holds that it has always upheld them. I haven't seen quite enough evidence of that to be convinced. The link provided by Iota comes close when it argues that "If the Copts felt comfortable signing the document [Cantate Domino], on behalf of the Coptic Church, chances are, the document doesn't say, "All Copts are damned to hell forever as schismatics." However, the argument is greatly weakened by the point, in the same paragraph, that "The Council of Florence very nearly united the Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic churches under the pope." This leads one to wonder whether the Coptic delegation signed the document as an indication that they were prepared to acknowledge the authority of the pope — and thus cease to be schismatics as far as the pope was concerned. And certainly Cantate Domino does say that schismatics are damned. At the risk of stating a tautology, the determining argument about what Cantate Domino says ought to be — what it says. In any case, demonstrating that the Church currently holds that it has always upheld those "three principles of No Salvation Outside the Church" would not be the same thing as demonstrating that the Church has always upheld them.The Feeneyites et al are in schismThey deny that they are, and I gather that the question of whether they are is actually somewhat unsettled. Of course, if they are in schism, then they're all going to hell according to Eugene IV. That is, unless they are visibly members of the visible Church, or are among the saved who are not visibly members of the visible Church. I don't know what position the Church holds with regard to their salvation, although it is worth quoting what the Holy Office wrote to Father Feeney in 1949: "Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth." This was obviously meant to make it plain to Feeney that he was going to go to hell unless he submitted to the pope. All of which causes me to wonder whether, since yours truly, P. Coyle, does not "know the Church to have been divinely established by Christ" (if for no other reason that that I do not hold Jesus to have been divine), the Church might hold that I could be one of those invisible members of the visible Church who would have a shot at salvation — even as an atheist? Feeney was told that he would be damned (even though he thought of himself as a good Catholic) if he would not submit to a particular interpretation of a particular Church doctrine. I consider Church doctrine to be nonsense pretty much throughout, so it would of some amusement to me were I to find that the Church thinks I might be a better Catholic now than Feeney was in 1949.

  • Iota

    Just links to some other reading:"No Salvation Outside the Church" by By Fr. Ray RylandTragic Errors of Leonard Feeney by Fr. William Most – a very long review of Magisterial and Patristic quotes on the topic, both the restrictive and broad ones.Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus – includes short mention of the Letter concerning Feeney, unfortunately without a direct quite and no imprimatur.The Leonard Feeney Quarrel – I would draw your attention to statements made by Fr. John Carroll, long before the current sedevacantist controversy. Most likely finding the exact contents of the letter and a thorough discussion of the controversy will require finding and reading some books, but unfortunately I can't recommend any. My only hint for you (offered for what it's worth) is that, seeing as you treat sedevacatist and traditionalist arguments as valid, it would make sense to try and find a book, written and published before Pope Paul IV, which discussed the "broad" elements of the doctrine and if it has an imprimatur it implies the Church did not consider that a heretical position. An imprimatur (issued by the local bishop) is a declaration of approval that a given text does not contain doctrinal errors (is not formally or materially "heretical")…Notice none of these texts explains what will happen to "yours truly, P. Coyle," specifically and whether he is a "better Catholic now than Feeney was in 1949"…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08395703772492059721 Benjamin Baxter

    The debate in a nutshell: Named if flustered believers against the rude hateful anonymous.

  • http://exultet.blogspot.com Roz

    I've always found it interesting that many atheists require strict parameters around any reasoned support for the existence of God which restricts said support to solely observable, testable, and scientific/material evidence.The ability of humans to wonder, philosophize, seek for meaning, experience remorse, love, etc. are all "real" things for which there isn't testable, scientific proof. If I asked an atheist to prove without a shadow of a doubt that his mother loved him, I suspect it wouldn't meet the rigors of analysis that is required for evidence of God.In my case, I doubted that the supernatural was possible. Then I read a book that analyzed the New Testament accounts of the resurrection. I think one thing that finally tipped the scale was realizing that the timid, wussy disciples went into hiding after the crucifixion but emerged some days later courageous (even foolhardy), preached the resurrection, performed signs and wonders; most eventually were tortured and executed for their beliefs. Are these the human responses one would expect from people who hid the body and made up a story? The Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders would have gone to great lengths to disprove the story – did they ever present any evidence of trickery? I just had to ask myself what was logical.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05868095335395368227 vjack

    I guess I'm not sure what you mean by "nasty atheists." Nasty in what way? What is it that you see these folks doing or saying that makes you want to call them out?


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