[Turing 2012] Christian Answer #7

This is the seventh entry in the Christian round of the 2012 Ideological Turing Test for Religion. In this round, the honest answers of Christians are mixed in with atheists’ best efforts to talk like Christians. It’s your job to see if you can spot the difference. The voting link appears at the end of the entry, and you can look at all entries in this round here.


When (if ever) have you deferred to your philosophical or theological system over your intuitions?

What’s intuition? It’s just a set of heuristic rules that lets you make snap judgments based on pattern recognition without thinking through all of the details of a particular situation. These rules are shaped by experiences and deep thinking about particular subjects.

Living in the world, I find it is difficult to correctly shape moral intuitions, so I often have to defer to the teachings of the Church. Let me give an example. I have a good friend at work who is a practicing homosexual. I love him dearly, as a friend, but — and he knows this — I cannot support his lifestyle. My moral intuition, however, tells me that what he is doing is okay. I know lots of homosexuals who are happy and seem to have fulfilling relationships. Interacting with those people shapes my intuition. But the truth is often counterintuitive, so I have to defer to the teachings of the Church on homosexuality instead of relying on that intuition.

The point is that intuition is a tool, and like any tool it has situations where it doesn’t work. In general, when the experience of day-to-day life is in conflict with the teaching of the Church, I defer to the teaching of the Church.


Are there people whose opinions on morality you trust more than your own? How do you recognize them? How is trusting them different than trusting someone’s opinion on physics?

Of course! This is why Christ appointed the Church. Our intuitive moral beliefs are warped, so we need the guidance of the Church.

This is no different than trusting the general opinion of a scientific institution, for example, the National Academy of Sciences on evolution or global warming. Although there are differences between the moral authority of the church and the scientific authority of an academic body, insofar as I am ignorant laity and they are authoritative sources of knowledge, the two are analogous.

Let me point out, by the way, that the trustworthiness of the institution does not imply the trustworthiness of every single individual in the institution. That’s a fallacy of composition. Even though the Church is infallible and communicates moral judgment and guidance, that does not imply that every single clergyman is an infallible source of moral guidance. (This has been tragically demonstrated over the last decade.) Likewise, there are climate scientists who do not believe global warming is occurring. But the existence of those scientists does not imply that the consensus scientific opinion is false, just as the sins of some clergy do not imply that the Church is not the supreme moral authority on Earth.


Can you name any works of art (interpreted pretty broadly: books, music, plays, poetry, mathematical proofs, etc) which really capture the way you see life/fill you with a sense of awe and wonder? You can give a short explanation or just list a few pieces.

I don’t frequently look for self-reflection in art — when it comes to art appreciation, I find I am a Wildean aesthete, not a Romantic looking for meaning — so it’s difficult for me to put together a list of works of art that capture how I see life. This was true even when I was going through an extended period of questioning my faith, so I don’t think that my answer on the other half of the Turing test is going to be much different.
In any case, please forgive the paucity of this list. Art/experiences that induce deep emotional stirring:

  • Easter Alleluia
  • 2nd movement of the Eroica
  • Bach’s mass in b minor
  • The Easter Vigil Mass, especially the lighting of candles

Other activities that induce a sense of wonder:

  • Gazing up at a clear night sky. (I have recently become aware of the day-to-day movement of the Moon and planets, probably because I’ve been walking to work more. I enjoy the intuitive experience of order in the universe.)
  • Eucharistic adoration; the peace of a dark chapel, drifting incense, and focusing on Christ’s sacrifice and presence.


Click here to judge this entry, and, once you’ve voted, feel free to speculate and trade theories in the comments or look at other entries in this round.

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  • Ryan

    Well, this answer certainly seems to imply that this is the same person as athiest answer 10. Humorously, while I originally voted that the athiest answer was really an athiest, re-reading it makes me think it isn’t. The problem is, I don’t really think this is a christian, so my impression is of two false entries, which is clearly not the case. I guess that means my first guess must stand and I will go with the guess that this individual is an athiest…

  • Agreed. The tone seems a little forced, a bit reminiscent of Descartes’ when he is trying to demonstrate his supposed orthodoxy, and instead manages to betray his atheism.

    • Joe

      I agree that this is an atheist, but what is a Wildean aesthete?

      • innergogo

        Someone who values form/beauty for its own sake. Inclined to value form over meaning (especially socio-political meaning.)

  • Aaron

    Definitely atheist.
    The first example a catholic would give is not their homosexual friend.

    • deiseach

      Not necessarily, Aaron – there are even homosexual Catholics out there! – but I agree; I think this is an atheist.

      Joe, I think a Wildean aesthete means someone who values l’art pour l’art – art has no highter purpose than itself, it’s not meant to uplift, educate, morally improve or civilise us and can only be judged on its own aesthetic grounds (does an artwork in whatever medium succeed in what it set out to achieve?) and not on moral or public decency grounds.

  • Of course! This is why Christ appointed the Church. Our intuitive moral beliefs are warped, so we need the guidance of the Church.

    Off the rails at this point. Do Catholics really conceive of the Magesterium as a particular person in the sense of the question Leah asked? Not buying it.

  • There’s a lot of these, “I’m only against homosexuality because my religion says so. Otherwise I’d be all for it.” I find this contradicts my experience with Catholics who tend to admit to a more “cafeteria” style of adherence… Where they have no problem saying, “I disagree with the Church on that.” Even on Catholic Match (where I mistakenly hoped to find a mate) a LOT of the girls have no problem with contraception or extra-martial sex… and have no problem saying so. They don’t tend to “defer” to the Church.

    As for me, I actually genuinely think the Church is RIGHT. I’ve never deferred. I’ve only agreed. There’s a difference. 🙂

  • innergogo

    Well, I agree with Ryan–I didn’t find this person convincing either as an atheist or as a Christian!

    But since I know more about atheist thought and found his/her atheism totally incoherent, I went with Christian. It was really a toss up, though.