And what did you win with your death?

 

There’s a lot of interesting discussion happening in the comments of my post on More and martyrdom.  Yesterday, I highlighted a question Kewois asked about the moral choices that we don’t notice,  and today I found another interesting question about More’s act from Jubal DiGriz:

Martyrdom in of itself is not a virtue. Moore’s unwillingness to bend and inability to transgress his own principles shouldn’t be what makes him a good man. What matters is what principles one is sacrificing for, whether those principles are worth upholding.

So, as a sincere question, what was Moore sacrificing himself for? A notion of fealty to the Church, or something else? What did his martyrdom accomplish?

I was trying to figure out how to tackle this, and then I realized that I might be diverging from Jubal one step farther back.  The reason “What did his martyrdom accomplish?” was ringing weird to me is that, when I made the question slightly more general “What did his death accomplish?” it didn’t seem like a reasonable question to ask.

Most death isn’t meaningful.  If I choke on my dinner tonight, it would be hard to make the case that I accomplished something on my way out.  In fact, even if the coverage of my death meant more people reviewed the Heimlich, that wouldn’t impute any particular merit to me.  I could probably go on for a whole separate post on how the rhetoric of ‘successful,’ ‘goal-accomplishing’ death screws up our medical system and puts an unreasonable burden on cancer patients (luckily, Barbara Ehrenreich has covered this).

I used to think of martyrdom in the way that Jubal is talking about — as a tactical move.   And where it wasn’t practical, I was worried it could be choosing one hard, but finite sacrifice over the dull selflessness of service to others over a long life.  Or worst of all, choosing death as a total renunciation the rest of the world (“shaking their dust from your shoes”).

Obviously, these selfish and prideful martyrdoms are the ones that are most intuitive to me, since they amplify my flaws pretty accurately.  One of the best rebukes I saw to this model of self-serving martyrdom comes in this quite-possibly-not-apocryphal story of Origen:

Origen was deliberately courting martyrdom as a young man.  Before he went out to declare himself and be seized by the civil authorities, he took a bath, so he could go to his death clean.  While he was bathing, his mother stole and hid all his clothes, and told him that if he was so keen to be martyred he could do it naked.  But Origen was too embarrassed to go out nude, and thus lived on to become one of the Church Fathers.

The much better model of martyrdom came when I saw Of Gods and Men (which I heartily recommend).  The Trappists monks didn’t seek out death.  It seemed more like they found the risk of death almost irrelevant when weighed against their responsibility to their community.  I don’t really mean that they weighed the probabilities and found the expected utility of staying and serving greater than fleeing.  It seemed more like they were aware they would die eventually and just put aside some of their concern about how and when.

They didn’t have the power not to die.  They didn’t have the power to prevent other people from killing them — not anymore than they have final power to keep a rock from falling on them.  So they just did the work in front of them and didn’t live in slavery to the fear of the militias.  The emphasis on dying to some purpose gives death too prominent a place in our lives, too much power to compel.  The victory of the monks wasn’t in dying well, it was in making death less important than their duty to love.  And that duty they carried out very well indeed.

And now I’m compelled to link you to Richard Beck’s series on all sin ultimately being slavery to death.

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."

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    There is also the redemptive value of any suffering. Dying well has a huge value. It is not always a martyrdom. Sometimes people who suffer bravely in their last days have a huge impact on the spiritual lives of those close to them. The key is to meet your moment. Whenever that moment comes. St Maria Goretti met her moment and ended up impacting so many. It is a gift we can give that God can make very powerful. But we can’t force it. I think of John 21 where Peter was still embarrassed that he wimped out and denied Jesus rather than facing potential martyrdom. Jesus tells him he will get another chance. Then Peter says, “What about John?” Jesus just says MYOB. So that is all we are called to. Be ready to make any sacrifice God calls us at any moment.

  • Alex Godofsky

    I don’t understand how you avoid a consequentialist calculation here. You claim that the monks fully subordinated their desire to live to their duty to their community; OK, but doesn’t dying impede that duty?

    • Ted Seeber

      Dying fulfills the duty, it doesn’t impede it. A martyr does more good for his cause by dying than he could ever do by living. Look at Blessed (yes, I had it wrong earlier) Jose Del Rio- what could could he have done for the Christeros by betraying them? But in death, as a Martyr, he spurred them on, and they fought on because of his death.

    • Iota

      Alex,
      I’m not Leah so you might not be seeking my repose, but here’s how I see it – sometimes dying is the potential consequence of serving particular people.

      If your ideal is to serve an abstract humanity, you can of course always relocate there will be other, less dangerous places where some people need you. So if you’re thinking of your obligations as a kind of mathematical test, there will always be more points you can score somewhere else.

      But if your goal is to serve particular people, this person specifically, you can only either choose to stay with them or abandon them. Abandoning them gives you better chances of survival (although, frankly, no one guarantees you won’t die in a plane crash on your way home). Staying with them carries a higher risk of death, which you should consider, but means you can keep being with them and serving them right now.

      Of course you COULD argue that the community doesn’t deserve your service because some people are trying to kill you. But it’s rather likely the ones asking for your help aren’t the ones trying to kill you. Also, abandoning someone when both you and this person are threatened is basically the equivalent of abandoning ship when lifeboats are scarce, instead of trying to keep it afloat for everyone (knowing you might drown, but not being certain). It’s, for lack of a better word, egoistic.

      Obviously, it’s hard to actually actually demand that you stay and risk your life for someone (this is why it’s not exactly a great sin – in Catholic parlance – to cave in under duress). But generally there’s a reason communities valued (and many still value) people who volunteer to cover a retreat, run into a burning building to save a child, risk getting a communicable disease while treating a patient, or standing up for your convictions in the face of death, (if no other, safer, options exist). It’s just that you might not be used to calling them “martyrs”. But that’s the same mechanism, I guess.

      (Notice that the value of carrying a child out of a burning building doesn’t hinge on whether the child will have value to the community later on – they might die in a car accident in two years time, but you don’t know that now. And if you did, would you let them burn?)

      • leahlibresco

        Iota pretty much nailed my response.

      • Alex Godofsky

        Thanks for your reply, Iota. I’m still struggling with this. Maybe that’s just because I’m not a virtue ethicist and have difficulty thinking about anything in non-consequentialist terms. Here’s what I think you are saying:

        1. Given the choice between dying now and serving the community longer, the latter is preferable. It maximizes “fulfillment of duty”.
        2. Given the choice between dying now and surviving by fleeing your community and abandoning your duty to it, the former is preferable. Even if you don’t actually achieve any specific end by dying, holding true has some intrinsic virtue that fleeing lacks. Thus we give it approbation.

        Do you agree with that, even if you might word it differently?

        I’m comfortable with [pseudo-]consequentialist ethics that use something other than global utility as their objective function (e.g. “fulfillment of duty”); I’m just really confused by ethics that seem to disclaim the process of maximizing an objective function entirely.

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          I’m not Leah either, nor am I Iota, but I’ll answer I don’t think I get the distinction.

          Any morality implies a maximized function on action-space. Just let it be 42 for moral actions and 0 for immoral ones. So if you worry about a morality not maximizing a function, there is no problem because no morality fails that test. So I have no need to “disclaim” function-maximizing, I just think it’s an incidental side-effect and not very helpful in practically figuring out my duties.

          I think the real point of consequentialism is that a consequentialist wants that function to live on expected-outcome-space rather than action-space. Mathematically that is not a problem either, because having done something is an outcome. So one could always say action-space maps to a subspace of expected-outcome-space and the maximized function only (directly) depends on the projection to that subspace. A real consequentialist would object to that projection, but if you are willing to accept “fulfillment of duty” as a maximized function it seems you don’t. In that case, what does your consequentialism actually consist in?

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            For those of us who are not hip to the lingo, would you mind defining what you mean by “action space” and “expected-outcome-space”?

          • Alex Godofsky

            Gilbert: I understand those things; I actually use the first argument to shift the mode of discussion to the shape of the objective function (which I find easier to talk about). I get confused when people sound like they are claiming not to do the “maximize a function over the action-space” thing precisely because, as you observed, everyone does it. That means either the person I’m talking is confused or (more likely) I’m misunderstanding them.

          • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

            OK, calling them spaces is mathematically shady, because I haven’t specified their structure. Basically I meant to treat the sets vaguely analogically to what quotient spaces do for vector spaces.

            But rather than explain all about linear algebra let me just dissolve the analogy and give a direct statement of what I mean.

            Whenever I make a moral choice I have a set of available actions. Let’s call that A. For example in the first trolley problem A={flip the switch, do nothing} and in the second one A={throw the fat man, do nothing}. of course in real world problems A will normally have more than two elements.

            Now suppose I have a morality and figured out witch a in A is the action I should be taking. Then I can simply define f:A->{0,42}, f(x):={42 if x=a; 0 else. And behold, behaving morally maximizes f. Since it’s irrelevant how I figured a out, I can always do this so every morality maximizes a function. And every moral argument can be restated as an argument about the definition of f. I think this perspective is useless, because in the moralities I care about every moral argument can also be stated without mentioning f, but the point is if maximizing a function is what you care about, that is a weak test met by any moral theory. Obviously it’s slightly more complicated if you allow for indifference or graduations of morality, but the idea easily transfers.

            Now a consequentialist could object that the function should not be defined on the set of possible actions but on the set of their expected outcomes. Let’s call that set O. Then I say having done something is also part of the outcome. And however else you can write your outcomes, you can also write them as pairs of that action and the other aspects of the outcome. For example in the first trolley problem O={(flip switch, one dead),(do nothing, five dead)} and in the second one O={(throw fat man, fat man dead), (do nothing, five others dead)}. And then I can simply define g:O->{0,42}, g((a,o)):=f(a). Since I get an f for every morality I also get a g for every morality and the idea of depending on outcomes again excludes nothing.

            Now I think a real consequentialist would have to maintain that g is cheating and an admissible function should work exactly the other way round, i.e. for any pair (a,o) it should depend only on o and not on a. That’s basically what I take to be the definition of consequentialism.

            But if Alex Godofsky is down with admitting “fulfillment of duty” as a function to be maximized, then he doesn’t hold to that restriction, because that function clearly does depend on the first components of the pairs it is defined on. And if he is that liberal with the definition of consequentialism I don’t think the term excludes any moral system anymore. Which means I can’t make any sense of his claim of excluding some moral systems for not maximizing a function. I understand normal consequentialists to implicitly mean a function meeting some structural restraints, but Alex Godofsky seems to give that restriction up, so I don’t understand what the restriction he wants to uphold consists in.

            And yes, I admit the same objection could probably be made without math. But <child-mode>he started it, talking of maximizing functions and all.</child-mode>

          • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

            Sorry the answers overlapped, my last comment is an answer to Robert King above and not to Alex Godofsky’s answer to me.

          • http://www.virtue-quest.com/ Robert King

            I realize I’m having trouble understanding whether you (either Alex or Gilbert) intend the math as a literal/realistic description of moral decision making, or as a metaphor/analogy which clarifies ways we prioritize in making choices.

            I’m entirely on board with using math to help think about how to increase the awesome and decrease the suck, but when it comes to actually making calculations I keep noticing that categories such as “duty” and “good” and even “action” do not have quantifiable units susceptible to calculation.

            That said, the distinction between a method focusing on the agent and his/her action, versus a method focusing on the outcome, is both clear and helpful. I’m just trying to wrap my ignorant (Calculus 1 and no formal set theory education to speak of) head around whether and how the math is helpful.

        • Iota

          Alex,
          > I’m just really confused by ethics that seem to disclaim the process of maximizing an objective function entirely.

          If I understand what you are saying, we might diverge due to the word “objective”.

          I think that moral obligations are not abstract-oriented, or me-oriented, but other-person oriented. They are (ideally) oriented towards a particular person, because we exist and experience the world as particular persons and this is the perspective we should preferably apply when interacting with other people (because they are, in fact, no different then us, even if we are inclined to think of ourselves in practical terms and of them in theoretical terms – we usually don’t feel like starving for the Progress of Humanity, so we shouldn’t expect anyone to want that, even if we think we can measure that progress and make it “objective”).

          So I would only say “doing my duty” as a shorthand, because what is important is not that I’m doing my duty, but that this particular person is receiving a particular service (giving money to a charity fighting hunger should, ideally, be motivated not by my duty but by a willingness to satisfy someone’s hunger). If I were certain that someone else could provide that service better, I should assist them, at the expense of doing “less” – if I’m bad at CPR and there’s an expert in the room, I should let them handle it, for the good of the person being treated.

          Getting myself voluntarily killed when other acceptable options exist is wrong, because I’m opting out of service, to achieve something else (honour, notoriety, making a stand, etc.). It is in this sense ego-centric, because it foregrounds something I want (even to the point of wanting to die for it). This is also why rushing into certain death when it won’t help is not right – because, in that way, I render no service.

          On the other hand, if I rush into a fire to save a person from burning, my action is presumably other-person-oriented. Or if I offer myself as a substitute for someone to be randomly executed. There is an element of uncertainty here (we might burn together, the executioner might kill us both), but if there is hope to obtain the other–person-oriented result, I can take the risk.

          If you abandon the focus on a particular person, this type of martyrdom (both religious and secular) stops making sense. Why would Janusz Korczak go to the gas chambers with his Jewish orphan children merely to make them less afraid, if he could escape and build a new orphanage somewhere else? I’m not Korczak, but the answer seem to be: because it would mean leaving those particular kids. He apparently thought he, as a guardian, had a duty towards them, that extended to the point of helping them die with less fear, if this was the most he could do. But that kind of thinking only works if you say “these kids” and not “community” – if you think of particular persons with their particular needs and not abstract groups.

          So what is being maximized here (to use your language) is service to this particular person. It is as if the rest of the world (including your future) temporarily stopped counting as a factor, because you’d be mainly considering the good of this person. This is also why opting out is less great – because it implies there’s a point when you are willing to dissociate from this other person, to assert that you are separate and must care for yourself substantially more than you do for them, even if they need you (notice: if you can all get out of danger, you should and I’d also probably opt for leaving if I were told repeatedly to do so, by the people whom I served).

          It’s your choice whether to consider this “objective” or not. Most people I know, mean “measurable by standards that refer to abstractions rather than to persons” when they say “objective”, so they wouldn’t count mitigating someone’s fear in the face of death as worthy and they’d say Korczak should have abandoned those kids, to use his skills elsewhere. All I can say is I think I understand why he wouldn’t want to – because to leave the kids, is to use them as objects, treat them as not entirely people like him.

          Catholics have additional rules for what is acceptable and unacceptable as service to others and – just for the record – it seems it’s generally impermissible to volunteer to do harm, but only accept harm someone else decides to cause, so you can stand in for someone to be executed, but not pull the trigger). Also, I think More’s martyrdom is of a different kind.

          • Alex Godofsky

            Thanks again! I understand where you are coming from now. I don’t entirely agree that it’s OK to discount the happiness of others beyond that particular person, but that discussion leads us off-topic.

            By the way, sorry for not being clear but when I said “objective function” I meant it in the sense of “goal”, not the sense of “not subjective”.

          • Iota

            Alex,
            > I don’t entirely agree that it’s OK to discount the happiness of others beyond that particular person,

            Well, just for the record, I don’t think that’s universally smart either. The reason it possibly makes sense in cases like the ones discussed here (I’d argue) is that the people in question probably have no one to whom they owe MORE care. There is no conflict of care. They are free to “adopt” a person, if you will, and all people are of equal importance at the moment of choice.

            If you are a parent of little kids, for example, or have a not-entirely-independent sibling, or a sick spouse, I’d strongly discourage you from trying to go on a humanitarian mission to a war zone. Buy that is partly why Catholics ended up having monks and nuns (and some single laity) in active ministries. Because when you don’t have “normal” higher-order priorities, you are free to “adopt” total strangers are your “moral family”.

            Thanks for letting me bore you. :)

      • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

        Great response, Iota.

    • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

      What’s it called when you die for a good cause but you have no belief in God? It’s called “Who cares, you’re just going to Hell anyway”, isn’t it?

      • Peggy Hagen

        No. That would be Calvinism, not Catholicism.

        • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

          And Catholicism has something different to say? Good unbelievers go to Heaven? Let’s have that whole “Choosing Hell instead of the prescence of God” wrangle again, shall we? Or we could cut to the end where I propose that Heaven and Hell aren’t really there and that you can’t apply the same standards to everyone, anyway.

          The Eskimo said to the Missionary: “So, if I died without ever knowing about Jesus, I’d go to Heaven?” “Yes,” said the Missionary. “So why did you tell me about him?” asked the Eskimo.

          • Peggy Hagen

            Yes; good unbelievers may go

            Calvinism is a heresy (and in my view among the most loathsome precisely for its beliefs on Heaven and Hell). You may not care about the difference but it is there, and you are arguing against a religion nobody here belongs to.

            Let’s step back a moment and consider the movie ‘Of Gods and Men’

          • Peggy Hagen

            Well… that wasn’t meant to get posted. Enjoy the look at my edit/draft process, and the running battle that is life with a Droid tablet. It’s messy. And so is life, it doesn’t get to be as clear cut as “unbeliever–>bad—>hell”/”believer–>good–>heaven”. It’s up to God’s mercy in the end, for any and all of us.

            Back to ‘Of Gods and Men’, the Trappist monks had been in (well, near) the village for a few generations. They never made a single convert. When it became dangerous, they didn’t leave – because they had a here-and-now concern for the community as well. They were partof the community, even foundational to it, and the vilagers expressed that to them. And so they stayed. Mercy, again; something that has no place in Calvinism, or in its atheist foil.

          • Peggy Hagen

            As for your Eskimo – sure, it’s possible (no guarantee) that he would have gotten through life, and to heaven, without the missionary being there. It’s also possible to get through life blind or deaf, or both, and even possible to never know it as such – but the here-and-now *matters*, and God delights in playing Anne Sullivan to our Helen Keller. But the response must come from us, and it may never come (as it did not, for a long time, for Helen).

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Great, except I get different answers from everyone. Kind of how I got disillusioned to start with…

          • Brandon B

            I think the whole question is something like “choosing God vs. choosing hell”, though that’s a crude way of putting it. Naturally, people who’ve never heard of Christianity, like the Eskimo, would not be expected to accept or reject ideas that are peculiar to it.

            However, God is present in many other ways. God is Love, so when we accept or reject Love we accept or reject him; the same is true of things like Truth, Beauty, Justice, Mercy, etc. God is also present in creation because it has the stamp of its creator, especially humans themselves, so our treatment of his creatures is also an acceptance or rejection of him. The Eskimo doesn’t understand what he’s doing when he makes these choices, but honestly, we Christians don’t really know what we’re doing either. The parable where those judged worthy ask Christ, “When did we see you hungry and feed you…?” (Matthew 25:31-46) is that we don’t understand the important choices while we’re making them.

            The role of the missionary is to help us understand which choices are important, and then to help us make the right choice. A viking might go merrily on his way looting and pillaging, ignoring his conscience as “cowardice”. If he is convinced that the afterlife is with Jesus and not with Odin, however, he has reason to change his behavior, and thus choose to be with God who is Love.

          • Ted Seeber

            Everybody in Heaven is Catholic. But not all of them were Catholic when they died. That’s why Purgatory exists. Are you strong enough to withstand being told you are wrong, Zack?

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Ah, Mr. “Contraception is a form of rape” has more wisdom for me! Prove to me that Heaven and Purgatory are there, don’t just assert it out of nowhere.

            In the Apocrypha the book the Wisdom of Soloman 2.3 says “When life is extinguished the body turns to ashes and the soul dissolves into the wind”. Yet when we Atheists say “Hey, maybe when you die, that’s it!” you give us a hard time…

    • http://theroundearthsimaginedcorners.blogspot.com Rosemary Z.

      Alex,

      I have a kind of different response here, just wanted to throw it out. I think there’s something real and essentially moral about sticking to the particular person you know you can help, rather than the abstract person you might or might nor help in the future. One makes moral choices only in the particular, not in the abstract. My abstract desire to help or not help “more people” is meaningless next to my decision to help or not help the person in front of me.

      I also think that there’s no way to be sure that you really are a person who is going to help people in the future unless you have a very good track record of helping people in the past and present. So in a way, risking your own skin in order to save someone else’s is the only way to demonstrate that you, yourself, have a skin worth saving . . . besides, I could get run over by a trolley myself the next day and never help another person ever again.

      I think that any time one bails on helping someone else for reasons of personal safety, it’s arguable that one damages one’s ability to help anyone ever, because any sort of helping people always involves some personal risk, and some degree of acceptance that one might die doing it. I think that once one has accepted this to any degree, it becomes easier and easier to accept it to more dramatic degrees. And I think this is OK, because it nurtures in the helper the right sort of selfless spirit.

      I think the world is a better place because volunteers for Doctors Without Borders are willing to get themselves shot at, and because EMTs are willing to pull people out of burning about to explode cars (we’re taught to always protect ourselves first, but this hypothetical gets discussed a LOT in EMS, and I’d say an unscientific majority of us are willing). If I as an EMT am killed pulling someone out of a burning car, that’s sad for an awful lot of people, and there is one less person willing to pull someone out of a burning car, but the world as a whole is a better place when there are and have been, in truth and deed, people willing to do so.

      I find specific examples helpful, rather than abstractions.

      So yesterday, I found myself kneeling in a puddle of gasoline on a very, very, hot day to help a woman with a nasty open femur fracture. Our ambulance got there before the fire truck, which is actually pretty rare, and so there were a few vulnerable minutes before the firefighters showed up to point charged hoses at us just in case something caught fire.

      It didn’t cross my mind until I was already kneeling there that I was at risk, so it’s not like I made a huge heroic decision, and honestly the risk of the rather dissipated gasoline spontaneously igniting, even on a blisteringly hot day like that, was pretty damn low.

      Nevertheless, if I had thought of all of this prior, I probably would have been able to justify refusing to get me and my crew into all that gasoline and broken glass until the firefighters had showed up. EMTs really emphasize scene safety, and this was a pretty textbook unsafe scene. I certainly erred in not announcing loudly to my whole crew, and especially the bystander-volunteers, that this was rather a dangerous situation, and that I was giving them the chance to back away (but would not back away myself).

      ANYWAY.

      My point is, how could I be a good EMT, or even a good person, while refusing to put myself at any risk of death for someone else? How do I know where the allowable, ‘cut-off’ risk of death is? The above was a relatively low risk, although sort of a dramatic presentation, and I think almost anyone would have taken it. I take all sorts of risks of death, really, like responding to calls on the interstate during ice storms (I’ve had a few heart-in-throat moments with rubbernecking drivers losing control and looking like they were going to mow me down at 65 mph), and being unbelted in the back of an ambulance going lights and sirens to the hospital. And most people I know would think these are “acceptable” risks, too.

      So . . . I could die any time helping someone with one of these “acceptable” risks, and I know I could, and that’s OK with me. And I’m not sure how one really draws a meaningful line between this and more likely death, or probable death, or even certain death. In all cases I desire to be the sort of person who will help someone else, even at personal risk, and it’s more important to me than my life that I continue to be the sort of person who will help someone else, even at personal risk.

      tl;dr

      If I stop risking myself even once, how do I know that I will start again in the future? And then what’s the point of “saving” myself to help again another day?

      –Rosemary

  • grok87

    Hi Leah,
    1) Thanks for the link to the “Of Gods and Men.” It looks great- I’m looking forward to watching it.

    2) And the Richard Beck blog was great too- I liked his post in the the comments section “The main difference between the Orthodox and the Latin/Western view inherited from Augustine is that the Orthodox don’t think we inherit guilt or a corrupted soul from the Primal Pair. Rather, what we inherent are the consequences of their Primal Sin, the main one being our mortal condition. And in our mortal condition, being prone to death, we are easy pickings for Satan. Hence the logic of Hebrews 2: Satan holds “the power of death” and keeps us in “slavery” because of our “fear of death.””

    3) Re your question “what did his death accomplish?”, I think it is a Mystery. Tertullian’s answer is “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apologeticus
    So just as the church is a mystery (the mystical body of christ) the death of the martyrs is a mystery as their blood is one of the things that helps the church to grow…

    4. And of course (providentially) today’s Gospel has things to say about martyrdom and persecution as well:
    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/071312.cfm
    Gospel Mt 10:16-23

    Jesus said to his Apostles:
    “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
    But beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
    and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
    as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak
    or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
    For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
    Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child;
    children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
    You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
    When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
    cheers,
    grok
    p.s. sorry about the long post

  • Doragoon

    The only point that I’d like to make sure isn’t being ignored is that being a martyr is a calling. Not everyone is called to be a martyr.

    If god isn’t calling you to be a martyr, then isn’t your obligation to try to live?

    • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

      If God is calling you to be a martyr, it’s your obligation to get psychiatric help.

    • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com Christian H

      To what extent is it your obligation to try to live? I’m not entirely sold on the “calling” thing, but less say I was. Surely there are still conditions in which I have responsibilities greater than my obligation to live: for instance, not taking food from a starving person in order to prevent my own starvation, or not committing an atrocity when a militia holds you at gunpoint. This seems to be closer to the nature of More’s matryrdom. He’s not dying for the faith exactly; he’s dying because he (thinks he) has a moral obligation to remain true to a particular creed. This (and maybe all) obligations supercede the obligation to try to live. Most of us just are not in a situation in which those obligations conflict. Perhaps, actually, if you want to talk about callings, the calling to be a martyr is discovered in the moment when those obligations do conflict, and that could happen to anyone at any time (and according to the will of God). But I’m saying this as a person who is highly skeptical that anyone can know what their calling is, so bear that in mind.

      • Edward

        Christian H,
        At least read and meditate on yesterdays gospel. You asked, “to what extent..”?

        Gospel Mt 22:1-14

        Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables
        saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
        who gave a wedding feast for his son.
        He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast,
        but they refused to come.
        A second time he sent other servants, saying,
        ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet,
        my calves and fattened cattle are killed,
        and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’
        Some ignored the invitation and went away,
        one to his farm, another to his business.
        The rest laid hold of his servants,
        mistreated them, and killed them.
        The king was enraged and sent his troops,
        destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
        Then the king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready,
        but those who were invited were not worthy to come.
        Go out, therefore, into the main roads
        and invite to the feast whomever you find.’
        The servants went out into the streets
        and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,
        and the hall was filled with guests.
        But when the king came in to meet the guests
        he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
        He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
        that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
        But he was reduced to silence.
        Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
        and cast him into the darkness outside,
        where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
        Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
        reading.

        • grok87

          @Edward,
          Re your gospel post in response to Christian’s question To what extent is it your obligation to try to live?” I guess I’m not really seeing the direct relevance of your gospel passage to the question of martyrdom. I think the passage is about Jesus’ messianic message (the kingdom of heaven is at hand) and that he is saying many of those to whom it is originally intended are not going to reject it just as they rejected the prophets in earlier times. (I guess there is a reference to martyrdom in the mistreatment and killing of the servants). I think the main point of the passage is that messianic message will mostly be rejected by the israelites and it will be then be offered to the pagans and the rest of the world.
          cheers,
          grok

          • Edward

            Holy Mass is the wedding feast for which we are all invited. Catholics are obligated to attend each sunday and holy feast days to remain in the state of grace or live in holiness. There are exceptions of course for which the church does allow. I know I’m not that clear and I apologise.

          • grok87

            sorry meant to say
            many of those to whom it is originally intended are going to reject it just as they rejected the prophets in earlier times.

      • deiseach

        More was being asked by the State to say that something he believed wrong was true. It did indeed involve his fealty to the Church, but there was also another underlying principle. The question of the King’s marriage(s) was the starting point, and More gave Henry his honest opinion on whether his second marriage to Anne, while Katherine was alive, was licit or not (if we believe the account of More’s statement after the sentence of execution was passed). We may take it that his opinion – and he was giving it not just as a friend, or a private citizen, or even a subject to his lord, but as an opinion by one of the premier legal officers and jurists in England, and that was probably why Henry asked – was unfavourable.

        Then came the Act of Succession, the Act of Supremacy, and the Oath of Supremacy, and More would not take the oath. Again, if we believe the accounts, he said this was because he studied the matter and could find no precedent for such an undertaking, so his conscience would not permit him to sign and swear.

        I think it was asked in the other thread why didn’t More just sign, then go to Rome and fight for Catholicism there. Well, if I may, I’d like to bring in the example of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the two-part episode “Chain of Command”. In that, we have a scene taken from “1984″ by George Orwell, where the Cardassian torturing Picard is trying to make him say he sees five lights, not four.

        Why doesn’t Picard just say “Yes, I see five”? He’ll be let go back to the Federation (it is assumed, although he’ll probably be tortured more for information he says he does not have). The Cardassians want that information, so why bother with all this palaver about five lights not four? Why does Orwell put this into his book? Why doesn’t Picard just give in on this point (whether he really sees five lights, or just pretends he does, doesn’t matter -does it?)

        Because the State (the Party, in “1984″ or the military government of Cardassia in “Chain of Command”) want ultimate control. They want the power to say 2+2=5, if it suits their purposes, and to force the citizens to accede to this. But that does not make that the right answer, and it is an usurpation of power that is unlawful and beyond the power of any state, no matter what the reason is. And if everyone goes along to get along, if everyone pretends (or even actually believes) 2=2=5, then what is the real difference?

        If no-one is willing to stand up and say “No, that’s wrong, and you have no right to demand that”, if everyone acts as if it’s true, then it becomes true – because it’s all very well saying “We’re just saying this to be safe, but we really don’t believe it”, but if no-one says “It’s wrong”, then it may as well be right. You are permitting the State to dictate a falsehood. That is as much what More was denying, what he achieved by his martyrdom. He knew that he could sign and swear the Oath at any time and be free, and he could perhaps have juggled with his conscience (“This is under duress so it doesn’t count and besides, once I’m free, I can repudiate it”). He knew the law, and what was being asked went (in his opinion) beyond what the state or the monarch could do, and he would not give them even the shred of support that a forced acquiescence would have involved.

        I’m not saying everyone has to stand up and be killed when it comes to this choice, but I am saying that without the witness of individuals to the truth, we are all weakened. Should Picard have said he saw five lights instead of four, even if that was a lie? Should he, by yielding instead of resisiting, have permitted them the control to make him see five lights where there only four?

  • deiseach

    What did he win by his death?

    Well, the trial reports are intriguing; it certainly seems that he had become resigned to the loss of all earthly power and influence, and even the opportunity to live a private life as an ordinary citizen (I think he probably didn’t believe all the coaxing promises of the judges and prosecution that if he would only take the oath, the King would be his friend again – or rather, it was more dangerous to be Henry’s friend than his enemy!)

    When the guilty verdict came in and his execution was certain, he seems to have gotten a certain relief. After seven years or so of holding his tongue and not saying anything to pin him down on either side of the question, he was able to give his honest opinion and explain what he thought and why.

    Setting aside all question of religon and Catholic versus Protestant and Pope versus King, the strong thread that runs through his replies is that he truly loved and valued Law. He seems most offended not by Rich’s betrayal but his perjury; that he makes a mockery of the oath in court to tell the truth, and that he lies about More (if we accept More’s contention that he never said what Rich alleged he said). And he makes the case that the law is a bad law, an invalid law, and a breach of previous law:

    “(S)o he shewed farther, That Law was even contrary to the Laws and Statutes of the Kingdom yet unrepealed, as might evidently be seen by Magna Charta, wherein are these Words; Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit, & habet omnia jura integra, & libertates suas illcesas: And it is contrary also to that sacred Oath which the King’s Majesty himself, and every other Christian Prince, always take with great Solemnity, at their Coronations.”

    The Paris newsletter account adds a bit about the King’s marriage:

    “More then spoke as follows: “Since I am condemned, and God knows how, I wish to speak freely of your Statute, for the discharge of my con­science. For the seven years that I have studied the matter, I have not read in any approved doctor of the Church that a temporal lord could or ought to be head of the spirituality.” The Chancellor interrupting him, said, “What, More, you wish to be considered wiser and of better conscience than all the bishops and nobles of the realm?” To this More replied, “My lord, for one bishop of your opinion I have a hundred saints of mine; and for one parliament of yours, and God knows of what kind, I have all the General Councils for 1,000 years, and for one kingdom I have France and all the kingdoms of Christendom.” Norfolk told him that now his malice was clear. More replied, “What I say is necessary for discharge of my con­science and satisfaction of my soul, and to this I call God to witness, the sole Searcher of human hearts. I say further, that your Statute is ill made, because you have sworn never to do anything against the Church, which through all Christendom is one and undivided, and you have no authority, without the common consent of all Christians, to make a law or Act of Parliament or Council against the union of Christendom. I know well that the reason why you have condemned me is because I have never been willing to consent to the King’s second marriage; but I hope in the divine goodness and mercy, that as St. Paul and St. Stephen whom he persecuted are now friends in Paradise, so we, though differing in this world, shall be united in perfect charity in the other. I pray God to protect the King and give him good counsel.”

    You could say he died as much in defence of Law as of anything else, and that he was upholding the idea that even rulers and governments are not above law, that law depends on precedent not whim, and that bad law is bad government.

    • http://sylvietheolog.wordpress.com Sylvie D. Rousseau

      “You could say he died as much in defence of Law as of anything else, and that he was upholding the idea that even rulers and governments are not above law, that law depends on precedent not whim, and that bad law is bad government.”
      In a word he died for truth, like Socrates did. For a law to be just and good, it must also be founded in reason, that is, it must be true to natural law, to eternal law ultimately. This is why a law whose spirit contradicts previous laws or just interpretation of precedent, is no law at all.

  • Pedro Paulo Jr

    Ms. Libresco,

    I’m a contributor to a brazilian magazine and I would like to make an interview with you for our next issue. If you can talk to us please send me an e-mail.

    Kind regards

    Pedro Paulo Jr.

  • Edward

    Search Bishop of Shanghai, Thaddeus Ma Daqin.

  • Marya

    deiseach has already made most of the points I wanted to make. The extent of More’s devotion to the Law as the essential organizing principle of society should not be underestimated, and I believe that his argument about the deeply flawed nature of the statute creating the Oath of Supremacy was genuine, and not merely a lawyerly ploy. Only his devotion to God and the Church was stronger than his devotion to the Law. All I will add is that More was a public figure, and thus his death (and martyrdom) was a public act, played out on an international stage–meaning that his execution, and the path that led to his execution, was a matter of international significance, as the reports spread throughout Europe, and beyond. The community that More served was broader than his country, and the choice NOT to save his life would resonate far beyond Henry’s court.

  • Edward

    This is not really a pun, but for many of us, heaven is way above or heads.

  • L.W. Dickel

    And then Jesus came upon his disciples and said, “What, brethren, is this ridiculous bullshit I’ve been hearing about me being a human sacrifice for your sins!!? Hast thou lost thy fucking minds!!!!? What in the goddamned hell kind of Neanderthal bullshit is that!!? Blood sacrifice!!!!!!!!?? Are you all insane!!? Listen, brethren, as I tell you a secret. Love me, adore me, praise me. But, please, for the love of the Buddha, stop with this sadistic, immoral, disgusting, sickening, vile, wicked, pathetic bunch of Stone Age bullshit about blood sacrifices!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It makes us all look like a bunch of deluded, brain-dead, goddamn lunatics!!!!”–Jesus Christ, the Lost Gospel

    • Skittle

      “Drink it, all of you. This is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant. It will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” – Jesus Christ, the actual Gospel (Matthew, in this case).

      • Zack

        “For all you care, this wine could be my blood”: Jesus, from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Makes a lot more sense.

        • Skittle

          And if people said that the character of Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar never suggested that, I would quote where he did indeed suggest it.

          Newtonian physics makes more sense than our current model, but our current model represents reality more accurately. I knew people at school who would deliberately change the numbers when copying a problem from the maths book, because their version made more sense to them. They got the answers wrong.

          The Jesus of the canonical Gospels said that he died for the forgiveness of sins. It doesn’t matter whether that makes sense to you or not: that’s what the Jesus of the Gospels said.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Well, anything he said would make sense to you. You’re so spellbound that if he had said “Poofy fluffy banana chopsticks”, you’d look for an allegory! And when he cursed that fig tree, that’s the same kind of level of freaky and actually in the Bible. You guys go off into convulsions of wonder over what it meant, what the message was. He was ticked off he wasn’t getting any figs! So when CS Lewis said Jesus was Mad or Divine, I’d have to say the evidence comes down hard on the Mad side. Self Destructive Tendancies being the biggest giveaway…

            Don’t you think it’s odd that God sent his Human Representative to just one corner of nowhere to start his thing off? He’s God, he could have sent off as many Human Representatives as he wanted and sped things up.

            Have you read Bart Ehrman’s”The Gospel of Judas” yet? It’s been found, translated, absorbed into the scholarship of it all…

          • Skittle

            It doesn’t actually matter whether or not it makes sense to me or to you: I already know your disdain for what you think the faith is, and I am not interested in arguing about it. If you were interested in what people actually believe, you would have already known better than several of your assumptions on this page.

            What matters is that “Jesus never said X (in the Gospels)” is a pretty common meme – particularly among Muslims, undereducated Christians, and a certain sort of atheist – and I consider it worthwhile pointing out when this is factually incorrect.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Sure, I know nothing about it. Having been a believer what possible insight could I have? And when it comes down to what Jesus actually said, you could try reading the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus “The Gospel of Thomas”, which was made a lot closer to the time it records than the synoptic stuff. Too bad the Vatican declared it a heresy, I guess what Jesus actually said was too off message for them…

          • Skittle

            Bare assertion doesn’t mean anything. Making arguments based on wild misunderstandings of what people actually believe, and then giving Dan Brown-like assertions about the Gnostic Gospels, isn’t terribly convincing to someone who knows what their Church teaches and why.

            Anyway, this conversation has continued past the point where the common factual mistake has been corrected, which was my aim. I’ll bow out now: feel free to have the last word.

          • Skittle

            Having seen some of your other posts, it looks like you had some bad experiences in some Protestant church or other. Sad for you. You should probably know (as has been pointed out earlier) that most Christian contributors here are Catholic, and Catholicism isn’t about “what feels right to you” or “what I personally think this verse means”. Catholicism has clearly defined beliefs on important matters, like who Jesus is, which are the official beliefs of the Church. It leaves matters open when it doesn’t consider we can know for certain, and on these points Catholics can happily disagree without disagreeing with the Church. You’ve been given a link to the Catechism, so you can find what we actually believe and then argue with that.

            We also are not Sola Scriptura, since we believe Sacred Scripture is simply the written portion of Sacred Tradition passed on from the Apostles, mediated by the Magisterium. This is all in the Catechism, by the way. So even if I weren’t confident that all the gnostic Gospels are, in fact, older than the Gospel of John, it still wouldn’t matter because the Church didn’t consider them to be Apostolic.

            Early Christian writers clearly write about the 4 canonical Gospels. The 4 canonical Gospels get bound together into codices, whereas the gnostic Gospels are on scrolls (often recycled scrolls, not how you treat sacred writing). The 4 canonical Gospels got redacted into the Diatessaron, whereas nobody seems to have done that with gnostic Gospels. The canonical Gospels were treated as canonical and the gnosti Gospels were not, even before the Church made a conscious decision. And it is the Church that actually matters to a Catholic when it comes to these matters.

            Anyway, I really won’t reply, so you can write in the certainty that yours is the last.

          • Skittle

            *Newer, not older. What a stupid mistake!

          • Ted Seeber

            I think the oddest thing about Zack’s rants is that he considers the *center of the Silk Road* to be the “middle of nowhere”- shows he doesn’t know much about first century trade routes between Europe and Asia.

          • deiseach

            Zach, to Christians, Jesus was not just God’s Human Representative. He is the God the Son, Second Person of the Trinity. There could not be multiple simultaneous Incarnations because there is only one Son (multiple Incarntions on, say, different planets at different times is another question).

            And as for the representatives that God already sent, that’s the point of the Parable of the Landlord’s Son. He sent the prophets, and they beat some and killed some, and did not listen.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Well, this all started over my Andrew Lloyd Webber joke about how the absurdities of the Bible got a hip breath of fresh air. Apparently this taps into a meme.
            Jesus could have been sent to ancient China, which had a much stronger writing tradition, and spared us all the wrangling over hermeneutics. That’s what I meant by middle of nowhere. Hell, send Jesus back now and we’ll put him on Youtube! He could start blogging himself. That’d be a tad more conclusive. He might get tenure at Harvard University what with all the omniscience. But what do we get? Someone who saw his face in burnt toast.
            Your clearly defined beliefs on important matters are, like you say, in Catechism. Calling it brainwashing doesn’t sound as special, does it?

          • Peggy Hagen

            What do you recommend – that on every question and issue set before us we throw out everything written on the topic, research nothing, trust no one else’s insights, and start completely from scratch? If so, I have a wheel patent to sell you…but nothing to say.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Well, the sales technique of the Religious Gladhander is basically to throw a brick through your window and then sell you a security alarm. Aka “Original Sin”.
            http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_9XzDGnDAGDc/TRlkgEB8itI/AAAAAAAAAXY/XpTbf9mAHSQ/s1600/090330-dark-ages.jpg
            All the wonderful contemplative stuff you mention was going on before we had this One True Faith, works without it, and would continue. My concern is that putting God on top of everything makes following the rules an exercise in subservience, not mutual respect. And if you live your moral life under God but feel hard done by, you have someone to rebel against. If you live your moral life under Reason but feel hard done by, you have something to think about.

          • Peggy Hagen

            Regarding that graph, I’d give Europe a bit of a break. Half the continent got wiped out by Black Plague in the 700s, and one-third died of it in the 1300s.There were barbarian invasions, wars, smaller plague outbreaks. it wasn’t a smooth, steady march of progress – but you might want to thank Christianity for making that progress possible at all, by evangelizing and civilizing the Germanic and Celtic and Viking tribes who did their darnedest to wipe out Rome and, later, Britain. Also take a look at cathedrals like Chartres or Notre Dame, as the engineering and artistic marvels that they were. That age also gave us heliocentrism (yes, yes, but the idea dod stick), our modern calendar that still bears the name of the Pope who calculated it, mass production of books. From “schools” we moved to “universities”; and when all else failed there were the monasteries as oases of culture and education. Considering al of that over a glass of fine wine is a nice bonus, you only have that to enjoy because Catholics were so determined to keep the art of winemakong alive – we needed wine for the Mass. (Oh, heck. On that point, just go read ‘The Bad Catholics Guide to Wine, Whiskey, and Song. It’s strong enough for a Catholic, irreverent enough for an atheist.) The age wasn’t perfect, of course not, but it was hardly “Dark”. Try standing with the light from the windows of Notre Dame streaming over you – nothing dark about it.

            By the way, that would make for an interesting alternate history – Christ being born in the Orient. China had a strong intellectual tradition, as you say, but also a far more insular culture – even today, a foreigner in Chna is still a foreigner, a “laowai”. How would that and a fath meant to be proclaimed “to all the nations” have shaped each other?

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            It would be an interesting alternate history, yes. If God wanted his Faith spread to all the nations, there was nothing stopping him. It’s probably what Joseph Smith thought he was doing when he said that Christ was in America. And no, the Christians weren’t useless. It’s just that when they did come up with something fantastic, it was in a time when you had to be a Christian or get shunned. You’re talking about the progress Christianity made after it fractured the Roman Empire. Archaeologists dredged up an artefact from the Antikythera wreck which turned out to be a pretty awesome 1st Century astronomical calculator. But what with a lot of “heathen” libraries being burned by zealous Christians, civilisation lost out a great deal. That is why it was called The Renaissance, because it was a bewildering rediscovery of knowledge. All done with, I know, but we’re still having the same problem today with medical research and schools that want to teach Creationism.

          • Bo Tait

            Peggy Hagen
            Sorry, I can’t help myself. Its “Wailao” and is often used as a derogatory term. “Waiguoren” is the commonly accepted term for foreigner. But I’m assuming you’re referring to Mandarin.

    • deiseach

      “And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant[a] to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.” (Mark 12:1-8)

    • Peggy Hagen

      Know I’ve seen this guy trolling somewhere else.

      • deiseach

        Dickel by name, Dickel by nature? :-)

    • Ted Seeber

      This guy is just a cut-and-paste troll. He’s been showing up all over the internet this weekend with the same idiotic post that he can’t even be bothered to change by a single character.

  • http://delphipsmith.livejournal.com Delphi Psmith

    The victory of the monks wasn’t in dying well, it was in making death less important than their duty to love. And that duty they carried out very well indeed.

    That is VERY well said indeed.

  • Jubal DiGriz

    I’m glad my question was though provoking!

    And it was a sincere question. More often than not I’ve seen “martyrdom” as a pointless sacrifice, on the other hand there are individuals who’s sacrifice I’ve admired. Leah’s response and the discussion above helped clarified this for me… true martyrs don’t go looking for death, but simply hold a principle higher than their own personal safety. And that is something worth lauding.

  • Maiki

    I agree with your last statement, that the martyrs put their duty to love above their duty to their own survival. I think in More’s case, more specifically, his duty towards the truth was more important than his own life.

  • L.W. Dickel

    And then Jesus said, “Drew Brees nailed a 100 million dollar contract to continue playing for the Saints!! Fuck yeah!!!! Bring on some NFL!!”

    “Praise me, adore me, admire me. But, please, for the love of Zeus, stop with the dying for sins bullshit. It’s fucking outrageous and makes us look dumber than Kirk Cameron.”–Jesus H. Christ, up in the sky

    • deiseach

      Why should I adore you when I have a mirror? Unless you are more than Just Another Guy?

  • Big Al

    Leah, your writing intrigues me, and I can almost see the gears of your brain spinning as you reason, and jump from thought to thought. Keep it up. I look forward to reading every new post.

  • Iota

    Zack,
    > Great, except I get different answers from everyone. Kind of how I got disillusioned to start with…

    I assume you know this, but just in case: there is a normative reference document that describes Catholic doctrine. This is the English edition (link). The problem is, it’s still written in pretty complicated language. Partly, I think it’s necessary to make the fine distinctions *that actually matter), partly it’s bad language habits (most specialized environments have these…) It’s also LONG.

    The reason I’m mentioning this is because theology is, in quite a number of ways, like other stuff which lots of people know something about (but how much varies greatly). I assume you wouldn’t say history (i.e. things actually happening one way or the other in the past) doesn’t exist because lots of people have VERY different ideas about what happened (correct me, if I’m wrong). Or that your friend is a person with certain character/temperamental traits that are different than other people’s, even if many people actually disagree on what these are (maybe, because they know your friend less or differently, or “experience” him/her differently).

    Basically that kind of disagreement is entirely normal everywhere besides the hard sciences (I think, admittedly as a layman in most of these). And even there, I suppose, it’s partly due to the fact numbers and raw data are very impersonal things, so there’s a point beyond which you really, literally, can’t argue or even unintentionally distort the message because of your character

    [2+3=5 pretty much regardless of whether I'm inclined to trust people or not. The way people approach moral theology apparently changes, sometimes A LOT, depending on whether they, as speakers. assume - as a default stance - that other people seek excuses, or that they should be trusted and given the benefit of doubt. Also, how people listen changes, depending on their character, too].

    I’m sure you also have other reasons for not believing (and, frankly, I don’t think people usually convert by reading the Catholic Catechism :)). I can also imagine a number of stronger doctrinal arguments against Catholicism (although I personally found them, ultimately, unconvincing). But “different people told me different things” is pretty weak, I think, (and pretty popular), so I just couldn’t resist commenting on that. I mean, don’t you actually EXPECT that, when you ask people who aren’t trained apologists/theologians?

    • Iota

      Apparently, I broke that link somehow (stupid!). The URL is: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

      BTW: I’d love a preview feature, to check my HTML… I’d end up looking stupid a little less often. :)

      • grok87

        @Iota,
        Thanks- what a great link. I love this part:
        PART FOUR: CHRISTIAN PRAYER
        SECTION ONE PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
        CHAPTER THREE THE LIFE OF PRAYER
        Article 2 THE BATTLE OF PRAYER
        I. Objections to Prayer

        2726 In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they “don’t have the time.” Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone.
        cheers,
        grok

    • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

      Well, if I join a faith and I’m trying to stick to the rules and other people around me are treating it like a joke, then I’m going to think I’m in the wrong faith. And if the tenets keep changing, or I get rebuffed by someone for saying something that made me firm friends with someone else, then eventually it’s not going to be worth the candle any more and too much of a headache. As for history and people having different ideas, they sure do don’t they! However, in secular surroundings it’s less of a stressfest to try and get to the facts of something. In religious surroundings, everything is so bound up with what “just feels right to me” and “what we are and aren’t allowed to think about or call into question” that the facts are forgotten and it turns into a slapfight, you don’t feel you’re getting anywhere.

      • Iota

        Thanks for answering.
        I’d comment on your answer, but only if you actually want me to.

      • Ted Seeber

        See the Confietor- In Catholicism it is expected that you WILL break the rules, at some point, and that *everybody does*. Even the Pope.

        • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

          The Papal Infallibility stuff suggests there was a tussle to get things that way.

          • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

            That is the beauty of Catholicism. We get to tussle and discover new truths but we can be certain the old truths previous Catholics have tussled over were resolved correctly. So we get the joy of new discoveries without the need to question the ground under our feet.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            Great, Randy. It does seem to drag along, though.

          • http://www.atheist-experience.com/ Zack

            While the Mormon Faith changed its mind about the Civil Rights Movement practically overnight…

  • Kara Thrace

    I won a toaster!

  • Kewois

    >Most death isn’t meaningful. If I choke on my dinner tonight, it would be hard to >make the case that I accomplished something on my way out.

    Seems that you have an issue with the Problem of Evil.

    If there is a God and he is omnipotent he CAN save you form chocking. Also as he is omniscient he KNOWS that you are choking and also as he is ALL LOVING he acts for something that is the better outcome EVER,
    It is not that you chose to choke…. It was an accident.

    So if you die, you HAVE to believe that that was the best outcome……. Or…. That there are no omnipotent (he couldn’t)…..or no omniscient (he didn’t know) or not ALL loving (he didn´t care).

    Beside martyrdom is something you choose. And is also related with some grater good (in the subject mind at least).

    Saint Maximilian Kolbe chose to save a man. Of course it is not that you WANT to die, it is just that you prefer dying to the other choice.

    Kewois

  • http://thecornerwithaview.blogspot.com Julie Robison

    I love Of Gods and Men! I saw it by myself, in a tiny dark movie theater, and tried to let the three other men in the theater continue to listen as I choked my sobs back. Excellent example of martyrdom, Leah! I have a friend who is a survivor of that war, too. Their witness is a powerful and impressive one.

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