Am I my schismatic’s keeper?

This post is part of a series discussing Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell.

By the end of Breaking the Spell, Dennett has shown the reader that religions may have memetic staying power independent of their truth.  And, even if a religious reader isn’t convinced that their own religion is explained away by evolutionary processes, he hopes his book will awaken the religious to their unique duty to short-circuit dangerous religious memes. He writes:

“There is more work to be done, and it is the unpleasant and even dangerous work of desanctifying the excesses in each tradition from the inside. Any religious person who is not actively and publicly involved in that effort is shirking a duty–and the fact that you don’t belong to a congregation or denomination that is offending doesn’t excuse you: it is Christianity and Islam and Judaism and Hinduism (for example) that are attractive nuisances, not just their offshoot sects.”

I love duties and I love arguments, so a duty to pick fights is awfully tempting. But I think Dennett’s exhortation is misguided. I’m not a adept in every style of fight or theology. I might know enough to not subscribe to a philosophy without being fluent enough to persuade its adherents to give it up. There’s a lot of distance between points, even if you limit yourself to Christian conceptspace.

If I can’t speak to my opponents, speaking about them to condemn them is of limited use.

There needs to be enough public disapproval for people stuck within a bad institution to understand its precepts aren’t universally acclaimed and to have a sense of why. But every Christian doesn’t need to speak about each bad sect to accomplish this.

Condemning outside of conversation with your enemy can be counterproductive. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I like to try and keep my interlocutors face before me in a fight, so I have to remember I’m fighting a person and that all my work has to be for their good, not an excuse to feel superior that I didn’t fall into that error.

But why shouldn’t I spend more time training up to fight the people I can’t reach now? Why not spend more of my blogging time rebuking bad theology and less time gushing over Stephen Sondheim. Accepting the duty Dennett proposes gives the people in error too much power over us. I’m reminded of the story of the Tragedian in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce:

“That sounds very merciful: but see what lurks behind it… The demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that Hell should be able to veto Heaven.”

That’s why my comment policy makes it clear that I don’t take on the responsibility of responding to or deleting every aggressive comment. Where we can intervene to protect others from harm, we should, but rebuking other people’s beliefs shouldn’t be able to preempt explaining and living our own.

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://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

    “I have to remember I’m fighting a person and that all my work has to be for their good”

    Oh, climb down from your high horse, already. There’s your good to consider as well, and the good of whoever is watching your debate (welcome to the blogging world, it happens in public!), and the good of the next person you have the same argument with, and and and…

    Not all of these interests can necessarily be served at once, let alone optimally served at once. For you to arbitrarily say that your overriding duty is to the other person in the conversation is a totally ad hoc and unjustified assumption on your part. I’d love to see you try to derive this tenet from a coherent theory of reasoning ethics or even just ethics in general, because I don’t think you could even come close.

    • http://www.somewhither.net Darrell

      Almost seems like you read “exclusively” somewhere in her statement, but after a couple of readings I keep missing it.

      • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

        First of all, man, that’s what “all” means, is “exclusively.” This is why, when you say “I spent all my money on booze and whores,” we can conclude that you didn’t also buy museum tickets: because your money was spent exclusively on booze and whores. I know she didn’t say the exact word “exclusively,” but there’s this crazy thing in English called a “synonym.” You should look it up some time.

        Second, it also almost seems like you’re not very good at logic. Given the number of people who might potentially benefit from any given instance of debate, it would be asinine to say that there’s no configuration in which you do the right thing but the other party in the debate isn’t aided at all. Even if she had just claimed that one’s work always must help the other party, my rebuttal still stands: it does not always need to help the other party, sometimes it’s okay if it just helps other people (e.g. yourself, spectators, etc.). Thus the thing I said about how not all interests can be served at once – but I guess you were too busy re(mis)reading the original post to read or think about my comment.

        • Joe

          I sort of agree with you Eli, preventing yourself from arguing in a venomous tone not only serves your interlocutors but serves yourself as well. It keeps you from sounding like an idiot cartoon character that no one can take seriously. Some debate tactics are self serving, as you pointed out.

        • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

          First of all, man, that’s what “all” means, is “exclusively.”

          Unfortunately, this is not true; that would make “all” a synonym of “only,” which it manifestly is not. There is indeed a logical connection between “all” and “exclusively’ but synonymy is very definitely not it. The particular exclusivity you use in your example is also quite clearly not parallel to the one that would be relevant to Darrell’s objection. If I say,

          (1) All my money was spent on booze.

          This does not mean that nothing else was done with the money, but only that ‘spent on booze’ is at least one of the things done with things that count as “my money”; other things could be done, e.g., the money could be stolen back and then re-spent on other things, or any number of other things. And, indeed, as the same example shows it is not even logically inconsistent with the claim that your money was spent on things other than booze; this is to make a basic error of scope. The reasons we would usually assume otherwise are pragmatic not logical, and are domain-specific, arising from the fact that we take money under ordinary conditions to be wholly exhausted by being spent, and to be generally spent in some kind of one-for-one exchange between some specific unit of money and some specified good or service. These kinds of assumptions are reasonable for money, but they do not carry over to all domains or all predicates.

          Likewise,

          (2) All my work has to be for the other person’s good

          doesn’t at all imply that it can’t be done for anyone else’s good as well. Darrell was quite right; (2) is not inconsistent with the work being done also for one’s own good, and the good of others. The “all” creates no such implication. And this, of course, is true even assuming that we aren’t talking about a ceteris paribus universal, which nothing in the original ruled out. It is not Darrell who is having trouble with logic here.

          And this actually applies to the second point, as well, given how vague and undeveloped your original comment was. To take an elementary example, your claim, “Not all of these interests can necessarily be served at once, let alone optimally served at once,” was also not inconsistent with the original claim you were addressing: from the fact that you cannot serve all interests simultaneously it does not follow that there are no reliable generalizations to be made about which interests are such that serving them will allow you to serve lots of other interests as well. Rule utilitarianism, for instance, is based on precisely the principle that such generalizations exist; that there are, in other words, at least ceteris paribus universal statements about such things. Since you seemed to be assuming some kind of consequentialism in your comment, the simplest explanation for why you were ruling this scenario out completely was that you were taking the particular act in question, namely, consistently acting for the good of a given person with whom one is arguing, to exclude on a rather extensive scale the goods of others (as opposed to, say, being consistently beneficial to a wide range of people in itself, or being the following of a rule whose practice was itself consistently beneficial to a wide range of people). To take a very trivial example, the rule “All my disagreements with other people should be conducted in such a way that they don’t end with my shooting them for disagreeing with me” is a rule the consistent practice of which is consistently beneficial regardless of the number of people considered, the landscape of interests, or whether you can reconcile everyone’s interests in the argument or not. So there’s no logical issue here; rather, you’re making some assumption, for which you have not actually argued, and certainly did not argue in your original comment, about what the act of working for another person’s good in an argument excludes. Thus Darrell’s comment was based on reasonable inferences, defeasible certainly, but not illogical.

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            Brandon:
            “Unfortunately, this is not true; that would make ‘all’ a synonym of ‘only,’ which it manifestly is not…’(1) All my money was spent on booze’ does not mean that nothing else was done with the money”
            Nor was that my claim. I said that nothing else was done with YOUR money. Once you spend it, it’s no longer YOURS, is it? Of course you can disprove what I said by changing what I said or by specifically constructing a case that’s out of line with the principle of my statement, but I believe there’s some sort of catchy phrase for that – something about straw.

            “The reasons we would usually assume otherwise are pragmatic not logical”
            Really? “For all X, p(X)” does not entail “For all X, not ~p(X)”? “all my work has to be for their good” is not logically equivalent to “my work must exclusively go towards things that are for their good”? That’s news to me.

            “…arising from the fact that we take money under ordinary conditions to be wholly exhausted by being spent…”
            Er, no – that would be the definition of “spent,” not merely an ordinary condition, as though you could spend your money but still have it. What’s next – are you going to tell me about how I can continue to have my cake after eating it?

            “Likewise, ‘(2) All my work has to be for the other person’s good’ doesn’t at all imply that it can’t be done for anyone else’s good as well.”
            Which, again, would be why that wasn’t my argument.

            “(2) is not inconsistent with the work being done also for one’s own good, and the good of others”
            But (2) IS inconsistent with doing work not for the sake of one’s opponent. Again, quoting myself so that you know I’m not just making this up, one “does not always need to help the other party, sometimes it’s okay if it just helps other people (e.g. yourself, spectators, etc.).” The other tenet, the one where one’s work must always help one’s opponent, “is a totally ad hoc and unjustified assumption,” given the plurality of interests in any given debate setting.

            “To take an elementary example, your claim, ‘Not all of these interests can necessarily be served at once, let alone optimally served at once,’ was also not inconsistent with the original claim you were addressing”
            Which is why that wasn’t my argument. My argument was, not all interests can necessarily be served (let alone optimally) at once, therefore some substantive support is needed for the idea that all of one’s work must always benefit one’s interlocutor; prima facie, there’s no particular reason at all that one’s interlocutor should take such absolute precedence. (I do have an actual argument against the original claim, and it’s very simple: it is not always possible to benefit one’s interlocutor; ought implies can; therefore one needn’t always benefit one’s interlocutor.)

            “from the fact that you cannot serve all interests simultaneously it does not follow that there are no reliable generalizations…”
            Yet from the fact that you cannot serve all interests simultaneously it DOES follow that whichever “reliable generalization” you make is a choice presumably driven by values, not something that’s necessitated by the nature of the scenario. I.e., just qua debate, one “does not always need to help the other party, sometimes it’s okay if it just helps other people.”

            “Since you seemed to be assuming some kind of consequentialism in your comment…”
            Not hardly: the same objection holds for virtue ethics, deontological ethics, principilism, and (at least as far as I know) even divine command theory.

            “To take a very trivial example, the rule “All my disagreements with other people should be conducted in such a way that they don’t end with my shooting them for disagreeing with me” is a rule the consistent practice of which…”
            I doubt it – there are situations all the time where police officers and other law enforcement types rightfully shoot people for stubbornly disagreeing with them (the law enforcement types).

            “So there’s no logical issue here; rather, you’re making some assumption…”
            Given that you’ve misconstrued my position on several occasions just within this comment, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take this accusation too seriously.

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            And let me, separately, emphasize just how absurd the original statement was, with the use of the logic that Brandon is evidently incapable of seeing.

            Again: “all of my work must benefit X” means, logically, “none of my work is allowed not to benefit X.” Yes, this means that the work can go to that which benefits X and Y and Z, BUT IT ALSO MEANS that her work CANNOT go to that which benefits Y and Z WITHOUT benefiting X. (Again: you cannot have an “all” without having synonymous exclusivity.) Now: is that really what you all think is a reasonable theory of debate ethics? That one must not only (try to) benefit one’s interlocutor, but one MUST also (try to) refrain from doing anything that might benefit other people EVEN AT NO COST TO one’s interlocutor? That, in other words, you aren’t EVER allowed to help other people when you’re in a debate? Seriously?

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

            (1) All my money was spent on booze.
            This does not mean that nothing else was done with the money

            Oh come now. You’re making your high school English teacher, whoever she was, cry. Yes, that is what “all” means: that all the money you have was in fact spent on booze and whores (or, to put it in a nicer way, 21-year-old MacAllen and high-class escorts). Once the money leaves your hands it may in fact do other things, but in that case it is no longer your money. Misty the exotic dancer may have donated it to UNICEF but you certainly didn’t.

        • http://www.somewhither.net Darrell

          All does does not mean exclusively or only. Let’s try removing all and putting exclusively into Ms. Libresco’s sentence where it would make sense.

          “I have to remember I’m fighting a person and that my work has to be exclusively for their good.” Can you honestly say this doesn’t mean something other than, “I have to remember I’m fighting a person and that all my work has to be for their good?”

          As an alternate example, If you are treating a person as an end rather than as a means then all of your effort in, say medical care, is devoted towards that individual and not towards an external group which is not to say that an external group (such as the patient’s family or medical students) would not benefit but that your effort is not directed towards them.

          Synonyms for “all” are: completely, entirely, every, and totally.

          Synonyms for “exclusively” are: alone, only, and solely.

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            “All does does not mean exclusively or only. Let’s try removing all and putting exclusively into Ms. Libresco’s sentence where it would make sense.”
            Yeah, see, but that’s not necessarily how synonyms work. Again, “all my work must do x” means “my work must exclusively be of type x”; I’d say that’s well within the boundaries of what a synonym is, although if you want to argue the rules of the English language game with me then I suppose we can do that.

            “As an alternate example, If you are treating a person as an end rather than as a means then all of your effort in, say medical care, is devoted towards that individual…”
            Nonsense: patients are not treated as mere means whenever their doctors explain their conditions to their families, even when (as in some cases) that explanation will have no positive effect on the patient in question. A behavior that does not pertain to an individual cannot possibly be one that violates the categorical imperative with respect to that individual.

        • http://www.somewhither.net Darrell

          So in other words, you understand my point. All does not mean exclusively, although in certain contexts it is possible to use it as a synonym — just as you could use car as a synonym for vehicle yet confuse your listener if you told them to go get in the car when in fact the vehicle in question was a bus. You have chosen to interpret all as exclusively although that is far from a plain reading of what Ms. Libresco wrote.

          The patient, in the example I provided, would still be the end if the care you were providing was all for the patient’s benefit — even though others would benefit. You are confusing what happens (typically) in reality with a philosophical ideal. In other words, do I think that Ms. Libresco lives up to her philosophical ideals? No. That, however, does nt mean that she doesn’t strive to do so — which is what she wrote.

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            No, you don’t understand my point: there is another definition of “synonym.” Go look it up – I can wait.

            “The patient, in the example I provided, would still be the end if the care you were providing was all for the patient’s benefit”
            This doesn’t even address what I said, which makes me think that you didn’t read it. Try again.

          • http://www.somewhither.net Darrell

            Eli

            I can’t be held responsible for your tenuous grasp of English.

          • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

            Yeah, and I can’t be responsible for your inability (or unwillingness?) to use a dictionary.

    • LeRoi

      “That’s why my comment policy makes it clear that I don’t take on the responsibility of responding to or deleting every aggressive comment.”

      As an illustrative example, we present you with this several-thousand-word masterpiece of semantic-logic exercises.

      • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

        Oddly enough, it’s very easy to continue to cling to bad ideas if you never bother with “semantic-logic exercises.” So long as you never have to provide a rigorous position and then defend that position, you’ll never lose!

        • Ted Seeber

          Sometimes bad ideas are actually correct ideas. I learned that the hard way.

    • deiseach

      But if we’re having an argument over some topic and X is trying to convince Y of the correctness of X’s conclusion, surely X is trying to convince Y of the truth of the matter in question, and X thinks that knowing the truth will be for Y’s ultimate good?

      I think what Leah was saying is that the point of debate is not “Look how big my brain is!”, it is to advance some steps further along the path to rationality or truth or benefit.

      • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

        “But if we’re having an argument over some topic and X is trying to convince Y of the correctness of X’s conclusion, surely X is trying to convince Y of the truth of the matter in question, and X thinks that knowing the truth will be for Y’s ultimate good?”

        Yeah, so? Does that mean that you aren’t allowed, in the course of an argument, to do something that won’t help Y? Surely (in any given normative context) you are only prohibited from doing that which goes against the goal (of that context), not that which merely fails to advance the goal.

        Here’s an easy example. During one of the recent presidential debates, the two guys were discussing Hosni Mubarak. If one of them had said, in the course of this discussion, “Hosni Mubarak, who was the president of Egypt…”, would that have been a bad, illegitimate, or otherwise blameworthy thing to have done? After all, both of them knew who Mubarak was, so it’s not like that statement could have been a matter of one trying to convince the other. Rather, such statements are for the benefit of the audience members, who may not even have heard the name before. But, again, such a statement wouldn’t be made for the good of the other person in the debate. So: would you permit such statements, or would you condemn them? Because – at least going by the words Leah actually said – she would condemn them, and I find that to be totally nuts.

        • Mr. X

          In the Presidential debates the candidates aren’t trying to convince each other, they’re trying to convince the audience. So your analogy is a false one.

        • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

          Actually, if you’re going to stick to what she said, you’ve just argued that we should never have presidential debates. So…good job?

    • Kristen inDallas

      This whole all/only debacle makes me laugh. And speaking of making your English teacher cry, did y’all skip class the day she went over hyperbole? Weather or not “I spent all my money on booze” means semantically something similar or different from “I spent my money exclusively on booze” is totally irrelevant in face of the obvious fact that when people say this it isn’t true! It’s a colorful exageration meaning I spent most/too much of my money on booze. English teacher: the intended/logically coherent meaning of the sentence>than the strict semantic meaning of a sentence>words being spelled correctly.

      • http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com Eli

        Ah! Finally, a good response: so you’re basically now telling me that Leah said something in apparent seriousness that she did not mean. Why, I wonder, might she do this? Just for effect? It would have had the same effect to say “…my work has to go to benefit the other person” and just leave out the word “all.” What did she have to gain, and how did she think she was going to gain it that way?

        And, given that we know she does this, how are we supposed to tell when she believes the seemingly absurd things she says (“morality loves me”?!) and when she’s just being hyperbolic? She, after all, is the one who (correctly!) says that people should be careful and explicit when stating their distinctive beliefs. If she herself isn’t willing to abide by that rule – and isn’t willing to directly respond to questions (cough cough) – how can we accurately parse what she writes?

        • Mitchell Porter

          “Morality loves me” makes sense if you think about “agents” platonically. The first cause is a divine will that is also love and goodness, and it brings into being new agents which it loves and which become better by imitating it. I know this particular Librescan proposition is hard to engage with because she hasn’t set out a metaphysic to explain it or justify it, but it’s not an alien mode of thought without precedent. If you dig around in the Christian scholastic philosophy, you should find a systematic defense of rather similar ideas.

        • http://branemrys.blogspot.com Brandon Watson

          No, again, Eli, this is not what Kristen inDallas is saying, as anyone with a basic comprehension of elementary English can figure out. What she is pointing out is that your example would generally be taken as hyperbole, and thus is irrelevant to the question, and she, with extraordinary subtlety, suggests this by actually using your example, and then — she gets very subtle here — by saying “it is totally irrelevant” because it would generally be taken as hyperbolic.

          Honestly, how much more plain could she have made it?

  • Chris Hallquist

    Regardless of sweeping claims about duties, I’m still waiting for further explanation of your shortly-post-conversion statements about how the conservative structure of the Catholic hierarchy leads them to get a bunch of things wrong.

    • Ted Seeber

      Actually, it’s the LIBERAL structure of the Catholic Hierarchy that has a tendency to get things wrong.

      Take Child Sex Abuse. Been specifically against Canon Law since 1917. Or priestly celibacy. Been a common vow for what, 1700 years or so? But if you get a bunch of liberal bishops and priests who claim that priestly celibacy doesn’t matter and Canon Law is just for those conservative legalists to argue about, wham, you get three generations of Catholic Priests for whom not only is “any kind of love is love alright” but a bunch of bishops that cover up for them.

  • Doragoon

    I’m confused. Are we supposed to be infavour of personal revelation, discovering our religious (or not) and moral beliefs on our own, and saying “to each their own.” Or are we supposed to assume that our personal beliefs are right and should trump everyone else’s? We can’t even agree what “good” or “bad” mean, let alone how to go about matching individual actions to each category. But if we could, government would be a lot simpler.

    On the issue of duty, I must go to Heinlein. “Do not confuse “duty” with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily…” Calling something a duty doesn’t not justify the obligation you place on someone.

    • Brandon B

      A duty affects everyone if morality is objective and applies universally. Heinlein (or more accurately, Heinlein’s character, since according to Wikiquote the quote you used was from one of his characters) may disagree with this, but that’s hardly the last word on the matter. Feel free to develop the argument, but you haven’t proved your point yet.

      I would also like to point out that the ability to discover moral and religious truths is not inconsistent with such truths being objective and universal. If moral truths apply to everyone, then once I figure out that have a certain duty, I should also conclude that it applies to everyone else as well (unless the duty arises from my specific circumstances).

  • Emily

    The idea that this is even possible is kind of funny. For instance, I very strongly object when Christians insist that laws everyone has to follow should be based on their particular religious beliefs, and are unable or unwilling to make arguments to people of other or no faiths in any broader civic or secular terms. (This is an AND statement, not an OR statement.) But Christians who do this usually tend to write my mainline Protestant denomination off as not really Christian anyway. People generally have pretty strong reasons for their schisms that make it harder to communicate persuasively between them; the “inside” has many rooms that are hard to pass between.

    Also, in my example specifically, it would be sort of self-defeating to “publicly and actively” make noise that “As a Christian, I believe X about the role of government!” if your position is that civic arguments should not be couched in religious language.

  • Jesse Weinstein

    While I know it’s slightly ironic to add this to a post on why you shouldn’t have to respond to things you don’t want to, this is your most recent post, so…

    Regarding JT’s 5 questions back in June 2012 — you responded to 2 of them (#2 and #3a), but haven’t yet responded to the other three (#1, #3b, and #4).

    I just wanted to check on this, and find out if you still have any plans to make further responses, as I would be interested in your thoughts on those topics.

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

    Mmmm. OK. I do see what he means; one of the dodges on Dawkins’s claim that moderate religious people enable extremist religious people is to say that moderate people also combat religious extremism, but in order to make this claim you should really be a moderate religious person who combats religious extremism. That being said, instead of picking fights with the Westboro Baptist Church (as Emily points out, they are no more likely to listen to other Christians than they are to listen to an ayatollah), I could publicly and as a Christian declare support for LGTB youth, and then do something to help. When we combat poverty, we aren’t picking fights with rich people. There are other ways to of combating extremism, as well.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m willing to support SSA youth fully. I’m not willing to support LGTB youth. Mainly because that lifestyle leads directly to some pretty dangerous behaviors from an objective morality standpoint, and I love human beings too much to encourage it.

      Here’s the difference:
      http://www.catholic.com/radio/shows/living-with-same-sex-attraction-7655

      • Alan

        From an objectively moral standpoint, depriving those attracted to others of the same sex of the ability to act on their desire for acts of physical love in a consensual manner simply because they are wedded to ancient taboos is abhorrent.

        • Acn

          In before Ted follows up with a “child molesters ZOMG”

        • Brian

          Catholics absolutely agree with you. (Good thing the prohibition on same-sex sexual acts is based on objective principles of reason, not “ancient taboos.”)

          • Alan

            Uh, yeah sure of course that is objective reason – or nah, its just abhorrent subjective gibberish. But hey, if it makes you feel better about your bigotries then good for you.

  • grok

    “Condemning outside of conversation with your enemy can be counterproductive. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I like to try and keep my interlocutors face before me in a fight, so I have to remember I’m fighting a person and that all my work has to be for their good, not an excuse to feel superior that I didn’t fall into that error. ”
    Very nice quote and application Leah. I can see the gospel message evidencing itself in your thought process and it is inspiring to see.
    Have you started praying the Liturgy of the hours yet? It’s available as an app ($20)
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/divine-office-audio-prayer/id301349397?mt=8
    and also as a free podcast
    https://itunes.apple.com/podcast/divine-office-liturgy-hours/id294319197?mt=2
    which has the same content as the app but was, at least for me, slightly less convenient.
    It’s been a blessing in my life.
    cheers,
    grok

    • leahlibresco

      Yup, that’s the app I have. I try and do morning and night office, but I’m more consistent on the former than the latter

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

      Argh, I have the Android version (same text&sound) and mehates it!

      If you listen to the Liturgy of the Hours at a monastery you get it in a quiet and somewhat monotonic way, that can step into the background. But the speakers of this app deliver it with lots and lots of pathos and accentuation.

      Now on a more objective level I have to admit I’m a bit of cultural relativist on prayer styles. But on an immediately emotional level I still like my culture best, and this isn’t it! Those folks are from Salt Lake City and though I’m sure they are perfectly orthodox Catholics that’s exactly how they sound. Again, objectively it’s fine for those who like it that way, but to me it sounds more like the soundtrack to a telenovela than like prayer.

      • leahlibresco

        I don’t use the audio tracks, just the text.

      • grok

        I understand what you are saying. I agree that sometimes they seem to overdo it. Personally it doesn’t bother me and I find the audio helpful. I actually try to pray with the audio out loud rather than just listen to it. As Kathleen Norris says in “the Cloister Walk” (quoting someone else), Liturgy of the Hours is not a spectator sport!

  • Alexander Anderson

    I think it’s rather funny that Dennett suggests this. I mean, hasn’t the Catholic Church tried (and often failed) to define the limits of belief and to suppress the more damaging beliefs of the Christian faithful? I have a hard time believing that Dennett would support Church leaders’ attempt at that, but it seems to be very close to what he’s suggesting here. Strange.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Bing bing bing!!!! This.

  • deiseach

    I don’t see that I, as a Catholic, can be very helpful one way or the other about the excesses of (for example) Hinduism. I’m afraid I don’t see any other intrepretation of what Dennett said other than “Moderately religious people should work towards making religion rational, that is, removing all supernaturalism and leaving us with ‘religion as social work and cultural glue’.” People want to work for environmental causes in the name of Vague Deity Concept? Sure, that’s fine (just as long as they eventually get around to dropping Vague Deity Concept altogether, or at least acknowledging that it’s a human construction and has no objective reality).

    I do know that I am very tempted to say “So-and-So is not a real Catholic!” when prominent public figures make damn stupid statements in public, but I do have to remember: (a) I am not the Pope, so I don’t get to excoummunicate anyone and (b) if they’re baptised and haven’t formally defected, they’re still just as much Catholics as I am. Even (0r especially) if they’re bad Catholics, because I’m a bad Catholic too.

    • R.C.

      deiseach:

      Yeah, you’re not the pope. Me neither, as it happens. And we’re all bad Catholics, so far as I can tell. Or maybe that’s just projection: Even when I’m trying hard I’m, like, light-years away.

      But it does seem to me that one of the advantages of Catholicism over, say, Pentecostal Holiness-ism, is that there is an authority-source which can be queried to further refine any disputes about what does and does not constitute Catholicsm, and from which certain statements are binding and definitional. There are some things which are clearly in-bounds, some things clearly out-of-bounds, and some things as-yet-unresolved.

      So, while it may not be safe to say, “He’s not a Catholic,” it is pretty safe to say, on many topics, “The view he’s espousing is not Catholicism.”

      • Ted Seeber

        Bingo! Yep, that’s it. I must remember that for the future!

      • Kristen inDallas

        Thanks R.C! That comment was super-duper helpful! (Rereading shows me my comment may look sarcastic. Note that no sarcasm is intended. All the exclamation poipnts are bc I am actually excited to have read that!)

  • http://not-atamelion.blogspot.com Michael H.

    Ugh, this point was one that I found absolutely obnoxious. My main gripe was that he treats boundaries between faiths as obvious: we know what “Christianity,” “Islam,” and “Hinduism” are (it was odd to me how he introduces the book as dealing with the US and then rags on Islam and Hinduism in the final chapter, but that’s another point). Or rather, he assumes that atheists know what those boundaries are, and that every faith within those boundaries shares the same, exact set of “attractive nuisances.” Basically, he can fault certain Christians for not going against the radical beliefs of other Christians, without even considering the multiplicity of Christianities and even Christian experiences within, say, a denomination.

    For example, would Dennett fault a Maronite Christian for not going after the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Is it every Latter-day Saint’s (from the largest LDS denomination) responsibility to denounce Warren Jeffs? How long would it take before Dennett decides that all religions share their attractive nuisances and berate me for not launching a campaign against Aum Shinrikyo?

  • R.C.

    It seems to me that a lot of applications of Dennett’s rule could be suggested which would immediately demonstrate its impracticality.

    What, for example, is the daily or hourly obligation of each and every person who works in climate science regarding folk who share part of their view, but not another part? Is Judith Curry to spend all her time decrying Michael Mann, and vice versa? All their respective lab assistants and grad students, too? Can’t anyone say, “apologetics and cat-herding is not my bag” and focus exclusively on other things that equally need doing?

    Is every economist required to write criticisms of Keynesianism or Austrian-School Thought, on a regular basis? Or denunciations of Marxism and (the economic side of ) Fascism? Someone must, of course. But won’t some of them prove to be better at this than others? Won’t those who’re particularly skilled at it take it up as a specialty, and the others…not?

    It looks to me like Dennett wants every Catholic to spend some part of his time working for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: To be an Inquisitor, one of “God’s Rottweilers.” Or, at least, a Karl Keating or John Martignoni, bearding Fundamentalist anti-Catholicism in its den and wasting effort debating the Peter Ruckmans of the world over and over.

    Myself, I’d rather there be some consecrated sisters who get to just do the contemplative thing, and some Franciscans serving in the soup kitchens and leper colonies, and some Carmelites making Mystic Monk Coffee, and all of them being really good at what they do and not having a clue what the best strategies are for convincing the Westboro Baptist doofi* that, no, God does NOT “Hate Fags.”

    * “doofi” = plural of “doofus”

    • Kristen inDallas

      doofi. Classic. Firing on all cylinders, today!

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

    Myself, I’d rather there be some consecrated sisters who get to just do the contemplative thing, and some Franciscans serving in the soup kitchens and leper colonies, and some Carmelites making Mystic Monk Coffee, and all of them being really good at what they do and not having a clue what the best strategies are for convincing the Westboro Baptist doofi* that, no, God does NOT “Hate Fags.”

    +1 :)

  • Passerby

    This seems like a good place to put this, since it is tangentally related. I agree that you can’t be held responsible for what other Christian sects do or what they believe, but you call yourself a Catholic and are lending your support to the Catholic church as an institution.

    For that reason, I would like to hear your thoughts on these two news stories. Were the responses of the Catholics involved justified? I should warn all readers, the stories are upsetting.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brazil-rocked-by-abortion-for-9yearold-rape-victim-1640165.html

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/frontpage/2012/1114/1224326575203.html


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