Steelmanning one of Dennett’s arguments

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

Back in the cultural history of religion sections of the book, Dennett touches on a very powerful argument against religion.  He writes:

“And here is an interesting fact: the transition between folk religion to organized religion is marked by a shift in beliefs from those with very clear, concrete consequences to those with systematically elusive consequences–paying lip service is just about the only way you can act on them…

But what could you do to show that you really believe that the wine in the chalice has been transformed into the blood of Christ?”

Then the argument went a little awry in a way that would have caused him to flunk his own exam for scholars of religion:

You could bet a large sum of money on it and then to send the wine to the biology lab to see if there was hemoglobin in it (and recover the genome of Jesus from the DNA in the bargain!)–except the creed has been cleverly shielded from just such concrete tests. It would be a sacrilege to remove the wine from the ceremony and, besides, taking the wine out of the holy context would surely untransubstantiate it, turning it back into ordinary wine. There is really only one action you can take to demonstrate this belief: you can say that you believe it, over and over, as fervently as the occasion demands.”

Dennett is proposing a testing a quality of the Eucharist that Catholics don’t think exists.  We went over this during the argument about PZ Myers desecrating a Host.   Transubstantiation is changing the essence of the bread and the wine while leaving their accidents (everything accessible to the senses) unchanged.  If wine changed its accidents into blood (Christ’s or anyone elses) that would be, as far as I’m concerned, transfiguration, and you should take it up with Professor McGonegal, not the Pontiff.

It’s too bad Dennett made this mistake, since the facts actually support his point better than the error does.  A change in accident is empirically verifiable.  A change in essence is not.  Catholicism isn’t denying Dennett and others the chance to test it’s claims with regard to the Eucharist, it’s making claims that are empirically unverifiable.

A religion that retreats to Invisible Garage Dragon claims is a lot harder to debunk, but it’s hard not to see that as a defensive, besieged move.  A religion that says nothing touching the natural world or human lives can’t offer much in the way of moral philosophy.  I like Overheard at Yale Div School’s take on this:

“Any faith tradition worth its salt will tell you what to do with your food, your time, your genitals, and your money. Otherwise it’s not a real religion.”

Once a religion shrinks its claims down to the size of, say, moral therapeutic deism, there’s not enough there there to do more than pay lip service, as Dennett says, and then there’s little reason to just keep professing belief in belief.

I did not convert because of empirically testable claims about Catholicism.  There may be miraculous cures that ought to convince atheists, but I haven’t encountered them.   Starting from an atheist prior, a spontaneous remission or other ideopathic healing might be surprising, but not surprising enough to outweigh the prior estimate of the improbability of God.  But there are other kinds of claims to examine.

Some are the more abstract philosophical claims for the necessity of God, which are interesting, but not accessible or urgent feeling unless you have a strong scholastic bent.  But religions also make moral claims, and that’s where, a la Chesterton, we can try and see whether a theology is a truth-telling thing.  Is it self-consistent?  Does it cover the things you already know to be true?  Where it makes different moral claims, do they turn out, on further inspection, to be right after all?

This kind of investigation is more akin to how a chess novice would recognize Kasparov as proficient.  The novice doesn’t have the skill to discern whether each move is clever or foolish, but she can see that Kasparov keeps winning.  Correct moral judgement is less obvious than checkmate, but the general idea is the same.  It’s the problem of finding a teacher when you know that you’re deficient in the subject of instruction.  And these moral claims do require more than lip service.

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."

  • Drew

    I remain intensely interested in morality: it’s one of the biggest unanswered questions in philosophy: unanswered by anyone, in my experience, believer or no. I and check here in every once and awhile to see if there’s been some solid discussion about why a moral sense implies some greater truth about the existence of an intelligent being: not because I’m particularly committed to there being such a being or there not being one, but because morality is a deeply important issue.

    But too many posts seem to end like this: implying that there’s some deeply convincing extra information to be had, and then not really elaborating. Telling me that it “works” a la Chesterton is simply not a truly compelling argument when the argument’s end is to try to establish some additional metaphysical claim about a grand intelligent being that involves some very strong _additional_ claims about the nature of reality. I totally accept that belief in this or that may well work for this or that different person, dealing with their particular journey and situation. Unlike a lot of critics, I don’t think there’s anything empirically wrong with belief in and of itself: it’s largely not a choice anyhow. But I know and respect and yet still do not share so many beliefs. Unless there is some convincing necessity offerred for a particular one, I simply don’t understand the triumphalism that seems to embody Catholic theology, one which seems to exist prior to and without any actual, well stated intellectual triumph.

    • Dave

      Perhaps, then, the “more abstract philosophical claims for the necessity of God” the author mentioned would be precisely what you’re seeking. My recommendation would be Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason or something similar. Read it, understand it, and truly evaluate the primary source text; read it YOURSELF, because most Kant scholars like to conveniently ignore the progression of his logic as it moves outside the realm of ethical behavior to what a sense of moral duty implies.

  • Doctor Octavo

    So, the problem with Dennett is that he does not spend much time robustly dissecting the arguments for religion.

    Could we perhaps get a post from you, in which you show how the arguments against the existence of spirits or against the idea of life after death are all invalid?

    • http://paraphasic.blogspot.com Elliot

      I’d be interested in this as well, although chances are you talked more about this sort of thing before I followed the blog.

  • deiseach

    “taking the wine out of the holy context would surely untransubstantiate it, turning it back into ordinary wine”

    Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. I’d be embarrassed even as a non-scientist to write a quickie post on the theory of evolution that stated “Darwin believed monkeys turned into humans”, so I’d expect even a lowly philosopher to at least get the basics right when he’s laughing at those wacky religious-types.

    Though it does give me the opportunity to link to this, so thank you, Professor Dennett. :-)

    Also this for the other species (the bread, not the wine).

    • http://ereadingromanticism.wordpress.com Bernadette

      And, just for good measure, here’s Thomas Aquinas’s rather lengthy consideration of the subject , which is (alas) not nearly as entertaining.

    • Ted Seeber

      Actually, that’s the difference between Martin Luther’s Consubstantiation and the Catholic Church’s Transubstantiation. Transubstantiation is permanent, and there’s a whole bunch of extra stuff we do as ordinary and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist to show it.

      My mom, a convert, taught me this. She said that growing up Methodist, she was involved in early eccumenical talks with the Lutherans, and the Lutheran pastor’s kids, since the leftovers were no longer consecrated after the service, would “play minister”.

      Years later, when she converted, she was greatly impressed by the use of the Tabernacle, and the other behind-the-scenes ritual showing that the Eucharist was *still Christ* after the end of Mass.

  • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

    So we should assume you think Christian morality was right about its permission of slavery and subjugation of women, for example?

    • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

      As much as this is obviously a facetious question, it raises a good point- many of us look at the evidence and disagree that Christianity is a truth-telling thing (for the reasons Robert called out as well as many others). Do you agree that we-who-don’t-see-the-truth-telling are rationally justified in rejecting Christianity?

      • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

        Insofar as you have a clear and accurate understanding of Christianity, and insofar as your reason is working properly (that is, not hampered by mental illness or misinformation or some other obstacle), to that extent would you be justified in rejecting Christianity if you see it as not telling the truth.

        Catholics call this the “primacy of conscience.” It is basically the idea that God gave us minds so that we could use them. The fundamental moral imperative is to do good and avoid evil. So when we’ve done all we can to understand a situation, we do what appears good and avoid what appears evil – with the understanding that it is possible to make mistakes, but that we cannot use the possibility of mistakes as an excuse for ignoring our reason.

        The big question is whether one has the understanding needed to make a judgment.

    • Ted Seeber

      In so far as either actually existed, yes. But most modern misunderstandings of these issues, do not understand the Christian teachings on the concept in say, 300 A.D.

      For instance, read the book of Philemon- the proper response to the issue of slavery is adoption and treating the slave like a member of the family (and in return, the slave acting like a member of the family- with the responsibility that implies). No need to end slavery to end its effects.

      And ever since early veneration of Mary in the East, we Catholics have known that the hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world. Something modern feminists seem to have forgotten in their rush to remove the vocation of motherhood from every woman.

      • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

        No need to end slavery to end its effects.

        Spoken like someone who has never been a slave.

        Mind you, niether have I. Just sayin, this is a pretty weak argument

        • Ted Seeber

          Is a slave still a slave if he’s treated like a son?

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            If you own him, yes. He’s a slave.

            Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that count as slavery:
            -buying and selling people
            -owning people
            -trading people
            -having legal authority to force people to work and prevent them from leaving
            -treating other people as property
            -convincing someone that they belong to you

            Additional things that aren’t technically slavery, but are really bad consequences that pretty much always crop up wherever slavery is:
            -treating slaves as less than human
            -giving slaves fewer rights than non-slaves
            -punishing slaves unjustly
            -punishing slaves on an order of magnitude not commiserate with their transgressions
            -threatening slaves with pain, discomfort, or death
            -preventing slaves from getting educated

            You’re acting like getting rid of the second list somehow invalidates the first. It does not. Further, if you are seriously making the claim that Christians have historically treated there slaves in any way other than that second list, I suggest you do some more historical research.

  • Mike R

    So I may need some help understanding the “winning” metaphor. You imply that a Catholic understanding of truth “wins” but also qualify by saying that a checkmate is much more obvious than evidence for Catholic truth (i.e. correct moral judgement). Are you saying that I can start to recognize patterns of moral victories that go beyond basic golden rules but clearly point to incarnation, transubstantiation, apostolic succession, and the veneration of the virgin Mary?

  • Alex Godofsky

    This kind of investigation is more akin to how a chess novice would recognize Kasparov as proficient. The novice doesn’t have the skill to discern whether each move is clever or foolish, but she can see that Kasparov keeps winning.

    Leah, you’ve mentioned before that your moral agreement with the Catholic church regards its meta-ethics, but you strongly disagree with many of its actual moral claims. Isn’t this same argument, then, a strong reason to question your original agreement? When they try to make actual moral judgments, in your mind they keep losing.

    • Val

      Where has Leah actually said that she seriously disagrees with any of Catholicism’s moral claims? On what issue has she taken any clear stand contrary to doctrine?

      Available evidence would suggest rather that she has bought into the program lock, stock and barrel.

    • Jay

      Yeah, this was basically the exact same response I had. If the principle reason to buy into a religion is that it seems systematically better at giving good answers to moral questions, then it’s that much harder for me to understand how Leah could jump from atheism to Catholicism. The idea that anyone could start from a neutral perspective, ask in the abstract “which groups seem to be doing the best job of answering moral questions?,” and then just happen to land on the Catholic Church seems pretty implausible to me.

      In response to Val, one example is that Leah specifically stated in her conversion posts that she was still confused by the Church’s position on sexuality. As someone who was, at least until her conversion, an open and practicing bisexual, the Church’s condemnation of any sexual relationship outside of pursuing procreation in a one-man/one-woman marriage presumably didn’t perform very well in terms of “cover[ing] the things you already know to be true.” To my knowledge, Leah hasn’t revisited these issues on this blog since her conversion. Perhaps she has come around and is now ready to denounce contraception, same-sex intercourse, etc.? If so, well, points for consistency. But if not, and if she still feels like the Church’s positions here reflect some moral incoherence, then that should be a major red flag, particularly given the stated basis for her conversion in the first place.

      • Val

        But as I recall, Leah also indicated that she was perfectly willing to set aside her own ‘improper’ sexuality for the sake of coming into line with the church’s teachings. So either her commitment to the real expression of that sexuality was pretty weak to begin with or she had a pretty radical shift in attitude that she has chosen not to openly address. Her ‘confusion’ on these issues has been pretty vague.

        • Jay

          Agreed that the “confusion” has been vague. The way I interpreted her willingness “to set aside her own ‘improper’ sexuality” was more that it was something she was willing to put on hold until she figured things out for herself — there wasn’t a huge cost to her in following the Church’s positions, at least in the meantime, so she was willing to do that provisionally while taking classes, figuring things out for herself, etc.

          That’s fair enough, but it has been a while since then, so I’m curious as to where Leah has landed. And I really don’t see how she could come out of this without reaching one of two conclusions: (1) yes, this aspect of my life was abhorrent, and I was wrong to live like that (as are all of my current homosexual/bisexual/polyamorous/sex-before-marriage-practicing/contraception-using friends); or (2) no, the Church really is confused on this major issue, which seriously calls into question how much I can trust it on everything else (especially because God-as-Morality and Church-as-Morality-explainer were essentially the reasons for her conversion).

          Leah obviously doesn’t “owe” us any explanation, and if she decides that she no longer wants to discuss this aspect of her life publicly, well that’s certainly reasonable. But I do think it’s going to be pretty difficult for her non-theist readers to accept or even really understand her conversion without some clarification on this point.

        • Ted Seeber

          I choose option #1, and here’s why. No insult intended to Leah, but her descriptions of other relationships and human sexuality in general *before* she converted reminded me strongly of descriptions put forth by high functioning autistics- the overwhelming emotional content just wasn’t there.

          As a high functioning autistic myself, I resemble that remark strongly…..and there was a time in my 20s where I was tempted by homosexuality, *merely because dealing with women was hard*. That isn’t a strong reason to go one way or the other, of course, and eventually I learned enough biology to understand why that temptation was nonsense.

      • Ted Seeber

        I traveled the “comparative theology” path including atheism rather than the “reject my parents and everything about them path” that many new atheists have- but I can honestly say that for any value ethics believer who values history, there are only three or four choices of religion that even begin to make sense, and for a feminist who recognizes the value of motherhood, that narrows it down to one.

  • Ruth

    Christian morality never gave “permission” for slavery, as would be obvious to anyone who knows the history of how slavery was defeated (through Christianity). Christianity acknowledged slavery in the culture that it existed in, but — from the beginning — it taught a difference that began to chip away at the institution. If your slave is a brother or sister in Christ, then it becomes more and more difficult to treat them as a slave and to justify holding them against their will. (And, of course, the slavery extant in Roman times was nothing like that in pre-abolition America.) In addition, In America was necessary to find justifications to see slaves as “less than” human or as somehow from a “cursed” stock in order to justify slavery … neither of which could hold up well under scrutiny or in comparison to the Christian Bible’s teachings.

    Now, admittedly, there were Christians who tried to use the Bible to permit their holding of slaves, but the arguments never sat comfortably, nor were they ever bought into by all Christians. The arguments used revealed a deep-seated feeling of “wrongness” on the part of the Christian who tried to argue them. Again, the abolition movement was heavily based on Christianity and populated by Christians.

    Christianity is about changing hearts and attitudes. It is a change within as one is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It isn’t always instantaneous, but attitudes toward slavery simply couldn’t survive over time in a Christian culture … and they didn’t.

    In fact, much of the arguments today for abortion seem very similar to those used by people trying to justify slavery, and, once again, it is Christianity which is slowly chipping away at those arguments and changing the hearts and minds of those who would devalue the most helpless of us.

    • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

      Ruth, you clearly have no knowledge of either the Bible or the history of slavery. The Bible approves slavery: it gives regulations regarding the practice that Israelites should follow. See, for example, Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:2-6, Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:20-21. The New Testament is no better, it explicitly condones slavery: Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2.

      In historical terms, Christians practiced slavery for more than a thousand years. Do you really think this shows how Christianity “got it right” in the moral realm?

      • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

        @Robert Oerter – you clearly have no knowledge of the Christian notion of development of doctrine: that is, that over time our understanding of divine revelation can deepen and expand, but that the doctrine itself remains the same. This means that we should expect practices to change over time, and moral judgments to grow more refined.

        This is what Ruth points out about slavery. Christianity is a religion rooted in history (as is Judaism), and is not first and foremost a moral program or a philosophical system. It began in a world where slavery was as common and foundational an institution as, e.g., a stock market or a standing army are in our society. In moral thinking, the first act was to give direction for dealing with the world as it is. Only over time did various people start working out the problems with the world; problems with ourselves are much more immediate, and much easier to do something about.

        So in hindsight, we can say that many Christians were wrong to own slaves. On the other hand, it is disingenuous to point to Biblical regulations of slavery (many of which are about the limits of slavery), and claim that this was a sort of positive “permission” in the sense that Judaism and Christianity considers slavery to be a morally neutral or even positive thing.

      • Ted Seeber

        Why did you exclude Philemon from your Bible Study on the subject? It’s the clearest.

      • Kristen inDallas

        As long as you have 1st Timothy 6 open, read 3-5. Those were always ssome of my favorite lines. Named my son for them. I think it has something to do about being wary of people who teach false ideas by arguing words (even arguing the Lord’s words) out of context and away from their true intention. I think it’s something like that, but I should probably go back and read the whole thing in context to be sure…

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

          The true intention of Exodus/Leviticus is pretty clear.

  • Ruth

    Christianity does not “subjugate” women. If so, how so?

    From Christianity’s beginnings, women were accorded an honor not found in almost any culture of the time, and certainly not in Rome or Greece. (Egyptian women had decent rights compared to most, but they were unusual.)

    Christ spoke to women, had female followers, and appeared first to women. Women prophesied, prayed, and served in the early Church (not as priests, of course.) Women were allowed for the first time to sit with their husbands in “synagogue” (which became church), and ask questions (although Paul enjoined them to do so outside and after the service, rather than disrupt the proceedings with their questions.)

    Women are to be honored with love and respect, and their husbands are to be willing to die for them, as Christ did for the Church.

    In a home with two equals, if they disagree, their can be only one “head” who makes the final decision. And, God said that would be the godly husband. But, women are helpmeets, and the decision should be mutual whenever possible, as the husband and wife “submit to one another.” (Ephesians 5:21). The man makes that final decision (when necessary) with sacrifice and with his wife and family’s best interests in mind. “n the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” (Ephesians 5:27)

    Not any of that (and much, much more in the Bible and in Church teachings) involves the “subjection of women.”

    The fact that women cannot be priests in the Church in no way devalues the many roles that they do play, and the honor given to them as equal creations and equal co-heirs of salvation. Complementary roles are inherently equal, although different.

    As a woman, I really get tired of being told how Christianity devalues me, when I have never experienced such a thing. I have occasionally run into a poorly educated Christian who, on reading the Bible superficially, will tell me to be “silent” or that I shouldn’t vote against my husband, or who interprets “headship” incorrectly. But, the Church and Christianity value women highly, and I find it hard to understand the false assumptions of those outside the faith on this matter, unless, of course, it is due to their superficial understanding of the Bible and Christianity as well.

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

      “Women are to be honored with love and respect, and their husbands are to be willing to die for them, as Christ did for the Church.”

      But why shouldn’t men be equally honored with love and respect, and women be equally willing to die for their husbands? Also, in both cases women are completely passive, recipients of love/respect or of protection; that’s rather vexing to me. So if this “honor” means that I’m treated, or viewed, as a weaker vessel, it’s an honor I can do without.

      “From Christianity’s beginnings, women were accorded an honor not found in almost any culture of the time…”

      This may be true, and many scholars say this, but if so then in many cases the Catholic Church at least has fallen sadly far from its origins. A church* that denies full participation of half its congregants (no female priests) and invented celibacy (because women lead you into sin) and places the man as the head of the house (because…why?) and…well, that’s enough to start with. A church — I do not say “a religion,” because from what I’ve read much of this came about with the solidification of the organized church’s grip on power — with that sort of record has a hard time making a case for equal treatment of the genders.

      I think the growing dissatisfaction of the female religious orders with the Catholic Church speaks volumes about how women are and have been treated. I have a friend who is a Sister and she’s told me a number of things about how the priest (male) hierarchy has historically treated them. It’s not pretty.

      • Ruth

        But men ARE to be honored and respected. If you read all of the Bible, and Ephesians in particular, you will see that it is a tit for tat rendering.

        And, the most important point … what does God say and how is it SUPPOSED to be, not how flawed (and often ignorant) human beings have acted. Go to the source. Go to what is said: in the Bible, in Tradition, in Church documents.

        All great things have higher ideals than they are able to fulfill in this lifetime. It is the struggling to reach those ideals that makes life meaningful. If you are going to through out the baby because the bathwater got a little dirty, then you’d better throw out *everything,* because there is nothing that fully lives up to its ideals. Nothing. You can always find the traitor, the ignorant, the evil, the hypocrite, the poorly taught, and the person who simply fails, even though that person may find their own failing morally repugnant.

        It seems remarkably short-sighted to throw it all out because SOME priests have mistreated people, or because some people have tried to excuse their sin using religious arguments. Please show me ANY institution, group, or individual who is without sin.

      • Dave

        Delphi: A church* that denies full participation of half its congregants (no female priests)

        Response: The Church understands what a large portion of the world has forgotten: that men and women are different and that their differences are good and complimentary. Men and women are created equal in the image and likeness of God. Yet men and women are ontologically different. This means then that women show us something unique about the image and likeness of God that men do not and that men show us something unique about the image and likeness of God that women do not. We are created as male or female and that identity of who are makes a difference. Men and women compliment each other in order to represent a fuller image of God together. Priesthood is not simply a function. It is an identity. If it was only about the function of teaching, performing, and serving then of course women would be able to do it and should be able to do it. However, priesthood is an identity, it is about being. Just as motherhood is an about an identity that is based on an ontological reality of someone being a woman. A man cannot be a mother. It is not who he is by nature. Nor can a woman be a father, it is not who she is by nature. It is not that the Church *does* not ordain women to be priests, it is that the Church *can not* ordain women to be priests. It would be impossible to. Christ called men to be able to represent Him in His person, they are called to be in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. Jesus only called men and so the Church only has the authority to ordain men. This does not mean that women are not equal to men, it means that they are not called to the same function as men, because they do not have the same identity as men. Remember that women were the ones who did not abandon Jesus at the Cross and that Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and to the women about the Resurrection. Remember that there is only one person who was gave Jesus His very flesh and blood: the woman, Mary. It would be impossible for any man to give Jesus His flesh and blood and to carry Him within their bodies for nine months. Men do not have the same function as women, because they do not have the same identity as women. Yet they each offer something unique to the plan of God. Women who desire to be the same as men lack ambition. Women offer something unique to the plan of salvation that men could never offer. To try to make women function the same as men is to distort the image of God because women offer something so unique and so beautiful to the image of God, that the world would be at a loss if women tried to be what men are. Women with their feminine genius have an irreplaceable gift to give to the world simply be being who they are and the many contributions that they offer to the world. Priesthood is something unique that some men are called to so that a man can step in place of the God-man to offer what Christ did to His Bride, the Church.

        Delphi: and invented celibacy (because women lead you into sin)

        Response: The Church did not invent celibacy. St. Paul talks about being celibate so that one can offer their whole lives in service to the Church and not be divided between obligations to the Church or to the family. Sex is not a sin. Sex is something that reflects God! It is sacred, it is holy, it is the best analogy humans have of the relationship and intimacy that God wants to have with humanity in their very being. Sex is the image St. Paul gives to compare the love of Christ and His Church! If a married couple has sex they receive sacramental graces. Graces! Grace is God’s life within you! Sex gives married couples more of a share in God’s life! In a phrase: sex helps married couples get to heaven! Sharing in God’s life is what heaven is all about. In heaven we will be perfectly united with God where He will be our all in all. Celibacy is not giving up sex because it is bad, but rather celibacy is a gift to God because sex is so good! The purpose of sex is to show us how much God wants to be united with us. So those who live a life of celibacy are saying: sex points us to heaven? Why not live a life of heaven now? In heaven we will be completely united with God more than a bride to her husband. So those who are celibate choose to live the wedding feast of heaven now on earth and point us to the ultimate fulfillment of all of our desires.

        Delphi: and places the man as the head of the house (because…why?)

        Response: This question gets into the idea of identity. Men are women are ontologically different and each show us something unique about the relationship of God. The relationship of the family is meant to reflect the image of the Trinity. There is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is a Family. Each has a relationship with each person in the Trinity. The Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Yet they are co-equal and co-eternal. Eve proceeds from Adam, and their child proceeds from both the mother and the father. They all have something unique to offer in who they are, yet the motivation for all is love.

        Delphi: I think the growing dissatisfaction of the female religious orders with the Catholic Church speaks volumes about how women are and have been treated.

        Response: A lot of female religious orders that are growing dissatisfied are often religious orders that misunderstand the ontological argument. Men and women are simply different and have different roles because they have different identities. Both are unique and irreplaceable. If men tried to be women, there would be something missing in humanity. So too if women try to be men, there is something missing in humanity. The complimentarity of the sexes more fully reflects the image of God. Religious orders who are understand their identity as women and who they are as the Bride of Christ are flourishing. Some of them are having trouble expanding their convents because there’s no room.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW8A9uvSjSg&feature=related
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7faVRTG7-g&feature=related

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

          Ruth: “It seems remarkably short-sighted to throw it all out because SOME priests have mistreated people”

          I’m not throwing anything out. You said that the early Christian Church treated men and women equally. I’m simply saying that, if so, they’ve fallen a long way from that ideal.

          Dave: “Yet men and women are ontologically different. This means then that women show us something unique about the image and likeness of God that men do not and that men show us something unique about the image and likeness of God that women do not.”

          If so, then that clearly suggests that logically you need both male and female priests in order to fully know and explore the nature of god. If you say to women “You can do this, but not that” then you are denying them full participation in your religion, and you are denying your religion a full exploration of the nature of divinity. If men and women are different, then you need both equally — not one in a subordinate role.

          Dave: “A lot of female religious orders that are growing dissatisfied are often religious orders that misunderstand the ontological argument.”

          Ah, I see. There’s no prejudice, or injustice, or inequality — these poor women are simply deluded. Pardon me while I go back to the 21st century without you.

          Dave: “The Church did not invent celibacy. St. Paul talks about being celibate so that one can offer their whole lives in service to the Church and not be divided between obligations to the Church or to the family.”

          OK, I spoke too narrowly. I should have said, “Religion invented celibacy” because it exists in Buddhism and Hinduism as well. But it’s the Catholic Church that perfected it and enforced it on certain subsets of its members, and yes, it is a very recent imposition by the Church. Even popes weren’t required to be celibate until something like the 12th century, and when the Church did institute it, it was so deeply resisted that they had to reiterate it twice more over the next couple of hundred years, at the Second Lateran Council and the Council of Trent. Now riddle me this: why would the Church invent and impose something so contrary to human nature? Sempra una ragione, there is always a reason…

      • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

        A church* that denies full participation of half its congregants (no female priests)

        This would follow if priesthood were considered “full participation” in Christianity. But it is not. Union with Jesus Christ is how Christians consider a person to be participating fully. This is found in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation/Chrismation, and Eucharist, and in a life spent loving God and one’s neighbor. The priesthood is a ministry to the Church, not a fuller participation in it.

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

          Then why not let women do it? Surely they are as capable of ministering to the Church as men?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

            You’re treating this as if the process to becoming a priest was passing a physical test, and darnit, you’re sure that if some women were just allowed to take the test they’re pass it. That’s not the case. And if you believe tradition, the example set by God, etc means nothing, hey, great – you’re not Catholic.

            You know what the root of your problem is here – you think the deposit of the faith, tradition, the example of Christ, the teaching of the Church, etc, is invalid. So why keep acting mystified and wondering ‘So then why not let women be priests?’ It’s like watching someone ask why 2 + 2 can’t = 5, and when the basics of math are explained, they just keep asking ‘But why can’t a 2 mean 3 this time? Why can’t 5 mean 4?’

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            Crude is pretty close to how I’d answer you. Essentially, there are different kinds of ministry to the Church, and different ministries have different requirements. The priestly ministry requires that the minister be male, to the extent that a female attempting the same actions is doing something entirely different.

            The reasons are primarily theological, and you don’t need to agree with or even entirely understand those reasons – Lord knows I have only the foggiest notion about them – to recognize that the question is a matter of fact: either priestly ministry requires that a male person exercise it, or it doesn’t.

            If the ministry requires a male – for whatever reason – then it is not a matter of rights or equality, any more than it is a matter of rights or equality for a man to bear a child. Bearing a child requires a female. It is absurd for a man to demand the “right” to bear a child, or to consider the difference a matter of injustice.

            If – and this is the point of contention – if priestly ordination in the Catholic Church requires a male in a similar way that bearing a child requires a female, then the question of equality becomes absurd. The popes and bishops, who are the authorities on what the Catholic Church believes, have used exactly this language: the Church is not capable of ordaining women as priests. It is a sacramental impossibility. If this claim is true, then the demand that the Church ordain women is analogous to demanding that men bear children.

            Note that this is not a moral matter, but a matter of determining the facts. It is not a question of whether the Church should ordain women, but of whether she can ordain women. Arguments that restricting priestly ministry to men is immoral must first address the question of possibility.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            I do not believe Delphi is asking you to change your religion. I believe she’s asking you to admit that it treats men and women as fundamentally unequal.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            I’ll admit that my religion treats men and women as fundamentally different. The question is whether that difference in treatment is based on a difference in reality. If there is a real difference between men and women, then it is not unequal (in the sense of unjust or prejudicial) to treat people according to that difference.

      • deiseach

        Delphi, that’s clericalism. If half the congregants are being denied full participation because they are not priests, then all the congregants must be priests – otherwise lay men are being denied full participation as well.

        The clerical state is a privilege and an honour, but it has no bearing on saving your soul, which is the ultimate aim of being a part of the Body of Christ.

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

          So…why can’t women have this honour, the same as men?

    • Cam

      “The man makes that final decision (when necessary) with sacrifice and with his wife and family’s best interests in mind.”

      In this situation the desision is made by the man just because he is a man.You did not say, for example, “the smart person makes that final decision…with the less-smart person’s interests in mind”. It is the person’s maleness that is the deciding factor here, and that is what makes the situation oppressive and sexist.
      Whether or not the man has to make the decision ‘with sacrifice’, or taking into account this factor or that, is irrelevant to equality. It may be better for the man to take into account his wife’s interests than if he did not, but that doesn’t reduce the inequality of power, just the goodness of the ultimate outcome. The actual Christian position is often, as far as I can tell, not “there is equality” but rather “inequality works well”.

      I’l propose to you an alternative that I believe is equal and just: In a home with two equals, if they disagree, their can only be one final decision, but that decision is NOT to be made on the basis of the GENDER of the people disagreeing.”

      This provides ample opportunites for sharing, persuading, taking turns and coming to mutual agreements. The only reason not to accept my alternative is if one believes that gender is in any way a good measure of who has the best position in an argument. Which would be misogyny, and contrary to the evidence.

      • Scott Hebert

        I might point out that if you have two people, and both think they are right, we can assume that further argument is pointless. Therefore, should a decision need to be made, it must be made by one of the parties, and that party must be chosen arbitrarily.

        You can argue about the method that the party is chosen, but it must be arbitrary. The argument for consistency can be made elsewhere. I just find it interesting that the party given out in the passage-that-shall-not-be-read is the party specifically told to sacrifice himself for the other.

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

          And yet (some) marriages in which no one is arbitrarily labeled the head seem to work just fine.

          Marriage requires compromise- I don’t think anyone disputes that- but you seem to be saying there is some limit to that compromise, some place at which, if both parties are behaving correctly, neither will compromise or defer to the other out of trust. Instead, you find it necessary to make sweeping declarations about who gets to be the tiebreaker every single time.

          I don’t think reality bears out your conclusion. There is evidence that such a tiebreaker is not necessary in a well-functioning marriage, and there is no evidence to suggest that a man is better at being the tiebreaker simply because he is a man.

    • Val

      The Vatican is a state and the church a system of governance.

      And because an iron age prophet and his disciples were all men – what a surprise! – someone (a man) decided that the institution that grants them power can only be run by men.

      Because, you know, patriarchy is a thing.

      But hey, catholicism is The Most Moral Thing Ever. So whatever.

    • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

      “The fact that women cannot be priests in the Church in no way devalues the many roles that they do play, and the honor given to them as equal creations and equal co-heirs of salvation.”

      Methinks thou dost protest too much.

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

    “Transubstantiation is changing the essence of the bread and the wine while leaving their accidents (everything accessible to the senses) unchanged. ”

    It seems to me that that precisely proves Dennett’s point, since in that case “There is really only one action you can take to demonstrate this belief: you can say that you believe it, over and over, as fervently as the occasion demands.” If there is nothing physically accessible to the senses to prove that a change has taken place, all you are left with is “believ[ing] it, over and over.”

    • deiseach

      Do you believe slavery is wrong?

      No, but do you really believe it?

      Do you really, really, seriously believe it?

      How would you prove that you genuinely believe slavery is wrong (given that you presumbably do not have the choice to purchase a slave)?

      I don’t quite see the objection that Dennett is raising; no, you can’t stick a sample of a communion host under a microscope and see human tissue, so if you discount the ways someone who believes in the Real Presence would act in the presence of a consecrated host, yes, all you have to go on is “He/she says he/she believes it”.

      What is he saying here? That people who claim to believe something like transubstantiation really don’t believe it, they only think they do or are pretending they do? Okay, so maybe Dennett believes arson is wrong, but unless he’s ever tried burning down a building, how can he say he knows for sure? Otherwise, all we have is him saying over and over that he thinks arson is wrong.

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

        This is a flawed analogy. First, whether slavery or arson or murder or anything else is is wrong is a moral/ethical judgment, not a tenet of a religion.

        Second, in the case of arson or slavery you can point to actual, physical detrimental effects. Transsubstantiation — which is a tenet of belief, not a moral judgment — has no physical component that can be looked at.

        “What is he saying here? ” — I read it that he is saying that, since there is no physical alteration in the substance that can be tested, all you are left with is belief — faith — that it has changed. I don’t really see how anyone can argue with that. It seems true on the face of it.

        • deiseach

          What Dennett is really saying is that “You don’t really believe what you say you believe. Otherwise, you would have no qualms about throwing yourself off a building, because you would believe God would save you. But you don’t, so your ‘belief’ only goes as far as saying you believe.”

          Now, if he flat-out said that, I’d have no problem, because we would all know where we stand and what grounds we are arguing on. But making bad jokes about the Blessed Sacrament, and in a style that shows he hasn’t even spared the five minutes to Google the catechism online to boot, is not the way to develop his point. Imagine if he made a quip about “Orthodox Jews really worship Shirley Temple, not Yahweh; you can tell this because the men wear their hair in ringlets” – do you think, just possibly, his editors might have said “Er, Dan, you do know that’s not the reason they wear their hair like that, right?”

          If Professor Dennett really imagines that the consecrated host or wine becomes ‘untransubstantiated’ once taken out of the ‘holy context’, all I have to say to him is: Eucharistic Processions.

      • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com Smidoz

        “How would you prove that you genuinely believe slavery is wrong (given that you presumbably do not have the choice to purchase a slave)?”

        I think you’re missing the point, no one disputes that Catholics believe in transsubtantiation, what is being disputed is whether believing in it, & re affirming that belief over & over offers anything useful for it as a truth claim. I believe slavery (in the traditional colonial context of stripping people from their homes & selling the survivors to people who will beat them) is wrong & I would justify that by the affects it has on the victims, & society as a whole, not by saying I believe it.

        • deiseach

          Can you demonstrate to me, right now, in a physically measurable way, the effect not owning a slave has had on you?

          Otherwise, why do you persist in claiming that it makes a difference whether or not you think slavery is wrong? All you are doing is paying lip-service; since the only way you could show me you really think slavery is wrong is by not owing a slave, and since you don’t own a slave anyway, how can I tell the difference between you really believing it, and you only going along with your society’s cultural expectations?

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

            “the only way you could show me you really think slavery is wrong is by not owing a slave, and since you don’t own a slave anyway, how can I tell the difference between you really believing it, and you only going along with your society’s cultural expectations?”

            So if I understand your position correctly, the only way I can demonstrate that I believe slavery is wrong is by owning one and then freeing him/her/it? In other words, the only way I can prove Act X is wrong is by committing Act X and then being sorry/repenting? I believe you may want to rethink that position…

          • http://www.smidoz.wordpress.com smidoz

            As a P Smith myself I’m satisfied with Delphi PSmith’s argument. I would add to ut that the measurment of the wrong action is made by the effects on the victim & the society, not on the perpetrator. I thought that was reasonably clear. But if you don’t trust that, you can come visit South Africa and I’ll give you a cold wet room to live in, pay you nothing and feed you nothing but maize and beans. When you do anything wrong I’ll flog you with a bullwhip. That way, you can decide if slavery is wrong from the slaves perspective, and I can give you a summary of what I missed out on before having you as a slave.

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

    One way Catholics show they believe in transubstantiation is through Eucharistic Adoration. That is we spend time worshiping Christ in the consecrated host. Some have been very moved by see Catholics do this. Our entire attitude towards mass speaks volumes as well. Fr Larry Richards loves to go there. He asks a Catholic how many beleive in the real presence. Almost everyone raises their hand. Then he ask how many go to daily mass. Only a few hands go up. Then he says, “The rest of you are liars!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrCqGsKO-nQ&feature=relmfu

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      For the record, there is no requirement to assist at mass more than once a week, or to participate in Eucharistic adoration. Fr. Larry abuses his authority – and engages in calumny – when he accuses people of being liars because they do not participate in optional devotions.

      Daily mass and Eucharistic adoration are very good things; but they are not required. The rosary is a good thing, but not required. Study of scripture is a good thing, but not required. It is no sin, and no lie, to do some optional good things but not others.

      • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

        Correction: by “more than once a week” I meant more than what is strictly required, meaning Sundays and Holy Days of obligation. If I hold others to the strict meaning of their words, I should hold myself to the same standard.

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

          You miss the point. He is not asserting the church demands something it does not. He is simply saying that given what Catholics beleive about mass they logically should have a different attitude than they often exhibit.

          BTW, if you are as humor impaired as you seem then you should likely never listen to Fr Larry. He likes to laugh.

  • Pingback: Ad “draco invisibilia” Karoli Saganis « Socraticum's Blog

  • Steve Schuler

    I’ve got to admit that it is a bit difficult for me to see the superior moral claims of Catholicism through the still lingering smoke of heretics burnt alive, the murders of whom Saint Thomas himself approved of. In consideration of this it is also difficult for me to see that the Church, like a chess master, is consistently “winning” in any sense that I can take seriously.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      @Steve

      I’ve got to admit that it is a bit difficult for me to see the superior moral claims of Catholicism through the still lingering smoke of heretics burnt alive, the murders of whom Saint Thomas himself approved of.

      I suspect this statement for a few reasons:
      I’m not sure that your conclusion is related to your assertion. How do you know that is a mark against them morally? Why isn’t Thomas right in that regard? If he was wrong, how was he wrong and what lead him to the wrong conclusions?
      Even if we assume that Thomas was wrong (stipulated but not ceded), how absolute is the admonition? Is it always and absolutely immoral for an ideology to take a life? Or is it at a specific number (or range of numbers)? Perhaps a specific rate (or number/practitioner/year?)? At what threshold do we determine that the ideology is truly responsible (Darwin’s writings influenced a number of people who believed in eugenics, it seems a shame to laden him with blame for all of them)?
      Finally, assuming the first point (again, stipulated but not ceded) affirms the amorality of life-taking and the second point reduces to a rate (all else, I think, causes the problem of defining all ideologies as morally inferior — which makes one wonder “inferior to what?” and whether there is a point to debating the morality of a given ideology to begin with), is there sufficient objective evidence to suggest that the Catholic Church has failed to keep below this rate? My general experience is that the number of people that the Church is accused of killing is radically different from the number the Church has even had a passing relationship with.

      • LeRoi

        Gee, Ignatius. Have I understood you correctly?
        (1) Maybe Thomas was right, so it was okay to kill heretics.
        (2) Even if he wasn’t, maybe it’s okay for ideologies to kill at least some people.
        (2a) Because otherwise, ideologies lack moral weight, and we would need something more morally weighty.
        (3) Even if it’s not okay for ideologies to kill some people, it’s hard to know when to blame the ideology for people getting killed.
        (4) If it’s okay for ideologies to kill at least some people, maybe the Catholic Church has killed an acceptable number.

        Position 2 and 2a: I don’t want an ideology badly enough that I’m willing to kill people for it (and if that’s an ideology, don’t worry, I’m not willing to kill for it either). I’m happy to define all ideologies as morally inferior to people.
        And I find many things not worth dying for are still worth talking/debating about. My standards are low in that respect, I suppose.

        You’d be better off defending against Schuler by questioning the historicity of his claim, maybe by pointing out that secular rulers burned heretics to ensure uniformity, since the state could not incorporate diversity. The Church didn’t mandate it. You might lose (I mean, the Church was still somewhat involved, right?), but hey.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          Maybe Thomas was right, so it was okay to kill heretics.

          I never said that I thought that Thomas was right. I said that Schuler thought that Thomas was wrong, and that this is not a given. I do not believe I actually made any positive assertion of any kind.

          (2) Even if he wasn’t, maybe it’s okay for ideologies to kill at least some people.
          (2a) Because otherwise, ideologies lack moral weight, and we would need something more morally weighty.

          My only question on this point was, “Can an ideology ever be justified in causing a death?” I did not say whether the answer should be that it ever was (thought I admittedly implied it). I suppose, though, that ideology seems to be followed by destructive zealotry, so it may be that the derived standards reject all ideology completely.

          Even if it’s not okay for ideologies to kill some people, it’s hard to know when to blame the ideology for people getting killed.

          I think it better to state it as, “if it is wrong for an ideology to kill, then we need to define what it means for the ideology to have killed.” (If it is *not* wrong, then the question is largely irrelevant).

          Position 2 and 2a: I don’t want an ideology badly enough that I’m willing to kill people for it (and if that’s an ideology, don’t worry, I’m not willing to kill for it either). I’m happy to define all ideologies as morally inferior to people.

          But I don’t think that is even the question here. The question isn’t whether there are practitioners of a belief would refrain from killing but whether the belief fails morally because some practitioners are willing to kill for it. So, if 99 people who follow an ideology are pacifists but 1 believes the ideology calls for the death of all non-believers, is the ideology at fault or is the loner at fault? I think it hard to say that even 1% of Catholics have ever been even remotely involved in any of the issues questioned here.

          Things are complicated even further by the fact that Catholicism, in particular, is hierarchical and the actions of the hierarchy are capable of failing in their own right. Even if the Pope were to order all pagans flogged, that does not mean that he was morally correct in doing so. Judging Catholicism, then, causes even greater problems.

          You’d be better off defending against Schuler by questioning the historicity of his claim

          That is why I made the comment about the divergence between those the Church has killed and those the Church has been accused of killing.

          , maybe by pointing out that secular rulers burned heretics to ensure uniformity, since the state could not incorporate diversity. The Church didn’t mandate it. You might lose (I mean, the Church was still somewhat involved, right?), but hey.

          I find that the crimes of the Church are often somewhere between gross exaggeration and outright lies. So, instead of having “WITCH BURNINGS!” be a specter which silences all voices, I think it better to have the actual facts and philosophy involved along with actual standards and metrics. Once we have the definition of what it means for a theology or philosophy to fail morally (and perhaps *why* we agree to that conclusion) then it is possible to actually measure ideologies by that yardstick. Then we can measure ideologies like “Democracy”, “Capitalism,” “Socialism,” etc. against the Church and see which have failed and why.

          • LeRoi

            ” I do not believe I actually made any positive assertion of any kind.”
            Well, yeah. I took your questions and made them statements. I find your last post clarifying (thanks), so let’s discuss the fun stuff. When and how can we find an ideology morally wanting? Does it make sense to ask this question?

            “If it is wrong for an ideology to kill, then we need to define what it means for the ideology to have killed.”
            Admittedly, since an ideology doesn’t hang around in midair, it can be hard to see what “it” has done or not. And yet that’s not impossible. The arguments on both sides, using lots and lots of history, looking at what the Church has condemned or failed to condemn, or at what the Communists have done, have been rehearsed many times.

            “The question [is]… whether the belief fails morally because some practitioners are willing to kill for it.”
            This looks back to the problem of deciding who rules for the ideology. How many practitioners for how much of an ideology’s lifespan must commit atrocities before we tire of the ideology? I agree that we should get history and philosophy involved in some detail. Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, driven as it is with nostalgic Enlightenment triumphalism, is one of the most comprehensive attempts.

            “Once we have the definition of what it means for a theology or philosophy to fail morally…then it is possible to actually measure ideologies by that yardstick.”
            I do not think we can derive a yardstick external to our ideologies by which to judge them. Based on hints in your writing, I suspect you do not think so either. The attempt to build such a yardstick will inevitably produce its own ideology. I do not think we need or want such a yardstick; it is not very useful to us in the modern West. It is better to give up the attempt.

            So I will recast the question: Given that we in the Western democracies are committed to bettering our lives and our societies, which ideologies are most useful for our purposes? The secular-sacred state has not proven a successful experiment (and had different goals), and neither did Marxism. The limited, kludgy ideology that is our modern state hasn’t done too badly, but has its own failings. So for now we will stick with our current ideology, because it works best for our current goals.

          • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

            @LeRoi

            I do not think we can derive a yardstick external to our ideologies by which to judge them. Based on hints in your writing, I suspect you do not think so either.

            I actually do believe it possible so long as one assumes an objective morality (which is to say, I believe that a yardstick is possible so long as you have a yardstick). By the Christian standard, we can say the society that runs best is the one which most encourages righteousness (as the goal of man, basically, is righteousness). This may seem repugnant to the modern mind, but I agree with the Thomistic thought that true freedom really is only the freedom to be righteous.

            The secular-sacred state has not proven a successful experiment (and had different goals), and neither did Marxism. The limited, kludgy ideology that is our modern state hasn’t done too badly, but has its own failings.

            I’m not sure about this. Are we not willing to say that our current system must be held to account for history? It seems to me that in the twentieth century we were willing to do some rather awful things to people we considered heretics (Rosenbergs, Japanese internments, McCarthyism, etc.). In the 19th century we did far worse. At times Charles du Gaul might have been better than Charlemagne, but Torquemada was *far* better than la Terreur (at least eight times better by modern count). I do wonder if perhaps the secular-sacred state actually did do worse as a rule and our current belief in democracy is merely a cultural superiority complex.

          • LeRoi

            “which is to say, I believe that a yardstick is possible so long as you have a yardstick”
            I think we rather agree here, actually. We’re talking about how to judge an ideology. I think if you are trying to judge between, say, Christianity and Marxism, the attempt to construct a “neutral” yardstick just means you have a new yardstick. You adopt the Christian yardstick by which to measure other ideologies. I would like to throw away the yardstick.

            “By the Christian standard, we can say the society that runs best is the one which most encourages righteousness (as the goal of man, basically, is righteousness).”
            I think that is a fair statement of the Christian standard. But I would like to avoid an imposed goal for humanity and our society. Avoiding such an imposed goal means that we set our own goals, and setting our own goals means we do not submit to a human-independent ideology by which to judge our actions.

            “At times Charles du Gaul might have been better than Charlemagne, but Torquemada was *far* better than la Terreur (at least eight times better by modern count)…our current belief in democracy is merely a cultural superiority complex.”
            Yes, sort of. We like democracy because, despite its failings, it is a tool which enables us to accomplish our goals of living well. We certainly do condemn Torquemada, Japanese internments, and McCarthyism. But our democratic beliefs are a cultural superiority complex in that we can condemn Torquemada or McCarthyism only in terms of our current democratic values. We cannot, in other words, step outside of our own perspective and “objectively” demonstrate that our time is better or worse than another time.

            In our minds, we can set the secular-sacred state beside the current secular democratic state, and decide which we like. But we have no neutral yardstick by which to measure secular democracy and medieval Christianity, by which to decide which has “really” done a better job. When we look at the medieval secular-sacred alliance and decide that we had rather not do that again, thanks, we are saying that we like our current goals and our current way of life. We are not fulfilling an intrinsic purpose of humanity. We are choosing our own.

        • Ted Seeber

          ” I don’t want an ideology badly enough that I’m willing to kill people for it”

          Are you pro-life or pro-choice?

    • http://www.jrganymede.com Adam G.

      Given normal atmospheric processes and standard chemistry, I’m sure that smoke is entirely dissipated. If that makes you feel better.

  • Mitchell Porter

    I just had a funny thought: that transubstantiation resembles the doctrine of externalism in contemporary philosophy of mind. Catholics say that the body of Christ includes, not just the limbs and torso of the man who lived in Galilee, but every consecrated wafer in the centuries afterwards. Externalists say (stuff like) that the mind of a person consists, not just of their brain, but also e.g. the electronic devices they use to assist their memory.

    (Now that I think of it, I’m also reminded of the liberality of the definition of personal identity in a lot of transhumanist and info-metaphysical debates. You may be asked to regard yourself, not just as the person who lives out one continuous existence here, but as the same person as a future entity reconstructed from a digital recording of your brain, as the other copies of you splitting off from the original in an Everett multiverse, or as any subjectively indistinguishable being who lives in any possible world.)

    Catholic metaphysicians try to understand transubstantiation in terms of essence, accident, and other scholastic categories. Externalists explain *their* mystery in terms of “function” and “causal role”. And transhumanist “identity liberals” seem to say that you’re free to define your identity; they are relativists about the ontology of persons.

    I find it rather amusing that externalism and identity liberalism lead to debates rather similar to those about transubstantiation. An externalist identity liberal is basically saying that they are transubstantiating their iPad, and their personal duplicates elsewhere in the multiverse, and whoever/whatever else they bless as being functionally or definitionally part of their self. The metaphysics of this raises problems comparable to those of the eucharist, and the anthropology of it also has similarities.

    • LeRoi

      That is a creative and amusing analogy. Riff on this a bit for me, though, if you would: if I change my “wetware” for “hardware” – i.e. upload my “mind” onto a computer and still remain myself – isn’t that sort of the opposite of transubstantiation? In transubstantiation, the essence/true inside changes, but the accidents/outside does not. In transhumanism, the identity does not change, but the externals do.
      So there’s an odd parallelism, as you note, but reversed. Right?

      • Mitchell Porter

        I suppose the religious analogy to that sort of “mind transfer” is the survival of the soul beyond the death of the body.

        I am very far from understanding the minutiae of Catholic ontology, but I assume that Jesus has a soul. And if we then look at the relations between souls and bodies that occur in the ontology, we would have that most souls have a unique body during history, and then a resurrection body after the end of the world. But Jesus is unique in that his body includes all the transubstantiated wafers as well.

        Comparison with transhumanism is rendered difficult by lack of a catechism. But if we were to try to make a coherent philosophy out of identity liberalism and computational theories of mind, it seems to require an objective level of facts and then a conventional level of definitions. Somehow the objective facts must be decisive enough to allow a decision about whether the definitions apply, but not decisive enough to imply that only one definition of self is the correct one.

        So a candidate for the alleged objective facts would be facts about subjective appearance of continuity. We might say that whether or not your upload is a continuation of you depends on your definition of self (that would be identity liberalism), but that it is objectively the case that your upload has “memories” of a life like yours, or that it “feels” that it had already lived before it was switched on.

        In order to understand the implications of identity liberalism we should then consider the case of a copy of you-in-midlife who just happened to spontaneously assemble, somewhere in the infinite vastness of reality. Like the upload, it remembers being you and feels that it was you. An “illiberal”, objective theory of identity would say either it is you or it isn’t. One such theory might say that causal connection is required, so the upload is you because you made it happen (perhaps it’s that your current brain was an input, or just that you paid for the procedure and made it happen…), whereas your random copy elsewhere in space-time has no causal link. (Another illiberal theory doesn’t care about causality and says that all subjective continuants of you are you.)

        Identity liberalism says you get to decide whether the upload is part of you and whether the random copy is part of you. So one difference from Catholicism (and almost all religion) is that you get to decide whether mind transfer constitutes personal survival or not; that is a contingent detail of the private transubstantiation you perform. Whereas on the Catholic side, that souls survive the death of the body is not their choice… I think?

  • grok87

    Thanks for the link to the article on Moral Therapeutic Deism
    very interesting…

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

    “It’s the problem of finding a teacher when you know that you’re deficient in the subject of instruction.”
    Indeed! And, also, finding a teacher when you don’t know exactly how to separate the subject of instruction from a separate subject that you cannot expect that teacher to be proficient in. So, how do you discern the proficiency of a mathematics professor who’s English is weak and you are a monolinguist anglophone? How do you discern the proficiency of a potential morality exemplar when you know that their psychology is weak? What does that lesson look like?

  • Ohtobide

    As far as I can see, it would be perfectly possible to subject the eucharist to an empirical test. Catholics believe that taking communion has certain definite effects which are surely, in theory, testable.

    From the Catholic cathechism 1394 and 1395:
    ‘ As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins. By giving himself to us Christ revives our love and enables us to break our disordered attachments to creatures and root ourselves in him:…….
    By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. the more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin.’

    Why not arrange for a double blind trial of a certain number of Catholics for a year? Each one would receive a host and a sip of wine every day but would not know if it was consecrated or not and half of them would be receiving unconsecrated hosts and wine. They would record their own experience of taking the host and wine and would say how they thought it affected them. Probably members of their families should also record the effects. After the year it would be possible to see if there was any significant difference between the two groups.

    Why would this not be a possible test, at least of the real presence if not of transubstantiation specifically? I suspect Catholics would not be happy about such a test but then I suspect most do not really believe in any change to the bread and wine at consecration. I could be wrong.

    • Dave

      There are a few people who have lived off of the Eucharist alone for multiple years and have been examined by medical doctors who tested them. Check it out.

      • keddaw

        Could some Catholics please call out you fellow Catholic for spouting this kind of nonsense.

        Similarly with the so-called miracles with the Eucharist that turn out to be bacteria.

        When the gist of the post is calling out Dennett for failing to understand what Catholics really believe, do these comments not completely negate your claims of Dennett’s supposed ignorance?

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          It should be noted that this phenomenon is actually not exclusive to Catholicism or even Christianity (well, the eucharist part is restricted to Catholicism, not the “no food” part). This man, for example, claims to have gone without food or water for 70 years. It has been proven that he went without food or water for 15 days (people are supposed die by day 9). Since the Eucharist is slightly *more* than no food or water at all, it is conceivable that a person could survive for a prolonged period of time eating only the bread from heaven.

        • Brian

          Could you provide me with the study which shows that claimed Eucharistic miracles were really bacteria? In any case, the ones I’VE studied were definitely not bacteria.

      • ACN

        Uh huh.

        Let me tell you Dave, I have this bridge in Brooklyn that’s for sale, and I assure you that I can get you an EXCELLENT price.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      The problem with such an experiment is controlling for God’s freedom.

      To make a grossly oversimplified analogy: Let’s say I’m a shop owner, who issues daily coupons for discounts on my wares. Let’s say I construct a double-blind experiment in which I issue both genuine and counterfeit coupons on a daily basis. I can recognize the counterfeit, but I also have the freedom to give the discount anyway. So the coupon cannot be judged real or counterfeit merely on the basis of whether I choose to give a discount or not.

      Now, it could be judged based on a refusal to honor a genuine coupon. So a similar experiment might look at those who receive the Eucharist regularly and see whether there are significant signs of growth in charity and reduction of vice. However, even leaving aside the question of how to quantifiably measure charity and vice, grace is received according to the receptivity of the one who receives it. It is neither magic nor machine. So we should expect a distribution curve in such a study, not an “on/off” switch. That is, we should expect that some non-Christians and non-recipients of the Eucharist would in fact behave more virtuously than some Christians and recipients of the Eucharist.

    • LeRoi

      I don’t think so, man. Your results are likely to be inconclusive and unhelpful.
      First, a Daily Communicant – someone who takes Mass every day – is likely to be much more committed to Catholic doctrine, and to have much more time working on Catholic virtue. So it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      Second, although I take your point that whether or not a person has become “better” should be observable by others, there are a couple of alternative explanations if someone hasn’t become much better. She might have been even worse off without the Eucharist. Or maybe he’s just had some meaningful Eucharistic experiences, and he thinks this is due to an encounter with the divine, but without much else empirically observable to show for it.

      So I think this kind of test won’t be very helpful to us. We observe Catholics and find the most committed have more virtue by Catholic standards. So what? I’m open to rebuttal, though.

  • keddaw

    I wholeheartedly agree with Ohtobide’s test above, however I suspect the claim would be that any Catholic who sufficiently believes but is fooled into not getting the ‘real’ Eucharist through no fault of their own would receive God’s grace anyway. Similarly for anyone not believing but taking the Eucharist would get no ‘benefit’. Sounds an awful lot like placebo to me.

    Leah, since all saints have at least 2 Church-verified miracles, could we not do some scientific tests to see if God is at work, or if there are naturalistic explanations for them?

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      For purposes of canonizing saints, the Church’s definition of “miracle” is exactly that there are no naturalistic explanations for them.

  • keddaw

    Isn’t this ‘essence’ stuff just homoeopathy with added mysticism?

  • Iota

    Ohtobide ,

    “Each one would receive a host and a sip of wine every day but would not know if it was consecrated or not and half of them would be receiving unconsecrated hosts and wine. ”

    Keddaw is right. AFAIK (as a Catholic, but not professional theologian):

    1) Anyone who actually believes in the Real Presence would probably not consent to be part of that study since agreeing by definition means you agree to commit a kind of idolatry (since you might have to receive bread as if it were the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ).
    2) Anyone who did agree to participate would, therefore, arguably, be commuting a sin (I’d guess a grave one by default) by agreeing to do so. If so then they are no longer worthy to receive the Sacrament in the first place (I assume you know this but for a Catholic reception of the Eucharist is only possible when there are no mortal sins which have been repented of (this – under almost all circumstances includes but is not limited to Confession).
    3) The same as #2 goes for anyone knowingly administering unconsecrated bread and wine as if it were the Body and Blood of Christ.
    4) Assuming you could somehow run that experiment without the participants’ consent (I think there would be HUGE practical difficulties here, but let’s ignore them for now). The Catholic view of Grace through Sacraments is AFAIK that God is not absolutely bound to them, but merely chose them as the normal means for receiving Grace. So anyone who is deprived of a Sacrament through no fault of their own, can recieve necessary grace regardless. And this has been the Catholic teaching AFAIK long before the scientific method even came into existence (compare: Baptism of Desire).

    Anyone is obviously free to say this is just safeguarding placebo or auto-suggestion. But problems similar to #1 and #2 exist, for example, in experimental psychology, AFAIK, in general, since there is the meta-problem of the fact that – if you have to run experiments on volunteers only – then your sample will probably be skewed because there is a group of people who would not voluntarily participate in an experiment in the first place. And most of your sample will arguably be undergraduate students of psychology in the study’s country of origin.

    Clinical trials and medical research probably have less problems in that area (because there are stronger incentives for people to participate), although, for example, some researchers argue that study result veracity is sometimes crippled by lack of attention to, for example, gender differences.

    And would argue that your hypothetical Eucharist-study is actually more like a study in the behavioural sciences than in medicine (little/no/negative incentive to participate for anyone who doesn’t already want to).

  • Scott Hebert

    Amusingly, the first thing I thought of while reading this post was the Eucharistic miracle of Anzio.

    That IS transfiguration, and (to my knowledge) has never been disproven by scientific inquiry.

    • Smelt

      Isnt it the miracle at Lanciano you are thinking of? Found to be heart tissue, with properties of being fresh, though its hundreds of years old. Also found the same blood type as on the shroud of Turin and of the head covering (starts with an S).

      • Smelt

        *The Sudarium of Oviedo.

  • Ohtobide

    Of course I was not suggesting that such an experiment should be or even could be carried out without the consent of the Catholics participating.

    The objection to the plan therefore seems to be that the Catholics who agree to take part would be guilty of mortal sin. Well, maybe, but that does seem to me simply a way of avoiding a good test of the doctrine. No one would be guilty of idolatry as far as I can see. They would be receiving the eucharist while not being certain that it was consecrated, that is all. Any prayers they prayed could have the proviso ‘if this is indeed the true sacrament.’ You could make it 90% consecrated, 10% not consecrated if it makes you happier.

    My guess is that you would find people who would agree to take part and that they would be true believers in the doctrine who were eager to provide evidence and who would be doing it for the glory of God, not in a spirit of idolatry at all.

    I must say I would be very impressed if such a study were carried out and there was a significant difference. No, I don’t think I would convert because of it but it would make me think very seriously. Of course I don’t expect it to happen.

    • Iota

      > The objection to the plan therefore seems to be that the Catholics who agree to take part would be guilty of mortal sin.

      I think you might find this relevant.

      What is being discussed here is the use of incorrect matter (reference: sacramental form and matter) to consecrate, which results (AFAIK) in the same thing as if no consecration was said over valid matter (then “form” would be lacking) – i.e. no Eucharist (the unconsecrated thing is just a host). Notice what is the result, in the answering priests opinion. Notice also that this is within the context of abuses of the Sacrament within the Church, so “against the (human) interest of the Church”. It would have been much simpler to say that in this situation no big harm is done and everyone can just go about their business, so long as they add a conditional clause to their worship…

      While I’m no scholar of doctrine, I’d guess on the basis of what I know about church history that the issues of sacramental form and matter were being discussed long before the presence of a significant number of people who would want to run experiments on the Sacraments. So denying the right to run that kind of experiment would be internally theologically consistent – we don’t think it’s okay to just conditionally worship the Eucharist within our own – i.e. Churhc – context, so it would be difficult to justify allowing that because someone wants to run an experiment (actually regardless of whether the person claims they would be convinced if the data came out ‘right’).

      Historical reference: Encyclical of Pope Benedict XIV promulgated on 1 March 1756 – check the reference to worship towards unconsecrated hosts, last paragraph of section 33.

      • Ohtobide

        Your second link does not seem to work. The other two are interesting but perhaps not very relevant. The first one deals with the deception involved in passing off unconsecrated bread as consecrated. It is true that the people who eat the unconsecrated bread are said to be ‘guilty’ of material idolatry but that is because they behave towards the host as though it was certainly consecrated when in fact it was not. I don’t think that would apply to conditional reverence paid to a possibly unconsecrated host. Conditional sacraments are possible I think. Conditional baptism, at least, is fairly common.

        I take it that the first link is just someone’s personal opinion. The third link has more authority. However it deals with the question of idolatry when people behave towards the host as though it were consecrated when they know that it is certainly unconsecrated so I am not sure that link is relevant either.

        I am quite sure that no experiment like the one I suggested will ever be carried out of course. But I am equally certain that it would be carried out if there were many powerful people in the Church who wanted it to be. They would not allow the question of idolatry to stop them.

        • Iota

          > Your second link does not seem to work.

          Apologies. Botched HTML, apparently. Proper URL: http://quizlet.com/1582195/the-matter-and-forms-of-the-seven-sacraments-flash-cards/

          > Conditional sacraments are possible I think.

          Some can be conditional. The Eucharist specifically can’t be conditional in the way baptism can [reference]. Furthermore, the general rule (AFAIK) is that one should not act when there is reasonable doubt about an action (e.g. if I’m not sure whether I can present myself to receive the Eucharist and a confessor has not decided I’m to act otherwise, I should not present myself until I resolve my doubts). In other words, conditional sacraments are to the best of my understanding, exceptions for the benefit of the faithful who might otherwise be deprived (e.g. of baptism).

          In this context, in any hypothetical situation where a reasonable chance existed that some of the species has not been consecrated, I would be seriously surprised if a serious, well-established Catholic consented to take part, when alternatives are available (I would be similarly surprised to see well versed and devout people of other faith traditions knowingly disregard important tenets).

          > I take it that the first link is just someone’s personal opinion.

          I would rank it a little higher than that – this is a teaching I hear repeatedly (whenever, relatively rare, issues of invalid consecration are raised) . Since my native language is not English, I won’t reference sources I normally would. I could spend a few hours looking through liturgical documents in English to prove that point but, frankly, I’m just way too lazy.

          > But I am equally certain that it would be carried out if there were many powerful people in the Church who wanted it to be. They would not allow the question of idolatry to stop them.

          Well, I’m not going to pretend that if powerful people want to break the rules that should bind them (they agreed to them in the first place), they can’t do so. But that is, essentially, immoral behaviour…

  • jose

    To say the catholic church keeps winning on morality really is laughable.

    • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

      How so?

      • jose

        The church has been consistently losing culture wars for centuries now. Sure, catholics think that simply means the corruption of morals has increased”, but their opinion is unrelated to whether they win or lose.

        Honestly it’s no wonder they lose, since they rely upon creationism. Not the biological sort – the moral sort. Quote:
        “In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose on himself, but which holds him to obedience. . . . For man has in his heart a law written by God.”

        We don’t know why we think raping babies is wrong, so God must have put that thought in us. We don’t understand how the immune system or the bacterial flagellum came into being, so God must have done it. Rather shaky grounds.

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          So, for you, “winning on morality” means “winning the culture wars”?

          My own take is that morality is independent of whether and how many people adhere to it. So even if the entire world were to accept murder as morally neutral or good, a moral system that identified murder as evil would still “win” in my book.

          • jose

            Your question: Yes, since I stick to the real world and that’s how morality works down here. Your hypotheticals are as out of touch with reality as the vatican’s values.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            I’m also trying to stick to the real world. I consider morality a part of that real world. That is, the rightness or wrongness of murder is something real that can be discovered by experience and reason, not something made up or determined by opinion.

            This takes us directly back to the whole question of objectivity of morals. If morals are NOT objective, then Leah’s question makes no sense at all. Notice that she’s looking for moral systems that are right when they contradict her opinion or estimate. In other words, she’s looking for something that shows her when she’s wrong. This is only possible if it is possible to be wrong about some moral judgment, that is, if morality is objective.

          • jose

            The rightness or wrongness of murder is something entirely different from your example in which the whole world embraces murder as a positive value, which is as likely to happen as if the whole world became agoraphobic. Please get real.

            We intuitively reject murder because of our innate empathy towards others, which in turn comes from the evolutionary advantages reciprocity confers to members of a social species. There is literature about this that goes back more than a century, and research still goes on, discoveries made every year by people who don’t think creationism is not a good answer. That’s where that value comes from in the first place. We can build all sorts of reasons to reject murder on a rational basis on top of that basic intuition: not murdering people is good for social order, to murder an equal and to not want to be murdered is a contradiction, etc. What all of this has in common is it’s all down to earth, strictly people-based. No cosmic rules involved. No principles put in any hearts by any intelligent designer.

            And then of course you have all the values we don’t share, which moral realists never remember to mention. They always go for raping babies for fun, murder and stuff like that. Never things like just how big government should be, or how much information a terminal patient should have, or the morality of political compromise in the arts (love this one). You know. Fuzzy stuff.

            In my opinion moral claims, like pieces of legislation, aren’t true or false. They are calls to action to respond to values people have, values acquired in very diverse ways. That idea that a value is factually false exactly like “the moon is made of cheese” is false, as much as it may suit the feelings people have, doesn’t respond to the way morality works. It’s simply a bad model to study it.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            For the record, I’m not concerned with where the principles come from at this point. I’m just concerned about whether good and evil have any reality, or are merely illusions. It sounds to me like your “values” based morality reduces down to the will or the desire of each individual: I decide what is right or wrong for me, and I issue a “call to action” for you to agree with me; but there is no basis in reality for deciding between different “calls to action” other than my own individual desire or interest.

            Am I understanding you correctly?

            If so, then there is no absolute basis for law or society: might will make right, because the strong will do what they will, and the weak will suffer what they must.

            I have many reasons I think this is a wrong approach to morality – even though I acknowledge it has a respectable philosophical pedigree. But I don’t want to start arguing against it unless I know it’s what you actually mean.

          • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

            I think the difficulty comes in the fact that evolution is not moral at all. It isn’t even ethical. If anything, it is one of the most ruthless and heartless processes which has ever been.

            We intuitively reject murder because of our innate empathy towards others, which in turn comes from the evolutionary advantages reciprocity confers to members of a social species.

            Watch yourself. This argument basically boils down to, “evolution created morality by instilling a fundamental belief in karma.” This means morality = self interest + karma. Well, as a rationalist, you must reject karma. Therefore morality is nothing but manifest self interest.

          • jose

            The moral chaos argument always comes up first. The first thing people think about when you suggest absolute moral realism doesn’t work is riots and barbarians destroying society. But do you honestly think barbarians who don’t listen to reason are going to be affected by your telling them that what they’re doing is objectively wrong? Really, are they going to stop the axe just in time and say “oh well, in that case I’ll just turn around and leave”? When has faith in the divine revelation of objective moral truth prevented vatican mischief? Quite the opposite: the belief that they’re absolutely in the right despite all the apparent bad results, because God told them so it must be good somehow (his ways are mysterious, right?), has led to many horrors.

            Of course there is basis in reality for deciding. What do you think happens when congress passes a law? Arguments are debated. Facts and data are involved. Why some people care about some things and others care about other things depend on their life experience since the time they were born. For example, Laura Ingraham softened her position on gays when she experienced his brother being unable to visit his partner in hospital.

            Now, consider your own values and whether you accept them because a deity told you or because you have thought about it and lived through it. Stick to what has actually happened.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            Of course there is basis in reality for deciding. What do you think happens when congress passes a law? Arguments are debated. Facts and data are involved.

            So what is the basis for deciding? What brings an argument to a resolution?

            It seems to come down to “life experience,” that is, something idiosyncratic and only applicable as far as my power can enforce it. What this does, practically speaking, is removes exactly the basis of reason for deciding how to govern ourselves as a community. I cannot rationally appeal to anything other than your interest in attempting to convince you. I cannot enforce any standard except by force. There is no common basis, no universal moral principle, for us to mutually understand and follow.

            Of course, by this approach, there’s no requirement to use reason in the first place. There is only personal victory and personal defeat, and the means by which it is achieved do not matter.

            But the “winning” of Leah’s original example is not a personal victory. It is not the victory of a fight, but more like the victory of a race, or maybe better the victory of achievement. It is the victory of success at discovering the truth about good and right, about love and justice.

            It sounds like you are saying that there is no truth, at least morally speaking. There is only will and desire and the power to assert one’s will or desire. Reason does not enter into it, because there is nothing real to reason about – hence the triumph of rhetoric over philosophy in political discourse.

            So I ask again, am I understanding you correctly? Is this in fact what you are arguing?

          • jose

            - Compromise is the base for deciding. That’s how issues are resolved in real life.

            - You can in fact enforce standard by other means beside force. You can talk with people. Ever tried that? Have you ever, for example, gone on strike and then sit and negotiate working conditions with your company in order to prevent layoffs?

            - There is a lot of common basis. Don’t be obtuse and think about real life. We mostly care about the same things.

            - Ah yes, moral chaos again. I’m sorry but you are denying reality here. The fact of the matter is people have values that go against what you are describing. Ruthless selfishness is commonly frowned upon with good reason. Please think about real life.

            - Indeed, I am saying there is no truth morally speaking, simply because a proposal doesn’t have truth value. Only descriptive assertions can have truth value, not suggestions and proposals, which is what moral claims actually are in real life.

            - You are forgetting people have values, not just will to assert one’s personal desires. People act upon those values. You’re a bit obsessed by the image of barbarians destroying society, to be honest. You should dedicate less time to those apocalyptic scenarios and focus more on how real life works.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            By “value,” then, do you mean something other than “something that I hold valuable”? Or to ask it another way, how is “having values” different from “willing to assert one’s personal desires”?

            You state:

            I am saying there is no truth morally speaking, simply because a proposal doesn’t have truth value. Only descriptive assertions can have truth value, not suggestions and proposals, which is what moral claims actually are in real life.

            I think this is actually what is being debated. I assert that moral claims, such as “murder is wrong” or “a community ought to protect its weaker members” are descriptive, and pre-/proscriptive, and have truth value.

            What do they describe? They describe a moral reality, a basic connection between goodness and existence. It either is or is not true that “murder is wrong”.

            Now, both our stances have a great deal of history and argumentation on our sides. But you cannot simply take it as given that moral claims “actually are” proposals without truth value.

            I would argue that if moral claims have no truth value, then we have no common foundation or basis for even talking about values, no tools with which to negotiate a compromise, no reason to support any proposal of any action.

            You keep talking about “how real life works.” You give the example of a strike negotiation. Fine. I’ve never been on either side of a strike negotiation, but I’ve negotiated other kinds of compromise. Let’s play this one out.

            I would argue that the negotiators are relying on the truth of such moral claims as “truth is good” and “pay should be appropriate to the work done” and “work is worth doing” as the very foundation of their conversation. They understand that these moral claims apply to everyone, under every circumstance. They may attempt to circumvent the burden of such claims, by telling a lie, or by demanding more work than the pay is worth, or demanding more pay than the work is worth, but to claim that the moral claim does not apply to one or another because he or she does not value it would undermine the entire possibility of negotiation. They would have no common starting point.

            How do you see the negotiation working, from your point of view?

          • jose

            We are taking too much space in someone else’s blog. Email me at unstable.warp at gmail dot com for more. Thanks! :)

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    The new translation of the creed actually makes this easier. We believe that the Father and the Son are consubstantial and that the host transubstantiates.

  • Staircaseghost

    Catholicism isn’t denying Dennett and others the chance to test it’s claims with regard to the Eucharist, it’s making claims that are empirically unverifiable.

    Say what?

    “I’m not denying you a chance to cross-examine my witness, I’m just saying you can’t see him or talk to him or communicate with him in any way.”

    p.s. I suppose soon we will have Catholics proclaiming that God does heal amputees, all the time. Oh sure, it still looks like a bloody stump, but God miraculously changed the stump’s “essence” to that of a leg, while leaving in place all the “accidents” of a nonfunctioning bloody stump.

    Yes, you are quite right, it is definitely the skeptic who is being totally unreasonable here.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      The Eucharist is something of a special case. It is one of very few cases in Catholic teaching (in fact, I can’t think of another off the top of my head) in which faith is asked, not just to go beyond the natural senses, but to go against them. The Church makes a very strong claim about the Eucharist: not only, “This is the Body of Christ,” but also “This is not bread/wine.”

      I want to make two points: first, because the Eucharist is an odd exception, it does not make for a good analogy with the question of healing an amputee.

      Second, because the Eucharist is an odd exception, it is not a good test case for the general reliability of Catholic philosophy or theology. It may be an excellent test case for breaking a tie between Catholicism and some other school of thought, or for deciding whether to place one’s personal faith in the Church; but it is an outlier in terms of the normal course of Catholic thinking.

      • Staircaseghost

        Everyone who special pleads pleads that their special case is special. But at least you are forthright in admitting that your belief is openly contrary to the evidence, which is as damning an indictment as could be imagined.

        Yes, your honor, the cops did plant evidence, and the confession was obtained under torture. But this is very rare for the cops, an odd exception, so you can see why it’s not appropriate to dismiss the case.

        Either “the essence is X even though all conceivable evidence shows it is not-X” is something a sane human being can believe is a good argument, or it is not. Full stop. That’s the thing about the fallacy of special pleading. The person deploying it is by definition not interested in applying it consistently across cases, and thus is by definition not a reliable source of truth.

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          Transubstantiation is not contrary to “all conceivable evidence.” It is only contrary to sensible evidence. This is only a damning indictment if you already presume that sensible evidence is the only evidence (or the only evidence that matters).

          • ACN

            Are you listening to yourself?

            You’re asserting the existence of an “essence” – “substance/accident” dualism, and then saying that the detection of the former is intrinsically impossible; worse in fact, because you seem to believe that the impossibility of detection is somehow a problem for me, even though I’m not the one asserting it.

          • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

            Lots of words that need definition here. I’m not sure what you mean by “dualism” so I’m not sure if you’re describing my assertion accurately. I’ve never heard “substance/accident” connected with the “dualism” that some see in Aristotle and Thomas.

            The word “essence” is used very differently by different thinkers. In Aristotelian & Thomistic circles, it is associated with formal cause, or the “whatness” of a thing, as distinct from its existence. Is that what you mean?

            You also speak of the “detection” of a substance. I’m not sure what you mean here, either. I generally use “detection” to mean perceiving the presence of something. I might distinguish “detection” from “identification.” Everyone agrees that there is a substance present; but people disagree on what that substance is, and on how we can know what the substance is.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        I can think of seven such special cases.

        1) Baptism
        2) Confirmation
        3) Eucharist
        4) Confession
        5) Marriage
        6) Ordination
        7) Unction

        • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

          They are not special with regard to believing something different than our senses indicate. In Baptism, the water is exactly water, the person is exactly a person, and so on.

          They certainly are special in that these are the means by which the infinite transcendent God has chosen to unite himself to us, and us to him. But only Eucharist makes something that appears as one thing to actually be something else.

  • R.C.

    Leah,

    You affirm the quote that a religion worth its salt will tell you what to do with your genitals. Fair enough. The Catholic faith certainly qualifies.

    Then you go on to make the analogy that the Catholic faith’s reliability on moral truth-telling seems to parallel Kasparov’s reliability at chess-playing (he “keeps winning”).

    Putting these together, I suppose you are asserting that the Catholic faith, when producing moral strictures in the area of genitalia (as well as all the other areas) “keeps winning”: Keeps making moral judgments which, however bass-ackward they seem when first declared, turn out to have been correct in the long run. Kasparov wins again.

    Is that what you’re asserting?

    If so, I’m curious to know your take on artificial contraception.

    And not just artificial contraception generally, but the most controversial corner of the Church’s teaching; namely, that the use of the pill, or condoms, is wrong even when used by a married couple, and not only when used for selfish lifestyle reasons, but even when used to prudently space out births.

    This has been, to say the least, a sticking point among Christians since 1930, when every other Christian community started trending towards calling artificial contraception morally licit, and the Catholic Church remained the only holdout for the historical Christian view.

    That’s 82 years ago. Do you believe that we’re now at a point where, looking back on it, there’s a good argument to say that the Church was right after all? That Kasparov won again?

    I know what Marc Barnes and the folks at 1Flesh would say.

    But what do you say?

    Is this a topic for which you confess yourself confused and uncertain of the reasons, but you docilely accept the Church’s teaching because it’s proven itself right about so much else?

    Or is this a topic for which you have examined the arguments and counter-arguments, and you are really persuaded by the apologetics for the Church’s teaching — which (if I’m not mistaken) it claims to stem from Natural Law requiring no recourse to special revelation — and are willing to argue them here, in your inimitable Leah Libresco style?

    • leahlibresco

      I tend not to comment very much on the birth control argument because I have been roundly informed on the debate floor that I don’t have the standing to speak about sex unless I’ve had some. And I don’t like the way I’m treated when that argument breaks out. Practically speaking, as someone who was pretty attracted to gnosticism and dualism because I value the intellect over the body, I am less in tune with a lot of the concerns shaping this argument. So, I tend to talk more about the moral problems that I’ve got more insight into.

      • Val

        Considering that so much of the current culture war is in fact exactly about the church telling people what they can do with their genitals, is there any relevant point or issue on which you do feel comfortable making a clear comment, or is this sort of it?

        And… if one shouldn’t speak about sex unless they’ve had some, then shouldn’t celibate priests just stay silent on the subject entirely?

        • leahlibresco

          I don’t agree that it’s impossible to have any opinions on the topic. Mine tend to be more on the “How should we set up marriage as an institution?” “What does it do that other social traditions don’t?” front, not on “Is it reasonable/possible to not have sex for extended periods of time?” since I’m told there’s a sampling problem there. I’ve also been told that the extent to which sex is a need/must-have isn’t apparent until you’ve tried it, which rather makes it sound like crack cocaine.

          • Ohtobide

            Perhaps I am being very stupid here but I don’t see what the question ‘Is it reasonable/possible to not have sex for extended periods of time?’ has to do with the question of the morality of birth control.

            The answer to the question of course is that it varies from impossible to easy, depending on the person and their circumstances. Still, I don’t see that it is relevant.

          • KL

            A moral system that makes demands of people not to have sex for extended periods of time absolutely has a bearing on birth control. The Catholic standard is no pre-marital sex (which, depending on the person, can entail quite an extended period of time) and no artificial birth control (which means that couples wishing to avoid conception must abstain for anywhere between 5 and 14 days per month depending on the woman’s cycle). If it’s not in fact reasonable or possible for persons to abstain for 14 days per month or however many years they remain unmarried, these standards are unfair expectations to place on them. If it’s not reasonable to abstain within marriage, then couples should be allowed the use of artificial birth control in order to avoid undesired pregnancy. If it’s not reasonable to expect individuals to abstain prior to marriage, birth control should be allowable for the same reason.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com Crude

            Would you regard ‘this person hasn’t had sex for very long, despite attempts’ as a mitigating factor for someone being sentenced for rape?

          • ACN

            Come on Crude. That’s a deplorable, and intentionally outrageous comparison, and I think you know it.

          • Kristen inDallas

            Unfortunate that you’ve been at the wrong end of a juvenille argument, and I totally understand… but I do wonder how folks that make those claims would feel if countered with a “well then I guess you’re not allowed to talk about the effectiveness of abstinence unless you’ve tried it.” Wonk wonk wonk… Oh well. This “expirienced gal” will have your back should you ever care to weigh in on the topic. That said, it’s your blog, and you get to talk about what you want. These folks that seem to think all the genetalia-based arguments will do in the faith can certainly write their own posts.

            As far as Alan’s argument line about an incorrect moral framework causing real harm to real people. yeah, that one hits both sides of the fence. LOTS of real people hurting all over the place because of someone else’s framework in which sex without a desire for total union and/or procreation is totally okay. We all hurt people, no matter what moral framework is held. Less of that would be better all around.

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

        I don’t think we have to have certain sexual experiences before we can know right and wrong. That argument is used against a celibate clergy all the time and it is nonsense. Experience is not only source of knowledge. If someone has never taken cocaine do they have no knowledge of whether it is right or wrong? When we are seeking God’s will it is even worse. Having human knowledge from often very imperfect experience is likely to make God’s will harder to discern. So I want to know what the celibate guy who prays all the time thinks. Even if he was not given the grace of infallibility I would want to know.

      • R.C.

        Fair enough. A disappointing answer, in one sense, because I was hoping very much to hear that you had found some very fresh take on this topic. But my disappointment isn’t YOUR fault!

        One request for clarification, though: You say, “I don’t have the standing to speak about sex unless I’ve had some. And I don’t like the way I’m treated when that argument breaks out.” Uh…which argument does the emphasized “that” refer to, exactly? An argument about sex, or an argument about whether you’ve had some? (I wouldn’t have thought that arguable…or, at least, I’d have held your opinion in such an argument to be dispositive!)

        • leahlibresco

          The former. It is not fun to give a very-hissed speech on sexual ethics and then have the rebuttal be someone declaring “But Leah’s a virgin!” and scoring applause. (Mind you, this was at a 12 hours of continuous debate event, and the audience was more than a little in their cups).

          • R.C.

            Aw, heck. That’s the worst of crowds. You make an earnest point, and nobody bothers engaging it and refuting it, because some wag opts to make a joke instead, and the joke has nothing to do with anything, but because its incongruity gets folks laughing, your point is lost in the uproar.

            I’ve experienced that before. I am officially irritated on your behalf!

            It’s irrational to disqualify a virgin from all discussion of sexual ethics.

            I mean, I can see the validity of objecting to an uninformed point-of-view when discussing the effectiveness of a particular bit of technique. That requires experience. But not every topic related to sex is experience-dependent. (And most of those that are yield insights that are only applicable to one particular couple, or even one set of circumstances.)

            Anyway, I would always wish to include a virgin in a discussion of sexual ethics. A degree of detachment is almost certainly useful: One feels no need to retroactively find justifications for the low-points of one’s own career!

            Ah, well. If you ever do decide to make any observations on the topic, and I see it, I’ll be certain to tell everyone you have the requisite credentials.

            (Wait. That came out wrong…!)

          • Alan

            Come on, because of a bunch of juvenile college kids you are going to punt on some of the more obviously poor moral conclusions of what you have deemed a superior moral system?

            I’m sure you know and care for people who are homosexuals – do you now think that what they believe are loving acts are in fact intrinsically evil? Is that what you would expect to be the conclusion of a superior morality?

            Do you really think people who take the pill so that they don’t have to worry about pregnancy when making love to their husbands are committing sin? Is that what you would think was moral based on your pre-existing map?

            Is an infertile couple using in-vitro fertilization to bring children whom they will love and care for into the world immoral?

            Do you really think that a superior morality would lead one to the conclusions that distributing condoms in Africa is the wrong thing to do?

            We might not look to you for advice on the mechanics of sex but certainly you have opinions on these moral questions.

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

            Well that gives some counter-perspective to your praise of your college debating group. Given your descriptions of their good side I was starting to imagine them as a collection of awesomely saintly truth-seekers only ever caring about fair arguments and friendship. So it turns out they can also be loathsome bullying swine. That surely sucks for you being the victim of it, but somehow a glimpse at the dark side also makes them seem more human.

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

            Allan,

            What would you expect from a true moral system? Something that nobody would ever question? Why? Do you think people are unlikely to justify their own actions by saying they were moral when they are not? I would expect the true moral system to be attacked a lot. In fact, I would expect it to be attacked more. People respond with more vigor when they know deep down the other side s right. So the fact that some of the answers don’t correspond to your intuition is not surprising to me. Even if it does not ring true to the majority in a given culture that is not surprising. You would expect that.

            How does Catholicism win? I would say that is evidenced by its saints. If the moral system is right then those who follow it most passionately should look right. Do those embrace the church’s teaching on contraception seem fully alive, full of love and joy. I look at those people. The parents of big families and the celibates who feel called to something else. Many of them do seem close to God and seem to be blessing many others along the way. Is that subjective? Sure. Catholicism does not offer us objective, verifiable data. It offers us people. The Word of God made flesh. First in Jesus and then in His followers. We see what, through God’s grace, we can be.

          • Alan

            Randy – I would expect a true moral system to come to the correct moral conclusions (if in fact there is such a thing). I see no plausible moral justification for considering homosexuality evil, I see no plausible moral justification for objecting to the use of birth control, I see no plausible moral justification for opposing in-vitro fertilization, therefor any moral framework that does find those acts morally objectionable is an incorrect moral framework and incorrect in areas that cause real harm to people.

          • KL

            Alan — But isn’t that just the argument at hand? Whether there is “plausible moral justification” for the conclusions you list? It seems to me you’re begging the question. Catholics do think there is plausible moral justification for those stances. That’s why they hold them. And you can’t (or rather, shouldn’t) assert that “Whether or not they coincide with my current beliefs” is any sort of objective evaluative criteria for moral claims.

          • Alan

            KL – Actually, the question at hand is more direct for Leah, did her pre-conversion map think that the right moral answer was homosexuality is evil etc, since she claims she converted because she found that the Catholic moral map encompassed her map and improved on it I want to know if she has jettisoned any moral judgments she had made as part of that transition. Do those include judgments such as the loving acts of homosexuals she has known are now ones she considers evil.

            I don’t think it is, nor do I say it is, an objective way to evaluate moral claims, I also don’t think one can objectively evaluate moral claims but when asked to judge whether a particular moral system “keeps winning” based on their conclusion, upon seeing some of the conclusions that Catholicism has reached it seems to disqualify itself as a system that “keeps winning” – in fact some of their moral conclusions seem highly immoral to me and I would clearly place on the losing side of history.

          • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

            Cannot help but think that (to the best of our knowledge) John Paul II was also a virgin and his contribution to Catholic sexual identity is far greater than any save Christ himself.

          • Val

            Alan says: ” Catholics do think there is plausible moral justification for those stances. ”

            That’s actually exactly what is being questioned here. Leah allegedly held prior positions about the morality of certain practices. Leah is now a Catholic. Does she now think there is plausible moral justification for reversing those prior positions?

            Does she even have the courage to clearly say so?

          • Val

            Misattribution. The quote is KL’s, not Alan’s. My apologies.

    • jose

      The church’s official stance is that it tries to keep people true to their nature (“Divine Revelation … emphasize the authentic exigencies of human nature”), which is commendable, but they got the facts wrong. That fact of the matter is that sex is not only for reproduction. Not in our species, not in other species, either. They are basing their judgment on incorrect information. This is the same mistake that makes them reject homosexual acts, which we now know are quite common and true to the nature of homosexual people.

      Of course, if the goal of the church is to keep the population under patriarchal control, then things make a lot more sense.

      • KL

        That fact of the matter is that sex is not only for reproduction.

        The Catholic Church doesn’t teach that at all. It claims that sexual activity is ordered toward both procreation and unification, and to deliberately frustrate either end is to misunderstand the purpose of sex. But not every act of intercourse must culminate in conception or even have conception as its goal.

        • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

          and to deliberately frustrate either end is to misunderstand the purpose of sex

          Wait, seriously? Is this the actual wording used? Because I’m pretty sure NFP counts as “deliberately frustrating” the end of procreation.

          • KL

            Nope. “Deliberately frustrating” means consciously interfering with natural biological processes, e.g. using barrier methods or taking hormonal contraception. Having unprotected sex on day 12 of a woman’s cycle and having unprotected sex on day 21 doesn’t look any different in terms of the mechanics. Presumably, a couple using NFP to avoid conception would simply abstain from intercourse on day 12, and there’s no moral issue with simply choosing not to have sex on any given day. That’s always okay (presuming the consent of both spouses, e.g. one isn’t withholding sex to spite the other or something similar). The Catholic position is simply that if and when a couple does have sex on any given evening, they can’t use barrier or hormonal methods to interfere with their natural fertility. Using knowledge of human biology to identify periods of time when unprotected sex is unlikely to result in conception isn’t interfering with the natural biological and physiological nature of sexual activity, so it’s licit.

          • R.C.

            Nope. Sorry. This is the actual wording used.

            And NFP doesn’t count as “deliberately frustrating the end of procreation.” And, yes, that all makes sense. NFP practiced for bad motives is immoral because of the bad motives, but the act itself doesn’t qualify as a positive act because it’s an abstention during the fertile times (doing nothing) and (assuming any sex is had) a positive action during infertile times.

            Since both fertile and infertile times are part of the natural design of healthy, functioning female sexuality, it follows that sexual intercourse during the infertile times is a morally licit act.

            And, since it is always okay to abstain from a good in pursuit of an equal or higher good (example: when nuns abstain from marriage in order to live out a mystical marriage to Christ through the contemplative life), it is always okay to abstain from the good of procreating in pursuit of having more funds to care for one’s children, or keeping one’s wife’s health intact, or other sufficient reasons.

            However, man’s intellect and powers of free will are given to him with an injunction to help, not to harm; to heal, not to destroy.

            It is thus not moral to take a functioning female reproductive system and take positive action to render it non-functioning: To harm rather than to heal.

            Or, to take what otherwise would have been a fertile and life-producing session of lovemaking and render it sterile: To take positive action to create dysfunction.

            All of that is to say: You have to get pretty deep in the Natural Law thing to get it.

            But once you get it, the logic is frighteningly consistent.

          • ACN

            How dare those uppity women want to be able to control their reproductive organs.

            How dare they shirk their moral duty of fertility.

          • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

            @KL, R.C.

            We’re clearly starting from wildly divergent places, so I don’t think my further arguing semantics will accomplish anything. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether “deliberately frustrating” is a synonym for “intentionally avoiding by careful planning”

          • KL

            It’s not, because “deliberately frustrating” in the context at hand refers to interfering with natural biological processes, not to avoiding the occurrence of conception.

            Is it immoral to avoid conception? If so, both artificial birth control and NFP are equally immoral, yes. But the Catholic Church has never claimed that avoiding conception is in itself unacceptable. It’s neither good nor bad, and can be justifiably chosen by a couple. Rather, it’s the means of doing so that can be moral or immoral, depending on the method used. NFP uses no immoral means to achieve the morally neutral end of avoiding pregnancy. Artificial birth control, however, uses the immoral means of interfering with natural fertility, via barrier or hormonal methods, to achieve the same end. Since Catholics aren’t consequentialists and don’t believe that even good ends justify morally bad means, artificial birth control is therefore unacceptable.

        • jose

          Sex must be, they say, “at the service of love and life”, because it fulfills the unitive and the procreative meaning of such matters. It goes on and on using the same sort of language. Sorry, reproduction is the finality of sex according to catholicism.

          Clearly they don’t mean spouses are in love or united only when they’re having sex; marriage covers that part. It’s in marriage when two people become one flesh. As for the “life”, “procreative” part – that’s the role of sex for them. Which is an anti-reality stance. Sorry, the point stands.

  • Ted Seeber

    I think you’re still stuck with an atheist definition of empirical evidence rather than a Catholic one. Essence is testable empirically; in the remission of the effects of venial sin.

    But first you have to admit:
    1. That venial sin exists
    2. That we can see the effects of venial sin on our lives and in our behavior.

    Neither of which fits into empirical MATERIALISM. That doesn’t make it any less empirical evidence, just not material evidence.

    • keddaw

      Ted, do tell what any of the possible effects of venial sins are… Also, how one can test if ‘essence’ has any part to play in the remission of these effects.

      1. No. I only have to admit that there may be effects of venial sin.
      2. Yes, this is exactly what we are looking for evidence of.

      • Ted Seeber

        The biggest effect of venial sin is on our human relationships with others. An empirical test thereof, would thus be internal- in how you approach your relationship with the other human you sinned against, before and after either encountering Christ in the Eucharist of the Mass, or encountering the Forgiveness of Christ through the Priest in the sacrament of reconciliation.

        And yes, you do need to accept that venial sins against other human beings exist, and that you are first a sinner, before you can do this test adequately.

        If you are just an sociopath who thinks that their behavior has NO effect on their relationships with other people, then you probably won’t be able to perform this empirical test.

        Likewise if you are an atheist who refuses to believe in the concept of personal sin at all, let alone the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you very likely won’t be able to handle this test.

        In this way, ignorance of the concept results in a skeptical reductionism that destroys your ability to actually perform the empirical research.

        • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

          (Personally, I find that venial sin’s biggest effect is that it encourages us to commit more sins (addiction being a prime example))

  • Kewois

    Hi Leah:

    >Transubstantiation is changing the essence of the bread and the wine while >leaving their accidents (everything accessible to the senses) unchanged.

    Not just everything accessible to the senses, but anything measurable by any means. You cannot “see” infrared radiation but you can detect it.

    There is Nothing you can do to prove that the wine has transformed to blood. You just believe that and have no proof at all.

    I can say that I have made that chip of wood transubstiated into gold… but you will never pay me for that as it is really made of gold. (If you will tell me I can sell you a lot of “gold” things (in essence))

    So al that about essence is just gibberish, nonsensical talking.

    >If wine changed its accidents into blood (Christ’s or anyone elses) that would be, >as far as I’m concerned, transfiguration, and you should take it up with Professor >McGonegal, not the Pontiff.

    To make my point I ask you:

    If I transfigure some water into poison and you drink it you will surely die. But what about if I Transubstate water into cyanide….
    Nothing?
    It will poison me if I drink it ??
    Can I detect it any way??
    ]I guess tha answers are: NO

    So why claim that I have made a transubstantation if it is impossible to say that if has occurred at all???

    >Catholicism isn’t denying Dennett and others the chance to test it’s claims with >regard to the Eucharist, it’s making claims that are empirically unverifiable.

    I have transubstantiated my body to silver and gold and I am beathing molten lead in essence, and I will go to my home in my car wich I had trasubstantiated into a lovely unicorn. And you can not do anything but accept my word.

    >I did not convert because of empirically testable claims about Catholicism

    You converted becouse you liked and wanted. That´s ok.
    It always bother me that you appeared in the media as the rational atheist who converted by “good reasons”….

    >And these moral claims do require more than lip service.

    I will never undestand why you have to accept all that baggage of unprovable claims just to accept a moral code.

    Kewois

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

      You are missing the point. Maybe intentionally so. If the physical world is all there is then you are right. The whole transubstantiation thing is nonsense. But Catholics don’t believe that. We believe that the physical world can reflect spiritual reality. Specifically with our bodies, when we look at a human body we see a spiritual reality and not just physical matter. When I look at my wife’s body I look at her even though she is not just physical, she is spiritual as well. She could change some things about her physical body, she could cut her hair, she could lose some weight, etc. It would have no effect on the spiritual reality.

      So when we say the Eucharist becomes the body of Christ it is the same thing. It is Him. The measurable physical properties are not the same but that is about as relevant as my wife’s haircut. It is Jesus.

  • Kewois

    Randy:

    If you want to believe something just because you like it or it is just right to you I have no problem.
    So you can believe in transubstantiation, elves, unicorns, etc.
    Otherwise is if you claim that you have some good reasons to believe and that before you debated and argued agaisnt that idea with rational arguments.

    >If the physical world is all there is then you are right. The whole >transubstantiation thing is nonsense.
    Ok. We agree.
    >But Catholics don’t believe that. We believe that the physical world can reflect >spiritual reality. Specifically with our bodies, when we look at a human body we >see a spiritual reality and not just physical matter.
    What you call “spirituality” if for me the product of very complex functions of physical brains.
    >She could change some things about her physical body, she could cut her hair, >she could lose some weight, etc. It would have no effect on the spiritual reality.
    >So when we say the Eucharist becomes the body of Christ it is the same thing. It >is Him. The measurable physical properties are not the same but that is about as >relevant as my wife’s haircut. It is Jesus.

    1) Catholics believe that there is a real prescence of the Physical body not that there is an spiritual precence in wine and bread. Your arguments about spiritualy and material are irrelevant. Of course there is a miracle in wich the accidents of one physical substance remain.

    From Trento council:

    “denieth, that, in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist, are contained truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ; but saith that He is only therein as in a sign, or in figure, or virtue” and anyone who “saith, that, in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood – the species only of the bread and wine remaining – which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation, let him be anathema.”[10]

    2) I understand that your wife does not change if she has a haircut but your example is not quite right. You should have said that for example a “chair” can be transubstatited into your wife and that chair, indistinguible from other chairs by anymeans, IS your wife.

    3) You distinguish your wife form other people because she looks and behaves in a certain way. Also because she has a unique ADN. She can change her physical appearance and still be herself. But there are some changes in the brain that CAN drastically alter the behaviour of a person. Of course she is still that person. But her spiritually can be dramatically altered.

    4) If she chages her physical appearance drastically and, lets say, a stroke change her personality you can say “she is not the same person I married to”…….but still it is the same person because is the same human being with the same ADN. But look that we are talking about things, change in appearance, change in behaviour and ADN that can be measured. So you can proof that this woman is yor wife.

    Now, imagine you show me a piece of bread and claim that that bread is your wife, I really doubt that anyone can accept that claim. And of course also if you say that it is pointless to search for human DNA traces in that bread because that bread is indishtiguible from any other piece of bread.

    Kewois

    • socraticum

      The problem with arguing about transubstantiation is that it one of the few, if not the only, miracles which is not evident to the senses: it is not a reason to believe in the truth of the Catholic Faith, but it is believed in because one believes the Catholic Faith. Thus, in a sense, the observational objections to it are irrelevant: the dogma is that the host becomes Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity without undergoing any change that could—even in principle—be detected by observation. St. Thomas, whom the Church promotes as a sure (but not infallible) guide to doctrine writes about this miracle: “Sight, touch and taste in you are deceived / But to hearing alone there is full belief.”

      • socraticum

        All this goes to say is that I am not a Catholic and the Church does not expect to persuade people because of the evidence for transubstantiation: rather, because of other evidence for the Faith (both the interior gift of faith and the outward signs such as the miracles worked by Christ) I believe what the Church teaches; and, because one of the things that the Church teaches is the True Presence of Our Lord, I believe in the true presence of Our Lord.

  • Kewois

    Socraticum:

    You can believe what you choose to believe. You can believe what others tell you to believe.
    You can have irrational or illogical beliefs.
    I prefer to have reasons to believe or reject a believe if there is evidence and or reasons against it.

    But the church does not just invite you to believe in something that there is not even possible to have a proof. the church condemns you for not believing. And you have to believe, not a nice and reasonable attitude.

    “and anyone who……….. and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood …………. let him be anathema.”

    Kewois

    • socraticum

      “But the church does not just invite you to believe in something that there is not even possible to have a proof. the church condemns you for not believing.”

      Yes, I recognize that the Church would condemn me for not believing in the Eucharist, but that is irrelevant to what I’m saying: If I thought the Catholic Church was a bunch of fools and liars, why would I care that they condemn me for not believing them? But since I believe them (for reasons besides transubstantiation), I don’t think they are fools and liars and consequently believe what they say.

  • Kewois

    Socraticum:

    >If I thought the Catholic Church was a bunch of fools and liars,

    It is not necessary to be a fool or a liar to believe something irrational, you can be wrong. Some people believe something for the wrong reasons but in this issue there are no reasons. So, why accept it??

    It´s like believing in solipsism. It´s irrelevant.

    So why condemn people for not believing??

    Also If you like Christian moral or the power of faith or whatever why to believe everything they say??? They have been wrong many times.

    >why would I care that they condemn me for not believing them?

    Because for many year to be excomunicated was a MAJOR sanction. No one in your town, nor your family could speak to you.
    It is not something trivial.

    And in fact they think that people who don’t believe in transubstantiation are going to hell.

    So that “Believe what I say or you will suffer and do not even think to argue” is not a morally right way to behave. Much less when you say that the Church is guided or inspired by Love and Justice.

    Kewois


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