Palms Transfigured Into Ashes

Today’s the day that everyone lists what they gave up for Lent (I’m taking on time for lectio divina and giving up going to bed after 1am), but , for me, the more moving sacrifice happened this weekend, on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time.

I changed my mind about Christianity the night before Palm Sunday last year, so I’ve never experienced Ash Wednesday as a believer before.  The first Mass I went to as a Christian was the jubilant Palm Sunday, the welcoming of Christ into Jerusalem and the beginning of Holy Week.  I went to church, recieved a blessing and a palm, and got on a train that took me away from New Haven and the only three people in the world who knew I wasn’t an atheist anymore.

It’s traditional to weave the palms distributed at church into crosses or other holy symbols, and to put them up in your house.  Although I was a bit jittery, I made sure to keep my palm cross safe on the whole journey home — by Amtrak and metro — and hung it up in a corner of my room, wondering when I would tell my housemates what had happened.

The ashes that are distributed on Ash Wednesday are made by burning the palms that are blessed and distributed the previous year.  So, I took my cross off the wall and brought it back to my parish church, for the last service I would attend there before the move.  When I handed my palm back to the deacon, and told him why it has sentimental value, he looked concerned.  ”You don’t have to return it.  They can be burnt or they can be kept; either is allowed.”

But I wanted to give it back.  Perhaps it was the influence of the recent readings from Daily Mass from the book of Samuel where Hannah prays desperately for a son, and then, when he is born, gives him up as a priest; returning to God what she has been given.

She reminded me of Kierkegaard’s description of the Knight of Faith in Fear and Trembling.  I don’t think I quite understood Kierkergaard or his mouthpieces, but his image of the paradoxical Knight of Faith was arresting.  I can’t help but picture a knight in full armor and toe shoes who makes some kind of terrifying leap of faith and, in the words of Douglas Adams, misses the ground.  He remains suspended, somewhat precariously, but sustained and altered by his faith.

Lent isn’t a time of suffering for the sake of suffering.  It’s a choice to be discomfited and pass through a crucible so that we can be transfigured.  Last year, at the turning of the liturgical year, I was given a gift.  When I return it, I’m not casting it off, but relaxing my grasp so that it, like me, can “suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange.”

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."

  • Elizabeth Scalia

    That’s a wonderful post, Leah. I love how you personalize your faith so deeply and then share it with us.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    Sooooo lovely. Lent as alchemy: what a wonderful notion.

    • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

      Odd comparison, that. Considering alchemy is a lie…. or, at the very least, a road that distracted from the empirical truth of chemistry.

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

        Setting aside the fact that this comment shows nothing more than your own inability to grasp the point of the metaphor, which was, with painful obviousness, not about chemistry but about moral transformation, it also rather amusingly shows you as willing to throw the empirical truth of the history of chemistry out of the window as it suits you. I recommend you actually read up on the transition period between Renaissance alchemy and Lavoisier’s chemistry; Boerhaave would be a good place to start.

        • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empricismvsfaith

          You seem a little sensitive about this topic. At some point, growing up happens. We moved from the magical thinking of alchemy to the tedious but edifying work of chemistry centuries ago. Perhaps this is possible with other areas of thought as well.

          • Mike

            OMG, really? SERIOUSLY if it is so silly/magical, why are you even here? It says more about your mental state/faith in your empirical methods then it does about anything else don’t you think? Do you see me on your atheist blogs? NO! and why not? Because I am secure in my beliefs, are you in yours? Obviously you’re not b/c your here in therapy. Get it?

            God bless LOL, sheesh, what is with these people?

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            I am fascinated by people who believe in silly/magical things. I welcome you with open arms to my atheist blogs whether you are secure or insecure in your beliefs. Does it really bug you that much that I take an interest in your peculiar accounts of faith and belief?

            You talk about therapy as though it is a bad thing. Maybe you are afraid to go into it yourself?

          • Mike

            “I am fascinated by people who believe in silly/magical things.”

            Ok, so be it. Take care and all the best.

      • Mike

        Easy, Empiricismvsfaith…deep breaths.

        PS How much faith do you have in your empiricism?

        • ACN

          I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE!

          Checkmate atheist! AMIRITE?

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empricismvsfaith

            :)

          • Mike

            Deep Breaths :) …deep breaths :) .

        • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empricismvsfaith

          Depends on how you define “faith”. If you define “faith” to be “belief without evidence” the answer is “none”.

          • Mike

            I don’t define it, the dictionary does and it says it is like trust. So do you have trust in empiricism? It’s really a simple question.

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            Do I trust empiricism? Inasmuch as I see evidence for it working, yes. Is that faith? Not as I define it in the context of a conversation about religion.

        • Darren

          ”PS How much faith do you have in your empiricism?”

          None. Evidence against empiricism is always admissible.

          • Mike

            Surely you must have SOME faith in it/trust/good vibes/a gut feeling that it will prove yet again to be correct, don’t you? I am really not trying to trick you guys I am just asking how much faith/trust you have in empiricsm. Just because you say “I have complete faith/trust” doesn’t then mean you believe in God or anything silly like that. That’s why I keep telling you folks to breath.

          • Darren

            It does depend a great deal upon one’s definition of “faith”.

            IMO, I think it is far beyond trust or belief. If belief is an assumption based upon incomplete data (and what data set is truly complete), then faith is belief with no data, or even in the face of contravening data. ie. Faith is belief in the face of evidence against that belief.

            Theists will hem and haw over this, saying this is not so, but they are wrong. Think of the examples of when “Faith” has been trotted out: the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, the burning bush, water into wine, walking on water, the resurrection of the dead (Lazarus), the healing of the blind, the resurrection of Christ, the Assumption of Mary. All of these are examples where evidence tells us, “These things don’t happen.”, but we are asked to believe, ‘on Faith’.

            So, having Faith in empiricism is almost a contradiction in terms. Certainly, there is a strong habit to being an empiricist. Were the evidence of my senses, of all science, to suddenly go all wonkey and wrong, there would be a period of time in which I refused to believe, out of commitment or habit is up to the reader to decide, but eventually, faced with a universe in which my “use the force, Luke” intuitions consistently outperformed my “nothing beats a blaster in your hands, kid” empiricism, I would eventually abandon my former model and become a Jedi…

            …Of course, in a universe in which The Force is a real and tangible thing, it then falls under empiricism, and not Faith, and so we are left being empiricists after all…

      • Kenneth

        Alchemy a lie? Like hell it was. ALL of the basics of inorganic acid/salt chemistry and modern metallurgy arose from alchemical labs. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that their theory of elements and atoms was no more sophisticated than Aristotle’s. Their chemical theories were pretty much metaphorical, but they did a lot of good science by empirical trial and error and observation. Some of the things they envisioned – the fine tuning of structure-function of compounds and transmutation of lead to gold did come to pass.

        Alchemy was not just for fools and hustlers (though there were those). Tycho Brae and Newton were alchemist, among other things. Alchemy gave us distilled booze :) It gave us Aqua Regia, a ferocious oxidizing acid which I (hope) this afternoon will tear off the strange metallic residue in a flask laying in my lab drawer.

        I don’t think we should dismiss the mystical parts of alchemy as pure bunk either. Plenty of alchemist understood that the quest to refine lead into gold was not only unlikely, but petty stuff. Alchemy was the quest to purify one’s self. Their system of Kabbalah, Hermeticism and Gnosticism etc. survives in today’s occult movements, and believe it or not, many core ideas were not thought wholly incompatible with Catholicism.

        • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empricismvsfaith

          Alchemy was a lie in the same way that astrology was a lie. Sure, there was some vaguely interesting philosophical ideas behind it and the empirical *observations* that were made in support of alchemy eventually lead to chemistry, but the belief that there was a means to chemically transmutate lead into gold or produce a chemical philosopher’s egg was a lie based on a superstition.

          • Darren

            I think “lie” in this context to be… not the best term one could use.

            A lie implies a deliberate falsehood. Such was not the case with (historical at least) alchemy. Epicycles were not a lie, they were just wrong. Once Copernicus and Gallileo came along, then epicycles were a lie.

            Creation science is a lie, uteruses full of undead fetuses is a lie, alchemy, in this context, is a metaphor.

          • Mike

            Can you explain what this means? “uteruses full of undead fetuses”

            Do you mean like abortion? Because it is a basic scientific fact that fetuses are indeed alive. This is biology 101. And honestly I am not trying to goad you into an abortion argument but you seem to be implying that fetuses are dead.

          • Darren

            My apologies; I was unclear. This had nothing to do with abortion.

            I was referring to this claim by some Christian media personality (Kevin Swanson) that oral contraceptives result in dead fetuses implanting in the walls of a woman’s uterus:

            ”I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.”

            The blog wherein I saw the story:

            James Dobson just not putting much effort into perfunctory lies

          • Mike

            ok, phew :) …btw not totally clear on the science but my understanding has always been that oral contraceptives simply change the hormone levels which then prevent fertilization so yes it seems you’re right that that is a lie or just plain wrong.

          • Mike

            BTW I think I might be the one who needs to take some deep breathes here! I can’t stop commenting LOL! I am in a tizzy :) …and at work procrastinating.

          • Darren

            Nah, what I wrote originally could easily have been viewed as a prod in the abortion debate.

            As far as Swanson’s assertions, they are not just wrong, but monumentally, gratuitously wrong. I could _not_ have invented a better example of a deliberate lie told to get people riled up and angry about an imaginary evil…

          • Mike

            Well, I don’t mind really – it’ll be Leah’s mess to sort through anyway :) . The abortion debate is just so tedious now though. Both “sides” have their talking points and that’s it. BTW I used to be pro-choice in very much the same way most young trendy liberal types are i.e. in that I just never questioned it. It was automatic response: pro-life meant anti-women. Anyway I don’t want to argue about it.

          • Kenneth

            Calling alchemy a “lie” implies that it was a calculated and knowing conspiracy to deceive. There were, as I said, fraud artists running under the banner of alchemy, but the system of knowledge was hardly a “lie.” It was mistaken about a lot of things and worked with incomplete knowledge and hadn’t quite adopted all of the rigor of the modern scientific method.

            Even their fanciful concepts were not absurd on their face. Lead to gold is not superstition, it is accomplished fact. What the alchemist didn’t know is that it had to be done by throwing neutrons around, not by dint of will and electron chemistry in a flask. The alchemical concept of mutability turned out to be completely true, but at the subatomic level rather than manipulation of the characters of “salt, sulphur and mercury.” Einstein proved energy and matter themselves are interchangeable, and Oppenheimer proved that to dramatic and tragic effect.

            Alchemy had a theoretical system and pursued knowledge in good faith. It fell short. It that makes a field of endeavor a lie, than Newtonian physics, Relativity, and the Standard Model are all lies. Their explanations all fall short under some conditions, and some of their theoretical assumptions will, sooner or later, be shown to be incorrect or insufficient.

            If it did nothing else, alchemy created a tradition of experimental science, without which modern science simply never would have happened. Before alchemy, in classical times, it was considered vulgar and extraneous for a scientist to get their hands dirty testing theories. Science was a philosophical art of pure reason, mental constructs and mathematics. For a thousand years and more, that led to very elegant and very wrong ideas being transmitted as doctrine rather than tested data. Even working with that hideous burden, alchemists taught us to go to the bench, run the reaction and see what bears out.

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            I never thought that people would stand up for alchemy so! Good to know that the alchemist fan club is so alive an well.

            It seems fashionable to say that up is down, black is white, and so forth…. but let’s set the record straight: prescientific activities of which alchemy is just one example were not empirically driven even if they were aspirational and inspiring enough to lead us in the right directions. While the methods perfected by alchemists would later prove to be useful, the ideological bent of the overall endeavor was always explicitly based on something other than material evidence or interpretation of that evidence. Empirical thought was routinized in that extended event we call the “Scientific Revolution”. No doubt this kind of rigorous and careful approach to describing and modeling reality continues to need promotion today as many detractors seem to doubt its applicability, utility, or even its provenance as illustrated by some arguments seen above, but nevertheless the alternatives offered tend to be more of whimsy or sentiment rather than an effective counter to what we know to be true about the world and what we know to be, well, alchemy.

            When I say that “alchemy is a lie”, I am only writing about the subject, not its supporters. To try to take on the mindset of another is to engage in a kind of tomfoolery that is not at all edifying for this unbeliever. There were probably many alchemists who were on the up-and-up and truly believed that what they were doing was noble and good. There may even be some still left today. That does not fundamentally alter the falsity of their claims, annd the simplest definition of a “lie” is just the promotion of an untruth. I write this fully knowing that there are a slate of Augustinian acrobatics one can point to that associate intent with the illuminated concepts beheld in the eighth commandment because of Augustine’s incessant obsession with sin — sin being a concept that is by no means as universally understood as is the concept of a lie.

            So take it for what you will. I think it is actually an apt comparison to make between the burning of last year’s palms for use on one particular Wednesday in the midwinter and the alchemical aspirations of magically thinking medieval scholastics who were hoping to find salvation in their potion making. The fact that most thinking people know the fundamental conceit of alchemy to be wrong just makes it that much more delicious when it is compared to the fundamental conceit associated with the tradition of smudging ash on your forehead in a religious ceremony.

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

          It’s not alchemy but the history of chemistry that people are primarily standing up for; a history of which you show a truly deplorable ignorance and with regard to which you show an absurd willingness to make up conclusions independently of any facts. Alchemy, for instance, had a radically different career from astrology; only someone completely uninformed could treat them as analogous. What is more, ‘alchemy’ was a massive set of very different threads stretched across the entire European continent; it had much less unity than astrology, and included a wide variety of practitioners following very different methods. Treating it as a unified thing is, again, a sign of your willingness to make up claims without regard for actual historical evidence.

          Again, before you put your foot in your mouth and again spout more obviously pseudo-historical nonsense, I recommend you actually do the relevant research required to say anything intelligent about it: the influence of alchemy on Boyle, the more recent scholarship that has been done on how Boerhaave’s and Newton’s work with regard to alchemy affected how people understood and developed prior alchemical methods, the development of the practical methods that were later regularized under the regime of the Royal Society and similar institutions. There is an entire history of alchemy between Renaissance and Lavoisier that your comments repeatedly show that you haven’t even bothered to read before going on and on lecturing people on your completely fictional view of the history of the matter.

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            What a coincidence! I’m reading Lavoisier’s most famous work on my Kindle right now.

            As to your attempt at withering commentary I can say this: you seem to have a particular affinity for alchemy or the history of alchemy that is precious but not very relevant to what I wrote.

            I also find very amusing your contention that alchemy had a radically different career from astrology. You seem to be happy to sell astrology straight up the river. This rhetorical flourish appears to me to be not unlike many religious devotees who talk with considerable disdain about a rival religion. O poor, maligned astrology. Maybe you should study that subject next?

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

            Good, then work backwards from there. I’ve already pointed out the basic starting-points required for actually saying anything accurate about the relation between alchemy and chemistry prior to Lavoisier without spouting the sort of pseudo-historical gibberish to which you keep resorting.

            As for the rest of your comment, I’ve already pointed out that the problem is not the status of alchemy but your repeated dogmatic statements, unsustainable in light of actual historical evidence (don’t think anyone has missed the fact that you repeatedly fail even to indicate where evidence for your claims might be found, even when others are doing so), by which you falsify the history of chemistry. History requires regard for actual evidence.

            Your comments about astrology vs alchemy are an example of the sort of nonsense one gets into when people attempt to spout off about history without this regard for evidence: that astrology and alchemy do not run parallel courses is a well-established historical fact, and arises from rather significant social disparities between the two. What one’s assessment of either is, is irrelevant to the evidential questions of the course of their history, and your inability to distinguish the two is a rather impressive failing.

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            If alchemy and astrology do not run parallel courses are their courses skew? Are they intersecting? The eager mind awaits your insight.

            Pointing out that you were selling astrology short in your screed is not really saying that alchemy and astrology are indistinguishable. I wonder that you would think so. Is it really anathema to compare astrology and alchemy? Or are you just saying that the comparison is facile?

            Alchemy incorporate(d)(s) proposals that are, if not explicitly magical, then at least supernatural. That is what distinguishes chemistry and alchemy. In my telling, this distinguishing feature is what is being referenced in a mean comparison of Ash Wednesday to alchemy.

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

            Non-parallel, obviously; your prior comments required parallels between alchemy and astrology which don’t exist. This is simple enough for even you to figure out if you think hard enough, although I find it amusing that you think that ‘parallel’ means ‘indistinguishable’, and that you think that I said anything about indistinguishability in a comment that doesn’t mention the word or anything equivalent to it. What is really amusing is that you actually think that you’re coming across as clever.

            I’ve already stated the reason why your comparison between astrology and alchemy is incompetent, in terms of different structures of inquiry and different kinds of practitioners, so I will not state it again. But, again, as I’ve already pointed out, the kind of claim you make in your last paragraph is just an unintentional concession of ignorance as you yet again fail to take into account the well-established historical fact that the category of alchemy covers a wide range of very different approaches that do not allow the sort of generalization you are making. But if “proposals that are, if not explicitly magical, then at least supernatural” are the distinguishing characteristic, you would be committed to saying that Newton’s physics was a lie and a distraction as well, so alchemy is in excellent company.

            As to your “telling”, this simply gets us back to the original point that your comment was irrelevant because…figure of speech.

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

            Reading through your comment again, I see that you may have been conflating not ‘parallel’ and ‘indistinguishable’ but ‘inability to distinguish assessments of alchemy or astrology from the evidential questions of history’ from ‘saying that astrology and alchemy are indistinguishable’, which is even more hilarious, as being even more obviously the sort of thing that elementary critical thinking skills would have prevented.

          • Darren

            Brandon Watson said;

            ”As for the rest of your comment, I’ve already pointed out that the problem is not the status of alchemy but your repeated dogmatic statements, unsustainable in light of actual historical evidence… …by which you falsify the history of chemistry. History requires regard for actual evidence.”

            Here we have a Theist criticizing an atheist for using dogma and ignoring, even falsifying, historical evidence…

            Hmmmm…

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            Yeah, this Brandon Watson fellow seems really upset that I just pointed out that people don’t believe in alchemy any more. People do believe in Lent. What’s the diff?

          • Darren

            Brandon Watson said:

            ”But if “proposals that are, if not explicitly magical, then at least supernatural” are the distinguishing characteristic, you would be committed to saying that Newton’s physics was a lie and a distraction as well, so alchemy is in excellent company.”

            This is an interesting assertion. At a plain reading, you would seem to be claiming that Newtonian physics is, “…if not explicitly magical, then at least supernatural…”

            Certainly Newton had his occult side, though considering the date it was not intellectually dishonest to believe such things at the time. When we think of Newton’s physics, though, it is the Principia/a>, and I would be very interested in hearing how this is actually a supernatural tome.

          • http://empiricismvsfaith.blogspot.com Empiricismvsfaith

            Indeed, Newton’s heretical yammerings about Arianism, alchemy, and astrology are not the stuff of empirical science. That does not in any way diminish the amazing empirical work for which he is remembered.

            I do not doubt that alchemists were champions of methods that have found fantastic use in chemistry, but their advocacy of alchemical mythology and mysticism was absolute tosh as all but the most ardent achemical fans will tell you.

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

    Also: Note how physical and anti-gnostic this is. Make a note to give yourself some chocolate on Sunday!

  • Jim

    Well it’s a good thing you had a good Ash Wednesday. I’ve been spending the last 2 weeks getting my life in order and securing a new job, which I managed to do. On the way home I thought to myself this is great and I’ll be happy to go to Ash Wednesday next week. Then I got home and found out it was today.

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

    Wait, where are we supposed to list what we are giving up for Lent?

    • Andres Riofrio

      There’s no requirement, but a lot of people (like me!) find it useful to publicly declare what they are giving up for Lent, since, if your friends know your intentions, it will be harder to falter in your intentions.

    • Kenneth

      You could always say for Lent, you’re giving up the indiscretion of sharing the details of your personal or spiritual life! If you’re going to be Catholic (or Jewish, for that matter), you have to learn to think like a lawyer!

  • Andrew

    I must say, that’s a pretty well made palm cross

  • grok87

    Beautiful post Leah and blessings for your first Ash Wednesday.
    How are you planning to do lectio divina? Daily Mass readings? Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings? Something else?

  • http://turmarion.wordpress.com Turmarion

    Beautiful post. May your first Lent as a Catholic be a great season of spiritual growth and discovery!

  • Father Joe

    Thank you for your description of Hannah, and making the connection to your palm cross! I’m afraid I have tended to ‘Scripture-glaze’ the story of Hannah, and never felt the power of the story til now. She is given the joy of motherhood – and rejoices in the gift without grasping at it.

  • Pingback: Palms Transfigured Into Ashes | CATHOLIC FEAST

  • Gordon

    I still don’t get your conversion. Stopping being Catholic and/or Christian was the best thing that ever happened to me.

    • Mike

      And yet something has brought you back to this blog. God bless.

      • Gordon

        Yeah, I keep looking to try to understand what is going on. Keep your blessings and your god. I don’t need either.

      • Darren

        ”Yeah, I keep looking to try to understand what is going on. Keep your blessings and your god. I don’t need either.”

        See, Mike? This is an ‘angry atheist’… Me, I’m positively cuddly by comparison… ;)

        • Mike

          Yeah I was gonna say to him why are you even here? Just leave. And obviously he protesteth too much.

        • Gordon

          I’m not angry, I just don’t appreciate the passive aggressive “God Bless”, at least it’s better than “I’ll pray for you”.

          As for why I’m here…

          well it’s a publicly available blog and Leah is something of a mystery so I stop by now and again to try and make sense of her conversion.

          • Mike

            Fair enough, fair dinkum as they say down under. BTW I agree her conversion is a mystery; then again every conversion is a mystery, indeed our faith itself is in some respects a mystery but yeah that’s one of the reasons why I am here too. It’s fun, putting a person in a fish bowl, wouldn’t you agree? BTW I am being serious.

            GOD BLESS! LOL

          • ACN

            And you’re running around calling Kewois the troll.

            Right.

          • Mike

            Right. Right! Right? Right, what? LOL. Looks like you’re the troll now. BTW I think you atheistic folks are actually great fun. Believe me I know you, and that’s why I like you. Honestly I really really do. Atheists are fun folks, like clowns in a circus – OK SORRY about that that was really rude, and I don’t mean it but it makes me feel superior, so there :) .

          • Darren

            Nah, that was me calling Kewois a troll, and I was confusing him with Keddaw, too many “k” names… still, walk like a troll, quack like a troll…

            Mike, though, he is just occasionally obnoxious… ;)

            As for Gordon, sure thing. Read through Leah’s blog, figure out why she converted, there is enough data for at least a pretty good boundary if not a definitive, then stick her with a devastating counter to her strongest argument, or ask a good question, that works too, but saying “I don’t get it” is just going to get you ignored or smacked… Trust me, I have displayed my _own_ stupidity more times on this blog that I care to admit and that’s what happens…

            Just my $0.02.

          • Gordon

            The problem is that so far I cannot put my finger on Leah’s argument. “I came to realise that moral law was a person” reads as word salad to me. The closest equivalent I can come up with is “that’s when I noticed that french toast hates me”

            How would you go about arguing that french toast did not have feelings about me either way? Other than by scratching your head and wondering “What the…?”

            I listened to over an hour of christian podcast after Leah’s conversion where she laid her reasons down, with Hemant the Friendly Atheist, and that’s really all I heard.

            French toast.

          • Darren

            OK, I really like the french toast analogy. I have a few thoughts, weekends are tough though so it may take a few days…

          • Darren

            Gordon;

            Well, I have found little else beyond the initial description of Leah’s conversion and I have been following the blog closely since.

            I do have thoughts on the matter, but they are all really speculation and opinion.

            First, Leah is an adult convert. Unlike me, and presumably you, and almost every other Theist, she was not indoctrinated into the Church from childhood. She was born free and chose to enter bondage, thus she has no fear or anger or resentment or wariness or all the other emotions that so typically go along with those of us born into bondage and who struggled to be free by our own hands.

            (I do not use bondage in the purely pejorative sense, here – there is something very appealing about having someone else to tell us what to do. Submission appears to be a deeply ingrained human pattern)

            Second, Leah very much wants for there to be an Objective Morality. For some reason she has chosen to buy the pitch that without some type of God skyhook, then Objective Morality is impossible. She appears to have accepted this and internalized it, possibly due to the number of Theists telling her this is the case, but also surprisingly by the number of non-Theists telling her the same!(?) Where I am puzzled is in her acceptance of this premise, without first establishing that God actually _can_ skyhook Objective Morality, or that there is only one God/Objective Morality in play, or that any God/Objective Morality that might exist is actually _correct_! (none of which, IMO, logically follow from the simple assumption of existence). Viewed together, these add up to a _long_ chain of unfounded assertions, much longer than is presented by the simple “God exists and God is Good”.

            Leah has mentioned Edward Feser and Thomas McDonald at God and the Machine. I suspect that Leah’s conversion stems largely from her attraction to the Aristotelian-Augustinian-Thomistic moral framework. It _is_ a nice moral structure, if one is able to swallow the dozen or so unfounded, and frankly _really_huge_, assumptions right up front. Once you do that, it all makes perfect sense, and that is bound to be very attractive to a philosophically minded, Objective Morality seeking, virtue ethicist.

            Thomas quotes Augustine:

            ”If only the weak understanding of the ordinary man did not stubbornly resist the plain evidence of logic and truth! If only it would, in its feeble condition, submit itself to the restorative medicine of sound teaching, until divine assistance, procured by devout faith, effected a cure! In that case, men of sound judgment and adequate powers of exposition would not need to engage in lengthy discussion in order to refute mistakes and fanciful conjectures.”

            I have a suspicion that Leah has decided to ‘…submit herself to sound teaching…’ and is now in the honeymoon phase of being enraptured by the heady emotional engagement of a personal God who loves her and a Church that is her new Earthly family. I think at this point that all of the warts and inconsistencies and incompatibilities of the reality of Theism are being overlooked, Love is blind and all that. Give it two or three years…

            I would, though, be very interested in seeing Leah, in effect, debate herself. A few questions to address?

            The Problem of Natural Evil – not the vapid personal evil Theists like to spin this into, but the really nasty 700,000 children dying in poverty and despair of Malaria each and every year because God thought it would be ‘cool’ to create the plasmodium parasite… She did not worry too much about the problem of (heinous natural) evil as an atheist, but now how does she square things?

            The historical reliability of the gospels, which she tore apart rather recently as an atheist.

            Why she thinks Objective Morality needs a God skyhook when she did not (does not) think the same was the case for every other Objective thing. If she wants “Thou Shall Not Murder” to be Objective in the same way that gravity or the speed of light or 2 + 2 is Objective, then why does it _alone_ need a God backstop?

            Just my thoughts…

          • Mike

            “indoctrinated into the Church from childhood” Ouch! BTW neither was I. BTW neither was Richard Smalley, look it up.

            “born into bondage” Ouch! Are you a troll LOL? Just kidding.

            “She did not worry too much about the problem of (heinous natural) evil as an atheist.” – TADDA! You’ve answered your own queries! This is it. This is why she is no longer an atheist, don’t you see it? Jesus LOVES us. We live not in a physical universe, that’s only incidental, we actually live in a moral universe. Think about what the ultimate point of life is: it isn’t money, it isn’t solving puzzles, it isn’t power, it’s Love.

          • Darren

            From Wikipedia:

            ”Indoctrination is the process of inculcating ideas, attitudes, cognitive strategies or a professional methodology (see doctrine). It is often distinguished from education by the fact that the indoctrinated person is expected not to question or critically examine the doctrine they have learned. As such the term may be used pejoratively, often in the context of education, political opinions, theology or religious dogma. The term is closely linked to socialization; in common discourse, indoctrination is often associated with negative connotations, while socialization refers to cultural or educational learning.”

            Well, good for you having a choice. You are in the minority, but that is neither here nor there. The point was that Leah has not had to fight against childhood conditioning, thus she does not display the emotionally marks that typically accompany such a struggle.

            Think about what the ultimate point of life is: it isn’t money, it isn’t solving puzzles, it isn’t power, it’s Love.”

            I don’t normally douse my children in gasoline and set them on fire when they don’t go to bed on time… you know, out of love… ;)

          • Mike

            No not that kind of love, I know the love you mean. I mean Christian Love, Love, not love. Anyway, around and around we go.

          • Gordon

            Thanks Darren, that makes some sense. I appreciate the time and effort you put in to that reply and it did help.

            It is hard for me to imagine any adult stepping into christianity, but clearly it is possible.

  • Mike

    This is such a beautiful post and so movingly written; it is full of grace and hope and love – it glimmers the sea, it overflows with humble gratitude, thank you.

    • Mike

      Ok, that was laying it on a bit thick – strike hope and love and it glimmers but not like the sea and it doesn’t overflow with humility but it does convey your gratitude nicely.

  • Noe

    Nice, reminds me of sukkot and burning the left over lulavim, aravot or less often the haddasim when you burn the leaven bread just before Pesach. it’s not obligatory to do burn any of the arba minim (of course save the etrog for liquor!…), but you ‘dispose’ of something in a way that continues an obligation, a service, in a cycle of sorts.

  • Kewois

    Hi L:

    Ashes are not the true nature of palms so there is not a transfiguration. Just combustion.

    Of course I rather prefer an artificial insemination or an in vitro fecundation instead of making a deal with God ignoring my son desires and convert him in a priest.

    But of Course Hannah then got five other chidren.

    Then some of the kids misbehave and God began with the killing and cursing, you know:
    ———————-
    Although good will be done to Israel, in your family line there will never be an old man. 33Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.
    ——–

    So the Good God in person punished the sons of the offenders… very lovely.
    (Moral good is a person remember? This person, this God)
    Then:
    —————-
    And the LORD said to Samuel: “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 12At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family—from beginning to end. 13For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible,b and he failed to restrain them. 14Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, ‘The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.’”

    forgivness forgivness….. not in this case.
    Never be atoned… nice.

    Kewois

    • Mike

      Yuk! Go away, shoo!

      • Kewois

        Good arguments Mike. Are you taking debate classes with Leah?

        K

        • Mike

          LOL are you for real?

          • Darren

            No, Kewois is 100% troll; best to ignore.

          • Mike

            BTW shouldn’t it be “trawling” not “troll”? Is it meant to be derogatory or descriptive? Does that make sense? I picture a little troll under a bridge yelling at passersby :)

          • Darren

            Good point. I tend to think of the under-the-bridge type as well. I know the term was established when I started doing Usenet in the mid-90’s…

            Down here in the South, our Bass Boats come with “trolling” motors, but that is probably a corruption of the original “trawling” just like our dogs are actually “dawgs”… ;)

          • Mike

            I love the south. I’ve been to florida, Miami and Key West and then once to New Orleans and I loved it! Southern hospitality is real. Next up I want to see Alabama or Miss., just to see if it’s anything like in the movies and in my over active imagination. Wonder if I’ll see any burning crosses LOL!

          • Kewois

            Hi Mike:

            Yes am real and I am not a troll. It is just seems that you can not answer not even make a question.

            Regards
            Kewois

          • Mike

            Ok, you are not a troll and you are real. LOL. And you are an atheist. Please tell me you see the irony it all of this. :)

            May God have mercy on your soul.

          • Darren

            Ah, the South. Midwesterner am I, for all that I find myself in the land of cotton.

            Some truth, more myth. The myth is more fun, as it usually is.

            Still, come to Atlanta and we will find some Krispy Kreme, some pulled pork (NC really, but I prefer), some grits and collards and fried chicken, some sweat tea, some banana pudding, and perhaps a mint julep or three…

          • Darren

            Need to clarify, I had confused Kewois with Keddath, who is 100% troll.

            Kewois may just be making his point badly, a subject I am an expert on.

    • deiseach

      And already we have hit the “How could we know?” phase (as Mark Shea likes to call it) of artificial insemination and IVF technology.

      Phrases like largely unregulated fertility industry, “a href=”http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3643412.ece?css=print”>physical and economical exploitation of women and medical tourism, with claims of rich Westerners exploiting Third World women and the skewing of gender ratios by sex-selective abortions and use of IVF to produce the desirable male embryo for implantation – yes, that certainly is a lot better than the old days where you prayed and Nature took its course!

      • Kewois

        Only 30% of the fertilized eggs are born alive making nature, sorry Nature, a great abortist.

        Of course some people missuse IFV but millons of people are alive thaks to this technique.

        But we were not talking about IVF we wera talking about enlightning storys on the Bible.

        Do you believe deiseach that is good and just to punish the sons of a man for the crimes of that man?? God seems to find it just and fair.

        Do you agree?
        Kewois

        • Mike

          Kewois, do you know the difference between DELIBERAT killing and incidental? BTW the RCC is NOT “against” abortion if it meets the double-effect rule, do you know anything about it or are you here just to preen?

          • Kewois

            It depends Mike.

            Of course for me as an atheist any natural abortion is just incidental. But if you believe in a omnipotent God who perform miracles (like opening Hannah womb) and if he is good in fact so good that is a person then any natural abortion is an omission.

            If you dont believe in a omnipotent, all knowing all loving God, then of course abortions are incidental.

            By the way, I live in a catholic country, so yes RCC is against almost every abortion with only very few exceptions. In fact I can show you that not too long ago catholic groups prevent a 9 year old girl to abort, despite she was raped by her father.

            By the way what do you think about punishing sons for the sins of their fathers?? It is ok to you?

            Regards
            Kewois

          • Mike

            You must either live in Chile, Ireland, the Phillipines or Poland. My guess is you live in Chile but don’t ask me why. BTW you guys make great wine.

            Ok 1. a 9 year old girl was prevented from getting an abortion: ouch! that is a terrible terrible tragedy. She must have been through hell. Do I think 9 year olds should be able to terminate their babies, well, yes I do, but only for practical and really heretical reasons. Do I think they should, no of course not, but a 9 year old is a 9 year old. You should now say what’s the difference, real objective difference between a 9 year old and a 29 year old. This answer should provide you with ample firepower but it should also if you’re careful give you pause for thought for I think it contains a trap. Anyway on to number 2.
            No, punishing sons for sins of their fathers is not ok/moral, in the strict sense, no. BTW I hope it isn’t because then I am screwed. LOL :) (See Darren I am all smiley etc. etc.) Having said that I suspect what you’re aiming at is either something to do with Hannah or the issue of original sin. In both cases, I have no idea. BUT if you concede that 1. all sons have fathers 2. sins exist 3. that punishment is somehow not just psychological but has some quasi-non material element to it, then by deduction or induction or whatever the heck uction it is, you inadvertently, concede that, if nothing else, atheistict materialism can not be true.

            Right? Help me out Darren.

            PS I know he/she is a troll Darren but like I’ve said I am a novice to these blogs so I still think they’re amusing and besides this is as intellectually stimulating as things get for me sometimes.

          • Darren

            Dang, Mike, all kinds of heresy tonight! That’s a solid reply, but the bishops would _not_ be amused on 1. or 2.

            I mistook Kewois for Keddaw, but still looking trollish, but if it say’s no, then we can suspend judgement for the moment. ESL makes it more difficult to tell, curse my English bias…

            Do we have to dive into abortion? Libby Ann over on the atheist channel does a far better job than I ever could…

            Sins of the father? Well, pretty much the whole Original Sin, right? Not sure how that makes much sense given the RCC’s grudging acceptance of Darwin, though. God and the Machine had a good post on that (wrong, IMO, but good representation of RCC thought), I will look up the links Monday or Tuesday…

          • Mike

            Thanks! Yes my answers were heretical but he/she asked an honest question so I gave an honest answer. Keep in mind I just answered the questions in a very narrow way. Anyway honest questions, that are simple and clear, deserve honest answers. Sounds easier than it is but we all know that. Sometimes it helps to keep in mind Clive’s advice that if you can’t say it using simple words your thoughts are not clear.

          • Darren

            Abortion, in vitro fertilization, and Original Sin

            Not really my issues anymore, but since I was directly asked… Everything below gets a strong IMO preface.

            Libby Anne over at “Love, Joy, Feminism” has some great stuff about abortion, pro-life, pro-choice, etc. She speaks better than I about such issues, so really take a look at her postings, especially:

            How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement

            1. As far as 9 year olds and rape, and such things, it is beside the point. The question, as I see it, is:

            “Is a two month old fetus morally equivalent to a two year old child?”

            If your answer to this question is “Yes”, then abortion is murder, it is never justified, no matter what the circumstances of conception. Exemptions for rape are political expediency and subterfuge.

            I would also point out that if the answer is “Yes”, then bombings of abortion clinics and killing of abortion providers would logically fall under the defense of the innocent’s exception. It is a logical conclusion and claims to the contrary are also, IMO, political subterfuge.

            (I am not saying to go do this, or that this is the only morally correct interpretation, just that it is _one_ completely logically consistent conclusion given the premise)

            2. Sounds like we are talking about IVF and the RCC opposition to same. As with point #1, the question as I see it is:

            “Is a two hour old fertilized egg morally equivalent to a two year old child?”

            If your answer here is “Yes”, then IVF is little different than having septuplets, then at the age of two killing four of them and keeping the ‘best’ one.

            If your answer is “Yes”, then the ~70% of fertilized eggs that spontaneously abort due to “act of God” make for some interesting questions – do unbaptized aborted eggs end up in heaven? If so, then the heavenly population will be predominately aborted souls, by a ratio of at least three or four to one since many non-aborted humans never make it into heaven – it makes one question the value, the ‘point’ of Earthly existence if almost everyone never even has a life to begin with…

            One also might wonder about how this reflects upon the character of God that he designed the human system to spontaneously abort 70% of his creations, and given such a number, why are his followers so bent out of shape over a much smaller artificial abortion rate; really, if God aborts 70%, why is it such a big deal that Planned Parenthood adds an additional 1%?

            And the whole argument about hormonal contraception ends up with a moral imperative for Christians to actually _take_ birth control pills as it results in far fewer abortions than “being open to God’s blessings” with its attendant 70% spontaneous death rate…

            Then throw in the (large) percentage of live-birth humans to ultimately end up in Hell for eternity, yet if they had been “lucky” enough to spontaneously abort as fetuses, then one can logically derive a moral imperative to have as many abortions as possible…

            (again, not saying to go do this, or that this is the only morally correct interpretation, just that it is _one_ completely logically consistent conclusion given the premise)

            3. Original Sin

            Well, from God’s perspective, it is OK to punish descendants for the actions of their ancestors. Over on God and the Machine, Thomas McDonald has an interesting discussion of this:

            Original Sin

            Natural Law has some gymnastics to prove it is actually all our fault anyways. No surprise, I do not agree, but as Thomas would be happy to point out, God does not require my agreement. I think the acceptance of an evolutionary origin for humans, or at least the almost-human-before-rational-soul-bestowing, leaves the concept of The Fall as incoherent, but again, that is one of those Faith things. My conclusion is this makes God not in accordance with modern Western notions of Good, which is God’s prerogative, and Thomas would again be happy to state that the problem lies not with God, who is “beyond” my conceptions of Good and Evil, but with my arrogance in setting myself up in judgment of God…

            Thomas has some very interesting postings, his arguments are very well thought out, and go a long way towards showing how a few fundamental assumptions at the start can completely change the resulting worldview that one arrives at. I also suspect he strongly influenced Leah’s conversion, so there is an additional tie-in for readers of this blog.

          • Mike

            I understand all your points about abortion, the “value” of a 2 hour old human and a 2 year old, contraception and original sin. I think you’re not seeing the forest for the trees but I understand your point of view.
            I would only add that yes a 2 hour old human being, small as it is has as much intrinsic value and dignity as anybody else. (Remember the Dr. Seuss rhyme, a person’s a person no matter how small?) Sponteneous abortions/miscarriages are of course small tragedies, if you don’t believe me, ask a women who can’t stay pregnant. Remember you’re leaving out intent. The intentional killing of a small 1 month old baby is wrong and everyone knows it. BUT politically 1/2 of all people want the status quo. Some of them have the noblest intentions some are, excuse me, baby killers.
            As for original sin, remember that in the theological sense we are not really like father son, mother daughter but are all children of God. From His/this perspective (remember now you are outside time and space) we are all his children and are all connected. It would be like if you began passing something on to your children etc. Obviously we could go on and on but maybe another time.

          • Darren

            ”…Sponteneous abortions/miscarriages are of course small tragedies, if you don’t believe me, ask a women who can’t stay pregnant…”

            Hardly a “small tragedy”! 70 to 80%! Would you consider an aircraft designer to have done a good job if 70% of his planes crashed and killed all the passengers? What would we say about the designer’s “intent” if we knew he could have _easily_ made planes that never crashed? Was he incompetent? Malicious? A practical joker?

            What is the _point_ of the entire cosmos, the creation of humans, free will, natural evil, Christ on the Cross, all that, when you get to heaven and 9 out of every 10 people you meet will have never taken a single breath? (depending on one’s assumptions as to how many live births end up in heaven – from a orthodox Christian perspective 20-30% would seem to be about the best one could get). Really, why bother?

            Do you think the heavenly majority will sit around our feet and listen to us reminisce about the “good old days on Earth” and how hard it was arguing with pesky “athiests” all day? :)

          • Mike

            So you would say 70% is worse than a small tragedy? Like, if what I am saying is true the thought would leave you paralyzed? The moral outrage that this would demand would consume you? You would almost want to cry out to God for justice? Are you picking up what I am laying down here?

            What do you mean why bother? Do you mean that if other poor souls get in then it isn’t worth getting in? Like an exclusive nightclub that starts letting everyone in? I understand your point but I am not sure why that would bother you. I mean so what so let’s say a 5 year old child or a 5 day old child is in heaven, so? Why should I care? I’ll be there for eternity, I’ll need lots of folks around me to talk to.

            Again, I think your frustrating yourself with hypotheticals. Look instead at what Jesus did and what he didn’t do and what the RCC does. It helps where it’s needed and leaves the rest up to fate. That’s the point of our lives. You can still be inquisitive if you become a Christian.

          • Darren

            Mike said:

            Again, recall that abortion and these issues are really not hot buttons with me. Libby Anne writes better than I do about it, I recommend reading her posts.

            ”So you would say 70% is worse than a small tragedy? Like, if what I am saying is true the thought would leave you paralyzed? The moral outrage that this would demand would consume you? You would almost want to cry out to God for justice? Are you picking up what I am laying down here?”

            Exactly! What I am saying is that drawing the line of what is a human being at the fertilized egg point takes us to ludicrous places. I am further stating that, despite what people may profess, they do not _actually_ believe fertilized eggs are people; if they did they would act differently!

            If we woke up tomorrow and found a 70% newborn mortality rate, what would happen? Seven out of every ten newborns, born normally, apparently healthy, we send them home with mom and dad and two weeks later they drop dead. How would we react? What would our society be doing? Would we say, “Oh, well, nothing to be done about it, just God’s will I guess…”?

            No! We would stop everything. We would fund research, we would start a Manhattan project to fix it, we would celebrate every half-a-percent improvement with parades! It would be the top story on every evening newscast! We would move Heaven and Earth for every little baby!

            We don’t do that for fertilized eggs, though…

          • Mike

            LOL Darren, come now…have you never heard of something called the March for Life :) . Really. This is precisely why people get up in arms. Look, you sound like a pro-lifer already and a CATHOLIC, congrats, and congrats to me, I got you to pass the ideo. turing test with flying colors!!! LOL Ok I am being silly, but Darren, look ofcourse a 1 week old baby is not the same as a 10 year old but neither is a 10 year old the same as a 1 year old, and a 1 year old the same as a 45 year old father of 10 kids who is a doctor and saves lives. Look your kind of missing the point. Whether you like it or not you were also once just 1 inch in height. That’s the science, there’s no arguing with that. It was you, not could be you, it was you, your dna totally unique. I’ll give you some scenarios where the RCC would be screwed, but I can’t now. In these scenarios abortion would be have to be totally legal and the RCC would have a very very tough time arguing. I’ll write about them later if you’re interested. BTW welcome to Rome LOL, just kidding. Ok gotta run now.

          • Mike

            Oh and 1 more thing: mom and dad take them home? Ah! How bigoted of you to imply that children are taken home by their mums and dads. Some children are perfect with 2 daddies and 2 mommies. Oh there is so much work/(brain washing) to be done. :)

          • Darren

            Mike said:

            ” What do you mean why bother? Do you mean that if other poor souls get in then it isn’t worth getting in? Like an exclusive nightclub that starts letting everyone in? I understand your point but I am not sure why that would bother you. I mean so what so let’s say a 5 year old child or a 5 day old child is in heaven, so? Why should I care? I’ll be there for eternity, I’ll need lots of folks around me to talk to.”

            I am making my point poorly, apparently.

            My question is more, what relevance would the live-born souls have in a heavenly society in which 80 or 90% of the populace died prior to birth? Assuming that souls actually _do_ something in heaven as opposed to just ‘existing in a timeless eternity’; that souls have intentionality, and can take walks, or sit on clouds, or talk to each other, or strum harps, or what-have-you.

            Assuming souls have personalities, and do things, and are social, then it would seem to make sense that there would be a heavenly society of some sort. The vast majority of these souls will have died in-utero, they would have ‘grown up’ in heaven. It would seem reasonable that any society of heavenly souls would be dominated by the unborn. How would they relate to the ‘birthers’? Would the unborn really think that all of the puff and bother involved in the exceedingly brief corporeal ‘experiment’ was worth it? What would they think of the attendant sacrifice of the untold billions of damned souls on God’s alter of Free Will?

            (I suspect they would have less interest in the birthers than, say, my children have in the peculiar practice we once had of talking on telephones that once plugged into walls…)

            Would the souls of the unborn have any meaning in their existence? If so, would it be greater or lesser than of the birthers?

            These are not, IMO, pointless speculations. These are questions that help to establish, “Does the story make sense?”. And if the answer is “No”, then perhaps the story is wrong…

  • http://home.comcast.net/~jim522/site James schanne

    I would have referenced Aquinas, Chesterton and Monty python

  • Kewois

    Mike:
    First about myself:

    M>Ok, you are not a troll and you are real. LOL. And you are an atheist. Please tell M>me you see the irony it all of this.
    No, really not.
    M>May God have mercy on your soul.
    And Zeus, Ganesha and Aphophis have mercy on yours.
    And I am male.

    Second topic:
    > 9 year old girl was prevented from getting an abortion: ouch! that is a terrible
    >terrible tragedy.

    Is that irony, Mike?? Ok I will assume that no.

    >Do I think 9 year olds should be able to terminate their babies, well, yes I do, but
    >only for practical and really heretical reasons.

    Ok we agree.
    Remember she was a raped 9 year old girl who´s health was in risk as she hasn´t developed enough to have a baby.
    But I began talking about that poor girl to prove my point that RCC is against almost every abortion.

    Third topic punishment:

    >No, punishing sons for sins of their fathers is not ok/moral, in the strict sense, >no.
    Ok., we agree.

    >Having said that I suspect what you’re aiming at is either something to do with
    >Hannah or the issue of original sin.

    Of course it about Hannah, Didn´t you read my post on February 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm???
    I posted this verse from Samuel:
    ———————————
    Although good will be done to Israel, in your family line there will never be an old man. 33Every one of you that I do not cut off from my altar will be spared only to blind your eyes with tears and to grieve your heart, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.
    ——–.
    So God got mad at some of Samuel´s brothers so he killed the sons and grandsons of Hannah, so God did something immoral.

    >you concede that 1. All sons have fathers
    Yes.

    >2. sins exist
    No.
    Sin is a concept made to make you feel guilty and submissive.

    >3. that punishment is somehow not just psychological but has some quasi-non >material element to it,

    Being killed is very material. Of course that Samuel´s brother will feel bad when God kills his sons but that boy (or youg man) has not offended God. Samuel brother is being punished in a very unmoral way.

    >then by deduction or induction or whatever the heck uction it is, you
    If you set premises and then a conclusion then it is deduction, Mike.

    >inadvertently, concede that, if nothing else, atheistict materialism can not be true.

    No.
    Not only because I did not accept premise 2 but because I did not accept that had you made a valid conclusion from them.

    Even if sin exists It is right for you to punish the sons and grandsons of the sinner??? And of criminals??

    Kewois

    >Darren says:
    >I mistook Kewois for Keddaw
    No problem Darren

    • Mike

      Direct killing of innocent life is always a grave sin. Abortion is just that therefore…it is always wrong. Remember “wrong things” happen all the time. The RCC is NOT a magician, it is here to safeguard the truth, which is, in this instance, really quite simple: killing innocent babies is very wrong. BUT let’s leave abortion for another post. I know you’re arguments, I hope you know the RCC’s, so let’s not rehash it all here. Peter Kreeft is someone I’d recommend though.

      Punishing sons for their father’s sins is strictly speaking wrong but remember that depends on the sin. Please keep in mind that you don’t even grant the existence of sin, making it difficult for me to explain how both propositions can co-exist.

      Anyway the irony is that if you are a real atheist you can not possibly be sure you are not a troll or that you exist. It almost by definition has to be a big hoax, a delusion, none of it anymore real/meaningful than what happens to a star billions of light years away. You are a fluke, a mutation, a bug (BTW all of us are on your worldview), nothing, totally meaningless in the grand scheme, which doesn’t even exist anyway.

      I know you’ll try to “pretend” there’s meaning but at bottom you’ll have to agree there is NOTHING. And that sir, is belief, even if true, I never want to hold.

      Thank you for blessing me in the name of those other gods. I mean this sincerely.

      • Darren

        Not really. Atheists are not unique in their inability to prove external existence. This could all be just an elaborate illusion, the only two beings in the cosmos who exist are God and Mike; God may very likely have reasons of his own to hide this fact from you. It is one possible solution to the problem of natural evil.

        And for we Methodological Naturalists, even if the cosmos is illusory, being empiricists we should act as if the universe actually is the way it appears to be, so from that standpoint it makes no difference if we are living in the map or the territory, the results are the same.

        Finally, Theists do not better on the question of ultimate meaning. Even if God exists, it is a separate _assumption_ that God is able to anchor Objective Meaning, it is yet another _assumption_ that there is only one God / Objective Meaning at hand.

        There is no more proof (or evidence ) for God to be inherently meaningful than there is proof for Darren being inherently meaningful. Both are just _assertions_. Until you can establish _how_ God is meaningful in a way that a naturalistic cosmos is not, then you are no better off, you are worshipping a God of the telos gaps.

        • Mike

          You’re sneaking in meaning that is ultimately meaningless but I understand your points.

  • Josee Turner

    All I can say is Amen sister! you get it. As aCatholic, I believe the things we do have their roots in a language of love. When we love, it goes back to Him who loved best. God Bless you in your journey.

  • Kewois

    Hi Mike:
    > Punishing sons for their father’s sins is strictly speaking wrong but remember that depends on the >sin. Please keep in >mind that you don’t even grant the existence of sin, making it difficult for me >to explain how both propositions can co-exist.

    But I do understand the concept of sin.

    So when is it right to punish sons for the sins of their fathers? Can you give me an example?

    Do you approve that God has killed Samuels nephews at young age because some brother misbehave???

    What about the freewill of the kid if he is killed by God just to punish his father?

    >Anyway the irony is that if you are a real atheist you can not possibly be sure you are not a troll or that you exist. It almost >by definition has to be a big hoax, a delusion, none of it anymore real/meaningful than what happens to a star billions of >light years away. You are a fluke, a mutation, a bug (BTW all of us are on your worldview), nothing, totally meaningless in >the grand scheme, which doesn’t even exist anyway.

    I am pretty sure I exist. I am not trying to disrupt this group so I am not a troll.

    I am the result of 14.000 millons years of evolution, by chance yes but I am self concient in a marvelous, incredible big, wonderfull universe. I can give my life the meaning I want.
    I am the descendant of millons of beings who has been lucky enough to survive and also I live in a period of time when science can show me a pretty good description of the universe.

    Now let me ask you: what is the meaning of life, its pourpose?

    Perhaps bein killed in a horrible way because your grand father made something wrong???
    To be killed as an example for unbelibers like me?
    To suffer pain and agony to finally go to “haven”?? What is Heaven for you?

    To be part of the plan of God? Which is that plan? Do you know that plan or just believe there is a plan?
    Do you really have a pourpose in life, Do oyu know it? Or just (as me) you have decided which is that pourpose??

    I mean is you believe in Allah your pourpose would be to be in Muslim heaven with some pretty girls arround you and lots of milk and honey.

    You see… everybody gives prourpose to his or her life.

    >I know you’ll try to “pretend” there’s meaning but at bottom you’ll have to agree there is NOTHING. And that sir, is belief, >even if true, I never want to hold.

    Of course there is no objective real meaning.

    For people who believe in God is the same case. Some people has to be wrong.

    Regards
    Kewois

    • Mike

      Of course there is no objective real meaning. – You’re on the wrong blog Kewois :) , good luck with everything.

      • Kewois

        Hi Mike;

        How about answering AT LEAST ONE question I have made??
        Just one, just one, befotre quitting.
        “Which is the real and objetive meaning of life??”

        I am in the right blog…. former atheist who loves to debate who for good reasons has converted to Catholicism.

        So far not much debate. Exception made for Irenist….

        But a pourpose in my life actually is to know how Leah has refuted her previous pro atheism arguments.

        Kewois

        • Kewois

          Mike:

          (No irony in what follows just I forgot to add this to my previous message:)

          Please take your time to answer, It is a tough question and I am really interested in your answer.

          Regards
          Kewois

          • Mike

            Ok that is an easy one: the ultimate purpose of your life is Love. The universe was created out of Love and you are called to Love. That’s it. On that you hang the RCC and existence. I could explain objective but you wouldn’t accept the premises. So don’t worry just try this experiment. Trying going 1 day without making any right/wrong discernments. If you find out you can’t go 5 mins, and be very very careful about your every thought, you will realize that the human animal is programmed for it, for making right/wrong discernments. If you then want to talk about “evolution” feel free but that will only provide further proof that that is indeed what we are i.e. moral animals living in a moral universe.

            Will add 1 more point: you will NEVER find the “evidence” you are looking for because you are looking in the wrong place. In the end it is God who converts not arguments. Remember even St. Peter doubted and the dude saw it. Even if you K. saw a miracle happen in front of you you would say you had a temporary brain fart or that there was a blip in nature, bug God, ha! NEVER! You decide: do you want salvation and eternal life or not – stop complicating it, just answer the question: yes or no. The choice is yours and yours alone.

          • Darren

            Love?!

            Family Feud survey says “Love” is not one of the top three answers to the question, “What one word comes to mind when you think of the Catholic Church?”

            Perhaps you would be happier as a Quaker or maybe in the United Church of Christ

            Good potlucks, which is always a plus…

          • Mike

            You’re confusing love with Love and happiness with holiness.

  • Kewois

    Mike:
    > the ultimate purpose of your life is Love.
    > The universe was created out of Love and you are called to Love.

    And what that supposes to mean?? “Love”.
    I don’t find “love” in the universe except between humans.
    I mean if a lion kills a zebra there is no “love” there. I found no love in most viruses and bacteria which infect and kill millions of animals and humans.

    So you say that there are billons and billons of galaxies each one with billons of stars because God loves… what Us?

    If the pourpose of everybody life is love why so people suffer??
    Why kids are dying in agony starving right now, or by cancer??
    Is thats LOVE??

    >realize that the human animal is programmed for it, for making right/wrong >discernments.
    I agree with that. But that does not means “love”.
    And for a Roman was perfectly right to kill a slave or go to the coliseum. HE was doing no wrong. Or Bishops burning people during inquisition or when killing heretic people. They felt good about that. That was “Love”??
    Moral standards change in every society and between societies. There is nothing universally moral. As a moral absolute.

    By the way, do you believe that it was good and lovely that Samuel nephews died because God (love) was angry with Samuel´s brother?? Do you or you don´t?

    > If you then want to talk about “evolution” feel free but that will only provide >further proof that that is indeed what we are i.e. moral animals living in a moral >universe.

    We are moral animals yes
    Moral universe??? Where??

    >In the end it is God who converts not arguments.

    Ok. Thank you for admitting that reason is not a way to God. I must say that that is against the teachings of Catholic Church but that was not your firs heresy.

    It seems that you just have to stop thinking and just believe.

    > Remember even St. Peter doubted and the dude saw it.
    Seem the guy was epileptic.

    > Even if you K. saw a miracle happen in front of you you would say you had a >temporary brain fart or that there was a blip in nature, bug God, ha! NEVER! You >decide: do you want salvation and eternal life or not

    WOW! WOW! WOW!
    So if I do not choose to believe for no good reason (or because God did not give me The Grace) I am condemned, not eternal life??
    What happened with LOVE remember??
    You say that everything (that includes me) was created by Love and my pourpose is Love. But if I do not believe I am condemned… A bit bully… Believe in me or you aregoing to hell , but I love you.

    Not so loving afterwards.

    What do you understand by love?

    Kewois

    • Mike

      Slow down. It was a simple question. If you don’t want to answer it it means you think it has merit ipso facto you are not a convicted atheist, ipso facto you are at least an agnostic. Anyway, take care but this is really going nowhere. All the best.

      • ACN

        Oh wow, you used a latin phrase. Your chain of logic MUST be correct!

        • Mike

          OMG, seriously?

      • Kewois

        Hi Mike:

        Let´s put something clear. I made a question and you gave an answer then I made more questions about your definition of “love”. So I really don´t undestand what you mean with:

        >Slow down. It was a simple question. If you don’t want to answer it it means you >think it has merit ipso facto you are not a convicted atheist, ipso facto you are at >least an agnostic.

        You did not answered. Youy brought a non sequitur questioning if I am an agnostic or a theist instead of answering me “What do you understand by Love?”.

        For example you never answered if it is “love” what God did to Samuels Nephews.

        >Anyway, take care but this is really going nowhere. All the best.

        Well. Of course.

        You are just putting names or labels that you don’t define.
        Love is an human emotion not a goal itself.
        Of course yo can seek love or want to be in love but not abstract “love”.

        So I believe that I have made my point that everyone made sense of his or her life and that there is not an objetive pourpose of life.

        I mean that it is perfect that you belive that “love” (whatever it means) is the pourpose of “your” life. Some people has answered me that the pourpose of life is to praise God, another believe that to go to heaven. Other to have as much fun as possible.

        So I will check this post from time to time to know if you has answered any of the multiple questions I have made to you.

        By the way.
        I do not believe in God or gods so I am an atheist.
        Also I say that the God of the major religions do not exist. So I am an strong atheist.
        Agnostic is someone who declares that he or she don´t know or can´t know about God or gods existence.

        Regards
        Kewois

  • Kewois

    And:
    ————
    You decide: do you want salvation and eternal life or not – stop complicating it, just answer the question: yes or no. The choice is yours and yours alone.
    ——-
    That is not a question is a threat. Believe or be punished!
    Also a false dicothomy

    And it will be interesting to know what do you mean by Ethernal life?

    Kewois

    • Mike

      LOL! You guys are really amazing you know. LOL.


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