A new forum for Catholic/Atheist dialogue

Brandon Vogt, author of The Church and New Media has opened a new site called Strange Notions, that’s meant to be a forum for debate and discussion between Catholics and atheists.  For some reason, it seemed like the readers of this blog might be interested.  Here’s how Brandon describes the site (and explains the name):

StrangeNotions.com is designed to be the central place of dialogue between Catholics and atheists. The implicit goal is to bring non-Catholics to faith, especially followers of the so-called New Atheism. As a ‘digital Areopagus’, the site includes intelligent articles, compelling video, and rich discussion throughout its comment boxes.

Strange Notions gets its name from St. Paul’s speech at the Areopagus in Acts 17:16-34. There he proclaimed the Resurrection to the intellectual elite of the ancient world, who responded by saying, “you bring some strange notions to our ears; we should like to know what these things mean.” StrangeNotions.com helps those asking the same thing today. Open-minded atheists will encounter reasonable arguments for God and his Church, maybe for the first time in their lives, and like St. Paul’s listeners they’ll leave intrigued by these strange notions.

As the site expands, it will have more of it’s content written by atheists (interviews, debates, etc), but right now it’s fairly Catholic heavy.  Obviously, Brandon has more contacts on the Catholic end, so feel free to use the comments to recommend bloggers and writers he should reach out to.  This is a chance to try and make disagreements a little more concrete, instead of trying to debunk Christianity broadly, and having Catholics complain, “But you’re not talking about us!

Oh, and I’ve contributed one original piece so far, that’s basically for any atheists who think the notions on the site are something ‘rich and strange’ and might be compelling enough to prompt conversion.  Here’s an excerpt from, “If God Exists, Then What?”

What will happen after I convert?
I would say that the terrifying and wonderful thing is that you’re in direct, personal contact with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. Every moment of wonder you’ve experienced as the resolution chord booms in a symphony, every moment of humble awe as a stranger or friend went out of their way to show you love (or every moment of surprise as you discovered the depths of love you were capable of giving), and every moment you felt the sudden relief of pieces falling into place (whether doing a puzzle, writing a math proof, or reaching the denouement of a mystery novel) were all shadows and images that were trying to point you toward God, the Person they resembled.

Think of what you would do if you were trying to teach someone a new language. First you’d point to objects and declare the nouns that corresponded. You might be able to act out verbs. And, after a while, your student might begin to pick up grammar by trial and error.

God shares himself with us through these glimpses of the transcendent. He meets us where we are, and tutors us in the language we speak. But, as you cleave to Him and His Church, you begin to have the opportunity to speak back and learn what was always meant to be your natural language.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

    Thanks, Leah! And to others I’ll second her request: please suggest your favorite atheist writers, bloggers, and speakers. The first phase of this site was to draw in Catholics, which made sense because, well, I’m Catholic. The next step, however, is to invite new content and serious-minded commenters from the atheist community. So please share your best recommendations! Thanks!

    • Crude

      Brandon,

      Very interesting site, and that’s an extremely impressive list of contributors you have lined up. Good work – I hope it takes off.

      How are you going to handle the atheist contributions? I get the impression the orientation of the site is going to make it toxic to people whose goal is to promote atheism/attack theism, and that’s going to take out the lion’s share of atheist bloggers who wrote about atheism/religion primarily. Or will the goal be more to accept and post letters/arguments/etc to respond to?

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Thanks for the comment and the kind words! As we mentioned on the “About” page, we’ve put together a list of high-profile atheist contributors we’ll be inviting to for guest posts and interviews.

        My hope is that the atheist invitees see it as an opportunity to argue their ideas with a different audience. I know I’d be thrilled to be invited to argue for Catholicism through a guest post on an atheist’s blog, and I’m assuming many atheists will jump at a similar chance at Strange Notions.

        • http://www.facebook.com/fischerjoe Joe Fischer

          Scott Alexander over at SlateStarCodex.com is a very smart, insightful, but most importantly charitable atheist. He is a psychologist so may have some interesting things to say about how world view affect our mental health.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            Excellent! Thanks, Joe!

    • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

      Personally, I’ve always found Daniel Fincke of Camels with Hammers ( http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/ ) to be very open to vigorous dialogue between theists and atheists.

    • Rose

      You could try Edward Tarte. He’s an ex-Catholic priest. http://www.youtube.com/user/edwardtarte?feature=mhee Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism. She’s a pleasure to read. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/ James from Temple of the future http://www.patheos.com/blogs/templeofthefuture/ and Hemant Mehta from the friendly atheist, also good. He did a book where he sold his soul to the highest bidder and went to a bunch of churches, so he’s at least open to talking with people of faith. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Richard Carrier might be interested in talking about early church history. http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Brandon, many of us on the reason side have been reading the apologist arguments and writing replies for years. So many times we run into the same religious assertions that have been debunked long ago, and few of us are inclined to restate articles that have been on-line for years at TalkOrigins.org or Infidels.org or the personal blogs of all the public voices of secularism. You could do what you are trying to do with just links. One side can put up links to existing articles, and the other could put up links to proposed refutations. This prevents the invitation to so much repetition that happens when either group invades the other’s sites with ideas that have had their chance long before. (Some of us have had plenty of that over on FirstThings.com in years past.)

      The other point I would like to make is that non-belief is the default position and requires no justification. Any group that is going to promote belief in things without the benefit of objective evidence has the burden of proof (or at least the burden of justification) upon its shoulders. People will either be persuaded, or not, by your arguments. If those arguments are shown to rest on assumptions that are not factually true, you become prevented, even if your opposition has nothing to put in place. This asymmetry is hard to justly reflect at a site where you are starting with religious dogma that claims respect without factual substantiation.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Sorry for my snarky comment there- but I couldn’t resist adding the link to Nick Alexander’s “RCIA” video.

    It’s been a long time since I knew an atheist I respected, but right now, BobSeidensticker comes closest.

    • mmurray

      “It’s been a long time since I knew an atheist I respected,”

      Nice. No wonder dialogue is going so well …

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Yep. For an atheist to gain my respect, they have to admit the one thing that would endanger their own atheism:
        the possibility that they are wrong.

        • mmurray

          If their atheism is based on evidence and parsimony of explanation that shouldn’t be a problem. Can you admit you might be wrong ?

          • tedseeber

            “If their atheism is based on evidence”

            Their definition of evidence is faulty.

            “and parsimony of explanation”

            Which is just bigotry and bias.

            ” that shouldn’t be a problem. ”

            And yet it is.

            “Can you admit you might be wrong ?”

            Every Catholic is wrong. Every Catholic sins. That is why we have Purgatory.

          • severalspeciesof

            “Their definition of evidence is faulty.”

            Where do you think atheist’s definition is faulty?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I see no evidence for atheism at all. It is impossible to prove a negative.

            Parsimony of explanation is a ridiculous concept for anybody who follows the scientific method. Observation, not explanation, is the key mover- Man doesn’t find Truth, Truth finds Man.

          • mmurray

            I see no evidence for atheism at all. It is impossible to prove a negative.

            Well firstly a person is an atheist if they hold no beliefs in gods. No requirement to prove anything. Secondly when it comes to gods just as when it comes to blackholes proof is not the issue. Proof is only possible in pure mathematics or some other logical system. When discussing reality the only question to discuss is evidence. Where is the evidence? There isn’t any worth discussing.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Well firstly a person is an atheist if they hold no beliefs in gods. No requirement to prove anything. ”

            To hold no beliefs in gods is so foreign to the majority of human experience, that it becomes an extraordinary conclusion. And extraordinary conclusions- always require extraordinary proofs, regardless of other rules of logic.

            “Secondly when it comes to gods just as when it comes to blackholes proof is not the issue. Proof is only possible in pure mathematics or some other logical system.”

            And theology is indeed a logical system, well, good theology is.

            ” When discussing reality the only question to discuss is evidence. Where is the evidence?”

            In the lived experience and observations of the experience of millions of human beings.

            ” There isn’t any worth discussing.”

            And there we get to the bias and the bigotry. Observation is always worth discussing.

          • mmurray

            To hold no beliefs in gods is so foreign to the majority of human experience, that it becomes an extraordinary conclusion.

            But common for many of the so-called new atheists or their children. Running water is foreign to the majority of human experience ? Your point is ?

            And theology is indeed a logical system, well, good theology is.

            I’m a pure mathematician and have been for some 30 years. Theology may be many things but it isn’t the kind of formal logical system in which you can really prove things by deduction from axioms.

            In the lived experience and observations of the experience of millions of human beings.

            This can be explained in simpler ways than taking their experiences at face value. The same is true for all the other religions or even believers in alien abduction who also have many unusual experiences. People’s experiences are interesting but not necessarily true reflections of what actually happened.

            And there we get to the bias and the bigotry.

            No bigotry. Just my conclusion after many years of examining the evidence.

            For your information I’m probably not going to keep replying to this thread. A couple of things I carefully prepared haven’t appeared or at least I can’t find them so I suspect this isn’t the right place for these discussions. Thanks for replying though.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “But common for many of the so-called new atheists or their children”

            Who are, after all, still an extraordinary and small minority, not unlike any other religious cult.

            ” Running water is foreign to the majority of human experience ? Your point is ?”

            That extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proofs.

            “I’m a pure mathematician and have been for some 30 years. Theology may be many things but it isn’t the kind of formal logical system in which you can really prove things by deduction from axioms.”

            Theology is all about deduction from axioms. They’re just a different set of axioms than you are familiar with. No need to be biased against a set of axioms just because you are unfamiliar with them.

            “This can be explained in simpler ways than taking their experiences at face value.”

            Yes, they can. One way we can explain them away is by being bigoted against the observers. That’s far simpler. It is also entirely wrong.

            ” The same is true for all the other religions or even believers in alien abduction who also have many unusual experiences. ”

            Except, remember, their experiences aren’t unusual- yours are. They are by far the norm, the 1st sigma deviation in the bell curve, of human experience, and you’re a 4th sigma outlier at best.

            “People’s experiences are interesting but not necessarily true reflections of what actually happened.”

            Only if you want to redefine truth to “What I am bigoted and biased to believe”.

            “No bigotry. Just my conclusion after many years of examining the evidence.”

            You already redefined the evidence away as being not worth discussing, let alone examining, so why would I believe that?

            “For your information I’m probably not going to keep replying to this thread. A couple of things I carefully prepared haven’t appeared or at least I can’t find them so I suspect this isn’t the right place for these discussions. Thanks for replying though.”

            No matter- I never am actually replying to the person I’m discussing with. There are 10 observers not commenting for every person participating in the discussion. :-)

          • Jake

            That extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proofs

            I believe you’re misinterpreting this pithy quote. The idea is that claims that are extraordinarily unlikely to be true require extraordinary evidence. It is a statement about Bayes’ Theorem, not a claim that you have to be radically skeptical of everything that makes your human experience unique.

            The reason religious claims require extraordinary evidence is because we don’t see angels and demons and magic in real every day life. If Buffy the Vampire Slayer were a documentary, then religious claims would no longer be extraordinary, because supernatural claims would have a much higher default prior.

        • mmurray

          I don’t know where you meet your atheists because for most atheists that’s easy. We look at the evidence and choose the parsimonious explanation. Even Dawkin’s says he less than 7 on his spectrum of theistic probability

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

          Do you think you might be wrong ?

          • tedseeber

            I do. But your “parsimonious explanation” has no reality behind it- it is just a bias with no reasoning. Ockham of Razor fame was just a reductionist.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “We look at the evidence and choose the parsimonious explanation. ”

            But Ockham was an idiot, and the standard of evidence that Dawkins uses is horribly prejudicial and biased, therefore no, I can’t respect that.

            Just about anybody over a 4 on that scale is engaging in arrogance and Manicheism at the very least. If one even respects the idea of the Democracy of the Dead and basic *consideration of evidence*, one will be 3 or higher. I think one would have to be a saint to be a 1.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And Disqus is a crummy commenting system.

            Having said that, this project requires a new stereotype that is not compatible with the project:
            http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2013/05/fundamentalist-atheism.html

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I want to thank you for this. I had utterly forgotten about the spectrum of theistic probability. I am using it to write a new blog post on a new stereotype that I believe needs to be excluded from the dialogue.

            http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2013/05/fundamentalist-atheism.html

  • KG

    Leah, I find it strange that you title your guest post “If God exists, then what?” since in the body of the essay you immediately add “…and Catholicism starts making sense.” Wouldn’t a more accurate title for the entire post be “If Catholicism starts making sense, then what?”

    I know this sounds snarky, but please allow me to explain my earnestness. Many times on this blog and in the comments, there seems to be a notion that if one decides that God exists, usually after having decided that morality is objective, then the truths of Catholicism will become inevitable. In particular, the truths of its claims about the *physical* world are supposed to become inevitable, not just the moral world that had previously been the subject of consideration. It’s that leap that remains the weakest part of the logic, in my opinion.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Catholicism’s claims about the physical world are the same as atheistic science, so what is the problem?

      • AshleyWDC

        No, Catholicism has exactly the same relationship with science as every other religion. It accepts scientific findings when they create no theological problems, and rejects findings when there are problems. In the case of Catholicism, the Big Bang isn’t a problem, so it’s accepted. On the other hand, the health benefits of women controlling their fertility is a problem, so the benefits are ignored and phony health concerns about various birth control methods are invented.

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude Return

          On the other hand, the health benefits of women controlling their fertility is a problem, so the benefits are ignored and phony health concerns about various birth control methods are invented.

          That’s nonsense. The ‘health benefits of women controlling their fertility’ is not a problem whatsoever (it’s largely irrelevant to what the church teaches), and there are legitimate problems with various forms of birth control – to say nothing about the behavior that can accompany it.

          You’d have been closer to making a valid point if you said Catholics have the same relationship with science as everyone else. Religious people, irreligious, atheists, all love science when it supports or points in a direction they like. When it doesn’t, problems start to pop up.

          • Jake

            Funnily enough, some of us actually base our views on science, not the other way around.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Funnily enough, some of us actually base our views on science, not the other way around.

            Funnily enough, Jake – the number of people who say they do this, the number of people who tell themselves they do this, is far far larger than the number of people who actually do it.

            In fact, if ‘base our views on science’ means ‘and not philosophy, worldview, metaphysics and more’, then the number who do so is exactly zero. It’s just that few are willing to admit it.

          • Jake

            Your inability to conceive of someone using observation and empiricism to arrive at a worldview does not constrain my actions or beliefs. You are simply incorrect if you think there aren’t people who care more about truth than they care about their ideology.

            You’re the one copping to ignoring science you find distasteful- you’ll excuse me if I don’t join you on that adventure.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Your inability to conceive of someone using observation and empiricism to arrive at a worldview

            Your inability to realize that you are, in fact, making use of philosophy and metaphysics to arrive at your worldview does not change the fact that you do make use of these things.

            You are simply incorrect if you think there aren’t people who care more about truth than they care about their ideology.

            Everyone, especially those who are beholden to an ideology, tells themselves that they care about truth. Wise people recognize their own pitfalls and limitations. Wiser people realize that philosophy and metaphysics are unavoidable – science needs as much to even get off the ground.

            You’re the one copping to ignoring science you find distasteful- you’ll excuse me if I don’t join you on that adventure.

            I don’t find any science distasteful. I already pointed out that the claim that the Church has to deny such and such claim about artificial contraception is inane – it affects no doctrine or teaching.

            You, meanwhile, seem to have convinced yourself that your beliefs are naught but the product of science, and that you have no philosophy nor metaphysics at work in your worldview. Ignorance is a terrible thing, but self-ignorance of that variety? It’s just sad.

          • Jake

            Ignorance is a terrible thing, but self-ignorance of that variety? It’s just sad

            Indeed.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “No, Catholicism has exactly the same relationship with science as every other religion.”

          There is another religion that invented universities and the scientific method?

          ” It accepts scientific findings when they create no theological problems, and rejects findings when there are problems. ”

          There are no theological problems with SCIENCE, just with POLITICS.

          ” In the case of Catholicism, the Big Bang isn’t a problem, so it’s accepted.”

          That is because that is actually scientific.

          ” On the other hand, the health benefits of women controlling their fertility is a problem, so the benefits are ignored and phony health concerns about various birth control methods are invented.”

          And that isn’t science, because the health concerns are not phony- and I’ve got a lot of intersex frogs in my area to prove it. Just because YOU want to hide the data doesn’t make it science.

          • AshleyWDC

            Exactly my point. You happily gobble up the lie that birth control pills are responsible for things like intersex frogs.

            But the poster above is more correct than I was. People in general tend to accept the science and ideas they like, and reject what they don’t like. Catholicism is merely typical.

          • erin

            A lie so fake that Europe is considering implementing a billion-pound program to attempt removing artificial hormones from their water systems? Guess all those scientists need to start talking with you about liking the right type of science.

          • AshleyWDC

            That was clever change of subject, erin. Put the focus on the indisputable fact that synthetic estrogens are an environmental problem, and away from the fact that contraceptives are a negligible source of those estrogens. Kudos on the deception, but you’re just proving my point.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Exactly my point. You happily gobble up the lie that birth control pills are responsible for things like intersex frogs.”

            I’ve done the experiment of raising frogs myself in the presence of artificial estrogen. Have you?

            “But the poster above is more correct than I was. People in general tend to accept the science and ideas they like, and reject what they don’t like. Catholicism is merely typical.”

            The main difference being that Catholicism invented modern science.

        • Mariana Baca

          The benefits are not ignored: Catholic women are allowed to use the chemicals in hormonal contraceptives for medical uses if contraception is not intended. It is the contraception part that is the problem, not the medicine behind it. If the medicine has other legitimate uses, so be it. But, when you take the contraception aspect out of the “desirable” category, other side effects of the medicine become more prominent in the decision whether to take them routinely or not.

      • BrandonUB

        As far as I know, there’s not any journals articles titled “Man Rises from Dead, God Did It”. That’s a pretty strong claim about the physical world.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          No it isn’t. It’s a strong claim about a single event. Says nothing about the physical world at all, except that something occurred in it we can’t explain.

          You apparently don’t understand the limitations of science very well.

          • BrandonUB

            That magic sometimes happens and physical rules don’t apply is a claim about the physical world, and it’s a very strong claim that’s wildly inconsistent with the observed world.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Magic is just technology we don’t understand yet. And miracles are a part of the observed world, so I don’t see how you can claim they are inconsistent with the observed world.

            Inconsistent with your particular model, maybe, but not inconsistent with OBSERVATION ITSELF.

            Science isn’t realty. Science mirrors reality and makes the models better through observation. Denial of observation doesn’t help science, and claiming that an observed phenomena is “magic” and “wildly inconsistent with the observed world” when it is only wildly inconsistent with your flawed mathematical model of the world, is just arrogance.

          • BrandonUB

            Magic is just technology we don’t understand yet.

            If that’s true, it undercuts your claims about miracles pretty thoroughly, as it indicates that observed phenomena that we don’t understand are still fundamentally understandable.

          • Erick

            If that’s true, it undercuts your claims about miracles pretty thoroughly, as it indicates that observed phenomena that we don’t understand are still fundamentally understandable.

            Except Catholics do not claim miracles to never be understandable. Only that the understanding is not available until we meet with the ultimate reality that is God. Science, unfortunately, due to its limitations can never claim to know ultimate reality. It can only claim to model reality well enough to explain what has been observed.

          • BrandonUB

            There’s really not much to meet that with other than that I don’t buy it. You believe magic happens, I think it doesn’t. If said magic is inherently not possible to detect, it’s probably not going to be an impressive claim for people that don’t have anything vested in believing in it.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “There’s really not much to meet that with other than that I don’t buy it.”

            And thus, another skeptic who fails to be skeptical about his own skepticism.

          • tedseeber

            We don’t believe in magic. We believe in miracles. They are not equal.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Miracles ARE fundamentally understandable, to God. Who ever said that they weren’t?

          • BrandonUB

            Naked assertions that not only lack evidence but can’t have supporting evidence are wildly uninteresting.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There is plenty of supporting evidence for both miracles and God, you just have decided to unilaterally ignore it all.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            They can have supporting evidence- but one must be open minded enough to examine it, and most New Atheists are more dogmatic than a Westboro Baptist.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Indeed. How anyone could believe the common atheist claim that physical laws are brute facts, or the universe came into existence out of nothing without cause, is shocking.

            Magical, atheistic mythology has no place in science.

          • BrandonUB

            How anyone could believe the common atheist claim that physical laws are brute facts

            Are you claiming that physical laws are actually not facts?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Are you claiming that physical laws are actually not facts?

            1. Are you claiming that physical laws are facts? Keep in mind, given that science has led us to discard previous physical laws, apparently facts can be wrong.

            2. Are you truly unaware of the difference between a fact and a brute fact?

          • BrandonUB

            1. Yes. Physical laws are facts. A fact is not something that can never, ever, under any circumstances be shown to be incorrect, it’s a representation of the best present understanding, something that’s beyond reasonable doubt. Sometimes, things that are beyond reasonable doubts are still wrong. Suggesting otherwise is a form of radical skepticism that essentially denies that knowledge is possible.

            2. I don’t think the difference is relevant here.

            In any case, I dislike arguments that amount to “science has been wrong, so I can believe whatever I like”.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Knowledge isn’t possible for human beings. Only rough approximations of knowledge are.

        • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

          You’re also not going to find any scientific articles titled “physicists discover God does not exist”, “evolution investigated – found not to be guided, purposeful” or much else. Because those are not scientific claims, even if they’re true.

          That magic sometimes happens and physical rules don’t apply

          …is an inane, intellectually dishonest mangling of the resurrection claim, which in turn speaks of a terrible understanding of science itself.

          Science, even by your view, is entirely, strictly limited to investigating the ‘physical world’. God doesn’t fall under that heading, nor would His actions – at best, the physical aspects of his effects could be investigated. In fact, even a powerful alien’s actions – say we live in a simulated universe – wouldn’t be practically open to investigation by science. At best you could hope that, in principle, if the alien cooperates, maybe, possibly, you could glean some information.

          Finally, framing a miracle as a case where ‘the physical rules don’t apply’ is silly. The physical rules as we knew them ‘didn’t apply’ in a wide variety of cases in the history of science. Our response was to simply change the rules – hence quantum physics, hence gravity, hence a whole lot more. Don’t complain that science has never discovered a violation of the physical rules when the physical rules have changed repeatedly in response to each and every discovery of a violation.

          • AshleyWDC

            The rules did not change, because there are no rules floating around in space for us to access. We observe, and then we build models. Then we observe some more, and refine the models, and on and on.

            Without observation, you don’t have anything. You cannot know your god if you cannot observe it. You can’t philosophize it into existence, especially not with crude pre-modern intellectual implements favored by theologians.

            Without observation, you’re just pretending to know god.

          • Erick

            Without observation, you don’t have anything.

            And yet, the Catholic claim is that we observed our God. It’s not our fault that you won’t believe the attested observation.

          • http://twitter.com/Smidoz Peter Smith

            Point of grammar, “we” is a first person pronoun, I suppose you are 2000 years old, and observed the resurrection?

            The Quran attests many things, I suppose they must be true, someone attests to that truth. Let’s face it, you know as well as the next person that people make stuff up.

          • tedseeber

            I don’t doubt the Quran at all. I use it as proof that Allah is beyond human reason, unlike the Catholic God, who has a rationality.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            The rules did not change, because there are no rules floating around in space for us to access.

            Your perception of ‘rules’ as needing to be ‘physically tangible things’ is adorable.

            Without observation, you don’t have anything.

            Apparently no one knows mathematics, since numbers and Pi aren’t ‘floating around’. And the law of non-contradiction is some kind of eerie magical fairy-tale. Bring me this law! Let me weigh it!

            You can’t philosophize it into existence, especially not with crude pre-modern intellectual implements favored by theologians.

            Wow, wrong on so many levels. For one thing, theologians have made use of arguments, pre-modern and modern. For another, materialism and atheism have been around since pre-modern times as well.

            Finally, no one ‘philosophizes it into existence’. But philosophy does reveal things. At least to people who don’t think that “rules” must be literally concrete things. I suppose superposition doesn’t exist either – it literally cannot be observed, nor can many other things.

            Without observation, you’re just pretending to know god.

            While the ignorance of this claim has already been exposed, I’ll just add: “Gosh, then I hope He shows up on earth sometime. Maybe He’ll even perform a miracle, like dying and being resurrected!”

            Stop pretending to know what theology, philosophy and science are, please.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And thus, because I observe God, and know he exists, I have knowledge. Cool.

          • BrandonUB

            …is an inane, intellectually dishonest mangling of the resurrection
            claim, which in turn speaks of a terrible understanding of science
            itself.

            No, it’s not. You can hide behind various weasel words and complain about framing all you like, but a claim that someone rose from the dead is a claim that physical laws of the universe don’t always apply, that they can be altered on special occasions. While that might be true, it’s certainly a very big claim about the physical world.

            Handwaving about discoveries in the natural world will get you nowhere if you’re claiming that a deity caused a resurrection.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            You can hide behind various weasel words and complain about framing all you like

            Crude use scary, big words! Words that no common. Words that BURN! WORDS BUUUUUUUUUURRRRNNN.

            I’m hiding behind nothing. I am wielding some very basic logic and reasoning, informed by actually reading up on this subjects. Try it.

            but a claim that someone rose from the dead is a claim that physical laws of the universe don’t always apply

            Or that our description of them is incomplete, or that our understanding of our world is not total, or various other things.

            Handwaving about discoveries in the natural world

            I don’t need to handwave them. I simply need to recognize them for what they are: incomplete theories (even by scientist’s standards) that conditionally apply given various assumptions according to a model.

            Science has limits. Good scientists and people who love science realize this. People who really don’t care about science unless it proves their deep-seated political and emotional wants have a bit more trouble with the concept.

          • BrandonUB

            Crude use scary, big words!

            No, Crude whines incessantly that expecting claims about the physical world to be supported by evidence is unfair! That he has Serious Theology to support miracles!

            Science has limits. Good scientists and people who love science
            realize this. People who really don’t care about science unless it
            proves their deep-seated political and emotional wants have a bit more
            trouble with the concept.

            No one disputes that science has limits. That doesn’t license you to declare magic is too real, because science doesn’t know everything!

            You may find yourself clever and well informed, but your points are just another version of the God of the Gaps style arguments.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Why does resurrection from the dead violate any *actual* laws of the physical world (as opposed to laws in your personal model)?

      • KG

        Catholicism makes claims about miracles, particularly the Resurrection miracle. Now a scientist cannot be absolutely sure that the Resurrection did not happen, but she can conclude it is unlikely/implausible based on what we do understand about the physical world. Matter left alone has never been known vaporize, doesn’t pass through solid rock, etc. If you find that this miracle *is* likely, then how do you lend it more credence than other non-Christian claims of miracles? This is what interests me most – the non-empirical evaluation of miraculous claims.

        • Randy Gritter

          Actually Catholicism says the resurrection is impossible except for a miracle. Miracles are outside of scientific investigation. Science studies the natural word. Miracles are supernatural. I do find it interesting. If we didn’t believe in any miracles then would you not simply declare the God hypothesis to be unnecessary? When we say God did invade human history with a supernatural event then that is also a reason not to believe.

          • KG

            “If we didn’t believe in any miracles then would you not simply declare the God hypothesis to be unnecessary?”

            Yes.

            “When we say God did invade human history with a supernatural event then that is also a reason not to believe.”

            The problem is that the evidence seems to permit many alternative explanations that don’t require miracles. There certainly could be miracles that would be spectacular enough to sway my opinion, though.

          • Randy Gritter

            I have my doubts that any miracle would do it. There are always the two catch-all replies:

            1. All the witnesses were confused or lying (even if one of the witnesses is yourself).

            2. Some scientific phenomenon we don’t yet understand is involved.

            Can you imagine a miracle that cannot be explained by either of these? Maybe Fatima? But you are the final judge and you don’t even have to look at all the evidence.

            I think the resurrection might qualify as well. Does the
            evidence really permit alternative explanations? People are normally pretty slippery about what precise alternative they put forward. That is because any precise alternative raises so many questions. Like the disciples made up the resurrection or maybe Jesus somehow faked his death or maybe some unspecified person in the second or third century changed all the copies of the New Testament books. All these alternative explanations only work if you don’t scrutinize them. If you spend a few minutes really trying to poke holes in it then it becomes obvious it is nonsense.

            It is an event that changed the world. It is a claim that
            has been challenged in every generation. Many challengers throughout history have become Christians. That is because no alternative explanation actually works.

          • KG

            Being able to witness a miracle myself would certainly help. For example, witnessing the return of Christ and the passing of his judgment upon me. I would be in deep trouble at that point, but it would be totally evident to me that I had been wrong.

            Side question, as I am someone who is not as well versed in the history as you are: What is the generally accepted reason for why some person couldn’t have carried Christ’s body out of the tomb before more people returned to look at it?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “What is the generally accepted reason for why some person couldn’t have carried Christ’s body out of the tomb before more people returned to look at it?”

            At the time St. Luke was doing his research, court records of Pontius Pilate and the testimony of the guards involved, for the tomb was guarded for the three days to prevent *exactly* this scenario.

            Last mention of those records in Church history was by St. Helena, mother of Constantine, who used them to locate the tomb in 327 A.D. (building the first Church of the Holy Sepulchre). I understand how this may not be conclusive to you as nobody has seen them since.

          • KG

            Good to know, though. Thanks.

          • hypnosifl

            Where is it recorded that Luke and Helena checked these court records? Did they themselves say they had done this in surviving writings, or is this a second-hand claim by others, and if so who? Can you give links/quotes of the wording of the claims?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Hard to give a link to a book that never saw a printing press and has not been copied since 850 A.D.

            Care to take a trip to Italy? And are you willing to pay for my plane fare?

          • hypnosifl

            Are you claiming that no scholar has every transcribed the text of these documents and published them in a book, despite the fact that if they say what you claim they say, they would be of great historical importance, not to mention enormous apologetic value to Christians? If you are claiming that they are unpublished and the only way to know what they say is to go to Italy and see the originals, then are you claiming to have seen them yourself? If not, what’s your source for your statements about what they say?

          • tedseeber

            “Are you claiming that no scholar has every transcribed the text of these documents and published them in a book, despite the fact that if they say what you claim they say, they would be of great historical importance, not to mention enormous apologetic value to Christians?”

            They are neither. Luke interviewed the soldiers involved, their story is in his Gospel. That is enough documentation for us, and indeed, for most historians. The real question is why it isn’t sufficient for you.

          • hypnosifl

            “The real question is why it isn’t sufficient for you.”

            Um, I made a request that you give me the source for the claim that such documentation exists in the first place, I didn’t say that whatever documentation that exists “isn’t sufficient”. You didn’t answer this request until your most recent round of posts, where you have said the information on Luke comes from his Gospel, and the information on St. Helena was something you saw in the Vatican card catalog. For Luke, what passage are you talking about? Does he specifically say he interviewed the soldiers, or does he just describe what they saw without telling us whether the information is first-hand or second-hand? Also, your earlier claim was that Luke had researched “court records of Pontius Pilate” along with testimony of soldiers, what passage in his Gospel says he did that?

            For St. Helena, we have to trust your memory I guess (odd that you would say it’s enough documentation for “most historians” when you can’t point to any historians that have referenced this though), unless I can get in touch with someone from Rome who could go look at the Vatican’s card catalog. Do you think the work you’re thinking of would be easy to find under “St. Helena”, or in some other section of the catalog?

          • hypnosifl

            Assuming you get email alerts when someone replies to a comment of yours, I just wanted to let you know that I’d still appreciate an answer to my questions about this claim–I wasn’t just asking rhetorically. If what you’re saying has any truth, it would be very interesting to me, and many others too I’m sure. If you can’t back it up with even a reference to a source that states that there is evidence of Luke/Helena seeking out court records, that would suggest either A) you just made it up, or more charitably, B) you were relying on some vague memory of something you heard about once but don’t remember where (in which case your memory could easily be faulty).

          • tedseeber

            I don’t. I don’t get such e-mails.

            I saw the story of St. Helena in a card catalogue in a library that has lending status with the Vatican Library. Not every book before the printing press has, or needs to be, transcribed. It is enough for me that it exists.

          • Randy Gritter

            The tomb was guarded so removing the body would not have been trivial. Still without the appearances of Jesus to the disciples and to others the explanation that Jesus had risen from the dead would never have been seriously considered. Their testimony was key. It was consistent with the physical data. It was against their apparent self interest. It was judged to be credible by many who heard it. That along with continued miracles are what explains the growth of the early church.

          • Slow Learner

            Bwahahaha. Because you have so many copies of your gospels prior to 150AD.
            If there’s a gap of 100+ years from event to first surviving document, I’m afraid you bear the burden of proof that anything happened at all, let alone that it happened exactly as you describe.

          • JoFro

            According to your definition, the whole of ancient history never happened because there are hardly any documents that survive from the exact time of the event. Plato and Socrates might as well have been imaginary people because there are no copies at all from their time

          • Slow Learner

            Well, Socrates being mythic isn’t impossible, I seem to recall Plato is the only original source we have for him. Plato, on the other hand, there’s a bit more on.
            The issue is not hanging on to the actual original scrap of parchment (though that helps), the issue is having sources first written close to the event, not decades or centuries later.
            Since there is nil archaeological evidence for Jesus, zero mentions of him by secular records and histories that are anywhere near contemporary, and even the earliest Biblical texts are composed decades after his death, anything claimed about him is on much less certain ground than, say, something claimed about Agricola.

          • Randy Gritter

            The point is saying Socrates didn’t exist is not a common position among scholars. So one source of information can be convincing. The Strange Notions site actually has some links to some secular historical data. Jesus was not a significant political figure in his day. We would not expect a lot.

          • Fr.Sean

            Slow Learner
            I’m not sure where you heard their were no secular references to Jesus but their are several references to him. Naturally, there are no archaeological evidence for Jesus for a good reason, but i would suspect we would disagree on that.

          • Slow Learner

            From a variety of sources; to the best of my knowledge a brief reference to “those who call themselves Christians” in Tacitus which seems to take Christ’s story from a Christian (and is thus only evidence of what Christians said of themselves when Tacitus wrote it), and is in any case c 110 AD, and two later interpolations in Josephus are about it in terms of secular writers before 200AD. If you’ve got any others, I’d be glad to check them out.

          • Fr.Sean

            Slow Learner,

            I remembered hearing about some of the secular references to Jesus but couldn’t specifically remember them. I googled “secular references to Jesus”. this page listed 9 of them. http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/documents/Historical%20evidence%20on%20the%20exhistance%20of%20Jesus.htm

          • Slow Learner

            Ah, thank you. So, Tacitus and Josephus which as I already mentioned are limited, an even briefer reference in Suetonius (also note that under Claudius he has “Chrestus” instigating disturbances amongst the Jews. Claudius reigned from 41-54 AD. See the problem there?), a letter from Pliny the Younger (which I had read about before, how did I forget that?) which is about Christians and what they believe, not about Christ per se, Thallus whose work is lost to us and whose first surviving reference is in 180AD [this reference is well-handled by Carrier here: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/thallus.html, Phlegon, also discussed by Carrier in the same article just linked, Mara bar Serapion – again of uncertain date, and not mentioning Jesus by name (or arguably at all – I am not convinced “the Jews wise king” should be Jesus though my Ancient Near Eastern history isn’t good enough to postulate alternatives), Lucian of Samosate writing in the late 100s AD so too late, and an obscure reference to hanging Yeshu in the Talmud dates probably from 200 to 500 AD and is considered worthless by Ehrman.

            So it is fairly clear that there was at least one, possibly several cults called Christians or Chrestians, and that by 120 AD or so at least some of them believed in a Christ, about whom they would tell people. That much there is evidence for. As I said earlier, the most parsimonious and easiest answer is to assume that the later stories of Jesus are about the originator of the Christian cult; but given the evidence other views are supportable.

          • Fr.Sean

            Slow Learner,
            You seem to know a lot about antiquity. are you a history major? i suppose from what you are saying there are two possibilities, either a man named Jesus existed or perhaps someone made him up? it would seem a little more likely that at least some guy named Jesus existed to cause so many people to change the course of their lives? it would seem a little difficult that so many people would give up their lives (12 apostles) for someone who didn’t exist? i remember hearing an attorney say that if your client is innocent stick with the facts, if he’s guilty confuse the jury. we all do that when we discuss things. if we feel our argument isn’t well formed or perhaps false it’s natural to change the subject. arguing about historical references to the historicity of Jesus seems to be a diversion from who he was and what he was about? in other words, if i can divert to discussing historical references i no longer have to take about the truth, or lack their of of the gospel message? the other aspect to the gospel is that it does seem to apply a great deal to life. if you read it and reflect on it, it does seem to correspond to truth within one’s heart. i remember hearing one atheist say that although he didn’t believe in God he was always intrigued by the four gospels, as if they do convey some mystical truth.

          • Slow Learner

            I am not an historian; I just keep being badgered by Christians to check out their religion, so I looked into its origins (among other things) and left thoroughly unimpressed.

            St Paul declares the central claim in Christianity to be that Christ was resurrected (1 Cor 15:14) – and yet, far from proof that Christ lived again after death, there is reasonable doubt that Christ lived in the first place!
            And I’m afraid I simply can’t follow the logic of your claim that we should focus on who Jesus was and what he was about, when we aren’t even sure he existed. If you can’t prove that initial fact, how do you expect to prove any other assertion about him?

          • JoFro

            The earliest documents we have on Plato are 500 years after he lived. Jesus on the other hand, the Gospels, are placed a mere, 50-60 years after he is dead or resurrected or ascended – whatever you believe.

            We have hardly any info about Julius Ceasar from sources who lived during his time and this man was the dictator of an entire Empire. The only mention of Pontius Pilate for centuries only existed in the Gospels, until proof he existed was found in the 60s by archaeologists.

            If we have hardly any proof for Emperor-dictators and local governors, what makes you think we are going to have alot of info on some obscure Jewish preacher who never even left Judea and was crucified?

            The fact that we have the Gospels, to a historian at least, is a lot more compared to other historical figures from the same time period and that says a lot.

          • Slow Learner

            As regards Plato, while we have nothing written by his own hand, we have books which claim directly to have been written by him; we also have references to him by others, such as Aristotle, Aristophanes, Thucydides
            etc. Aristotle was directly taught by Plato, and is himself extremely well attested. So that claim is flatly wrong, I’m afraid, and shows either a lack of sufficient research to read Wikipedia, or an intent to deceive.

            Julius Caesar not only wrote himself about his campaigns, in Gaul and the following Civil War – texts which have survived and been studied by school-children for centuries – we have extensive records of his activities, in the writings of the man himself, the writings of others, and archaeological records which corroborate both.

            I would obviously not compare the information which should exist about Jesus to that which should exist about Caesar. However, there is no reason it should not be comparable to Plato – written about by himself,
            surviving writings from his direct companions (not decades later, with the first documents – Paul’s letters – being from someone who never met him), and
            mentioned by other sources of the time, be they political (Thucydides talks about Plato), or satirical (Aristophanes does likewise).

            After all, Plato was not a war leader, not an emperor; he
            minted no coins, built no fortresses or temples; he thought, he argued, he wrote, and he inspired others to follow his example. If that much was possible for a mortal man, any divine creature should find it easy to do likewise. With Plato we’re looking back several centuries further, and yet we have much more to look AT.

            Because here’s the thing – if you claim that what Jesus did was at one and the same time of great, cosmic importance, the turning point of history, and yet at the same time you claim he was an obscure Jewish preacher, you look ridiculous. He set the whole world on end…and yet nobody thought to write it down for at least 50 years, apart from a later convert?

          • JoFro

            Three words – JEWISH ORAL TRADITION! This may come as shock to you but Jesus never commanded his followers to write anything down. He asked them to go preach what he taught them. They did exactly that. That later on they made use of a new technology called THE BOOK, which was this whole new thing compared to the scrolls, which was what was used and still being used by Jews, allowed them to put into words what they had been preaching.

          • Randy Gritter

            The documents exist. The question is when were they written. We have some fragments that point back to the first century. Does it make sense that they were written much later? Again that theory creates more problems than it solves.How did Polycarp, Tertulian, Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome and the rest of the second century church come to be? If nothing happened then how did these groups of Christians appear all over the Roman empire telling the same story and willing to die for it? They claim they heard it from the apostles. Are they lying? It is easy to play the skeptic and suggest everything was faked or made up. The trouble is at some point you have to start believing history. Real people who really believed. As soon as you go there you have the question of why they didn’t notice everything before them was mythical. Irenaeus knew Polycarp was not mythical because he was mentored by him. Polycarp knew the apostle John was not mythical because he was mentored by him. John knew Jesus was not mythical because for the same reason. There are many successions like this that go back to Jesus. Where did they come from if nothing happened?

          • Slow Learner

            The tradition stating that line of descent (Jesus-John-Polycarp-Irenaeus) is about as reliable as the claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels.

            Out of parsimony I tend towards the explanation of a fairly popular rabbi who was then declared to have gone into Heaven when he inconveniently died, and the rest is mythic accretion, though I have to say that the Christ-myth theory is an interesting one and I’m looking forward to more scholarship examining that possibility.

          • Randy Gritter

            The tradition stating that line of descent (Jesus-John-Polycarp-Irenaeus) is about as reliable as the claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote the gospels.

            Not really. Ireneaus says Matthew wrote the first gospel. I believe him. Still he does not say where he got that information. He does say Polycarp listened for many hours to John talk about his time with Jesus and that Polycarp repeated these stories to him. They spent years passing on the faith. They were more like father and son than teacher and student.

            If they were changing the content of the faith from one generation to the next you would get a different form of Christianity in every corner of the Roman Empire. You would not get a bunch of bishops in the 4th century able to agree on things like the creed and the canon of scripture based on what their understanding of the apostolic faith was.

            Out of parsimony I tend towards the explanation of a fairly popular rabbi who was then declared to have gone into Heaven when he inconveniently died, and the rest is mythic accretion, though I have to say that the Christ-myth theory is an interesting one and I’m looking forward to more scholarship examining that possibility.

            Again, this explains none of the data. How do the apostles take the story of a popular but dead rabbi and evangelize the world? What happened to St Paul on the road to Damascus? Did he make that story up? Did Peter and John really see the risen Christ? They seemed to work very hard and write very eloquently for a religion they knew to be false.

          • Slow Learner

            Well, if you believe that the apostle Matthew wrote the gospel that now bears his name, I am afraid that my discussing biblical scholarship with you would do no good to either of us.

          • Randy Gritter

            I have seen the arguments suggesting he didn’t write it. They don’t make much sense to me. First of all, they are based on the assumption that Jesus could not have predicted accurately the destruction of Jerusalem before it happened. I have no issue with that because I believe Jesus is God.

            Secondly, they suggest someone might write a gospel much later and assign Matthew’s name to it because, well just because. Why choose such an obscure character? Never made sense to me. Like I said, to solve a non-problem they create a bigger problem. Being bold counts for more than being right in modern biblical scholarship.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Why is a miracle explained not still a miracle?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “If we didn’t believe in any miracles then would you not simply declare the God hypothesis to be unnecessary?”

            No. I wouldn’t. God is still necessary for the NATURAL world to work.

            “When we say God did invade human history with a supernatural event then that is also a reason not to believe.”

            The natural is merely that subset of the supernatural which we understand.

          • AshleyWDC

            “God is still necessary for the NATURAL world to work.”

            False. There are Christian rationalizations purporting to demonstrate that, but like all such theology they are merely false dilemma. Issues such as the apparent regularity of nature have no answer, at least at this time. Anytime you find a question with no answer, you’ll find a theologian nearby with a handy false dilemma trying to catch the unwary.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “There are Christian rationalizations purporting to demonstrate that, but like all such theology they are merely false dilemma.”

            THAT is the false dilemma in and of itself. The definition of God doesn’t change merely because YOU want it to.

            ” Issues such as the apparent regularity of nature have no answer, at least at this time. ”

            There is an answer, but since you have determined that theology is always false without bothering to examine it, you’ll never know it.

            “Anytime you find a question with no answer, you’ll find a theologian nearby with a handy false dilemma trying to catch the unwary.”

            And once again, there’s no difference between the natural and the supernatural, other than our own ignorance as human beings.

            You have said nothing to convince me that you are anything other than yet another New Atheist parrotting the bigotry of Dawkins.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Supernatural is just the natural that is beyond our understanding. Or rather, the natural is just the supernatural that is within our understanding, since that is by far the smaller dataset.

          • Randy Gritter

            No. Supernatural means beyond nature. Something can be purely natural and be beyond our understanding. That is a gap in science. Supernatural things are unrepeatable violations of normal physical processes. No amount of studying the physical world can make sense of them. You can only understand them by understanding God.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            If you understand God, then you have brought God into the realm of Science- and thus, you have made the supernatural, natural.

            I have many examples of this happening in the past. Lodestone is a great example. We now know the rules of magnetism today- but St. Augustine considered it miraculous, a violation of natural laws. There are countless such examples.

            I am not arrogant enough to say our dim view of a scientific model of the natural world is correct- but I do see the natural world as a subset of the supernatural world. Everything that is natural today- was once considered supernatural to somebody.

            And one day, we may yet understand God well enough to understand that the border between natural and supernatural, was only ever in our own minds.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            That is the modernist redefinition. I’m a premodernist.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Implausible is not equal to impossible, and nobody who *actually* follows the scientific method can deny miracles happen. In fact, I’d say denying that miracles occur, is a darn good sign that somebody has left the scientific method behind and ceased to be skeptical about their own skepticism.

          In addition to that, I don’t know anybody who denies non-Christian claims of miracles.

          And the Church, before declaring anything modern to be a miracle, requires extensive scientific testing to eliminate other potential explanations. A good case in point is that Eucharistic Miracle from Argentina 15 years ago; Pope Francis explicitly tried to keep news of it from coming out before the tissue testing was done (and succeeded so well that most people had never heard of it 15 years later).

          • Dalillama

            In addition to that, I don’t know anybody who denies non-Christian claims of miracles.

            I do, and I strongly suspect that every person in this thread who has questioned or denied the miracles you claim does the same for claims of miracles by Muslims, Hindus, Shintoists, etc ad nauseum.

          • tedseeber

            I don’t. I have no reason to.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don’t. Miracle claims are eyewitness evidence. Only skeptics doubt eyewitness evidence.

            That I would have a different explanation for the miracle, does not destroy its nature as a miraculous event.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don’t. Miracle claims are eyewitness evidence. Only skeptics doubt eyewitness evidence.

            That I would have a different explanation for the miracle, does not destroy its nature as a miraculous event.

          • Dalillama

            In which case the term miracle is completely meaningless. If something occurs that can be explained by known processes, that occurrence is definitionally not evidence for an unknown process. Put differently, citing miracles as evidence for your god only works if you define a miracle as something that is totally unexplainable by known processes. otherwise it’s merely evidence for the already known processes.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “If something occurs that can be explained by known processes, that occurrence is definitionally not evidence for an unknown process.”

            Right. But God isn’t unknown, just denied.

            “Put differently, citing miracles as evidence for your god only works if you define a miracle as something that is totally unexplainable by known processes. otherwise it’s merely evidence for the already known processes.”

            I never said all the processes were *already* known, just Knowable. Just as I never said God was unknowable- that is your argument, not mine.

            The line between the supernatural and the natural exists only in your own mind. It is not insurmountable and it is certainly possible to bring the supernatural into the realm of the natural with learning. Doing so doesn’t eliminate the fact that a miracle did occur, for a miracle is merely a fortunate coincidence. Explaining how God did it doesn’t eliminate the fact that God did it, any more than knowing how an atom works eliminates His hand in creating the atom.

          • Dalillama

            The line between natural and supernatural doesn’t exist; supernatural is a completely meaningless term.

            Right. But God isn’t unknown, just denied.

            known meaning scientifically demonstarble. If something occurs that is explainable by the ordinary operations of physics, chemistry, etc, then that event is evidence that physics and chemistry work, not evidence that an invisible and undetectable entity interfered.

            Explaining how God did it doesn’t eliminate the fact that God did it,
            any more than knowing how an atom works eliminates His hand in creating
            the atom.

            Saying GODDIDIT does not constutute evidence. Knowing how an atom work (which is known) indicates that there are no extraneous thing needed to make the atom work, and therefore, the workings of the atom are evidence for physics, not gods.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “known meaning scientifically demonstarble”

            Oh, so you’ve moved the goalpost again. Guess you are another one of those who claims that science isn’t a philosophy.

            I can only say yours is a ridiculous criteria.

            “Saying GODDIDIT does not constutute evidence. ”

            You are right- because God Did Everything, including all of science. Without God, nothing happens.

            “Knowing how an atom work (which is known) indicates that there are no extraneous thing needed to make the atom work”

            You are lying, the scientific method indicates no such thing.

            “and therefore, the workings of the atom are evidence for physics, not gods.”

            It would if that was actually part of the scientific method. Since it is a lie instead, your conclusion is coming from an obviously false premise, and is therefore unsupportable.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Mindless reductionism isn’t science.

      • hypnosifl

        Catholicism makes no claim about the existence of any sort of non-physical soul? It’s compatible with the idea that mind-like behavior is purely a product of physical interactions between nerve cells, which could all be in principle predicted in terms of the fundamental particles making up the body and the mathematical laws governing these particles?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “Catholicism makes no claim about the existence of any sort of non-physical soul?”

          Yes, but so what? So does Buddhism. So do a lot of scientists.

          ” It’s compatible with the idea that mind-like behavior is purely a product of physical interactions between nerve cells, which could all be in principle predicted in terms of the fundamental particles making up the body and the mathematical laws governing these particles?”

          That idea isn’t scientific, and contains a specific philosophical problem that would make the scientific method itself impossible (as well as all other human thought and free will). It is in fact contradictory to science to claim this.

          • hypnosifl

            Buddhism tends to deny the existence of any unified essence behind a personality, instead they see actions arising from the interactions of many interdependent factors not unlike modern brain science, although Buddhists would not necessarily believe these factors to be purely “physical” (look up the “no-self” doctrine, “anatta”, if you’re interested). In any case, you’re changing the subject–I was responding to your original statement “Catholicism’s claims about the physical world are the same as atheistic science, so what is the problem?” Do you deny that “atheistic science” approaches human (and animal) behavior from the perspective that it’s most likely an emergent result of complex physical processes in the brain and body? You can claim this idea “is in fact contradictory to science” in terms of your own opinions which are shaped by your religious and philosophical beliefs, but surely you are aware that most atheistic scientists would disagree (as well as, I suspect, the majority of religious neuroscientists scientists who take more “liberal”, non-literalist views about doctrine than you do).

          • TheodoreSeeber

            ” Do you deny that “atheistic science” approaches human (and animal) behavior from the perspective that it’s most likely an emergent result of complex physical processes in the brain and body?”

            Yes I do, because to do so, to deny the existence of something to do thinking, is to deny the ability to think, and that is certainly NOT scientific.

            The process you describe would not lead to a being able to learn. It suffices for instinct, but not for memory and learning. And it certainly doesn’t suffice for the types of intuitive leaps found in wisdom, and dare I say it, theoretical science.

            That is why I said it is incompatible with the scientific method- such beings wouldn’t be able to collect data.

          • hypnosifl

            So when you said “atheistic science”, you really meant “things that I, Theodore Seeber, find scientifically plausible, even if the majority of scientists, and likely close to 100% of atheists, would disagree with my judgments”? If that’s the case, I don’t really understand what the adjective “atheistic” is supposed to signify in that phrase, since clearly your own judgments about what qualifies as good science are not based in atheist thinking.

            And you haven’t actually presented any sort of argument as to why an system of physical neurons would be incapable of “memory and learning”, you just asserted it. We already have the example of artificial neural networks which are capable of basic forms of learning based on the inputs presented to them. (For example, see here for a cool example where a neural network was given a bunch of youtube videos and wasn’t even “told” to look for any specific feature, just to find regularities, and it independently learned to group cat videos with one another!) And anyone who believes the Darwinian “algorithm” is capable of novel long-term adaptation on a genetic level shouldn’t have a fundamental problem with the idea that a similar process of variation + selection among neural groups could lead to brains finding more short-terms ways to adapt to changing circumstances and satisfy various needs and desires (see neural darwinism).

          • tedseeber

            No, I mean SCIENCE, not idiots doing philosophy who have no training in it.

            There is a difference. I happen to accept neural darwinism, and the existence of neural networks, and in no way do they suggest that thinking and free will doesn’t exist.

            In fact, your theory is disproved by your own ability to write the theory.

          • hypnosifl

            The claim that human *behavior* (as opposed to interior consciousness, qualia etc.) is a product of physical processes which respect the same basic laws as everything else is not really “philosophical”, because it is open to empirical testing (that’s why the philosopher David Chalmers calls explanations for behavior the “easy problem”, as opposed to the “hard problem” of explaining how a physical system can give rise to qualia). This is in principle testable, for example someday we may have the technology and knowledge of neuron-neuron interactions to map a human brain at the synaptic level and simulate it on a computer, the idea transhumanists often refer to as mind uploading (it’s not relevant whether the resultant artificial intelligence would really be the “same mind” as the original brain, since we are only talking about external behaviors here). I have not made any claims that “free will doesn’t exist”, since that would depend on your definition of free will–most philosophers these days accept some form of compatibilism which involves a concept of “free will” that does not conflict with determinism (or the idea that everything follows statistical laws, so that breakdowns in determinism are merely a matter of randomness rather than something which is neither deterministic nor random). And of course, anything “Darwinian” by definition involves a combination of random or pseudorandom variation, and some sort of law-like selection process.

          • tedseeber

            I say any philosopher that accepts something as stupid as compatibilism, should lose his job because he is proven to be deterministic.

    • Randy Gritter

      In truth, when somebody becomes a Christian they rarely want to go into a big investigation of what form of Christianity they want to embrace. The rule of thumb is that who you are converted by determines what you are converted to. So it makes sense that this website should work that way as well. I would not mind more details on what you mean by claims about the physical world. I am not at all sure what you mean is something Catholics are required to believe.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Too bad apparently she just means her personal unscientific views about women’s reproductive health (and I suspect, other areas related to sexual libertinism).

      • BrandonUB

        The rule of thumb is that who you are converted by determines what you are converted to.

        I think this is accurate, and it rather undercuts the idea that there’s any profound truths to be found in conversion.

        • Randy Gritter

          The central truth of a conversion is often right. I need to change my life and pursue God. The less profound aspects of conversion can be wrong.That is why you have very beautiful conversions stories in pretty much every religion. There is profound truth in them all. But where do you find the fullness of truth? You need a more intellectual conversion to tell you that.

          • BrandonUB

            I find de-conversion stories beautiful. There can’t be profound truth in both deconverting and converting – someone’s right and someone’s wrong. Likewise, not all religions can simultaneously harbor profound truth – if the basal ideas are just plain wrong, their derivatives aren’t profound truths, they’re accidentally correct (at best).

          • Randy Gritter

            I often find de-conversion stories beautiful too. Often they convert from a defective form of Christianity to atheism but they can be motivated by very godly things. The desire for truth. The desire for joy. That is all good.

            Sometimes people de-convert when they know Christianity is true. They just want to sin. Those stories are not as beautiful.

          • Brian Pansky

            “That is why you have very beautiful conversions stories in pretty much every religion. There is profound truth in them all.”

            that is a claim, not logically supported.

            by the way, I had a very beautiful experience, followed by euphoria for days WHEN I BECAME AN ATHEIST. your conversion stories don’t seem supernatural.

          • Randy Gritter

            i actually believe you probably became closer to God when you became an atheist. I don’t know your story but I do believe you can experience God without knowing it. If you rejected an ungodly belief system, even one that is called Christian, and embraced a more godly one, even one that is called atheist, then you were coming towards God and that explains the euphoria. It could also have been cheap drug. I don’t know. I just know a lot of Catholic to atheist conversions are like that.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The logical support is in the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate. I suggest you go read it.

    • LeahLibresco

      I didn’t title it! I was going to call it something like, “So you want to be a Catholic…” because I can’t resist Diane Duane references.

      • KG

        Fair enough!

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Leah’s right! The title was not her choosing; it’s been adjusted.

  • Slow Learner

    Not wanting to snark too heavily, but might it not have been a good idea to get some – any – atheist contribution, to the “Atheism” section, before going live with the site?
    Because right now it looks like an attempt at outreach so heavily grounded in Catholicism that it can’t see out, and thus I have little interest – if I want to argue with Catholics, I can find them anywhere, not least on this blog.
    If there’s going to eventually be an ongoing conversation between knowledgeable atheists and Catholic apologists, then great, but I can’t see many atheists with much public profile being very interested in a specifically atheist-Catholic site. After all, we are not merely non-Catholics, nor indeed non-Christians or non-monotheists.

    You could try contacting Adam Lee, of Daylight Atheism here on Patheos – he runs a good line in both dismantling theism and constructing an atheist world – but I’m afraid his answer may parallel that of Richard Dawkins to William Lane Craig.

    • LeahLibresco

      I agree. I think Brandon wanted to have it clear what atheist contributors were signing up for, but I would have preferred to have a couple people posting on launch day.

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Perhaps you guys are right, but I just didn’t foresee *any* serious atheists signing up to contribute for a website like this, site unseen.

        • Slow Learner

          That should probably tell you something about your project! If there isn’t anything compelling to bring in party B to your proposed dialogue, you’re left with a monologue, which destroys the stated purpose of your site.

  • Iota

    Paul went to the Aeropagus, not constructed one and told the Greek philosophers to come in, sit down and listen.

    My gut feeling is that the results of a conversation depend, to a great extent, on the configuration we start with. Given this, I’m kind of worried whether the site won’t turn into a resource for catechesis (vertical, top-down instruction).

    Catehesis is cool but I kind of think it’s different than dialogue (the second one assumes the “other” side is allowed to talk back, including saying things that I find silly or even outrageous, so long as they do it in good faith).

    But that might just be mu general wariness of “outreach” programs that don’t look like they grew out of an already existing “reaching out”. Or my general crankiness. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

  • David Fleischer

    I write as one who is a very active reader of many different Catholic sites (but who is not usually a commenter), and I have to say that I am not impressed by this new venture. I just don’t see why these authors–many of whom already have considerable online presences in the Catholic blogosphere–need yet another outlet. I mean, really, more Mark Shea? More Catholic Answers? What will be new?

    And why would atheists or anyone who wasn’t a Catholic want to be a front-line contributor to a site that is geared toward Catholic evangelization? Regardless, until such contributors do show up–and show up in a way that demonstrates that they are genuine participants in the endeavor–this site is just more of the proverbial same ol’ sh*t. The articles in place now are not really much different than articles to be found on other Catholic sites (and–let’s face it–mainly Conservative or Conservative-leaning Catholic sites), and the comboxes are not much different either. I agree with those who have said that Atheists should have been brought on board from Day One. So the creators know the Catholic world better than the Atheist one? Well, they should have done their homework before opening the doors for business.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      David, thanks for the feedback. The problem, which I’m not sure you’ve considered, is that few well-known atheists would be interested in joining a project with no track record. Imagine you’re a popular atheist writer and a Catholic emails you saying, “Hey, I have this great idea for a website involving Catholics and atheists and I’d love for you to participate!” They get dozens of emails like this every week.

      So our strategy was to start out with a solid group of Catholic writers and then gradually invite atheists to contribute as the site gains traction. This would help convince the atheist invitees that the site is worth considering, that it’s a serious and well-engaged effort.

      Was it the ideal strategy? Only time will tell. But I appreciate the criticism. Thanks!

      • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

        Hi Brandon,

        I understand the logistical issue, but I have to agree with David’s critique. I wonder if something could have been done that perhaps didn’t involve super prominent atheists but which at least invited some promising, up-and-coming atheist bloggers to participate. Or, at the least, might some atheist authors have been approached for permission to simply reprint a blog post or some portion of a book? [I'd wager that at least one or two Patheos atheist bloggers would be willing to allow the reprint of a post or two to get the discussion going!]

    • BrandonUB

      I mean, really, more Mark Shea?

      That’s something that no one needs in their life…

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      I am going to have to agree with David. This is a non-starter. The factual arguments against Catholicism are so strong as to render it on the same level as believing Muhammad flew on a winged horse, and ascended into Heaven (both well witnessed, according to scripture). From factual evidence we know there was no Garden of Eden, no Fall, no need for blood sacrifice redemption. You can’t keep people back in the Iron Age when what is known about reality increases every day, and what is clearly mythology fails to pass for such.

  • CBrachyrhynchos

    “The implicit goal is to bring non-Catholics to faith, especially followers of the so-called New Atheism.”

    Then it’s not a dialogue, much less one with more than a subset of atheists.

    • tedseeber

      It really can’t be much of a dialogue if it engages the New Atheists- I could mimic their entire philosophy with a collection of e-books and a random number generator.

  • Jake

    I have to say, I’m pretty turned off by the condescending diction throughout.

    |”followers of the so-called New Atheism”
    Fairly typical denigration of secular humanism. How dare we find meaning without submission to God?

    |”Open-minded atheists will encounter reasonable arguments for God and his Church”
    Right, because only the closed minded don’t grant special pleading.

    |”and like St. Paul’s listeners they’ll leave intrigued by these strange notions.”
    Because we’ve never heard of Catholicism before?

    |”What will happen after I convert?”
    cause, you know… it’s inevitable

    |”you begin to have the opportunity to speak back and learn what was always meant to be your natural language.”
    I guess this one’s reasonable if Catholicism is true. But it’s kind of an eye-roller (read: condescendingly insulting) to tell someone who fundamentally disagrees with you how they’re supposed to be without backing it up. It’s probably the same feeling you get when atheists call religious individuals “sheeple.” It might or might not be true, but the assumption is not conducive to actual dialog.

    I suppose I’m nit picking a bit, but connotation matters. There seems to be an implicit assumption that the only reason someone could be an atheist is because they a) haven’t been exposed to the “strange notions” of the Catholic Church or b) have failed to ever really think critically about philosophy, metaphysics, or epistemology. I guess if the target audience is previously-disinterested-fence-sitters, then that’s an appropriate tack to take. But I wouldn’t expect to see well informed, educated, or thoughtful atheists interested in what amounts to a Catholic apologetics site.

    • Fr.Sean

      Jake,

      If you don’t mind me making a suggestion? Why don’t you start with the question of whether or not God exists? as i was reading you post i couldn’t help but to think “if Jake doesn’t think there is such a thing as a God then critiquing the churches teachings is going to seem a bit difficult”. if you get a chance i would suggest, “Did science bury God” by John Lennox (he’s not a catholic) Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is also a good book that provokes a lot of interesting thought. Also, i remember reading a story about a young man who read a lot about the faith, he was intrigued by it but still didn’t believe God existed. The Priest he was speaking with remembered that faith is a gift, he encouraged him to pray for the gift, within about a week he received the gift. Science is good for doing science, but it is limited and there are other truths out there such as the meaning of life, and love which are also important aspects of your life that science cannot address.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

        I can start with that question. I have no reason to think any god exists. Can I skip the rest of the questions?

        • mmurray

          Oh dear no. For you there is going to be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

      • Jake

        Fr. Sean,

        Why don’t you start with the question of whether or not God exists? as i was reading you post i couldn’t help but to think “if Jake doesn’t think there is such a thing as a God then critiquing the churches teachings is going to seem a bit difficult”.

        My objections to the OP are fundamentally not about my own experience. They are about the cavalier attitude with which atheism-as-a-well-thought-out-conclusion is dismissed, and the chilling effect this has on honest dialog.

        However, there is some merit to your point that one ought to try the methods of ones opponents and see if they actually work before dismissing them. In point of fact, I’ve read much on the existence of God (including Mere Christianity), and I spent the better part of 3 years praying desperately for God to reveal himself (I admittedly did not pray for faith in the belief-without-evidence sense, because belief without evidence is anti-epistemology that I don’t want). God failed to show himself. The evidence I am aware of strongly suggests this is because there is no God.

        Science is good for doing science, but it is limited and there are other truths out there such as the meaning of life, and love which are also important aspects of your life that science cannot address

        Science is only limited to describing the observable world. Science can and has offered much insight into what makes people happy, the mechanics of love, social dynamics, game theory, economics, and all kinds of other things that don’t (yet) boil down to purely physical experiments.

        If what you really mean is that science has yet to solve the hard problem of consciousness, then there is legitimate argument to be had. I remain unconvinced that the hard problem of consciousness is all that hard (evolution seems to me a perfectly reasonable crane for consciousness). IIRC, Ray and Irenist had a very good discussion of this in the comments section a few weeks back.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “My objections to the OP are fundamentally not about my own experience. They are about the cavalier attitude with which atheism-as-a-well-thought-out-conclusion is dismissed, and the chilling effect this has on honest dialog.”

          I see this project as a search for an atheist with well thought out conclusions, truly challenging conclusions. John C. Wright’s conversion post was an equal subconscious plea for an atheist who can think.

          Myself, I’ve given up.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Personally, I wish that we could get beyond atheists charging that theists can’t possibly have serious intellectual reasons for their beliefs and theists charging that atheists can’t have serious intellectual reasons for theirs. Honestly, the answers to these deep metaphysical questions are (I think unsurprisingly) not blindingly obvious, no matter what either side might say or want to believe. I’ll confess that I’m not a big intellectual fan of what I’ve seen from Dawkins, Hitchens, et. al., but I’m certainly not going to deny the intellectual power of the atheism of Nietzsche, Sartre, and even Žižek. Oversimplifying the issue is quite simply not going to help either side win the argument, it’s just going to limit the richness of the conversation.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I would certainly deny the “deny the intellectual power of the atheism of Nietzsche, Sartre, and even Žižek. ”

            None of them were even logically consistent internal to their own writings.

            Zizek is a communist of the old Russian type, we’ve seen what kind of hypocrites THOSE are. All morality is subjective, and all lusts must be satisfied, no matter who gets hurt or who you have to send to a Siberian Gulag.

            Sartre was pretty good in the beginning, but also fell in with the bad side of Marxism, the side that says you can free the proles by turning them into slaves of the state. Completely insane, and I say that as a man who once fell into that trap.

            Nietzsche is laughable just by comparing his syphilic dwarf of a real life to his superman.

            None of these men were even vaguely moral, let alone logically consistent enough to be considered philosophers. If they are the best you have to offer of atheism, then I for one will never respect it.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Nietzsche is laughable just by comparing his syphilic dwarf of a real life to his superman.

            Ad hominem. Nietzsche’s personal life doesn’t have anything to do with the strength or weakness of his philosophical ideas as such.

            None of these men were even vaguely moral

            Ad hominemn again. Leaving aside the question of whether this is true or not (and whether or not we should draw relationships between one’s moral philosophy and one’s moral character), what does this have to do with any question of intellectual rigor? Last I checked there was no direct correlation between moral uprightness and intellectual rigor.

            None of them were even logically consistent internal to their own writings.

            (a) Your comment never provides any support for this claim, though, since you seem concerned solely with demonstrating that you find their philosophies and/or their personal lives morally abhorrent rather than being concerned with pointing to flaws in logic.

            (b) I won’t grant the charge of complete logical contradiction, but I will grant that these thinkers recognize the limit of propositional statements to capture certain concepts which, by their nature, push against certain currents in language itself—hence the more “literary” and, yes, self-consciously paradoxical form of a lot of their texts. They refuse to see language itself as a neutral conduit for thought but rather itself something that must be engaged with and taken into account. Honestly, I think the demand for all philosophy to be conducted via propositional statements—especially when articulated alongside a scientific positivism—is fundamentally an Enlightenment demand—and the critique of the Enlightenment is certainly not limited to atheists (think John Milbank, Pope Emeritus Benedict, Brad S. Gregory, etc.). Honestly, Christianity is a religion of paradox—much to the distaste of those who want their logic clean and pure—and so I think we must be careful, in our critiques of atheism, to not cry foul at the first appearance of a seeming contradiction: is atheism not allowed the same complexity, nuance, and—heck—even mystery that we allow our own religious beliefs and arguments?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “Ad hominem. Nietzsche’s personal life doesn’t have anything to do with the strength or weakness of his philosophical ideas as such.”

            The fact he didn’t commit suicide is proof that he himself never believed in his own philosophical ideas. If eugenics is good, then let his suicide prove that eugenics is good. I have the same problem with all eugenicists, especially the malthusian kind. If you believe the world to be overpopulated, then go jump off a bridge, don’t bother me with your ideas and don’t try to take others with you.

            “Ad hominemn again. Leaving aside the question of whether this is true or not (and whether or not we should infer a direct relationship between one’s moral philosophy and one’s moral character), what does this have to do with any question of intellectual rigor? Last I checked there was no direct correlation between moral uprightness and intellectual rigor.”

            Same idea as Nietzsche’s lack of courage in ridding the world of his ridiculous lack of being a superman. If the best your atheism can do is support Stalin and Pol Pot’s genocides, then I suggest you should be the first victim of the genocide. Sartre in particular claimed that all Europeans should be shot to free the world from European oppression- should he not have started with himself, since he was a European?

            “(a) Your comment never provides any support for this claim, though, since you seem concerned solely with demonstrating that you find their philosophies and/or their personal lives morally abhorrent rather than being concerned with pointing to flaws in logic.”

            Their personal lives ARE the flaw in their logic. In fact, the existence of their lives *directly* shows that their logic is nothing more than a lie, because they don’t have the courage of their convictions to kill themselves the moment they suggest death for others for philosophical reasons.

            Chesterton wrote a great book on this subject, and there is a wonderful trailer for a movie for it that failed to make it to theaters:

            http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/6ZbJeHAFOSk&source=uds&autoplay=1

            Luckily, the trailer includes an incredibly relevant scene to our discussion.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            I’m sorry but the argument is still fallacious. If I proclaim the truth of Christianity but fail to live up to what I proclaim—if I, in fact, behave in absolute contradiction to what I claim to be the truth—that does not, in itself, prove that my beliefs are false (though it might prove that I hold those beliefs lightly).

            Even if you could prove that nobody could really live with a particular truth I still don’t see how that–by itself—negates its possibility as truth or represents a contradiction in logic.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            What it proves is that those beliefs are inherently self-contradictory, and thus cannot be reconciled with REALITY. If it can’t be lived, that is if the very application of the argument in the life of the person making the argument would cause his death, then it cannot possibly be logically consistent.

            I have the same problem with Socrates, but at least he had the courage to drink the hemlock. You New Atheists don’t have the courage to truly live out the idea of moral relativism at all- for you will not let me murder you.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            If it can’t be lived, that is if the very application of the argument in the life of the person making the argument would cause his death, then it cannot possibly be logically consistent.

            Why? (And, for that matter, what does the maintenance of one’s life have to do with reality as such?)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Without the right to life, there is no ability to observe reality. Without supporting the objective right to life for *all* human beings from conception until natural death, it is impossible to support the right to one’s own life.

            Call it Ted’s First Principle- the answer to the koan about the tree falling in the forest with nobody to hear it, means that the sound wave happens without making a noise.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Yeah, all koans aside, I suppose I’m just not going to buy the argument that “no ability to observe reality” is the same thing as there being no objective reality. Of course there’s no non-subjective way to apprehend it—I’m a good phenomenologist and totally down with that point—but your idea is a step further than I’m willing, or logically required, to go. Ergo a philosophy that requires one’s own death is not necessarily wrong in the claims it makes about objective reality.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Rather, with no ability to observe reality, it doesn’t matter if objective reality exists or not- and thus, any attempt to claim an objective reality in which observers are unnecessary, is hopelessly chaotic to the point of being illogical.

            And subjective reality, which is where atheism tacks on to science with all this postmodern moral relativity- is a step too far. Either objective morality exists in an objective universe, or I see no point to science at all because the universe itself becomes subjective.

            Guess there is a reason why only Catholic and Atheist became my choices at the end- and eventually, only Catholic. And it has nothing to do with my birth parents, and everything to do with wanting a logically consistent universe.

      • http://twitter.com/Smidoz Peter Smith

        Why should that be a relevant question at all?

        If there is an omnibenevolent being, He’s unlikely to toss people in a fire for evermore simply because they failed to polish His ego, since that would make Him less benevolent than most human parents. He’d unlikely choose to be represented by child molesters or people, like Ratzinger, who would cover up such crimes. On that subject, you’d expect that if there were ten really important moral laws, they wouldn’t require 4 entirely regarding God’s ego, 1 that tells you to unconditionally to honour your parents, even if they are abusive, 1 that is true by definition (murder is immoral killing) and 1 that only covers 1 type of lying. You would expect laws against child abuse and rape, which the Biblical God seems to endorse.

        The question of whether a deity exists could be answered by a number of poor arguments that say nothing of God’s character, and certainly don’t answer issues that face a Catholic apologist.

        • Fr.Sean

          Peter,
          I’m not a mystic, but i was wondering the same thing you bring up about a good God sending people to a place of torment. even the worse of criminals wouldn’t seem to warrant eternal suffering? i was praying about it, and i will admit i am not a mystic but i felt as though God impressed upon me that he doesn’t send anyone to hell, people choose hell when they choose to live only for themselves. It’s God’s will that everyone go to heaven, but not everyone accepts the gift. i thought about it later and realized people who are the most selfish in life are generally very unhappy people, conversely the people who are the most selfless are usually the happiest people. i suppose which ever path we’ve chosen is what we choose for eternity. in John’s Gospel Jesus said, “unless a grain falls to the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit, who ever loves his life loses, who ever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternity.” a seed is something small, hard usually round, that’s the way we tend to be when we’re only focused on ourselves, self preservation causes an endless cycle of trying to fill the void. when i stop trying to live a self focused life, i discover that’s what happiness and freedom are all about.

          • http://twitter.com/Smidoz Peter Smith

            Saying people.choose Hell assumes they believe it exists. Of course Hell as a consequence was God’s idea in the first place. It’s also not about living entirely for oneself, I spent the evening chatting to a homosexual girl who is doing a job and her masters, as well as doing volunteer counselling and setting up a community good project, she is not Catholic. Of course her selfless acts will land her in Hell because she failed to rub his ego.

          • Fr.Sean

            Peter,

            In my desire to summarize i left out part of what i felt the Lord had impressed upon me (again i’m not a mystic, i have had prayers answered and confirmed so i can’t guarantee what i felt the Lord had impressed upon me was actually God but i believe it was) was that as you know Catholics and Orthodox believe in purgatory which is a place we may have to go if we’re not purified. the full extend of what i felt the Lord said was that we are all called to be like Jesus, ultimately selfless and trusting in God, if we leave God something left to purify, something selfless or Christ like that God can redeem us, but if there’s noting left to purify, if we are totally selfish, and only care about ourselves than we’ve left God nothing left to redeem. we continue on in our selfish state and the void always remains empty. (the great divorce by c.s.lewis is a good book to reflect upon this) I’ve had and have homosexual parishioners, and i treat them the same way i treat everyone else. if they bring something up in the confessional we talk about it, but as far as I’m concerned it’s no one’s business what they do behind closed doors. one woman had a lesbian lover she lived with, she had converted to Catholicism before i met her and she continued living with her lover. I never said a word to her, just treated her with love and respect. on her own, no one said a word to her she eventually told her lover that she could no longer live an active sexual lifestyle, so they separated. she felt the love she received from God was enough for her. if you’re friend is selfless as you described i do not believe for a minute she would lose her soul (again that’s my belief) but would still have to be purified. In the Gospels do you ever see Jesus being harsh with sinners? do you ever see him condemning them? the woman at the well, John Chapter 4 felt she had blown it, it was over for her, she was living with her 5th man whom she was not married to, yet Jesus offers her life (a spring of water welling up into eternal life) and she becomes the first evangelist in John’s Gospel. (kind of makes me laugh, a liberal priest friend of my would quip that Jesus was crucified for being a liberal). the only people Jesus was harsh with were self-righteous religious people. watch the third person in this documentary; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ8TEGMj-jc
            his experience supports some of the things we talked about.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Ah, Donatism. Thought we had defeated THAT 1700 years ago.

          • http://twitter.com/Smidoz Peter Smith

            I assume you’re referring to my comment about Ratzinger, since that is the only thing that resembles Donatism in my comment. I very much doubt that you could ever defeat the idea that people’s actions don’t affect their credibility, but just to clarify, I don’t recognise the authority of the moral relativist you call God, therefore I am not a Donatist.

            Instead of making silly remarks about what type of philosophy you mistakenly think I’m ascribing to, why not constructively address what I’m saying. Unless you.edu just warning us evildoers of what to expect from your forums.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            ” I very much doubt that you could ever defeat the idea that people’s actions don’t affect their credibility”

            Augustine defeated that very idea in his debate with the Donatists.

    • Anonymous

      Connotation matters? Would you mind telling the New Athe… sorry, the secular humanists that?

      • Jake

        I’ll bring it up at the next meeting.

  • Fr.Sean

    Leah,
    I think that’s great, I do think if someone is truly open to the truth, they find themselves in the Catholic Faith. I have met a great deal of people who’ve converted to Catholicism because they have searched for the truth, and found in the churches history a development of doctrine led to their conversion. I have read a few other articles and talks by atheists and can’t see why they don’t feel that is a religion in a sense. Everybody has a central focal point to which they discern truth. but whenever it comes to pointing to an ultimate creator they have the most outlandish theories, such as the multi-universe, which has very little if any verifiable evidence, or the natural law simply developing from a “you scratch my back i’ll scratch yours” mentality. I remember reading something from David Robertson who said many of them will believe anything as long as it doesn’t include a creator. When i read your previous posts i could tell you really did have a genuine desire for the truth, so hopefully if they do to their eyes and hearts will open! Thanks for another good article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/mgilesr Mike Russell

      This comment bothers me in two ways. First, I imagine you and I having some sort of ongoing dialogue and in the end, I either remain an atheist or am convinced that a God exists (but not in the way described by Catholicism). Then you would simply chalk it up to my not being “open to the truth”. Sort of a win/neutral situation for you. Either I convert to Catholicism (win) or I don’t (neutral, since I wasn’t ever open to the truth anyway).

      Secondly, the Catholic Church is the one making the assertions about the ultimate creator. The burden is on the Church to support it’s truth claims. As an atheist, I am completely comfortable in saying that I am ignorant about how the universe/multiverse came to be. I am pleased, intrigued and hopeful that physicists and mathematicians will dedicate their lives to theorizing and testing models of creation but their success or failure is out of my hands and has no bearing on my responsibility to live my life honestly. A “genuine desire for the truth” is an admirable human pursuit, but with that comes the acceptance that the truth is sometimes elusive or unknowable.

      • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

        Secondly, the Catholic Church is the one making the assertions about the ultimate creator.

        Actually, multiple people are making assertions about the ultimate creator – ‘He does not exist’ is an assertion. ‘He very, very likely does not exist’ is an assertion. ‘Naturalism or materialism is true’ is an assertion. Any atheist who makes these claims has a burden.

        Any atheist who does not make any of these claims, chances are, is not an atheist after all – just an agnostic. Or at the least an atheist petrified of having a burden of proof.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mgilesr Mike Russell

          I’ll let you describe me then… if I say that the evidence for the Catholic description of the ultimate creator of the universe is insufficient for me to accept its truth, does that make me an atheist with respect to Catholicism or an agnostic (or something else)?

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            Going by that alone? You could well be a protestant, a jew, a hindu, or any other number of things.

            If the burden of proof with regards to atheism terrifies you so that you’ll actually drop your atheism rather than accept it, my only response is, that’s great. It’s nice to see the burden of proof doing its job of discouraging people incapable of shouldering it from embracing the belief that requires it.

        • stanz2reason

          There is a different burden of proof on claims for existence vs. non-existence. Non-existence is an untestable thereby unprovable position while existence is a provable position. The requirement of proving an unprovable position is widely considered a fallacy. The burden lies with those making the claim for existence. We’re not afraid of the burden of proof because it’s never been on us.

          Complaints for the absolute statement of ‘god does not exist’ are really only in a technical sense. I doubt the reasoning used for complaining about making a universal statement like that is applied in any other area of your life. For instance if I said ‘Dragons don’t exist’ or ‘Smurfs don’t exist’ in a technical sense I’m claiming some sort of universal knowledge for their non-existence, yet what I’m really saying, and I’d venture a guess that many atheists would agree, is that the likelihood of such things existing is so utterly inconsistent with observation and empirical evidence that it is effectively zero. Still this technicality is widely acknowledged by many atheists, including myself, (yet the church has remained rather quiet on how this point affects them as well). We’re as agnostic about god as you might be agnostic about garden gnomes & the tooth fairy. Do you consider the existence of Superman to be fall into the category of ‘maybe’ or ‘no’? I’d venture a guess that in a technical sense it might fall into ‘maybe’, but in a practical real world sense, it’d be ‘no’.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

          Actually some god claims can be refuted out of hand because they are logically impossible.

          You know the ‘all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god’? Yeah about that….That guy was demonstrated as a logical impossibility 2,300 years ago.

          There were numerous attempts by Christians to address this problem throughout the centuries but the usual things happened. Declaration of heresy, exile, burning at the stake. Stuff like that.

          The ‘heresies’ they were committing raised the god claim from one that was a logical impossibility to one that was merely required evidence to prove or refute.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

          Actually some god claims can be refuted out of hand because they are logically impossible.

          You know the ‘omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god’? Yeah about that….That guy was demonstrated as a logical impossibility 2,300 years ago.

          There were numerous attempts by Christians to address this problem throughout the centuries but the usual things happened. Declaration of heresy, exile, torture, seizure of assets, burning at the stake. Stuff like that.

          The ‘heresies’ they were committing raised the god claim from one that was a logical impossibility to one that was merely required evidence to prove or refute.

          • Randy Gritter

            It isn’t logically impossible. Philosophers have tried to prove the problem of evil logically implies there is no omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being. They have failed. Most just argue it is improbable because trying to argue it is impossible against the likes of Alvin Plantinga is a loosing game.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            They have not failed. a ’3 O’ deity is a logical impossibility.

          • Randy Gritter

            You might believe that on faith but it can’t be proved by logic.

          • Jake

            …It’s actually pretty straightforward to formulate the problem of evil. I have yet to hear a good refutation of the following:

            1. Assume God is omniscient
            2. Assume God is omnibenevolent
            3. Assume God is omnipotent
            4. An omnipotent God would have the power to stop any evil he knew about.
            5. An Omniscient God would know about any evil that was happening.
            6. An Omnibenevolent God would stop any evil he could.
            7. Therefore, since an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God exist, evil cannot exist
            8. Evil exists
            9. This is a contradiction, therefore an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God does not exist.

            All the attempts I’ve heard to refute this attack point 6, with the justification of preserving human free will. However, this is a non-starter since an omniscient God defeats free will in the first place.

            [Edit: I can has counting]

          • Jake

            …I should have spent more time on the above. I do consider the free will argument to be a nonstarter, but many people are willing to accept free will as an axiom (incorrectly, but I digress). Even in the case where the free will argument is considered valid, points 6-8 can be greatly weakened and the argument still holds:

            6.1- An omnibenevolent God would stop needless suffering
            7.1- Therefore, since an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God exists, needless suffering cannot exist
            8.1- Needless suffering exists

            In this case, the proponent of the argument must simply demonstrate that needless suffering has happened at least once, and that preventing needless suffering does not meaningfully interfere with free will, and the argument holds. That seems to me trivially easy to demonstrate (though we could go down that road if that’s the part you want to object to)

          • Randy Gritter

            We live in a fallen word because of sin. Work becomes painful. Childbirth becomes painful. Really pain and sin became a persistent reality after man chose sin. But Jesus came. So our suffering can be united with His. So suffering is the punishment for sin. It is also the way out of sin. Is it always associated with a sin we have committed? No. Does that imply an omni-benevolent would stop it? No. We chose to live in a broken world. God is not obligated to eliminate the negative consequences of that choice. It has to mean that innocents sometimes suffer greatly. If it didn’t then God would not be showing us the honest truth about sin.

          • Jake

            Oh, day-to-day struggles are not the problem. That effort is mildly unpleasant is not an indictment of omnibenevolence.

            However, a small child starving to death through no fault of their own? A woman who suffers an incredibly painful end at the hands of an entirely preventable disease, simply because she lives in a third world country? A man devoured by animals simply following their evolutionary programming in looking for their next meal? All of these are entirely preventable. Death can be accomplished in much more efficient and less painful ways, if that is the goal.

            If your definition of omnibenevolence includes the ability and willingness to not give a rip if other people are suffering- or at least not do anything about it- then you’re not using the word the way the rest of the world uses it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            And there it is: redefinition of the word omni-benevolence and vacillation about the nature of evil. Called it!

            You have survived the a heresy conviction for another day.

          • Randy Gritter

            Perhaps it is you who have a faulty definition of omni-benevolence. Remember that the greatest good ever occurred when Jesus was crucified. Redefinition of what good means? Of course. What would you expect from a 3O diety!

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            “Remember that the greatest good ever occurred when Jesus was crucified.”

            I don’t remember that at all and I don’t subscribe to it because I am not a Christian.

            “What would you expect from a 3O diety!”

            I would have expected a 3 O deity to step in and do something when my brother was raped a Saint ‘X’ Primary School when he was 5 years old. No intervention occurred and he has suffered for the rest of his life.

            Your deity may have redefined Omni-benevolence in a different way in your dogma. I do not accept that redefinition. I do not accept that an entity that has knowledge that evil is taking place, and has it in their power to act yet does not, is capable of Omni-benevolence.

            I am not arguing against a Christian deity. I am arguing against the illogical 3O deity.

          • Donalbain

            We chose to live in a broken world? When did that happen? I don’t recall making any such choice.

          • Randy Gritter

            How does omniscient defeat free will? A God that knows that you will use free will badly can still give you that free will. What is the alternative? To create a world where nobody makes any choices between good and evil? Does you logic demand God be that boring?

          • Jake

            If God knows in advance what you will chose, then you are not really free to choose anything else. You are not making a choice; you are instantiating an inevitability.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            [Thought I already posted this, but didn't seem to appear. Sorry if double-posted.]

            If I might be permitted to jump in. One way of potentially resolving the free will/divine omniscience paradox is to conceive of God as essentially outside of time (which doesn’t seem an unreasonable proposition in many monotheistic theologies). If this is the case, then the past, present, and future could be “present” to God, but without this knowledge having causal effects. For instance, I know the past because I was “present” to it, but my knowledge doesn’t “cause” or “fix” the past. Thus, it would seem that God could be “present” to the future without “causing” it because for him it would not be something “to come.” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a useful entry on this theory and potential objections and replies: http://www.iep.utm.edu/omnisci/#SH4b .

            Personally, I think the fact that the issue has been the subject of sustained philosophical debate and discussion in both the past and the present suggests that there isn’t a “slam dunk” argument on either side.

          • Ray

            I suppose I’ll jump in here too. I’m not sure what the whole “outside time” thing is supposed to buy you, but it seems like if atheist philosophers like Dennett can be Compatibilists with regard to Laplacian determinism, then theist philosophers can be Compatibilists with regard to divine omniscience. The traditional Compatibilist move is to say that as long as one can act according to ones own desires, this is enough to produce a determinism that does not go so far as fatalism, e.g. “You, Peter, will die on the cross as I did, WHETHER YOU WANT TO OR NOT.” (loosely paraphrased from John 21:18)

            That said, the Compatibilist formulation of free will, “actions are consistent with desires” also leaves open the possibility that God could create humans who act freely according to desires that God has arranged to produce only virtuous actions. So that sort of free will doesn’t solve the problem of evil.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            I think the objection the “outside of time” formulation is attempting to deal with is a certain determinism which would say that if I “know” what’s going to happen then it, therefore, must happen because my predictive knowledge has caused that action to be “fixed.” If, however, God is simultaneous present to the past, present, and future without, himself, being “fixed” into one of those temporal locations then he is not “causing” a fated future by “predicting” it from the present but is simply observing what happens in the future by being simultaneously “present” to the present and the future.

          • Ray

            If you want to argue against that sort of determinism, I don’t see why you need the outside of time assumption. Scientists knew many years in advance that Pluto would come to perihelion in 1989. That doesn’t mean they caused it to come to perihelion in 1989. Does this argument rely on scientists being outside time?

          • Randy Gritter

            Pluto is a bad example. Pluto is not free. But I do thing the “outside of time” does not really change anything. It just helps us think about it better. Does a free choice have to be an unpredictable choice? Even if body and soul work together to make choices that are not determined by physical science it is possible for God to know your soul better than you. Does that mean you are not free? No. It just means you can be completely known by God and still completely loved by God.

          • Jake

            Taboo the word “free.” Can you give a definition that
            a) survives omniscience
            b) requires the existence of evil
            c) allows all choices to be precomputed

            I cannot come up with one. Any definition I come up with that satisfies a) and c) does not satisfy b), since God could just have created initial conditions such that we “chose” never to sin.

          • Randy Gritter

            God could have created a garden with no tree of knowledge of good and evil. He could have not allowed a snake to enter. Then man would never face the challenge to be virtuous. They would be like God’s pet hamsters. They would never be lovers. Love requires sacrifice. If you don’t give up something for your beloved then it is not love.

            But God chose to make this earth an epic struggle between good and evil. To make man able to choose evil. Not just able but He knew the way He created man that evil would be the choice. That such a choice would cause huge pains of many kinds to many people over time. God wanted evil to be a real choice in our lives. That means it has to be there with all it’s attractions and all its pains. None of them can be left out or minimized.

          • Ray

            1) The tree and garden incident is indubitably pure myth, like the rest of the book of Genesis. If you have to resort to referencing pseudohistory, you may as well be trying to push flood Geology.

            2)Are you really trying to claim that the love I feel for my wife would be less meaningful without the Armenian genocide and the black death? Because that’s really the only way I can parse this argument: “They would be like God’s pet hamsters. They would never be lovers. Love
            requires sacrifice. If you don’t give up something for your beloved then
            it is not love.”

          • Randy Gritter

            1. Take it any way you want. The point is God allowed some temptation in the world. He didn’t have to. But if He does not then the whole drama of human history would not happen. Marriage is a good example. We can love each other until death and that is fine but it needs to begin with a drama. We can’t just be born into a happy marriage. We have to choose it. We have to forsake all others. Once we have done that then we can live off that forever.

            2. Your love for your wife would be less meaningful if you could not do anything but live together and treat each other well. That is what you in the garden of Eden with no snake would look like.

          • Ray

            1) “Take it any way you want.” — if you need me to do the work for you of making your scenario plausible, you don’t have much of an argument.

            2)just because I could be unpleasant to my wife doesn’t mean I will, or even that I am remotely likely to do so. Without that assumption, you are saying that my choice of good, is only meaningful if others choose evil. I reject that my freedom is determined by what other people choose to do (except insofar as they choose to coerce or directly force my actions.) Needless to say, if the Syrians were to collectively choose a peaceful resolution to their civil war, for example, this would not coerce or force me to do anything, whatsoever.

            But what of the choice of the Syrians (at least those of whom who have chosen evil): You posit a God who can create a man as follows:
            “Not just able but He knew the way He created man that evil would be the choice”
            If you are willing to entertain the notion that God can create a man in such a way that God knows the man will choose evil, and yet the man is still free. Why is a man less free if God creates the man in such a way that God knows good will be the choice.

          • Anonymous

            just because I could be unpleasant to my wife doesn’t mean I will, or even that I am remotely likely to do so.

            Lets suppose god created an environment and a set of agents where 99.99% of the time, they chose good. One could say that these agents aren’t remotely likely to do evil things. One day, that 0.01% chance hits Joe down the street. He realizes that your wife is pretty hot… or your son did something to slight him. So he exercises his right to choose and does something highly unlikely. He rapes your wife or kills your son. Do you think this will have any effect on the group’s “likelihood of being unpleasant” parameter?

            Mind you, these people (and the fictional you) have never seen such evil before. They’ve not seen crime and punishment played out in storybook form time and time again. They find themselves doing good (because that’s what everyone does and they’re socialized into it), but not understanding good. Is the time-derivative of the “likelihood of being unpleasant” parameter positive or negative?

          • Ray

            Anon. Your scenario is riddled with bad assumptions:

            1)While I can see how being pleasant to my wife might be relevant to choosing good, I don’t see how being pleasant to a rapist/murderer has a thing to do with it.

            2)Just because people have no direct experience with crime and punishment doesn’t mean they can’t hypothesize about and plan for it. We plan for unlikely scenarios all the time (e.g. plane crashes, and even asteroid impacts.) So the whole second paragraph seems to assume that the only way a god could create good people is to make them morons. (Now that’s oddly resonant with the whole tree of knowledge bit, but I don’t see any reason to think it’s actually a justified assumption.)

            3) You conflate freedom to choose evil, with the right to choose evil. While I am familiar with theologies that assume the former is a positive good, I have never heard of any Christian theology which claims the latter does or should exist.

            The biggest problem is that it does not address the core objection to the claim that free will necessitates, actual as opposed to potential evil:

            “If you are willing to entertain the notion that God can create a man in
            such a way that God knows the man will choose evil, and yet the man is
            still free. Why is a man less free if God creates the man in such a way
            that God knows good will be the choice.”

          • Anonymous

            1) I’m not talking about “being plesant to a rapist/murderer.” I’m talking about the general pleasant parameter. Suppose this god even struck Joe down after the event, so there’s not a question of whether you’re going to be pleasant to him. Will such an event effect anyone’s likelihood of being pleasant to others in general?

            2) I was actually thinking more in terms of simulated societies, rather than stories from genesis. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the programming needed for human-like individual or societal behavior. There are coding methods for self-modifying code that tends toward producing things like better predictive ability. The interesting question is, “What happens at the moment I first compile and hit go?” I either need to program into my code knowledge of all the possibilities it may encounter (some sort of Kantian form of sensibility) or there will necessarily be a large set of things that are well and truly encountered “for the first time” with no hypothesis/planning preceeding it.

            3) Sorry, I shouldn’t have used the word “right”. It carries too much baggage. Granted, in other places in this thread, Jake was asking to taboo “free” because of baggage as well. I feel like we’re going to end up just tabooing the problem.

            Finally, I was not trying to address your broader claim. I was merely trying to present dynamics… how small potentialities, if actualized, could grow to be large independently. You seemed to claim that we need exactly the Armenian genocide for your good deed to have meaning. I’m presenting dynamics for how the Armenian genocide could be a blown-up possible consequence of the potentially tiny necessary evil.

            To address your reduced and better challenge, sure, in our mathematical world, we can generate a state machine with one “evil state”… and just set the probability of going to it to be zero (…and then debate whether this truly even counts as a potential evil). My intuition is that this does not scale up. To build an analogy, I’ll turn to mathematics. we get to a point where we’ve scaled up just enough (PA) that there is a major qualitative change is what our axiomatic systems can do. To get the machinery that you want, you have to bite a bullet.

            I think the theist would claim that in order to get the machinery their god wants (free to choose, able to function in sufficiently general environments, whatever..), he’s gotta bite some bullet. He could play around with state machines with null states all day long, but they won’t get him what he wants any more than a sufficiently weak mathematical system will get you exponentiation.

            I’ll give you that such a situation would require lots of argumentation, probably beyond what currently exists (far beyond what’s in my own mind). However, I think the negation of this idea (I could just create a society where there is only one potential ‘evil’ act, but it’s never actualized… and this scales up without running into problems) requires plenty of argumentation, too. Honestly, I just don’t think we’re yet equipped to answer this question. Before Godel, it was tempting to assert that our axiomatic systems scaled just fine. At that point, we didn’t really know either way. I don’t think we yet have the tools to assert what either side wants to assert.

          • Ray

            “I’ll give you that such a situation would require lots of argumentation, probably beyond what currently exists (far beyond what’s in my own mind). However, I think the negation of this idea (I could just create a society where there is only one potential ‘evil’ act, but it’s never actualized… and this scales up without running into problems) requires plenty of argumentation, too.”

            This seems fair enough. It leaves the key premise of the logical argument from evil neither proven nor refuted, while doing nothing whatever to undermine the evidential argument from evil. I may quibble that it’s hard to consider
            the supposed necessary evil act truly evil, if the world would be worse without it (because it would be too boring or whatever,) but maybe that’s just my consequentialist bias showing through. (I think the real problem with trying to get a tight argument on either side is that good, evil, and free will are all rough and ready concepts invented by humans for analyzing the possibilities of ordinary human existence, and thus are unlikely to be well enough defined to be rigorously applied to all possible worlds.)

            In any event, I think it’s safe to say that the Theist assumption that we live in the best of all possible worlds, is not based on any rigorous analysis of what an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being would actually do, but rather an ex post facto rationalization to reconcile known facts with pre-existing dogma. Thus, in practical terms, the Theist’s concept of omni-benevolence is not the logical extension of the ordinary concept of benevolence that the better Theists use to guide their own actions, but rather whatever criterion would make an omnipotent God act the most like a nonexistent one.

          • Anonymous

            I may quibble that it’s hard to consider
            the supposed necessary evil act truly evil, if the world would be worse without it…

            This is really interesting and relates to something I’ve thought about and discussed on this site a couple times before. I think this could all be a matter of scale. If we think about genetic algorithms or simulated annealing, we see this exact phenomenon pop up. We know that local gradient-descent techniques get stuck in local optima, so we do something counter-intuitive. We inject some amount of going the wrong way. On a local or area scale, this looks straight-up bad… by the only measure of ‘bad’ that we have at that scale. However, from a global scale, it provides nice properties that help us.

            This feeds into your ideas about how we talk about these terms good, evil, and free will from our perspective. They’re all defined locally or at best, in a region. Perhaps these things merely look different on a larger scale. I hate to think about this, because it just seems to push the problems further into “how could we ever know” territory… but, frankly, we’re stuck in a spot where we either have to admit that we don’t know or try to ground our understanding elsewhere.

            (Personally, I think this type of thought is more damning to the atheist. When I try to think, “How would I go about solving this difficult problem,” if I start to see these weird things show up, I feel like it would be uncouth to demand that a god find solutions that I can’t even imagine would work. Of course, I wouldn’t confuse this for logical proof for the theist, but I think it’s more damaging to an atheist’s claim of a logical proof against the idea of a god.)

          • Ray

            “Personally, I think this type of thought is more damning to the atheist.”

            Would you feel the same about the following scenario?

            believer: Our town is the best town in the world if you like clean shaven men. For the greatest man in this town is Joe, the barber, who shaves any man and only those men who do not shave themselves.
            skeptic: There is no such man. Many people here have beards.
            believer: They are merely in the process of learning to shave themselves. Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime. Could you do the barber’s job better? What would a town look like if you were the man who shaved all and only those men who did not shave themselves?
            skeptic: It’s not even a coherent possibility as far as I can tell.
            believer: Well, if you don’t know how to do Joe’s job, who are you to say he’s doing it wrong.

          • Anonymous

            This is a completely false analogy. It is the skeptic who is claiming an impossibility theorem. If the burden of proof for this scares you, then do not claim the impossibility theorem.

            This does not remove the other burdens of proof on the theist, as I have pointed out. Nevertheless, you are claiming an impossibility theorem.

            The situation is more like:

            believer: Our town is the best town in the world if you like clean shaven men. For the greatest man in this town is Joe, the barber, who organizes a group of barbers to keep the populous optimally clean shaven.
            skeptic: There is no such man. Many people here have beards. (evidential argument)
            believer: They choose not to let anyone from Joe’s group touch their face. (free will argument)
            skeptic: How can anyone be optimally clean shaven anyway? You either need to be constantly shaving to minimize total hair length or you have to move on to other people, give a person time to go out on the town, or give the hair time to grow back to the optimum length for future cutting. It doesn’t seem like a coherent possibility that Joe could actually be doing anything optimal. (logical argument)
            believer: You’ve identified interesting design-space constraints. If I were Joe, how would I go about balancing these constraints?
            skeptic: Shutup. Optimization in the presence of constraints and competing objectives isn’t a real field of study. Joe clearly needs to be able to keep a hair simultaneously at length zero and at optimal length for future shaving. You have the burden of proving that this is possible.
            believer: I don’t see how your complaint is coherent.

          • Ray

            Apologies. It seems I misread your quoting me as accepting that my quibble suggests a logical contradiction between the existence of anything worth calling evil, and the claim that the world in which that thing exists optimizes “the good.” Perhaps, you were going the other route and rejecting the “evil exists” premise of the logical argument from evil — although that’s a hard sell when you have to deny that Hitler, Pol Pot, and Newt Gingrich are/were evil men.

            BTW. Your simulated annealing excuse doesn’t work. The only reason you would use such an approximate algorithm in an optimization problem is if you had computational constraints, and had to limit your search to possibilities that are dynamically close to an iteratively chosen reference point. This is presumably not an issue when an omniscient being wishes to optimize something.

            In any event, even if you don’t accept that there is a logical contradiction between a world with apparent evil and a world created by a tri-omni God, the admission that you can’t figure out whether or not a hypothetical or the real world is optimized according to omnibenevolence criteria is quite damning to Theism. If omnipotence means anything, you are suggesting that the real world is optimal within an astronomically large space of possibilities open to an omnipotent god. Without any positive reason to think any of those possibilities really is optimal (since the optimization criterion is, according to you, inscrutable to us mere humans,) the odds of your guess (the actual world) being the true optimum are astronomically low.

            Worse, while the failure of the logical argument from evil is 100% necessary for the Theist position to even be coherent, atheism is tenable even if no form of the argument from evil succeeds. After all, it’s absolutely trivial to get rid of the problem of evil by simply replacing omnibenevolence in the definition of God with blue-and-orange morality or chaotic-neutral character alignment. While that would reduce the tension between the God hypothesis and the observed facts of the world, it doesn’t even come close to making the modified God Hypothesis plausible.

          • Anonymous

            …my quibble suggests a logical contradiction between the existence of anything worth calling evil, and the claim that the world in which that thing exists optimizes “the good.”

            You missed the important words with constraints.

            Re: Simulated annealing

            You’ve mistaken the idea behind simulated annealing. The agents are things that operate locally. What do we do to alter them or to change their situation, so that they’re more likely to find their way to the optimum? Even if the deity knows where the optimum is, the agents he creates don’t necessarily know it. Furthermore, if the environment is time-dependent, they’ll have further difficulties. There is a creator/agent gap here that you’re missing. (Maybe it’d be easier for you to think about epsilon-greedy algorithms rather than simulated annealing.)

            You’re absolutely right that this doesn’t do much for the theist. But it doesn’t do much against them either! We already knew the large task in front of them. This idea doesn’t change much there. On the other hand, the atheist is claiming an impossibility theorem. This type of reasoning absolutely trashes the claim that an impossibility theorem is an easy thing to do. They still have other strong claims. You’ll live to argue another day.

          • Ray

            “You missed the important words with constraints.”

            In a world created by an omnipotent being, the only constraints are those he chooses to create. So even if you could demonstrate that occasionally-evil agents work the best within some set of constraints, you still have to explain why the constraints are so important to achieving the goal of maximum goodness in the first place.

          • Anonymous

            Think again about my analogy with arithmetic. Sure, you can have plenty of complete axiomatic systems… but if you want to do something sufficiently interesting (say, PA), you’re going to have to bite the bullet and constrain yourself to incomplete systems. Similarly, sure, a deity could go about the problem by creating a bunch of state machines with null evil states… but it might be nice to instead add constraints that turn out to be necessary for sufficiently nice behavior.

            Unless, of course, your complaint really boils down to just creating rocks that one can’t lift. In that case, I’m not sure why you’re not just going down that route rather than couching it in a discussion about the problem of evil.

          • Ray

            I’m not sure what axiomatic systems are supposed to have to do with optimization problems, but this statement is false:

            “Think again about my analogy with arithmetic. Sure, you can have plenty of complete axiomatic systems… but if you want to do something sufficiently interesting (say, PA), you’re going to have to bite the bullet and constrain yourself to incomplete systems.”

            see here:

            Relevant quote:

            “Gödel’s theorems only apply to effectively generated (that is, recursively enumerable) theories. If all true statements about natural numbers are taken as axioms for a theory, then this theory is a consistent, complete extension of Peano arithmetic (called true arithmetic) for which none of Gödel’s theorems apply in a meaningful way, because this theory is not recursively enumerable.”

            again you are taking for granted that human limitations are some kind of logically necessary truth. Finite humans need proof systems that arise from finitely many axioms, with a finite-time algorithm for proof generation. Infinite gods, not so much.

          • Anonymous

            Ok. So the mathematician can bite a different bullet and live with a different constraint. That changes everything. /sarc

            We accept some nasty constraint that we don’t like because we want some seemingly simple thing (ya know, the natural numbers). The possibility that we could choose some other constraint doesn’t mean we’re magically working without constraint.

          • Ray

            We accept some nasty constraint that we don’t like because we want some seemingly simple thing (ya know, the natural numbers). The possibility that we could choose some other constraint doesn’t mean we’re magically working without constraint.”

            Never forget who “we” refers to in the quoted passage. You speak as though the very nature of God (most specifically his goals and the limitations he must work around) are a human invention. I agree entirely.

          • Anonymous

            You seem to have trouble with the concept of analogy. (Hint: the point is that the base players are different.) If you have a disagreement with the substantive part of the analogy, please present it.

          • Ray

            Anon

            “You seem to have trouble with the concept of analogy.”

            Watch the condescension. What is more likely — that someone who just demonstrated he knows Godel’s theorems better than you doesn’t understand something as simple as analogies, or that your analogies are simply poor and unconvincing?

            The point of an analogy is for the analogs (I assume this is what you mean by “base players”) to be alike in all the ways relevant to the argument, but dissimilar in ways that are not relevant to the argument. But, in all your examples the bullets that have to be bitten stem from human limitations (essentially the fact that we are not hypercomputers.) Thus, the lack of limitations, which is explicitly part of orthodox Christian theology’s definition of God is a highly relevant difference.

            Now perhaps you cannot consistently define something to be without any limitations, just as you cannot consistently define a highest turing deree. If so, that’s not my problem. Theologians invented the whole “without limit” thing, and if there’s an inconsistency in their story, that’s their problem, not mine.

            Perhaps instead, you have in mind that the limitations are imposed because God is forced to design around man as he is. But this begs the question — it assumes that the flawed creature we call man is a necessary part of “the good.” This sounds to me like man giving purpose to God, rather than the other way around. Again, this is a contravention of standard theology.

            Anyway, this is all rather silly. It’s quite obvious that this whole thing is simply the result of taking the pretensions of ancient dictators up to 11 and trying to rationalize away all the contradictions. The original point of both the God of the old testament and the unmoved mover of Plato (and later Aristotle) was social control, as should be clear from both Plato’s “Laws” and the book of Deuteronomy. The tribal god had to be powerful enough to scare soldiers more than the opposing army, and it had to be moral enough so that those few who weren’t motivated by fear would feel guilty about rebelling. The rest follows from there as inexorably as the degeneration of childhood arguments into “oh yeah, well my dad loves me infinity plus one”

          • Anonymous

            I don’t know that wiki knowledge (that missed the point) of Godel demonstrates anything. Of course there are different choices we can make. Hell, we could just relent and choose not to have some aspect of PA. That’s a way out. (Or we could just reject the requirement of a formal theory. Why aren’t you shouting about how a deity shouldn’t be restricted to formal theories?) But it’s still a tradeoff for an optimizer. I ignored other ways out precisely because those details aren’t relevant to the point of the analogy.

            Furthermore, It’s not that the bullet stems from human limitation. Perhaps a deity would think, “I have no problem with it not being recursively enumerable.” That’s totally fine. Maybe it’s the better solution for the tradeoff from his perspective. Now, what about from your perspective? Not being RE sure may seem like a deal breaker. How could an all-powerful deity allow something so terrible to occur?! (Substitute ‘informal theory’ if you really want to drive yourself insane.)

            Again, the point of the analogy is really just a variation on Platinga. (I don’t claim to have done anything really new here.) Suppose a deity wants something to be sufficiently nice (say, free will). Analogously, suppose we want something to be sufficiently nice (say, PA). Because of this, he might have to bite some bullet (say, existence of evil (there might be other options like making state machines with null evil states)). Analogously, we have to bite some bullet (we know a few of our options: lack of completeness, not RE, informal). Now, being an optimizer of something, we can choose which bullet is best to bite for the fulfillment of our goals… but we still have to bite at least one of them. Analogously, the deity can still be called an optimizer after having chosen the best bullet to bite for the fulfillment of “the good”.

            You claimed that it is impossible to call a deity an optimizer if evil exists. I’ve demonstrated that constraints can arise from a natural objective function in a way that requires an optimizer to make a tradeoff. This is not surprising in the least if you’ve ever done any optimization. Either you have to reject that these types of things can be in the deity’s objective function or you need to redefine “optimizer” for a deity in some way other than our current understanding.

            Of course, you can merely believe that the whole thing is a made-up story. That’s a totally different matter and is potentially a defensible position. It’s just not the same thing as the impossibility theorem that you claimed.

          • Ray

            Here’s the problem. I’m not trying to prove anything. There are any number of definitions we could give to the terms “omnibenevolence,” “evil” and even “omnipotence”/ “omniscience.” Some lead to a contradiction when we assume a tri-omni god would create a world where evil exists. Some have been carefully constructed not to. (strictly speaking we’re really dealing with partial definitions, here, but that’s another matter.) The problem is that a number of these terms borrow from language that is in common usage, and my feeling is that, while the common usage is itself somewhat ambiguous and even contradictory at times, it is those definitions where the existence of evil contradicts the claim that our world was created by a tri-omni god that seem most faithful to common usage. This is not, however, the sort of thing that is amenable to rigorous proof, as faithfulness to common usage is a somewhat subjective criterion.

            So, I am not trying to offer proof, and I’m not quite sure whether you are trying to offer a proof of anything either, but Plantinga most certainly is. He claims he can demonstrate that the existence of evil is LOGICALLY compatible with the existence of a tri-omni god. He claims he can demonstrate that free-will LOGICALLY requires the existence of evil.

            Like pretty much all of Plantinga’s arguments, this relies on a conflation of “it might be true for all we know” and “it is logically possible.” If you doubt the latter is a stronger claim, note that “the googolth prime is 1 mod 4″ and “the googolth prime is 3 mod 4″ both might be true for all we know, but only one of them is logically possible (there is an algorithm for proving one of these statements true and the other false. It just so happens that it is beyond our computational capabilities to complete.) Plantinga indeed does go to the effort of coming up with an assumption (TWD) which is equivalent to his desired conclusion which “might be true for all we know,” but he never even tries to rigorously demonstrate that this statement is required by or even compatible with notions of good and evil as they are actually used and understood. As it turns out, the free-will-defense skeptic can play this game just as well. See e.g. this review of a paper where Howard-Snyder provides an equally superficially plausible assumption (TWS) leading to the conclusion that the free-will defense fails.

          • Anonymous

            At best, you have that Plantinga went too far. That doesn’t refute what I’ve said. (I want to make a joke about how at worst, the paper is in Word.)

            I reject your characterization of Platinga’s conflation… and I think the Howard-Snyder paper agrees with me.

            The H-S paper seems to be an essence-level version of the Evil God Hypothesis. The whole point of that is to say that you still need to argue for the kind of god you want (you need to argue for why we should believe D is true instead of S). However, unlike your uncharitable characterization of Platinga “never even tr[ying] to rigorously demonstrate…”, H-S actually engages with some of Platinga’s arguments for favoring D over S. He does find Platinga’s arguments lacking… but also doesn’t advance any arguments for favoring S over D, either. So, at best, we still need to actually argue for D in order to get a logical proof that free-will does in fact require evil.

            It’s a good shot at removing the “defense” part of the FWD, but it certainly doesn’t remove the weaker claim that merely pokes a hole in the impossibility theorem version of the logical problem of evil.

          • Ray

            However, unlike your uncharitable characterization of Platinga “never
            even tr[ying] to rigorously demonstrate…”, H-S actually engages with
            some of Platinga’s arguments for favoring D over S.

            the words you left off and replaced by … are important. Plantinga may have argued for D over S, but since he never even mentions how the terms he is using (e.g. omnipotence, good, evil, free will) are used in other contexts. At best, Plantinga would have demonstrated the possibility of defining terms ominpotence’, omnibenvolence’, evil’ which are consistent with one another, but may have nothing whatever to do with the unprimed terms AS THEY ARE ACTUALLY USED AND UNDERSTOOD.

            In any event, there are easier ways to demonstrate that Plantinga’s argument fails. For example, Plantinga’s FWD uncontroversially relies on the premise that libertarian free will is a positive good. If the 60% of philosophers who are Compatibilists are correct, then Compatibilist free will is the only sort of free will worth wanting, and therefore Libertarian free will is necessarily not a positive good. (I say necessarily, because Christian theology almost universally asserts objective morality.) As it turns out, you don’t even need Compatibilism. Christian philosopher, Alexander Pruss argues that Plantinga’s own position of Molinism is already enough to undercut his FWD.

            Since you already accept that Plantinga’s argument doesn’t do what he claims it does, I’m not sure how much more time I should spend on this. Frankly, I think Plantinga is a clueless hack who tries to hide fantastically naive arguments behind a smokescreen of modal logic jargon, and to the extent he has a decent reputation, it is only because he is able to exceed the extremely low expectations philosophers in general have of religious philosophy.

          • Ray

            “It just helps us think about it better.”

            I think I even disagree with that. People make predictable choices all the time. (e.g. my local sushi restaurant knows what I am going to order 99% of the time. It doesn’t make my order any less freely chosen.)

            The main point I was trying to get at with my example was that, even when you’re not acting from outside time, prediction does not equal causation. Of course the fact that Pluto is not considered free (it has no desires to act in accordance with, if you want the Compatibilist diagnosis.) suggests that causation has little to do with freedom in the first place — which had better be the case if you want to argue that a God who is allegedly the sustaining cause of all things does not contradict free will. Indeed, you could also argue that the presence of the sushi restaurant was a contributing cause of my sushi order — but this does not contradict my freedom either.

            That said, both the law and Plato’s concept of justice insist that we may be culpable for the free actions of others if we act to enable them (e.g. selling a gun to a known criminal, or returning a sword to a mad man.) So any concept of freedom that survives God’s omnipotence and omniscience, surely would not get God off the hook for the free actions of those he sustains through his “love” (like, oh say, the subject of Godwin’s law.)

          • Randy Gritter

            Freedom does not mean we don’t have any questions about God’s actions. How can that be really good? Like why was Hitler given so much freedom to choose murder. Would not a few thousand murders have been a reasonable limit to place on one man’s freedom? We will always struggle. The question is whether the existence of any evil proves that an infinite good cannot exist. The freedom to choose evil as a good does break that argument. We will still ask God why every time we are in pain. In fact, the very impulse to ask the question is a reminder that God is real and evil is real.

          • Ray

            … I knew I should have resisted the urge to Godwin. Of course I get a canned response that notably includes the exact premise I had been arguing against (and about which you seemed to agree with me in previous responses) — that freedom to do a thing implies/requires people will actually do that thing. I may be free to order something other than my usual at my local Sushi restaurant, but again I almost never exercise that freedom. I know what I like. How are agents that simply do not like evil more free, when they are forced to share a world with those who do? It’s not as if I ever chose not to be a psychopath (psychopathy is pretty heavily genetically determined iirc) so I don’t see how I would lose any freedom if a God were to muck with human genetics in such a way that no psychopath were ever conceived.

            Maybe you think the parents of psychopaths would choose a 1% chance of psychopathy in their children over a 0% chance, and God is just honoring their wishes? Seems far fetched.

            You also say:
            “In fact, the very impulse to ask the question is a reminder that God is real and evil is real.” — This is ridiculous. The question is 100% attributable to the well attested fact that there is a large and rather meddlesome community who make claims about just such a God. You might as well say the fact that people have the urge to point out inconsistencies in claims about alien abductions is a reminder that the Greys and Reptilians are real.

          • Randy Gritter

            Psychopathy exists because we live in a broken world. We get disease of all sorts. Disease can be a result of sin and not necessarily needed for human freedom. The freedom comes in to the question of how did the sin thing get going at all. Once sin is there then all manner of evil can flow from it.

            Why do we ask Why? when we are in pain? Why do we suppose there should be a reason? Why do we think we are meant for something better? Who complains about no being a prince except one who once was a prince? We know we are fallen and we can’t get up. I don’t think it is just Christians who feel this way. This meddlesome community does not have that kind of power. It is in your conscience already. They just point it out.

          • Ray

            “Who complains about no being a prince except one who once was a prince?”

            Only upwards of 99% of the people who have ever complained about not being a prince. Again, your argument relies on made up history — i.e. the bizarre alternate universe where peasants never envied the nobility (or possibly never existed in the first place.)

            “This meddlesome community does not have that kind of power.” — right, Catholics only hold 6/9 of the positions on the supreme court. And Christians in general are only a slightly overwhelming majority of the electorate in the most powerful nation on earth. Why there are even a handful of congressional districts, that don’t have enough conservative Christians to make an open Atheist completely unelectable.

            Oh, there I am complaining that I can’t be elected president. I must have been the president in a past life or something. :p

          • Jake

            One possible response to the free will/omniscient deity paradox is to take into account that most accounts of an omniscient God also conceive of him as outside of time

            Yes, I’ve heard this account before. It seems to me to suffer from a few weaknesses- firstly, it’s a mysterious answer to a mysterious question. I have no idea what “outside of time” actually means. I would venture that nobody else does either (though certainly I am open to correction on this point). What does it mean for God to be “outside of time” and yet somehow interact with our timeline at a specific point?

            Secondly, and more fundamentally, the problem is that “cause” and “effect” are inherently timefull ideas. Causality applies within the block universe, not outside of it. God can’t be both “outside of time” and “causing” things to happen.

            The argument is often phrased this way: we “know” the past (for we were present for it), but by knowing the past we don’t thereby “cause” the past.

            Again, “past”, “present”, and “cause” are inherently timefull things. They don’t make sense when we talk about someone or something that is outside of time.

            But I think this argument can be answered less abstractly by drawing an analogy to the time traveler dilemma that science fiction (and Harry Potter) struggles with. Namely, are events consistent in meta-time (the time traveler’s actions in the “past” can never undo himself- by time traveling, he has essentially created a separate timeline from the one that created him), or are events consistent in local time (everything the time traveler does ends up causing the sequence of events that created the time traveler’s future!world).

            In the first solution, where meta-time remains consistent, the time traveler’s knowledge of the past does not mean that he “caused” it, because the present is not equal to future!past. As soon as he time traveled, he introduced a variable that was not present during the last iteration of this timeline- his own existence. He may or may not go on to change that which he has future “knowledge” about. So his “knowledge” is really knowledge about a totally separate timeline that happened to have starting conditions extremely similar to the timeline he currently inhabits.

            In the second solution, the time traveler’s knowledge of the past does indeed “cause” thing to happen in the way that the time traveler “knows” that they must. His knowledge is causally linked to the events- which is the same as saying his knowledge of how events played out caused events to play out the way they did (which is why this solution is nonsensical to us- so far as we can tell, nothing is causally related to itself. Such an observation would contradict all past observation, and would require a radically new definition of reality)

            So while your condensed factual argument is correct, it is also incomplete. A more complete version would go something like this:

            We “know” the past (for we were present for it), but by knowing the past we don’t thereby “cause” the past, because we do not also have the ability to modify the past.

            Frankly, the wealth of discussions—past and present—about the question of omniscience and free will suggests, at least to me, that there’s no “slam dunk” argument in favor of either compatibility or incompatibility.

            Depends what you mean by “slam dunk”. I agree that there’s probably no single argument that will make > 99% of people agree that the question has been satisfactorily answered. But I would say the same for evolution, the age of the earth, the age of the universe, global warming, Biblical inerrancy, and lots of other religiously charged topics that you (if you’re a Catholic) would presumably agree with me on. My contention is that one side of the compatibility argument is clearly and demonstrably true (though to be frank, most practical disagreements in this space resolve to differences in definition rather than substance)

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Yes, the argument’s an old one— originates with Boethieus, I believe.

            Your first objection would be a reasonable one if we were discussing the feasibility of an omniscient God who intervened into human affairs. Obviously, a theology (including Christian theologies, of course) that want to assert this will need to account for it. However, the question at hand is whether the assertion of an omniscient deity—period— precludes the possibility of free will.

            Again, “past”, “present”, and “cause” are inherently timefull things. They don’t make sense when we talk about someone or something that is outside of time.

            Yes, you’re absolutely right. But that’s precisely the point: if you’re not in temporal time (or, put a bit differently and a bit more specifically) if all time is simultaneously “now” for you, then we can’t think of causation, the past, the present, and the future as we tend to. I used the “thinking about the past” example as a metaphor to get us to some idea of what this atemporal state might be like, but at the end of the day the point is precisely the one that you’re stating here: standard temporal concepts—and the structure of causation within them—wouldn’t hold in the same way.

            I appreciate your more concrete Time Traveler analogy, but I think that there is still some benefit to the atemporal formulation since most philosophical definitions of God think of him as “eternal”—a seemingly trans-temporal concept that encourages us to try and think about a more fundamentally different relationship to time than even a time traveler would have. Also, I don’t know if “outside of time” is as mysterious of a concept as you are making it out to be—we do grant, after all, that concepts can be atemporal. For instance, mathematical laws can be manifest throughout time (if I put together two apples and two apples in the present moment I get four apples) but we don’t think of the laws themselves as temporally bound—they are, so to speak, eternal and fixed.

            Depends what you mean by “slam dunk”. I agree that there’s probably no single argument that will make > 99% of people agree that the question has been satisfactorily answered

            I’d certainly be willing to take 99% of educated people’s agreement as a “slam dunk” and, frankly, I don’t think that the incompatibility argument meets a reasonable standard for “clearly and demonstrably” true. Here’s why: no self-respecting geology journal or academic press is going to publish the findings of a young earth creationist because basically everyone who is an expert in the field realizes that it’s clearly poppycock. There is a clear and complete (by any meaningful definition) consensus on the issue. On the other hand, philosophical journals and major academic presses still print folks like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig, which leads me to believe that no clear and complete consensus has been made on the issue. In short, it’s not widely enough recognized as poppycock to be considered an embarrassment to publish.

          • Jake

            Your first objection would be a reasonable one if we were discussing the feasibility of an omniscient God who intervened into human affairs… However, the question at hand is whether the assertion of an omniscient deity—period— precludes the possibility of free will.

            Fair enough. I shall leave this aside for the moment.

            if you’re not in temporal time (or, put a bit differently and a bit more specifically) if all time is simultaneously “now” for you, then we can’t think of causation, the past, the present, and the future as we tend to.

            Even saying that all time is simultaneously “now” is a misunderstanding of a truly timeless reality. Both “now” and “simultaneous” require a temporal experience to be meaningful words.

            I don’t know if “outside of time” is as mysterious of a concept as you are making it out to be—we do grant, after all, that concepts can be atemporal. For instance, mathematical laws can be manifest throughout time… they are, so to speak, eternal and fixed

            Yes, but an atemporal agent is very, very different than an atemporal law. An agent- something capable of making some sort of decision based on available information- necessarily changes temporally. Otherwise, we call it an algorithm, not an agent (the reductionist, of course, claims that all agents are in fact single-point-in-time instantiations of complex algorithms).

            This is why I have no idea what it would mean for an agent to be atemporal- you can’t have a personality unless that personality changes based on past experiences. Anything that is literally unchangeable isn’t actually “alive” in any meaningful sense (based on the OT, the Abrahamic God does not appear to fit the “unchangeable” criteria anyways). It’s much closer to a Law than it is to a Person.

            I’d certainly be willing to take 99% of educated people’s agreement as a “slam dunk” and, frankly, I don’t think that the incompatibility argument meets a reasonable standard for “clearly and demonstrably” true.

            Sorry if I was unclear- I’m saying I can come up with all kinds of “slam dunk” arguments that you’re never going to get 99% buy in for. Depending on the audience, some of them you won’t even get majority buy-in for. Which is why argument ad populum doesn’t work, even if it’s an argument over whether or not something is a “slam dunk.”

            no self-respecting geology journal or academic press is going to publish the findings of a young earth creationist …. On the other hand, philosophical journals and major academic presses still print folks like Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig… In short, it’s not widely enough recognized as poppycock to be considered an embarrassment to publish.

            This is certainly true- you can absolutely get away with being a professionally respected philosopher and still hold to compatibalism in one of its various incarnations.

            However, this seems to me more a function of philosophy than a function of compatibalism. Philosophy is not science, and the kind of evidence and argument we use in philosophy is not the same as what we use in science. In fact, science does have a fair bit to say on free will, but philosophers are free to generally ignore it in a way that geology is not allow to ignore the conclusions of cosmology, for example.

            So if “slam dunk” is relative to other contentious issues within philosophy, then I maintain that arguments against this form of compatibilism are indeed a slam dunk. But if your standard of slam dunk is relative to the level of consensus required in the physical sciences, then sure, this isn’t a slam dunk- but I can’t think of any philosophical arguments that meet that criteria (including arguments against radical skepticism, solipsism, etc.)

            —-

            The point I was trying to make (which I’m not sure I successfully got across) has less to do with God actively interfering than it does to do with the availability of future!knowledge in the present. If the knowledge of future events is known with a probability of 1 (or is even in principle knowable with a probability of 1) then choice is no longer meaningfully present in the system.

            One may of course undergo the subjective experience of choosing one option amongst many, just as one may undergo any number of convincing but ultimately false (incomplete) mental approximations of the world.

            If the starting state of a system is sufficient to predict the end state, then there is no choice involved, even if that system included things like “neurons”, “electricity”, “humans”, and “personality”. As convincing as the subjective experience of “choosing” may be, that choice is still the direct effect of some other cause, and the causal chain stretches all the way back to the starting state of the system (assuming causality, of course). Any system positing causality necessarily gives up libertarian free will.

          • Jake

            I should also point out that physical laws are also not “outside of time.” They might be true for all values of t, but what would gravity look like if time stopped existing? Objects would exert a force proportional to their mass on other objects, but force contains a term for time (mass * acceleration = grams * meters/(second ^2)). In fact, all the physical laws I can think of are either time dependent, or are purely conceptual intermediate stages between time dependent equations (any takers to come up with a counterfactual?)

            Math, I guess, would be true “outside of time”? But again, I’m not even really sure what “outside of time” means. Is it even sensical to try to add two things outside of time, since “adding” is an action, and actions can’t exist outside of time? I guess I’m saying my perception of reality is so entwined with time that I can’t make any meaningful statements about anything that exists “outside of time”- or whether “outside of time” is even a logically coherent abstraction. The best I can do is talk about something that is free to arbitrarily jump back and forth between any single point in time.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            This still does not resolve the ‘Problem of Evil’ question. At best it might suggest that instead of not being omni-benevolent, the deity is instead not omnipotent… and therefore is still a 2 O instead of a 3 O deity. And that is being kind to the Perpetual Knowledge Proposition because it really offers no solution to the Problem of Evil at all.

            Or to put it another way, how does the PKP respond to the timely response to prayer as suggested by the passages in John (paraphrasing) “The Father will grant all you ask if you but ask in my name.” This suggests that despite the ‘timeless’ nature as described by the PKP proposition, that action can be taken in a ‘timely’ manner. If this is the case, Omni-benevolence is again off the table, (Knows, is able to act, but doesn’t). Again we are back to 2 O instead of 3 O.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            Actually it can. All the rationalisations to get around it do is attempt to redefine either omni-benevolence or vacillate about the nature of evil.

            What that does is make it a 2 O deity instead of a 3 O. I am actually fine with that. The people who determine what a heresy is have historically had issues with it though so I can understand the drive to toe the line.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            You know the ‘omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god’? Yeah about that….That guy was demonstrated as a logical impossibility 2,300 years ago.

            Uh, no. What usually happens in these supposed demonstrations is that ‘omnipotent’ or ‘omnibenevolent’ is defined in some way that theists reject anyway. “God can’t do the logically impossible, therefore he’s not omnipotent!” Good luck finding a theist who cares. (You may have luck with the muslims, some of whom will deny that God can’t do the logically impossible.)

            There were numerous attempts by Christians to address this problem throughout the centuries but the usual things happened.

            Yeah – the objections were shown to be nonsense by careful rational argument on the part of theologians and philosophers.

            Declaration of heresy, exile, torture, seizure of assets, burning at the stake. Stuff like that.

            I see you learn your history from anecdote and comic books. Good job. For a followup, please tell me how the God of Aquinas is literally a bearded man in the sky. You know, go all-in on the complete and total ignorance. ;)

          • My_Oath

            “Yeah – the objections were shown to be nonsense by careful rational argument on the part of theologians and philosophers.”

            And the proponents were declared heretics and if they were lucky, exiled from the Roman Empire.

            “I see you learn your history from anecdote and comic books.”

            Nope, 12 years of Catholic education.

            “please tell me how the God of Aquinas is literally a bearded man in the sky”

            Why on Earth would I do that? I have made no assertion about a bearded man in the sky, or that that is what Aquinas subscribed to.

            “go all-in on the complete and total ignorance”

            I’ll leave that to you.

          • http://crudeideas.blogspot.com/ Crude

            And the proponents were declared heretics and if they were lucky, exiled from the Roman Empire.

            The ‘heretics’ were other theists who argued for their own views of God, usually having nothing whatsoever to do with the omnipotent, omniscient God in question, but more to do with particularities of revealed faith.

            Swing and a miss, Oath. Try again.

            Nope, 12 years of Catholic education.

            Oh boy, Grade 1 through Senior Year! That clearly makes you an expert on all things Catholic!

            Wait, wait. Nope. It doesn’t.

            Why on Earth would I do that?

            It’s called ‘sarcasm’, Oath. I’m making fun of your obviously inadequate knowledge by suggesting another bit of inanity you can advance.

            Either way, I hope you’ve learned a lesson here: having had to take ‘religious studies’ in Catholic high school, being taught most likely by the goddamn gym teacher, does not make you informed about either Catholic history or theology/philosophy in general.

          • My_Oath

            Here’s the thing though. I wasn’t arguing about Catholicism – only about the claims of a ’3 O’ deity. See above to the ‘Some god claims’ bit. I accept that Catholicism does not claim a ’3 O’ deity

            You replied with “theists reject the definitions” (paraphrasing). I agree to point. Theists who are prepared to think about the issue do this… but in general many don’t.

            “The heretics (clip)’

            I agree for the most part, but there were several who were addressing the Problem of Evil.

            “Clearly makes you an expert on all things Catholic”

            At no point have I claimed this or even attempted to insinuate it. I was just giving an honest answer to your snide sarcastic supercilious supposition.

            “It’s called ‘sarcasm’,”

            Cool. I am glad you find solace in back handed strawman attacks. Horses for courses.

            “having had to take ‘religious studies’ in Catholic high school, being taught most likely by the goddamn gym teacher, does not make you informed about either Catholic history or theology/philosophy in general.”

            Again. At no point have I claimed that this education gave me any claim to authority or expertise over anyone on this issue or any other – in point of fact I have argued the opposite both at the time and in the years since. By the way, none of the clerics who held any of my Religious Studies classes were gym teachers – goddamn or any other variety. I am terribly sorry that your hopes of belittling and denigrating someone attempting to have an honest discourse on public forum have been dashed.

      • erin

        Do you believe that only physicists and mathematicians can describe creation accurately? Are physics and math the only areas where Truth can be found? It seems very limiting.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mgilesr Mike Russell

          Physics and math seem to be the best tools we currently have to develop testable models of what the universe is and how it came to be (but with no guarantee of success). If you use upper case ‘T’ truth to mean an understanding of the origins of the universe, then physicists and mathematicians seem the most likely to come up with better models. Do you know of others?

        • AshleyWDC

          How do you access Truth?

          • Kristen inDallas

            philosophy and the study of logic is a start. Art music and poetry access a different kind of higher truth. I heart physics. I’m a physicist at heart. But Knowledge has many facets and many paths leading to it. I think one of the most important things to learn on the path to truth are the limits of each discipline.

        • mmurray

          What kind of argument is “It seems every limiting”? Nothing can be accelerated from rest to faster than the speed of light is pretty limiting but nonetheless true.

          Experience suggests that the best way of understanding reality is science. Meditation, prayer, i-ching, the flight of sparrows, sheep’s entrails, holy scripture … have proved to be useless for this purpose.

    • avalpert

      “I do think if someone is truly open to the truth, they find themselves in the Catholic Faith”

      I bet you do. I have found that those who find themselves in the Catholic Faith have abandoned truths along the way and rationalized it away through rather weak emotional apologetics. But good for you.

  • http://twitter.com/Sacerdotus Michael

    That is great! I used to be an atheist as well and have 2 blogs: http://www.sacerdotus.com and rationallyfaithful.blogspot.com. The latter is a discussion forum for atheists and theists.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

      I used to be a catholic.

  • grok87

    I liked your piece Leah and especially the excerpt you quoted.I like the metaphor of prayer, listening and speaking to God as being like learning a new language, “what was always meant to be your natural language.”

    I’m not sure if Brandon Vogt desiged this deliberately (I guess the site launched a few days ago?) but the Arepogaus passage is actually one of the mass readings for today:
    http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/050813.cfm
    “He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth,
    and he fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God,even perhaps grope for him and find him…”
    I think there is a parallel in Acts to the passage you quoted from your piece, that the harmony, order and strucure of the world points us toward God and leads us to seek him. These are very appropriate reflections for this time of Easter-tide.
    But of course we must remember the contrary as well. The desert experiences, Jesus on the cross saying “My God why have you abandonded me”, the times when the world doesn’t seem to make sense and God seems distant. I think part of what it means to be a disciple, a follower of the Way, a follower of Jesus is to embrace both of these experiences, just as Jesus did.

  • Cam

    I agree with KG @ “Leah, I find it strange…”
    In this blog it seems the weaker (or morally depraved) parts of Catholicism are borne not by an acceptance of the existence of a deity, but by acceptance of the truth of Catholic theology (and then not because a given tenet is demonstrably true, but simply because the sources you determine to represent Catholic theology *say* it’s true). You could argue that you only accept as part of Catholic theology claims that meet some test of consistency, but this is a very weak control- I don’t think it would be difficult to argue that a person could make anything inconsistent or consistent both psychologically and logically. See, eg, the inquisition.

    “Either Catholicism is true or not”
    -Wrong! It is trivial that some parts of Catholicism may be true, and others false (and in fact this is what we should expect to see).
    A single tenet within Catholicism may be entirely true or entirely false, but scaling this up to the entirity of the theology is going to leave you in a mess, because Catholicism, as a religion, purports to explain everything- the natural world, psychology, physics, ethics, etc. Is this how one gets from objective morality to cursed fig trees and talking donkeys?

    “it’s alright not to have answers to every question you get asked”
    -It’s not that simple, if you want to be rational. You themed this as “what if you’re faced with an obscure question irrelevant to your conversion?”, but the majority of challenges that religious people face aren’t going to be like that at all. They’re going to be hard-hitting, major contentions that strike right at their core beliefs.
    If you are part of a religion and you are faced with a question you cannot answer, you should ever-so-slightly downgrade your confidence in that religion, then seek an answer. If no answer is forthcoming, you should further downgrade your confidence in that religion. If you do locate an answer, you should try and evaluate the strength of the answer. Since a religious person is more likely to accept *any* answer as sufficient to a tricky question, rather than only a good answer, you should correct for this as best you can. If you receive an answer and judge it to be good even after correcting for your eagerness to find any answer, then you should slightly upgrade your confidence in that religion.

    “I would say that the terrifying and wonderful thing is that you’re in direct, personal contact with the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.”
    You do know that people from every religion experience this, whether they be monotheistic, pantheistic, deistic, or something entirely different, right? Shouldn’t your readers be allowed to know that too?

    • Randy Gritter

      You could argue that you only accept as part of Catholic theology claims that meet some test of consistency, but this is a very weak control- I don’t think it would be difficult to argue that a person could make anything inconsistent or consistent both psychologically and logically. See, eg, the inquisition.

      Things are part of Catholic theology if they taught by scripture, tradition,
      and the magisterium. How is that a weak control? The inquisition was a matter of church governance and not theology. Governance is not divine revelation and therefore we don’t expect it to be unchanging. We can disagree with the church on matters of governance on the inquisition or the sex abuse scandals or whatever.

      “Either Catholicism is true or not”
      -Wrong! It is trivial that some parts of Catholicism may be true, and others false

      Yes and no. The central truth of Catholicism that God uses the office of
      bishop and pope to give us true doctrine and true sacraments is either true or false. If it is true then many things they teach must be accepted because they are from God. If it is false then the church is worse than irrelevant. It is a false prophet and a deeply evil institution.

      If you are part of a religion and you are faced with a question you cannot answer, you should ever-so-slightly downgrade your confidence in that religion

      Do you expect to understand God fully? I don’t expect to understand astrophysics fully. So if I can’t answer a question about astrophysics then I should downgrade my confidence in it? Maybe I should downgrade my confidence in myself.

      • Cam

        “Things are part of Catholic theology if they taught by scripture, tradition, and the magisterium. How is that a weak control?”

        I argue that ‘Consistency’ is the weak control.

        Words need to be interpreted, tradition can be rejected (limbo, anyone?). The Catholics who tortured people thought it consistent with their theology. If this example is a distraction, I can offer others- I don’t really want to see the example distinguished, i’d like to see the idea behind the argument refuted if possible.
        A person who accepts ‘catholic theology’ needs to decide what that is, which teachings to follow, which interpretations to favour. When you ‘disagree with the church’ you are doing exactly that- claiming that their teachings or governance or stance on an issue is not *true* Catholic theology.
        As far as I understand the truth-teller approach: If you believe the church to be a truth-teller, then you can abdicate your own knowledge and reason (especially if it’s limited) in favour of the church’s teachings on the matter, provided that the teaching is consistent with the core tenets you accepted when deciding the church was a truth-teller in the first place.
        The trouble is that when you abdicate your own reason, the only control mechanism you have is consistency. This is evidenced by statements by Leah and other people with similar conversions to the effect of “well my intuitions disagree with (x) teaching, but I assume that i’ll come to agree with it once I learn more.” The reason this is problematic is because consistency is weak and easy to manufacture. It’s not hard to make two conflicting ideas consistent, and it’s super easy to do that when one of those ideas is a fabrication with minimal basis in reality.

        “The central truth of Catholicism that God uses the office of
        bishop and pope to give us true doctrine and true sacraments is either true or false. If it is true then many things they teach must be accepted because they are from God. If it is false then the church is worse than irrelevant.”
        I disagree. I think the Church could be a non-divine institution, and still be correct on some matters.The Church says ‘murder is wrong’, does it not? I think it can be correct on this, even if it’s wrong about the whole ‘god’ thing. And when you say “many things they teach” (implying not all!) you conceed my point.
        What this means, for someone thinking about converting, is that accepting the church to be right about one particular issue does not mean you should consider the church correct on all matters.

        “I don’t expect to understand astrophysics fully. So if I can’t answer a question about astrophysics then I should downgrade my confidence in it? ”
        Yes, *Slightly*, because it shows either that the belief doesn’t perform, or you don’t understand the belief, both being good reasons to slightly downgrade your confidence. And then you go seek an answer, and certainly perhaps the more meaningful adjustments get made after the success or failure of good answers to materialise.
        And, within reason. If a question is incoherent or bizarre, like “In astrophysics, how angry is a pineapple?”, then you don’t need to make any adjustments. And sometimes its difficult to evaluate the legitimacy of a question, which makes things complex.

        • Randy Gritter

          The teaches some things with authority. It is clear what those are. The central question is when it teaches with authority can it be trusted? Bringing up cases where that authority was not used does not help. The church claims to be infallible under certain conditions. IT does not claim to be impeccable. We say Peter was infallible when he wrote the books of I Peter and II Peter that we find in the New Testament. We don’t say he was impeccable because he denied Jesus 3 times.

          Getting these claims right is not playing games. It is not a
          No True Scotsman fallacy. You could claim that before Vatican I but in that council the conditions under which infallibility applies were precisely defined. So if you want to argue against it you have to pick a statement where these conditions hold. Otherwise you are guilty of a Straw Man Fallacy.

          Infallibility does not mean you abdicate reason. It means certain teachings are out of bounds. It tends to have the opposite effect. Reason alone can get stuck. Given the data we have we can’t conclude anything more from pure reason. God gives us more data so we can contemplate deeper truths.

          For example, we might be enamored with the modern idea that men and women are only different physically and even that matters little. Then God tells us through the church that women can’t be ordained priests. We can be offended and angered by that. But if we get over that and begin reasoning again then we can see that certain assumptions we made are wrong and we need to go down a different path in our thinking. It does not mean we stop thinking. In fact, we end up in counter-cultural thinking which requires more effort. Accepting the dominate philosophy of society ends up meaning we abdicate reason a lot more.

      • hypnosifl

        “The central truth of Catholicism that God uses the office of bishop and pope to give us true doctrine and true sacraments is either true or false. If it is true then many things they teach must be accepted because they are from God. If it is false then the church is worse than irrelevant. It is a false prophet and a deeply evil institution.”

        Other religions claim to possess the true word of God, do you judge the teachers of Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism etc. to all be “false prophets” and “deeply evil”? You presuppose that God chooses to interact with humans by directly dictating doctrine, so that any text that claims to be divinely inspired is either wholly correct or wholly false. As an alternative one might suppose that God more subtly inspires human action in a way that is never entirely free of their own background and biases, but which points in the direction of greater understanding of spiritual and moral truths…thus one could believe there are elements of divine inspiration in any holy text (or even works of art) without taking the literalist view that it must be either be wholly God speaking, or wholly non-God and thus an evil pretender if it claims to be of God.

        • Randy Gritter

          To claim to hear from God is either true or false. If it is false then it is a serious problem. Either Mohammad really encountered the angel Gabriel or he didn’t. If you believe as I do that he didn’t then there is really no nice explanation. He either lied or he was possessed by some evil force or he was seriously delusional. The difference with the Catholic church is the claim is ongoing. If it is an error it is no small error. It is blasphemy. It is leading people away from God and towards yourself. Making an imperfect statement about God is OK if you don’t claim it as perfect. Once you claim to know the mind of God getting it wrong is a grave evil.

          • hypnosifl

            “To claim to hear from God is either true or false.”

            Not really, it’s not uncommon for basically non-delusional people to hear internal voices, why couldn’t one suppose that God exerts some sort of influence on what a person’s voices say (including influences on the person’s own life and background which influence their subconscious imagination) without completely overriding the person’s brain and dictating the voice’s exact words? If someone says that God played a role in the creative process that led Bach to create his music (something that I noticed seemed to be suggested on the “strangenotions” website in two different articles, see this article along with item 17 in this one), does that necessarily imply a belief that Bach was purely a vessel for channeling music composed by God, that Bach’s own God-given creativity played no role?

            If one supposes that God can “influence” without dictating exact words or notes, then just because a person is mistaken in thinking that the voice they hear is the pure word of God with no influence from their own mind and personality, that doesn’t mean that what they say is “leading people away from God and towards yourself”. Your statement simply presupposes that God interacts with people in a “taking dictation” style, but how do you know with such certainty that God behaves in such a way, as opposed to the way I have suggested? Is there something about this suggestion about God’s mode of interaction that is internally incoherent or incompatible with basic intuitions (or philosophical conclusions) about God’s nature? Or are you just unwilling to consider it because you have faith in a literalistic belief system which says otherwise?

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            “it’s not uncommon for basically non-delusional people to hear internal voices, why couldn’t one suppose that God exerts some sort of influence on what a person’s voices say (including influences on the person’s own life and background which influence their subconscious imagination) without completely overriding the person’s brain and dictating the voice’s exact words?”

            How is that different from the claim being ‘true’?

            If you are saying that god is acting through them without realising that they are such an agency (as in: they are not making the claim) isn’t that a breach of Free Will?

          • hypnosifl

            “If you are saying that god is acting through them without realising that they are such an agency” Huh? How did you get that from what I wrote? I was using the example of Bach to disagree with the idea that God uses people to simply channel information created wholly by God–in case you misunderstood, when I asked rhetorically “If someone says that God played a role in the creative process that led Bach to create his music … does that necessarily imply a belief that Bach was purely a vessel for channeling music composed by God, that Bach’s own God-given creativity played no role?”, the answer I was suggesting was “no, the idea that God had an influence needn’t imply Bach was merely a passive channel, and Bach’s creativity still could have played a major role”.

            What I’m suggesting is that the same could be true of people who think they are hearing the voice of God giving them messages–God could just be exerting a subtle influence on the broad direction taken by a voice that is primarily a spontaneous product of the person’s own subconscious. If that’s the case then God would not be dictating the exact words the voice is heard to say, and the words it says could contain plenty of specific claims the person is dreaming up on their own. For God, the positive influence of certain parts of the message (say, a message that tells people to love their enemies) might outweigh any negative influence from any wrong ideas the person’s subconscious came up with (wrong claims about historical information, about more specific commands like dietary laws being of importance to God, etc.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            Ahhh, my apologies. Thanks for the clarification.

          • Randy Gritter

            Sure, but that would be saying a lying church or a delusional church got some things very right. You can say that. You just need to believe that such an institution could do what the Catholic church has done for as long as it has done it and remain completely wrong in how it claims to understand itself.

          • hypnosifl

            But if you accept that God can sometimes “influence without explicitly dictating” to people who hear a voice telling them things, don’t you see that it would be too simplistic to say that the person’s claims must be “truth, lies, or delusions?” In this case the person’s claims would naturally tend to contain a mixture of ideas that just came from their own subconscious and don’t reflect the will of God to any great extent, and ideas that were more God-inspired (which doesn’t mean these ideas didn’t also come from the person’s subconscious–most theists would say God can work through natural events that “could have happened anyway”). So it’d be a mixture of moral/spiritual truths and what I guess you would call “delusion”. And among the more “delusional” things they believe, why couldn’t one of them be the belief that they are hearing the pure word of God with no influence from their own background? Maybe God doesn’t really mind if people who are influenced in this way sometimes have delusions of receiving “pure truth”.

            Obviously you don’t believe this is the case for the Catholic doctrines about infallibility, but do you at least agree this could be possible for some non-Catholic believers who claim to hear the voice of God? That God’s influence could be present in certain people’s teachings even if aspects of these teachings are human delusions, and among the delusions is the belief that the teachings come solely from God?

          • Randy Gritter

            Look at Muslims or Mormons. I think they both have God-inspired ideas and also very wrong ideas. But at bottom I think they are wrong. The angel Gabriel did not reveal to Mohammad what Mohammad claims he did. The angel Moroni did not reveal to Joesph Smith what Smith claims he did. So they are both false religions. Just like atheism is false. That does not mean God stops speaking to their consciences. It does mean I don’t expect their institutions as institutions to be able to do anything that many other human institutions have not done.

            The Catholic church does do things no other human institution does. The longevity is the easiest one to state. From the moment Jesus said “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” from that moment we have had a pope. The office survived many things it logically should not have. The fall of the Roman Empire, the reformation, many conquests of Rome, the banning of the Christian religion, the executions of dozens of popes, the enlightenment, world wars, etc.

            The more you look at the Catholic Church the more remarkable she seems. She is much like Jesus in that way.

          • hypnosifl

            Why must it be simply true or false? Is there something incoherent about the model I suggested, where God influences people in certain directions without simply using them as stenographers of words composed entirely by God? Plenty of non-insane people have experiences of hearing voices, so God could in some sense influence what they heard the voices say even if it was also in some sense the voice of their own subconscious mind. Similarly, you will often hear theists say that God had some kind of influence on great works of art , in fact there are two pieces over at the Strange Notions site that seem to suggest the authors think this might be true of Bach’s music…but to believe God had a hand in Bach’s music does not imply that Bach was just a vessel for channeling music composed by God alone, one can imagine a more collaborative model where Bach’s own creativity and talent was at work too. Why couldn’t the same sort of thing be true of moral or spiritual doctrines that people believe are divinely inspired? Would it somehow go against God’s nature to influence but not dictate to people in this way, or do you just not believe God acts this way because your religion says otherwise?

          • Randy Gritter

            This is all true. Things can be influenced by God partly or imperfectly. But that is not what Catholicism claims. It claims all religions have some truth but Catholicism has the fullness of truth. If you believe that is true then it has a lot of implications. If you believe it is false then that has a lot of implications. It is a bit like the liar-lunatic-lord trilemma. The church is either right or crazy or deceitful.

        • tedseeber

          “Other religions claim to possess the true word of God, do you judge the teachers of Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism etc. to all be “false prophets” and “deeply evil”? ”

          I suggest you read Nostra Aetate.

  • Valkr

    How unfortunate that your pretty little rose-colored glasses aren’t really one-size-fits-all.

    Please abandon this ugly effort at evangelism and go back to… whatever it is you’ve been doing.

  • Iota

    On a different note (or maybe not so different…), since this IS – after all Leah’s blog:

    I finally read your piece you lined to. I really liked how you handled the “But what if a friend brings up a question I don’t know the answer to?” question. It isn’t revolutionary, of course, but it’s good to hear people remind themselves and each other that talking productively to other people usually involves discussing things THEY find relevant (so “that word isn’t really what my conversion [other decision] hinged on” is actually a very legit answer).

  • Fred

    There’s a difference between dialogue, which involves each group having a chance to put forward their views, and evangelising, which is the attempt to force other people around to your point of view. If this site is really about dialogue then it ought to have been made in collaboration with one atheist at least, who’d have some control over the content of the site. But if it’s just an attempt to win souls for Jesus and money for the coffers of the Catholic church, then no decent atheist will want anything to do with it. If it was more of an ‘interfaith’ exercise, with Catholics and atheists finding common ground, as well as hashing out the major disagreements, that might work, but it would have to come from a position of mutual respect. I’m not even sure that’s possible when Catholism is busy making heirarchies of faiths with itself at the top and secular humanism near the bottom. And yes, there’s plenty of disrespect from the atheist side as well. But if Catholics want to reach out to atheist ‘come here and we’ll make you into good little Catholics’ is not the best beginning.

    I read your article and it left me baffled because you left out the step where you explain why this person you’re now in a relationship with is definately Catholic and not one of the many other hypothetical gods, and you left out how you can be so sure that your feelings that there is a person behind every loving act are a true representation of reality and not the product of your own mind. You’re also ignoring the power of peer pressure. If you’d had a sense of God’s magnificence while visiting a Hindu temple, do you think you might be a hindu now, or would you still have become a Catholic? Maybe, surrounded by people who were believing Catholics and having dated a Catholic, you were subconciously being primed to believe. Maybe if you went to an introductary course at a Mosque, you find yourself becoming Muslim. The rhethoric is much the same- every Muslim is your brother or sister (the umma) and, of course, you don’t convert to Islam, you ‘revert’ to it, because being Muslim is what we’re all supposed to be.

    • Iota

      Fred,

      This comment by Leah might be relevant (click). Essentially, form what I understand, she wrote the text specifically to address the particular questions people who are already considering Catholicism might have. Then it got titled as if it was dealing with theism as such.

      Sidenote: there is a moral about the power of titles (and the control thereof) somewhere in this conundrum, I’d think.

  • stanz2reason

    Uggg Leah… the question of whether you can become a Catholic believer without entering an intellectual vacuum is looking more likely to be NO. I get the format of a ‘Q & A’ introductory sort of page as requiring brief responses, but the downshift into mindless proselytizing probably isn’t going to generate the intellectual cross conversation you’re hoping for.

  • Christian Stillings

    After reading the comments thus far, I’d like to proffer a couple thoughts.

    I actually think this is an excellent idea for several reasons, though I might be biased, being Catholic and all. I think it’s good to have a forum specifically between Catholics and atheists, because the atheists who hang around can at least know that they won’t have to deal with “the earth is 6000 years old and carbon dating is sent by Satan to test my faith!” and so on (though perhaps the folks at the Kolbe Center could be engaged? Eh, maybe we’d better not).

    I understand the atheist-perspective frustration about all the content so far being written by Catholics, but I don’t think it’s unfair of the site to start with Catholic-provided content so long as the content is fair, interesting, and productive to further discussion. I think Brandon’s rationale for gathering atheist-provided content post-launch makes sense: if I was an atheist blogger/writer and got an email from [x theist] saying “hey, do you want to participate in my [x theism]-atheism forum site?”, I probably wouldn’t hop on right away- why invest your time/effort in something when you don’t know if the forum site will be any good? However, if the site’s already started up and I could gauge that the forum actually suits itself to intelligent, productive conversation, I’d be more interested in participating.

    Plus, in a forum like Strange Notions, I don’t think that there’s such thing as a “perfectly neutral” perspective. As long as the writers on either side are fair, interesting, and put forth content that allows for good discussion, I wouldn’t have a problem with “the other side” publishing the majority of the content at any particular time.

    Honestly, I do think that the pro-intelligent-conversation moderation will help keep dispositions (on both sides) in check and keep conversations well on track, It’s nice to be able to process through things thoroughly and intelligently without having to put up with “do u believe in santa claus too lol”.

    It’d be nice for atheist contributors, assuming that some hop on, to be able to write specifically Catholicism-related content intended for further discussion. This would largely spare us the (Not-Really-Very) Friendly Atheist’s “religion ruins everything” bleats, which are usually just about science education. If the site can generate more of “here’s why I find the resurrection hypothesis untenable” and less of “lol fundy evangelicals are soooo stupid”, I think most of the regulars here would be glad.

    I don’t think that most (intelligent, well-spoken) atheists should find the general “you should be Catholic” sentiment all that off-putting. There should be a solid understanding, especially among ex-Christian atheists, that the theology causes the faithful to want to bring folks to the faith. If that sentiment were to in some way obstruct productive conversation (ie, every Catholic article or comment ending in “repent and be saved, ye heathens!”), I agree that it’d be a problem. However, I wouldn’t personally feel uncomfortable if I was at, say, a Muslim forum and I sensed a general sentiment that I should become Muslim. Islam requires that effort on the part of Muslims; I have no problem with that. I’d only take issue if the Muslims forum folk started substituting “convert already!” for intelligent conversation.

    • mmurray

      This would largely spare us the (Not-Really-Very) Friendly Atheist’s “religion ruins everything” bleats, which are usually just about science education.

      Would that it were just about science education. Do you not watch the news these days? Missed the RCC’s score-sheet? HIV/AIDs sufferers in Africa, women dying of septic pregnancies in Ireland, homosexuals deprived of equal rights and people deprived of reliable contraception. Let’s also not forget child rape covered-up all over the world. We’ve got some heart wrenching Royal Commissions going on in Australia at the moment. You’d really enjoy them. There was a Catholic School in Ballarat in Victoria where the lay female teacher was apparently the only one not a paedophile.

  • http://twitter.com/AtlantaHumanist New Atheism

    Even if I was someone convinced that a god does exist; that would only further convince me that the bible, quran, & torah (organized religions) are nothing more than made up fables by bronze age misogynistic old waring men that wanted power over the people.

    • Christian Stillings

      Why would the existence of God drive you further in the direction of distrusting various theologies? As it stands now, you have no trust in them because you don’t think they have the capacity to be true. The existence of God would at least grant them the capacity to be true; how could that possibly move you further away? I don’t think that it adds up.

  • Kate

    I checked that site out … but, it’s not much of a dialogue if the entire content of the site, as well as the people who write the articles, are 100% Catholic. Usually, dialogue means 2 sides engaging. I understand the site is there to bring non-believers to the faith. But, then, they shouldn’t really market it as a place for dialogue. It’s more of a conversion site aimed at non-believers.
    I was raised Catholic, went through all 3 sacraments, went to an all girls Catholic high school, etc., etc. I know my catechism, know the history, know the religion. Yet, I was an atheist by the time I was going through confirmation (did it only because I didn’t know how to get out of it, at the time I was a closet atheist). I have friends from many walks of life, and love to dialogue with them. Nothing better than a good discussion! But, like I said, when I checked the site out, there didn’t seem to much dialogue. There’s also only 3 women among the writers. Whereas, as a woman, I appreciate hearing more female perspective versus mainly white male (I noticed there wasn’t too much racial diversity either).
    I think it’s an interesting concept, but the site needs A LOT more diversity. Not just religious views, but in terms of race and gender. Otherwise, it seems heavily skewed towards white, male and Catholic perspective. Which, again, is fine as a site for believers. But, it might be offputting to non believers who are looking for more than just one perspective.

  • mmurray

    Open-minded atheists will encounter reasonable arguments for God and his Church, maybe for the first time in their lives,

    Do you seriously think we haven’t seen these arguments before ? That some of us weren’t raised Catholic ? That some us weren’t educated Catholic ? When you make statements like that you just embarrass yourselves.

    • Randy Gritter

      Actually many people raised Catholic and educated Catholic have not seen the basic arguments for the Catholic church. I agree we embarrass ourselves when we say this because we should do a better job teaching our faith in our institutions but we don’t.

      • mmurray

        That’s not what I said so you can’t agree with it. I said you embarrass yourself when you imply atheists are so stupid they will fall over at the first “proper” argument for God.

        • Randy Gritter

          Atheists are all over the map. Some know a lot. Some are quite ignorant. That does not imply they are stupid. They may just have never had occasion to read up on these issues before.

        • tedseeber

          The stupider they are, the less likely they will be able to recognize a proper argument at all, for God or anything else.

  • mmurray

    As an ex-catholic I honestly don’t understand the point of this exercise. Why not have an alchemists and chemists dialogue or an astrologers and astronomers dialogue? It’s all been done and dusted years ago.

    If you want to find out why atheists think your beliefs are wrong there is plenty of material on the internet for open-minded theists. If you want to argue angels on pinheads life is too short to waste on this. It’s OK for you guys, you’re going to live for ever, but us atheists have got some living to do.

    Now if you want to have a discussion about the pernicious influence of the RCC as a political force there are lots of ongoing interesting topics, paedophilia, homophobia, contraception, Holy See influence at the UN … Why not wander over to Richard Dawkin’s site and propose something? You might even find we agree on some of these topics.

  • stanz2reason

    It’s not a criticism of atheism, rather it’s as assumption that a logical fallacy of demanding proof from an unprovable position is somehow a vaild point to make. If your strongest argument against atheism is demanding a level of proof (with regards to non-existence) that you wouldn’t demand in any other aspect of your lives including your own claims for the existence of god, I’m fairly confident our position will stand strong.

  • Slow Learner

    As is so common with Christians, you assume that I haven’t already read your holy book, and many of the apologetic books around it.
    Wrong assumption, I’m afraid.
    And the comparison of choosing to marry (someone I have met many times, spoken with, touched, interacted with over the course of years, grown to know deeply) with choosing to assume a deity exists who is logically incoherent, whose followers can’t agree on what he wants, and who comes across in his own book as frankly evil – how can you make that comparison with a remotely straight face?

    • Fr.Sean

      Slow Learner,
      I’m glad you asked that question. The Catholic Church doesn’t believe that every other faith is “wrong” just that they have various amounts of truth. The Jewish faith has the Hebrew Scriptures which is a part of our cannon, other Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God. The Orthodox faith also has the seven sacraments, they just don’t recognize the pope as the successor to Peter. Even Buddhists and other Easter Philosophies have some amount of revelation if you will (Revelational Theology). Moreover, Catholics don’t believe your supposed to read everything in the bible literally, or were not fundamentalists. essentially the bible is a story of God loving his people into freedom. in a sense the Exodus story in the book of Exodus kind of highlights one’s spiritual journey. we all in a sense start out in Egypt, we’re enslaved to various things, sin, alcohol, materialism, or a low self esteem. God calls us out of our own Egypt, towards the promise land, but to get there we have to go through the desert, or in other words before we are ready to enter the promise land we have to learn to trust in God’s love and care. Jesus takes that one step further to show us that God became a man to teach us how to live, to submit to what it means to be human and to suffer for us. in other words, it’s almost as if God says “i know you’re going to have to deal with the phenomenon called suffering so i’m going to become one of you and suffer for you so that you will know i’m with you in your suffering. If you are open to it, might i suggest, “did science bury God, by John Lennox, and perhaps “Flowers in the desert” by demetrius dumm.

  • Randy Gritter

    I don’t know what Michael has seen. I know I have seen some very ignorant Catholics and ex-Catholics who think they know what the church teaches and they don’t. So yes, some will see these arguments for the first time. Some will actually not only find the arguments familiar but even the articles as most have been published elsewhere. Still if we can get a few more people to think intelligently about these matters it is for the good.

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  • TheodoreSeeber

    Then Atheists should shut up and not make any moral or philosophical statements whatsoever, including stupid hypothesis that deny free will to the point of making all of science impossible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

      Non sequitur. The fact that atheism is purely a response to a single proposition does not mean they should be denied the right to make statements about what ever they like.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Those who are not physicists should not mess with nuclear reactors in their garages, and those who are not philosophers should not deign to try to tell other people what to believe.

        • Jake

          And anybody who is not an English major shouldn’t be allowed to read!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Reading isn’t the problem- writing is.

        • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

          It’s easy to figure out who a physicist is: they’ve got a degree and work in the field. Is that your working definition for what makes someone a philosopher? If that’s the case, then there are plenty of examples of professional philosophers who are also atheists. If that’s not what you mean, then how do you define what makes someone a “philosopher”?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Is a man who does party tricks for kids a physicist, even if he has a PhD in Physics?

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            Good question. Do you mean to suggest by this question that—in your comment above—your point is that a physicist is someone who is “in the process of doing physics”? In that case, if I want to draw on my hazy knowledge of physics and mess around with a nuclear reactor, why not? I’m a physicist!

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Exactly. And thus, if Atheism isn’t a philosophy (Maudel’s claim above) perhaps then atheists shouldn’t be philosophizing at all- and any member of a philosophy department who becomes an atheist should lose his job, just as a physicist who never does any original research should give up his position to a man who will.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            For ContraBullshit, who is bullshiting his way into being contra to his own name:
            http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/2013/05/fundamentalist-atheism.html

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Boy, I must be getting old, I completely missed your moving goalposts. If Atheism is not a philosophy, which was Maudel’s claim above, then no reasonable philosopher can be an atheist, was the original goalposts.

            Are you now claiming that atheism is a philosophy, worthy of study by philosophers? If so, I invite you to show me a *logically and physically consistent* philosopher who is also an atheist.

          • http://catholicismforcutters.wordpress.com/ Broken Whole

            First, I don’t agree with Maudel’s claim and never said that I did. I’m inclined to dispute with both you and Maudel, since Maudel’s claim is implicitly implied in your own comment. In short, I’m asserting two things in opposition to you: (1) I don’t accept your premise that a philosopher is like a physicist and (2) I don’t accept your premise that atheists are among those who aren’t philosophers.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            My comment was to disprove Maudel’s claim alone, which is why it was in reply to Maudel. Why did you not also reply to Maudel? Is it because you imagine him to be on your side?

            And yes, an objective philosopher is no different than an objective physicist. Both are simply describing the observations that they make in the universe.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

          I have seen no evidence of an atheist ‘telling other people what to believe’ anywhere in this thread, so we are safe from any backyard nuclear incidents thus far.

        • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

          Who has been “telling other people what to believe”? Certainly no one in this thread. There appears to be no risk of a nuclear incident here.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            When the Freedom From Religion Foundation and SSA try to ban any mention of God in public, they’re telling other people what to believe.

            When secularists create a genocide of 15,000 human beings a week, they’re telling other people what to believe.

            Good without God is evangelization for the Atheist, and is offensive as a Jack Chick Tract.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            They are not trying to ban any mention of god in public at all. Anyone can mention god in public and you know it. You just can’t force anyone to mention god. They are trying to uphold the constitution. This protects you as a Christian so you are free to practice it without having others beliefs forced on you. This protects you from ever being forced to praise allah, for example.

            You can buy space on a bill board and praise your god to your heart’s content – but government institutions are forbidden from doing the same, for or against any one religion over any other.

            (Full disclosure: I do not live in the US. I live in another country that has a constitutional impost against the government passing any laws about religion)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “They are not trying to ban any mention of god in public at all. Anyone can mention god in public and you know it. ”

            Oh, they can mention God in public, and then they’ll get sued very quickly by those who read the Constitution and substitute the word “to” with the word “from”.

            My only problem with Allah is the Muwahiddun theology about him; and that is a problem with the theology, not the alternate name for God. I fully accept Nostra Aetate as my guide for relations for Catholics in multicultural situations.

            ” but government institutions are forbidden from doing the same, for or against any one religion over any other.”

            No, government institutions are forbidden from *passing laws* about religion.

            That includes banning government officials from mentioning God.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            So you are saying that if you go out in public and say the word ‘god’ you will get sued?

            And if a government official says ‘god’ in public when they are off the the clock and not representing the department they are employed by they will get sued?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’ve had a frivolous lawsuit against me for having “Celebrate Religious Freedom” yard signs. Got thrown out of court, but not before I had to hire a lawyer and spend $100 on a letter to the court.

            I have likewise lost jobs over my opinions before- and due to this, the general policy in most department stores for their employees on religion is DADT.

            So yes.

            The effect of the Freedom From Religion Foundation on the right of free speech is both chilling and oppressive. I would rather deal with arguing against Jack Chick tracts in the public sphere than with even one fundamental atheist.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            So you were successful in the legal case. The point was tested and found in your favour, Why are you upset about it?

            I would be interested to hear more about the circumstances surrounding these dismissals though. It does sound highly unusual for a termination to occur due to possessing an opinion.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “So you were successful in the legal case. The point was tested and found in your favour, Why are you upset about it?”

            It should never have been brought in the first place.

            “It does sound highly unusual for a termination to occur due to possessing an opinion.”

            Are you kidding? Happens all the time. Oh, they dress it up sometimes if they want to avoid paying higher unemployment, but I’m in a right to work state, so in the end the result is the same.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            “Happens all the time”

            Yeah you are correct. My apologies. I had forgotten about all the Catholic institutions that do this very thing.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            And of course, the government institutions that do. And the Atheist institutions that do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dessy.aus Dessy Aus

            Which government institutions are these?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            There is no “off the clock” anymore for the crime of blasphemy against atheism.

          • Jake

            That includes banning government officials from mentioning God.

            Good Lord, do you actually believe this? Have you EVER listened to a republican give a speech on ANYTHING?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Republicans are rarely bureaucrats- there is a difference.

  • Jill

    Talking with atheists, especially rabid, militant anti-theists is
    useless. They rant, bring up the Catholic church and paedophila
    constantly… condoms and AIDS spreading in Africa and other anti-Catholic
    hate. No matter the facts produced, they will poo poo and deny them
    saying they are biased lies by a lying church.

  • Slow Learner

    I find it worthy of note that a month after this came up, Brandon has apparently not managed to get any atheist contributors to his site – at least, there’s nothing listed under the Atheism sub-head beyond the two articles written by Catholics, who both wrote about Christopher Hitchens; and all the other articles I’ve looked at are also written by Catholics.

    Even if the website wasn’t always intended to be a monologue, that is clearly how it has turned out.


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