Catholic Church actually supported Chilean dictator.

Meet Augusto Pinochet, Chilean dictator from 1973-1990.  Not a very nice guy.

From the beginning, the government implemented harsh measures against its political opponents. According to various reports and investigations 1,200–3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime including women and children.

And…

By the time of his death on 10 December 2006, about 300 criminal charges were still pending against him in Chile for numerous human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement during his 17-year rule and afterwards. Pinochet was accused of having corruptly amassed a wealth of US$28 million or more.

So here we have a guy who solidified his power by killing and otherwise punishing his opponents and who procured extravagant wealth through corrupt means.  Because this is so similar to how the Catholic Church secured its power, you can imagine how they’d want to separate themselves from Pinochet.  Which they did publicly…however, thanks to wikileaks, we now know that the Holy See told the State Department and Henry Kissinger that they supported Pinochet.

The Vatican once dismissed reports of massacres by Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet as “Communist propaganda”, according to US diplomatic and intelligence documents from the 1970s leaked on Monday.

One cable dated October 18, 1973 sent to Washington by the US embassy to the Holy See relayed a conversation with the Vatican’s then deputy Secretary of State, Giovanni Benelli, the leak by whistleblowing website WikiLeaks showed.

Benelli expressed “his and the pope’s grave concern over successful international leftist campaign to misconstrue completely realities of Chilean situation,” read the cable to then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

“Benelli labelled exaggerated coverage of events as possibly greatest success of Communist propaganda,” it said, adding that the Italian monsignor said this showed “how Communists can influence free world media in future”.

And just as recently as 2010 the Catholic Church in Chile was seeking the release of imprisoned accomplices from Pinochet’s regime.

This is incredibly odd behavior if the Catholic Church is representative of a loving god’s will on earth.  Of course, stuff like this is exactly what we’d expect to see if the Catholic Church was a political organization interested primarily in its own power, run by corruptible mortals.

I’d ask Mark Shea or Thomas McDonald for an explanation, but they tend to go quiet about stuff like this.

  • Anonymous

    “Of course, stuff like this is exactly what we’d expect to see if the Catholic Church was a political organization interested primarily in its own power, run by corruptible mortals.”

    Oh you, basing conclusions on what things actually look like if describe them in ways that are consistent with reality.

  • baal

    /posting fail. That’s my comment.

  • Glodson

    According to various reports and investigations 1,200–3,200 people were killed, up to 80,000 were interned, and up to 30,000 were tortured by his regime including women and children.

    And supported by a “pro-life” church.

    • Colin

      I’m more and more convinced that “pro-parasite” is a more apt description than even anti-choice or anti-woman.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        The term “fetus-fetishist” has come up a few times in other places too. I don’t use it, but I think it’s more accurate than pro-parasite.

      • RobMcCune

        Nah, pro-parasite describes their love for their own institution better than it describes their position on abortion.

  • Rain

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/fresh-wikileaks-reveal-vatican-called-reports-of-pinochets-killings-propaganda/

    The cables also showed the Vatican later realised the full extent of the abuses being carried out but refused to criticise Pinochet’s regime openly and continued with normal diplomatic relations.

    So yeah…

  • IslandBrewer

    Hey! Mark Shea! Come on and troll us with how we atheists are totally misunderstanding the church! Oh wait, you don’t like being responded to.

  • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

    Catholic here. (Ducks.) Let me see if I can explain this, if only for your entertainment. The argumentative breakdown in attempts to debate this, will be, from an atheist perspective (in terms of JT’s wonderful “Rational Debating” flowchart at Atheism Resource), as far as I can tell from outside the atheist perspective, be a failure of JT’s two evidentiary discussion rules: (“3. Provide evidence for your position. 4. Do not argue that you do not need evidence.)” In short: as atheist commenter Darren recently pointed out on Leah Libresco’s blog, the Catholic Church has been honing its memetic defenses for years, and its apologetics are generally conducted from within an argumentative citadel of Invisible Garage Dragon claims that are impossible to falsify.
    .
    This is no doubt exasperating. Given JT’s oft-reiterated concern that nice, moderate religious people are just enabling the faith-based unreasonableness of bigoted and/or terroristic religionists, it may understandably seem to atheists to be not merely exasperating, but sinister. Sorry about that.
    .
    Anyway, here’s the standard Catholic response to questions about Borgia popes, or Vatican support for unsavory dictators, or whatever. I’m copying this from the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia article on Pope Alexander VI (who was a really nasty piece of work), since it gives a great flavor of the typical apologetic:

    An impartial appreciation of the career of [Alexander VI] must at once distinguish between the man and the office. “An imperfect setting”, says Dr. Pastor (op. cit., III, 475), “does not affect the intrinsic worth of the jewel, nor does the golden coin lose its value when it passes through impure hands.In so far as the priest is a public officer of a holy Church, a blameless life is expected from him, both because he is by his office the model of virtue to whom the laity look up, and because his life, when virtuous, inspires in onlookers respect for the society of which he is an ornament. But the treasures of the Church, her Divine character, her holiness, Divine revelation, the grace of God, spiritual authority, it is well known, are not dependent on the moral character of the agents and officers of the Church. The foremost of her priests cannot diminish by an iota the intrinsic value of the spiritual treasures confided to him.” There have been at all times wicked men in the ecclesiastical ranks. Our Lord foretold, as one of its severest trials, the presence in His Church not only of false brethren, but of rulers who would offend, by various forms of selfishness, both the children of the household and “those who are without”. Similarly, He compared His beloved spouse, the Church, to a threshing floor, on which fall both chaff and grain until the time of separation.

    .
    This argument that clerical evil doesn’t diminish the value of the sacraments or falsify the claim that God is good goes back at least to St. Augustine’s tracts against the Donatists, heretics who argued that the sacraments were invalid unless the priest administering them was not in a state of sin–especially the sin of having buckled to idolatry during the most recent Roman persecution, which was the Donatists’ big gripe with the local Catholic priests Augustine was defending. New Testament precedents for countenancing clerical sinfulness in Catholicism’s theology include Peter’s having denied Christ three times (and Peter’s having generally been kind of a screw-up–which is very papal of him, considering subsequent history), as well as Judas’ betrayal of Christ to the Roman authorities. (As one of Mark Shea’s commenters recently joked: The Apostles were the prototype of the bishops. Based on the actions of Judas, we should naturally expect about 1/12 of bishops to betray Christ and all He stands for in the worst ways imaginable.)
    .
    The reason, IMHO, this will look like a garage dragon claim for atheists is this: because the Church avoids predicting that clerics will be virtuous, its claims of God’s goodness are not falsifiable by the abundant historical record of ghastly ecclesiastics. The apologetic for papal infallibility has a similar quality. None of a pope’s personal or political actions, and very, very, very few of his doctrinal pronouncements (only two in the last century or so, both on Marian dogmas), are considered infallible. So if an atheist presents a Catholic with some awful papal bull endorsing slavery in the Spanish colonial empire (or whatever), the Catholic will just say “Oh, but that’s not infallible,” and be unmoved. (This also looks like a partial breakdown at the very first flowchart step: “Can you envision anything that will change your mind on this topic?” For me, e.g., philosophical arguments like those of Daniel Dennett might change my mind, but historical stuff (except the discovery of the corpse of Christ or Mary) almost certainly wouldn’t.)
    .
    Like I said, doubtless exasperating. But I’ve been enjoying this blog since I started reading it recently, and thought that since neither Shea or McDonald are going to explain all this, I might. I am not, mind you, defending it: it’s part of an internally consistent (IMHO) Catholic theology, but absent the axiomatic presuppositions of that theology (founded on Aquinas’ Five Ways, etc.), the claim is, concedely, just a gratuitous assertion that God is good even if the Curia is staffed by monstrous creeps, not a falsifiable claim about facts defensible in any non-question begging secular argument. So my purpose in commenting on this post is only to help you know your opponent better, not to defend an (independently) indefensible doctrine of that opponent.
    .
    Apologies for the verbosity. A pleasant day to all, and thanks for having a thought-provoking blog.

    • David Hart

      The problem is not that atheists think that badly-behaved priests offer evidence against the goodness of the god of Catholicism (the evidence of the universe is enough to establish that no god can simultaneously be all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful; i.e. no theologian has ever come up with a convincing answer to the problem of evil) … the thing is, it provides evidence against the hypothesis that the Catholic Church has any sort of reliable connection at all to a morally perfect higher power – because if its representatives are no better than the rest of us, then any claim that they have any sort of direct line to their god that ordinary lay persons don’t is obviously made-up.

      One might also add that, no matter how seldom, no matter how finely sliced, are the occasions when the church appeals to papal infallibility, the fact that they ever make that claim without submitting each pope to rigorous scientific tests to measure his infallibility, is a problem. Because of the two hypotheses
      a) the Catholic Church has good reasons to state that its leader is capable under some circumstances of making infallible pronouncements, and
      b) the Catholic Church is just making stuff up,
      the second is manifestly more likely to be true.

      • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

        Interesting points!

        The problem is not that atheists think that badly-behaved priests offer evidence against the goodness of the god of Catholicism

        Okay, although I suppose clerical evils are a subset of the general problem of evil and therefore a small support for Team Atheist.

        (the evidence of the universe is enough to establish that no god can simultaneously be all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful; i.e. no theologian has ever come up with a convincing answer to the problem of evil)

        I’m partial to variants of free will theodicies, myself. Your mileage obviously varies. Fair enough.

        … the thing is, it provides evidence against the hypothesis that the Catholic Church has any sort of reliable connection at all to a morally perfect higher power

        Conceded. Not conclusive evidence, but certainly evidence against! (However, except the sacraments and its rare infallible pronouncements, the Church doesn’t really claim a “reliable” connection akin to a phone line. It’s much more garage-draconic: neither the grace of the sacraments nor dogmas about, e.g., the Immaculate Conception are falsifiable evidentiary claims.)

        – because if its representatives are no better than the rest of us, then any claim that they have any sort of direct line to their god that ordinary lay persons don’t is obviously made-up.

        I think this particular argument would only be “obvious” if Christians asserted that God only ever communicates (or only ever communicates directly, or whatever) with virtuous people. However, in the Gospels, e.g., Jesus speaks directly with Judas and Pontius Pilate; in Genesis, God speaks directly to the murderer Cain. The Catholic assertion is that God prevents the Church from infallibly defining an erroneous dogma regarding faith or morals. Even there, a “direct line” isn’t so much claimed as a safety net against doctrinal error. However, a person can be free of error in teaching morality and theology as abstract propositions (the ability claimed for the popes’ infallible pronouncements), and still be vile: e.g., a philosphy professor might be both technically competent in ethics and personally a jerk; or, my calculator is infallible at arithmetic, but has no moral qualities at all. I think there are probably stronger versions of your argument available, but I suspect they’d involve a couple of inferential steps beyond just an appeal to obviousness. Since the Catholic claim here is concededly just a naked assertion rather than a defensible argument, though, bothering to formulate the stronger version might be like going after a gnat with the proverbial elephant gun.

        One might also add that, no matter how seldom, no matter how finely sliced, are the occasions when the church appeals to papal infallibility, the fact that they ever make that claim without submitting each pope to rigorous scientific tests to measure his infallibility, is a problem.

        How would one submit an allegedly infallible moral teaching, e.g., to rigorous scientific tests? It seems like a pope would have to, e.g., predict some matter of fact or perform some miracle, as though the pope were a psychic taking the Randi Test. But the Church doesn’t claim that the pope has psychic powers. Unless you were to insist on counting “not infallibly defining doctrinal error” as a psychic power, in which case I’d just say that the Church doesn’t claim that the pope has testable psychic powers.

        Because of the two hypotheses
        a) the Catholic Church has good reasons to state that its leader is capable under some circumstances of making infallible pronouncements, and
        b) the Catholic Church is just making stuff up,
        the second is manifestly more likely to be true.

        Sure. Under any “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”-type test, atheism will always prevail, and deserves to. Various Christian apologists occasionally make evidentiary claims, but they’re usually quite weak and poorly argued. Like I said, I thought it might be useful to clarify the Church’s position. But I don’t think there’s any secular way, particularly any evidentiary way, in which to defend the claims on their own: they work alright (IMHO) as part of a larger theistic framework, but absent theistic presuppositions (or arguments for theism that have nothing to do with the Church in particular), the claims under discussion here aren’t well-grounded enough to defend independently. All they are is just assertions backed by theological speculation and citations to various Patristic and Biblical sources (mostly the former). Without establishing theism generally and Christianity specifically, arguments of the form “You should believe X about the Papacy because the Church Fathers seem to have believed it” are just silly: why should an atheist defer to what the early Christians thought about anything? I’ll try to have the good manners not to waste your time with such arguments.

        • Glodson

          Sure. Under any “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof”-type test, atheism will always prevail, and deserves to.

          Pretty much why I’m an atheist.

          The question is why is anyone a theist in light of that? You’ve shown that the Church has various rationalizations for their past bad behavior, which doesn’t work so well when the Church is supposed to be our moral guidance. We’ve got a leadership that is routinely failed its members in the worst ways. We’ve got a leadership that is deaf to the needs of the world. We’ve got a leadership that gets in the way of its own members desire to do good. And we’ve got pronouncements often ignored by Catholics in the west( most use contraception for example).

          So we don’t have a rational basis to believe in god. This is enough to jettison the religion. And we have evidence that this faith actively harms people. Both the members in direct and indirect methods, and people who are outside the Church thanks to legal and social pressures put onto governments in attempts to get the authorities to enforce Catholic beliefs.

          Why is anyone still Catholic in light of all this?

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            The question is why is anyone a theist in light of that?

            Well, for most people, I imagine it’s a combination of upbringing and peer pressure. In my case, the biggest single factor in being a theist is probably various metaphysical arguments, since the evidentiary arguments are, I concede, weak. (BTW, there’s a certain very stupid bastardized form of the cosmological argument being made by certain theists nowadays that I recall from comments on other posts that you’re understandably sick of. I’m not referring to that when I refer to metaphysics. Frankly, on behalf of theists everywhere, I apologize for the existence of said argument in all its exasperating stupidity.)

            You’ve shown that the Church has various rationalizations for their past bad behavior, which doesn’t work so well when the Church is supposed to be our moral guidance.

            Indeed.

            We’ve got a leadership that is routinely failed its members in the worst ways.

            Yes. Absolutely.

            We’ve got a leadership that is deaf to the needs of the world. We’ve got a leadership that gets in the way of its own members desire to do good.

            These assertions are more debatable, since they depend on assessments of what the needs of the world are and whether dissident Catholics are correct about how to best to do good (and about what the good consists of), or whether the Church is. However, the Church certainly has had popes, e.g., who couldn’t have cared less about anything besides Italian dynastic politics. So while the assertions may be debatable at present, I’ll concede that they have been true for some values of “leadership” at some times.

            And we’ve got pronouncements often ignored by Catholics in the west( most use contraception for example).

            Sure. Most Catholics throughout history have been lax in one way or another, and at this particular historical moment, most of the orthodoxy, energy, and growth in Catholicism is happening in the Third World, not the West. Catholics in the West tend to either heed the Church on social justice and ignore it on sexuality (most Catholic Democrats, e.g.) or heed it on sexuality and ignore it on social justice (most Catholic Republicans, e.g.).

            So we don’t have a rational basis to believe in god.

            I concede that we have scant evidentiary basis (either archeological or in any particular saintliness of Catholics as opposed to other people) to believe in God. Whether that ends the issue (as it does for J.T., e.g.) or whether metaphysical arguments count as a “rational basis” is, I think, where the difference lies.

            This is enough to jettison the religion.

            If only evidentiary arguments count, then sure.

            And we have evidence that this faith actively harms people. Both the members in direct and indirect methods,

            This part is debatable again, I think. Some Catholics certainly have been harmed, sometimes grievously, by their association with the Church hierarchy (e.g., the victims of the Inquisition, or of child rape and its subsequent cover-up) or with psychologically unbalanced devotional excesses (e.g., people who get obsessed with supposed Marian apparitions or self-flagellation or some other monomania for which they need psychiatric treatment).

            and people who are outside the Church thanks to legal and social pressures put onto governments in attempts to get the authorities to enforce Catholic beliefs.

            Depending on the belief, I probably agree with you on this. Personally, I do wish we’d shut up already about same-sex civil marriages, e.g., and focus on personal virtue and social justice.

            Why is anyone still Catholic in light of all this?

            Well, as I said, probably upbringing and peer pressure for most people.
            .
            For those who disagree with the Church on, e.g., contraception or same sex marriage, but agree with it on most other things, they might stick with it despite the disagreements in much the same way that an American liberal might vote for Obama due to mostly agreeing with him, despite disagreeing with him about, e.g., drone strikes or the treatment of Guantanamo detainees. In that case, it would be a judgment that the good outweighs the bad.
            .
            In my case, I’m a Thomist: I think Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God are sound, I think his virtue ethics is an important supplement to more consequentialist ethical views, and I think that his Aristotelian metaphysics is the least bad proposal I’ve seen w/r/t the “hard problem of consciousness.” I’m comfortable with a free will theodicy as a solution to the problem of evil. I think Christianity is the most attractive of the major monotheisms, and that Catholicism is the most plausible variant of Christianity, once Christianity is assumed. Anecdotally, Catholicism’s ethical prescriptions (even the counterculturally strict ones) have made me happier and helped me work on being kinder and more responsible. To say that my reasons are idiosyncratic would be an understatement: almost no one is a Thomist anymore, e.g. This has some consequences for my wish that the Church would focus less on bossing people around via politics: absent something like Thomistic Natural Law theory, the Church’s claims about, e.g., sexual morality are nearly indefensible in the secular public square. And while I think that traditional Natural Law theory is persuasive, my view is and will remain a rare one for the foreseeable future. If we can’t persuade people that our vision of the good life is correct, it’s counterproductive to try to force them to follow it. Anyway, since my reasons for Catholicism are largely metaphysical, I think they count with J.T. as irrational. So while I’m happy to answer the question, I’d be wary of trying to argue about it for fear of trolling; it’s his blog after all, and if he thinks metaphysical arguments are a stupid warrant for belief, he’s entitled to have the discussion here reflect that.

          • Glodson

            Well, as I said, probably upbringing and peer pressure for most people.

            This is what I’m getting at.

            Looking at what you write, again, I’m reminded of myself. The Catholic Church, which is supposed to lead its members, has failed. Badly. This isn’t a failure due to error, but a systemic error.

            We can talk about the various theodicies until we are blue in the face. We can talk about the dogma of the Church. We can talk about the rationalizations and justifications for the actions or inactions of the Church. We can quibble about what is good and bad about the Church.

            Or we can just look at the foundation on which the Church rests, we can look at that. It isn’t good. It isn’t based on reason. We can look for which needs the Church meets. It meets the needs it creates. We don’t need it for moral guidance, we don’t need it for ceremony, we don’t need it for anything.

            If I don’t have a reason to believe the supernatural claims of any religion, I don’t see a reason to get into the minutia of the religion.

            I know sounds dismissive of the theology. That is because it is dismissive of the theology. My reply would be the same if we were discussing homeopathy. Once I dismiss the central claim of homeopathy, the details are not of any consequence as the basis for the practice is hopelessly corrupt.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            Or we can just look at the foundation on which the Church rests, we can look at that. It isn’t good. It isn’t based on reason.

            I think it might be more accurate to say that it’s not based on extraordinary evidence for its extraordinary claims. Faith is part of it, but theological reasoning still involves perfectly valid deductions, even if one doesn’t happen to find the premises sound. But that’s just a quibble.

            We can look for which needs the Church meets. It meets the needs it creates.

            If sin is just the Church’s memetic construct, rather than a reality, then sure.

            We don’t need it for moral guidance,

            Perhaps not. Many people are quite decent and kind without any worries about grounding their ethics, or with a secular basis for their ethics. Many ecclesiastics (those Borgia popes, e.g.), aren’t moral exemplars anyway.

            If I don’t have a reason to believe the supernatural claims of any religion, I don’t see a reason to get into the minutia of the religion.

            Okay. My purpose was to provide an answer to the question “How would Mark Shea/Thomas McDonald/some other Catholic respond to these revelations about Vatican support for the Pinochet regime?” The answer is that we’d probably respond with all sorts of minutiae like I have.

            I know sounds dismissive of the theology. That is because it is dismissive of the theology. My reply would be the same if we were discussing homeopathy. Once I dismiss the central claim of homeopathy, the details are not of any consequence as the basis for the practice is hopelessly corrupt.

            Well, you’re certainly entitled to be dismissive of theology on an atheist blog! Thanks for an interesting discussion.

          • Glodson

            aith is part of it, but theological reasoning still involves perfectly valid deductions, even if one doesn’t happen to find the premises sound.

            Let me stop you right there. If the premises of an argument are flawed, the argument is flawed. This cannot be said to be reason. If the argument is logically sound, but with bad premises, then that is an informal error. We cannot say the conclusion is wrong in this case, but we can say that the argument doesn’t forward the notion that the conclusion is true. Many apologetic arguments fall into this trap. Of if the premises are true, but the argument isn’t constructed in a manner which properly links the premises, then that argument has committed a formal fallacy. The end result is the same.

            If we are dealing with an argument with flawed premises, this argument is fatally flawed.

            If sin is just the Church’s memetic construct, rather than a reality, then sure.

            Case in point. Sin is the idea of defying the will of an Abrahamic god. For this, we need the god to exist and for that god to be of the vein of the religion claiming an action is a sin. Absent that, why should we consider sin?

            Okay. My purpose was to provide an answer to the question “How would Mark Shea/Thomas McDonald/some other Catholic respond to these revelations about Vatican support for the Pinochet regime?” The answer is that we’d probably respond with all sorts of minutiae like I have.

            Which means that there’s not a good reason. You have written well, you’ve explained well. You are clearly intelligent. And you likely understand that the details don’t matter if the foundation is flawed. Further, the problem isn’t for all Catholics. Many I know are critical of their religion. The concern is the apologist who always defends the church, no matter what.

            But I will say this: at a point, one has to treat religion much like Einstein treated the ether. When he saw that it wasn’t needed, the search for it actually got in the way of progress, and there wasn’t any evidence for it, he dismissed it. That is where Relativity comes from. We don’t need religion, it gets in our way, and there’s no evidence for it.

          • Rain

            Faith is part of it, but theological reasoning still involves perfectly valid deductions, even if one doesn’t happen to find the premises sound. But that’s just a quibble.

            Maybe I’m reading that wrong, but I’m astounded at the modesty of that statement. I could build a unicorn kingdom of UFOs with unsound premises. That’s a lot more than a quibble!

        • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

          Let me stop you right there. If the premises of an argument are flawed, the argument is flawed.

          Well, I don’t think the premises of, e.g., Aquinas’ Five Ways are flawed. But I wanted to do you the courtesy of assuming that you might, since many of them stem from a rather unfashionable Aristotelian metaphysics.

          Case in point. Sin is the idea of defying the will of an Abrahamic god. For this, we need the god to exist and for that god to be of the vein of the religion claiming an action is a sin. Absent that, why should we consider sin?

          The concept of sin certainly involves transgression against God and neighbor. Obviously, an atheist need only consider transgression against a neighbor, and will not find the word sin to be a useful concept even for that. However, the New Testament Greek for sin is “hamartia,” i.e., “missing the mark,” as in an arrow missing its target, and the concept of sin also includes the notion of failing to flourish by living a virtuous human life. This is also a concept of potential atheist interest, although an atheist virtue ethicist would presumably find a word other than “sin” with which to discuss it.

          Which means that there’s not a good reason.

          An explanation involving minutiae needn’t be wrong. IMHO, the defensibility of Catholicism depends upon whether Jesus is worth following, not on whether various popes and bishops have been horrible people. Depending on one’s understanding of, e.g., “papal infallibility,” it might be unclear why anyone could think that–hence the importance of the minutiae.

          You have written well, you’ve explained well. You are clearly intelligent.

          Thanks for the kind words. All of them are true of you as well.

          And you likely understand that the details don’t matter if the foundation is flawed.

          Of course. If there is no God, or if Jesus isn’t God, then Christianity is a tragedy and a farce.

          Further, the problem isn’t for all Catholics. Many I know are critical of their religion. The concern is the apologist who always defends the church, no matter what.

          Sure. Some of the things J.T. has quoted Marc Barnes as posting, e.g., are just ridiculous and troublingly clericalist. I’m persuaded by the Church’s teachings, but I think the hierarchy itself is often (usually?) a disaster. So if the teachings are at issue, I’d be one of those annoying apologists. But if it’s the Church as an organization, I share much of the disgust.

          But I will say this: at a point, one has to treat religion much like Einstein treated the ether. When he saw that it wasn’t needed, the search for it actually got in the way of progress, and there wasn’t any evidence for it, he dismissed it. That is where Relativity comes from. We don’t need religion,

          How well the world does without religion remains to be seen; I concede that it may do quite well in many ways. However, if the monotheisms are correct that an afterlife exists, then figuring out what to do about that would qualify as “needed,” I think. If the existence of God and an afterlife are false claims, then of course thinking about them isn’t needed. This is rather like your view that Catholicism satisfies needs it creates: e.g., if sin is something the Church made up, then salvation from it is of course a solution to an invented problem, whereas if the Church is correct that it is real and that it determines our eternal fate, then the Church is very needed indeed. Thus, whether a given religion is needed is just a subset of the question of whether it’s true.

          it gets in our way, and there’s no evidence for it.

          Whether a religion gets in our way or impedes progress depends on where we ought to be going. If one is the sort of Humean skeptic who denies the possibility of deriving value from fact, then non-religious determination of where we ought to be going can be problematic. I concede that for many purposes, evolutionarily rooted human agreement about ethical basics like not murdering or stealing are probably sufficient to set up a functioning secular democracy; certainly, the European welfare states are both secular and praiseworthy. I fret a bit about deeper foundations for ethics, and about ethical drift over time, but religion has hardly been a reliable inspiration for ethical behavior, either, to put it mildly, so my concerns are mostly about philosophical foundations for ethics as a matter of intellectual consistency.
          .
          As for evidence, I don’t think there’s none, even for religions I don’t belong to, I just don’t think that the evidence is strong enough for any of the monotheisms to be likely to persuade most contemporary atheists absent a prior metaphysical argument for theism. For a theist, the claims of, e.g., Christianity or Islam are less extraordinary, so the sparseness of the evidence is less troubling than for an atheist considering the same evidence with different priors. Every now and then I come across a book by someone who converted atheism to Evangelicalism, e.g., based on “the evidence,” and while as a fellow Christian I wish them well, it seems like a surprisingly large inferential leap to me, to put it charitably.
          .
          Anyway, your views seem to me defensible and honorable, even if I happen to disagree with them.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            Looks like I forgot to close the blockquote after “it gets in our way, and there’s no evidence for it.” Sorry about that, Glodson.
            .
            Rain,
            As I mentioned above to Glodson, you’re certainly right about premises.

          • Rain

            You might as well say, people vary in smelliness but we can make the comparison only by reference to a perfect maximum of conceivable smelliness. Therefore there must exist a pre-eminently peerless stinker, and we call him God.

            Richard Dawkins!

          • Rain

            Irenist, I was expecting you to say that, for philosophical reasons, “smelliness” doesn’t count. And then my brilliant retort was going to be “Says who? Mister JustBecause? Mister BecauseSomeDudeSaysSo?”.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            Rain,
            I actually thought Dawkins’ schtick there was a pretty funny send-up of Anselm’s ontological argument, for which I have little esteem. Unlike a lot of theists, I’ve liked Dawkins ever since I read The Selfish Gene. He’s always educational within his field, and he’s hilariously snarky outside of it.

    • nakedanthropologist

      Hey Irenist!

      (Former Catholic here). Thank you for the info – you’re right, it’s always good to try to understand people from their own perspective (their reasoning, cultural influences, and so on) and I appreciate you being so level headed about this. I think, for many atheists, that one of our big complaints about the RCC centers around the idea that the church is (supposed to be, according to them) moral and good, and therefore able to dictate what is also moral, good, and acceptable to its followers and others. Whether or not one believes in a diety or dieties, I think we can all agree that the Catholic Church has massively fucked up often and without real remorse. That’s what truly gets to me about the RCC – back when I was questioning my faith (pretty much a deist at that point), it was the Church’s unrepentent defense of child rapists, abusers, and other crimes/bad doctrine that don’t just affect the spiritual – their decrees and actions have harmed real people, in the physical, mental, and emotional ways.
      Cheers, NakedAnthropologist

      • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

        Hi, NakedAnthropologist!

        it’s always good to try to understand people from their own perspective (their reasoning, cultural influences, and so on)

        Considering the number of my coreligionists who prattle about atheists being immoral or hating God or just wanting an excuse to sleep around, I can think of lots of Catholics who ought to try to understand other people from their own perspective.

        I appreciate you being so level headed about this.

        That’s kind of you. Thanks.

        I think, for many atheists, that one of our big complaints about the RCC centers around the idea that the church is (supposed to be, according to them) moral and good,

        I think that may be a misconception. AFAIK, the Catholic position is that God is moral and good, whereas the Church is a “hospital for sinners.” However, it’s undeniable that power-hungry ecclesiastics have, over the centuries, often been all-too-eager to encourage clericalism and the illusion that priests and bishops are somehow necessarily better Christians than the laity. So while I think it’s a misconception of Catholic doctrine, I think it’s a misconception that many clerics have been only too happy to promote, so atheists can hardly be faulted for holding it.

        and therefore able to dictate what is also moral, good, and acceptable to its followers and others.

        Historically, there certainly has been a lot of “dictating” to others via the political system, which I’d agree has been disastrous and counterproductive. One of the benefits of the separation of church and state that has grown out of the Reformation and the Enlightenment and continues today in matters like increasing support for same-sex civil marriage is that the Church has been dragged kicking and screaming into a world where it must, like Christ in the New Testament, propose its teachings as true and liberating rather than get the government to enforce them on the unpersuaded. That self-aggrandizing churchmen have had to be forced to accept this state of affair by secularists is hardly to the Church’s credit, of course.

        Whether or not one believes in a diety or dieties, I think we can all agree that the Catholic Church has massively fucked up often and without real remorse.

        I think there’s been some real remorse (John Paul II was really personally horrified by anti-Semitism, e.g.), but in general I think you’re right about that.

        That’s what truly gets to me about the RCC – back when I was questioning my faith (pretty much a deist at that point), it was the Church’s unrepentent defense of child rapists, abusers, and other crimes/bad doctrine that don’t just affect the spiritual – their decrees and actions have harmed real people, in the physical, mental, and emotional ways.

        The evil of the cover-up of child rape, e.g., is unfathomably monstrous. I think it’s possible to believe both that the Church’s claims about God and about the best kind of human life are correct, and that the Church as an organization is large and powerful and therefore has attracted corrupt, power-hungry people into its upper echelons. However, I think it’s also perfectly understandable to be so laudably outraged by the evils perpetrated by the Church’s officialdom that its truth claims seem preposterous because of their association with such miscreants. While I don’t share your position, I certainly respect it.
        Cheers,
        Irenist

        • http://anthrozine.com Cubist

          It’s not just that the RCC’s truth-claims are, in general, rendered dubious by the fact that so damn many RCC clergy are either guilty of, or complicit after the fact in, the commission of heinous crimes. There’s also the fact that not one single, solitary, ever-lovin’ man among them has yet been destroyed by a means inexplicable by modern science. I mean, if JHVH actually did exist, and actually did give a tenth of a tinker’s damn about the behavior of Its anointed representatives on the mortal plan, you’d think that at least a few of these monsters would’ve been struck down by lightning from out of a clear blue sky, or turned to pillars of salt, or otherwise subjected to the sort of widescreen, technicolor Doom for which the comicbook ‘hero’ The Spectre is noted! The “free will, dude” defense more-or-less works, after a fashion, sort of, as an explanation for how come evildoers exist among the entire human species… but wouldn’t you think the Big Guy would be, like, a teensy-weensy bit more concerned about whether or not Its anointed representatives on the mortal plane did or didn’t live up to Its long-established standards of behavior? Basically, either the RCC’s deity doesn’t exist in the first place, or It doesn’t care, not even the tiniest little bit, about trivial things like raped children.

          • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

            Fair question. In Catholic theology, every baptized Christian is supposed to strive to be one of God’s “representatives on the moral plane”; not just clerics. The “free will” answer is indeed the standard one for clerical evil, just as it is for other evil like the Holocaust.

  • RobMcCune

    This argument that clerical evil doesn’t diminish the value of the sacraments or falsify the claim that God is good goes back at least to St. Augustine’s tracts against the Donatists

    Well that’s just peachy, except this isn’t about the validity of sacraments or theodicity. Nor is it solely about individual actions. The catholic church makes numerous claims of moral authority, however it fails as institution on basic things like wrongful imprisonment, torture and murder. Yet it still meddles in politics on issues like contraception and gay rights. This can’t be dismissed so easily as the bad actions of people working toward a good cause.

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      This can’t be dismissed so easily as the bad actions of people working toward a good cause.

      That’s a fair complaint. Unless one has other grounds for thinking that Catholicism and/or its ethical doctrines are true, then clerical misdeeds would plainly just be the bad acts of people working toward a bad cause. Whether Catholicism (or just Catholic ethical doctrines) are a good cause is something that Catholic apologists have to argue for independently, of course.

  • Drakk

    Irenist:

    You seem to be (and I’m not at all certain on this) one of the religionists that more favours a possible non-interventionist god. I base this assumption on your own admission that the physical evidence for a god’s existence is weak to non-existent, the opposite case of what we would expect if an intervening god existed. Please could you confirm or deny that assumption?

    In either case I wanted to focus on your “metaphysical arguments” statement. Why, on this point, do you accept “metaphysical arguments” when in any other situation you would likely consider them inadequate? You presumably would not accept a metaphysical proof for the existence of black holes or dark matter. Why does the possibility of a god warrant a special case?

    Further, by believing in the existence of a god, what actual difference in anticipated experiences are you anticipating from those of us that don’t? I believe in quantum physics because it allows me to anticipate that when I shoot electrons at a barrier, some will go through, and then I’m able to explain why my light switches work (and laugh at classical physicists, but only a little). When you say you believe that a god exists, what do you actually expect to happen?

    • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

      You seem to be (and I’m not at all certain on this) one of the religionists that more favours a possible non-interventionist god. I base this assumption on your own admission that the physical evidence for a god’s existence is weak to non-existent, the opposite case of what we would expect if an intervening god existed. Please could you confirm or deny that assumption?

      Well, I’m a Catholic rather than a Deist, so I do believe in, e.g., the Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Assumption. But relative to other Christians, I suppose I could self-mockingly say I believe in what D&D players call “a low magic universe.” A much more interventionist God wouldn’t be inconsistent with my metaphysical beliefs, it’s just that the actual historical record doesn’t happen to indicate one.

      Why, on this point, do you accept “metaphysical arguments” when in any other situation you would likely consider them inadequate? You presumably would not accept a metaphysical proof for the existence of black holes or dark matter. Why does the possibility of a god warrant a special case?

      That’s a fair question. The possibility of “a god,” as in Zeus or Thor doesn’t warrant a special case, since such “gods” are just posited beings, like Russell’s teapot (no evidence) or black holes and dark matter (plenty of evidence, AFAIK). As opposed to “a god,” the term “God” in classical theist metaphysics refers to Being itself, rather than any particular being like Zeus or an orbiting teapot or whatever. So the statement “God exists” is closely akin to saying “existence exists,” in that it’s not really a scientific hypothesis about any particular observable entities, but rather an a priori about the conditions under which anything can exist at all.

      Further, by believing in the existence of a god, what actual difference in anticipated experiences are you anticipating from those of us that don’t? I believe in quantum physics because it allows me to anticipate that when I shoot electrons at a barrier, some will go through, and then I’m able to explain why my light switches work (and laugh at classical physicists, but only a little). When you say you believe that a god exists, what do you actually expect to happen?

      By believing in the existence of God, I expect there to be something rather than nothing: I expect existence to exist, rather than not to occur.
      .
      I imagine you might have further queries, e.g., “Why the heck should “existence” be identifiable with the God of the Bible?”. I think I’m going to be away from the Internet for most of the rest of the week, so I’ll apologize in advance if I seem to have just walked away for a few days. Also, when I saw the O.P., my thought was, “Well, here’s an easy question I can provide some clarification on.” While my showing up naturally led to questions and conversation, I do want to stress that I’m not here to convert anybody. So while I want to answer your questions if I can (seems only polite, and I’m sure to learn something), if J.T. thinks I’m veering over into “trying to convert people” territory in the course of answering you and tells me to shut up, I will happily shut up. It’s his blog.

      • Drakk

        >> Well, I’m a Catholic rather than a Deist, so I do believe in [...]

        But later on you admit that these events – physical events, to be sure, a virgin giving birth is something which physically happens, as is someone floating into the sky – don’t match up with historical record, because those events would require one to occur. So do you believe these things despite the lack of physical evidence, or do you believe the historical record is wrong, or…what, exactly?

        (I would ask that you excuse me if my knowledge of christianity is perhaps below average. I deconverted from Islam).

        >> The possibility of “a god,” as in Zeus or Thor [...]

        Immediate objection to the rest of this statement is “but that only gets you as far as deism”. The rest of it seems a bit off, though. I mean, you could conceivably say that “Zeus” refers not to a particular thing that creates lightning, but the state of the existence of lightning, so saying “Zeus exists” is just like saying “lightning exists”. But…what’s the point of that? As the saying goes, if you want to say “God is energy” then you can find God in a lump of coal.

        >> the term “God” in classical theist metaphysics refers to Being itself, rather than any particular being [...]

        This sounds like a whole lot of deism and not a lot of theism to me. Further, the rest of this statement sounds like tautology: “Existence exists”. Yes. That’s what’s meant by the term existence. I don’t see how this relates to biblegod.

        I’m still not sure why I should take metaphysics of any sort seriously. It doesn’t, as far as I can tell, make testable predictions or inform our knowledge of actual physics (and it doesn’t seem to have updated for relativity and QM, couple major changes there). And definitely not the stuff of Aristotle, who didn’t get even physics particularly right.

        Sounds irreverent? It’s meant to be. The least scientist of today knows better than the old Greeks’ greatest minds. I’m not in any way saying Aristotle was stupid, I’ve almost no doubt he could come up with stunning insights if he were given modern methods and understanding. I’m saying he was wrong, in the same way I think – rather, I know – Newton was wrong. I will also admit I think he was systematically wrong – the best way to understand the world is through experimental confirmation. Theoretical models based only on philosophical arguments, as they did, are insufficient (Newton did not have this problem).

        I realise I’m leaving out a lot of what my own philosophical standpoint is, which might be helpful for comparison purposes. Essentially, in one sentence, “It all adds up to normality”. By which I mean it doesn’t much matter what philosophy comes up with, nothing of any great significance will change. Planets didn’t change their orbits when Einstein overturned Newtonian gravity. If tomorrow I received irrefutable evidence of god, I would change nothing except my mind. What I’ve been doing has worked so far. The philosophers might tomorrow decide quite definitively that the universe doesn’t exist. I say it’s a pretty big nonexistent universe, so let’s get to work.

        >> By believing in the existence of God, I expect there to be something rather than nothing: I expect existence to exist, rather than not to occur.

        Firstly, unfalsifiable. If you were wrong, you couldn’t know.
        Secondly, anthropic principle (actually, I like it better if this is first).
        Thirdly, I do not believe in god – any god – and I expect something to exist. If two different models both predict something, that thing is not evidence for either one over the other.
        Fourth, that’s not an anticipation, because you already are experiencing existence. This does actually seem like working backwards.

        >> if J.T. thinks I’m veering over into “trying to convert people”

        I don’t think you need to worry about that. You seem at least willing to have a fair discussion and not insulting our collective intelligences. JT comes down like a fucking anvil on people who aren’t actually interested in discussion and just want to assert their superiority over people. I think this is the sort of thing he’d actually encourage.

        • http://irenist.blogspot.com/ Irenist

          But later on you admit that these events – physical events, to be sure, a virgin giving birth is something which physically happens, as is someone floating into the sky – don’t match up with historical record, because those events would require one to occur. So do you believe these things despite the lack of physical evidence, or do you believe the historical record is wrong, or…what, exactly?

          Despite the lack of historical evidence. I’m more impressed by the veracity of the New Testament accounts than an atheist would be, it’s just that I concede that absent other reasons for belief (e.g., metaphysical arguments), an atheist is entitled to want more evidence than the archeological record happens to supply.

          (I would ask that you excuse me if my knowledge of christianity is perhaps below average. I deconverted from Islam).

          Of course. Your knowledge of Christianity is presumably greater than mine of Islam, so I’m hardly in a position to complain.

          Immediate objection to the rest of this statement is “but that only gets you as far as deism”…. This sounds like a whole lot of deism and not a lot of theism to me. Further, the rest of this statement sounds like tautology: “Existence exists”. Yes. That’s what’s meant by the term existence. I don’t see how this relates to biblegod.

          Understandable. Drawing in part on the work of Muslim philosophers like Averroes (Ibn Rushd) and Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Catholic theologians like Aquinas have (IMHO) demonstrated that since Aristotle’s Prime Mover is “pure actuality,” necessarily the Prime Mover is the subject of the traditional omni-predicates (omnipotence, omniscience, omni-benevolence), is eternal, is metaphysically simple, and so on. Aquinas then further argues that Christian doctrines (e.g., the Trinity, the Incarnation) are, although not required by this metaphysics, not at all inconsistent with it, either. In short, he agrees with Aristotle that the existence of God is demonstrable by human reason. But he thinks that absent Biblical revelation, there isn’t any way to demonstrate a priori that this God is the God of the Bible; the most that can be demonstrated is that the God of the Bible is consistent with the God of the Philosophers.

          I’m still not sure why I should take metaphysics of any sort seriously. It doesn’t, as far as I can tell, make testable predictions or inform our knowledge of actual physics (and it doesn’t seem to have updated for relativity and QM, couple major changes there). And definitely not the stuff of Aristotle, who didn’t get even physics particularly right.

          Metaphysics doesn’t make falsifiable predictions; correct. Neither do ethics, epistemology, aesthetics, or logic. Not every human inquiry is reducible to the quantitative prediction and control of physical entities. As for Aristotle, like most other pre-modern thinkers, his armchair theorizing is of more permanent value than his proto-science; the two are not the same. A correct knowledge of physics is neither necessary nor sufficient to have valuable insights in unrelated fields.

          Sounds irreverent? It’s meant to be.

          Okay. I knew this was a mighty irreverent blog coming in. Which is to be expected. No worries.

          The least scientist of today knows better than the old Greeks’ greatest minds.

          About science, yes. However, Sophocles, e.g., was a better playwright than most scientists of today, since it’s a completely different field. (Indeed, even most modern scriptwriters aren’t exactly competent physicists, as any visit to the TV Tropes entries on sci-fi rapidly reveals. That’s okay, though, because storytelling is a distinct skill set–even yarns with faster-than-light travel can be entertaining and edifying.) Not everything is science. Crucially here, philosophy is not science: deduction != induction.

          I realise I’m leaving out a lot of what my own philosophical standpoint is, which might be helpful for comparison purposes. Essentially, in one sentence, “It all adds up to normality”. By which I mean it doesn’t much matter what philosophy comes up with, nothing of any great significance will change. Planets didn’t change their orbits when Einstein overturned Newtonian gravity. If tomorrow I received irrefutable evidence of god, I would change nothing except my mind. What I’ve been doing has worked so far. The philosophers might tomorrow decide quite definitively that the universe doesn’t exist. I say it’s a pretty big nonexistent universe, so let’s get to work.

          Sure, philosophy isn’t going to overturn any scientific theories anymore than economics or literary criticism will. That’s not what it’s for.

          >> By believing in the existence of God, I expect there to be something rather than nothing: I expect existence to exist, rather than not to occur.<<
          Firstly, unfalsifiable. If you were wrong, you couldn’t know.

          Metaphysics is not falsifiable by science because it agrees with your sense that it “all adds up to normality.” It is, however, susceptible to being refuted by a better logical argument. Most philosophy is not an evidentiary matter; it’s an argumentative one. In this way, philosophy is akin to pure (as opposed to applied) mathematics: a mathematical theorem is proven or disproved deductively, not by running controlled experiments to test inductive hypotheses’ predictions.

          Secondly, anthropic principle (actually, I like it better if this is first).

          This objection would be an applicable complaint if the metaphysical posit that “God necessarily exists given that anything at all exists” were a scientific hypothesis. It is not. It is a deduction from analysis of concepts like being and becoming, actuality and potentiality.

          Thirdly, I do not believe in god – any god – and I expect something to exist. If two different models both predict something, that thing is not evidence for either one over the other.

          Aquinas’ contention would be that your expectation that things exist is not logically coherent with your absence of a belief in a Being of pure actuality as the basis of every per se causal series. So it’s not that your model doesn’t include existence so much as it’s that your model isn’t logically “entitled” to do so. Perhaps, e.g., your model accepts existence as a “brute fact” without explaining why there is something rather than nothing. Or perhaps your model is like the recent Lawrence Krauss book which conflated physical and metaphysical definitions of “nothing” in attempting an explanation of the metaphysical question. (Neither quantum vacuum nor the laws of physics themselves are “nothing” in the metaphysical sense.)

          Fourth, that’s not an anticipation, because you already are experiencing existence. This does actually seem like working backwards.

          Metaphysics is not a predictive model so much as an attempt to coherently describe the actually existing world. Ontology (the metaphysical inquiry into the nature of being) is necessarily conducted by existing thinkers (since non-existent thinkers don’t think!), so ontology is always going to be a non-predictive kind of explanation: you have to exist before you can ponder existence.

          You seem at least willing to have a fair discussion and not insulting our collective intelligences. JT comes down like a fucking anvil on people who aren’t actually interested in discussion and just want to assert their superiority over people. I think this is the sort of thing he’d actually encourage.

          Thanks for the reassurance! If I overstep the etiquette here, I hope someone will let me know.

          • Drakk

            The replies grow cumbersome, so I will attempt to streamline my own so as to reduce the bulk.
            (Dear JT, can we have, like, widescreen comment boxes? Please?)

            >> “Despite the lack of historical evidence.”
            I’m not entirely sure where my common ground is with someone who is willing to accept alleged historical fact without actual historical evidence. I presume you consider the biblical account to be historically correct (on this part at least). What are your reasons for assuming that the events described in the bible actually took place? (It should go without saying that I think the bible’s veracity as a historical document is suspect).

            >> “Of course. Your knowledge of Christianity is presumably greater than mine of Islam.”
            Bah. One would think. My indoctrination consisted almost solely of reading from the Koran. In Arabic. I don’t speak Arabic. I might as well have been chanting incantations in eldritch tongues. I was taught that the squiggles were an alphabet and what noises they represented. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure when it was I consciously realised that the rules they were teaching actually came from that book.

            >> “Why [is there] something rather than nothing[?]”
            Why is there God rather than nothing?
            In short, “nothing” is too unstable to exist, it’s too simple. Complex structures are higher in entropy and so favoured by thermodynamics. In any case, why do you think metaphysics is better equipped than physics to answer this question?

            On metaphysics as a whole:
            I didn’t expect it to make testable predictions. I know it doesn’t. I’m curious as to what it actually does do, because so far it seems to me like…not a lot. It doesn’t appear to help to inform our understanding of nature in that I can find no instance of a physical theory (QM, Gen. Relativity etc, the kind that help us understand observed phenomena) which is made clearer given a particular metaphysical framework.

            I can, for instance, imagine being shown a piece of moral or ethical philosophy of such unassailable merit that I would immediately begin acting according to the principles that particular philosophy promoted. It hasn’t happened yet, (and probably will not within my standard lifetime) but I know what such a case would look like. I cannot, however, picture what would happen if someone presented me with an equally compelling piece of metaphysics? Obviously I can’t decide to just throw out the likes of QM/GR/etc because they demonstrably work. So this new framework is going to do…what, exactly? Is it going to point me in a different direction for formulating new theories?

            You say metaphysics is descriptive, not predictive, of the existing world (or tries to be). I ask why you think a whole new field utterly decoupled from scientific inquiry is required for this. What do the Standard Model and GR not do, that you think metaphysics does?

            With regards these metaphysical concepts – “being and becoming, actuality and potentiality” – what do these things even mean? (No, that’s not mocking. Really, what are those things?) More importantly, why is it useful to think that way? What does that mode of thinking let you do that thinking of, say, amplitude histories over configuration spaces, doesn’t? In addition, whatever those concepts may be, they were surely formulated long before the advent of modern physics, which quite happily throws out certain ideas of causality. Radioactive decay is not caused by any particular thing, neither are virtual particles. Both occur with probability but not predictability (I can tell where a pendulum will swing by how it is already moving, I cannot tell when a nucleus will decay by how it acts beforehand). These ideas are based on the thinkings of classical physics. Classical physics is wrong. We use it today only because it is a valid approximation, but it does not describe the actual nature of reality. Nature is not little billiard balls.

            (There’s probably much more I did not address, but this reply grows excessively large)

  • Parasite

    Another response Mark Shea or Thomas McDonald might have is what this guy said: http://last-conformer.net/2013/04/19/oversimplification-by-catholic-cardinals-and-atheist-bloggers/

    I think he raises a good point that you are using one person who bought Pinochet’s propoganda at an early stage to indict the entire Catholic hierarchy. The guy was an ambassador, so I don’t think it’s as simple as “one guy”, but if it’s true that the Catholic Church was the primary internal force opposing Pinochet, then I think your narrative is also a little too simple.

  • Rain

    but if it’s true that the Catholic Church was the primary internal force opposing Pinochet

    Seems like a slight exaggeration. What did they do? Throw a bunch of those little wafers at him?

    Catholic Church: [Throws wafers] Take that! And that! And that!
    Pinochet: Ouchie!

    Pray a lot maybe? Excommunicate him? Yeah I think he had way bigger worries than the Catholic Church.

  • Parasite

    Those words were poorly chosen, and I don’t know much about Pinochet or Chile. However, my understanding was that the Catholic Church was one of the only major institutions inside Chile that was vocally critical of Pinochet’s regime throughout.

    My main point was that I don’t understand by what criteria the words of one high-ranking prelate very early in the regime are deemed to be representative of the Catholic Church throughout the entire dictatorship. Why is he more representative of the Church at the time than, for instance, Cardinal Silva, who is a higher-ranking prelate and who requested the Vicariate of Solidarity: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicariate_of_Solidarity. For that matter, considering that institution was ultimately created by the pope only three years later, why is Benelli considered to be more representative of the Catholic Church than the pope?

    It just seems to me that the claim “Catholic Church actually supported Chilean dictator” is not fully supported even by the evidence presented in this blog post, and seems contradicted by all the other evidence that I have found.

    • Rain

      Parasite, Benelli did claim that he was speaking for both himself and the Pope. Maybe he was making it up or maybe he thought he had the kind of authority to speak for the Pope. Just sayin it could be (possibly falsely) construed that the Pope, who prays and gets advice directly from the baby Jesus, was duped too at least for a little while there.

      • Parasite

        Thanks for pointing that out. I missed that in my reading of the cable. I’ll assume that he wouldn’t likely misrepresent the pope, so it would seem to be evidence that the Catholic Church was duped for a little while at the start.

        I suppose, then, that Irenist’s claim that Catholics don’t believe that popes interact directly with God is the stronger argument, since then the pope being factually wrong about events several times removed from direct exposure shouldn’t have any effect on a Catholic’s faith.

        • Rain

          Well Parasite, apparently the church has a short memory if in 2010 they were seeking pardons for everyone in the Pinochet regime!! Please note that JT did say the church did publicly separate themselves from Pinochet. Presumably in 2010 the time was ripe for publicly unseparating themselves! Also note that the US gave Pinochet more money and weapons than the Catholic Church could ever dream of! Shock and horror, the US supported a brutal dictator.

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