My Computer’s in the Shop. Guest posts ahoy!

My Computer’s in the Shop. Guest posts ahoy! May 7, 2012

Alas, my computer just started what I’m told will be a week long vacation at Microcenter.  I’m still borrowing computer time with my housemates, so posting will slow but it won’t stop.  (Spelling may suffer a little, since I find it really difficult to type on a Mac-style chiclet keyboard).  I will be prioritizing setting up logistics for the upcoming Turing Test over keeping up daily posts, so if commenters have always longed to address my readers, now’s the time to consider emailing me to propose a guest post.  There are a couple suggested topics in the side tab, but I’m also always interested in:

  1. What evidence would make you switch teams?
  2. When (if ever) have you deferred to your philosophical or theological system over your intuitions?
  3. Are there people whose opinions on morality you trust more than your own?  How do you recognize them?  How is trusting them different than trusting someone’s opinion on physics?
  4. Is there something you want to explain about your religion in a Q&A the way Michael addressed some misconceptions about Mormon priesthood?

Send me an email with “Guest post” in the subject line with a pitch.  And let me know in the comments if you think questions 2 and 3 above would make good Turing Test prompts.

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  • Tamilia

    Someone shared this book with me that points out many things in the church that strengthens the urge not to be a Christian. After reading this I saw that those who are least like Christ are Christians! Maybe the author didn’t mean for it to be used by Atheist but glad it was shared with me. PLEASE Share with your friends! See it here: and

  • deiseach

    Questions 2 and 3 would be great for the Turing test, especially to see if atheists and believers answer them one way when giving an honest answer as themselves and then when pretending to be the ‘other side’. I’m especially interested in how your experiment will turn out after reading this account of a study by Sam Harris, wherein the blogger goes up one side of Sam and down the other.

    I’m assuming the guy is some kind of theist, at the very least, and I have no idea what the statistical stuff means so I don’t know if his criticisms of how Harris used the results is valid, but when it comes to the 61 questions used in the testing (linked in part III of the post), I do think that they were very narrowly designed to fit the template of an American Evangelical/Fundamentalist view, and moreover, a literalist, Biblical-inerrancy view at that – or perhaps, better to say, Harris et al’s notion of the views of such a creature.

    I’m a conservative? orthodox? traditional? (pick label of choice) Catholic, and there are a few questions on there I’d have to go “No, maybe, have to think about that, what exactly do you mean?” where Harris’s study is assuming Christians will go “Yes, yes, yes, yes”. So am I not a believer by Harris’s standards? Again, I haven’t read the study and I hope to goodness that it’s much less blunt and crude than it’s made out to be – the notion of using MRIs as polygraphs, for example, makes me want to tear out my hair, nevermind “We can now reliably identify actual physical differences between the brains of believers and non-believers (based on our dodgy set of questions and some statistical slicing-and-dicing)” conclusion alleged to have been drawn.

    As to question 2, I couldn’t do a whole guest post on it, but I can answer: Yes. Women’s ordination (or women in the priesthood, however one wants to call it). Didn’t see the rationale behind it (and was very much not convinced at all by C.S. Lewis’ arguments about ‘priestesses’ when I read them in my late teens and early 20s) but decided to follow Holy Mother Church (with a fair amount of grumbling). As I get older – and perhaps this is just the tendency to get more conservative with age – I see less anti-feminism or misogyny and more wisdom in the prohibition, though again – the Church says it is not that She forbids women to be priests, it is that She has no authority to do so, which may strike some as hair-splitting, but I think it’s the fine shades of distinction that you need in philosophy and theology. Also, I don’t have any opinion on non-Roman Catholic churches or denominations; if you don’t have a sacramental priesthood, don’t follow apostolic succession and don’t have sacraments as such, I see no reason why you can’t decide to re-write your bylaws to permit female ministers or elders.

    • leahlibresco

      If you were interested, I’d be up for doing a Q&A on your read of the Church’s authority to ordain women. I haven’t understood why this omission counts as withholding authority to ordain.

      • Cous

        2 & 3 sound like great questions to me. I had a philosophy major friend who wrote on the topic of “moral experts,” i.e. how we readily accept other people as experts on math, carpentry, biology, etc. but seem to have a different system for expertise when it comes to morality.

        Throwing my hat in the ring as a canon law amateur but cradle/orthodox Catholic if deiseach wants to do a joint Q&A on the impossibility of the women priesthood. In contrast, married priests are not impossible (see recent incidents of married Anglican priests converting and being ordained as Catholic priests), but the Church made the judgment call in the 12th century about enforcing clerical celibacy, such that today already-ordained priests are forbidden from entering into marriage, and married Catholic men are forbidden from becoming priests. The Church does have the authority to reverse the requirement of celibacy, but it seems extremely unlikely she ever will. More background here.

      • Personally, I’ve found great satisfaction in the reasons which speculate at the divine intent behind a male-only priesthood, if none in broader, more pragmatic reasons — “it would cause division,” &c. But I hardly expect mixed company to agree with the former opinion.

        So the only answer an outsider would hear and potentially understand is “We do not presume the authority to change apostolic Tradition.” Of course, to anyone but a Catholic this sounds like theological hairsplitting to such a degree that someone might fairly guess at our “real” motives. So we’re legitimately caught. (Or we would be, if truth depended on the plaudits of our peers.)

      • deiseach

        Probably would be a good session, particularly if you don’t mind it degenerating into a bit of a row (because let’s face it, most of us are going to have strong opinions on this one). My best understanding is that the Church does not say “We won’t ordain women” as it does say “We can’t ordain women”. Now, there are arguments about the alter Christus notion of the priesthood that make me want to punch the arguer really hard, because they do seem to be privileging possesssion of a Y chromosome (to bowderlise my original thought) over anything else, but to be fair, these kinds of arguments are generally put forward by laymen (with a heavy emphasis on the “men” part).

        And we don’t seem to have the same ideas about complementarianism versus egalitarianism in marriage and ordinary life as well as in religious life that other denominations do; speaking as a (relatively) modern Catholic – that is, one who really had her faith formed such as it was in the late 70s and through the 80s – I had no idea such concepts even existed until I encountered American Protestant blogs discussing these topics – not to make an example of the Baptists, but attitudes such as this are not something I’ve ever encountered in Irish Catholicism, even as a matter of sermons or the bishops speaking about family life (maybe it was different back in the 30s or 40s or 50s but I wasn’t around then).

        • Loud

          deiseach is right in saying that the Church says it has no authority to ordain women rather than won’t. I think covering the Catholic reasons for this and the nature of the Catholic priesthood would be a great topic!

          Leah, If I may make a sugestion, why don’t you ask Marc Barnes over at Bad Catholic to be the guest poster? He has covered this topic before and did pretty well. (He is a bit of a sarcastic and humorous guy, though, so you might have to remind him that, here he would be speaking to a mostly non-catholic audience. I am NOT responsible for is overreaching iornies if you don’t. Just sayin’.)

        • Keep in mind that all attributes of the Church are designed for our salvation. In this light, and considering that women are naturally more spiritual, an all-male priesthood seems designed to force men to get involved. If for no other reason, remember that coed clubs are always girls’ clubs. This is by far not the most interesting observation of sexual symbolism, but it does, in my experience, make folks take pause and really consider the case.

  • Joe

    Questions 2 and 3 are great questions it would be a big challenge for both the Christian and Atheists to fake convincing answers to these questions.

    As for question 2 I have always had trouble entering in to the community life of the Church. My intuitions tell me I should just go to mass and adoration and just study on my own at home. But the Church teaches that we must enter in to the life of the parish and participate in community social and charitable events. For me its the hardest part of being Catholic.

  • Other suggested topics for Leah’s Catholics, here incompletely assembled:

    1. Conflict Thesis vs. history.
    2. Understanding the Inquisition.
    3. Papal Infallibility — yawn, I know.
    4. Scriptural interpretation. Or, on a related topic,
    5. Defining “inspiration” as regards “inspired scriptures.”
    6. Holy obedience.
    7. “The Dark Ages.”
    8. Pelvic issues.
    9. Propose vs. impose.
    10. Fides et Ratio.

    Any others? That’s just at the top of my head, so there’s some overlap if not repetition.

    In the spirit of experimentation, I propose we hop on over to some less friendly territory on the Internet, writing something friendly but contrary in an appropriate setting. We measure the responses. Two or three days later, we should figure out which of these is the most pervasive problem in secular understanding of the Church. Bonus: These responses will also help us touch on the most important bases as regards our topic.

    • deiseach

      “2. Understanding the Inquisition.”

      That one’s easy – politics. I’m presuming you mean the Spanish Inquisition, since that’s the one most people mean when they talk about “the Inquisition” and not the Roman or Venetian ones.

      • That there’s a distinction between early and late Inquisitions — like that there’s a distinction between early and late Renaissances — is itself a point folks forget, if they ever knew it.