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April 19, 2005

Habemus papam
Posted by Teresa at 12:15 PM *

Don’t know who yet, but the smoke’s white. Let me know what you hear.

UPDATE: It’s Ratzinger, who’s taking the name Benedict XVI.

“Benedict, hell. Look at the guy—he’s Palpatine I.” —Patrick

(Wikipedia: look quick.)

Just last night I was talking about this with my godfather. We pretty much agreed that Ratzinger was an unlikely choice. After all, he’s been the Vatican’s enforcer for a long time now. The College of Cardinals must be aware that, while we surely don’t know everything he’s done, we just as surely know that he’s done a lot of things; that some of them won’t have been terribly presentable; and that if he were made Pope, some of those not-terribly-presentable stories would be bound to come out.

Oh well.

Just because I feel like it:

Why I already didn’t believe in Papal Infallibility:

1. If that were true, surely someone would have noticed it earlier than 1870.

2. When you look at the history of the Papacy, “infallible” is neither the first nor the twentieth adjective most likely to occur to you.

3. A philosophical dialogue:
Q. How do we know the Pope is infallible? A. We were informed of it by the Pope, who is infallible.
Q. This is like that thing about all Cretans being liars, right?
A. Uh-uh, nope, nothing like it.
4. Shall the Pope, alone of all God’s children, be stripped of his moral agency? That seems very wrong. Yet moral agency necessarily implies the ability to screw up. Someone who isn’t God, yet is guaranteed to not screw up, must not have it.

Objection #4 is the one that gets me. I’m sorry, but I can’t believe in the infallible infallibility of anyone but God. It breaks the whole system.

Comments on Habemus papam:
#1 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 12:36 PM:

That was quick. I hope it isn't Cardinal Rat.

#3 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Benedict XVI

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 12:49 PM:

Who's going to do the mash of "The Vatican Rag" and the "I Was Not A Nazi Polka"?

#5 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 12:53 PM:

Was he really a Hilter Juden?

#6 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 12:55 PM:

My mind is ill-disciplined enough that it began replaying the "Inquisition" section from Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I. Complete with the Esther Williams-style swimming pool setpiece.

On the other hand, he is 78. Perhaps they were thinking "There won't be too many surprises from him, and we've bought ourselves some time."
All reflections on his positions aside, it must be hell to have to follow one of the greatest glad-handers in the history of the papacy, especially for a man of the new pope's temperament.

#7 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:00 PM:

Fuck.

At least he's old.

#8 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Well, lots of the media is saying that he was in the H.Y. but I wouldn't hold his actions at age 12 against him.

His actions as an adult, however, are a totally different story. A disappointing choice, but any surprises are likely to be positive. (Hoping...)

#9 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:03 PM:

What's funny is that the Prophecy of St Malachy floating around the net (one version here), says that there's only 2 popes after JPII before the end of the world. The penultimate Pope was supposed to come from the Benedictine order. And Ratzinger picks the name Pope Benedict.
More Hollywood end of days movies fodder.

#10 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:04 PM:

This was previously posted to another thread, but it belongs here, too:

Ratzinger Fan Club .

Be sure to check out the t-shirts.


#12 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:09 PM:

well, this is sort of heartbreaking.

Also, without pretending to know anyone's soul, humble? Cardinal Ratzinger, who took on himself to announce that Kerry couldn't receive communion without referring the matter to the Pope (who of course overruled him) humble?

I suppose he thinks so.

#13 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Mayakda, the wikipedia article [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_Benedict_XVI]reports that he was indeed in the Hitler Jugend*, but notes that joining was legally required. He was also drafted into the army along with the rest of his age, group, and deserted in 1944 while in Hungary. He was in an Allied POW camp for a while, too.

As for humility, maybe now that the buck stops with him, we'll see some. Things can really change when you go from being a favored subordinate to beng The One in Charge.

*Maybe you meant to type Juden, but maybe not. I'm trying to imagine an organization called the Hitler-Jews. It isn't wokring.

#14 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:14 PM:

Benedict, huh? He should be Rattus I.

He's a goddam Grand Inquisitor! I've just added this to my list of bad things that happened on this day.

Well, at least he's old. I suppose I could take the position of one character on The Simpsons, who, viewing Marge's naked portrait of Mr. Burns, said "He's bad, but he'll die, so I like it."

#15 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:16 PM:

Benedict, hell. Look at the guy--he's Palpatine I.

#16 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:17 PM:

Fidelio wrote As for humility, maybe now that the buck stops with him, we'll see some. Things can really change when you go from being a favored subordinate to beng The One in Charge.

That's not the impression I get from him. He seems MUCH more the sort who believes that the world will bend to his will (the opposite of, you know, reality-based folks), and now he has the lever and the fulcrum to exert BIG pressure.

Damn. Damn. Damn. And other words much less nice.

#17 ::: Melanie Fletcher ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:17 PM:

Granted, Ratzinger wasn't the most forward-thinking choice in the College of Cardinals. But actions that he could take as the Dean of the College (such as the Kerry contretemps) aren't necessarily going to be possible now that he's pope -- he can't pass the buck upstairs anymore.

And he's also the oldest pope to be elected in the last century -- hopefully this means that the Catholic Church just wants to consolidate for the next couple of years or so.

#18 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:17 PM:

From Wikipedia's entry on him:

"When Ratzinger turned 14 in 1941, he was required by law to join the Hitler Youth, but according to his biographer John Allen he was not an enthusiastic member. In 1943, at the age of 16 he was, along with the rest of his class, drafted into the Flak or anti-aircraft corps, responsible for the guarding of a BMW plant outside Munich. He was then sent for basic infantry training and was posted to Hungary, where he worked setting up anti-tank defences until he deserted in April 1944 (an offence punishable by death). In 1945 he was briefly held in an Allied POW camp. By June he was released, and he and his brother (Georg) entered a Catholic seminary."

#19 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:18 PM:

What do you mean, old? Wojtyla lived to be 85 and he was sick! This guy's not giving in without a fight. And he's going to appoint lotsa more like-minded Cardinals in the meanwhile.

#20 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:18 PM:

There's a piece by one Erica Walter on the TNR web site
that argues for his humility, largely one the basis that he
not only did not want to be Pope but stayed in his previous
post only at the insistence of JPII. It isn't every job where
you're literally expected to keep working until the day you
die...

A long-standing Ratzinger joke was told on NPR over the
weekend: Ratzinger and two other cardinals die at the same
time, arrive in heaven, and are summoned to one-on-ones
with God. The first cardinal emerges from his interview in
tears saying "I can't believe I was so wrong about theology!".
The second cardinal emerges in tears saying the same thing.
Finally Ratzinger goes in, and soon God emerges in tears,
saying "I can't believe I was so wrong about theology!"

Doesn't sound like a humble guy to me...

#21 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:18 PM:

LOL Patrick! Wish I'd said that. And I will, Christopher, I will.

[violently suppresses image of Pope Rat leaning over an altar boy and calling him "my young apprentice" -- no, no!]

#22 ::: Melanie Fletcher ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:18 PM:

Benedict, hell. He's Palpatine I.

Oh, that's good.

#23 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:21 PM:

Sorry. Tin foil hat is interfering with typing. Hah. Hitler Youth. Not his fault he joined; just following orders.

#24 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:26 PM:

I was scrabbling desperately for optimism. Hey, it could happen. Pigs can fly, after all [although you have to buy them tickets, since they get sick if they fly in the cargo hold].

#25 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:29 PM:

The Ratzinger Fan club seems to have been slashdotted. Another Ratzinger 101 can be found here, from BBC.

It's not the Hitler Youth bits that worry me (and BBC doesn't mention those in so many words either); it's his stated stances since (and BBC does mention some of those). A much less charitable profile is here.

#26 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:29 PM:

Aw, dammit. Please accept my heartfelt sympathies.

#27 ::: Patrick Weekes ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:31 PM:

As somebody who grew up Catholic, I'm bummed that it's not somebody with a reputation for being more progressive, but I also don't believe that he's an evil person. I think he's someone who is trying to do what he believes is the right thing, but which, unfortunately, is not the way I'd like to see it done.

I don't think he's a hypocrite, someone who mouths the platitudes but will be found in a room with bondage workout equipment, five underage prostitutes, and a death ray aimed at France sometime later this year. I think he's someone trying to do what he believes is right, based on what he's been taught.

Which, honestly, is sadder for me than a puppy-kicking evil person would have been. I could get all worked up in a lather about that. With this guy, I pretty much just get to shrug sadly, spend a moment feeling sad that my son won't grow up Catholic, and trot off to the Episcopalean place down the street instead, where the ministers can be women, gay, and/or married.

#28 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:31 PM:

Y'know, I didn't think I'd care so much--I'm no longer a practicing Catholic--but surprisingly I do care.

And I care enough that I find myself desiring a Whiskey and coke and an entire pan of brownies.

#29 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:35 PM:

Michelle: I'm disappointed because I'd like to feel like there is a place for me in the church, but its become increasingly obvious to me that the church is rejecting everything I value about it.

And as I just obsevered elsewhere, any time I find myself thinking "Well, maybe he'll die soon" as an attempt to hang onto optimism, I get kind of depressed.

#30 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:36 PM:

"When Ratzinger turned 14 in 1941, he was required by law to join the Hitler Youth, but according to his biographer John Allen he was not an enthusiastic member...."

I'd like to point out the parallel to Wernher Von Braun, who was technically an officer of the SS, because he had to be. According to my fatgher's conversation with him, when they shook hands on a book deal rendered moot by his death very shortly afterwards, he only wore his Nazi uniform once, then put it in a drawer and refused to wear it again.

All together now:

"Vhen der Vhite Smoke goes up,
who cares vhere it comes down?
Dat's not my department,
says Benedict XVI,
with a frown."

#31 ::: TH ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:42 PM:

Funny. The guy they just buried went into the papacy as young and liberal and came out as mary-deluded conservative. And it could have been predicted, if one had looked at his writings.

Ratzinger is an intellectual. He was one of the young wild theologians during the second Vaticanum and he was very much liked as Bishop in Bavaria.

He may revert to his older positions or he may carve new ones, he may be liberal or conservative, but he's going to be an honest and smart pope, whatever else he'll be.

But I don't think that'll be seen in USAnia as theology is not a matter of soundbites.

#32 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:54 PM:

Food for thought:

When it was proposed after the pope's funeral that the cardinals be forbidden to talk to the media, he suggested that such a prohibition would violate freedom of speech and that if they wanted such a rule they should rather unanimously adopt it — a technicality perhaps but not an unimportant one. It did not prevent Italian cardinals from talking to the media (perhaps through their staffs), but no one really thought they would keep the rule which was enacted because the Italians objected to the presence of so many American cardinals on the international news channels.

He is also supposed to have persuaded John Paul that birth control was not an appropriate issue for an infallible declaration. Finally, the processing of the pedophile cases from the American bishops suggests that he and his staff are aware of the dimensions of the problem.

If one assembles these arguments into a projection of a Joseph Ratzinger papacy, one finds some reasons to believe that it would be quite different from the previous one, as Oxford don Owen Chadwick predicted in his "Law of Constitutional Elections" – the new man is always different from his predecessor. Maybe Papa Ratzinger also would be a different man as pope than he was as the head of the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith.

Maybe.

This collection of arguments does not eliminate the fact that Joseph Ratzinger would come to the papacy with some very heavy baggage. Nonetheless it does suggest that should he be elected (which I repeat I don't expect) he should be given a chance to prove who and what he is. When men become pope they tend to surprise both their friends and their enemies.

For what it's worth....

#33 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 01:56 PM:

An honest Pope? That'd be a first.

#34 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:01 PM:

I am willing to give him the benefit of a clean slate. But if he starts talking about refusing communion to pro-choice american politicians in 2008, I will not be amused.

#35 ::: Leslie ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:03 PM:

Over at Jesus' General, the commenters have been suggesting names as well. I think my personal favorite is Panzerfaust I.

#36 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:03 PM:

"At least he's old."

He looks healthy in his pictures. If he is, he could easily last another 20-30 years.

One may hope for a return to liberal values. I doubt it. What repentance could gain forgiveness for his opposition to the use of condoms to control the spread of AIDS, or his defense of the molester priests? Still, guilt might turn his thinking; reality might crash in.

Church of Tashlan, indeed.

Caw! Caw! Caw!

#37 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:07 PM:

TH, for what it's worth, Cardinal Ratzinger's 'theology' was behind a number of purges in the church in the past twenty years and what was lost is (to my mind) far more important than the intellectual consistency of a man with the kind of tunnel vision Ratzinger has displayed.

#38 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:07 PM:

As has been pointed out by many people, I'm Jewish so I can at least ignore him.

#39 ::: Cynthia Gonsalves ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:14 PM:

My first response to the news was unprintable. His funeral sermon wasn't scary, but he's got a long record of being the Enforcer, so unless the Holy Spirit works miracles, you're going to find me watching this papacy from the sidelines.

#40 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:21 PM:

I commented right after the funeral that they keep a lot of traditions of the Roman Empire. Apparently that includes having the heir give the funeral oration.

#41 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:23 PM:

I wonder why he chose Benedict? Is it to honor St Benedict or Pope Benedict XV?
Is it a name he picked out years ago?

#42 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:26 PM:

Dave Weingart:

I left the Catholic Church so I could ignore the Vatican.

Now, I find that while I could probably ignore the Vatican insofar as it impacts my day-to-day life (in all honesty, very little), I cannot allow myself to ignore the Vatican's impact on the rest of the world, which is unfortunately a fair bit.

Then, when I think about the positive impact the Vatican could have on the world, if it only would, it gets my childhood dreams about what the Church could be (but is not) all in an uproar, and I get nauseated and my mouth goes all acidic, and I realize that the baptized, confirmed, ritual-lovin' Catholic in me (a part of myself that I just cannot seem to kill off, no matter how hard I try), is deeply, deeply affected by the Vatican, and right now that small little girl with the white satin covered missal and ashes on her forehead is very, very disappointed.

And not returning to the Church this year.

#43 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:35 PM:

Second thoughts...

The Ratz may surprise us. But this makes me feel the way I felt after the election of W. Bush in 2000. And I think one of our hostesses observations about the radical right Republicans applies to the Vatican conservatives, too--they don't expect ever to lose power.

It looks to me like the world is going mad.

#44 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:42 PM:

I find myself considering the possibilities inherent in electing a Pope who has all of JPII's doctrinal hardheadedness, with none of JPII's personal charm or charisma. JPII was able to charm people around the world faaster than he could piss off people who were already Catholics; I seriously doubt that B-16 (if only there had been one more Benedict previously, he could have had an appropriately martial handle) will be able to do likewise.

#45 ::: Jean Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Meet the new pope; same as the old pope...?

#46 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:44 PM:

"Maybe you meant to type Juden, but maybe not. I'm trying to imagine an organization called the Hitler-Jews. It isn't wokring."

Log Cabin Club.


#47 ::: ender ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:45 PM:

well, as an Asian German, non-buddhist (although my family believes the opposite ;=)), non-catholic (although went to all catholic lessons in school for 10 years, was lots of fun, got the best grades), with catholic grandparents and some hindi relatives...
I think ratzinger is a great choice ;=))
why, well he is German, I am German ;=))
sorry to interrupt your so serious discussions

#48 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:49 PM:

why, well he is German, I am German ;=))

I understand, actually. If they'd elected an ultra-conservative Filipino Pope, I'd be rather tickled. Ah, nationalism.

#49 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 02:52 PM:

Giblets reveals that it is actually himself in a Josef Ratzinger costume. He has to stand "on top of two dwarves and a monkey just to reach the point where I can operate the head properly."

#50 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:09 PM:

I find that I don't actually doubt Ratzinger is not only lntellectual and honest, but also intellectually honest. However, I think his premises are problemmatic. While I can appreciate the intellectual rigor that dictates that if condoms are forbidden as birth control they're forbidden for other purposes as they'd still perform the birth control function when used in heterosexual sex (as for homosexual sex -- well you gotta know where he is on THAT), the result is appalling and if it were me, would lead me to question the premises, i.e., the whole birth control thing. But he doesn't seem prone to questioning his premises. While I am not a catholic, I have friends loved ones who are and this affects me through them. I am a woman and his stances on women's issues and their impact throughout the world certainly do affect me. Damn. I had hoped for a better result. We shall have to wait and see I guess.

MKK

MKK

#51 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:14 PM:

The idea of an American Catholic Church is looking better and better these days. It's been too long since we had a good schism.

#52 ::: Henry ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:29 PM:

Looks like someone at Wikipedia has had the same idea as Patrick ... http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pope_Benedict_XVI&direction=prev&oldid=12526972

#53 ::: James Angove ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:30 PM:

David B.:

Didn't Jimmy Breslin already cover that?

#54 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:31 PM:

I don't know. I have hopes on this one. Most - not all, but most - opposition to Ratzinger is kneejerk stuff. He earned his reputations for clamping down on theologians for teaching things that were, as the Magisterium saw it, contradictory to the faith.

His difficulty seems to have been, not that they were teaching something that contradicted Catholic teaching, but rather that they did so in the name of the Church. Withdrawal of licenses didn't stop people from continuing in their theological work, if they really believed in it. It simply meant that they'd have to do so without the support and imprimature of the Church.

There's a fairly thoughtful piece about him, critical but nonetheless respectful, by John Allen, his biographer, here, who also speculated on what a couple of days back on what a Ratzinger papacy might look like.

One thing Allen's sure of is that the quality of bishops appointed under Benedict are almost certainly going to be better than those appointed by his illustrious predecessor. And that can hardly be a bad thing.

#55 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:42 PM:

Well, Greg, he's the author of the encyclical "On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons," which condones queer-bashing. That makes him my enemy. And by appointing him, the College of Cardinals has made the Church my enemy as well.

Doesn't change much. Just more blatant.

And I haven't read the Allen piece yet, but I suspect that in your last para 'better' must be used in a way I haven't previously encountered.

#56 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:48 PM:

He's also the guy that has said that Vatican II Was full of wild excess and that a non-Latin mass is a tragedy.

Oh, yes, he does indeed hate fags.

#57 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 03:57 PM:

Greg: I just read the piece in the National Catholic Reporter, and I have to say that it didn't do very much to change my knee-jerk reaction.

#58 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:05 PM:

Oh, yes, he does indeed hate fags.

Ah, symmetry.

#59 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Kimberly:

I so know what you are talking about...

My non-Catholic wife is continually trying to understand whereinthehell I got the idea that the church and I were ever on the same theological page--compassion, tolerance, an imperative to work for social justice, respect for others' beliefs...these are not the lessons I'd argue we see the church put into practice. Yet I learned them there, I know I did, and that's what breaks my heart every time.

#61 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:15 PM:

He was always so funny on "Cheers..."

#62 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:28 PM:

Lisa: My spouse doesn't get my concern either, I don't think. I mean, he does, but it's like you said, "What, you're surprised???" He knew it would be King Rat.

I learned about the compassion, and the social justice, and the mercy, in Catholic school, seventh and eighth grade religion classes. Mr. Fleischman.
I learned it from my mom. I learned it by listening to homilies when I went to church every Sunday with my family.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I missed the parts about hatred, intolerance, and misogyny. And I'm sorry, Xopher's right. David Bilek's right. The Church hates fags. And if the Church hates fags, I can't be walking around saying, "I'm a Catholic." I can't, for the same reason my kid is not a cub scout. I have a lot of respect for people like my mom, who try to change the Church from within, but at the age of 22, I figured it out. I have irreconcilable differences with the Church of my youth. It's not the ONLY reason I left, but it's a big part of it.

I don't believe God thinks homosexuality is wrong, or else, well, why would there be homosexuals? God is sadistic? Hatred, however, is wrong. In fact, my morality tells me that hatred of a person for being gay is evil. Which leaves me, to say the least, at odds with the Vatican.

Catholicism is still such a big part of who I am, though, and I have to admit that I still feel connected sometimes. Because I remember them teaching me about compassion and tolerance. And so I did have hope for a new pope. And I didn't really think that the choosing of King Rat would upset me this much, estranged as I am. But it did.

#63 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:56 PM:

The photoshoppers are indeed quick - although I believe this one dates to April 13th.

http://metaphorge.cyber1a.net/livejournal/ratzinger.gif

#64 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 04:57 PM:

Kimberly: Obviously I agree with your main thrust. I don't believe the Church's stand on homosexuality is compatible with modern egalitarian society. I've been pretty vocal about that. But on a purely logical note, I don't think "God can't think homosexuality is wrong or else there wouldn't be any homosexuals" follows. Lots of things exist which a benevolent God clearly must disapprove of. For example... "God can't think pedophilia is wrong or there wouldn't be any pedophiles". Clearly a non starter.

Which brings me to another bit about Pope Palpatine: He called the Church pedophilia scandal in the USA an event manufactured by enemies of the Church.

Yep.

#65 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:01 PM:

Hmm... operating on the assumption that German words always consist of at least 20-25 smaller words smooshed together, I tried to get google to translate "ratzinger" into something comprehensible.

The closest I could come to anything at all was something like: "more zinger advice".

Which convinces me that this whole time? Everything he's ever said or written? He was, like Don Rickles, only kidding.

#66 ::: Lisa ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:10 PM:

David B:

There is an American Catholic Church--the last I looked, they seemed to have outposts only in NY and FL (!!!) They ordain women, their priests can marry, etc. I found them completely by accident--when my sister got married, she chose to have the ceremony at the hotel, which is Not Allowed, so she couldn't get a priest from my parents' parish. The hotel gave her the name of an American Catholic priest who did a lot of weddings for them and he was so great that, when we were planning our own wedding, Jenny and I did some research. The website we found specified that they performed interfaith ceremonies, and ceremonies for persons who had been divorced, and etc. "Ceremonies for gay people" wasn't on the list, but you could see it there, just hovering beyond the verge of the spoken.

So we wrote to Father Bob, and asked if he would marry us, too. And he did, using the same exact ceremony. Literally, his homily was word-for-word. I was almost disappointed by that, but then, when he got to the end, he said something about how did many, many weddings, and that even though Jenny and I were both women, that nothing else was different and how important it was to honor that.

I know my extended family loves me, but realistically, at least some of 'em were only there to avoid pissing off my mom, who is Formidible when it comes to protecting her kids. That they could hear this, from someone dressed in the vestments of a Bishop, no less...well, it was mindblowing.

It is my ambition to figure out how to get us an outpost up here in Boston.

#67 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Initial reaction: it may be time to check out the local Quaker meeting.

#68 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:39 PM:

On the other hand, he is "an intellectual" and "a concert pianist" and "personally humble, living near a bus stop in a crime-ridden neighborhood and walking to his office in the Vatican."

Yet, to be optimistic about the reign of Benedict XVI on those bases would be parallel to those who were optimistic about Andropov succeeding to power over the CCCP, on the basis that he liked American culture, especially Jazz. There are also 3 successive Cs in "Catholic College of Cardinals."

To be optimistic on the basis that he will push the church further into ultraconservative doctrine, and the NEXT pope will bring a swing of pendulum more favorable to women, dissidents, homosexuals, and those worried about overpopulation -- well, that's like the "Dump the Hump" activists who voted for Nixon instead of Humphrey, hoping that Tricky Dick would discredit the Republican Right. Look what THAT attitude brought us!

#69 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:42 PM:

Warning about and apologies for a long post:

David:

Well, I think you have a point based on my phrasing, but I think my point is just poorly phrased. It is a strong object of faith with me that the divine is not homophobic, any more than the divine is heterophobic.

I didn't mean, however, to make a LOGICAL defense of homosexuality based only on its existence, although I admit that it reads as if I were (I remember them, from the LSAT). There are unstated assumptions in there that are based on theology rather than logic. But I need to feel around it a bit more to express it well, methinks.

Maybe the unstated assumption is that I don't believe "God" (which is, to my level of faith, also a bit touchy...the Catholic thing is a past part of my person, remember) makes people into pedophiliacs. And I believe that homosexuality is at least in part biology, and is normal sexual function, rather than a disease.

And it's an interesting question, isn't it? Upon what do I make the distinctions between healthy sexuality and unhealthy sexuality. Did the divine make rapists? See, not my divine, not my god(dess). My god(dess) made sexual beings who decide to rape. Did the divine make alcoholics? Asthmatics? Are some things natural accidents or evolutionary accidents or environmental accidents, or societal accidents (which I think is the basis for most sexual disfunctions --within which I count pedophilia, but not homosexuality)?

Just meandering now, trying to figure out how best to really describe what I mean, without the benefit of a rough draft. THIS is why I need a livejournal account of my very own.

#70 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:49 PM:

tried to get google to translate "ratzinger"


Well, it just means "guy from Ratzing." I tried to find something about Ratzing from Yahoo, but I only found that they have a volunteer fire department.

#71 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:52 PM:

Michael:
Rat in German may mean advice or council. Zinger appears not to be German at all, all Google comes up with are Dutch-language pages. In Dutch zingen means to sing, which presumably makes zinger mean singer, if nouns are related to verbs in the same way in Dutch, English and German (not an unreasonable assumption, since they are all Germanic languages.)
Dutch rat (German Ratte) is rat in English.

Another possibility is that Ratzing is a place name (which indeed it is), in which case Ratzinger would mean something like person from Ratzing. Does that make any sense?

#72 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Rats. I see Rich beat me to it...

#73 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 05:58 PM:

Kimberly: Yeah, this is going to go beyond the scope of this thread so I'll leave it at this: a position like yours strikes me as playing into the arch-conservatives hands. You're making *exactly* the argument that the reactionaries are making and simply placing homosexuality on the other side of the natural/unnatural line. Sexuality you're okay with (homosexuality) is "natural" and "from God" and sexuality you're not okay with is "a choice". That's what the anti-gay people say! They just put "gay" in the "not okay" category.

If you get a livejournal and think about it more, I'll read it. This is a topic I'm interested in.
Difficulty with arbitrary distinctions such as this is one reason I'm a very lapsed Catholic.

#74 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:01 PM:

Who needs the tv/radio for news when you've got the net? Looked at my Livejournal Friends page this morning and it was wall-to-wall Pope Rat...

Thank you for that image of Pope Palpatine, Patrick. And thank you, Xopher, for that enchanting extension of that image, which I'm sure will delight those of my friends who are into Star Wars slash. :->

#75 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:07 PM:

David, I sort of see what you're getting at. My church-state separation post on gay rights, for what it's worth, is posted to the open thread five minutes from now.

Teresa: I believe many things you believe. Not all of them, I don't think. But many. And you put it very well, a skill of which I am very, very envious.

#76 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:12 PM:

I think I'll spread it around.

#77 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:18 PM:

For the completely different (well not so completely, as we have already heard from Giblets)

Pope Benedict

I weep. I came (though with clarity than above) to the conclusion of point 4 when I was in my late teens. It may be what caused me to abandon thoughts of taking Jesuit Orders (girls were certainly a factor, but not so much as Ex cathedra.

I feel as Martin Luther, God help me, for I hope his tenure is short lived.

Would that JP I's had not been.

TK

#78 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:22 PM:

'It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.'

That's from the Letter on Pastoral Care, Xopher. It doesn't really seem to condone 'qeer-bashing', but maybe I've read it wrong. Granted, he still regards homosexuality as an 'intrinsically disordered' condition, but then, that's pretty much Church teaching. You might have a case against that, but it's hardly one against Benedict himself.

For what it's worth, he also never said the non-Latin mass was a tragedy - rather, he said that ditching the Latin mass in the wholesale way that was done marked a tragic breach with the tradition of the Church. He's not alone in that. Plenty of others - and not just the hard-line nutters - feel that some of the changes that followed the Second Vatican Conference were unwarranted, and that we've been throwing loads of babies out with the bathwater.

#79 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:34 PM:

Anybody else noticed how much the guy resembles Boris Karloff?

#80 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 06:58 PM:

Greg:
maybe I've read it wrong

You read it wrong. See #7.

but then, that's pretty much Church teaching

And why is it Church teaching? Could it be because guys like Ratzinger, from positions of high authority, make it Church teaching?

#81 ::: scapegoat ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:02 PM:

My impressions: Herr Starr with a mitre.

#82 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:10 PM:

I must admit, I haven't exactly been keeping track of the likely candidates. "Ratzinger" meant nothing to me. But firing up Google:

Vatican Letter Denounces 'Lethal Effects' of Feminism
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30761-2004Jul31.html
The sharp critique was contained in a document issued by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. . .

The letter argued that "the obscuring of the difference . . . of the sexes has enormous consequences," including inspiring ideologies that "call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent, in a new model of polymorphous sexuality."


http://www.consciouschoice.com/1995-98/cc116/bridginginfinite1106.html
There are those who regard Buddhism with suspicion, and even contempt. There is the example of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome, the prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the department that ensures orthodoxy is maintained. He granted an interview to the French weekly L'Express more than a year ago, and in "off the cuff" remarks, stated that Buddhism was "spiritual, mental autoeroticism," or mental masturbation! He went on to quote an unnamed writer who had said in the 1950s that Buddhism would be the undoing of the Catholic church. Vatican officials are not in the habit of making such "off the cuff" statements unless they are calculated for publication.


I believe that latter marks a world record for largest number of people simultaneously called "wankers" by a major international religious leader.

#83 ::: rhc ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:13 PM:

Hey, Rattie kicked out Hans Kung after Kung had mentored him. How Christian is that?

#84 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:16 PM:

Er, right. Here's section seven of that letter, just plucking out the less charitable bits: It is only in the marital relationship that the use of the sexual faculty can be morally good. A person engaging in homosexual behaviour therefore acts immorally... essentially self-indulgent... moral disorder... acting contrary to the creative wisdom of God'

Now, you might well call that homophobic. Maybe it is, though it calls homosexuals people to follow exactly the same set of rules as heterosexual ones.* But there's nothing there to condone 'queer-bashing'. Nothing at all.

As for why it's Church teaching? I don't fully know. Partly for scriptural reasons I guess, partly because theologians through the ages have considered it, and partly simply being what we (rightly) call homophobic attitudes have historically been the views and attitudes of ordinary people - prejudices that predate Christianity, for what it's worth.

The Church hasn't yet fully grappled with our conviction that homosexual is what some people are. It still tends to think that homosexual acts are what people do. It's getting there - Ratzinger's letter is evidence of that - but it's a slow process.

And if it's any consolation, the likes of Arinze, who the media were falling over themselves to lionise as 'the first black pope', is rather less charitable on this matter than Ratzinger has ever been. Now he is a hardliner.

;)
_________________________________________________
*The difference is that heterosexual people can get married, which the Church sees as part of God's plan. Whether homosexual marriages ought to be permitted is a separate issue. Maybe it's one for another day, I dunno.

#85 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:45 PM:

The Catholic Church doesn't claim that the Pope is infallible in all things, only when speaking ex cathedra. The vast minority of Catholic teaching is considered infallible dogma.

It was Ratzinger that convinced JPII not to add the ban on contraception to dogma, actually. (And 75% of American Catholics breath a sigh of relief.)

#86 ::: Jimcat ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:50 PM:

Ratzinger. If Catholics were allowed to say "Oy vey", that would be my reaction. So much for any hope that the new Pope would move the Church into the 21st century.

At least those Catholics who admired John Paul II for his more progressive stances, but regretted his medieval views on other issues, will probably be able to dispense with the mixed feelings.

It's early to be making predictions, but the best thing that might come of this papcy would be for the modern-minded Catholics to make up their minds once and for all that the Pope doesn't, in fact, speak for them.

#87 ::: Dan Guy ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 07:59 PM:

Additionally, Arinze wouldn't have been the first black Pope had he gotten the nod -- just the first in 1500 years or so. I'm pretty sure one of the very early Popes was a Moor, also, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

#88 ::: Sal ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 09:05 PM:

mayakda asks, I wonder why he chose Benedict? Is it to honor St Benedict or Pope Benedict XV?
Is it a name he picked out years ago?

I checked out Ratzinger and Benedict first thing when I heard the name he'd chosen and found this, a Ratzinger chat with Peter Seewald, a German journalist (19 Apr 1997):

Religion in modern society is tolerated, but merely as a subjective experience. But he [Ratzinger] reminds his interlocutor how St Benedict, too, was an outsider in Roman society, yet what he created "proved to be an ark of survival for Western civilisation".

Perhaps Ratzinger fancies himself an outsider in modern society fighting to preserve Western civ. and the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps even then he'd been considering what papal name he'd choose, given the opportunity.

#89 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 09:41 PM:

Teresa, I would agree about point 4, if I thought you weren't mistaken in your notion of papal infallibility.

The doctrine, which was always assumed in the eastern church, by the way, to be true of the corpus of bishops as a whole, merely states that when speaking on matters of faith and morals, he will be protected from teaching error. Protected from teaching error--not protected from being a vain, greedy or even stupid man.

What many people think the doctrine has to do with a pope's alleged personal faultlessness or impeccability truly beats me. But if it was ever defined the way you assume, I'd agree with you, too.

#90 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:03 PM:

John Farrell and Dan Guy: I don't understand why it's supposed to be a comfort if the Pope is only infallible a small percentage of the time (and only when he says he is), or if he's "merely" protected from teaching error on matters of faith and morals instead of from doing error. (And how many Roman Catholics would agree that the Pope's behavior was not supposed to be a teaching example in itself? "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't even work for ordinary parents, much less major religious figures.) Leaving aside personal foibles and teaching by example, I still don't think a quick survey of the past Popes would show that they had never taught error on matters of faith and morals. And their moral agency is still of great importance when it comes to teaching faith and morals. Possibly of greater importance. I don't see how the objections our hostess listed to infallibility only apply to vanity, greed, stupidity, or other personal faults.

(I'm a wild-eyed schismatic myself, so naturally that would color my views of whether the Popes screwed things up. But I think they've clearly varied teaching on faith and moral issues over the last two thousand years.)

#91 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:13 PM:

just plucking out the less charitable bits:

Awww, you miss out on the rolling thunder of tonsure to toenail condemnation when you do that.

Maybe it is, though it calls homosexuals people to follow exactly the same set of rules as heterosexual ones.

No, it doesn't. A comparable set of rules for heterosexuals would require they renounce all romantic relationships forever, as evidence of self-indulgent disorder and evil. In my neighbourhood, we call this "queer-bashing".

It's on the order of saying red can be just as worthy a colour as blue, so long as red becomes blue. It's nonsense.

#92 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:17 PM:

It seems as though there's a disagreement as to whether "bash" is to be understood metaphorically or literally.

#93 ::: A very angry Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:18 PM:

I had in mind this section: But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

Emphasis mine. "Don't be surprised when they beat you up, because you're a worthless criminal." That's tantamount to excusing (i.e. condoning) the "irrational and violent reactions," while seeming - to the gullible - to be deploring them. The emphasized portion is designed to convey the message that homosexual behavior is outside the realm of conceivable rights -- therefore a fitting target for retribution. Hypocrisy in its purest form. The man's a scumbag, pure and simple.

But you also say ...it calls homosexual people to follow exactly the same set of rules as heterosexual ones.* And your asterisk is The difference is that heterosexual people can get married, which the Church sees as part of God's plan. Whether homosexual marriages ought to be permitted is a separate issue.

It's NOT A FUCKING SEPARATE ISSUE, GODDAM IT. How can you sit there and type that? If I single you out for not being allowed to have silverware, and then label you a sinner for eating with your fingers, can we call those separate issues? If I say anyone who menstruates shall be put to death, would you claim that that's exactly the same rule for men as it is for women?

Namecalling is forbidden under the rules, but when I see disingenuous bullshit like this written by an otherwise intelligent-seeming person, it's very hard for me to refrain. In the interest of maintaining civility, I'll stop here and sign off for the night.

#94 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton, only really angry) ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 10:20 PM:

OK, one more: thanks, pericat. And David Moles, no, actually I meant it literally. I think the Ratz Bastard thinks it's OK to beat up faggots, and he tried to force that idea into the encyclical while seeming to deplore it.

#95 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 11:07 PM:

"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor the right of sleeping under bridges." I have the sense that Ratzinger is one of these people Alice Miller wrote about; maybe an abuse survivor himself. We are not going to see sense out of him on homosexuality, it seems plain.

On the other hand, I may have spoken too soon, in comparing him to W. Bush. He is, at least, truly educated and has expressed a more moderate opinion on priestly celibacy. He has after all been working as something like the Church's Attorney General; his personality may have some compassionate aspects which weren't apparent in his previous position.

All these celibate men. How much true intimacy has he had in his life, I wonder? If the answer is "little", I fear for the Church.

#96 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 11:22 PM:

Yeah, uh, that bit about "civil legislation...to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right" being the cause of violence against gays... that's a bit over the top there, Josef Cardinal Ratbastard. I know theocracy sounds like a great idea to you, but the rest of the world is on the road (long though it may be) to getting fed up with your type. The best thing that could happen to liberal Catholicism (given the extremely unfortunate circumstances) is for you to keep shooting your mouth off with crap like that. Most people are better at being people than you are. I hope you learn that lesson someday, even if it's the last thing you ever learn.

(Note to self: you're not really sure you believe all of what you just said, are you? About "most people"?)

(Note to note to self: no, I'm not sure, but saying it gets me through the night.)

#97 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2005, 11:36 PM:

On the subject of Pope Palpatine I:

Fandoms: The Catholic Church/Star Wars
Pairings: None, otherwise this would be even WRONGER.
Summary: Now that Pope Palpatine I has been elected, he reveals that there is a Chosen One who has been born to a virgin mother. This Chosen One, of course, is the Antichrist, but he is hailed as the Second Coming. Palpatine keeps a close eye on the boy, shaping him to his will, until finally unleashing him to kill all those who disagree with the Church. A bloody civil war and Rebellion follow, until the love of God moves the Antichrist to kill his evil master and be redeemed.

#98 ::: Neal ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 12:36 AM:

I'm not seeing much sense here. I'm seeing some ignorance about the Church that I find distressing. The Church does not "hate" anybody. Homosexuality is a disorder. The Catholic belief about the sanctity of life does not allow for sexual behavior that is not procreative. Homosexuals are not to be treated with hate, but with love. Love (as in charity) demands correction for sin. This is a hard saying, and not many will accept it. The Church will ultimately be better off without those who would destroy it from within.

#99 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:09 AM:

"Love (as in charity) demands correction for sin."

Wow. Abuser-speak: I love you, therefore I punish you.

"Judge not, lest you be judged.

"I say unto you, that every one that is lightly angry with his brother shall be subject to the judgment

"For if ye forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father also will forgive you [yours], but if ye do not forgive men their offences, neither will your Father forgive your offences

"For if ye should love those who love you, what reward have ye? Do not also the tax-gatherers the same?"

And if you start quoting the Torah I will ask why it is you do not humbly seek teaching from the Jews.

#100 ::: Dori ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:14 AM:

Oh my... A drive-by sermon from someone who calls himself "toledo_jesus".

I'm not seeing much sense here.

And that's the only thing you said about which most of the folks here will agree.

#101 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:14 AM:

There is no reason to think that there are any dark secrets held by Pope Benedict XVI.

You have a misunderstanding of papal infallibility.

1. It was dogma since the beginning of the Church, but until recently, there was no great reason to define it.

2. The pope is infallible in his teaching authority, when speaking ex cathedra, on faith or morals. This does not mean that he is impeccable. He can sin and certainly does. John Paul the Great went to Confession weekly. Is this the action of a man who thinks he cannot sin?

3. Papal infallibility was defined by ecumenical council, not by a papal statement.

4. Again, the pope still has his moral agency, regardless of his charism of infallibility.

#102 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 04:14 AM:

Guys, you are making a common error here: discussing with dittoheads. Once you put the fight on theology or "matters of doctrine", you lose: because once you admit the existence of the "Catholic God", you have to accept the fact that Catholic doctrine is pretty well clear on a number of issues. You can discuss over cataloguing homosexuality as sin or simple illness as much as you want, but for the Catholic Church It-Won't-Ever-Be-A-Normal-Condition, so please stop arguing about that. It's pointless. Everyone, even his enemies, can recognize Ratzinger as an extremely intelligent and educated man; and if he says that the book says this and this, taken to the letter, he's right.

I do invite everyone that cannot put up with catholicism to stay well away from the Catholic Church. After all, many good things went in the world with Martin Luther and that "bloody heretic" St.Francis (he was, in life, extremely despised and marginalised by the Church after all). Don't try to reconcile your views with a bureaucracy, there's no point.

#103 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 04:40 AM:

Boggle boggle boggle boggle boggle boggle... or maybe not so boggling...


http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1113877273080

"Apr. 19, 2005 19:12 | Updated Apr. 20, 2005 4:34
"New pope hailed for strong Jewish ties
"By DAVID BRINN AND NEWS AGENCIES

[excerpt]

"In one indication of his respect for Judaism, Ratzinger authorized in 2002 the publication of a report that stated that "the Jewish messianic wait is not in vain." That document also expressed regret that certain passages in the Christian Bible condemning individual Jews have been used to justify anti-Semitism.

"The 210-page document, titled "The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible," says Jews and Christians share their wait for the Messiah, although Jews are waiting for the first coming and Christians for the second."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1113877274646&p=1078113566627

"Apr. 20, 2005 0:49 | Updated Apr. 20, 2005 10:41
"Analysis: Growing into role of Benedict
"By BY LISA PALMIERI-BILLIG

"ROME

"Pope Benedict XVI, or Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the media continue to refer to him, is no stranger to Israel or to the Catholic Church's present commitment to serious, respectful dialogue with Judaism...."

==============================

The boggling is that Pope Benedict in his past life as Cardinal Ratzinger seems to have accorded Jews a much higher degree of respect and cordiality that he was extending to non-Roman Catholic Christian branches. The non-boggle was a consequent thought/analysis, regarding Outsider status sometimes being one that provides one a distance that makes for less contention and strife and ill-will and disagreement.

But on the other hand, Cardinal Ratzinger went on the attack against those outside of religions that claim Abraham as an ultimate Patriarch. That brings me back to boggling again.

I am now full of mixed feelings!

#104 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 05:56 AM:

Giacomo writes:

Once you put the fight on theology or "matters of doctrine", you lose: because once you admit the existence of the "Catholic God", you have to accept the fact that Catholic doctrine is pretty well clear on a number of issues.

Everyone who took part in the Second Vatican Council agreed on the existence of the "Catholic God", yet there was much debate about doctrine and quite a lot of change came about as a result.

#105 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 08:02 AM:

Neal --

The problem with 'sex only for procreation', aside from the impossibility of supporting it from scripture -- check out the Old Testament bits of law about why it is good to marry young -- is that Catholic teaching accepts evolution.

It is very, very clear that human evolution includes sex-for-social purposes. (We are, for instance, ridiculously infertile for a large mammal, considered in terms of the typical number of sex acts required per pregnancy.)

Throw in that all of this focus on procreation and the control of reproductive tech ties in with the possibilities of social change brought on by industrialization, rather than being long term doctrine, and the whole thing starts to look an awful lot like the well-rationalized change aversion of the old and powerful.

An ability to glory in the diversity of creation would better recommend the piety of the Princes of the Church than any amount of padding the chains of former necessity with doctrine.

#106 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 08:27 AM:

If a Pope, speaking ex cathedra, were to say that the use of contraceptives is a deadly sin, he would be speaking from his teaching authority on a matter of morals, and this would be infallibly correct, no?

Very well. What would happen if the next Pope, shocked to his back teeth by the results, were to say, ex cathedra etc, that his learned predecessor, blessed be his name, was blowing smoke?

Which one would be the more infallible, do you suppose? And are all Cretans liars? Wait a second, I'll ask one....

#107 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 08:36 AM:

Strict adherence to the procreative-only sex theory would mean that infertile couples (whether through illness, age or systemic dysfunction) would have no right to valid marriages in the Church.

Call it the trophy wives' charter.

#108 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 08:44 AM:

Okay, so the pope is only infallible when speaking ex cathedra. That in no way refutes Teresa's argument #4. He's "only" protected from teaching wrongly as concerns morals and values? That's more than any of the rest of us get.

#109 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 08:52 AM:

Graydon's right. In fact, didn't Pope Pius XII (of all people) in one of his later letters state that it was perfectly legitimate for Catholic couples to exploit the woman's infertile periods for sex without procreation?

#110 ::: Matt McIrvin ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 09:17 AM:

Very well. What would happen if the next Pope, shocked to his back teeth by the results, were to say, ex cathedra etc, that his learned predecessor, blessed be his name, was blowing smoke?

Obviously, the absolute and unalterable rules of morality would have changed just then, just like in Protestant Apocalyptic Dispensationalism. Roll out the Jenkins and LaHaye!

#111 ::: TJIC ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 09:17 AM:

I wouldn't expect a non-Catholic to beleive in papal infallibility, and I'm certainly not going to try to convince anyone to beleive in it.

I'm a Catholic, but I acknowledge that this stance rests on faith, not on logic - the most logical stance is agnosticism, and in the case of papal infallibility, the most logical stance is to disbeleive it (Occam's razor).

That being said, there are a few issues in your enumerated thinking above:


1. If that were true, surely someone would have noticed it earlier than 1870.

Church doctrines, like many laws, only become explicitly issued when there is a challenge to the preceding implicit consensus acceptance of the attitude/behavior/etc.

I was a history major, and one can find - for example - tons of Roman laws that did not encode new practices, but merely encoded old practices that were starting to be abandoned (one minor example: at one point soldiers were banned from having wives living in the barricks with them. This was not a new stance - it was a regulation codifying old practice, in response to flagrant violation).


2. When you look at the history of the Papacy, “infallible” is neither the first nor the twentieth adjective most likely to occur to you.

Infallible has a very specific meaning. Lots of dumb stuff (pronouncements on astronomy, etc.) did not meet the standards for Papal infallibility. The Pope can express his opinion of icrecream flavors, life on Mars, wether the square root of 9 is 3 or not, or whether the EU should have new standards for what time convenience stores close at night, and none of these are covered under the concept of infallibility.

Check out wikipedia.



4. Shall the Pope, alone of all God’s children, be stripped of his moral agency? That seems very wrong. Yet moral agency necessarily implies the ability to screw up.

The pope is not impeccable; merely infallible. He can rob a liquor store, keep concubines, or side with the RIAA in a legal case.

The pope absolutely has the ability to sin.

I suppose, to keep within the domains of your moral agency argument, I would agree that the Pope does not have the ability to commit one particular sin: he does not have the ability to teach a doctrine of faith or morals that he knows to be wrong.

However, that does not necessarilly mean that he lacks moral agency. One alternative explanation (plucked out of air just now) is that God is holding a deadman's switch that strikes the Pope dumb or dead. Thus, the pope can still sin in this area through intention, but he can not actually issue a false doctrine of faith.

#112 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 09:36 AM:

I acknowledge that this stance rests on faith, not on logic

Interesting discussion, TJIC. But I propose that the stance rests neither on logic (rather obviously) nor on faith, but rather on creative misuse of the faculty of language.

It's not that the pope infallible in the sense of actually being infallible. It's that infallibility is now redefined to describe something new, an aspect of popeness. He is, therefore he is this new form of "infallible".

It is, sadly, what happens whenever people from outside a religious group get into the discussion of premises with the people inside it. It's the same way that people can identify both as "uncompromisingly pro-life" AND "for the death penalty", or the way that the word "love" is used by evangelists in order to justify some things that really don't look very loving.

I believe it extends beyond what we normally see as religion, too: try having a discussion with a Zionist that tries to define the words "without" and "people" (in the phrase "a land without a people for a people without a land", an early Zionist slogan which ignored the people who were actually in the Turkish county of Palestine in the early years of the 20th century). Try challenging any right-wing American what the words "for all" mean in the pledge of allegiance (and most lefties get pretty tangled up, as well...)

Thing is, muddy thinking by people hopelessly confounded by faith tends to be wielded by people with far more political power than logical facility, which makes for scary times.

#113 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 09:44 AM:

I do invite everyone that cannot put up with catholicism to stay well away from the Catholic Church.

Well, I don't agree with that at all. People close to me, who are Catholic, who think the Church is wrongheaded about things, are very disappointed today--because they had hoped for a forward-looking choice that would lead to a greater role for compassion and tolerance in the Church.

For me, even if I didn't think it was of value to try to change Church doctrine for the good of the Church, I feel quite free to criticize the Vatican as a political actor. So long as the Catholic Church chooses to swing its big doctrine all over the world political stage, I'm going to feel free to argue with it, not only to change its collective mind, but also to change the minds of those who would be swayed by it to enact bad policy or fail to enact necessary reforms.

(No, no midnight livejournal for me. I fell asleep post hockey game).

#114 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 09:51 AM:

Raphael writes:

John Paul the Great...

Being a bit hasty in our judgment, are we not? Or did someone appoint you the Muse of History while no one was looking?

Dave Luckett writes:

What would happen if the next Pope, shocked to his back teeth by the results, were to say, ex cathedra etc, that his learned predecessor, blessed be his name, was blowing smoke?

SYNTAX ERROR

More specifically, the second Pope's pronouncement would not be infallible "were a pope to become a public heretic, i.e., were he publicly and officially to teach some doctrine clearly opposed to what has been defined as de fide catholicâ. ... by becoming a public heretic, the pope would ipso facto cease to be pope."

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia article: Infallibility

#115 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:41 AM:

Neal de Toledo, are you a troll, or are those your true beliefs? If the latter, come back and discuss them in a civil fashion. If the former, we have a quaint local custom that should take care of the problem.

Giacomo, there's no Catholic God. There's God, who is bigger than we can wrap our heads around, and there's the Catholic church, which properly is a means not an end. If you're a Catholic, I apologize for explaining this to you. If you're not, then trust me, there's a lot more wiggle room in church teachings than you might think.

Are you sure that homosexuality will never be regarded as a normal condition? Because there's evidence that suggests that it may once have been.

I don't know whether you've read any older comment threads in Making Light, but please don't worry that this one will collapse into reductive stupidity. For reassurance on that point, try reading this thread.

#116 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:42 AM:

I think the Pope's infallibity is simply a way to emphasize that the doctrinal buck stops there. The bishops can argue all they want, but the Pope has the final say. It's just a lame-ass way to try to head off more schism.

Personally, I think the best way I can deal with Pope Benedict XI is to use my version of rendering unto Caesar. If there are actions he does that I agree with, I will applaud. I am hopeful that we will agree on the evils of poverty, war, and social injustice. On things we disagree with, I will assert my views.

I do agree with him that the Church must be a moral compass in the world. My only problem is that I think his moral compass is skewed. *sigh*

#117 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:43 AM:

Pope Benedict XI
Pope Benedict XVI.
damn.

#118 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:47 AM:

Interesting combination of fierce doctrinal debate, pure anguish, and silliness in this thread. (So much so soon!) As a non-Catholic who thinks Things Have Just Gotten Even Worse (again), I opt for silliness -- for now. Since the first announcements said the new Benedict was Austrian, this household immediately thought of California's current governor. Put their first names together, and what do you get? Fodder for a new paranoid conspiracy theory.

#119 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:01 AM:

I am so sorry that I missed the "dubiousness of saints" thread. I love the Golden Legend. Example: the long story of the life of Judas, which recounts among other things how he killed his father and married his mother.

#120 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:04 AM:

From the new Pope's mentor, whom said Pope inquisitioned, silenced:

The Result of the Papal Election
by
Hans Küng

#121 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:15 AM:

THN said: Are you sure that homosexuality will never be regarded as a normal condition? Because there's evidence that suggests that it may once have been.

I think in many regards it will be, given time. The trick is that the Church is huge, and old, and moves, frankly, at a snail's pace. Try to turn it too quickly and it'll snap. And I doubt there are many within - or potentially within - the Church who are looking forward to a schism. It still hasn't recovered from the last batch of serious ones!

Frankly, it has come on a lot. Until very very recently - the seventies, I think, but I might be wrong - it didn't even see homosexuality as a condition, let alone a normal one! It just took the view that some people got their kicks from buggery. (Can I say that? I'm being a bit sarky, so probably. If not, feel free to disemvowel.)

That's pretty much the standard view through history, really. The Greeks, for example, didn't classify sexualities as homosexual, heterosexual, or whatever. Rather, they thought in terms of active and passive sexual roles. Active roles were generally okay - though not always, as men who obviously were interested only in boys were regarded with some suspicion. Passive roles tended to be looked down on - women, obviously, barely passed the Greek test of humanity, while men we'd recognise as homosexual were seen as weak and effiminate, and were generally objects of scorn.

It was pretty much against that sort of background that biblical comments about homosexuality need to be read. They're not talking about homosexuality as a condition - they're talking specifically about homosexual acts.

Whether such acts should be frowned on as valid expressions of a normal loving sexuality isn't even considered, and that's something that theologians and the likes of Benedict are having to grapple with. It's a slow process, but I think they'll get there.

#122 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:16 AM:

In re whether current Catholic doctrine involves hating homosexuals: I can believe that some people believe and promulgate the doctrine without feeling or even having the emotion of hatred.

However, when you spread misery for no particular reason and when you are impervious to noticing the effects of your actions, it might as well be hatred.

#123 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:31 AM:

It's a bit strong to claim that Küng was any sort of mentor to Ratzinger, for what it's worth. Yes, he did ensure him a job in Tübingen in 1966, but I'd be surprised if Ratzinger wouldn't have got it anyway. He was already something of an up-and-coming theological superstar at the time, having been one of the architects of the Second Vatican Council, along with Küng, Rahner, Metz, Von Balthasar, Congar, and a few others.

Further, himself and Küng are thought to have often disagreed during their brief time in Tübingen together - Ratzinger left in 1969, to go to Regensburg.

Mind you, though Küng can hardly be seriously regarded as a mentor to Ratzinger, that doesn't mean that his points aren't valid, at least on this. Basically all he's saying is that we should wait a bit, and see...

#124 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:40 AM:

... trust me, there's a lot more wiggle room in church teachings than you might think.

Amen, Teresa.

#125 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 12:12 PM:

I'm not seeing much sense here. I'm seeing some ignorance about the Church that I find distressing. The Church does not "hate" anybody. -- Neal

Just because they've given up on the rack and the anal pear, doesn't mean the Catholic Church is all flowers and handshakes. There's more than one way to skin a cat, or a heretic, and if anyone knows this, it's the new Pope, who until yesterday, was also the Grande Inquisitor.

#126 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Giacomo, what you're overlooking is that several of the regulars on this board are also intelligent, educated Catholics. (I'm not Catholic at all, but, among others, our host is.)

#127 ::: Simstim ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 12:48 PM:

Surely the slightly more workable version of 3 is:

Pope: I fully invoke the doctrine of infallibility to say that I am fallible.

#128 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:00 PM:

Neal, the Church as such doesn't hate anybody. It also, as such, doesn't love anybody. Megabureaucracies, even religious ones, are not actually capable of feelings of any kind. It may "want" to get bigger, but only in the sense that e.g. information "wants" to be free, or gas "wants" to expand to fill the available space.

Pope Rat, on the other hand, hates gays. As in, thinks I should be beaten up by gangs of homophobic thugs until I either die or "change my ways."

My bottom line on the Ratz Bastard? I've hated him for 20 years, and I see no reason to stop just because he's Pope. And so far he seems to be proving to be just as much of a hypocrite as J2P2 before him.

#129 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:03 PM:

Simstim:

Nice try, but that's again a heresy which automatically disqualifies itself.

I tried stuff like that back when I was in Catholic high school. It's a fun game to play, but remember that the Church has several centuries of headstart on us in logic tricks.

#130 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 01:23 PM:

Whether such acts should be frowned on as valid expressions of a normal loving sexuality isn't even considered, and that's something that theologians and the likes of Benedict are having to grapple with. It's a slow process, but I think they'll get there.

While this is an example of what I meant by "otherwise intelligent-seeming," it's also IMO unfounded optimism.

The Pope appoints the Cardinals and the Cardinals appoint the Pope; the last Pope took full advantage of this, stacking the CoC with conservatives. That kind of closed loop tends to lead to stagnation, not progress.

And Ratty will never come around; he has a deepseated personal loathing for homosexuality, from what source I know not; from what I've seen, he's a nasty vindictive man, filled to his mitre with rage and hatred. I predict he'll stack the deck as much as he can to ensure that his legacy endures far beyond his (hopefully brief) papacy.

The only hope in my view is that the church will eventually realize that it cannot supply an even marginal number of priests without letting them marry, or even allowing women (the Morris Dance effect), and that its stands on birthcontrol and homosexuality alienate even people who want lots of kids and aren't gay, and produce hostility among non-Catholics (like me).

In other words, it's about market share, just as it is with any other huge multinational corporation. Heart? HAH, it has none. When the bottom line starts to suffer, they take notice.

#131 ::: Christy ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 02:15 PM:

In high school, I took my U.S. History course in a very small class setting. My teacher was a woman who was getting her Ph.D. studying the politics of the early Catholic church and was more than happy to lecture us on her specialty once we'd handed in our essays on states rights vs. slavery. I didn't learn a lot of U.S. History in that course, but one day we got to talking about Papal Infallibility. She claimed the doctrine was originally expounded upon by some enemy of the church who reasoned (incorrectly) that there were a finite number of things in this world the Pope could speak on and that eventually, all things a Pope had a right to speak on would be set in permanent doctrine.

I don't remember what his aim was. Was he trying to save the church from Bad Popes, essentially hemming them in with other Pope's infallible teachings so that they dare not speak themselves? Or was he hoping to show the people just how pointless it was to have a Pope, turning it into an empy ceremonial role that people could easily ignore?

Whatever it was, it didn't work. You'd need some mighty powerful judo to flip the Catholic Church farther than the Pope can spit in the wind. Even my mother, the former nun, finally gave up trying to change the church from within. I think she hangs out with the Unitarians now.

On a side note, the most ardent Catholic I've ever met was in a 20 year homosexual relationship. When he died, his lover was right there in the family pew during the service and was the first to speak. Whatever the official doctrine, individual churches still seem willing to preach tolerance and love by their actions.

#132 ::: Maureen ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 02:16 PM:

You know, this has been a highly disillusioning year for me. Again and again, I see people in fandom whom I thought I could respect, talking about things that I love and respect, and can I respect what they say? No. They are too busy talking out of their...prejudices...instead of using their brains.

For example, it wouldn't even occur to me to go flinging around arguments about the inner workings of, say, Anglicanism, without being absolutely sure of my definitions. Yet at the very top of the thread we see an argument about papal infallibility that doesn't even seem aware of the definition of that doctrine. I fully expected someone three posts down to observe this little error, especially in a forum frequented by a professional editor. (When was the first correction, fifty or a hundred posts down?)

I certainly don't expect people to agree with me. I do expect them to hold reasoned opinions and make reasonable statements, particularly in expressing opinions which could reasonably hurt and offend. But clearly, I am not the intended audience. Catholics like myself, or even people with no particular bad opinion of the new pope, obviously don't read your blog...or go to cons, or read books.

On the bright side, with all the folks who've expressed themselves in unforgettably ugly ways right in front of my eyes this year, my list of authors I must buy has been greatly reduced, with good results for my budget.

#134 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Here is G.B. Shaw of all people defending infallibility as, if not true, at least internally consistent:

It is therefore by no means impossible for a person to be excommunicated as a heretic, and on further consideration canonized as a saint. Excommunication by a provincial ecclesiastical court is not one of the acts for which the Church claims infallibility. Perhaps I had better inform my Protestant readers that the famous Dogma of Papal Infallibility is by far the most modest pretension of the kind in existence. Compared with our infallible democracies, our infallible medical councils, our infallible astronomers, our infallible judges, and our infallible parliaments, the Pope is on his knees in the dust confessing his ignorance before the throne of God, asking only that as to certain historical matters on which he has clearly more sources of information open to him than anyone else his decision shall be taken as final. The Church may, and perhaps some day will, canonize Galileo without compromising such infallibility as it claims for the Pope, if not without compromising the infallibility claimed for the Book of Joshua by simple souls whose rational faith in more important things has become bound up with a quite irrational faith in the chronicle of Joshua's campaigns as a treatise on physics. Therefore the Church will probably not canonize Galileo yet awhile, though it might do worse. But it has been able to canonize Joan without any compromise at all. [From Saint Joan, of course. Emphasis mine.]

#135 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 02:43 PM:

Yet at the very top of the thread we see an argument about papal infallibility that doesn't even seem aware of the definition of that doctrine. I fully expected someone three posts down to observe this little error, especially in a forum frequented by a professional editor.

You must not have read this thread yesterday, then. Infallibility didn't come up as a topic until the day after the post was first published, iirc. Teresa's original post only had one line on it.

For example, it wouldn't even occur to me to go flinging around arguments about the inner workings of, say, Anglicanism, without being absolutely sure of my definitions.

In a debate, maybe, but in an open forum, I like to ask the stupid questions. I find it better to risk looking uninformed and get an answer, than to be silent and remain ignorant.

#136 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 02:44 PM:

Strict adherence to the procreative-only sex theory would mean that infertile couples (whether through illness, age or systemic dysfunction) would have no right to valid marriages in the Church.

Not really: as long as you sincerely hope for a miracle.

Actually, my problem with the Catholic Church is not Papal infallibility. This probably comes from being an Italian: we don't take that sort of stuff seriously, having had the Papal See on our doorstep for two thousand years (minus a bit) and having seen quite a lot of things.

Right now, my problem with the Catholic Church is its lack of charity. Of love, in other words. The lower ranks of the Church are full of people who know charity; priests who counsel and comfort gays, who tell young couples "if you had premarital sex you sinned, but if you did it without a condom you were criminally stupid too"; who can be friends with atheists and love and respect them (my parents, lifelong atheists, had several good priest friends). They probably think they're going to hell, but I'm sure they're praying for God, in His infinite wisdom, to save the feckless unbelievers.

But the higher hierarchy had better not find any of this out, because if they do, it's gonna be stern warnings and eventually suspension a divinis.

As an atheist, my problem with the Church is that it does not recognize me any right to speak on matters of moral. It does not even recognize that I might _have_ a moral standing.

(There are exceptions, of course: the great rival of Ratzinger at the Conclave, Carlo Maria Martini, organized a series of meetings with non-believers to confront and discuss each other's concerns, ideas and passions. He would have made a truly great Pope.)

#137 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 03:16 PM:

Maureen, are you aware that Teresa, and more than a few of the people who posted, are Catholic?

Moreover, as I have argued, several people who have taken her to task for her stand on papal infallibility don't seem to be clear on what she's actually saying. They just assume she's not Catholic and doesn't get it.

#138 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 03:28 PM:

Anna wrote:

As an atheist, my problem with the Church is that it does not recognize me any right to speak on matters of moral. It does not even recognize that I might _have_ a moral standing.

I'm an atheist too, but I don't have any problem with the church not recognizing my right to speak on matters of morality. From the point of view of a religion, morality is the code of conduct decreed by that religion. From the point of view of someone who is not part of a religion, morality is that person's personal code of conduct.

There's a really good discussion of the meanings of morality here. The church view of morality is the one in 1a of that definition. The typical atheist's is the one in 1b.

No group operating under a societal code of conduct really is likely to have much interest in feedback on that code from people from outside the group. As an atheist, no code of morality that has as its basis a belief in a supreme being that I don't think exists holds much sway for me, either.

(That page also has a second definition of morality: "normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons." I don't think morality in our society has really reached that level of rationality.)

We live in a society where various groups have their specific moral codes, and where some individuals are outside of any of those codes. So long as the groups understand that their codes of conduct only apply to people within their group, things work pretty smoothly. It is attempts to impose extra-group applications of group morality that cause friction.

I don't expect the Catholic Church or any other religious group to give a damn what I think about morality. Why should I have a say in their internal code of conduct? Why should they have a say in mine?

#139 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 03:49 PM:

S Dawson and GB Shaw, what sources of information did Pius XII clearly have about Mary's bodily assumption into Heaven that weren't available to, say, scholars and archaeologists who weren't Pope?

It couldn't be God. There's plenty of people who get told stuff by God. Some of them try to tell the rest of us about it, on streetcorners or the subway. Can't swing a thurible some days without knocking over one of God's mail relays.

#140 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 03:50 PM:

Why do I suspect that the church would not give equal sanction to a loving marriage between two women who sincerely hoped that, through a miracle, one of them would conceive a child?

As a humanist, I think any human may have insight into matters of ethics. But I do not think that that person's insights deserve extra attention because he or she has a title before, or letters after, their name, whether that title is "M.D." or "Cardinal."

That's just equality, equal treatment, and equal protection: if they don't want us nonbelievers commenting on their teachings, they shouldn't be commenting on ours, or trying to influence our behavior. But that's not a standard that many religious organizations or leaders would accept: nonbelievers are expected to defer, but not be granted deference in return.

#141 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 04:01 PM:

A comment on the selection of the name Benedict. The last Benedict (XV) has been most cited recently as a notable pacifist and humanitarian during WWI. However, he was also a strong administrator, who supported the first codification of Canon Law (1917), and moved the church's administration structure into a modern bureaucratic form.

Given that the late JPII was critcized for being a weak administrator, and that Ratzinger has spent the past two decades being a strong one, I'm taking the choice of his name as a reflection on the desire to reconstruct the administration of the Catholic Church. It probably is needed, but since administrative structures tend to be slow to change (the whole point of bureaucracies) whatever happens under Benedict XVI will probably then have lasting structural effects.

#142 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 04:08 PM:

I don't expect the Catholic Church or any other religious group to give a damn what I think about morality. Why should I have a say in their internal code of conduct? Why should they have a say in mine?

Because, from their point of view, we are all children of God; and from my point of view, we are all human and we are all acting together in this world.

Catholics and me share the belief that morality is something that has to do with beahaviour in a community, not exclusively your own. As a matter of fact, apart from a lack of belief in a supernatural entity or permanence of indentity after Death, me and the Catholic Church have lots of ideas in common. One is that there should be solidarity and mutual help - even loving kindness - between human beings. This is why I feel I have the right to criticize their lack of solidarity and mutual help, and I am pissed off at the fact that they feel they have no duty to at least consider my opinion on the matter. I certainly do consider theirs - and often agree with it.

#143 ::: fjm ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 04:44 PM:

I don't think anyone on this list has yet mentioned Ratzinger's comments on Europe. Over and above all the arguments about papable infallibility and his theological position, this may be the most worrying thing about him.

Ratzinger has argued that the Church must "re-Christianize" Europe. He has actively opposed the entry of Turkey (on religious grounds) and wants to see a "recognition of Europe's Christian heritage" included in the planned constitution.

The snag is that some of us regard Europe's "Christian heritage" with fear, long memories, and noting the gaps in our families. The Nazis' anti-semitism came from *somewhere* and it wasn't from "moral relativism" or "secularism".

#144 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Anna wrote:

Because, from their point of view, we are all children of God; and from my point of view, we are all human and we are all acting together in this world.

I'm no child of God, and anyone who tries to interact with me based on the premise that I am is in for a rocky time. I agree that we are all human and interact in this world, but I think "act together" is sort of overstating the case.

Catholics and me share the belief that morality is something that has to do with beahaviour in a community, not exclusively your own.

Agreed. I think that is implicit on all the definitions of morality on that page I linked to.

As a matter of fact, apart from a lack of belief in a supernatural entity or permanence of identity after Death, me and the Catholic Church have lots of ideas in common.

We differ on this. I have lots of ideas, beliefs and attitudes in common with virtually any group or individual you could name. As with any individual, I have ideas (etc.) on thousands and thousands and thousands of topics. Some of these will overlap with the ideas of any other individual or group, and some won't. I doubt that I have more ideas in common with the Catholic Church than I have, for example, with the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco Fire Department, or any other randomly selected group.

One is that there should be solidarity and mutual help - even loving kindness - between human beings.

Same could be said of the Packers and the SF fire department. That doesn't make me feel that I should have any say in their moral codes.


This is why I feel I have the right to criticize their lack of solidarity and mutual help, and I am pissed off at the fact that they feel they have no duty to at least consider my opinion on the matter.

It is fair game to criticize anyone who professes to believe one thing and doesn't act accordingly. I'm not convinced that it necessarily follows that if they don't do as they preach, they should let you have a say in their belief system. I really think you have to be a member of the group to have that right. I choose not to be a member of that group, so don't expect them to pay much attention to my opinions on their beliefs.

I certainly do consider theirs - and often agree with it.

Here we disagree quite profoundly. I only pay attention to their belief system when it impinges my life, which is usually when they are trying to argue that their beliefs should govern the behaviours of the rest of society. (The most recent example is the stuff about gay marriage. As far as I'm concerned, no-one has the right to tell people whether or not they can get married. If the people who want to get married are part of the group trying to impose a moral precept, fine. That discussion is internal to the group. As soon as it gets outside of the group, I get unhappy.)

As long as I don't try to impose my beliefs on them and they don't try to impose theirs on me, things are copacetic.

#145 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 06:20 PM:

You know (since we've got a lot of angry traditionalists here) it's worth mentioning that a fair number of the Cardinals who disastrously (and, jmo, immorally) mishandled the abuse scandals in the US were loyalists of the new Pope, and that he is believed to have had a great deal to do with orchestrating the mishandling.

There's a great deal of difference between defending orthodoxy and putting forward a demand that inexcusable behavior not be questioned because men of the church were involved.

#146 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton, only really angry) ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 07:10 PM:

Didn't he also claim that it was all made up by anti-Catholic bigots?

#147 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 07:20 PM:

Did anyone here notice that we've lost two Popes this year?

http://www.eitb.com/noticia_en.pnph?id=47475

Thanks to Charles Cameron for pointing me to this.

#148 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 07:29 PM:

Tom, your link isn't going anywhere. I sob. Give me context!

#149 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 07:37 PM:

Xopher,
I think you may be thinking of a Cardinal from Nicaragua, Miguel Obando Y Bando, who indeed said some very stupid things about the whole affair being made up by the American media--an attitude even Cardinal Law tried to maintain but only in the very early years when the tip of the scandal iceberg was just beginning to show itself.

For my part, I understood from Rod Dreher at Dallas Morning News (I think?) that in fact Ratzinger wanted to deal much more quickly with the abuse scandal. At least, he tells me is encouraged by that fact about this papacy--where JPII preferred to let it fester, he thinks BXVI will take more aggressive action against abusive priests.

PS: I certainly hope I am not coming across as an angry traditionalist in this thread.

#150 ::: Aquila ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 07:47 PM:

I'm guessing this might be a version of the story Tom was linking to:


http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=81&story_id=18331&name=Spain's+self-proclaimed+'pope'+dies+at+58

Found it by Googling Spanish Pope

#151 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 07:50 PM:

It's a long time since I knew anything about Catholic theology, but I seem to remember that, pretty much as soon as the doctrine was defined at Vatican 1, theologians started wrestling with it, in effect trying to redefine it out of existence. I believe the Council declared the pope to be infallible when he (or one day she, I interpolate hopefully) speaks "to the city and the world", "ex cathedra", "on matters of faith and morals"; all three of those conditions can be defined so rigorously that the area in which the infallibility operates reduces to almost zero.

It's the kind of thinking that you have to have when working with defined dogma. One of my teachers in the religious order I belonged to in the 1960s thrilled me by saying: "I believe there is a hell, because it is a defined doctrine of the church. But I don't have to believe that God in his mercy has ever sent anybody there."

#152 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 08:03 PM:

Thank you Aquila, your eagle eyes did indeed suss it out.

#154 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 10:13 PM:

I always thought Papal Infallibility was one of those rhetorical flourishes, like the Virgin Birth or the doctrine of the 3=1 trinity, you know, something poetic that looks good in print but no one would actually try to use as a reason or justification for something in the tangible world.

But then, I also thought that the Scopes trial settled the creationism vs. evolution debate, too. Silly me.

#155 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:19 PM:

Keith--

Funny thing is, as a lapsed Catholic with many lingering Catholic tendencies, who never really could stomach infallibility (even in the narrow sense explained further above), the trinity I get. I have a terrible time explaining it, but I get it, and actually the very idea of a multiple-manifestations-in-one god(dess) appeals to my sense that none of us really know the nature of God. And it really worked out for me with the witchy thing, given the whole triple-aspect goddess idea.

#156 ::: TJIC ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:37 PM:

TNH posted.

I responded.

TNH rebutted

Non-Catholic? Try again, boyo.

OK, my mistake, sorry.

You wouldn't have nearly so much egg on your face if you'd paused to read some of my other posts, and the comment threads appurtenant thereto

Well, I've been reading your blog regularly for about 18 months. I admit that I haven't been reading all of the comment threads. I'd assumed from a lot of things that you were a non-Catholic.

Again, my mistake; sorry.

By the way, the first part of my comment, where I assumed that you weren't a Catholic, was certainly not trying to insult anyone - indeed, I was trying to be a bit self-deprecating and trying to say "yeah, the whole idea of papal infallibility doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and I don't *expect* that folks would accept it".

I thought that the part where I said "I'm a Catholic, but I acknowledge that this stance rests on faith, not on logic - the most logical stance is agnosticism, and in the case of papal infallibility, the most logical stance is to disbeleive it (Occam's razor)" was a pretty clear indicator that I was trying to play nice.

...all of which was a prelude to making some valid critiques on mistakes you made in your original post (specifically, what looked to me (and still looks to me) like your confusion of "infallible" and "impeccable").

Unfortunately, expecting that of you requires that I assumes you value genuine dialogue.

No, expecting that that I read your blog might require that you've seen my name previosly in your own comment threads (in this thread, among others, although I note that my disagreement with something that you said has been removed, leaving only this ghost-of-a-ghost) , or that you've read any of the four or so pieces of email I've sent you over the last year.

Until further notice-and I'll be pleased to be surprised, but I'm not going to hold my breath-I'll assume you turned up at my weblog solely to do a pharisaical drive-by and then skedaddle.

So what's your thinking here?

I'm a dedicated reader, you made a mistake on a matter of weird doctrine, I calmly - and even a bit self-deprecatingly - pointed out "yeah, it's a weird doctrine, but it shouldn't be critized for the *particular* reason that you're criticizing it"...

...and the proper response for you is to call me "boyo", tell me that I've got "egg on my face", label my comment "a pharisaical drive-by", snear that you know "people like me" and then, having put me in a group, make broad generalizations about me and people I've never met?

It's rude.

Oh? I'm the one that's rude?

I'd been mistakenly thinking that I was trying to engage in conversation and you'd flown off the handle.

It does no one any good, aside from making you feel swell

You're laboring under the (mistaken) belief that I was trying to put someone down, or build myself up. I was merely engaging in what I had - apparently mistakenly - thought was a civilized discussion of theology.

I've never had a religious discussion in my weblog that didn't attract someone like you-occasionally, two or three.

Just so I know - what exactly do you think you know about me, based on my comment pointing out that infallibility != impeccability ?

They always show up. They never engage.

I thought I had engaged. I thought that I had posted a calm note pointing out a minor confusion on your part.

I further think that the lack of engagement is on your part.

You took the time to post five paragraph to my blog, including several personal insults, and didn't once address the point of doctrine that I had brought up.

In the end, they contribute nothing to the discussion , unless it's to provide the real participants with a chew-toy of the mind. And I have to say that the tone most of them take would make Satan sound humble.

In conclusion:

1. You're not unique.

2. Please go away unless you can do better than that.

I hadn't realized that I'd said anything that argued that I was unique.

However, if this is how you treat someone who stops by to try to engage you in a bit of conversation on an interesting topic you've raised, you do make a very good argument (at least from my perspective) that I should go away.

#157 ::: TJIC ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2005, 11:42 PM:

Ahem.

In the previous comment, the words

In conclusion:

1. You're not unique.

2. Please go away unless you can do better than that.

are not italicized, making them appear as if they are me speaking to TNH.

In fact, they're TNH's words to me, and they just didn't get formatted properly above.

Oops.

#158 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:22 AM:

John, it doesn't sound very much like that to me.

TJIC:

a) You're misrepresenting your post, which was rather more condescending and dismissive than you're making it sound - not a great idea, because the folks here do follow links.

b) posting a response and waiting for an answer is conversation. Posting a response and immediately reposting it as your personal smackdown of a "knee-jerk anti-Benedict-16 rant" is posturing.

c) If in fact you are Catholic, you should know better than to claim to know another's heart, unless you also think you're God.

d) yes, in the instant situation, you are the one that's rude.

Glad I could clear that up.

#159 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:50 AM:

Speaking personally, I did not experience TJIC's posts as condescending or dismissive. The discussion interests me, and I would like to see it continued. I speak as one raised as a protestant, the son of a Presbyterian minister, who became agnostic.

#160 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:08 AM:

TJIC, thanks for reminding us you'd been disemvoweled in a previous discussion. I'm beginning to suspect that you and Teresa are attitude-incompatible.

FWIW, you lost me totally when you said "the most logical stance is agnosticism." But I don't think we really want to get into a comparison of the logic of agnosticism versus the logic of atheism here.

#161 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 02:04 AM:

I'm not sure if "the most logical stance is agnosticism," or if "the most logical stance is not agnosticism."

Can I reserve judgment on that, without taking anything on either total faith or absolute skepticism?

#162 ::: TJIC ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 02:08 AM:

julia wrote:

TJIC,

a) You're misrepresenting your post, which was rather more condescending and dismissive than you're making it sound - not a great idea, because the folks here do follow links.

Julia,

The fact that people follow links isn't a new revelation to me. That's why I posted a link to Wikipedia in my original comment, and why I posted links in my second comment - I wanted to have a fair, informed discussion.

b) posting a response and waiting for an answer is conversation. Posting a response and immediately reposting it as your personal smackdown of a "knee-jerk anti-Benedict-16 rant" is posturing.

I posted it both in the comments to Making Light and to my own blog because

1) most of my friends - including the ones I debate theology with - read, my blog, and not Making Light, and I wanted them (my primary audience) to see my comment.

2) I wanted to preserve what I'd written, as I know that TNH deletes comments


With regards to your assertion that the post in my own blog was a "smackdown", it certainly wasn't intended as such. I again assert that it was intended to be polite and self-deprecating.

The only thing that I think could be remotely interpreted as less-than-nice was the intro comment I made in my blog that TNH's post was "knee-jerk". Call me crazy, but when she started her discussion of the new Pope by passing along a joke that the Pope looked like (or was comparable to; I'm not quite sure of the intent) the Star Wars Emperor, and then listed four objections to papal infallibility, three of which misunderstand Church teaching, yes, it seemed to me that TNH was indeed being a jerking a knee and ranting.

Looking over it now, I see that the comment "it contains a bunch of misunderstandings of papal infallibility" is preceded by "not surprisingly", which could be misinterpreted to mean "I'm not surprised that TNH got this wrong", when in fact what I meant was "I am not surprised at the correlation of an anti-Benedict post being correlated with a misunderstanding of papal infallibility".

So, if TNH or anyone else took that as me saying "of *course* I expected TNH to get this wrong", that wasn't at all what I intended, and I apologize for the sloppy writing.

c) If in fact you are Catholic, you should know better than to claim to know another's heart, unless you also think you're God.

I entirely agree that claiming to know another's heart is un-Christian.

First, could you point out where in the offending Making Light comment or where in the offending post in my blog I did this?

Second, would you argue that the same standard (that claiming to know another's heart is un-Christian) applies to TNH, who (I now know) is a Catholic, and responded to a polite message containing Wikipedia footnotes by asserting that I was a Pharisee, that the reason I posted was to make myself feel better at her expense, and that people like me were less humble than Satan?

I mean...somewhere in that laundry list of allegations, I think I see at least one or two places where TNH might - maybe - be claiming to know my heart...

Next - Greg,

I'm beginning to suspect that you and Teresa are attitude-incompatible.

Yes, I think TNH and I have different worldviews. No harm in that - I'm a Catholic anarcho-capitalist and my favorite debating partners / good friends include a Jewish communitarian centrist, a gay atheist, and an anti-political green hippy.

What I don't understand is TNH deciding that because I corrected her on a point of Catholic doctrine, that she now knows for a fact that I'm a big asshole who only posted a link to Wikipedia because I wanted to make her feel bad.

I've got no problem with TNH posting a Pope joke, and declaring that Papal Infallibility is the dumbest thing she's ever heard of. I understand the tenor of this blog, and I'm not dropping in to pass out Jack Chick comics and yell at the godless pagans. I was trying to make a polite comment *in the spirit of the venue*, and I just don't understand the vehemence that TNH uncorked.

FWIW, you lost me totally when you said "the most logical stance is agnosticism." But I don't think we really want to get into a comparison of the logic of agnosticism versus the logic of atheism here.

I wasn't trying to make the point that atheism was not the first place winner in the rationalism derby, so much as I was trying to demonstrate a bit of humility by acknowledging that Catholicism isn't the first place winner either.

Anyway, we both agree that "a comparison of the logic of agnosticism versus the logic of atheism" doesn't sound like fun right now.

Dena, Dave, thanks for your comments which did me the courtesy of taking my original comment in the spirit in which it was intended.

TNH:

Care to put all the meta-debate to one side, and actually chat about the issue you originally posted about? To wit: does papal infallibility make any sense?

To get the ball rolling, I'll note that you posted four reasons why it struck you as nonsensical. I disagreed with three of them. Care to either point out why I'm wrong on one or more of my disagreements...or care to drive home the point about how you're right on the fourth?

#163 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 04:44 AM:

Keith wrote "I also thought that the Scopes trial settled the creationism vs. evolution debate"
I'm not sure what you mean by that. Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution, and the law stayed on the books. Is that what you are referring to, or that he was cleared on a technicality on appeal?

From a transcript of a PBS show on the "Monkey Trial":
www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/monkeytrial/filmmore/pt.html

Narrator: Judge Raulston charged the jury with deciding whether John Scopes had indeed violated the law -- had he taught evolution in a Tennessee classroom?
After just nine minutes of deliberation the jury declared that he had. Then the defendant himself spoke for the first time.
"Your honor," Scopes said. "I feel that I have been convicted of violating an unjust statute. I will continue in the future, as I have in the past, to oppose this law in any way I can."
...
Two years after the Monkey trial Clarence Darrow and the ACLU challenged the anti-evolution law before the Tennessee Supreme Court. For Darrow it was a mixed victory. The court overturned John Scopes' conviction on a technicality, but it allowed the Butler Law to remain on the books.

#164 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 04:46 AM:

Avram,

I'll defer to Shaw on that one. I suspect he has more sources of information than I do at the moment. Let me know if you manage to reach him.

Seriously, though, I'm not quite sure what Shaw means about the sources of information. Something to do with the traditions of the Church, probably; I strongly suspect he wasn't referring to a direct pipeline to God. I also suspect even Catholics who do believe infallibility wouldn't necessarily agree with the "more sources" thing. I was more interested in his amusing way of pointing out the very limited scope of the infallibility claimed for and by the Pope, as compared with the modern reverence for "experts."

#165 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:52 AM:

FJM said: Ratzinger has argued that the Church must "re-Christianize" Europe. He has actively opposed the entry of Turkey (on religious grounds) and wants to see a "recognition of Europe's Christian heritage" included in the planned constitution.

Just a small point, although expressed at some length. Ratzinger's objections to Turkish entry to the EU were based more on cultural and historical differences than religious ones. Sure, those differences have religious roots, but that wasn't the issue for him.

'In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent, in permanent contrast to Europe', he said, back in August last year. He's right, as it happens. In many ways Europe was formed in opposition to the Islamic world; there's something to that old saying about how there could have been no Charlemagne without Mohammed. It was the rise of the Turks in the Twelfth Century that sparked off the Crusades in a (botched, venal, futile, and corrupted) attempt to save the Byzantine Empire, and from the fifteen century on the Turks were something tangible, powerful, exotic, and 'other' on Europe's southeastern flank.

If the European Union were purely meant to be an economic project, as the British would like it to be, then yes, fair enough, Turkish entry might be a good idea. God alone knows how it could be afforded, though, since East Germany alone has largely crippled Germany, and the new ten members are already stretching the budget. Turkey will probably be the most populous European country in about fifteen years, which will make matters worse, since they'll gain more voting power than anyone else. A bank where the borrower has more say than the lender is a bank that'll soon go out of business.

But no, the Union is, in the eyes of most who have been serious about it from its earliest incarnation, far more than an economic project. It's about an ever-closer union, an attempt to give some kind of political expression to a cultural reality. Turkey is not European, and could well prove the non-European wedge that splits the whole project apart. It's already having an impact on French and Dutch attempts to sell the constitution.

I've loads of Turkish friends, and not one of them sees their country as European. 'Middle Eastern' is their term of choice. And none of them think it should be allowed join the Union. They also reckon the Union would be ill-advised to take on borders with Syria and Iraq, and don't even think their home is a proper democracy yet - though not being an expert on Turkish affairs I can't comment on that. Besides, it doesn't recognise Cyprus. It's a bit rich to want to join a club when you won't even talk to one of the members.

Sorry, a bit off-topic there, and infinitely longer than I'd intended, but my compulsory pedant syndrome kicked in...

#166 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 06:00 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post writes:
I'm not sure if "the most logical stance is agnosticism," or if "the most logical stance is not agnosticism."

I believe it is impossible to know that.

#167 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 06:23 AM:

Goedel sighting in Habeas Papam!

#169 ::: Dale ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:11 AM:

I wonder why you (the author) are so affected by the Catholic Chuch that you suspend fact finding and rational thought to create criticisms. Please tell me your day job is not as a journalist, or any in a public position that has decision making power. I've heard too many comments this week from people who have no knowledge of the Catholic Church, but because they have had something to do with it, are all of a sudden experts and able to pronounce judgement without factual basis.

#170 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:25 AM:

Dale --

You might want to google "Christian Brothers" and "abuse".

Judgements on a factual basis -- as distinct from the involved and knowledgable and affectionate basis our hostess is using -- are perhaps not what you would best prefer to invoke.

#171 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:44 AM:

Dale, what defines expertise in the Catholic Church? Is it being a member of the Curia? Is it growing up Catholic in a predominantly Catholic country, where abortion and divorce is illegal, and a Cardinal can participate in deposing the head of state? Is it growing up Muslim or indigenous pagan in a Catholic country? Is it being Catholic in a predominantly Muslim country? The One Holy Catholic and Apsotolic Church is many things to many people; to some she is beautiful and comforting, to others cruel and deaf.

#172 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:53 AM:

While I find the doctrine of papal infallibility unlikely at best, objection 3 made no sense to me.

If a Cretan tells you that all Cretans are liars, then you've got a paradox.

If a Cretan tells you that all Cretans tell you the truth, you've got an internally consistent statement, the truth of which cannot be determined without further information.

It's unlikely that all Cretans tell the truth, but not logically impossible. Ditto for the Pope.

Have I missed something in the argument?

#173 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 11:11 AM:

adamsj:

Epimenides Paradox

A version of the liar's paradox, attributed to the philosopher Epimenides in the sixth century BC. "All Cretans are liars...One of their own poets has said so." This is not a true paradox since the poet may have knowledge that at least one Cretan is, in fact, honest, and so be lying when he says that all Cretans are liars. There therefore need be no self-contradiction in what could simply be a false statement by a person who is himself a liar.

A sharper version of the paradox (which has no such loophole) is the Eubulides paradox, "This statement is false."

See also: Eubulides Paradox, Liar's Paradox, Socrates' Paradox

Tom Whitmore:

"Goedel sighting in Habeas Papam!"

Any sufficiently complex blog contains a Goedel sighting which is true, but unprovable, or false, but acts like a troll. All blogs are incomplete, but pretend to be consistent.

#174 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 11:28 AM:

adamsj -

If someone tells you they can breathe vacuum by sheer force of will, that's impossible, rather than unlikely, yes?

So while universal honesty is in principle materially possible to mortal creatures, however unlikely it may be in practice, Teresa's argument (which I find sound) is that actual infallibility -- being protected from error, guaranteed to be correct, however one wants to put it, and however narrowly one scopes the application of the ability -- is not materially possible to mortal creatures.

(My own faith would say that divine beings can't do this either.)

So while it's possible to claim that something is revealed truth by the agency of divine intercession -- leaving the ability to know Truth safely in the Godhead, where it belongs -- Papal Infallibility transfers an aspect of the Godhead to an office.

That's (properly, I think) being here regarded as theologically dubious; the (much) older idea that the congregation of the faith -- all of it, as represented by all the bishops in Christendom -- was protected from error at least has itself tied to both the entirety of the faith and an specific and effortful invocation of divine grace, it's not tied to a specific office, even if it is tied to specific conditions.

#175 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:11 PM:

What I find amusing is the assumption by those who accept Papal Infallibility, that Teresa (or myself, or any other Catholic who chokes on it) don't comprehend it's limits.

I know it's limited to a very narrow set of circumstances, but it still fails the test of logic (and yes, there is no second guessing the ineffable but still... this was written by men, and so we are on the same horns of dilemma).

Man is a fallible creature. OK... I'm with 'em so far. Man needs direction to follow the proper path. I can accept that. The Pope gets to make the final decision on The Rules. I can accept that too.

He never makes a mistake when he does that... TILT.

I'll accept that he is a devout man, more learned in theology than I, perhaps even better able to hear the Spirit, but to be able to, inerrantly interpret that? Nope.

He doesn't get to put God on retainer. He gets to make mistakes just as anyone else can (and yes, I know this is a limited area the Church is defining, I just think it to be damned convenient for the Pope that he gets to be infallible). Even if it's true, it's tests the faith beyond measure. It seems to be unfair that God should so cripple His creation. Let us aspire to perfection, don't force on the least of us, and not in the least.

TK

#176 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:16 PM:

I find it dubious, too, Graydon, but not logically inconsistent. It's an empirical argument, but those tend to break down in questions of faith. "Force of will" isn't "through divine intervention".

I don't believe; to me it's a silly idea. To those who do, it can make perfect sense.

Or not, depending.

#177 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:28 PM:

1. I hadn't heard the term "missing link" in quite a while. It inspired a classic joke--"They've found the missing link between the apes and civilized humanity. It's us."--which strikes me as one of the essential ideas of science fiction.

2. The idea of occasionally finding a good one from PublishAmerica reminded me of another of your sidebar subjects: Roger Elwood.

#178 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:29 PM:

S Dawson, I'm pretty sure that Shaw, right now, knows little, if anything.

Experts don't claim infallibility. At least, honest and prudent ones don't; fools and scoundrels can be found in all fields of endeavor.

Pius XII didn't say that Mary probably ascended bodily into Heaven, or that it was his best guess, or that the current state of evidence strongly implied it. He stated it as a matter of infallible fact. Nothing humble or limited about that.

Hey, anybody know what happens if we find actual remains that we can somehow prove are Mary's? I'm not sure how this would work; maybe prove the Shroud of Turin to be the actual burial cloth of Jesus, then get a DNA sample off that.... Or maybe invent a camera that can see through time. Whatever. What would happen if supposedly infallible doctrine were disproven?

#179 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 12:51 PM:

I wonder why you (the author) are so affected by the Catholic Chuch

Dear God, I humbly beseech thee that when I am next in such a state of cluelessness as this, that You in your infinite mercy do something, anything, to distract me from clicking the 'Post' button. Kittens frolicing on my desk would be nice, also party invitations. Smoke pouring from the kitchen, not so much, but if that's what it takes, pour away.

Ta much,

pericat

#180 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:04 PM:

TJIC - I can explain some of the reaction. Simply put, it does often occur in a religious discussion for someone who has never been involved in any prior part of any conversation to come in, say to the blogger, "You're wrong (And going to hell) and I'm right, yada yada yada" and vanish in a puff of insults. And never return. Drive bys are real, and they're usually condescending at best. (And my impression of your intial post was as condescending and rude, too, FWIW, though your follow-ups and explanation do mitigate it... a little.)

People just get sick of it. Wouldn't you? And maybe, once in a while, a relative innocent gets yelled at for it by accident.

Nowhere in your posts did you note, "I'm a regular reader here..." Sorry, we don't have perfect memories. If you have posted only once or twice before, it shouldn't be a surprise few people recalled your name, and an assumption was made that you were a drive-by. It may not entirely pardon those who snap back, any more than a retraction of your own ruder language will erase the initial condescending impression, but it explains where the confusion comes from.

#181 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:09 PM:

IANAC (I Am Not a Catholic) but I can see the point of Papal Infallability by analogy to the Mathematics of Error-Detecting Error-Correcting Codes. By "Infallible" they really mean "Fallible with probability smaller than an acceptable engineering threshhold."

Given that individual men are fallible, the challenge is to construct a device using some weighted nonlinear combination of men to be less fallible than the individuals.

The Catholic College of Cardinals (CCC), with proper procedures, can be more reliable than any random individual Cardinal, by the same principle as a Congress or a Parliament. Since the CCC (or at least the subset of the CCC under the age of 80, when error is presumed to have accumulated) selects the Pope, they are selecting the individual who is least fallible, and thus closer to the interpolated Word of God.

This is similar to the ISBN being more reliable than any given digit, because you can mess up one digit (and the check-sum will detect this), but are less likely to mess up two digits at once.

"An error-correcting code is an algorithm for expressing a sequence of numbers such that any errors which are introduced can be detected and corrected (within certain limitations) based on the remaining numbers. The study of error-correcting codes and the associated mathematics is known as coding theory."

"Error detection is much simpler than error correction, and one or more 'check' digits are commonly embedded in credit card numbers in order to detect mistakes. Early space probes like Mariner used a type of error-correcting code called a block code, and more recent space probes use convolution codes. Error-correcting codes are also used in CD players, high speed modems, and cellular phones. Modems use error detection when they compute checksums, which are sums of the digits in a given transmission modulo some number. The ISBN used to identify books also incorporates a check digit."

The Bible supports my theory, with Hebrews I:1 "In times past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe."

I call the specific Error-Detecting Error-Correcting Code used by the Vatican "The da Vinci Code."

#182 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:15 PM:

What would happen if supposedly infallible doctrine were disproven?

Could probably weasel out of it by saying that at the time the pronouncement was made, it was the right thing to believe, or essential to the path of truth.

#183 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:20 PM:

S Dawson, I'm pretty sure that Shaw, right now, knows little, if anything.

I guess the joke didn't make it through the ether intact? Never mind.

Experts don't claim infallibility. At least, honest and prudent ones don't; fools and scoundrels can be found in all fields of endeavor.

Hence the scare quotes around "experts" above.

Pius XII didn't say that Mary probably ascended bodily into Heaven, or that it was his best guess, or that the current state of evidence strongly implied it. He stated it as a matter of infallible fact.

Surely no-one disputes that; if all the Pope did was give probabilities or best guesses, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Nothing humble or limited about that.

But what Shaw's saying is that the Pope is (or can be, if you want to be historically realistic) humble about his ignorance of things outside the limits of his supposed infallibility. I am not, for the record, trying to imply that anyone here is unaware of those limits.

The reason I brought up the quotation was that it amused me that even Shaw, who was no fan of the Church at all (we're talking about the man who said, "What is wrong with priests and popes is that instead of being apostles and saints, they are nothing but empirics who say 'I know' instead of 'I am learning,' and pray for credulity and inertia as wise men pray for scepticism and activity") felt the need to point out that infallibility is not quite as inherently ridiculous as it would appear to be at first glance.

#184 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Greg Ioannou: But I don't think we really want to get into a comparison of the logic of agnosticism versus the logic of atheism here.

I'd actually like to hear that.

I'm frustrated in religious discussions in that I don't have a really good shorthand way of describing my own religious beliefs.

I'm an agnostic, but I live my life as though I were an atheist. I've never seen any compelling evidence that God exists, and I seem to lack any faith at all. (I define "faith" as being, either, depending on who you ask: (1) a sense, like sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch which allows some people to detect the Divine or (2) a mental illness, sometimes harmless, which causes the sufferer the delusion of believing that there's a supernatural being overseeing human affairs).

But I don't simply call myself an atheist because if billions of people have believed something over the course of human history, well, that belief must be taken seriously. We must accept the possibility that it is true.

An atheist will respond here: But, Mitch, there are all sorts of things which billions of people have believed over the course of history which we now know to be complete nonsense. Billons of people have believed — and some still believe — in the inferiority of certain races, women, ethnic groups, religions, and sexual preferences.

And I respond: Yes, but we know those beliefs to be false because of evidence. In the case of group prejudices, I'm mistrustful of so-called scientific evidence, but I believe the evidence of my own experience, and information that I read and take in through the media. I have seen no evidence to support the inferiority of any sex, race, ethnic group, major religious group, sexual preference, etc. So I conclude that the belief in their inferiority is simply mass delusion.

And yet I can find no comparable evidence for the absense of God. Billions of people have believed in God. I can't disprove their belief. So my common-sense forces me to give them the benefit of the doubt.

#185 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:30 PM:

pericat, I scream with laughter.

TJIC, listen to Lenora Rose. She speaks wisdom. Also, Dale is a good example of a typical driveby poster.

Unless s/he posts again with more understanding, which will make hir a drive-back poster! Those are more welcome, unless they prove to be trolls. Did you know that all trolls are piñatas?

#186 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 01:53 PM:

Lenora, are we talking about the same post? Because I don't see the rudeness, and I'd have to stretch for condescension.

#187 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Mitch, I realized eariler today that the distinction most people draw between atheism and agnosticism is actually insulting to religious belief, because it pretends that the Big Question is "Do you believe in God?", and totally ignores the actual Big Question, which is "How do your spiritual/religious beliefs affect your life?".

#188 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:06 PM:

adamssj: There is a fair bit of presumption in it.(that our Hostess isn't Catholic, that she didn't understand the Doctrine [and I think TJIC has mis-read it when he says she thinks it applies to all the pope does).

Now, knowing Teresa, from her writings, fairly well, I think she was precise in that she thinks the pope having no moral agency, even in so limited an arena as declarations of dogma, invalidates free will.

But he came in, from out of nowhere, so far as many of us could see, posted a reply, and then went to his site and posted a second reply, showing how shabbily he had been treated.

That strikes me as offensive, offensive past rude.

His defenses mitigate it, but don't absolve (I don't see real repentance, nor yet abjuration, but I digress). It isn't that the people here don't spout off, and at times with fervor more than restraint. But we value some semblance of politesse.

His description of disemvowellment as deletion (which is an inference on my part, from things said after) is neither fair, nor accurate. Which also strikes me as offensive.

So, when Teresa gets offended, I'm not all that bothered. It's her salon, and the rules she keeps are pretty damned inclusive.

TK
NB No one here has beat him up for not knowing that Teresa converted to Catholicism as an adult and so has a different appreciation of the oddities of the faith from those of us who were steeped in it from the onset of sapience. She probably has a much better grasp on many of the doctrinal minutae than most of us, but I digress.

#189 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:15 PM:

Fascinating thread as always.

Avram - Re: Shroud of Turin. There was an episode of Arthur C. Clarke's... um... Mysterious World? Strange Mysteries? I don't recall offhand, but he investigated the shroud. A sanguinologist (blood expert?) examined the red stains on the shroud and determined them to be red ocher and not blood. They showed magnified slides of dried blood on fabric and dried paint on fabric to compare with the Shroud. It was obvious that it was paint. Pretty conclusive I thought. Of course the weird thing was they had another 10 minutes or so, so they filled it with a few more plausible theories.

Arthur D. Hlaraty - I love that Missing Link joke! May I quote?

Mitch - The Logic of Agnosticism as far as I can tell works something like this: There is no conclusive evidence that God exists that cannot be explained through different means. Likewise, there is no conclusive evidence that God doesn't exist or that conditions prevent his/her/its existance. Therefore, I don't know if God exists, or more simply "inconclusive due to insufficient data".

I'm not sure how the Atheist argument would work. I suspect it's the same as the Agnostic, but stops before the "can't prove he doesn't exist" part.

As for faith, my favorite quote (unfortunately unattributed) is "Faith is not belief without question, but rather trust without reservation". I don't know if it follows logically, but it gets me through the day :)

#190 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 03:49 PM:

Epacris,

I should have been a bit less opaque. What I meant to say was that the social outcome of the Scopes trial settled the matter for a lot of poeple. While Scopes lost, it was a clear sign that he did so because of anti-scientific bias and smallmindedness, not lack of evidence. The long view of Scopes (or the Inherit the Wind view) is that he lost the battle but put us in a position to win the war for broader truth.

On reflection (and after eight hours of sleep), this is a whole unrelated sideline and really should not have been dragged into the matter at hand. Darn my tangential thinking. A month from now, when I'm finished Grad School, I hope to have my wits about me but until then, I should probably just nod along and smile pleasently.

#191 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 04:46 PM:

Xopher said: Did you know that all trolls are piñatas?

But how do you know the assortment of candy will contain any of your favorites? I just hate grabbing a piece and then finding out it's licorice. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

#192 ::: TJIC ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:08 PM:

Lenora wrote:

TJIC - I can explain some of the reaction... it does often occur in a religious discussion for someone who has never been involved... to come in, say to the blogger, "You're wrong (And going to hell) and I'm right..." and vanish in a puff of insults...

People just get sick of it. Wouldn't you?

Yes, I would. But I still think that most people can the tell the difference between a bunch of kids driving past at high speed and throwing eggs at a house, and someone walking up, saying "Hey, interesting conversation you're having here in the front yard; my point is X".

Nowhere in your posts did you note, "I'm a regular reader here..."

Agreed. I didn't think that folks were presumed unworthy to comment until being proven members of the tribe.

Sorry, we don't have perfect memories. If you have posted only once or twice before, it shouldn't be a surprise few people recalled your name

I wouldn't expect you to...but even with out a store of reputation capital, I think the original comment was pretty damn tame.

...it explains where the confusion comes from.

Noted.

Terry wrote:

There is a fair bit of presumption in it.(that our Hostess isn't Catholic, that she didn't understand the Doctrine

Well, I've already apologized for the first (although it wasn't out of willful ignorance; I've been reading the blog for a while, and hadn't seen any expression of Catholicism, and this particular thread started with a comparison of the Pope to a figure of evil) *AND* noted that the intent of my comment wasn't to insult, but to be self deprecating about how weird the doctrine of infallibility is.

[and I think TJIC has mis-read it when he says she thinks it applies to all the pope does.

TNH's exact words were "When you look at the history of the Papacy, 'infallible' is neither the first nor the twentieth adjective most likely to occur to you." It's possible that she meant "When you look at the list of doctrinal pronouncements...", but I don't think that's what she meant.

Perhaps I'm wrong.

he came in, from out of nowhere, so far as many of us could see, posted a reply...

I'll note that while most readers here may have no reason to know me, I was commenting to TNH's posts, and I *have* sent her email several times. Not that that is enough to make us best buddies or anything, but it's not as if my absolute first contact with her was the above comment.

...and then went to his site and posted a second reply, showing how shabbily he had been treated.

You've got the order of story wrong...and it makes a *lot* of difference.

1: TNH started the thread.

2: I commented here.

3: I posted the same text in my own blog, for my own readers, who do not read Making Light.

4: TNH came to my blog, called me "boyo", said that I had "egg on my face", stated that I did not "value genuine dialogue", called me a Pharisee, said that she knew that I had commented only to make myself happy at her expense, said that she knew what kind of person I was, and said that the members of "my group" are more arrogant than Satan.

5: So that no one at Making Light would miss the blood sport, TNH posted a link to her name-calling at my site

6: I came back to TNH's blog, and started my comment with the words "my mistake, sorry"

I did not post in my blog "showing how shabbily I had been treated".

That strikes me as offensive, offensive past rude.

Either you're misunderstanding the sequence of events, and calling something that did not happen "offensive past rude", or you're calling the actual sequence of events described here "offensive past rude". If the former: no problem. If the latter: I don't understand how you can get from point A to point B.

His defenses mitigate it, but don't absolve (I don't see real repentance, nor yet abjuration, but I digress)

Two mistakes I made were: (a) based on reading 18 months of her posts, thinking - with out thinking deeply about it - that TNH was not a Catholic, and (b) writing one sentence at my blog opaquely.

I've apologized for both of these.

If we're keeping track of repentance and abjuration stats, we should all check back at my comment thread from time to time to see if any of the name-calling there has been regretted or retracted.

His description of disemvowellment as deletion (which is an inference on my part, from things said after) is neither fair, nor accurate. Which also strikes me as offensive.

I've said that I had a post in this thread which was deleted.

It was.

Barring database corruption, static electricity in the server room, or something else that mysteriously removed my comment but but kept all the follow ups my statement is perfectly accurate.

So, when Teresa gets offended, I'm not all that bothered. It's her salon

TNH didn't uncork in her salon. She uncorked in mine.

Anyway.

I posted a comment in the first place in order to discuss TNH's views on papal infallibility.

I've already issued an invite to continue the dialogue

http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/006263.html#79885

TNH:

Care to put all the meta-debate to one side, and actually chat about the issue you originally posted about? To wit: does papal infallibility make any sense?

To get the ball rolling, I'll note that you posted four reasons why it struck you as nonsensical. I disagreed with three of them. Care to either point out why I'm wrong on one or more of my disagreements...or care to drive home the point about how you're right on the fourth?

The invite is still open to her.

...and to everyone else.

#193 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:46 PM:

Laura Roberts, the fun isn't in the eating. The candy could be confetti for all I care. (Yes, I know that's a pun.)

#194 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:54 PM:

I'm pretty sure that Shaw, right now, knows little, if anything.

Socrates-like, I agree

#195 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 05:54 PM:

Xopher, I don't get it. :(

#196 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:03 PM:

I think what Xopher means is that the fun is in the whacking, Kimberly.

#197 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:06 PM:

Kimberly:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.

Was it Woody Allen or Vladimir Nobokov who responded to this old logic/rhetoric example:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.
But I'm not Socrates.
Therefore I'm immortal?

#198 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:12 PM:

Pope Bennie, defender of pedophiles. What more need be said?

#199 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:14 PM:

Jill Smith: I think what Xopher means is that the fun is in the whacking, Kimberly.

An activity which I believe the Catholic Church still disapproves of.

#200 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:21 PM:

Mitch Wagner: I believe the key element they disapprove of is contained in the omitted final preposition.

#201 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:29 PM:

Dave Bilek: The idea of an American Catholic Church is looking better and better these days. It's been too long since we had a good schism.

My first thought on hearing about Ratzo's election was that Brunner was an optimist; in his version of 2018, Stand on Zanzibar, Rome had achieved a more reasoned position about sexuality but there was a reactionary ]pope[ in Madrid maintaining the old positions.

Xopher: In other words, it's about market share, just as it is with any other huge multinational corporation.

You'll wait a long time if you expect Catholic doctrines to cost them market share; right now they're getting far more numbers out of Africa than they are losing in First World. Notice previous comments about the Nigerian cardinal touted for the papacy, and the African movement to drive out the U.S. branch of Anglicanism for making an openly gay man a bishop.

JvP: The Catholic College of Cardinals (CCC), with proper procedures, can be more reliable than any random individual Cardinal, by the same principle as a Congress or a Parliament.

The rest of your argument shows no sense of the irony in this remark, given the history of the U.S. Congress since 1994.

#202 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:38 PM:

Jill Smith: Oh! Thank you so much. (It was a long day. Please speak slowly and enunciate) Well, then I giggle and I approve, even if the Church doesn't. And, on an unrelated note, the shrimp in my sushi is icky and undelicious. So I, personally, would prefer candy to confetti.

JVP: that, I got. I was only confused about the pun. But thanks nonetheless. Things have been so LSAT-y around here lately.

#203 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton, only really angry) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:46 PM:

Kimberly, 'confetti' is Italian for 'candies'. It's related to our word 'confection'.

#204 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 07:54 PM:

Thought I'd pass this news along -- more proof that the Church is, slowly but surely catching up with the times -- the new Pope not only has e-mail but has made his e-mail addresses public.
In several languages. The one for English speakers/writers is mailto:benedictxvi@vatican.va
"There are also addresses for e-mails in Italian, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese," the article says, and sure enough when I looked at www.vatican.va I was able to find one for benoitxvi@vatican.va

(Though my favorite thing at the Vatican website is still the Secret Archives.)

#205 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 08:00 PM:

Given the problems some of our erstwhile corporate masters have had with e-mail (see Henry Blodgett, et. al., if I were the Pope I'd have a few reservations about it.

#206 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton, not so angry, honest) ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 08:06 PM:

Dammit.

#207 ::: Kimberly ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 08:06 PM:

Xopher, thank you. Now it's quite pun-derific.

#208 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Publishing an email address hardly counts as an indication of modernization. whitehouse.gov opened up during the Clinton administration and continues operation, even though the current administration is doing everything it can to drag us back to 1930 or so.

#209 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:20 PM:

Thanks to Josh, I now have "Bennie and the Jets" stuck in my head. I'm not sure if it would be better or worse if I knew more than fragments of the song.

#210 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 09:37 PM:

WIth any kind of luck Benedict XVI will declare spamming at least a venial sin.

#211 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2005, 11:39 PM:

Pericat's prayer wasn't there when I started typing. I swear, the things I miss by having to do some real work at work between starting a response and posting it! Pericat, can I tape that up beside my monitor? It's applicable to so many moments in life...


Adamsj - Not that post so much as the one back on his own blog, that Teresa blasted (Which is mostly the same text, albeit with a snarkier intro). Though yes, my initial impression of him* was as coming out of nowhere just to criticise, rather than as a regular reader coming in to add a disagreement/clarification.

*or her. (Been there, done that.)

#212 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 03:13 AM:

Xopher, how gratifying! :) And what a sly pun.

Lenora Rose, help yourself. It's occasionally answered, though not often enough in my case, and not yet with kittens. I live in hope.

#213 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 04:21 AM:

Davin chi code? Crossing praying Orthodow Jews with mystical East Asian energies, you get ripped up Catholic cloth, Vatican rag, secret decoder white smoke rings?

Nah....

[I was suspicious of what Jonathan was down to when he didn't used what I had been familiar with as a standard term, EDAC, for Error Detection And Correction.

How about Da Vinci cowed, watch out for compliance by leather strapping.

#214 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:46 AM:

On agnosticism vs. atheism, Mitch says:

I can find no comparable evidence for the absense of God.

No such evidence is possible, even if God doesn't exist. He isn't falsifiable. How do you generally treat unfalsifiable propositions?

On evidence, Mitch offers:
Billions of people have believed in God.

Large numbers of people believe in (for example)Hinduism and Christianity. These religions are mutually exclusive, so even if one of them is true, billions of religious people believe(d) a religion which is false.

Having a large number of believers is not evidence that a religion is true. I think it follows that having a small number or even no believers is not evidence that a given religion is false, so we now have a level playing field of many thousands of mutually exclusive religions, at most one of which is true.

We know there are tens of thousands of false religions which have been believed as true. I think it makes sense to believe they are all false, in the absence of concrete evidence that a particular one is true.

Religious people can of course cite convincing (to them) evidence that their own particular religion is true, but presumably agnostics cannot, or they wouldn't be agnostics.

#215 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:01 AM:

Avram, I don't think that asking "Do you believe in God?" will yield a distinction between atheists and agnostics since both will answer "no".

It is hard to devise a Big Question which reliably seperates atheists from agnostics, partly because the various definitions overlap.

#216 ::: Jen Birren ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:17 AM:

Niall wrote:
a level playing field of many thousands of mutually exclusive religions, at most one of which is true.


But they aren't all mutually exclusive- forex, the Greeks and Romans were happy to meet the Egyptian pantheon. I think there are also some that say there is one Godhead and everyone can worship their own preferred aspect of it?

Your point still stands, as several large religions (and very possibly many smaller ones that I don't know much about) do explicitly say that [religion x] is true and all others are false.

("New Catholicism- washes sins whiter than Religion X".) (Sorry.)

#217 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 08:02 AM:

Large numbers of people believe in (for example) Hinduism and Christianity. These religions are mutually exclusive, so even if one of them is true, billions of religious people believe(d) a religion which is false.

If you treat a religion as a set of propositions (which is of course reductionist, but if you do) even religions making absolutist truth-claims don't really have to be mutually exclusive, because chances are their proposition-sets have some elements in common, whether having to do with ethics or the persistence of selfhood after death or what have you. So a religion that claims to be definitely true doesn't claim all others are wholly false, it only claims the others are false insofar as they contradict it. And of course on topics where a given religion is silent or agnostic (permitting speculation), the others are free to pick up without danger of contradiction.

#218 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 08:08 AM:

Sorting athiests from agnostics is really easy. As a person "is there a god?". If the answer is "no," you have an atheist. If the answer is "I dunno" or some incomprehensible waffling with all sorts of qualifications, you have an agnostic.

Still not in the mood to discuss the logical underpinnings.

Avram, as I see it the whole point of religions is the god(s) thing. Spirituality is often mixed in with religion, but they can exist separately from each other. My spirituality, what little there is of it, has nothing to do with notions I see as irrational, like gods and souls.

#219 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 08:33 AM:

I refer to myself as a spiritual atheist/intellectual agnostic. I've been happy with that for a few years now. In short, I sense at the core of my being that there is no God, but know that I can neither prove nor disprove God's existence and it would, therefore, be intellectually dishonest of me to say there is no God.

Hey. Maybe that makes me a weenie, splitting things up into a Dual Purpose Label for myself, but it does have the advantage of being an accurate representation of the way I see the universe.

#220 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 09:05 AM:

Actually, I would like to amend my comments above and say that my new world-view is "Elephants, Yeah!"

#221 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:31 AM:

Niall: It is hard to devise a Big Question which reliably seperates atheists from agnostics, partly because the various definitions overlap.

Yes, that's my point. I consder atheism and agnosticism to be pretty much the same thing, the primary difference being tempermental.

Greg: As a person "is there a god?". If the answer is "no," you have an atheist.

I dunno. I consider myself an atheist, and if you aks me that question, I'm likely to reply "What do you mean by god?", and if I've got the time and am in the right mood, I might unwind my crackpot theory of what gods actually are.

Greg: as I see it the whole point of religions is the god(s) thing

"About the god(s) thing" is a vague phrase that munges together the two matters I was separating. The two matters are:

1. Is there a God (or gods)?
2. If there is, what are you going to do about it?

It's Question 2 that's the really important one for religious purposes. Question 1 is just set-up.

I broadened it out to cover "spiritual beliefs" so as not to exclude things like animism, or the atheistic flavors of Buddhism. Though I guess you could consider the atheistic religions to have just skipped over Question 1.

#222 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:39 AM:
I've said that I had a post in this thread which was deleted.

It was.

Barring database corruption, static electricity in the server room, or something else that mysteriously removed my comment but but kept all the follow ups my statement is perfectly accurate.

TJIC, if you mean this post, then you need to bear in mind that disemvowelled posts won't come up in search results, even if you search for your name (unless your name has no vowels in).

(As a non-Catholic) I don't really understand what's so bad about your original post in this thread. Maybe I'm just bad at picking up nuances.

#223 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:41 AM:

On troll pinatas:

This causes me to realize that I don't enjoy whacking trolls. My preferred game is "Pin the Tail on the Donkey."

What I enjoy is watching them stumble around, secure in their belief that they are right and everyone else is wrong and stupid.

Sometimes it's fun to observe the lengths to which they will go - it's like visiting someone else's imaginary world. But when, for example, they write paragraphs and paragraphs of self-justification that nobody else is interested in reading, it gets tiresome. And boasting to your friends about how you "really showed so-and-so" is not all that amusing either.

But this is all off-topic (although really, my feelings about Popes are quite similar to my feelings about trolls.) I apologize for rambling.

#224 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:48 AM:

Paula Lieberman:

Thank you for suspecting that I was being silly with a straight face. When I took an EDAC class from Solomon Golomb (a pioneer in the field), he would sometimes go off on weird tangents. These might turn out to be some convoluted joke about polyominoes (which he invented) or shaggy morpheme stories designed to set up palindromes (about which he was expert).

Pope Joan Dept.:

MIT's Vest hits gender gap in sciences
by Kimm Groshong , Staff Writer
Pasadena Star-News
22 April 2005

PASADENA -- False assumptions -- and a lack of attention paid to data and important conversations -- led both to intelligence failures in Iraq and to the minority status of women in science, Charles Vest, president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told a Caltech audience Wednesday.
"All these things ... are what got us into trouble" with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Vest said. "There's actually some analogy here."

Vest, a member of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the U.S. Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, spoke as part of the ongoing Caltech Presidential Lecture Series on Achieving Diversity in Science, Math and Engineering. In the future, he said, "if we want the numbers of (women) faculty to go up, we have to start by working particularly with graduate programs to build the base of (women) Ph.Ds from which they are chosen...."

#225 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Avram: There isn't, so question 2 is moot.

#226 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:59 AM:

I think there are also some that say there is one Godhead and everyone can worship their own preferred aspect of it?

Mine believes something similar. But then no two Wiccans agree on everything. Fortunately our model is such that we don't have to; our religion is about ritual and spiritual development, not theology.

And that's a bigger point: MOST of the world's religions are not mutually exclusive with ANYTHING else, from their own perspective. Most of the world's religious people do belong to one of those that are; they tend to be one-true-and-only-way religions (chiefly Islam and some forms of Christianity; not Judaism, because it recognizes itself as being for the "chosen people," and therefore recognizes the concept of "righteous gentiles" - non-Jews who are not subject to the rules that govern Jews, but who do follow the rules for all humanity).

I attribute the fact that one-true-and-only-wayism is so popular to many of the same forces that make Indo-European languages so widely spoken, even well away from Europe. I leave the details to the intelligent reader.

The idea that religion is a system of beliefs is far from universal. I've heard people say that Judaism is a system of laws; I certainly wouldn't say that Wicca is a system of beliefs. It's more a system of practices. Belief is mutable; in fact one thing I practice requires me changing the structure of my beliefs twice in each ritual: once when the circle is cast, and again when it's taken down.

Practices may be incompatible, but often they are not. Even in the case of, say, Sikhism, which specifically prohibits eating meat "that has been killed in the Moslem manner" - i.e. halal and therefore fit for Moslems to eat - one could simply cease eating meat at all. But there are religions that say "you must do X" where X is something another religion specifically prohibits; the classic example would be marrying your brother's widow.

Some people make a separate peace with these things. I know someone who practices both Wicca and Christianity. Wicca doesn't care; how he manages the "I believe in one God" part isn't our problem, nor do I know the answer. I suspect there are Christians who would say he isn't really a Christian; I don't know anyone who has said he isn't a real Wiccan. In fact we have a name for the practice of following Wicca and another religion simultaneously: we call it being Dual Path.

#227 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:18 PM:

Judaism and Christianity are absolutely mutually exclusive in my sense of the word: either Jesus was God, or he wasn't. The fact that Christians may be OK with God even if Judaism is correct does not make Christianity true.

#228 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:36 PM:

Niall, my cosmology says that G-d makes different contracts with different peoples and appears to them in the form or forms they would best understand, by which standard Judaism and Christianity are not mutually exclusive, nor is either incompatible with, say, Wicca.

I'm not going to get into my entire personal belief system here, since one of its key points is that worship is a personal thing, but amongst other things, that's sort of a key point of it.

Faith isn't about what's objectively true. It's about what's true in the heart.

#229 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Greg, you're proving me correct. You've just confirmed my claim that elevating "Is there a god?" to the status of The One Big Question is insulting to religious belief.

#230 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 12:50 PM:

Niall, they may be mutually exclusive for all I know. Judaism just isn't one-true-and-only-wayist the way Islam is.

#231 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:12 PM:

Avram: I converted from Christianity to Judaism precisely because there is a wide tradition of Jewish atheism. You don't have to believe the god stuff to be accepted in some parts of Judaism. I never found that sort of acceptance of atheism in Christianity. So this weekend I'll be celebrating passover, carefully drinking at least four full glasses of (non-kosher!) wine before eating the first bite of the seder meal and flailing the people near me with asparagus and all that other traditional stuff.

I have no trace of religious belief whatever. This weekend I'll totally ignore or scoff at all the god stuff and pig out on the feast. The atheists at the table will totally outnumber the believers (if any). Religion is a personal thing. We each do it in our own ways.

Recast your second question as:

2. If there were, what do you do about it? And if there isn't, what do you do?

and we might have a more solid basis for discussion. If we can discuss it without people feeling insulted. I'm not intending to insult people.

#232 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:19 PM:

Xopher, I'm not sure just how one-true-wayist Islam is, given that there are multiple denominations of Islam, and separate schools within those denominations.

Judaism may not be one-true-wayist as you see it, but two things that pretty much all people who call themselves Jews agree on is that (1) Jesus wasn't divine, and (2) anybody who claims that Jesus was divine is not practicing Judaism. That's pretty hard to reconcile with most kinds of Christianity.

#233 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 01:32 PM:

No, Avram, you misunderstand my point. I was talking about religions not being mutually exclusive, but my references to Judaism were about it not believing itself to be the one, true, and only way to God. Most forms of Christianity are mutually exclusive of everything else AND believe that Christianity is the OTAOWTG. What all forms of Islam have in common is that they believe "there is no god but God," and that Islam is the OTAOWTG.

A person who believes Jesus was (or is) divine may not be practicing Judaism, but most Jews would agree such a person could be a righteous gentile - as could I, as long as I don't do that spilling-wine-to-the-gods thing. In Islam (as I understand it) there is a place for members of other religions in society (Jews and Christians, but not me), but they aren't considered "right with God" the way a non-Jew could be in Judaism.

#234 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:04 PM:

Terry wrote:

There is a fair bit of presumption in it.(that our Hostess isn't Catholic, that she didn't understand the Doctrine

Well, I've already apologized for the first (although it wasn't out of willful ignorance; I've been reading the blog for a while, and hadn't seen any expression of Catholicism, and this particular thread started with a comparison of the Pope to a figure of evil) *AND* noted that the intent of my comment wasn't to insult, but to be self deprecating about how weird the doctrine of infallibility is.

[and I think TJIC has mis-read it when he says she thinks it applies to all the pope does.

TNH's exact words were "When you look at the history of the Papacy, 'infallible' is neither the first nor the twentieth adjective most likely to occur to you." It's possible that she meant "When you look at the list of doctrinal pronouncements...", but I don't think that's what she meant.

Perhaps I'm wrong.

Obviously we differ. For my part I took it to mean exactly that. This may be colored by my sympathy with that point of view.


...and then went to his site and posted a second reply, showing how shabbily he had been treated.

You've got the order of story wrong...and it makes a *lot* of difference.

You're right, I have some of the order wrong.


1: TNH started the thread.

2: I commented here.

3: I posted the same text in my own blog, for my own readers, who do not read Making Light.

And you inserted a characterization of it as "knee jerk". You then showed, absent context (though with a link) how you had, (choose phrase here) [which phrase is best depends a lot on the reader... we can sideline into comm theory if you want] explained it to her, shown her the error of her ways, refuted her.

Some of my irk was contextual, from the tools of debate you used. e.g. You made a point, not of history being full of examples, but that you could see them because you were a history major.


4: TNH came to my blog, called me "boyo", said that I had "egg on my face", stated that I did not "value genuine dialogue", called me a Pharisee, said that she knew that I had commented only to make myself happy at her expense, said that she knew what kind of person I was, and said that the members of "my group" are more arrogant than Satan.

I'd say, all things considered, that having a set of parallel conversations isn't exactly conducive to dialog. Not least of which is because you posted your reply to an unseen (lest one follow the link) post, so the readers of your blog might see what? The response you made.

You didn't see fit to tell anyone here that you were having a party of your own on the subject of Teresa's words.

Was "boyo" over the top? Maybe. Do I think she was wrong to be annoyed, even offended? No. I know that I'd be offended if the like happened to me, and came to my knowledge. I also know that I'd be prone to let other people know about it. Not all from pleasant motives. I might want some of those friends to pile on. But I'd also do it so they might have a better idea of the character of the person, when they made future arguements.

As for her saying your readers were more arrogant than Satan, she didn't. She said the sort of people who did fly-by comments on religion tended to lack humility. From those who've done that here, and from those who've done the like elsewhere, I'd have to agree. It's a fine distinction, but important. Much as with the theological distinction; so often misunderstood about the Pope's infallibility.


I did not post in my blog "showing how shabbily I had been treated".

Again, I misread the timeline. Me mistake, and my fault.

That strikes me as offensive, offensive past rude.

Either you're misunderstanding the sequence of events, and calling something that did not happen "offensive past rude", or you're calling the actual sequence of events described here "offensive past rude". If the former: no problem. If the latter: I don't understand how you can get from point A to point B.

I hope I have pointed out the source of my considering what you did rude.

You said elsewhere you didn't know one needed to be a member of the tribe to post here. You don't. But it helps. :)

That is only half in jest. I've seen a lot of heated debate here. I've seen people say things that would've led to duels, in another age (I think I've said some, at least once with just that intended level of offense).

If one is known, such things get more slack, that is human nature. We accept the momentary rages of our friends.

The readers here have seen a lot of people show up, and heap various amounts of scorn on Teresa. We like her. We value her wit ( by turns acerbic and pentrating, gentle and warm). It makes us rather protective (not that any of us feels she needs it... we've seen her wither trees).

So being strange, well it's like any other social setting, one has to make friends before one can pick on people (and even if you weren't, which I don't think you were, here; if it looks like you are, well that can be as bad as the real thing. Put a daub of red paint on a chicken and the rest of the flock will peck it to death, just as if it were really injured).

I, for one, don't want you to leave, I think, all things considered, you could be a lot of fun.

TK

#235 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:11 PM:

Terry, I assume you mean he could be a lot of fun if he dismounts from the 50-hand horse, rather than as a piñata? :-)

#236 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:13 PM:

Ah, I see what you mean.

I dunno. Islam seems to have three categories -- Muslims, non-Muslim People of the Book, and everyone else. Jews and Christians are People of the Book, and under sharia law they are tolerated, but still second-class citizens. As that Wikipedia page says, the Koran gives varying advice on how to treat non-Muslim People of the Book. One passage expresses a pretty open sentiment: And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit.(Qur'an 29:46) Others, less so.

#237 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 02:39 PM:

Rats. I've just realised - should I now change the surname of Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, founders of the weird and rather sinister religion in my novel in progress?

I don't want to. I like their name.

#238 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 03:03 PM:

Eleanor: No. You should not.

#239 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 04:08 PM:

That's right, Xopher -- egg her on....

#240 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 04:55 PM:

I am enough of a Jew to be offended by the idea that someone can claim to be a Jew and also believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

I'm enough of an agnostic and lapsed Jew to note the presence of my offended feelings, and say, "Hmmm.... "

As I understand it, to be a Christian, you have to accept the divinity of Jesus Christ. Likewise, to be a Jew, you have to accept the converse.

Jews for Jesus notwithstanding.

#241 ::: Pamela ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:05 PM:

Xopher said:

Belief is mutable; in fact one thing I practice requires me changing the structure of my beliefs twice in each ritual: once when the circle is cast, and again when it's taken down.

That's very interesting. Would you be comfortable expanding on what you mean by that? Or can you refer me to a text of some kind?

#242 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:35 PM:

Mitch: for most kinds of Christianity, I believe that to be the case, yes. NOT for all. "Act as if ye had faith" is not just a saying; some people just don't believe any of it, but practice as if they did, and pray daily for "understanding." They're not the sort who are likely to attempt to follow both Christianity and Judaism, though. Not that I know of anyone who is. Jews for Jesus notwithstanding.

Pamela: What the circle casting is for is to allow us to change our consciousness into a state where we can do magic best. That's what I believe now, because I'm outside circle. Inside circle I believe that the circle is an invisible, intangible semipermeable membrane that contains the energy of magic until we're ready to release it, and keeps out harmful entities while admitting the ones we invite.

Outside circle the gods are metaphoric constructs we humans use because the Universal Divine is too huge for us to comprehend, and we need to scale it down and relate to one small part of it at a time. Inside circle they're PEOPLE, in fact several of them are close personal friends of mine; they think and reason and have will and intention just like humans, only more so. Sometimes they talk to us, if we lend them a body. I have learned how to lend them mine, and it's an inexpressible honor to do so, though sometimes scary.

I was drawn to this path in part because it didn't require believing anything that I know to be untrue. Not full-time, anyway! It would be possible to walk this path while being intellectually a complete atheist, though that's probably not likely. My belief in the Universal Divine is more a feeling than a thought, and I can be in circle with people who have no such belief, or who are panentheists rather than pantheists, or whatever, because the ritual framework is what matters.

#243 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:36 PM:

(I'll look for some texts and stuff, but I'm a Primary Source on Wicca, so I figured I'd give you some horse's mouth stuff first.)

#244 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 05:37 PM:

Mitch, I've never understood the conflict between Judaism and Jesus. Is it just the postulated divinity of Jesus that's the problem? A conflict between the trinitarian God and the only one God rule? Since the early Christians saw themselves as Jews, they clearly didn't perceive any difficulty. However, I know that some Jewish friends of mine can get quite emotional about this one, so I've never wanted to pursue the question with them.

I have, naturally, no desire to persuade anyone to believe something they're not comfortable with. However, I'm very curious, and would love to tease out the logic (versus the emotion) here.

I myself claim the title religious agnostic, as opposed to the atheist agnostic I think someone claimed above. We can't know whether there is a God, but it suits me to gently believe in (more or less) the quite tolerant God my parents raised me with. I don't actually strongly believe in the divinity of Jesus, or the resurrection, or the virgin birth, but I do believe that it is our duty to advocate for the poor and oppressed, and to fight dictators and cheaters. I also believe that God loves us all, no matter what we have done, and whether or not we love ourselves, and yearns for reconciliation with us and between us.

#245 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:15 PM:

Benedict XVI meets the first challenge to his papacy.
Color me unimpressed.

#246 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 06:43 PM:

Xopher writes:I was drawn to this path in part because it didn't require believing anything that I know to be untrue.

What a remarkable sentence!

No offense, Xopher, but I think that this is why I read newsgroups and blogs more these days and science fiction less: folks here are much more alien than the average gas-giant dweller.

#247 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 07:00 PM:

Mitch Wagner - As I understand it, to be a Christian, you have to accept the divinity of Jesus Christ. Likewise, to be a Jew, you have to accept the converse.

Hmmm. I was raised as a Catholic in an immediate family of many denominations, and kind of gave up on the Church when I was in high school. I don't believe in the divinity of Jesus, and I'm not sure I ever did, at least after elementary school. But, somehow, I hesitate to cast off the label "Christian".

Mabye others would take this label from me (the Christofascists, the evangelicals, and probably the Catholics too, since I lean Unitarian which I believe is still officially heretical) but I won't cast it off on my own.

So, I guess I see myself as a Christian who doesn't really believe in Jesus. Ask a bunch of Europeans and you'll probably uncover similar feelings.

#248 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 07:02 PM:

Xopher (Christopher Hatton): Mitch: for most kinds of Christianity, I believe that to be the case, yes. NOT for all. "Act as if ye had faith" is not just a saying; some people just don't believe any of it, but practice as if they did, and pray daily for "understanding."

See, now, the part of your post that starts, "'Act as if ye had faith'..." doesn't make sense to me. If you don't have faith, who are you praying to?

Lenore Jean Jones: Mitch, I've never understood the conflict between Judaism and Jesus. Is it just the postulated divinity of Jesus that's the problem?

In a word, yes. That's it in a nutshell.

A fundamental tenet of Judaism is that Jews are waiting for the Messiah to make his first appearance.

I do understand that a person can be culturally Christian, without believing. A person might have been raised in a Church, come to disbelieve, but still attend and keep up a membership because they get something from the ritual, and for the community benefits. Indeed, I've sometimes been tempted to join a church or synagogue myself — perhaps the Unitarians — for that very reason.

In the same way, I'm culturally Jewish. It's part of my identity, and the existence of God, and the validity of the rituals and Jewish law, have nothing to do with it.

Christians — or at least most Christians, AFAIK — believe that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, and they are waiting for His return. That's a fundamental tenet of Christian religions.

The two are completely and logically incompatible.

A conflict between the trinitarian God and the only one God rule?

That, too.

Since the early Christians saw themselves as Jews, they clearly didn't perceive any difficulty.

And I venture a guess that the contemporary Jews had a big problem with that.

However, I know that some Jewish friends of mine can get quite emotional about this one....

As a Jew — even an agnostic Jew, who lives life as an atheist, and who just had some nice nonkosher pepperoni for a snack — I can get a bit emotional about this myself. However, I can step outside myself and see that there's a whole meta-thing going on here, about who gets to decide who is the member of a particular ungoverned group.

Halle Berry had a black father and white mother. So why is she considered black? Basically, as far as I can see, it's because she says she is, and because other people say she is, and because she performs roles that are either black or colorblind, and because of the last trickling remnants of that old rule from the Confederacy about "one drop of black blood." As far as I can recall, early in Berry's career she took roles that would be considered white, or race-neutral, and kept her mouth shut about what race she considered herself to be.

... so I've never wanted to pursue the question with them.

It's a perfectly reasonable question, but it pushes a lot of Jews' anti-Semitism buttons.

My wife, who is not Jewish, couldn't understand why an interview with Mel Gibson about "Passion of the Christ" scared the crap out of me.

What she (and perhaps Gibson) did not understand, was that, the Passion Play has a very different meaning for Jews than it does for Christians. For Christians (or, at least, Catholics) it's a central story of their religion. For Jews, it's a central story of centuries of genocide and repression in Europe. To Jews, a performance of the Passion Play can look about the same as a Nazi rally.

Still, I was literally in a cold fear sweat as I watched the Gibson interview, for the first 15 minutes at least. As the interview progressed, I came to the conclusion that he is not anti-Semitic. His father almost certainly is, and Gibson has refused to condemn or even renounce his father's views, but I attribute that to a son being loyal to his father, while being aware of the father's flaws, rather than the younger Gibson being anti-Semitic.

(But I also wonder if I'm being snowed here. Gibson is a fine actor, maybe he's just shucking me, and the American public. Maybe he is anti-Semitic. That's a problem with an accusation of anti-Semitism or any kind of prejudice — once raised, it never quite dissipates.)

#249 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 07:36 PM:

Mitch: Fortunately, I can't see Gibson's Passion ever overtaking the canonical New Testament movie: The Life of Brian.

#250 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 09:57 PM:

Niall: I'm not quite sure what you mean. And I'm not quite sure you know what I meant, either.

I was raised in a household that was hostile to any form of spirituality, in which all forms of religion were ridiculed unceasingly. The surrounding community had various kinds of Christians and a few Jews. The only Christians I knew personally were hellfire-and-brimstone, evolution-is-a-lie types. I hung out with them for a while, actually. Pissed off my dad. I was a teenager.

What drove me from them was the logical inconsistency of an infinitely merciful God who was LESS merciful than I was myself. (Note that teenage boys are not known for mercy, typically. And I'm a MUCH more forgiving and kindhearted person than I was then; you can ask Lenore, who met me only a few years later, in 1978.) I would not, then or now, send anyone into everlasting torment, no matter what they had done.

I toyed with Russellian Atheism for a while, too. I still feel its attraction at times, but I was and am too spiritual a person to stay there. I sense the presence of the Divine. Perhaps this is an artifact of my senses, or my brain is disordered, but if so I choose it. My father, the least spiritual person I know, is also the least happy (or seems to be...though he seems satisfied with his life choices at this juncture).

So, with the only Christians I knew deeply committed to a non-reality-based philosophy that made no sense to me, and having no respect for the scientific method or rules of evidence, which shocked me the way pissing on a Bible might shock you (not that I wouldn't be shocked by such a desecration, even though it's not MY religious item--just trying to make you understand how horrifying that was to a person of my background), and the atheists denying what my senses told me every day (which was like standing in the sun and saying "there is no sun" as far as I was concerned), I remained a Seeker, vaguely Pantheist, vaguely Pagan, occasionally celebrating a solar holiday, until I moved east.

Then I found the Craft. In The Spiral Dance I found that there were a whole lot of other people out there who believed what I had since I was old enough to really have beliefs: that the Divine is manifest in nature. (In fact I, unlike some of my coreligionists, am a radical pantheist, which is to say I believe that the divine nature of the universe is manifest in its physical substance as such. That's how it seems to me, what can I say.)

Perhaps I should have said "that didn't require me to believe anything without evidence" or (almost synonymously) "that didn't emphasize faith over experience." Or just "that didn't want me to swallow camels." But honestly I was much more arrogant than that, two decades ago. I was pretty confident in my beliefs about the world, and dismissed as nonsense other belief systems. So an honest characterization of my path choice was "that I know to be untrue."

In fact I think that had I met the very different kind of Christians I now know -- people like Lenore, and the other members of the church where she and I both sing in the choir -- my Seeking might have ended up in a very different place. In a way that would be too bad, because I've found, in the Craft, a way to be very, very useful to the universe, and a path to my personal growth that I think would be hard to match in any other religion. (For ME, mind you. Some people would make lousy Wiccans. I think I'd make a pretty mediocre Christian.)

Does that seem less alien? If not, I'd like you to expand on what you meant a little, if you'd be willing.

#251 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Jews and Christian in sectarian Muslim countries aren't second class citizens, they're more like resident aliens--they have legal standing to be present, but not citizenship.lands where Islam

========

It was on Vest's watch that the systematic, endemic bias against women at MIT in the academic ranks was proved. Go to www.mit.edu and search on status of women MIT .

I graduated from there 30 years ago. Approximately 124 of my approximately 999 entering classmates were women, that's 12.5%. 30 years later, a full generation, and with MIT having about 40% of its undergraduate classes women, the percentage of female faculty at MIT still isn't even 12.5%. It's not women being untalented, it was endemic, systematic discrimination. I was at an female students and alum event a few years ago, and a couple of the women said they would tell the stories of ythe descrmination against them because they were women, when the two-footed barriers blocking their professional careers after the those barriers were -dead-, because they were academically influential men who had the power to make the women's professional lives ever worse off.

#252 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 02:33 AM:

Xopher: I'm curious. Do you know other Wiccans who are practicing religionists who do not have your experience of the numinous? I can perceive, in various ways, energy inside a circle, but I find no connection to the numinous despite many many years of trying. I reluctantly decided I lack the capacity for faith (would a just deity condemn to hell a person it created which lacked that capacity?) and having watched Alzheimer's now take 3 beloved family members from me has pretty thoroughly convinced me there cannot possibly be a god.

I find though I need and want ritual of some sort in my life and wander around rather aimlessly looking for something to fit....

MKK

#253 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:24 AM:

"I've never understood the conflict between Judaism and Jesus."

As my great-grandfather the rabbi put it, more-or-less, "We believe Jesus was a very great man. But we do not believe he was the son of g-d; Jews don't believe that g-d would have a son." And, if you think about it, all the forms of g-d in the Torah are non-human: the burning bush, the whirlwhind, and so forth. The Jews of the Temple did not believe that g-d would begat a son, and Jews still do not.

The Christian conception of "the Messiah" has very little in common with the Jewish conception of the Meschiach. The Meschiach is a human figure; Aragorn in Lord of the Rings is much closer to the Jewish conception of the Meschiach than Jesus as his life is usually told by christians. It is a very odd business, how it is that this idea of a son of g-d was conflated with the idea of the meschiach. The idea of a g-d fathering children, the idea of a child of g-d who dies and rises, these are much more characteristic of Hellenic paganism than Judaism.

"Since the early Christians saw themselves as Jews, they clearly didn't perceive any difficulty." I am not sure who you are referring to. Prior to the Council of Nicea there were multiple sorts of belief in Jesus, none of which were exactly "christian"; afterwards, Jews had no place in the newly-formed religion. The people you are referring to were not, I think, christians as you understand the term; these were people who revered Jesus as divinely-inspired teacher; they probably didn't see themselves as "christian" in any sense you would recognize.

#254 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:35 AM:

Xopher, your expanded version is sadly not alien at all, except that your personal religious feelings are not something I've ever felt.

That single sentence reads as alien since believing things I know to be untrue is literally unthinkable to me.

#255 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 12:26 PM:

Modern definition:

"Habemus papam": the answer to "Got Pope?"

#256 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 12:31 PM:

" 'Got Pope?' " Isn't the poetry thread somewhere else?

#257 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 01:38 PM:

Mitch and Randolph, thanks for your answers in re Jesus and Judaism. That helps a lot.

About the early followers of Jesus - I think you're both right that they were not approved of by most fellow Jews, and that they were not like modern Christians. I believe the Jesus followers were in fact evicted from the synagogues after the destruction of the Temple, presumably because the people felt much less tolerant in that more unstable time. It's also true that modern Christianity owes much of its nature to Hellenic influences, and in particular to Paul, who preached to the gentiles. I'm actually happier with the pre-Paul portion of Christianity, and happy to see Jesus as a great man rather than the son of God. I like Christianity better as a non-dominant religion, and like to say that the church sold out to Constantine. It's a lot easier to preach social justice to the Empire (as our minister likes to put it) if you're not yourself in bed with said Empire.

That doesn't mean I don't follow modern Christian rituals, though - everyone has a few inconsistencies. It is also of course true that had Christianity remained a movement among Jews, that I would not now be a Christian.

#258 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Randolph Fritz: As my great-grandfather the rabbi put it, more-or-less, "We believe Jesus was a very great man. But we do not believe he was the son of g-d; Jews don't believe that g-d would have a son."

And if g-d had a son, he wouldn't call, he wouldn't write.

Ba-duh-bump.

Actually, I disagree with your great-grandfather the Rabbi. Many Jews may believe that Jesus was a great man. But Judaism takes no notice of Jesus, not even to mention that he exists.

I have encountered Christians who have difficulty getting their minds around the concept, so I'll try it this way: Does Christianity have any position on the divinity of Mohammed? Of the Buddha? The religions of Christianity take no notice of either of those two men, although certainly many Christians do have opinions on the subjects.

Xopher: Your description of your discovery of Wicca sounds like most of the religious conversion stories I've heard and read. You spent all your life perceiving something out there, in a place where yuo couldn't see or hear or smell it. You didn't know what it was, but you knew you needed it. One day, you discovered the thing, and it was Wicca.

For most Americans who tell that story, the thing turns out to be Jesus Christ.

I would like to have that thing. Sometimes I want it very badly. But the difference between you and me is that you perceived it was out there, somewhere, before you found it. I perceive that it doesn't exist.

And yet, the reason I'm not an atheist is that you seem like you're a sensible fellow, and so if you say the thing exists, well, I must accept the possibility that it does exist, and that I am simply blind in whatever organ it is that would allow me to sense its presence.

#259 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton, being all priestly) ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Mary Kay, I’m sure many do. My experience isn’t the only one. I’ve gotten very much better at feeling that presence over the twenty-plus years I’ve been a Wiccan priest. And I’ve also had the experience of sitting there in circle, holding a poorly-constructed object, chanting goofy words to a cheesy tune, and feeling like a complete fool. And had the spell work within 24 hours.

That still means that if it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it. But it takes practice, and sometimes you don’t get to feel it until you’ve done it for a while.

If you need ritual in your life, I’d suggest two things: one, read The Spiral Dance and see if it makes sense to you. If it does, there are spells for a lot of common needs in there. If not, two, create rituals for yourself. It fundamentally doesn’t matter what, so please yourself. For example, if you want a ritual to feel calm and centered after a long day, get something to look at that’s calm and centering, make up some words that embody that feeling for you, find something that feels nice in your hand, and find something that smells nice (something you don’t ordinarily smell).

Then do the ritual when you’re already feeling calm and centered. Repeat this a few times; then you can use it when you just NEED to feel calm and centered, and it will work. That’s magic — the simplest, most effective kind: mind magic.

I’ve never understood why people think tragic or even horrific events are evidence that there is no god/are no gods. They’re evidence that the Divine doesn’t stop such events from occurring, that’s all, and as far as I’m aware no religion believes in a god who never lets bad things happen. Maybe there was a larger purpose: Alzheimer’s could be a way of getting us off our asses about stem-cell and gene-therapy research, and you are part of a wave of people angry enough to make noise to get that to happen.

Or it could just be (and people really don’t like this one) that we’re just not the very top of the Divine agenda. We’re part of Nature, remember, not some separate creation apart from or "given dominion over" it. (OK, obviously you’ve pushed my Wiccan Priest button; this is what you get.) Perhaps the grand scheme of the evolving universe is more important than a few little creatures on the edge of one of many galaxies.

That doesn’t mean what we do isn’t important. That doesn’t mean the Divine doesn’t care what happens to us. That means we have to look for the lesson in everything. For me, that’s part of what I meant when I said I was "willing to suffer to learn" (I didn’t say it out loud, like some do, but I meant it and I choose it now). Nobody gets a choice about that really; it’s just that Wiccans are consciously aware of it.

I lost a bunch of coworkers in the World Trade Center. I was quite shaken up by that event, and ultimately I had to take a fail on my own priestly duty there: I did not visit the site to try to help the unquiet spirits. I just couldn’t do it, just as I couldn’t keep going to funerals after a while. It’s not that I’m "going to hell" for not doing that, but I missed an opportunity to make myself useful, in a way I’m trained and personally talented in doing. I’ve always felt guilty about that.

But I move on. I learn. May the gods stand between me and another such event, but if one occurs, I will do better.

If there’s one pearl of Wiccan wisdom I can leave you with, it’s this: the important thing about your life isn’t the things that happen to you; it’s the things you do. See what action you can take to make more of your life a thing you do.

Niall, I think there was a syntactic ambiguity tripping us up. It wasn’t "to be in this religion you must believe things you know are untrue," but "you must believe X," where X happened to be something I just couldn’t swallow. The nice thing about Wicca is that it’s pretty much free of required beliefs.

Mitch, it didn't feel like a conversion. It felt like hearing put into words what I already knew and couldn't express, or like figuring out what to DO about those feelings I kept having. Sort of like how I knew I had feelings toward other boys, but until an older boy "showed me the ropes," as it were, I had no idea what to do about them. Same sexuality, before and after, but new knowledge and techniques. Same with finding the Craft.

And don't assume you're blind, or deaf or whatever. If you want "it" badly enough, you can get it. Find what moves you, and do that. If you have a spiritual longing, there exists a way to fulfill it. I don't know what it is for you; you have to find it for yourself. And it may not be "religion" as such, or ritual, or anything recognizable as "spiritual" in nature. Find your bliss and follow it as often as your life allows.

And it doesn't matter one. whit. if "there's a God" or not. Not one. whit. Spiritual fulfillment is for everyone who wants it, not just for those who "believe in God" or "feel spiritual." That's what I believe, anyway.

#260 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 04:46 PM:

Nicely put, Mitch:

I would like to have that thing. Sometimes I want it very badly. But the difference between you and me is that you perceived it was out there, somewhere, before you found it. I perceive that it doesn't exist.

Likewise -- I also perceive that it doesn't exist. We differ in that I have no interest in having the thing, don't want it at all. Would likely have little interest in it even if it could be proven to me that it existed, unless it existed in a form I could perceive.

And yet, the reason I'm not an atheist is that you seem like you're a sensible fellow, and so if you say the thing exists, well, I must accept the possibility that it does exist, and that I am simply blind in whatever organ it is that would allow me to sense its presence.

Sensible people often provide contradictory eye-witness evidence. That doesn't make them any less sensible or otherwise worthy, but you really have to take that sort of thing with a grain of salt. Prove to me incontrovertibly that it exists and I'll accept that it exists. Until then, it goes into the same mental category as the Loch Ness Monster, ufos, and such. It would be neat if they were proven to exist, but until they are they are folklore. Prove to me that is exists and wants me to act in specific ways, and probably I'll do so. Until then, I'm a content atheist.

Put a different way: you'll find various references on the net to triple rainbows. There are reports of a sighting of one by some explorer. There are descriptions of what triple rainbows should look like -- two arches in front of you, and the third behind you. And there are people who happily proclaim that there is no such thing as a triple rainbow and that they are a physical impossibility.

I saw a triple rainbow over the Parramatta River in 1970. I was standing on the Chiswick shore, looking downriver towards the Gladesville Bridge. It was three arches, like a double rainbow but with a fainter third arch above the other two. I can't prove that I saw it. I didn't take a photograph. No-one was with me.

I don't expect you to believe that I saw it, or think that you should. I think a rational person would either think they did not exist until they were proven to exist (the atheist position on triple rainbows) or suspend judgement until there was further evidence one way or the other (the agnostic position). I think believing triple rainbows exist because I claim to have seen one simply shows a willingness to believe things on insufficient evidence.


#261 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 04:59 PM:

If you don't have faith, who are you praying to?

Mitch: to the entity in which you wish you had faith, of course.

It seems perfectly simple and--well, "reasonable" is the wrong word; "sensible" perhaps?--to me.

#262 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:02 PM:

Greg: I take it you have suspended belief in the principle of the universality of physical law, then? Because, you know, you haven't been everywhere, and no one else has either.

#263 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Metal, I don't think that follows logically.

I believe the theory of the universality of physical law probably describes reality. I also think that we are in the very very early days of the study of physical "laws," and that the things we now consider to be laws are only crude approximations of reality in this part of the cosmos. We've barely begun to explore our playpen.

I suspect that virtually everything we now think of as a physical law is either just plain wrong or a gross, misleading oversimplification. Our math is still far too primitive to properly describe physical reality.

It is also interesting that to my experience the subject of "the principle of the universality of physical law" only seems to come up in discussions of religion, not in discussions of physics. It is getting to be sort of the physics equivalent of "the missing link" in discussions of evolution. The biologists never refer to it or think of it. It is only a relevant concept for Creationists.

#264 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 05:35 PM:

The referent for "it" in my (badly written) last sentence was "the missing link". I just realized it could be mis-read.

#265 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:10 PM:

How do you justify believing in the universality of physical law when you have not yourself perceived it, it cannot be incontrovertibly proven, and you have rejected any other basis for any belief?

How, for that matter, do you justify your belief that more advanced mathematics lead to a better model of physical reality? That's a contention I've never heard from a physicist.

#266 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:12 PM:

And, BTW, nice rhetorical trickery there, dragging evolution-vs.-creationism into a discussion to which it is entirely irrelevant. I'm tempted to respond in kind, but shan't.

#267 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:20 PM:

Mary Kay, ritual is not entirely tangled with religion/faith. Ritual is simply something you do at regular or prompted times, perhaps the change of seasons or when someone is sick or when a new neighbor moves in.

When I have a lot of pain and don't want to take codeine, I have a ritual of pushing the recliner back and working through the Escher poster (Metamorphosis) on the wall. Usually by the time I get through all the transformations and how he does it, I feel better. Sometimes I still have to take the codeine.

#268 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:25 PM:

Mitch:

Since the early Christians saw themselves as Jews, they clearly didn't perceive any difficulty.
And I venture a guess that the contemporary Jews had a big problem with that.
Yup, big time. There was also the issue of non-Jews trying to figure out how much Judaism was required of them in order to become Christians.

As you've probably guessed, I'm not conveying anything like the true complexity of the situation.

Knowing that all that was going on is necessary background to understanding significant amounts of the New Testament. For example, the Jewishness of Christ, and his fulfillment of asst'd prophecies, is a major issue throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

(A bluffer's guide to spotting which synoptic gospel a passage comes from: If its major subtext is Jewish law and prophecy, guess Matthew. If its major subtext is mercy, guess Luke. And if Jesus never sits down, guess Mark.)

#269 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:45 PM:

Metal Fatigue: How, for that matter, do you justify your belief that more advanced mathematics lead to a better model of physical reality? That's a contention I've never heard from a physicist.

It does seem like you could make a case for it, though. How about Newton's 3rd law and calculus, or general relativity and differential geometry? [/tangent]

#270 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:46 PM:

I wrote:

I believe the theory of the universality of physical law probably describes reality.

Metal read that and wrote:

How do you justify believing in the universality of physical law when you have not yourself perceived it, it cannot be incontrovertibly proven, and you have rejected any other basis for any belief?

I have no idea how one gets from what I said to what Metal seems to have perceived what I said. There is for me no semblance between the two. Mine is a probabilistic evaluation of a theory. Somehow that probabilistic evaluation was transmogrified into "how can you justify believing...".

I don't believe in anything as 100% proven reality. Some things are more likely to be true than others. The evidence for some is stronger than the evidence for others. I never entirely trust my own perceptions, let alone the reported perceptions of others. Some people simply cannot be perceiving reality as I do, or they would act far differently.

Mathematics is a language that lets us describe aspects of the universe that aren't easily described in words. It lets us model some aspects of reality. My experience has been that improvements in the language lead to improvements in the modeling. But that perception too may be misleading or just plain wrong.

None of this stuff is starkly true or not true. All of life is somewhere on a truth-untruth continuum. I think some things are much more probable than others -- it is a continuum. No more, no less. I don't place anything at either pole of the continuum. "I have a keyboard in front of me" is near the "pretty likely to be true" end of the continuum, and "Elvis Presley is currently hiding out at a baseball pitcher for a team on Titan" is near the "I'm not going to believe this without some pretty compelling evidence" end.

#271 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:47 PM:

Greg Ioannou: I don't expect you to believe that I saw it, or think that you should. I think a rational person would either think they did not exist until they were proven to exist (the atheist position on triple rainbows) or suspend judgement until there was further evidence one way or the other (the agnostic position). I think believing triple rainbows exist because I claim to have seen one simply shows a willingness to believe things on insufficient evidence.

This is what I'm saying.

I don't know whether you thought you were disagreeing with me, or simply expanding on my point, but, well, you said the same thing I did, pretty much.

I don't always accept even the possibility that what reasonable people say might be true.

I knew a wonderful woman once who was convinced that there were the ghosts of Revoluationary War soldiers playing dice in her basement. She lived in a pre-Revolutionary War house, and it's a fact that Revolutionary War soldiers were billeted in that house.

I already knew she was eccentric, I simply filed the Revolutionary War soldiers away in the category of Things That My Friend Is Somewhat Dotty About. I didn't — and don't — believe in those soldiers for a single minute.

On the other hand, my friend's belief in the Revolutionary War soldiers did not cause me to lose the slightest bit of my high regard for her.

#272 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 06:58 PM:

Mitch, I thought I was agreeing with you. (That's why I started with "Nicely put, Mitch.") Glad to have it confirmed.

#273 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 07:15 PM:

O, God in whom I do not believe, I pray that you give me belief.

"The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences"
by Eugene Wigner

"Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing."
--Wernher Von Braun

"I knew a wonderful woman once who was convinced that there were the ghosts of Revoluationary War soldiers playing dice in her basement.... Things That My Friend Is Somewhat Dotty About." Yup. 42 dots total on a pair of dice.

Pair of dice. Paradise.

"You believe in a God who plays dice, and I in complete law and order."
-- Albert Einstein, Letter to Max Born

"I shall never believe that god plays dice with the universe". -- Albert Einstein

"God not only plays dice with the universe, he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen." -- Stephen Hawking

"God plays dice with the universe. But they’re loaded dice. And the main objective of physics now is to find out by what rules were they loaded and how we can use them for our own ends."
-- Joseph Ford, Georgia Institute of Technology

Science, Dice and the Cosmos

"A global analysis leads to the conclusion that the description of the topology of this universe has imposed a preferred state of rest so that the principle of special relativity, although locally valid, is not globally applicable."
Carl H. Brans and Dennis Ronald , “Unaccelerated-Returning-Twin Paradox in Flat Space-Time.”
Physical Review D, Volume 8, Number 6, 15 September 1973.

"People like myself get along perfectly well with no religious views."
--Francis Crick

"I believe that a scientist looking at nonscientific problems is just as dumb as the next guy."
--Richard Feynman

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
--Galileo Galilei

#274 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 07:39 PM:

JvP, could you please say that in your own words without any quotations? You sound like L'Engle's Mrs. Who.

#275 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2005, 11:39 PM:

And JvP, you forgot my favorite quote responding to Einstein: "We are God's dice."

A virtual chocolate bar to the first person to ID the source of that quote.

#276 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 12:43 AM:

Greg:

Sensible people often provide contradictory eye-witness evidence. That doesn't make them any less sensible or otherwise worthy, but you really have to take that sort of thing with a grain of salt. Prove to me incontrovertibly that it exists and I'll accept that it exists. Until then, it goes into the same mental category as the Loch Ness Monster, ufos, and such. It would be neat if they were proven to exist, but until they are they are folklore. Prove to me that is exists and wants me to act in specific ways, and probably I'll do so. Until then, I'm a content atheist.

I see no continuum here, no probabilistic evaluation. I see two explicit bins, "proven" and "folklore," with the existence of a third bin, "disproven," strongly implied.

JvP: That's a remarkably self-defeating prayer, since embedded in it is the affirmation "I do not believe in God." A different phrasing might be preferred for the purpose.

#277 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 02:23 AM:

Metal, you're right. I was describing my reaction to eye-witness accounts and such things that aren't obviously correct or wrong, where the question in effect becomes "do I believe what this person is telling me?" or, more precisely, "do I change what I believe because of what this person is saying?" A whole bunch of (objectively often irrelevant) variables come into play, ranging from how much I like the person to how grumpy I'm feeling that day to how well the piece of information fits in with other information that I think is probably true. Occasionally my reaction is some variant of "I'll buy that" or "that makes sense." I think more typically my reaction is "really? I doubt it." I try not to take things at face value.

On the wider issue, the reliability of information ranges on a continuum from "almost certainly right" to "almost certainly wrong," with big piles of things at both ends and some stuff in the middle. A classic bimodal distribution. Ideally, information starts out towards the "almost certainly wrong" end of the continuum and migrates towards the other end as more evidence of its accuracy accumulates.

Of course, I'm not nearly that organized or rational. I recognize that some of the things I believe are actually dead wrong, and some of the things I reject out of hand are true. In some few cases, I even suspect I know which are which, but for the most part I'm sure I'd be surprised to find out what misconceptions I held closely and what accurate insights I reject utterly. Isn't that true of all of us?

#278 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 02:26 AM:

IN Pseudonymous pseudocode;
IF "God Exists" THEN Pray("please give me faith") ELSE DO UNTIL ETERNITY KeepSearchingFor("Truth" AND "Beauty") WHILE Loving(Thy Neighbor) AND Generally(DoingGoodStuff) OD
EXCEPTION: IF (the above would trigger a Disinheritance Clause) THEN Mutter("Never Mind")

COMMENT TO SELF: finish final 1/3 of novel manuscript AXIOMATIC MAGIC, which has this all much more carefully thought through, albeit as fiction.

#279 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 02:27 AM:

Greg -- I too have seen a triple rainbow, at least twice (and not in the "one behind and two before" configuration). The tertiary bow has never been complete, mind you, but the spectral colors were visible.

And that doesn't count a triple glory, seen several times looking down at the shadow of an airplane on the clouds.

Strikes me this is rather like the way people treated the idea of meteors in the 18th Century, as depicted in the Historical Illuminatus series (and is there something significant in the fact that the Historical Illuminatus series has been within the last few books published by at least three publishers? I didn't think so.).

#280 ::: MichelleDB ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 09:31 AM:

Xopher said: I’ve never understood why people think tragic or even horrific events are evidence that there is no god/are no gods. They’re evidence that the Divine doesn’t stop such events from occurring, that’s all, and as far as I’m aware no religion believes in a god who never lets bad things happen.

Xopher, I can explain why I got to that point.

I grew up being told that (the Christian) God was infinitely loving, infinitely merciful, omniscient and omnipotent. Quite a tall order for any being, but this was God, after all, with all his unfathomable-ness and everything. And it's what I learned as an impressionable kid and never really found a reason to examine.

So when I see Bad Things in the world (Africa being stripped to the bedrock by war, for example) or , worse yet, Bad Things happen to me and the people I love (cancer, death, pain, chronic disease), I start to think. OK, if God's omniscient, then he knows about what's happening. If God's all-loving and all-merciful then he doesn't want Bad Things to happen. But the Bad Things are happening and God is omnipotent so he could stop them but doesn't. And the reason I'm told why He doesn't is because of some unknowable Plan, or His ineffable Will. I found that explanation to be unsatisfactory; it offended my democratic sensibilities.

At first I just got angry at God. (As if!) But soon that settled down and I mostly just stopped believing. I was busy dealing with the Bad Things and their Aftermath. At that point, I was definitely and athiest. No questioning, no wondering; just chemistry, physics and nothing.

Now I find myself wanting to believe in something spiritual, but not finding an image of God (as reflected in the various religions) that I can take seriously.

So, that's my journey so far. Bounced away from atheism, perhaps to agnosticism, but mostly wanting to belong to a community with people who believe in something and do something about it.

#281 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 11:51 AM:

Mind you, I do BELIEVE in the numinous. I Believe that there is more than my rational mind can encompass. I am reminded of this when listening to beautiful music, seeing great painting, sculpture, architecture, sunsets, or rainbows (single or multiple), making love, reading great literature, and especially the moments when I am inspired and a fine poem or short story is created by me (but by more than the rational me) or I suddenly have a flash of insight and create/discover the equation I'd been seeking, or the scientific principle.

I live for these moments, which are selfless (my enormous ego diminishing to nothing), timeless, ecstatic, and giving me -- for a short time -- an irrational Faith that the entire universe is meaningful, beautiful, and structured with a higher-order structure which looks like Chaos normally because I see through a chaotic glass until the windows are cleansed and transparent to the glory.

That gets me from my default agnosticsm to a subjectively established Deism, of the Spinoza, Jefferson, Einstein variety.

It does not connect me with a personal God. It makes me feel that matter, energy, time, space, galaxies, Galapagos finch beaks, fibonacci spirals in plants, snowflakes, and people are all in the Mind of God. That Mind of God appears to me, again and again (in Theological terms) as more Immanent than Transcendent; embedded in every quark and lepton, rather than a distant blind watchmaker with Gandalf's beard.

My son announces that he's a hard-core Atheist. This is the same boy who, age 3, drew multicolor art which he said was "the Big Bang" -- and had a human figure embedded in the colors.

I know there is more that my Math/Science left-hemisphere brain can handle, because of those moments (which I have changed my life so that they have happened hundreds of times, even thousands) where right-brain and left-brain are perfectly cooperating.

But that does not, for me, equate to God as described by some in this thread. Nor does it cause me to reject those visions of God.

I love Fantasy, because there IS Magic in the world. I love Science Fiction, because the pragmatic, empirical, math/science view of the cosmos, though incomplete, has irrevocably changed the human world, is changing it now even faster, and because I can operate at its higher levels of attainment.

Because I am writing about God's possible existence, I am -- by definition -- Theologian. Fortunately, there is no Church with a strict, conservative leader, who could forbid me to teach.

#282 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 12:50 PM:

JvP: You described the experience nicely. Immanence works much better than rock-ribbed certainty partly because it acknowledges the mystery of things. Mystery can be solved in part by the sciences, but then new mysteries arise: none entirely beyond reason, maybe, but much of it beyond the *current* state of human reason. Poets and scientists confront mystery in their various ways (Keats was good at that) -- I think the best theologians do too, without turning it into a bunch of behavioral rules or anthropormorphizing it into God(s).

By "mystery", I don't mean religious Mysteries as rites or plays (stylized mysticism), but the state of things inside and outside us. I feel it in landscapes, see it in some kinds of weather, and get it from what I can manage to understand of science articles as well; even as they explain, there's always *more* beyond.

This may sound vague and mushy (I currently have a headcold), but it's as close as I come to a Credo.

#283 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 01:41 PM:

That Mind of God appears to me, again and again (in Theological terms) as more Immanent than Transcendent; embedded in every quark and lepton, rather than a distant blind watchmaker with Gandalf's beard.

This is more or less what I mean by radical pantheism, except that I don't think the Divine is just embedded in every quark and lepton, but that it IS every quark and lepton.

And since studying the nature of one's deity is one form of worship, doing science can be an act of worship. Needn't be, of course: it's the choice of the scientist whether it is.

And this isn't a definition, but a rule of thumb: a Mystery seems obvious when you "get it," and seems like utter nonsense when you don't. "As above, so below" is a Mystery: it sounds like nonsense (and is if you apply it too literally, which is probably how it was originally meant), but expresses a profound truth. And once you get it, you start seeing it manifest everywhere.

This is why the Craft was my path back to the glorious mystery of mathematics. The Mandelbrot set made me notice it; now I see it everywhere.

#284 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 03:03 PM:

There's someone the Pope resembles even more than Palpatine.

#285 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 04:40 PM:

Mitch, "christianity" does have a position on the divinity of Gotama and Mohammed; the position is, they weren't, usually followed "their teachings therefore are not important to us and, even if they're pretty good, are less important than those of Jesus." Some christians may think otherwise, but I don't think you'd find a christian church that agrees. In like matter, the Jewish position on Jesus is, "he wasn't the meshiach and he wasn't the son of god (blasphemous thought!), but he had some interesting ideas."

And if the subtext is obscure, guess Thomas.

#286 ::: Eleanor ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 07:49 PM:

I've just got back from seder, and this line stood out:

In every generation a person is obligated to regard himself as if he had come out of Egypt, as it is said: "You shall tell your child on that day, it is because of this that the L-rd did for me when I left Egypt."

This pretty much sums up my attitude to religion: I treat it like a good story. This may sound frivolous, but I take good fiction, or at least the stories that get under my skin, very seriously. At Easter I think about Jesus, and also about literary characters who also "rose" at that time, whether or not their authors were consciously echoing the Gospels (surely it's hard not to). Projecting oneself into a story by force of imagination feels like a sacred act to me, and if religious people aren't doing it, then I don't know what they're doing.

I've been wondering recently whether creators of religious art had what we now recognise as the fannish instinct. Before the rise of novels and the mass media, if you needed a complex story world to immerse yourself in, there weren't many choices. I think I got this idea somewhere around the 1001st Annunciation I saw in Florence last autumn. Each painter had a different interpretation of Mary's reaction to the angel's news. Sometimes she's a shy young girl, sometimes already the Queen of Heaven; sometimes she's serene, sometimes afraid or apprehensive. It reminded me of the fanfic I had read, in which, for instance, each author has a different take on the precise and not always PG relationship between Doc Brown and Marty McFly. Is believing a story to be true always the greatest factor in how much someone cares about it? For me, I don't think so.

#287 ::: Alexis Duncan ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 11:01 PM:

Eleanor:
You can see this in the classical authors. The character of Odysseus, for example, shows up variously as a humane man who has compassion even for his enemies (Sophocles' Ajax), a compassionless sophist politician (Euripides' Hecuba), and a crude and ineffectual blackguard (Philoctetes, by Sophocles again).

Xopher:
Darned if I wasn't making that connection just a couple of hours ago! I still think Palpatine is the better fit, though-- Scorpius is way too skinny, though the smile definitely has the same quality. Besides, Scorpius never pretended to be anything but a villain... (And I don't think a photo of Scorpy would have stayed up on Wikipedia so long.)

On the general subject of papal infallibility: I recently attended a talk by John Spong. He reported that whenever he attempts to engage Catholic leaders on tolerance for gays and lesbians, or inclusion of women in the priesthood, the first thing he always hears in response is, "of course, you know the Pope is infallible." If he's reporting this straight, then the official, narrow restriction of infallibility to ex cathedra statements of dogma is often blurred or disregarded even by highly positioned clerics.

#288 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2005, 11:24 PM:

Eleanor, thanks. That's the first explanation of religious art that has made any sense to me whatever. You just made something go "click" for me.

#289 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 02:29 AM:

So who is this Scorpius guy?

I also have seen a triple rainbow once: in March of 1987, there was a rainshower over the Berkeley hills, but a clear sky in the west, and the setting sun shone straight onto the hills. The first rainbow was the brightest I've ever seen; it seemed to touch the ground. You could see buildings behind it. There was a complete, fainter second arch; and fainter yet but unmistakable, patches of a third.

(Almost certainly this is one of Tom W.'s two.)

#290 ::: Greg ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 05:12 AM:

I didn't know triple rainbows were so rare. I've seen them a few times - though only two have ever been very clear. Mind you, we have a ridiculous amount of rainbows in Ireland, probably because of our ridiculous amount of rain, so the odd threefold bow perhaps shouldn't be that surprising.

#291 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 07:37 AM:

S. Dawson: If you treat a religion as a set of propositions ... even religions making absolutist truth-claims don't really have to be mutually exclusive, because chances are their proposition-sets have some elements in common.... So a religion that claims to be definitely true doesn't claim all others are wholly false, it only claims the others are false insofar as they contradict it....

That argument does not address the issue of mutual exclusivity. Christians, Hindus, and Atheists all believe that knife wounds hurt, but that doesn't make their faiths compatible. If I believe "X and Y", and you believe "X and not Y", then not both beliefs can be true. That's what "mutually exclusive" means, and agreement on the "X" parts doesn't contradict the incompatibility between the whole beliefs.

#292 ::: Lenore Jean Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 10:02 AM:

Eleanor - well said. That feels like what I do, too.

#293 ::: Stephan Zielinski ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 10:25 AM:

Er... regarding religious art... Historically, churches have money-- and many of them are long-lived. Ergo, (A) any art project they happen to have felt like commissioning would have provoked an outpouring of both starving and established artists, and (B) the results are likely to still be around.

If the Gates Foundation offered a megabuck for novels about how Windows made the world a better place, then stamped the texts onto gold plates and hid them in vaults, an archaeologist 2000 years from now might well conclude that Windows was a major inspiration for novelists of the early 21st century. Nor am I ashamed to admit that I'd submit a manuscript, even though I don't care much for Microsoft's products personally-- a man's got to eat.

"Complex story world" is trickier-- but if nothing else, artists are really good at making stuff up as need be. Besides, folk tales can grow by accretion-- by the time Homer sat down to write, the stories had been knocking around for centuries, providing more than an ample preexisting background for his particular take on them.

Admitted, Europe went through a really bad patch for a millennium or so-- it ain't called The Dark Ages because it wasn't well lit-- wherin most of the literates read little BUT religious texts. But the minute real economic recovery started, people like Dante started showed up-- The Divine Comedy may nominally be about the Afterlife, but I kinda doubt the Church was whooping with joy at the depictions of Popes upside down with their feet on fire. (Besides, Dante finds a spot in Inferno for everybody who ever annoyed him-- it's about evil, not the religion per se.)

#294 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 10:32 AM:

David Goldfarb: He's one of the villains in FarScape. Like most of them, he's not entirely unambiguous; he's utterly ruthless, cruel and heartless in pursuit of what he considers "higher aims." In my opinion his higher purpose is better than Benedict's, but that's just me!

Here's the characters page from farscape.com. Click on his picture for a brief character profile.

#295 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 11:45 AM:

Admitted, Europe went through a really bad patch for a millennium or so-- it ain't called The Dark Ages because it wasn't well lit-- wherin most of the literates read little BUT religious texts. But the minute real economic recovery started, people like Dante started showed up-- The Divine Comedy may nominally be about the Afterlife, but I kinda doubt the Church was whooping with joy at the depictions of Popes upside down with their feet on fire. (Besides, Dante finds a spot in Inferno for everybody who ever annoyed him-- it's about evil, not the religion per se.)

This is the point where, quondam medievalist that I am, I feel compelled to rise to the defense of the middle ages, and of its rich and varied secular literature. One need only consider -- just for starters -- the Norse sagas, or the wide range of Arthurian material, to see that there was considerably more stuff to be found than just religious texts.

#296 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 11:52 AM:

MichelleDB said:
But the Bad Things are happening and God is omnipotent so he could stop them but doesn't. And the reason I'm told why He doesn't is because of some unknowable Plan, or His ineffable Will. I found that explanation to be unsatisfactory; it offended my democratic sensibilities.

I'm probably the wrong person to address this, because my religious belief could best be summed up as "monotheist", but for me Bad Things were never an issue of faith. We have been given Free Will, and that means that God can't interfere with the way the world works.

Not Even Once.

Of course this also means that I don't believe in miracles as coming directly from God, but personally that's never been a big issue. Events occur in the world and are affected by God's creatures (including us), but God has a strict hands off management style.

I'm sure that others will strongly disagree with this intrepretation, but that's the way I've looked at it, and it helps me to deal with Bad Things.

#297 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 01:15 PM:

Each painter had a different interpretation of Mary's reaction to the angel's news. Sometimes she's a shy young girl, sometimes already the Queen of Heaven; sometimes she's serene, sometimes afraid or apprehensive. It reminded me of the fanfic I had read

Hmm, Bible Stories as fanfic, and Jesus as Mary Sue?

#298 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 01:24 PM:

Paula Lieberman:

"Hmm, Bible Stories as fanfic, and Jesus as Mary Sue?"

Jesus Christ, Wish Fullfilment Superstar, able to do anything? Naaah. Jesus couldn't hack the Quantum Mechanics.

But Mary as Mary Sue, that makes sense.

#299 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 01:41 PM:

The Pope and a Rabbi Walk Into a Bar ...
MICHAEL McGOUGH, Michael McGough is the Washington-based editor at large for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"Vee haf vays of making you pray!"

"Pope Benedict XVI hinted again today that he expects to have a short reign at the Vatican. Not because he expects to die soon, but because he wants to hurry up and move to America before Social Security runs out of money."

Jay Leno: "We have a new pope! Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany is now the most powerful Catholic in the world. Well, second most powerful, if you count Mel Gibson."

Dennis Miller: "Whenever I see a German on a balcony with an adoring throng, I get nervous."

#300 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 01:46 PM:

In like matter, the Jewish position on Jesus is....

I don't think there is a "the Jewish position on Jesus." Different Jews have different opinions, including some who looked for and found no objective historical evidence for a particular Nazarene Jesus/Joshua who was crucified in the time and place specified by Christianity, who might believe or be inclined to believe that the Jesus of Christianity is based on perhaps a compendium of people, or upon a movement based on something akin to the folklore development process, wherein a critical mass of material and belief accretes and in effect creates its own reality of pseudo-historical past.

One group that archeological evidence is extremely painful for is the Druse--a book came out some years back with a title something like _Joshua's Altar_, which discusses implication of archeological digs on a mountain thought to be the site of Joshua's altar--archeologists found a site there and dug, discovering the bones of almost exclusively kosher animals which presumably were sacrified there. The reason why the results are painful for Druse, is the that the Druse hold that that was the "cursed" of a pair of mountains and that the -other- mountain was the sacred site/site of the altar, versus the belief of non-Druse of the opposite, who believe or accept for religious Truth acceptance purposes, the opposite regarding the pair of mountains, that the Druse believe--the Druse were a splinter group breaking off from that other belief. Archeological proof that the altar wasn't where the Druse religion holds it should be, puts other tenets of the religion into question.

Some religions have the trait of destroying material which provides evidence of fallibility of their beliefs, or which is in contradiction of them.

#302 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 05:54 PM:

Michelle K writes: We have been given Free Will, and that means that God can't interfere with the way the world works.

I have many objections to such an argument most of which involve unbearably horrible things happening to innocents, but even limiting it to evils which are a result of moral choices made by conscious agents, it won't fly.

He set up a world with all kinds of limits on my Free Will: I'm not free to disobey the law of Gravity by force of will alone. It wasn't just written on a tablet: Thou Shalt Not Fly About With One Fist Extended Ahead of You, instead that limit on my Free Will is a physical limit. Meanwhile the one about not hunting down, torturing and then eating my neighbours alive is one I could break just by an act of will.

So, why not set it up the other way, with the rules of politeness, respect for your neighbours and absolutely no cannibalism as unbreakable laws, and the no-flying thing as a moral rule by which we prove our mettle?

I see two possibilities: God hates flying like Superman more than torture/murder, or neither one is really bad or good except that He says so, and in a Universe where flying was a moral evil I'd be sitting here wondering why we can't all stop flying about and just eat each other.

In either case, God is immoral by my standards.

#303 ::: Carolyn Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 06:16 PM:

So, I was Catholic for all of a week when JPII died and I've been watching the whole Benedict XVI deal come out with no small amount of trepidation. I've also been watching the debates unfold with no small amount of trepidation and tried to stay out of them as I've been sloughing off the religious afterbirth (and isn't that a mental image). I just really had to ask: is there anything good that can be said of Ratzinger's election?

#304 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 06:43 PM:

More than once before, a Pope has belied his record as Cardinal to become something unexpected, and Benedict XVI can scarcely disappoint the Church's liberal wing. He's also been making some conciliatory noises about collegiality and humility.

Time will tell.

#305 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Carolyn: You converted to Catholicism two week ago? How remarkable. I'd love it if you talk about your experiences.

Redwood Dragon has some interesting, very short discussion of Ratzinger's involvement in the Hitler Youth.

Yes, Ratzinger was only 16, yes he was an unenthusiastic Nazi who contributed nothing to the Third Reich and deserted as soon as he could. Were Ratzinger an ordinary person, or even a business leader, I would hold him blameless. But the pope needs to uphold a higher standard. He should at least express remorse.

#306 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 08:15 PM:

Niall McAuley:

More than once before, a Pope has belied his record as Cardinal to become something unexpected, and Benedict XVI can scarcely disappoint the Church's liberal wing. He's also been making some conciliatory noises about collegiality and humility.

Time will tell.

That's how I felt when George W. Bush was elected in 2000. "The Presidency shapes a man," I said to myself, "it makes him different from what he was when he was campaigning, or held lower office."

Look how that turned out.

I'm fresh out of time-will-tells.

#307 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 09:25 PM:

"Is there anything good that can be said of Ratzinger's election?"

He is a truly educated man. It's said that he chose his name after the scholarly, reclusive St. Bendict, the founder of the Benedictine order; he did not chose, for instance, Pius, which would be a clear sign of support for the extremist reactionaries.

That said, I doubt he will give us liberals will have cause to love him. But he might yet surprise us.

#308 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 10:01 PM:

Yeah, so he has a smaller Pure Evil score. If he had chosen the other name, we really could score Pius.

#309 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2005, 11:09 PM:

While my immediate reaction on hearing the Cardinal Ratlinger [spelling] had been elected Pope was verbal protest, I have a less negative view of him the I had when the returns said that the Schmuck was being thrown the election in the USA in 2000. The Schmuck's history of things that I found totally unacceptable went back to at least his participation in a dodge-the-draft-got-in-by-political-pull Guard unit and no-showing his Guard time--he should have been called onto active duty or given a dishonorable discharge with prejudice. And his record didn't get any better from there. Alcohol and alleged drug abuse, legal irregularities with licenses--it's not legal for Texas residents to have a license from Texas and one from another state, yet when he got the DUI that suspended his Maine license he had an unsuspended Texas one, and when he got elected governor of Texas he got issued a new license, with whatever DUIs were suspected to be on his Texas one disappearing with the superseded and eradicated license.

Schmuck also had a track record that stank in Texas, and buddies that I'd allow into civic facilities as incarcerated in the dog pound....

Cardinal Ratzlinger wasn't my favority Roman Catholic priest, but he also wasn't a free agent. How much he might change as Pope Benedict as opposed to Cardinal Ratzlinger is an open question. And he did author the document that set as Roman Catholic policy to leave Jews unproselytized. That meant quite a lot to me. There are a lot of stances that Cardinal Ratzlinger had that I am not in consonance with, but I remain grateful that he authored the document which declared the Roman Catholics are not to proselytize Jews.

I can hope that Pope Benedict has vision that goes beyond what Cardinal Ratzlinger had, regarding plurality and tolerance, beyond that which he authored for Roman Catholicism toward Judaism, that various policies and doctrines change to a less rigid structure.


Schmuck was a free agent as regards being responsible to the equivalent of a monarch--the governor of Texas isn't #2 to someone else in Texas. The Pope is the absolut head of the Roman Catholic Church, the situation in US politics is quite different. The Vice President is supposed to toe the line, not governors, they are not generally considered to be bound by the policies of someone above them.

So, there's more chance that Pope Benedict may have different views on some things than the man he follows as Pope....

#310 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 12:46 AM:

Benedict XVI is at least starting out better than one might have expected, meeting with Muslim leaders who came to his predecessor's funeral and calling for discussion with others of faith. That's heartening, and if he can keep that level of visible openness, I'll be pleasantly surprised.

A difference between the Papacy and the Presidency: no re-elections. It's a lot more like the Supreme Court, which has many more examples of people becoming unexpectedly different, and often better, than the presidency does.

#311 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 10:30 AM:

I wouldn't get too optimistic. Popes are generally pretty conciliatory in the opening days...the interregnum being historically a period of unrest for obvious reasons. Also they want to seem all saintly.

Joey Ratz has called for dialogue with other faiths, by which he says he means Jews and Moslems. Not Buddhists, Hindus, or Shintos. Certainly not Neo-Pagans like me. We're all still heathens to him. And he called Thich Nat Hahn (spelling?), the closest thing to a living saint I can think of, "the antichrist."

Also he's called other Christian denominations "deficient." Friendly.

#312 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 11:49 AM:

Niall: IF the point of free will is that we must be free to choose Godly ways over sin (Otherwise, the godly ways are morally as substantial as cotton candy, and as meaningless to God, and our fellow humans, as void), then necessarily, the things which we must be free to do must include a set of things which are undeniably ungodly, horrible - evil. Otherwise, God would have committed the ultimate evil upon his own creation, worse than what his creation does to itself - to strip any choice or hope of choice from us.

No, I'm not entirely convinced by the argument above, either. And I do believe God mourns many of the things we do.

But I also don't see a co-relation between a moral limit and a limit of physical laws. I can't see the back of my head (without the use of multiple mirrors). I don't think, however, that this is because God thinks this evil. It is a physical limitation, nothing more.

#313 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 12:19 PM:

Lenora, my point is that God does strip away choice or hope of choice form us in many, many areas: the ones where no matter what we choose, physical laws constrain us. I am free to do some horrible evils, but not all.

#314 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 12:27 PM:

Niall, a choice without limitation isn't really a choice. "Free Will" isn't the same as omnipotence, which is what it seems you're saying.

#315 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 12:36 PM:

Free Will is a theologically important topic. To me, it is bound up with theories of the nature of Time, and the origin of Natural Laws. Similarly, the core question on miracles is: can God break His own laws? If he can, the next question is, why does he choose to (or choose not to)? Xopher is correct to distinguish between Omnipotence, Omniscience, and God having an aesthetic sensibility. These questions are still important to agnostics and atheists, only they need to be couched more carefully.

From:
List of fictional clergy:

* Pope Celestine VI - Council by Greg Tobin

* Pope Kiril I - The Shoes of the Fisherman, played by Anthony Quinn in the movie based on that novel

* Pope John Calvin - The Golden Compass

* Pope Peter II - The Accidental Pope by Raymond Flynn and Robin Moore

* Pope Urban X - Candide

* The Space Pope (Crocodylus pontifex) - Futurama

#316 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 01:14 PM:

I’ve never understood why people think tragic or even horrific events are evidence that there is no god/are no gods. They’re evidence that the Divine doesn’t stop such events from occurring, that’s all, and as far as I’m aware no religion believes in a god who never lets bad things happen. Maybe there was a larger purpose: Alzheimer’s could be a way of getting us off our asses about stem-cell and gene-therapy research, and you are part of a wave of people angry enough to make noise to get that to happen.

Alzheimer's has taken my father, my aunt, and my grandmother leaving bewildered, confused, terrifed human looking shells in their places. I am not a good enough writer to convey the horror of the situation to the people it happens to (because there's a time when they know what's happening and what's to come) and those who love them. I refuse to believe in a Supreme Being who couldn't find a better way. There is no purpose in either the good or the bad that happens to us; it's just a contingent universe that doesn't give a damn because it can't.

Grrumph. I'm still not being clear enough. It's hard when I get so upset on the topic. Ultimately, for me, no lesson or benefit or accomplishment or whatever can justify or ameliorate the horror visited upon Alzheimer's patients and their loved ones. If there's a Supreme Being who think there is I don't want any part of It.

MKK

#317 ::: kate ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 01:49 PM:

He called _Trich Nat Hanh_ the antichrist?

Blink.

...I am completely unable to express just how utterly bizarre that is to me.

When did he do this, and in what context?

#318 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 02:00 PM:

Tom, Ratz has started out his term by ranting about the evils of "relativism" (I'm not sure if he defines this to mean anybody who disagrees with him, or only secularists who disagree with him), and opposing Turkey joining the EU, on the grounds that it's too Muslim. I am not heartened.

#319 ::: Carolyn Davies ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 02:16 PM:

I've been trying to imagine Thich Nhat Hanh as the Antichrist and I just can't see it. I too would be interested in seeing where this is said (but considering that I've come across some strongly anti-Buddhist stuff from Catholic sources, I would only be mildly surprised).

#320 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 03:37 PM:

I'm sorry, I was mistaken. It was JPII who called Thich Nhat Hanh the Anti-Christ. I doubt that Joey Ratz is going to be milder on the topic than J2P2, however.

#322 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 03:59 PM:

Andrew Sullivan points out recently that there's a split among conservatives, among the faithful and the doubters.

The faithful believe they have the One True Answer. Mostly these days they believe the answer comes from God. If you start with that premise, then of course you should impose that answer on other people. Because it's right. And they're wrong.

Doubters doubt. They are confident they can tell the difference between right and wrong in some matters, but in many areas they're not so sure. Homosexuality? Indecency on television and the Internet? They have their own opinions about what's right — they may even be sure about what's right for them but they're not so confident that they're willing to impose those opinions on other people.

Modern Western society was founded by American doubters, who saw the civil wars and bloodshed wrought by competing faiths in Europe. The American doubters got their ideas from European thinkers, and eventually the ideas crossed back over the Atlantic.

Now, the theocons in America want to roll back those centuries of progress. Because they know what's right. Because God told them.

By the way, one of the reasons I hate and fear the theocons in the U.S. is because I know that the alliance between Christian and Jewish theocons in the U.S. will break down. If the theocons remain in power long enough, they'll come for the Jews. They'll strip us of our property, put us in ghettos, and look the other way when lynch mobs come for us. It's happened in every other Western theocracy, why should it be any different this time?

#323 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 04:10 PM:

Mitch, they'll come for all of us eventually. Me before you, most likely, because even the Jewish Theocons hate me. Pagan, Gay, Leftie, outspoken loudmouth; it's almost like I'm saying "get me first."

But I'm not trying to play outer-than-thou. I'm trying to say that we can make the "when they came for the Moslems, I said nothing" mistake. Not that I think anyone on ML is likely to.

#324 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 04:59 PM:

Right, Xopher.

By the way, my previous message makes me sound like a raving paraanoid lunatic. I don't really spend that much time discussing this subject. The last message I posted before that was over on Scalzi's blog — I asked someone else if she was from Athens, Ohio (which she hinted at in her post), and I said it's a lovely town.

See? Normal, cheerful conversation!

After 9/11, when anti-Semitism was on resurgence even in the U.S., I began to feel fear about my ethnicity for the first time in my life. I asked myself: How can I live a normal life after this? How can I trust non-Jews?

And then I realized that I already had gay friends, black friends, pagan and Wiccan friends and Asian friends who set the example for me: You just do it. You continue going to movies, and Mexican restaurants, and arguing about whether Tony Soprano could Al Swearingen. You treat people as your friends until they show themselves otherwise. And you never, ever assume anti-Semitism until presented with incontrovertible evidence, because that way lies paranoia.

You don't forget about the risks, but you keep the fears suspended, away from your day-to-day life.

In four minutes I have an interview scheduled about an article I'm working on. This post will be forgotten by then.

#325 ::: Alexis Duncan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 05:04 PM:

It was JPII who called Thich Nhat Hanh the Anti-Christ.

That's dynamite, if true (and I certainly don't mean in a good way).

However, googling on "Thich Hahn antichrist pope", I only find Matthew Fox's essay referring to it. Does anyone know where the primary source is?

#326 ::: Pamela ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 06:29 PM:

Xopher, a very belated thank you for posting about your beliefs inside and outside the circle. I'd been thinking that a change of belief would require repudiating the original belief - seeing that it was false somehow. That would make it awfully hard to go back. But what you're describing seems more circumstance-dependent and less rigid.

A spirital toggle switch?

#327 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 06:46 PM:

He set up a world with all kinds of limits on my Free Will: I'm not free to disobey the law of Gravity by force of will alone. It wasn't just written on a tablet: Thou Shalt Not Fly About With One Fist Extended Ahead of You, instead that limit on my Free Will is a physical limit. Meanwhile the one about not hunting down, torturing and then eating my neighbours alive is one I could break just by an act of will.

That's not Free Will you're talking about--at least as I understand it. Free Will means that I can act as I please in the universe as it is. The laws of gravity are not an imposition upon Free Will. An imposition upon free will would be God reaching down and keeping me from eating a third slice of chocolate cake.

As far as I am concerned, God hasn't meddled with the world--thus overriding free will--since the universe was created. The Universe, and all the laws within, were created (with the Big Bang in my opinion) and then God stepped back and has not put a hand on the world since then.

Human evil is just that--human. Human laws, such as "Thou Shalt Not Kill" are just that. God doesn't enforce such rules, humans do. We choose to live our lives however we please, and whether we live like Mother Theresa or Hitler is entirely up to us.

I see two possibilities: God hates flying like Superman more than torture/murder, or neither one is really bad or good except that He says so, and in a Universe where flying was a moral evil I'd be sitting here wondering why we can't all stop flying about and just eat each other.

None of the above. The law of Gravity isn't a moral evil, it's a law of the universe that remains constant. It isn't a rule that is enforced for some people and not others, it's the way of the Universe.

Laws against torture/murder are human laws. We believe that this is the way that God wants us to live, and so we make laws accordingly, and enforce laws accordingly. God--if God is doing anything at all--is sitting/standing/whatever back watching the world.

Hands off.

To try and explain it in another way, if I want God to be able to heal my illness, I have to be willing to also allow God to step in and keep me from eating a third piece of Chocolate cake. Or smoking. Or drinking. Or having sex outside of marriage. Or doing whatever else I want to do that may be bad for me or someone else.

God can't lay a finger on the world to change anything once creation was set in motion, because such an action would remove Free Will.

I hope that's a little more clear?

(And please remember that these ideas are not related to any particular theology)

#328 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 07:05 PM:

Michelle K - thank you for your explanation of Free Will. That's one of the most succinct explanations I have seen.

I have always thought of God as a scientist-type, and this is an experiment to see what would happen. Set up a world, set the physical laws (gravity, speed of light, etc), add a couple of squirts of life, stand back, and watch what happens. Don't interfere at all.

#329 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 07:28 PM:

So, God plays Spores, huh?

http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/002491.html

#330 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 07:57 PM:

The best novel ever written about God as a cosmic experimental scientists is by by William Olaf Stapledon [Star Maker, 1937], as described in:

TIMELINE COSMIC FUTURE.

He does not intervene, but the "omega moment" of our cosmos is when our incredibly distant decsndents, linked into a metagalactic mind, contact God, and find that he really doesn't care, because ours is only a beta test universe.

#331 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 08:10 PM:

Oh yeah, and:

Sacrament math: how big is Jesus?

"JWZ does the math on Communion and concludes that if transubstantiation is real, then Jesus must have an awful lot of flesh and blood to have been used as sacrament so very many times:
'If you conservatively assume that these are the End Times and that Jesus will soon be completely consumed (a detail that I do not believe is a part of mainstream Christian dogma), then he weighs two billion times more than you, and contains fourteen billion times as much blood. (2,028,252,833× and 14,375,000,000×).'"

I wonder how this compares to the weight of all fragments of The True Cross sold over the past 20 centuries to collectors of sacred relics?

#332 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 08:13 PM:

I was actually going to mention _Star Maker_, but as I recall he/she/it _does_ intervene in a few of the creations, by sending in a messiah of sorts.

#333 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 09:06 PM:

I'm granting that God exists, set up the rules and now doesn't intervene. My point is that the rules will not allow certain kinds of human action, no matter what we Will. God set up the rules, so he decided what kinds of evil we can and cannot get up to.

He could have made tartan the ultimate sin, or Disco, or rudeness, but instead we have torture, murder and all kinds of other mayhem.

#334 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2005, 09:46 PM:

Michelle K --

You have just outlined the watchmaker God of classical deism.

The more traditional Christian understanding of God's actions is that they are frequent but (usually) undetectable or at least unverifiable. ("vere tu es Deus absconditus", says the psalmist -- "Truly, thou art the God that hidest himself"). There are specific points at which God has intervened more obviously -- the episode of the Incarnation being the obvious one -- but they are at specific leverage points, and are not easily verifiable for certain afterwards.

This preserves free will -- there is no overwhelming certainty removing freedom to believe or not -- but allows for the meaningful activity of God in the world.

The other problem of handling free will -- that of God's foreknowledge -- was outlined by Boethius: God seems to us to have foreknowledge because he exists outside time but we exist within it. God perceives all times as simultaneous; his perception of all our actions simultaneously does not determine them any more than our perception of someone across a room determines his or her actions.

#335 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2005, 02:55 PM:

He could have made tartan the ultimate sin, or Disco, or rudeness, but instead we have torture, murder and all kinds of other mayhem.

That's not the way I see it. We humans made the rules that torture, murder, etc were bad things.

Now you can say that we made those rules because that is what we believe that God wanted. Or you can say that society developed those rules because sociologically that is the only way we can function as a society--you don't have rules like that, then society descends into chaos.

James:
My theology is spotty at best, unfortunately, though I at least recognise the concept without knowing any of the details.

Actually it was the issue of Free Will that caused my problems with Christianity. I don't think that God intervenes directly in the world, and there seems to be an awful lot of meddling in the New Testament. (Though it's the case of Judas that bothers me the most.)

I am not sure, however, whether communicating with us would qualify as an intervention. I mean, I can tell you something, but there's no guarentee you'll listen, and nothing making you listen. But it is interfering.

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