Often the Simplest Explanation is Best

I came across this post by Mark Steyn. It is short, so I will reprint it in toto.

I wrote recently about a small victory for freedom of speech in Canada, but, as always, it’s two steps forward, one step back. Here’s the backward one: Gai Écoute in Québec has announced the launch of the world’s first “register of homophobic acts.”

I don’t mind gay groups keeping a vast database of anonymously-reported homophobic thought-crimes if they feel that’s a productive use of their time. But it is preposterous that this sprawling directory of  cobwebbed flamer cracks and swishy-gait titters will be publicly funded by taxpayers under the Québec Government’s “action plan for the fight against homophobia,” which apparently also includes redesignating Jean-Marc Fournier, the minister of justice and attorney general, as “Minister of Justice, Attorney General, and Minister for the Fight Against Homophobia.”

As usual with these censorious types, “act” is defined with the broadest of brushes to include “moquerie blessante” (offensive mockery) and “couverture médiatique inappropriée” (inappropriate media coverage). The right to mock and be “inappropriate” are about as basic to a free society as any, so nuts to that.

To announce the launch of their secret files of inappropriate mockers, the leaders of Gai Écoute were flanked by Montréal Police Chief Inspector Johanne Paquin and Commander Alain Gagnon. In a sane world, no self-respecting gay would attend such an event. The fact that this sight — policemen publicly announcing a dossier of dissident citizens suspected of thought crimes to the approval of supposedly “liberal” “progressive” groups — is now entirely normal in Western societies is far more disturbing than any problem they purport to be addressing. To modify an ancient joke, how do you make a fruit cordial? Evidently, it’s a lot harder than it used to be. You can have that one for free, lads — just in case things are a bit quiet on the homophobia-epidemic front.

PS I’ll be interested to see how much room the database has for persons of a, ahem, certain background who say things like “all male homosexuals should be killed for their deviant behavior.”

Those of you too finger-weary to click through the link, allow me to present the highlight of the opinion piece to which it refers:

Philips, a Saudi-educated cleric, … is considered controversial because he is on the record saying that all male homosexuals should be killed for their deviant behaviour…

Shortly after his sermon about the importance of gratitude, Philips clarified his views on homosexuality in a one-on-one interview.

In short, he only thinks homosexuals should be executed in Muslim countries and only after four people have witnessed the homosexual act.

“The media tends to take my words out of context,” Philips said.

My comment: As a science fiction writer, I am well aware that there are certain absurdities too absurd for any reader to take seriously should I put them in a space opera.

For example, if I were inventing some Orwellian dystopia where the state, in the name of aiding the poor to afford health care, should instead as its very first public act command the Roman Catholic Church institutions like universities and soup kitchens and orphanages to purchase abortifacients, contraceptives, and fund sterilization procedures; and when the Catholics, as their holy teaching commands, refused to participate in this abhorrent sin, the state called it a “war against women” — no reader would believe such a far fetched scenario, absurd to the point of comedy.

The readers might believe that the cowed and ignorant slaves of Airstrip One would call killing babies in the womb a ‘health’ practice performed by ‘doctors’, but only in the same way the readers accept the dark and morbid humor of Orwell, where Big Brother blithely calls ignorance strength and war peace.

An practice which calls itself a success when and only when the baby is born dead can be called many things, but not a ‘health’ practice.

But no reader would imagine that anyone, no matter how cowed or craven or insane, could with a straight face call the polite refusal of churchmen to hand over their own money to fund and support the fornications and abominations and infanticides of the giddy whores of whoreland an act of war against womanhood.

Such polite refusal has killed fewer women than Ted Kennedy Chappaquiddick by a ratio of one to zero, or, in other words, an infinite ratio.

No reader would believe that anyone could say or could believe the perfect nonsense of calling the refusal to aid and abet in harlotry or self-mutilation or child-murder an act of bloodthirsty military aggression against the harlot child-murderesses. Not the outlawing of the fornication or aborticide, mind you, and not even the public denunciation of either: merely the refusal to pay money for those who freely and voluntarily join a Catholic University or Hospital or Charity to violate deeply held Catholic moral teachings.

And this, not as the first public expression of, say, the Plenary Porcine Right to Copulate Act of 2001, or the Atheist Anticlerical Empowerment Act of 2008 but instead as the first public expression of an Act allegedly meant to lower the cost of doctor and hospital visits to the ragged orphans from Oliver Twist or the penniless Okies from Grapes of Wrath. Visits to the cathouse or to the confessional booth do not seem to be anywhere in the scope of the debate.

And yet, somehow, by some odd coincidence, the first thing done by this benevolent law was to have an unelected bureaucrat arbitrarily decide to command the Church to trample the crucifix.

Now, of course, as a science fiction writer, my whole art and craft is to take some manifest absurdity, such as time travel or faster than light drive, and give the reader’s imagination some excuse to exercise a willing suspension of disbelief.

In this case, the reader might be willing to believe the Orwellian absurdity if the story at the outset postulated two counterfactual premises:

First, all the characters involved in the tale, small and great, and all their ancestors back to their first parents suffer some severe and radical depravity which both corrupts the moral sense and darkens the intellect, so that whole political parties and nations and peoples and ages of history can be led into hysteria and madness, neurosis and depravity while at the same time congratulating themselves with excessive self-adulation on their enlightenment and clearheadedness.

I mean, as a science fiction writer, I can postulate an entire race of creatures with radically unstable and self destructive psychology, can I not?  Country of the Blind, or a Nation of Cowards, or a Fallen World?

Second, and because readers love Hitchcockian paranoid thrillers, the tale could postuate a master spy or super-villain of immense, nay, superhuman intelligence and power bending the wills of his victims, even without their conscious knowledge, against the one institution in the West which has always opposed him. As a crowning irony, this Dark Lord could be so subtle as to rob the current generation of knowledge of his existence, despite that all the fathers and all the beloved leaders and founders of days past knew of this Dark Lord and hated him.

More brilliant than any Bond villain planning to ignite a supervolcano or unleash a bioterror plague, this mastermind can get his enemies to destroy each other. For the purpose of drama, we can take an extreme case:

On the one side, we have ardent homosexual activists who (and here the reader will have to stretch his imagination to swallow the incongruity) regard the practice of an unnatural vice as a race or nation, like the Negro or the Irish, so that the practice chastity and decency created by natural affection can be regarded as oppression, the theft of a civil right akin to the Democrat Party’s Jim Crow laws, or even an oppression akin to the slavery in the in Democrat Party’s Antebellum South.

Naturally, since the activists see themselves as facing universal condemnation, which they interpret to be not concern for the welfare of decency and society, including their own, but as an incomprehensible and cosmic conspiracy against them, they will scruple at nothing to defend themselves from what seems to them an irrational yet all-powerful opposition. Their first resort will be to “strong arm” tactics, special laws to protect them, special prosecutors, nay, inquistors to ferret out the enemies who lurk in every nook and shadow. Since the activists are rebelling against nature herself, they will be constantly surprised at how pervasive the opposition to them is. To them, the normal world will seem an endless throng of brain eating zombies, implacable and beyond any power of reason to reach.

So, naturally, the first enemy of the activist will be the centers of moral probity: the Boy Scouts, the Christian churches, and particularly the Catholic Church.

However, despite the overblown rhetoric of the activists, the Boy Scouts do not stone homosexuals to death. There is another group that does this.

Our Dark Lord, at least in this story, can erect a false prophet to announce a religion remarkably akin to Christianity but without the Christ, the redemption, or the humanity. We can call this heresy “the Submission” because the peoples regard themselves as slaves of God rather than sons. The Submitters can be homicidal maniacs who live in a constant foam of rage, eager to knife film makers or behead journalists, or any who oppose the imposition of an inhuman theocracy called Sharia Law on all all mankind.

Now, one would think the bloodthirsty religious maniacs and the paranoiac secular activists would be the worst enemies in the world, since they oppose each other violently at every point but, in this tale, we have to come up with some reason that they make a common cause with each other and gang up against the West in general, Christianity in particular, and the Catholic Church especially.

Of course in our story, we have already set up the explanation at the outset: the innate depravity of man, which we might call a genetic defect or (to use an older language which means much the same thing) an original sin; and this is combined with the malice of a superhuman and implacable enemy of God and Man.

But here is a question for my readers of any persuasion.

1. Do you think that persons of an, ahem, certain background are going into that database in Quebec? More imams than bishops? Really?

2. For those of you who do not believe the tale, the one true tale of the world which makes sense of the world, what account can be you make of the repeated pattern that the efforts of the activists ignore the efforts of the maniacs, but instead concentrate on the Holy Mother Church, as if she, rather than each other, were the frightening formidable enemy of both?

How do you account for it?

If you cannot account for it, I suggest you examine your axioms, question your unquestioned assumptions, and find a philosophy, or, to be precise, a faith, which forms and accurate and explicable model of the word.

You know your model is inaccurate when it cannot, you know, serve as a model to explain what it purports to explain.

156 Comments

  1. Comment by watermelonyo:

    2. For those of you who do not believe the tale, the one true tale of the world which makes sense of the world, what account can be you make of the repeated pattern that the efforts of the activists ignore the efforts of the maniacs, but instead concentrate on the Holy Mother Church, as if she, rather than each other, were the frightening formidable enemy of both?

    How do you account for it?

    Easy. In this particular case, the population of Quebec is 83.6% Catholic and only 1.5% Muslim. In general, Muslims make up a tiny minority compared to Christians throughout America and Canada. The fight is generally against those who have the power.

    • Comment by Sean Michael:

      Hi,”watermelonyo”:

      I disagree. It’s superficial to say the reason why Mohammedans and leftists (in general) are actual or de facto allies is not because evil conservatives, Jews, Protestants, or Catholics are “oppressing” them; rather it is because, at their best, these people have ideas and beliefs which challenges, denies, and rejects those of Mohammedans and leftists. For a detailed examination of the phenomenon of Mohammedans and leftists allying against the West, I suggest reading Andrew McCarthy’s book THE GRAND JIHAD.

      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Sure. Any model is “easy” if you sculpt the facts to fit the model rather than sculpt the model to fit the facts. And between the people who want to blow the homosexuals up with dynamite, and those who refuse to perform so-called weddings for them in their holy places, obviously the refusers are a greater danger than the mad bombers.

      The question here is, by what frame of reference is the Catholic Church more “dangerous” to the activists than the blood thirsty maniacs who want to kill the activists? I submit that the danger is only greater in a spiritual sense, or, in other words, that to a guilty conscience anyone upholding a standard of decency has a moral authority that is utterly deadly — but only on a psychological or spiritual level. Ironically, because the maniacs are resorting to violence, they have lost all moral high ground. No one, or, at least, no one in a civilized country, would take the cries of a mad bomber that we be chaste and moderate in our sexual conduct seriously. Spiritually speaking, and having nothing to do with numbers, there is no danger from the Sharia law in Quebec at all.

      Spiritually speaking, even if the Catholics voice no widespread public denouncement of the sin of sodomy, the mere refusal to sanctify it with their marriage rites is deadly enough to destroy both public approval of the sin and private conscience.

      Your model is forced into a position of absurdity because it cannot acknowledge the moral authority wielded by the Church, even while the battle against that authority continues.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        “The question here is, by what frame of reference is the Catholic Church more “dangerous” to the activists than the blood thirsty maniacs who want to kill the activists?”

        Although I do not myself agree that this argument is valid, typically the answer is something along these lines:

        The Church teaches that same-sex attraction is a disordered condition, and that those who wilfully give into it knowing this are committing a mortal sin. One frequent method of parents wishing to train their children to avoid sin is to punish and shame them if caught. However, due to human fallibility, all too many parents will go overboard with this punishment and shaming, and cause such physical or emotional suffering in their adolescent children as to traumatize them, driving them to self-destructive or even suicidal reactions. Furthermore, peers wishing to find convenient targets for bullying will often focus upon targets deemed “acceptable”, and people with same-sex attractions are very often deemed so by communities who reject this behaviour even if the rejection itself is, in principle, non-violent or not actively punitive.

        Though these statistical chains of causation are far less likely per case to produce violently hostile outcomes, the sheer prevalence of the root-cause belief system is held to be more dangerous overall because of that statistical accumulation — just as far more people die in car crashes than plane crashes, even though a plane crash is much less survivable as an individual event, because the sheer numerical prevalence of cars makes them the greater danger. It is not directly what the Church teaches that makes it dangerous, but the fact that so many more people believe it that the frequency of suffering from dangerous *mis*interpretation of Christian teaching is greater in practice than the frequency of suffering from dangerous but correct interpretation of Islamic teaching. The only solution, it is believed, is to delegitimize such teaching altogether, just as the only solution to drunk-driving accidents is to delegitimize the attitude that any alcohol level above 0.0% is “safe”.

        Although I can follow such arguments, I would have more sympathy for them if those who made them were not so prone to shift their goalposts the moment a similar argument from statistical likelihood was used for causes they dislike, such as stricter profiling or pornography restriction.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          The argument as it stands also is a testament to the power of nonsense. The argument, in sum, is that wrong yet peaceful philosophy, merely by being wrong, may increase the statistical chance of violence, and therefore the peaceful philosophy is violent.

          The claim is rather doubtful because the argument attempts to uphold two contrary principles. The first principle is that any unpleasant speech or behavior is legal and acceptable until and unless it causes physical violence. The second principle is that any speech or behavior, including the behavior of not profaning sacraments on demand, which expresses a value judgment condemning any other man’s lifestyle, even if the condemnation is indirect or unspoken, is unpleasant and unacceptable. Hence, the only way for the libertarian principle of calling all things acceptable to marry the hellish principle that everything done by the Church is unacceptable is to pigeonhole, somehow, anyhow, all Church action into the pigeonhole of violence. It has to be called violence even when it is not, either metaphorically violent, or indirectly violent, or just as an out-and-out lie.

          Rather than trying to show this rather doubtful claim, surely it is easier and clearer to make an argument along these lines: 1. there is an objective moral standard 2. toleration and even adoration of sexual perversion is right and good and glorious according to that moral standard 3. Anyone who offends this moral standard is wrong and wretched 4. Anyone who offends this standard in the name of adoring something or someone other than what the Party adores is an enemy of the Party, and, as such, has no rights, merits no respect, is not a human being, and must and should be silenced by any means possible.

          This line of argument would at least have the merit of being clear and logical. It may even be what the partisans in favor of morally disordered behavior actually believe. But it repudiates the second principle mentioned above, which is central to the modern Politically Correct world view: namely, that all acts and deeds are allow, including self destruction, provided only no other person is physically harmed.

          And against all such arguments, let us apply the purgative of facts.
          From the Islamist Watch website: http://www.islamist-watch.org/blog/2012/06/life-under-sharia
          Examples of life under Sharia in Islamist societies.

          1. Sudanese Woman Lashed (Video)
          2. Saudi Woman Harassed in Mall By Sharia Police for Wearing Nail Polish (Video)
          3. Woman Stoned to Death Along Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier (Graphic Video)
          4. Turkey Indicts World-Famous Pianist for Atheist Tweet
          5. Kuwait Man Receives 10 Years In Prison for Anti-Mohammad Tweet
          6. Homosexuals Executed in Iran (Graphic Photos)
          7. Tunisian Demonstration Demands Death for Man Accused of Heresy (Video)
          8. Tunisian Islamists Slaughter Convert to Christianity (Extremely Graphic Video)”

          The site then displays the videos so described.
          Now, in the Internet age, what excuse has any man for being unaware of the difference between the Sharia Law and Canon Law? The only reason why Shariah does not carry out its program against homosexuals and women and freethinkers and every other group the Politically Correct claim, rather unconvincingly, to defend, is a lack of present ability. The willingness is there.

          The reason why the civilization of the West does not carry out its program against these same groups is that we have no such program. We are merely seeking to retain our civilization against its corruption and demise.

          And yet there are men who not only cannot tell the difference between willing-but-not-able versus able-but-not-willing, the claim is that we, the civilized men, the men of the West, Christendom, the Church, we are the bigger threat.

          It is all lies. The Politically Correctoids are engaged in what lawyers call “forum-shopping” and economists call “rent-seeking”. They can bully or bludgeon what seem to be weak targets into compliance, particularly targets who pose no threat whatsoever. Overcoming a make-believe threat is easier than facing a real one, after all. Hence, “Islamophobia” (an entirely make believe pathological condition caused by thinking reality is real) is taken to be a bigger threat to women and to sexual deviants than is Islam. The Church, who wants to baptize the homosexual and invite him into the confessional booth, is regarded as a bigger threat than the Ummah, who want to stone the homosexual and invite him into the wood chipper.

          And why? Simple. Their model requires we be the bigger threat. Any facts to the contrary are ignored, and any finders of fact slandered.

          • Comment by Stephen J.:

            “And yet there are men who not only cannot tell the difference between willing-but-not-able versus able-but-not-willing, the claim is that we, the civilized men, the men of the West, Christendom, the Church, we are the bigger threat.”

            In all fairness, I can see sensible reasons to be more afraid (in principle) of an Able-But-Unwilling potential threat than of the Willing-But-Unable threat. A big dog off its leash, even if it’s sleeping peacefully now and its owner assures you of its benevolence, can be much more alarming to the victim of a dog attack than a tiny but firmly leashed dog barking and growling hysterically — especially if the big dog looks a lot like the dog that bit you, and you know the big dog’s progenitors also had a history of biting. And a big dog that’s merely sleeping can turn dangerous a lot quicker, and with lot less warning, than a little dog can fight its way off its leash.

            This metaphor would hew more closely to reality if I said that the big dog, rather than threatening to bite or maul, would simply require so much commitment to raising it that, should you happen to love eating steak, you would never be able to do so again but instead would have to feed it to the dog; which would be particularly problematic for those who have defined their intimate relationships around the act of sharing steak. Compared to loss of life, loss of intimacy or pleasure should seem like the lesser suffering — but a lesser suffering that seems almost certain to happen can be evaluated as a “greater threat” than a truly horrid suffering that seems wholly unlikely to happen.

            All of this, of course, relies on assuming the worst of the big dog and the best of, if not the little dog itself, the strength of the little dog’s leash. It also relies on the presumption that the act of eating steak itself does not gradually contribute to suffering in itself, given sufficient time and quantity. But there’s a difference between moral shortsightedness and out-and-out moral blindness.

          • Comment by Stephen J.:

            None of the above makes nonsense into sense, of course. But it is more an exercise in figuring out how it can look like sense from a certain point of view.

          • Comment by Gian:

            Mr Wright,
            1. Sudanese Woman Lashed (Video)
            2. Saudi Woman Harassed in Mall By Sharia Police for Wearing Nail Polish (Video)
            3. Woman Stoned to Death Along Pakistan-Afghanistan Frontier (Graphic Video)
            4. Turkey Indicts World-Famous Pianist for Atheist Tweet
            5. Kuwait Man Receives 10 Years In Prison for Anti-Mohammad Tweet
            6. Homosexuals Executed in Iran (Graphic Photos)
            7. Tunisian Demonstration Demands Death for Man Accused of Heresy (Video)
            8. Tunisian Islamists Slaughter Convert to Christianity (Extremely Graphic Video)

            Surely you could have complied a worse list in 16-17C Europe.
            1. Ten witches burned in Cologne
            2. Five Catholics burned in England.
            3. Fifty Huguenots lashed and expelled in France,
            4. Kepler’s grandmother burned as witch; mother facing investigation.
            and so on.

            The lists alone prove nothing much. in 1941-45, you would have found Europe the centre of barbarism.
            in 1994 it was Africa.

            • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

              Yes, and barbarianism is to be fought by Civilization in all times and places, yes?

              • Comment by Gian:

                The Sharia takes its cues from the Old Testament. The OT prescribes death penalty rather freely.
                So if it was good for Hebrews to impose death penalty by stoning for adulterous women, then why it is objectionable for Muslims to do it now?.

                Similarly for blasphemy, witchcraft etc. That we have softened is no reason that they are wrong not to soften. Perhaps the West is wrong for being soft on blasphemy, adultery, sodomy, usury and witchcraft.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              “The lists alone prove nothing much”

              That depends, I suppose, on the reason for which the list is presented as evidence, and evidence of what. For what the subject matter of the argument was, this list is probative.

              The only way to come to the conclusion that the list is not probative is to ignore what the list is trying to prove, which you here have done.

              I am not sure what point you are trying to make.

        • Comment by Mary:

          “The Church teaches that same-sex attraction is a disordered condition, ”

          People who start by accusing their opponents of being mentally disordered — “homophobic” — have no ground for complaint that someone else refers to people as disordered.

          All the logic propounded here would equally apply the other way ’round about who is a peril to whom.

      • Comment by watermelonyo:

        Sure. Any model is “easy” if you sculpt the facts to fit the model rather than sculpt the model to fit the facts. And between the people who want to blow the homosexuals up with dynamite, and those who refuse to perform so-called weddings for them in their holy places, obviously the refusers are a greater danger than the mad bombers.

        Certainly they are in America and Canada. It is the opposite in many other places in the world.

        The question here is, by what frame of reference is the Catholic Church more “dangerous” to the activists than the blood thirsty maniacs who want to kill the activists? I submit that the danger is only greater in a spiritual sense, or, in other words, that to a guilty conscience anyone upholding a standard of decency has a moral authority that is utterly deadly — but only on a psychological or spiritual level. Ironically, because the maniacs are resorting to violence, they have lost all moral high ground. No one, or, at least, no one in a civilized country, would take the cries of a mad bomber that we be chaste and moderate in our sexual conduct seriously.

        And yet, in many countries, they are taken very seriously. This has nothing to do with moral authority or civilization. It is simply because they have the power in those countries.

        Spiritually speaking, and having nothing to do with numbers, there is no danger from the Sharia law in Quebec at all.

        If it has nothing to do with the numbers, then why is there danger from Sharia law in majority Muslim countries?

        Spiritually speaking, even if the Catholics voice no widespread public denouncement of the sin of sodomy, the mere refusal to sanctify it with their marriage rites is deadly enough to destroy both public approval of the sin and private conscience.

        Only in your dreams. In reality, public approval of homosexuality continues to increase every day.

        Your model is forced into a position of absurdity because it cannot acknowledge the moral authority wielded by the Church, even while the battle against that authority continues.

        No, all that is required to fight the battle is to acknowledge that there are a lot of people who think the Church has moral authority, and I certainly acknowledge that.

  2. Comment by CorkyAgain:

    I don’t know whether the gay activists are consciously thinking along these lines, but it is a well-known rule of strategy that, when faced by two opponents one of whom is stronger than the other, you should seek to divide them and then attack the weaker partner.

    In this context, “strength” is the willingness to fight whatever the cost. “Weakness” is an inclination to surrender, in the hope that this will avoid further unpleasantries.

  3. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    It seems to me that the charge of wrong priorities can cut both ways. I have seen you acknowledge that, by your own code, no-fault divorce is a larger problem than gay marriage (if I have misunderstood you on the point, please excuse me); likewise abortion. Ought you not, then, to spend such time as you can spare for writing blog posts against things you disapprove of – clearly such time is a limited resource – on these much larger threats? Nothing that happens with the 1% of the population that is gay can have the same impact as laws touching heterosexuals and pregnant women. Yet somehow it is homosexuals that cause you to blog.

    That aside, your fulminations would be all the better for a definition of ‘unnatural’ or ‘morally disordered’ that didn’t boil down to “John C Wright, Esquire, disapproves”.

    • Comment by DGDDavidson:

      He has written at length on what “unnatural” and “morally disordered” mean, and you can no doubt access either older blog posts or other resources to get the meaning of these words. Can you not do better than a cheap shot like this?

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        I expressed myself unclearly. Our host has defined ‘unnatural’ as “not using a thing in accordance with its designed function” – where ‘designed’ in this case can be taken either as the intention of an intelligent creator, or as the pseudo-design we use in speaking of evolutionary purposes to avoid vast circumlocutions. What he has not explained is why this standard should get our allegiance. The purposes of bodily parts are the purposes of evolution; but evolution is an utterly amoral process, and – to borrow a phrase from recent discussion – has no lawful authority. My hands, clearly, were “designed” for gripping things; if I instead use them for typing – a profoundly unnatural act that will give you all kinds of health issues if you overdo it – that is not a moral issue, and nobody tries to make it one because nobody cares about that part of the design. So my sneaking suspicion is that the foundation of “unnaturalness” was selected to justify the conclusion of “only this kind of sex”, rather than the other way around. If the conclusion predates the premise, then the actual premise, the one that in fact caused the chain of reasoning to be blogged, boils down to personal distaste.

        I hasten to add that this does not, of itself, invalidate the argument; it may of course be the case that the personal distaste is an indicator of something that is genuinely wrong. I’m just saying that the publicly available reasoning lacks one thing to support the conclusion, namely support for the idea that we ought to commit only natural acts.

        • Comment by DGDDavidson:

          This is incorrect. He has defined it in terms of final cause, which is not a shortcut to avoid circumlocutions, nor does it imply intelligent design.

          • Comment by Tom Simon:

            Dr. Andreassen has repeatedly shown himself wilfully and ideologically incapable of understanding the meaning of the term ‘final cause’. There is simply no receptacle in his mind into which the concept will fit.

            • Comment by DGDDavidson:

              I have watched the good doctor’s refusals to be tutored in branches of philosophy outside his expertise, but that’s no excuse for gross misrepresentation.

              I admit that materialism would look slightly more convincing to me if I didn’t always see materialists making up rationalizations for sodomy and BDSM. It is their immorality more than anything that convinces me their metaphysics is flawed, though I also find the arguments that their metaphysics is self-refuting to be convincing.

              Dr. Andreassen has previously told us that morality is a product of evolution, but that it is (somehow) objective and binding even on beings that evolved on other planets or evolved vastly different traits from ours. When the topic is sex, however, he suddenly tells us evolution has no moral authority, and committing sodomy is ethically no different from typing with your fingers.

              • Comment by John C Wright:

                What I find frustrating is that *I* could make a better argument in favor of materialism than any “argument” the doctor has made, because I could indeed make the arguments rather than a series of disconnected dogmatic statements.

                1. From the fact that you are reading these words now, we can deduce that the material world exists.
                2. Everything in the material world arises for a cause; nothing comes from nothing.
                3. If there were a non-material world it would either be utterly separate in causation from the material, or not.
                4. If it were utterly separate, it could not interact with the material world, either to be aware of or react to or to cause events. Since human thoughts and actions do indeed interact with the material world, they cannot be part of an utterly separate world.
                5. If it not utterly separate, then material causes and effects arise from nonmaterial causes and effects, which is the same as something coming from nothing or something going into nothing.
                6. Which contradicts our axiom #2 above.
                7. Therefore human thoughts and actions are part of the material world; therefore are material.

                Naturally, since I do not myself believe this argument, I can detect the flaw in it, but at least it is an argument.

              • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                Please observe that I have never argued that having an evolved morality impels us to breed as rapidly as we can, indeed I have several times specifically denied this misunderstanding. The point you are failing to grasp is that though human purposes evolved, they are not the purposes of evolution. Love, for example, evolved as a means to cause free-willed beings to breed faster. I trust we agree that love is a good thing, generally speaking. But one cannot conclude that love is good because it evolved; the two points are completely separate facts about the emotion.

                Your morality evolved, but it is not binding because it evolved; it is binding because you have no free will to change it. You cannot by any act of will decide that love is bad, pain is good, or babies a suitable breakfast cereal. That evolution created this morality for the ‘purpose’ of increasing genetic fitness is not relevant; that is not the reason you find these points compelling. You could substitute an intelligent creator without any change to the actual bindingness of the morality; the fact that your nature is what it is, screens off the question of how it arose.

                If we wished to adopt the purposes of evolution, we could do a really excellent job of it, much better than the haphazard trial-and-error of mutation and selection. We could fill this planet to the brim with babies. We choose not to do so, because the purposes of evolution are not our purposes even though they created us.

                • Comment by Gian:

                  Loose statements such as ‘morality evolved ..” and “Love, for example, evolved as a means to cause free-willed beings to breed faster.” have NO empirical support whatsoever.

                  So it is no surprise to find radical empiricists making them.

                • Comment by robertjwizard:

                  Love, for example, evolved as a means to cause free-willed beings to breed faster.

                  Evolved… biologically? Breeding requires no such thing. Breeding requires the male become aroused and want to mount the female and thrust to ejaculation.

                  Love?

                  Apparently they did not have the show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom where you grew up.

                  • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                    Indeed they didn’t; Norway in the 1980s had the state monopoly channel, which tended to show Finnish comedies and documentaries about underwater basketweaving, and that was it. You wouldn’t want American programming to corrupt the kids. When a second broadcast channel was introduced around 1990, it was a great event, and my sister and I were allowed to stay up late and watch the opening program. When sweet brother over in Sweden calls us “the last Soviet state”, the jibe stings not least because there is a hint of truth in it. This being said, having seen what passes for television over here, I can’t help but feel that the Labour party had a point about the American programming corrupting the kids. Never mind the constitutional stuff; it is a continuing mystery to me why the well-armed and notoriously ornery American population has not long since risen in revolt against the sort of ads that corporations are here permitted to broadcast several times an hour – even to interrupting the actual shows! You may certainly argue that this is not the government’s business, but after the third time the broadcast networks’ headquarters are burned down by an angry mob, even their executives ought to get the hint. Any rational government would order its troops and police to stand aside.

                    All that is a digression. By ‘breed faster’ I intended to indicate not just the act of copulation, but all the things that go into rearing a new generation to adulthood. If you take population as increasing exponentially, P(t) = ke^{at} where t is time, then ‘breed faster’ means to have a higher constant of growth, a. It was a shorthand, perhaps infelicitously chosen.

                • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                  “You cannot by any act of will decide that love is bad, pain is good, or babies a suitable breakfast cereal.”

                  If we have no free will to change morality, then explain to me how it is that you are able to come to the conclusion that fornication and sodomy are morally licit. Why does this binding morality cease to apply when sex is involved?

                  • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                    If we have no free will to change morality, then explain to me how it is that you are able to come to the conclusion that fornication and sodomy are morally licit.

                    By applying reason to axioms.

                    From your question it seems to me that you are still stuck in the misunderstanding that an evolved morality must necessarily lead to maximal reproduction. Please re-read the post where I explained why this is not so.

                    Why does this binding morality cease to apply when sex is involved?

                    It doesn’t, you’re just mistaken about what it says and why.

                    • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                      I have never so much as suggested or hinted that I thought an “evolved morality” must entail maximum reproduction because I think “evolved morality” is meaningless gibberish, a contradiction in terms.

                      What I want to know is, why do you on the one hand insist on an objective morality and on the other hand rationalize vices when they happen to be vices of a sexual nature?

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      What I want to know is, why do you on the one hand insist on an objective morality and on the other hand rationalize vices when they happen to be vices of a sexual nature?

                      Simple: I think that what you call vices are not, in fact, vices, according to the objective and correct morality. Surely this is not difficult to grasp? I assert that morality is objective – one of our few points of agreement – but disagree with you on what it says. This cannot be unfamiliar to you; the Moslem, for example, asserts that morality is not only objective but divinely ordained, but then goes on to say that drinking alcohol (not just to excess, but at all) is immoral; most Christians agree on the first but not the second.

                      Perhaps you have gotten used to the juxtaposition of relativistic moralities with permissiveness in sex; but this is not logically necessary. Morality may be objective while still disagreeing with your judgement on particular points; in this case you are merely mistaken on the immorality of particular sexual acts.

                    • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                      Perhaps I simply need to ask how you arrived at this conclusion.

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      Briefly, it does not seem to me that any harm is done. No harm, no foul, as one might say. How did you arrive at the opposite conclusion?

                    • Comment by Gian:

                      “no harm is done”

                      Depends upon how do you define “harm”.

                      Many vices do have direct physical harm. It is a conservative talking point that sodomites have higher risk of many physical disorders.

                      Then, you must consider felt hurt, breakdown of families, breakdown of trust, neglect of children leading to actual physical harm, and ultimately social disorders, increase in crime etc.

                      Then there are spiritual harms,

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            The point stands that no argument has been made for adopting final causes as our measuring stick for morality. Why should we act in accordance with any particular final purpose?

            • Comment by Gian:

              Measuring stick for morality??

              First, to avoid confusion, let me define what morality is. It is just Natural Law, meaning the Law of Human Nature and that is essentially common to most human societies.
              All societies recognize percepts such as Respect Elders, Be Loyal to the City, Give Alms to the Poor, Make Provision for the Widow and the orphan,

              The Catholic Church further defines Natural Law as our participation in the Eternal Law, i.e., it is a facet of the Eternal Law that pertains to humans.

            • Comment by Gian:

              The morality or in other words the goodness of an act is judged by
              1) What the act is
              2) The circumstances
              3) The intent of the actor.

              If the act is wrong in itself, then no further consideration is required to condemn it,
              Eg sodomy or lying
              If the act is not wrong in itself, then we need to consider the circumstances and the intent.
              Eg killing a man,

              Now considering the acts wrong in themselves. They contradict the good of a person. Now the good is defined in terms of final causes.

              Good is what fulfills the final cause. It is a tautology if one understands the meaning of words.
              And morality is doing the good. Hence final causes are a FACTOR in the morality but not the sole determinant of it.

              • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                Eg sodomy or lying [are wrong in themselves]

                How do you know that sodomy is wrong in itself? That was the thing to be explained, but you merely reassert it without argument.

                Good is what fulfills the final cause. It is a tautology if one understands the meaning of words.

                In that case “X is natural” is merely another way of saying “X is good”, and you have to come up with a different argument for why it’s good.

                • Comment by Gian:

                  Philosophy, even Catholic philosophy, does not define morality but only helps us to understand it.
                  Natural law is intuited or in other words, intellectually grasped but as our intelligence is clouded owing to original sin, there is much confusion.

                  However, the common opinion of mankind provides a core to the Natural Law. That sexual impurity is wrong is common to all great civilizations. It is morally certain that no people exist or have existed without notions of sexual purity.

                  • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                    It is also true that western and most other civilisations until 1700 or so permitted slavery. That a moral insight is new does not of itself invalidate it. I observe further that questions of sexual morality may be contingent. That is, if we suppose for a moment that the true laws of morality are written on a stone tablet hidden somewhere on the moons of Jupiter, it may straightforwardly say “No sex outside of marriage”; in that case the law is not contingent. But alternatively it may say “No sex that has a probability greater than 0.001% of producing a child outside of a supportive family environment”; in that case the law depends on circumstance, and the moral course of action would in fact vary with the level of civilisation.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      Well, no. Western society (along among the societies of the world) did not permit slavery until shortly (a couple of centuries) before 1700. The pagans of the classical age relied on it, but the Christian society that succeeded them did not. That changed with the enthusiasm for all things classical that came with the dawn of modernism, and we had the abolition to do all over again.

                      You are right, of course, that the newness of a moral insight does not automatically invalidate it. You need to examine the source of the insight. If it is a refinement of the law already understood (rejection of slavery, love of enemies) it is likely to be a true insight. If it is a rejection and denial of the law already understood (praise of sodomy, dispraise of alms-giving) you would need to check your reasoning very carefully indeed. It is not enough to demand that the moral law previously upheld be made to justify itself to you.

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      Dublin was a center of the slave trade as late as the twelfth century, more than half a millennium into Irish Christianity. The Domesday book lists 2-10% (depending on whether it was counting individuals or heads of households) of the population as slaves, ‘servus'; and another 30% as unfree serfs, ‘villein’. It wasn’t until the early sixteenth century that slaves became free upon stepping onto English soil.

                      You are of course correct that no western society (at any rate outside the American colonies) was economically dependent on slavery as Rome had been and as the nineteenth-century South was; but that is a separate issue from permitting it.

                    • Comment by Gian:

                      CS Lewis gave a great analogy, Microscopes are required to see small objects while telescopes are required to see distant objects. Similarly, to see God, the largest thing there is, a whole population is required. That is, a human group or City as a whole works as a telescope. For instance, Catholics or Englishmen have a particular view of God (and this view defines them). The lens are clouded however, and so different human populations have a different view of God and thus differences in local moral codes.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      Dublin is a city in Ireland, but it was not at that time an Irish city. The Vikings of Dublin were notorious pagans, resisting Christianisation longer than just about any other Scandinavian community.

                      “Servus” might mean “slave” or it might not, depending on the social context. I suggest that in 11th century England it ought not to be interpreted that way, unless there is clear evidence that it should.

                      Likewise, serfdom is not the same as slavery, and equating the two because the serf is “unfree” amount to hardly more than a pun. A baron was no more free to abandon his fief than a serf to abandon his plot.

                      That you have to look to the pagan fringes of Europe to find evidence of slavery (you will find it all along the Baltic, and down through Russia) strengthens rather than weakens my point that you will not find slavery practiced in the heart of medieval Christendom, either Greek or Latin.

                    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                      We’re neither of us experts on the subject, but it seems to me that those who are, agree that there was definitely slavery in Anglo-Saxon and early Norman England. For example, we have this book. And, again, if slavery was not widely practiced before the colonial trade, it was known and not forbidden; I’m not claiming it was economically foundational, merely that it was permitted.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      Slavery was technically legal, yes. This is because the law codes had been inherited from earlier societies which did practice slavery. There was no pressing need felt to make it formally illegal, since the the practice was eradicated by custom. So no, it was not (by custom) permitted, although you can find examples of its happening if you look to the pagan fringes where the hold of Christian thinking is not strong. To pretend, though, as you did, that medieval Christendom was a slave-owning society to be spoken of in the same breath as pagan Rome, or even pagan Dublin, is outrageous.

                      It may be true that neither of us is an expert, but this (early medieval languages and history) was my area of study, even if it is not now my profession.

                  • Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

                    Gian says :
                    “Philosophy, even Catholic philosophy, does not define morality but only helps us to understand it.”

                    How could we understand something that is not defined, described and explained rationally? Morality is defined precisely by moral philosophy, the best one being Catholic moral philosophy, which derives from moral theology certain answers to questions left open or not answered correctly by the great moralists, beginning with the Greek.

                    Jacques Maritain defines moral philosophy in his Introduction to Philosophy. Morality is precisely described and defined in his Preface to Moral Philosophy (Nine Lessons on the First Notions of Moral Philosophy), and he wrote a fascinating examination of the great systems from the Sophists and Socrates to Dewey and Bergson titled Moral Philosophy.

                    Moral Philosophy: http://www2.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/etext/jmoral.htm
                    Introduction to Philosophy: http://ia700502.us.archive.org/9/items/introductiontoph00mari/introductiontoph00mari.pdf

                    • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                      I think by “define,” he here means “invent.” His point is that Catholic moral philosophers and moral theologians do not arbitrarily make up moral rules to keep people from having fun, though that is what many accuse them of doing.

                    • Comment by Gian:

                      Philosophers do not have the last word on morality. They are not definitive. Even Catholic philosophers
                      have been having disputes on what constitutes lying-a rather fundamental matter since Jesus has proclaimed himself to be Truth.
                      It is not surprising. Since God is both Truth and Love and Love can not be defined or encompassed within a philosophic or rationalistic scheme, it implies that the Lie can not be so defined either.

                      The Catholic philosophers approach lying as a perversion of a natural faculty i.e. speech but all kinds of paradoxes entangle them because they neglect Love. The popes have spoken it must be Truth in Love or Truth in Charity. That should disentangle all paradoxes. But Love is creative and incapable of being put into any scheme so philosophy is of not much use here.

                • Comment by Gian:

                  But you misunderstand ‘nature’ as it is meant in Catholic philosophy.
                  Man is naturally monogamous, truth-teller, rational.

                  But we find many men acting contrary to their natures; this is owing to original sin.

                  • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                    This is not without merit, but it is still assertion and not argument. When you say “Men are naturally X”, it seems to map neatly onto a claim that “the true morality requires men to do X”; different ways of describing the same thing. However, I still have to ask, how do you know that men are naturally X? The true morality is that which compels; it is the argument that forces me to admit, even if only to myself and after much thought, that “yes, this is the right thing to do”. So what is the argument?

                    • Comment by Gian:

                      Again, morality is ultimately NOT a matter for argument but direct intellectual perception. As CS Lewis says in The Discarded Image, for medievals “To perceive a duty was to grasp a truth”.

                      The rational soul has two faculties (1) Intellect that directly perceives a truth, such as Theft is wrong and 1+1=2
                      (2) Reasoning: that starts with one truth and tries to arrive at another truth: such as a starving man is not thieving when he takes off with a piece of bread but is thieving when he takes off with
                      a TV set.

                      Morality can not be made ultimately compelling because the human intellect is clouded as an effect of original sin.

                • Comment by Gian:

                  I also add that I do not accept biological determinism. That certain organs fit or do not fit together
                  suggests but does not determine ‘Human Nature’,

                  Humans are cultural irreducibly. Conservatives often deduce monogamy and marriage from prolonged dependence of children. But to my mind, this argument is fallacious. Prolonged dependence of mother and child could have led to communal rearing as easily as it led to nuclear family and monogamy.

                  The conclusive argument is Tradition, the evidence of one’s eyes, the common opinion of mankind.

              • Comment by Gian:

                “Good is what fulfills the final cause”

                I must modify myself. Good is what good is, intuitively known. The other things, final cause, formal cause etc etc are philosophic justifications that happen to apply or not apply in particular cases.

        • Comment by Gian:

          “typing – a profoundly unnatural act”

          Why should typing be unnatural, let alone “profoundly unnatural” ?.
          What definition of nature are you using?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      If your strategy in debate is merely to pretend I said things I did not say, and did not say what I did, how shall I reply? By saying more things? What would be the point?

      Fortunately, I laid out the reasons that changed my mind from being a pro-anything-goes libertarian to being a pro-chastity stoic in these posts, which you may reread at your leisure:


      Part I Preliminary Remarks

      Part II The Questions — Is Marriage a Contract?
      Part III The Argument
      Part IV Third Parties to the Marriage
      Part V On Matrimony and Fornication
      Part VI Conclusion

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        Again, you give no argument for why sex leading to reproduction is superior to other kinds of sexual acts. You give a careful definition that distinguishes “sodomy, fellatio, cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, [from] copulation with a sterile partner or during a sterile time of the month”. You go on to say “[T]he difference between acts that stimulate the sex organs and the act of copulation is precisely that the sexual passion aims at the sexual act per se, at copulation, and not at the accidental or non-essential side-effects of sex.” Yes, all right, but so what? You give no reason why the reproductive sort is to be preferred – unless, perhaps, we are to count your hypothetical of the bride who is offered a list of non-copulatory activities. It seems to me that this is cherry-picked to make your point; I think you’ll find that many newlyweds use condoms or other forms of birth control for the first few years of their marriage, while establishing their household, and do not experience the vague feeling of discontent that you appeal to.

        • Comment by Gian:

          Just to be clear, let me set the position of Thomas Aquinas:
          The conjugal act is sometimes meritorious and without any mortal or venial sin,
          as when it is directed to the good of procreation and education of a
          child for the worship of God; for then it is an act of religion; or when it i
          s performed for the sake of rendering the debt, it is an act of justice. But
          every virtuous act is meritorious, if it is performed with charity. But sometimes
          it is accompanied with venial sin, namely, when one is excited to the matrimonial
          act by concupiscence, which nevertheless stays within the limits of
          the marriage, namely, that he is content with his wife only. But sometimes it
          is performed with mortal sin, as when the husband approaches the wife with
          the idea that he would just as gladly or more gladly approach another woman.
          —————————————————-
          That is, conjugal act is sinful if the motive is physical desire and mortal sin if the man
          is having mental fantasies of being with another woman.

          • Comment by John Hutchins:

            Just to be clear let me set the position of St. Jerome:

            “It is good,” he says, “for a man not to touch a woman.” If it is good not to touch a woman, it is bad to touch one: for there is no opposite to goodness but badness. But if it be bad and the evil is pardoned, the reason for the concession is to prevent worse evil. But surely a thing which is only allowed because there may be something worse has only a slight degree of goodness. He would never have added “let each man have his own wife,” unless he had previously used the words “but, because of fornications.” Do away with fornication, and he will not say “let each man have his own wife.” Just as though one were to lay it down: “It is good to feed on wheaten bread, and to eat the finest wheat flour,” and yet to prevent a person pressed by hunger from devouring cow-dung, I may allow him to eat barley. Does it follow that the wheat will not have its peculiar purity, because such an one prefers barley to excrement? That is naturally good which does not admit of comparison with what is bad, and is not eclipsed because something else is preferred. At the same time we must notice the Apostle’s prudence. He did not say, it is good not to have a wife: but, it is good not to touch a woman: as though there were danger even in the touch: as though he who touched her, would not escape from her who “hunts for the precious life,” who causes the young man’s understanding to fly away. Proverbs 6:27-28 “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk upon hot coals, and his feet not be scorched?” As then he who touches fire is instantly burned, so by the mere touch the peculiar nature of man and woman is perceived, and the difference of sex is understood.

            and so on and so on, from Against Jovinianus.
            —————
            That is the conjugal act is not doing good but is evil and is only allowable because of fornication.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Just to be clear, let me set the position of St. Augustine (from whom Thomas Aquinas took the part of his view that was quoted):

              Wherefore the devil holds infants guilty who are born, not of the good by which marriage is good, but of the evil of concupiscence, which, indeed, marriage uses aright, but at which even marriage has occasion to feel shame. Marriage is itself “honourable in all” Hebrews 13:4 the goods which properly appertain to it; but even when it has its “bed undefiled” (not only by fornication and adultery, which are damnable disgraces, but also by any of those excesses of cohabitation such as do not arise from any prevailing desire of children, but from an overbearing lust of pleasure, which are venial sins in man and wife), yet, whenever it comes to the actual process of generation, the very embrace which is lawful and honourable cannot be effected without the ardour of lust, so as to be able to accomplish that which appertains to the use of reason and not of lust. Now, this ardour, whether following or preceding the will, does somehow, by a power of its own, move the members which cannot be moved simply by the will, and in this manner it shows itself not to be the servant of a will which commands it, but rather to be the punishment of a will which disobeys it. It shows, moreover, that it must be excited, not by a free choice, but by a certain seductive stimulus, and that on this very account it produces shame. This is the carnal concupiscence, which, while it is no longer accounted sin in the regenerate, yet in no case happens to nature except from sin. It is the daughter of sin, as it were; and whenever it yields assent to the commission of shameful deeds, it becomes also the mother of many sins. Now from this concupiscence whatever comes into being by natural birth is bound by original sin, unless, indeed, it be born again in Him whom the Virgin conceived without this concupiscence. Wherefore, when He vouchsafed to be born in the flesh, He alone was born without sin.

              On Marriage and Concupiscence
              ——————-
              That is, the conjugal act for the purpose of reproduction is what transmits sin and is shameful and only happens from sins (lust, pleasure).

              • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

                That’s not what Aquinas is saying.

                He’s saying that original sin is transmitted through sex, even through sinless sex, because original sin is part of our heritage from Adam (and Eve) and every baby is born with it. You may picture original sin as a sort of genetic disease caused by genetic damage in the Garden, if you will. So yeah, lust is the mother or progenitor of all sorts of genetic diseases, and all the symptoms of that disease. Sex (and indeed lust) also transmits the image and likeness of God, however, which is why our first parents were divinely commanded to go forth and multiply.

                IIRC, Aquinas also says that sex was actually meant to be as perfect as everything else in the Garden and driven by reason. Also, there is a great deal of speculation in medieval theology as to whether the first folks ever had sex while unfallen, or whether part of the problem with the human condition is that they hadn’t gotten around to it before they made off with stolen fruit.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  It is actually Augustine that the quote is from, Aquinas took his view that Gian quoted from Augustine is what I meant, sorry if I was unclear.

                  I have to disagree with you on what Augustine is saying here. To me it would appear that he is giving an actually fairly graphic description of why he thinks that even though the sexual act is not wrong in marriage that one can not have intercourse without sinning. I don’t know that I am comfortable walking through what he says explicitly and explaining it in easier to understand words. Basically, he is saying that one can not have sex unless one is aroused, which arousal does not come from an act of will but is a product of lust and is thus shameful and sinful and anyone born from an act coming from such arousal is under original sin, which of necessity is everyone not born of a virgin.

              • Comment by lotdw:

                You need to read Augustine a bit more carefully. He does not consider sex always to be a sin.

                “This is the carnal concupiscence, which, while it is no longer accounted sin in the regenerate, yet in no case happens to nature except from sin. ”

                Note that “it as I think you correctly is no longer accounted sin.” “It” here is “the carnal concupiscence” which I think you are right in connecting with sexual arousal. So it cannot be a sin, as you say. The next few lines make his point clearer.

                “[Carnal concupiscence] is the daughter of sin, as it were; and whenever it yields assent to the commission of shameful deeds, it becomes also the mother of many sins.”

                He calls this concupiscence the daughter of sin because it is not sin but comes from sin (original sin, as he makes clear in the next line). But original sin is not a personal sin on the part of the aroused person, IE something sinful which that person did. It is rather a condition of the world. The person is doing nothing wrong in becoming aroused, even if there is “wrongness” in there because the world is fallen. It is a fault of the universe, not the individual.

                “Now from this concupiscence whatever comes into being by natural birth is bound by original sin, unless, indeed, it be born again in Him whom the Virgin conceived without this concupiscence. Wherefore, when He vouchsafed to be born in the flesh, He alone was born without sin.”

                Now if he considered it sin, why not just call it sin and avoid half these lines or the sin/concupiscence distinction? But he clearly doesn’t, or else all that wouldn’t be necessary.

                You say later –

                “Basically, he is saying that one can not have sex unless one is aroused, which arousal does not come from an act of will but is a product of lust and is thus shameful and sinful and anyone born from an act coming from such arousal is under original sin, which of necessity is everyone not born of a virgin.”

                That is almost correct, except where you say “is thus shameful AND sinful” – but he does not say that it is sinful. He says only that it “produces shame,” which does not have to come from sin. I would guess he’s referring to the embarrasment that often does result from arousal, because (for the reasons I gave above) he certainly does not think sex is always sinful and deliberately says the opposite.

                This certainly isn’t “sex is wonderful and good and beautiful in all its forms” – early Christians, including Paul whom Jerome cites, were part of a milieu (see Gnosticism, like Augustine’s former Manicheanism) which considered sex a much more dangerous act than people do today. Then again, Jesus himself speaks of those who are “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” I would also note that sex is not special in being bound up with sin – for Augustine, and I would suggest for Christianity as a whole, many or all occasions are in some way bound up with sin because the world itself is so bound, as the world is fallen. For example, according to Genesis, childbirth is only painful because of Eve’s sin (though this does not mean childbirth is sinful). That’s the point of heaven, after all – the place where there is no more shame or pain or death or any of the rest of the wages of sin.

                Jerome, though, had serious issues with women and with sex. I can’t take his stuff seriously. He’s also a favorite of Pius X schismatics for that very reason (well, that and the Latin stuff).

                • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                  To say that Jerome had issues with women might not be entirely fair, or at least might be misleading. He knew many nuns whom he respected, but he certainly had a negative view of marriage and criticized it as far as he could without stumbling into heresy. At times, his attacks on marriage sound an awful lot like those that might come from a modern feminist, the major difference being that Jerome was arguing for celibacy and self-mastery, whereas the modern feminist argues for licentiousness.

                  However, his views on marriage did not, in the end, carry the day, and my understanding is that they weren’t terribly popular in his own day. Ambrosiaster’s writings on marriage, which may have been produced as a response to Jerome, are worth looking into.

                  • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

                    Most of the time when Jerome was talking about marriage, he was defending virginity, yes. And as we know, Jerome never saw a rhetorical extremism he didn’t like.

                    However, there is the famous letter where he says that a pagan priest grandad living in a Christian household is practically a catechumen already, just from being exposed to a good Christian home life. He praises plenty of Christian married people, just like he praises a lot of other ordinary Christian laypeople stuff. And a lot of the softer side of Christians, he tended to think was stupid until he was proven wrong. (St. Fabiola’s free hospital, for example, which he admitted afterward that he had been an idiot about, because he thought she was an airhead with a crazy project when really she was far bolder than him in caring for the poor and sick.)

                    So yeah, Jerome’s bark and bite are not always what he truly thinks and feels. They are the sharp side of his tongue. The stuff he doesn’t go all rhetorical about is often worth paying attention to.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  So Catholicism has moved away from what Jerome thought and partially at least from what Augustine thought (your explanation is close enough to how I read it that I am not going to quibble on the details). What assurance is there that the Catholic Church will not move further from those views and accept contraception within marriage or even possibly things more radical? What assurance is there that other views that have been passed down from the early days of the Catholic Church are not likewise heavily influenced wrongly by Gnosticism?

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            I observe that Aquinas doesn’t give any reason for his decrees either; he just says “X is sinful”, done. That aside, our host does not make religious arguments to atheists; he always strives (in discussing morality with a general audience, at least; I have, of course, not read his Secret Blog that’s only open to Catholics) to find a reason in secular philosophy for his moral strictures.

            • Comment by lotdw:

              You must not have read any Aquinas. The whole thing is argumentation and reasons. That’s what the Scholastic method was. I can’t think of a single philosopher to whom your criticism applies LESS.

              Maybe don’t assume that a quote is the entirety next time?

        • Comment by Kerry:

          “…superior to other…acts”. If one supposes the sexual act is just another indoor sport, then no. One is as good as another. (T.S.Eliot rings in my ears, “Dreaming of systems so perfect, that no one will have to be good.”) If the reason, or purpose, or end of human sexuality is the creation of another human being, then yes.

  4. Comment by John Hutchins:

    1. Do you think that persons of an, ahem, certain background are going into that database in Quebec? More imams than bishops? Really?

    Given the size of the populations of Catholics vs. Muslims in Quebec it would be possible for every single Muslim to be in the database and if only ~2% of Catholics are in there then it would contain more Catholics than Muslims. If the proportion of imams to Muslims and bishops to Catholics are similar (which they likely are) then it would likewise be possible to have ~100% of the imams in the database and only ~2% of the bishops and again have more bishops then imams.

    Furthermore, given the demographics, it is likely that the Muslims are insular and not likely to speak of radicalism, even if they support it (with some exceptions). On the other hand, Catholic Bishops would feel that they are in a position to try and influence society in Quebec and would at the same time be more likely to have people that would report them listening to them. An imam speaking in Arabic saying that all homosexuals should be stoned would likely be able to continue saying that for quite a long time without anyone that can understand him ever reporting him. A bishop saying that a family should be made of husband and wife in French (or English) has a much higher chance of someone thinking that to be a homophobic act and reporting him.

    2. For those of you who do not believe the tale, the one true tale of the world which makes sense of the world, what account can be you make of the repeated pattern that the efforts of the activists ignore the efforts of the maniacs, but instead concentrate on the Holy Mother Church, as if she, rather than each other, were the frightening formidable enemy of both?

    Experience has shown progressives, and many others, that the use of force does not deradicalize a population, cause religious change, or make for good democracies. Telling all of Islam that it is evil for what is done to women does not appear to help the women in Islam, who may in fact believe in Islam. Instead trying to work with Islam, praising what is seen as good, trying to gently push Islamic thought and society into something that is kinder to women, homosexuals, etc. appears to have worked better. Attacking the radicals makes martyrs of the radicals, ignoring them and saying something completely different makes them look like the lunatics that they are to those that would otherwise defend them. This should explain some of the actions you find confusing in relation to Islam.

    As for the Catholics, the majority of Quebec identifies itself as being Catholic. It is entirely likely that the homosexual activists that pushed to get this register formed identify themselves as being Catholic. I would not at all be surprised if some part of the groups that pushed for this think of themselves as being good active Catholics and see this action as part of the duty as Catholics. I do not know but would not be too surprised if there were nuns, clergy, or bishops that were involved in making the register a reality. I am sure that very few of the people involved see themselves as being anti-Catholic, as I said I am sure many of them think they are good Catholics and trying to help the Catholic Church.

    There are a few different ways that I have found that different types of Catholics look at Vatican II and the history leading up to it. One of the ways that some Catholics see it is that the Catholic Church, after a long struggle within the Catholic Church, eventually took steps to be more in line with what was acceptable according to the thoughts of the day. They say it differently but that is pretty much the idea. Now combine this thought with what has happened with large portions of Protestant Christianity, in terms of female priests, gay priests, homosexual marriage, contraceptives, possibly even abortion.

    I am fairly certain that there are those that identify themselves as Catholics, and practicing at that, who advocate both within and without the Catholic Church for the acceptance of all of those practices (I wasn’t sure about abortion, but it turns out that a quick Google search does turn up organizations advocating for the Catholic Church to be pro-choice that claims to be made up of Catholics). I doubt that they think the current Pope will change any of those but there is always the next Pope (or the next, or the next, etc) and there is always the hope for a new Ecumenical council to try and re-revitalize the Catholic Church, more in favor with what they would like morality to be. I think there are plenty of reasons for Catholics that hope for such a change in the Catholic church to continue to have hope that such will happen (demographics, expressed views of large portions of the clergy and nuns, all the other churches that have gone down that path, so forth).

    • Comment by docrampage:

      Why don’t we make your story really fantastic by postulating that this Dark Lord begins in prehistory, seducing people away from the truth of their creation and purpose by tricking them into following false gods, often represented by statues? At first, only a small nation is given direct written commandments to avoid false gods but eventually the small nation is replaced by the Church. But don’t jump right to the false religion. That’s too obvious. First the Dark Lord would react with panic and outrage, having his legions of human slaves try to wipe out the Church by murder and horrible tortures. When that failed, he wouldn’t jump right to a new religion; the Dark Lord is more subtle than that. His second attack on the Church is to infiltrate it with his own people who bring back those very same false gods, often represented by statues.

      I know, this sounds completely unbelievable, because obviously the centuries of recorded history of that original nation and their struggle against false gods would warn the Church against any hint of repeating those past mistakes. But if the Dark Lord were clever enough, maybe he could attack the Church at the political center if a vast world-spanning empire so that his henchmen in the Church could organize a politically powerful force that could force Christians into following false gods and idols. To make this work, they would have to claim by some subterfuge to be the centralized true voice of God and maintain this absurdity with a straight face as they engaged in all of their work on behalf of the Dark Lord.

      Lets say that there was resistance to these new false gods, so that the false Church eventually took up the task originally performed by the Dark Lord’s followers in civil government and started torturing and murdering true believers while still claiming to be the true Church. The irony would add to the story, but I’m not sure even a writer of your skill could make this believable, that even century later men of good will would not see the horror of the Church’s betrayal and the hand of the Dark Lord in the worship of the false gods.

      • Comment by Mary:

        Alternatatively, having tried and failed to corrupt the Church — though having demonstrated the parables of the wheat and tares, and wise and foolish virgins by corrupting many — he started to whisper in the ears of Church members that they could be like God. They could be their own authorities. Rather than rejecting the Church entirely, he persuaded them to hypocritically take (parts of) its Scripture and elevate it, and still more their individual interpretations of it, above God Himself, and claim they can denounce its source by it. (As if a rotten tree could bring forth good fruit.)

        Whereupon they promptly began to torture and murder true believers — and false believers, too. Since if there is one thing that allowing everyone to be their own Pope ensures, it is mad divergence, much of which is incapable of living in human society.

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        “Lets say that there was resistance to these new false gods….”

        In that case, the story would reflect in the things written down by the early followers of the Church a concern for such things. Iconoclasts would be as strongly resisted by the early followers as Arians, or Donatists, or any other early heresy. In order for the story to be coherent and believable, the early Church would indeed need to have resisted the corrupt practices now identified as orthodoxy with the same unyielding and ferocious resistance offered Nestorianism.

        In your story, where is the resistance? Quote me the ante-Nicene Father who proposed Sola Scriptura or Sola Fides or who railed against prayers for the dead or prayers to saints or infant baptism, and was anathematized at the order of Constantine. Refer me to the Protestants of the First and Second Century, please.

        • Comment by docrampage:

          Obviously there weren’t any Protestants before the was a Catholic Church to protest against, but the Christians of the first century were far more like Protestants than like Catholics. There was no central authority, but rather a growing collection of local bodies of believers. The only mention of idols was as something the pagans had, and there was no mention of prayer to anyone but God. Mary was never mentioned accept as a historical person. There were no priests since God had rent the veil in the temple as a sign that henceforth man would need no human intercessor. Church leaders were expected to be married (although it wasn’t a requirement). Salvation was by faith alone, not by works, lest any man should boast. Confessions were only made to God and to those one had sinned against, and the forgiveness of God was a free gift, not something to be earned by ritual and mumbling prayers. In fact, the only mention of Catholic-style, ritualistic, mumbling prayers was as something that the heathen do and followers of Christ were not to do. And finally, doctrinal disputes were resolved by sending people away from the congregation, not by torturing them into lying about what they believed or by killing them.

          However, Christianity came into a world of pagan idolators who felt a superstitious need for the comfort of idols and charms and rituals, so that is a natural attack point for the Dark Lord. Also, the gentile pagans, naturally enough, had little familiarity with the Jewish scriptures and the enormous emphasis in those scriptures on the dangers of idols and false gods, so once the movement became largely gentile and the apostles were gone, the dangers of this were not appreciated. By the time the Jewish scriptures became widely known, the idolatry had become entrenched and the gentile Church leaders found ways to rationalize it through new doctrines that were never mentioned in scripture or by Christ or the apostles.

          I’m not sure what your point about the Iconoclasts were. It was an early effort to rid Christianity of idolatry which failed due to the superstitious fears of the population.

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            [T]he Christians of the first century were far more like Protestants than like Catholics.

            How do you know this? I had the strong impression that we had very few sources for the earliest Christians.

            • Comment by docrampage:

              We have a fairly extensive, well-sourced history of first-century Christianity –a collection of writings by various authors all of whom either personally witnessed the events or interviewed people who personally witnessed the events. In addition to historical events, this collection contains writings on on the thoughts and teachings of various first-century church leaders and how they dealt with doctrinal error. This collection of writings is called the New Testament.

              I assumed it would be obvious, but just to clarify, all of my points above are points about what is written or not written in the New Testament.

          • Comment by John C Wright:

            “Obviously there weren’t any Protestants before the was a Catholic Church to protest against, but the Christians of the first century were far more like Protestants than like Catholics.”

            Before I joined the Catholic Church, I researched claims like this as thoroughly as an amateur can research them, and found no support for them. Can you back up the claim?

            1. No central authority: the Early Church Fathers, when they make reference to the question at all (which is rare) refer to bishops and to the supremacy of Rome.

            2. No real presence: As best I can tell, not a single Early Father regards the Eucharist as merely a symbol or memorial. Those few who speak of it, speak in terms of the actually body and blood of Christ.

            3. The supremacy of the individual conscience over Church authority: there is nothing like this, and everything goes the other way. The idea of a body not bound by a common doctrine was alien to the milieu.

            4. Sola Scriptura: in the First Century, the “scriptures” meant the Old Testament. The “New Testament” was written and compiled and preserved and, most importantly, declared to be holy writ by the authority of the Church.

            5. Sola Fides: Not a single Early Church Father supports, or even discusses, the idea.

            6. Owning all property in common, given all to the poor: Monks and other orders still live this way to this day. The Lutherans I was raised with do not have hold orders that practice Apostolic poverty.

            7. Mary was never mentioned accept as a historical person. I came across this tidbit after fourteen seconds of Google research:
            “The oldest surviving prayer to the Virgin Mary was discovered in Egypt in 1917 and contains the second oldest reference to Mary as Theotokos (Greek: God-bearer, Latin: Deipara, Dei Genetrix; English: Mother of God). Here is a modern English version:”

            We turn to you for protection,
            Holy Mother of God (Theotokos).
            Listen to our prayers
            and help us in our needs.
            Save us from every danger,
            glorious and blessed Virgin.

            “This remarkable prayer of the late second or early third century first appeared in Coptic and Greek, probably in the great Church of Alexandria.”

            I am not very good with dates. Does this not predate the development of the doctrine of the Incarnation and the Trinity, at least, in terms of the precise statements needed to combat Arianism and Unitarianism and Monophysitism and Nestorianism?

            8. Confessions were only made to God and to those one had sinned against: The statement is simply and utterly false.

            St. Basil writes: “In the confession of sins the same method must be observed as in laying open the infirmities of the body; for as these are not rashly communicated to every one, but to those only who understand by what method they may be cured, so the confession of sins must be made to such persons as have the power to apply a remedy.”[In Reg. Brev., quaest, ccxxix., T. II., p. 492.] Later on he tells us who those persons are. “Necessarily, our sins must be confessed to those to whom has been committed the dispensation of the mysteries of God.” [Ibid., cclxxxviii., p. 516.] The first declares the necessity of confession, the second refers to confession to a priest, or else the passage makes no sense.

            St Ambrose of Milan writes: “There are some who ask for penance that they may at once by restored to Communion. These do not so much desire to be loosed as to bind the Priest; for they do not unburden their conscience, but they burden his, who is commanded not to give holy things unto dogs–that is, not easily to admit impure souls to the Holy Communion.”[Apud Wiseman's Doctrines of the Church] The passage refers to confession to a priest, or else there is no sense in which his conscience is burdened.

            Paulinus, the secretary of St. Ambrose, in his life of that great Bishop relates that he used to weep over the penitents whose confessions he heard. This indicated that Ambrose heard confessions.

            St. Augustine writes: “Our merciful God wills us to confess in this world that we may not be confounded in the other.”[Hom. xx.] Confession ‘in this world’ does not refer to private confession. And again: “Let no one say to himself, I do penance to God in private, I do it before God. Is it then in vain that Christ hath said, ‘Whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven?’ Is it in vain that the keys have been given to the Church?”[Sermo ccxcii.]

            St. Chrysostom, in his thirtieth Homily, says: “Lo! we have now, at length, reached the close of Holy Lent; now especially we must press forward in the career of fasting, … and exhibit a full and accurate confession of our sins, …that with these good works, having come to the day of Easter, we may enjoy the bounty of the Lord. … For, as the enemy knows that having confessed our sins and shown our wounds to the physician we attain to an abundant cure, he is an especial manner opposes us.” This does not seem to refer to private confession, but as part of Lenten contrition.

            Again he says: “Do not confess to me only of fornication, nor of those things that are manifest among all men, but bring together also thy secret calumnies and evil speakings, … and all such things.”[Tom. vii. Comm. in Matt.] He is referring to someone confessing to him in his priestly office.

            The same Father, in an eloquent treatise on the power of the sacred ministry, uses the following words: “To the Priests is given a power which God would not grant either to angels or archangels; inasmuch that what the Priests do below God ratifies above, and the Master confirms the sentence of His servants. For, He says, ‘Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What power, I ask, can be greater than this? The Father hath given all power to the Son; and I see all this same power delivered to them by God the Son. To cleanse the leprosy of the body, or rather to pronounce it cleansed, was given to the Jewish Priests alone. But to our Priests is granted the power not of declaring healed the leprosy of the body, but of absolutely cleansing the defilements of the soul.”[Lib. iii., De Sacredotio.] This is a reference to atonement pronounced by a priest.

            And again: “If a sinner, as becomes him, would use the aid of his conscience, and hasten to confess his crimes and disclose his ulcer to his physician, who may heal and not reproach, and receive remedies from him; if he would speak to him alone, without the knowledge of any one, and with care lay all before him, easily would he amend his failings; for the confession of sins is the absolution of crimes.”[Ibid., Hom. xx.]

            St. Jerome writes: “If the serpent, the devil, secretly bite a man and thus infect him with the poison of sin, and this man shall remain silent, and do not penance, nor be willing to make known his wound to his brother and master; the master, who has a tongue that can heal, cannot easily serve him. For if the ailing man be ashamed to open his case to the physicians no cure can be expected; for medicine does not cure that of which it knows nothing.”[Comment in Eccles.] Again, the passage makes no sense unless the priest is the physician to whom the patient opens his case, that is, makes confession.

            Elsewhere he says: “With us the Bishop or Priest binds or looses–not hem who are merely innocent or guilty–but having heard, as his duty requires, the various qualities of sin he understands who should be bound and who loosed.”[Comm. in Matt.]

            9. …and the forgiveness of God was a free gift, not something to be earned by ritual and mumbling prayers. Except that no Catholic says God’s forgiveness is not a free gift, and no Catholic believes that salvation is “earned” by ritual and mumbling prayers. Some Nuns will tell you not to mumble, but that is a different question.

            Sir, I do not mean to offend, but I will tell you the main reason why I joined the Catholic communion rather than your own. I had several reasons, but this is the main one.

            You, and everyone else I encountered, in conversation or in books, who defended the Protestant position misstated the Catholic position. The misstatements were bizarrely easy to see were false. Any layman can pick up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and see exactly what the Magisterium teaches. When confronted the Protestants I confronted fell back on what I call “second hand smoke” type arguments, telling me that while the official teaching of the Catholic Church which all Catholics are (according to doctrine) doctrinally required to conform to says one thing, someone’s grandmother’s grandfather’s stepsister who was a Catholic believed something else. This someone was never available for comment.

            On the other hand, the apologists for the Catholic position did not misstate the Protestant position. They stated the teachings of Luther and Zwingli and Wesley and Calvin with remarkable precision and sympathy, and repeated the most outrageous accusations against themselves clearly, in their efforts to discuss the question.

            So, as an ex-atheist looking for a home, I was confronted with two types of arguments: Side One made nothing but strawman arguments about Side Two, and never tells the truth about what Side Two believes. Side Two tells the truth about what Side One believes.

            So you lie about them, and they don’t lie about you.

            Since the strawman argument is the only argument I heard during my “searching for a communion” phase, I am forced to assume it is your best argument. If you had ammo, you would not be shooting blanks.

            • Comment by John Hutchins:

              Somehow this discussion is taking place under my comment though none of it has a thing to do with my comment. I suppose I could take of this as an invitation to start shooting with at the minimum very different ammo but then things would probably get bloody, something that doesn’t seem to be a quality of blanks.

              1. I suppose the Protestants don’t pull out Revelation 17 because it damages them nearly as much as it damages the Catholics. Also, if one endeavors to use it then one needs to be very clear that it can’t be talking about everyone that ever belonged to the Catholic Church. Revelation 18 might complicate things a little and could be talking about a nuclear attack. Of course, one might also not pull out the Revelation of John due to the likely purposeful obscureness of the Revelation of John.

              2.Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-29 would appear to say that it is in remembrance of the Lord, of course both also seem to say that it is necessary.

              3. Considering as how the Church grew by individuals choosing to follow Christ I am not sure what you mean by this. Perhaps you mean like 2 Peter 2?

              4. I really assumed that Holy Scripture is that which is given by the Holy Spirit and which the Holy Spirit testifies of, that at least is what the Holy Scriptures that are in the Bible would appear to say, 2 Peter 1 has a scripture on the subject I believe.

              5. That really depends on what one means by saying Sola fide, if one means that justification is only through the grace of Christ through no merit of our own then you are wrong, if one means that sanctification is only through the grace of Christ through no work or care on our part then you are right, if one means that justification comes through Christ regardless of what we do then again you are right. I don’t know that you should need scriptures for this part as I believe this is similar to what Catholics actually believe.

              6.This might be true of Lutherans, I’ll give you this one rather then getting into my faith on the subject.

              7. Jeremiah 44, especially vs 17-25 and I will leave the rest of the subject alone rather then get into history.

              8. John 20:23 would appear to be on the side of the Catholics on this point.

              • Comment by Mary:

                But nothing prevents a remembrance from being a sacrifice. The exact Greek word used for “rememberance” is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament chiefly about sacrifices.

                It can be a rememberance and still be the actual One Sacrifice.

              • Comment by Mary:

                The reason they don’t pull out Revelation 17 is that it doesn’t work because it needs circular logic to work.

              • Comment by DGDDavidson:

                You are so vigorous and energetic in reading scripture and Church resources, yet you seem to misunderstand them so consistently.

                1. Protestants are the ones who gave you the idea of pulling out Revelation 17 in the first place, and those who still maintain the vigorous anti-Catholic polemic of their forebears still use it. The passage describes Rome, which was persecuting Christians at the time the book was written, as a harlot riding a beast. What of it?

                2. It is in remembrance of the Lord, of course. I would also point you to John 6.22-59, as long as we’re playing Dueling Scriptures.

                3. His point is that the early Church had authorities, both moral and doctrinal, and did not permit the individual to just do his own thing. To my understanding, there isn’t really a conflict between Catholics and the LDS on this point.

                4. No Christian disputes this, but the point is that we know which texts are the inspired ones because they were ratified by ecumenical council. This has always been a sticking point with Protestants, who with the doctrine of sola scriptura are forced to admit that the Catholic Church correctly compiled the books of the New Testament while at the same time having no infallible ability to do so, and that they themselves are able to recognize these books as infallible scripture though they also lack the faculty of making such a discernment. I once heard a Protestant apologist call the Bible a “fallible collection of infallible books,” which nicely sums up the problem with this position. Scripture can only be known to have authority if it is first accepted that the Church that compiled the scripture had authority to do so.

                5. The difference between Catholic and Lutheran doctrines of justification is more subtle than it at first appears, and the tendency of some Evangelical churches to take what I can only call an ultra-literal interpretation of Luther’s famous words (“believe in Jesus and get a free ride to Heaven!”) only muddies the waters. Catholics and Lutherans agree that no one is saved without grace. The biggest difference in their doctrine is between subsitutionary atonement (Jesus stands in the place of and “covers up” the unworthy sinner–the Lutheran view) and “infused” righteousness (God actually cleanses the sinner and makes him righteous–the Catholic view). The LDS view, as I understand it (and it is very possible that I don’t) is closer to semi-Pelagianism, which both Catholic and Protestant sects have condemned.

                7. The passage in question condemns the worship of Ishtar and is not relevant here.

                Part of the problem, of course, is that we can play Dueling Scriptures all day long and not get anywhere. I have observed before on this site that someone can offer you a scriptural prooftext to refute your views, and you can turn it through creative reading into a prooftext to support your views. I have also seen, as here, you offering prooftexts, and then someone like me can come along and read those same texts a different way. This is one of the indications that the Protestant teaching that scripture is sufficient to interpret itself, is false.

                Since we can make no headway by appeals to scripture, let us look at history and historical teachers.

                Mr. Wright went after Protestantism by pointing out that Catholic doctrine fills the writing of the Church Fathers, but Protestant doctrine does not. To indicate that the early Church taught Catholicism, I can just refer back to his comment. But I ask you, where are the LDS Church Fathers? What evidence is there that the early Church taught LDS doctrine? Since LDS teaching makes such a radical break with Judaism, a break more severe than that of Catholicism or Orthodoxy, surely you must acknowledge that the burden of proof is on you to find at least some small indication that there was an LDS church somewhere in the second, third, fourth, or fifth century, or at whatever early date you can find it.

                • Comment by Mary:

                  Oh, he’s said before that St. John was assumed into Heaven to preserve the Church continuity. Which means basically that he’s willing to deny every promise God made to His Church under the pretense that this underhanded stunt technically fulfilled them, and the Church didn’t even make it to the second century.

                  Because men do not light a lamp and sit it under a bushel, but apparently God‘s all for it.

                • Comment by John Hutchins:

                  “Scripture can only be known to have authority if it is first accepted that the Church that compiled the scripture had authority to do so.”

                  Scripture can only be known to have authority when the Holy Spirit testifies to the individual that it is true. I don’t even think the Bible is infallible in all its particulars nor has it been transmitted free from error nor do I believe that it contains all that was written either in the Old or New Testament that had it been transmitted correctly, or if we had those writings, would be scripture.

                  ” The passage in question condemns the worship of Ishtar and is not relevant here.”

                  If you say so, I said I wasn’t going to get into it.

                  “This is one of the indications that the Protestant teaching that scripture is sufficient to interpret itself”

                  To be fully understood scripture requires the Holy Ghost, however some things really should be quite plain.

                  “where are the LDS Church Fathers?”

                  The Apostles, also a few of the earliest Church Fathers of whom we have multiple somewhat contradictory versions, so mostly the Apostles. Also, since the priesthood given to the early church is the same that was held by prophets and high priests from the beginning all of the prophets from the world began.

                  “What evidence is there that the early Church taught LDS doctrine?”

                  The writings of the Apostles, and to a lesser extent the proud turning away by the Catholic Church Fathers from what some of them call the simple faith of those that brought them to the faith. Also, the writings of all the prophets from the beginning.

                  There is no reason to assume that God revealed everything to each prophet, in fact Christ as much says that is not what even happened to the Apostles. Based on the writings of the Apostles, and yes the way I read them, the apostasy had already largely happened by the close of the first century. I do not expect much evidence of the original set up and practices of the Church of Christ to have survived the schisms, Gnosticism, and consolidation of power that happened afterwards outside of scripture of which again I believe we only have the smallest part.

                  Seeing as how we are talking about which church the one true living God finds to be authoritative then that question is best put to God. Now to that end God has given additional scripture that if one reads, ponders, and prays they are able to gain a witness by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the same power that any scripture can be known to be true, that it is true.

                  What way do you suggest to know that Catholicism is true rather than Islam, which does not need a trinity, or Hinduism, which is older and both has the one and the trinity, or Judaism, which is older and has the evidence of the books of Moses with the gathering of Israel as well as a similar situation to Islam? Philosophy? Many of them use Aquinas and Aristotle as much as the Catholics. Miracles? All of them have miracles. The saintly life of the most devout believers? They all have truly devout followers that have done much good.

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    “Scripture can only be known to have authority when the Holy Spirit testifies to the individual that it is true.”

                    So what did the Holy Spirit say to you personally about the Didache and the Second Letter of James and the Apocalypse of Peter, First and Second Maccabees, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Job, and the Apocalypse of John? What about the Book of Mormon or the writings of Mary Baker Eddy? They are prophets, and I have no reason to doubt the claim, because they apparently performed “signs and wonders” as it is said prophets can do. Tell me when you have read all Mrs Eddys works and letters which the Holy Spirit told you to put into the cannon, and then explain why the Book of Wisdom is not in the canon, but Ecclesiastes is.

                    Do you actually revisit each and every debate of the Church as to decide what is canonical? Really? Just you, and your own unaided reason, paying no attention to what the founders of your church and biblical scholars say?

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      Much of the Apocrypha is true and if Latter Day Saints as a people took more seriously the scriptures that we have then we would have even more. Both things I know from the D&C which I have received a witness as to the truth of it, though at first it was from faith based on the Book of Mormon being true.

                      “Didache”
                      Largely true, some errors.

                      “Second Letter of James”
                      I am not sure I am familiar with this one, is the the secret book or apocryphon of James? If so it is not scripture, not even fallen scripture.

                      “the Apocalypse of Peter”
                      Which one? The Gnostic one is fallen, or corrupted, scripture. The non-Gnostic one is mostly fanciful writing.

                      “First and Second Maccabees”
                      Not really scripture, but largely inspired history.

                      “the Book of Ruth”
                      Inspired

                      “the Book of Job”
                      Scripture

                      “the Apocalypse of John”
                      Scripture

                      “the Book of Mormon”
                      Scripture

                      “the writings of Mary Baker Eddy”
                      The writings of one with the strong gift to heal that considered the gifts to heal and to be healed and wrote according to what she thought was right. There is much truth in her writings, but also much error. As to learning how to heal or be healed; somewhat useful. As to learning the ways of God or the nature of the world; much less useful as evidenced by her falling into the the common trap laid by the deceiver of denying the reality of the world and creation. I have only read Science & Health With Key to the Scriptures, I don’t believe it is necessarily needful for me to continue reading the rest of her works.

                      As for making the Apocrypha or other such things part of the general canon used by the Latter Day Saints, that would require additional revelation from God. For now, in general, the LDS do not even use what we have, according to the D&C, otherwise we would have more.

                      Do you actually revisit each and every debate of the Church as to decide what is canonical? Really? Just you, and your own unaided reason, paying no attention to what the founders of your church and biblical scholars say?

                      Do I read each scripture or purported scripture and pray to know whether it is true? Yes, I do. Do I compare it to what truth I have already received and then ask? Again, yes. If a scripture that I know to be true says that a book I haven’t yet received a witness as to its truth is true do I accept that on faith until I have read and prayed about it? Yes.

                      What is with saying unaided reason? The Holy Ghost is the only thing that can matter in determining the truth of something that claims to be from God. One can reason and come to a conclusion based on what one has already received but until one takes that conclusion before the Lord and receives of the Lord on the subject then one doesn’t know if they are right or not, and they can easily be wrong.

                      Biblical scholars have created a nice system for themselves wherein nothing that can be considered prophecy actually ever occurred before the event. I am sure if they could then they would have Deuteronomy written sometime after 100 A.D. (or perhaps even some time after 1967 A.D.). If there is no prophecy then there can be no prophets and if there are no real prophets then their are no real scriptures, I have no idea why anyone that actually believes in the Resurrection of Christ or any other miracle would ever believe such type of Biblical scholarship. Even tracking down earlier codices by itself has its problems, if there is a difference between what we have and what a new codex has then one of them is in error and the straight using of the earlier codex is no guarantee that it is right, nor is using what we have.

                      As to the founder of my religion, Jesus Christ said to ask and ye shall receive. As to the first prophet of this dispensation, his first vision came from asking God about which church to join, the scripture that he translated explicitly says to ask God about if it is right. The revelations he received say that we are to know for ourselves and seek confirmation from God on what our leaders are saying. So yes, I listen to the founders and ask God.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      “Do I read each scripture or purported scripture and pray to know whether it is true? Yes, I do.”

                      I mean no insult, but I do not believe you. If you read each purported scripture and prayed to know that it was true, it is unlikely that your judgment on these books is the same as the Protestant mainstream.

                      So the Holy Spirit came and told you specifically that Ruth was inspired but Maccabees was not? Job is but Tobit is not but Jonah is? I cannot shake the suspicion that you are repeating a judgment you received from another, and are claiming it is an independent judgment. Maccabees reports supernatural events and Ruth does not, not one. Job makes not a single reference to the covenant with Israel or anything to do with Mosaic history. The war in Maccabees we have independent historical testimony for; the repentance of Nineveh we have not. You weighed all these factors yourself, and the Holy Spirit confirmed for you that precisely what the Septuagint editors and later the Catholic Church put into the Bible is correct, except for precisely those books Luther tossed out of the Bible, which formed the King James Version Joseph Smith read.

                      It would be better had you said you faithfully followed what your church teaches because it is the one, true, whole, universal and apostolic church of Christ, the church guided by the Holy Spirit against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail, and that all other churches are either in schism or in heresy against you. It would be a harder claim for you to support than for me, but it would be a reasonable claim, because then you do not need to say that you independently through your own powers as a prophet and saint came by supernatural means to all the same conclusions and judgments as the prophets and saints who founded your sect.

                      “The Holy Ghost is the only thing that can matter in determining the truth of something that claims to be from God.”

                      The Holy Ghost who warned us against false prophets? The Holy Ghost who entered the Church at Pentecost and guides the Church away from novelties, errors, the doctrines of men, the delusions or inventions of hysterics and enthusiasts? That Holy Spirit?

                      Why is it that the Holy Spirit just so happened to identify the self same canonical books as sacred scripture that the Church identified in both regional and ecumenical council, excepting of course for those specific deuterocanonical books rejected by Luther and the other heresiarchs of the Reformation?

                      The former would seem to indicate that the Church from the First Century onward just so happened to get it right in regard to the canonical books and to agree with your independent judgment as guided by the Spirit made two millennia later, and the later would seem to indicate that the Reformers just so happened to get it right in regard to the deuterocanonical books and to agree with your independent judgment as guided by the Spirit made five centuries later.

                      So the Holy Spirit, I assume, you agree was present both in the Church you reject as corrupt or, more outrageously, never to have been legitimate in the first place; and also was present with Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and His Majesty Henry VIII. So if the Holy Spirit was still correctly guiding the decisions both of Orthodox and Catholic and Anglican and Lutheran, why did this guidance vest only in your independent judgment so that you reject as heretical all the Christian churches and tabernacles of the world?

                      You see, we can claim all reformers and schismatics and false prophets and heretics are breaking away from us when they take part of our truth and ignore the rest, and we can make this claim because we were here first, and all ya’ll are copying from us. Your argument cannot be that we are copying from you.

                      You have to make the argument that we were right up unto the point at which you break away, and wrong after that point, and that you are the legitimate heir to the first few years of the uncorrupt early Church, and we, who are the heirs, are not.

                      In other words, you have to make the claim that you are the original, ecumenical universal and orthodox Catholic Church, and that we are Catholics in name only, betrayers of the message and teaching given by Christ.

                      To be sure, other institutions have become corrupt in the past, and lost their legitimacy. So, considering the long history of the Church, in theory this is not hard to at least make the prima face argument, and pick a date.

                      But your problem is that you have pushed the date of the uncorrupted Church to the death (or ascension) of John in the First Century — which means that the Didache should be canonical by your lights, since it was written by the Apostles, but the councils that decided that Didache was deutocanonical by your light was not canonical. And yet you do the opposite. You reject the doctrine of Arius and accept the doctrine of Athanasius, or perhaps the other way around, but by your lights Athanasius was no more and no less legitimate than Arius.

                      And the points on which Athanasius and Arius (and for that matter the Donatists) agree such as the seven sacraments and prayers to Mary and the hierarchical structure of bishops and metropolitans, you disagree with. But those things are older than the established cannon of the New Testament.

                      So if the Spirit was guiding the Church by the time the cannon was established, He was guiding her earlier — unless you want to make the argument that the Holy Spirit only visited the Church during the councils and synods which discussed scripture, and not during any others?

                      You say the Holy Spirit guides you. Well said, for so all Christians should and must say. How odd that you know of this Spirit and believe what we teach about it, teachings we received by unbroken succession from the Apostles, except for those specific doctrines where you say we have erred.

                      What year did we err? Was it when Saint John, whom you regard as legitimate, failed to make Saint Ignatius of Antioch, whom you regard as an impostor, into a proper baptized Christian?

                      What? Did Saint John lack the power to baptize?

                      Did he lack the power to instruct? If so, why do you read his Gospels, letters, and revelations?

                      But if he had this power, why was Saint Ignatius, who learned at his feet, and was filled with the Holy Spirit even unto martyrdom, and able to produce signs and wonders, healings and miracles, as proof of his divine mission, illegitimate?

                      Since what we have of the letters and gospels of John come to us no doubt through the agency of Ignatius, who may (for all we know) have been his secretary and scribe and probably wrote down the very words you hold to be holy and scriptural, how can you with praise receive the teaching of John from the hand of Ignatius and in the same breath denounce Ignatius as corrupt, non-christian, damned, heretical and illegitimate?

                      I must say that your Mormons will win many more to your faith merely by walking the neighborhood doing good deeds. I was once on the receiving end of such a deed, and it impressed me with a lifelong favorable impression on you and your Church. I will always support you and be on your side in any battle of the Culture Wars. But in terms of justifying your faith theologically, the more you talk, the more you wind yourself into knots.

                      Seriously, what makes you different from the Montanists of the Second Century? They also claimed to have a prophet or prophetess, to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to be independent of the authority of the one Church founded by Christ, and so on.

                    • Comment by John Hutchins:

                      So the Holy Spirit came and told you specifically that Ruth was inspired but Maccabees was not? Job but Tobit is not but Jonah is?

                      Wait, I said pretty much the same thing about Ruth as Maccabees, both are inspired but neither is actually the record of a prophet. I said nothing of Tobit, you didn't ask about Tobit. Look at my actual response please, you are assuming things in your response that is not true of my response on the subject of scripture. You might want to reread my response.

                      you independently through your own powers as a prophet and saint came by supernatural means to all the same conclusions and judgments as the prophets and saints who founded your sect.

                      If they are true prophets then since there is only one true God then the Spirit will confirm the same thing to me as to you as to them if we but seek it. Also, there is precisely one revelation on the subject of the Apocrypha which I have referenced. It says nothing of the later books that have been found and to my knowledge no LDS apostle or prophet has mentioned the later things. I have never heard or read any by the church, in church, so forth on the subject.

                      Why is it that the Holy Spirit just so happened to identify the self same canonical books as sacred scripture that the Church identified in both regional and ecumenical council, excepting of course for those specific deuterocanonical books rejected by Luther and the other heresiarchs of the Reformation?

                      You do realize what religion I am right? How we have the Book of Mormon, the D&C, the Pearl of Great Price, how we don’t accept the Song of Solomon as being inspired, how the Pearl of Great Price is made up in large part of parts of the JST, how there is a fairly long section at the end of the LDS produced Bibles that contains other selections of the JST? We don’t so much as reject the deuterocanonical books as not use them; our own scriptures condemn us for not using the scriptures that we have so you condemning us for not using even more isn’t saying what isn’t already known.

                      So the Holy Spirit, I assume, you agree was present both in the Church you reject as corrupt or, more outrageously, never to have been legitimate in the first place; and also was present with Luther and Zwingli and Calvin and His Majesty Henry VIII. So if the Holy Spirit was still correctly guiding the decisions both of Orthodox and Catholic and Anglican and Lutheran, why did this guidance vest only in your independent judgment so that you reject as heretical all the Christian churches and tabernacles of the world?

                      You are arguing against a strawmen considering what I actually said but regardless:

                      For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.

                      “which means that the Didache should be canonical by your lights, since it was written by the Apostles”

                      Not everything written by Apostles is scripture as otherwise all the conference reports, all the talks, all the sermons, and so forth of all my Apostles would be scripture, which they aren’t. Nor are all the commands that the Lord gives to one dispensation the same as what He gives to another. If the Lord sees fit that the Didache be counted as scripture for the entire church then He will so reveal it to the Apostles.

                      “You reject the doctrine of Arius and accept the doctrine of Athanasius, or perhaps the other way around, but by your lights Athanasius was no more and no less legitimate than Arius.”

                      Actually it is much more correct to say that we reject both the doctrine of Arius and of Athanasius as they are both illegitimate. From the point of view of those following Nicea we are closer to Arius, but Arius is still wrong.

                      “But those things are older than the established cannon of the New Testament. “

                      Prayers to Mary can not be older then many of the books in the New Testament unless you think the early Christians were praying to Mary while she was still alive. Prayers to the Queen of Heaven, on the other hand, are some of the oldest things ever recorded.

                      The New Testament records that the church was built on “the foundation of the apostles and prophets,”which we have, Bishops, which we have, High Preists, which we have, Elders which we have, teachers which we have. We also have Baptism, Confirmation, the Sacrament of the Lords Supper, marriage sealings, anointing the sick, ordaining of priests, baptism for the dead, washing and anointing, the endowment, and others.

                      “You say the Holy Spirit guides you. Well said, for so all Christians should and must say. How odd that you know of this Spirit and believe what we teach about it, teachings we received by unbroken succession from the Apostles, except for those specific doctrines where you say we have erred.”

                      How odd that Jesus knew of God and the scriptures and believed what the Jews taught about, teachings they received by unbroken succession from Moses, except for those specific doctrines where He said they had erred.

                      I did not say that Ignatius was an imposter, we have been over this repeatedly last time I gave you links to read on the subject, which you apparently didn’t read.

                      Seriously, what makes you different from the Montanists of the Second Century? They also claimed to have a prophet or prophetess, to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to be independent of the authority of the one Church founded by Christ, and so on.

                      For one we don’t believe in ecstatic prophecy or raving or anything of that sort. “The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.” 1 Corinthians 14:32. You might faint afterward but not usually. There is also order in the church, I can only receive revelation that pertains to myself and my family and those that can receive revelation for me is a very ordered and clear. There is a whole host of other things, if you are looking for modern day Montanists it isn’t the LDS, try the Pentacostal movement.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Prayers to Mary can not be older then many of the books in the New Testament unless you think the early Christians were praying to Mary while she was still alive. Prayers to the Queen of Heaven, on the other hand, are some of the oldest things ever recorded.

                      Says a Satanist who worships “the bright and morning star”. And for that matter worships Nebuchadnezzar, since Nebuchadnezzar is the “king of kings.”

                      Certainly one can pray to living persons. One fundamentalist got a nasty shock: he was in court, and his lawyer got up and said that his client prayed the court. “To pray” merely means “to ask” under one definition.

              • Comment by Mary:

                It is one thing to join the Church and another to think yourself not bound to obedience by that act.

            • Comment by docrampage:

              Before I joined the Catholic Church, I researched claims like this as thoroughly as an amateur can research them, and found no support for them. Can you back up the claim?

              I backed up the claim in the very post where I made the claim.

              1. No central authority: the Early Church Fathers, when they make reference to the question at all (which is rare) refer to bishops and to the supremacy of Rome.

              The New Testament writers never mentioned the supremacy of Rome (in fact Paul claimed equal authority to Peter who is allegedly the first Pope), and the only reference to “bishops” is a description of how the church lay people were to select the leaders of the local church. Modern Catholic bishops are not chosen in this way.

              2. No real presence

              Didn’t mention it and don’t think it’s worth arguing about. Catholics obviously think this is a big deal but Protestants just think it’s a peculiar instance of hyper-literalism. There are people who think that Satan really took Christ to a place where he could see the entire face of the earth at once. I don’t argue with them either.

              3. The supremacy of the individual conscience over Church authority

              I have explained repeatedly on this site how your understanding of Protestant doctrine is wrong on this issue, so I won’t go into it again. Suffice it to say that my list did not include anything about individual conscience being more important than church authority.

              Sola Scriptura

              As above: you don’t understand the Protestant doctrine on the authority of scripture, I have tried to explain it numerous times to no avail, and I didn’t mention it in my list.

              Sola Fides: Not a single Early Church Father supports, or even discusses, the idea.

              Maybe not, but the first-century apostles did:
              “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.” (Romans 3:38)
              “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God —not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8,9)

              6. Owning all property in common, given all to the poor

              I have no idea how you got that from what I said.

              7. Mary was never mentioned accept as a historical person. I came across this tidbit after fourteen seconds of Google research …

              Once again, I was referring to the first century, not the second or the third. Neither Jesus nor his apostles nor anyone who ever knew Jesus ever even mentioned that there was anything remotely superhuman about Mary. Note that I’m not arguing here against the deification of Mary, only pointing out that modern Protestants act like first-century Christians did in all of the records we have: treating her as nothing more than a historical figure.

              8. Confessions were only made to God and to those one had sinned against: The statement is simply and utterly false.

              You didn’t give dates. Were any of those writers from the first century?

              9. …and the forgiveness of God was a free gift, not something to be earned by ritual and mumbling prayers. Except that no Catholic says God’s forgiveness is not a free gift, and no Catholic believes that salvation is “earned” by ritual and mumbling prayers.

              I wasn’t referring to salvation but to the Catholic practice of penance after confession. There is no evidence that first-century Christians did anything like it, and Christ himself told his followers not to pray with vain repetitions.

              You, and everyone else I encountered, in conversation or in books, who defended the Protestant position misstated the Catholic position.

              Where have I mis-stated the Catholic position? The only place I can see where you even refer to this is on the issue of penance, and as I explained, you misunderstood me.

              On the other hand, the apologists for the Catholic position did not misstate the Protestant position. They stated the teachings of Luther and Zwingli and Wesley and Calvin with remarkable precision and sympathy

              Well, with all due respect, I don’t think you are a very good judge of this as you have repeatedly expressed misunderstandings of the Protestant positions yourself. Not only have you misunderstood, you have persistently and dogmatically misunderstood, even when I tried to clarify. I don’t claim that this is deliberate on your part since I assume that you are debating with honest intention, but your misunderstandings seem intractable at times.

              So you lie about them, and they don’t lie about you.

              Since the strawman argument is the only argument I heard during my “searching for a communion” phase, I am forced to assume it is your best argument. If you had ammo, you would not be shooting blanks.

              Well, if you do not mean to offend, you might try to avoid calling me a liar because I do find that rather offensive. If I have mischaracterized Catholic teaching (and I probably have on a few occasions) then I assure you, it was not intentional. You may not take my assurances seriously since you consider me a liar, but at least I make an effort not to repeat a characterization once you have told me that you think it is wrong –a courtesy you do not by any means return, but I still assume that you are being honest.

              • Comment by John Hutchins:

                One thing, in both the New Testament and in the writings of the first century fathers such as Polycarp and Ignatius there are both Elders and Bishops mentioned as being in the same local congregations.

              • Comment by Mary:

                I’m not arguing here against the deification of Mary,

                A prime sample of what our esteemed host complains of. “deification” indeed. You go and erect a straw man before our very faces and expect us to swallow your hate-filled lies.

                If your claims about the Blessed Virgin were so strong, you would not have to make up things about her in order to attack them.

              • Comment by Mary:

                Well, if you do not mean to offend, you might try to avoid calling me a liar because I do find that rather offensive. If I have mischaracterized Catholic teaching (and I probably have on a few occasions) then I assure you, it was not intentional.

                You’re calling us liars and promoters of worshipping pagan gods.

                Furthermore, one assumes the responsibility of finding out the truth before one speaks. What have you done to ensure your statements about the Church are truthful?

                • Comment by docrampage:

                  Mary, you need to get a grip. Nothing I’ve said is hateful and I haven’t called anyone a liar. I quite specifically said that I wasn’t calling John a liar. I think you are projecting your anger onto me and assuming that I must be feeling the same hatred and spite in this argument that you apparently do. But you are mistaken. To me, this is an entirely intellectual discussion; I have no emotional attachment to it.

                  As to my comment about the deification of Mary, I presume that you are complaining about the word “deification”. However, I am entitled to describe Catholic doctrine in my own words regardless of the words that Catholics prefer, and going by the Catholic description of how Catholics view Mary, I claim that they have made a goddess of Mary. If you don’t agree that Catholics have made a goddess of Mary, then you are free to explain what you think the difference is between Mary and a goddess and I can argue about what makes a goddess and how Catholic reverence for Mary fulfills those criteria. What you can’t do –with any intellectual credibility– is call me hateful and lying because I have an opinion that makes you angry.

                  • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                    Oh, come on, doc. You must know perfectly well that Catholics do not “deify” Mary. To say that this is just “using your own words to describe Catholic doctrine” is to trail your coat rather obviously. Or do you really believe that that is a fair representation? If so, perhaps you could give a quote from the catechism that supports you?

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      Let me try this again: I know very well that Catholics claim that they do not deify Mary or worship saints. They no doubt have some fine distinction discussed and debated at great length detailing in miniscule detail how Mary would be different from an actual goddess. I claim that they are wrong because I don’t think there are fine distinctions to be made here.

                      When you pray to some absent entity thinking that this entity has the power to hear and care about your whispered requests and use miraculous powers to answer them, and can simultaneously do the same with millions of other people all in their own little space with their own little personal needs and concerns, then you have made that entity a god. You have attributed to that entity power and authority that only God possesses. The fact that you prefer to call these entities something other than “gods” does not change the fact that they are in all relevant respects gods and goddesses.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      I’d have thought the definition of a goddess would involve being an object of worship. Or are you using the Marvel Comics definition?

                      There is nothing particularly special about hearing prayers. If I pray to you: “Doc Rampage, please stop being so cussed and defensive.”, you can receive the prayer, can you not? And you could choose to answer it, without any miracle being involved. Likewise, if I pray you to intercede on my behalf with the Father, you could answer that prayer also.

                      The ability of Mary to hear and answer prayers is no different from that of any other saint. It doesn’t make her a goddess, any more than it makes you a god.

                      I suppose your real problem is with the doctrine of the communion of saints. I remind you that it is in the Apostles’ Creed, which is a cornerstone of all protestant churches as well as older churches. God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      It also neatly overlooks Revelation, in which we are explicitly told that the angels and the elders can bring the prayers of other people before God, which is to say, they can intercede for them.

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      I’d have thought the definition of a goddess would involve being an object of worship. Or are you using the Marvel Comics definition?

                      Since I am explaining my own reasoning for saying that Catholics deify Mary, it is only my definition of goddess that is relevant. If I were trying to convince you that Catholics deify Mary then I would have to take into account your definition.

                      I’m afraid I don’t get the Marvel Comics allusion. Was there a goddess named Mary in the comics at one point?

                      There is nothing particularly special about hearing prayers. If I pray to you: “Doc Rampage, please stop being so cussed and defensive.”

                      Once again, you seem to be trying to play a childish word gotcha, this time reaching for a usage that hasn’t been current centuries. You knew very well what I meant by “pray”, and even if you found this word mysterious then you should be able to note that I, unlike Mary, am not absent, but quite alive, and that I can’t hear and comprehend and care about the prayers of millions of people simultaneously, nor do I have the other powers ascribed to Mary. But you knew that I wasn’t saying that the Catholic Mary is a goddess just because people could make pleas to her, didn’t you? So really, why do this? What value is it to you to sidetrack these discussions with childish gotchas?

                      The ability of Mary to hear and answer prayers is no different from that of any other saint.

                      This doesn’t really help your case since I think that Catholics deify all of their saints.

                      I suppose your real problem is with the doctrine of the communion of saints.

                      I can’t imagine why you would suppose that.

                    • Comment by Mary:

                      Since I am explaining my own reasoning for saying that Catholics deify Mary, it is only my definition of goddess that is relevant.

                      You are an alien from another planet out to destroy humanity.

                      Which is true because only my definition of “alien,” “another planet,” and “destroy humanity” are relevant.

                      No, the common, ordinary, English language definition is the only one relevant. You can’t weasel out of malicious slander by claiming to use some Orwellian secret meaning.

                      Especially one that is false. Revelation explicitly states that the elders and the angels bring the prayers of other people before the throne and therefore must be aware of them. If that’s godhood, the Bible teaches it, which would be obviously false, and therefore it can’t be godhood.

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      Well, first of all, when one is discussing abstract subjects like mathematics, philosophy or religion, words often are used in specialized ways, so it is often necessary to be clear about definitions. Second, my usage of the word “goddess” is the common one. It was only by courtesy that I allowed as how Catholics must have their own defensible definition (since none of you has suggested one). Go to just about anyone and say, “The ancients had this female figure that they believed was the mother of a god. She lived in in a mystical realm with her son the god and watched over people who worshiped her son. The ancients would bow down to statues of this female figure and pray to her, asking for things. Would you call this person a goddess? Would you say that the people were worshiping her? Would you call those statues, idols? Just about anyone except a Catholic would say “yes” to all questions –not only Protestants, but atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, and others.

                      The description of Mary as a goddess, worshiped through idols, is the obvious and natural one. If you want to disagree then you will have to do better than just calling me names for pointing it out.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      …it is only my definition of goddess that is relevant.

                      As long as you keep your thoughts to yourself that is true. The moment you engage in conversation with others you have to use words to mean what they mean.

                      Once again, you seem to be trying to play a childish word gotcha, this time reaching for a usage that hasn’t been current centuries.

                      No, the word hasn’t changed its meaning. It is not often used nowadays in the everyday context in which I put it, but the point of putting in that context was to remind you of what the word means. No trick involved, and no gotcha.

                      Who says Mary (or any other saint) is absent and dead? God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken”.

                      This is what I mean by referring to your problem with the communion of saints. Eternal life is, you know, eternal. That means it is not bound by time, so your problem seems to be in assuming that all saints are active only when they are alive in the fallen body (as you currently are) and therefore bound by time (as you currently are). You seem to have forgotten the glorification that awaits all of us saints, and into which many have already entered.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      Go to just about anyone and say…

                      … a series of statements deliberately and carefully crafted to get the answer you want, and you will get the answer you want. Yes. So what?

                      I thought at first that you were confused in your mind because you did not quite understand the meaning of the words you were using, and that clarifying their meanings would help clarify your thoughts. Your recent statements are causing me to begin to suspect that you do not care about meaning at all, but use words only to produce the effect you want.

                      Perhaps you had better tell us what you mean by “god(dess)”. I have suggested that it involves being worshipped as God. To my mind, showing a lady signs of respect (bowing etc.) and asking her to pass on messages for you does not fill the requirement.

                      Just by the way, I am not a Catholic.

                  • Comment by John C Wright:

                    You said that all the Christians of the Millennium and a half before Luther had worshiped Mary as a goddess in an act of abominable idolatry, and you say that is not hateful? Wow. Do you ever have a tin ear.

                    How you ever talked to any Catholics before, or are you one of that freaks who thinks Catholics and Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox and Nestorians and Monophysites and Copts are not Christians but just Crypto-pagans?

                    And YOU regard it as mildly annoying that we refer to the early Christians whom we read and respect and you do not, even though you use all their doctrines and rely on their teachings for your dogmas, as belonging to us and not to you? We never left our original seat. We Catholics do not claim that the Antenicene Fathers are like us. We claim we are like them.

                    Produce your proof to refute the claim. Find the early church father who denounces auricular confession as an intrusive novelty? Name him. Repeat his words to me. Find the early church father who denounces prayers to Mary. Name him. Repeat his words. Find the Early Church father who denounces the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist as a pagan innovation. Name him. Repeat his words.

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      You said that all the Christians of the Millennium and a half before Luther had worshiped Mary as a goddess in an act of abominable idolatry, and you say that is not hateful? Wow. Do you ever have a tin ear.

                      Well, no, I didn’t say that, and if I had then, no, it would not be hateful. Do you think it is hateful when you accuse people of worshiping money or power or fame? You have said things like that on this very blog. If you can say these things without being hateful (and I presume that there is no hate in your words) then why can’t a Protestant say that Catholics worship Mary without being hateful?

                      How you ever talked to any Catholics before, or are you one of that freaks who thinks Catholics and Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox and Nestorians and Monophysites and Copts are not Christians but just Crypto-pagans?

                      No, but I reserve the right to hold such beliefs without hatred or rancor if my considered opinions logically entail such a conclusion. I also have known men of good will and godliness who did believe this, men with nothing but love in their hearts for the misled members of such congregations –love and the hope for their eventual salvation. Maybe these men were freaks for praying for salvation for the descendents of those who had so persecuted their own ancestors.

                      I am frankly stymied at the idea that you can infer hatred from doctrinal beliefs. How does one respond to such an illogical, irrational view without descending into illogic and irrationality?

                      And YOU regard it as mildly annoying that we refer to the early Christians whom we read and respect and you do not, even though you use all their doctrines and rely on their teachings for your dogmas, as belonging to us and not to you?

                      No, I never said anything like that. You are putting words in my mouth. What I said annoys me is that you assume that the Catholic Church as an organization stretches back into the New Testament era. I think the Catholic Church’s origins are more properly put in the 3rd century or later. Therefore it is annoying when you ignore the fact that I disagree with you on this point to tell me repeatedly how Protestants defy the Church that Christ established or similar things.

                      You ought to know by know that Protestants do not believe that Christ established the Catholic Church, so what is the point of making such statements in an argument with Protestants? It cannot possibly have any effect except to force the Protestant to once again remind you that they do not agree with your beliefs about Church history. It is such things that make arguments go around in empty circles as they do.

                      We never left our original seat. We Catholics do not claim that the Antenicene Fathers are like us. We claim we are like them.

                      The first claim, as I have told you many, many times is in dispute. The second is mere rhetoric.

          • Comment by Andrew Brew:

            No priests? Read Paul’s letters again, and the book of Acts. The English word “Priest” is a contraction of the word “presbyter” (no doubt you prefer the English translation “Elder”, but the the transcription remains a longer form of “priest”), which occurs often in the New Testament, as does “episcopos” (Bishop, or overseer, again depending on whether you prefer translation or transliteration).

            • Comment by docrampage:

              I really don’t want to get into arguments on Greek translation because I don’t know Greek, but this keeps coming up so I’ll just repeat what Protestant Greek scholars have said: the Greek word that you are translating as “priest” was more correctly translated as “elder” –someone older and wiser who leads, not applied to anyone under, say, 40 years of age. There was an entirely different and unrelated Greek word used for Jewish and pagan priests.

              Furthermore, the duties of elders and the means of selecting them as explained in the New Testament have little resemblance to the duties of modern Catholic Priests and the means of selecting them. Elders were supposed to be the husband on one wife and have children so they could show their leadership in their family before taking on leadership of the local believers. Like modern Catholic priests, elders were spiritual leaders and administrators but there was no hint that elders would forgive sins, assign penance, hear confessions, or otherwise stand between God and Christians.

              The New Testament discusses in several places that the status of men has changed, with the strong implication that priests are no longer needed (along with the rest of the Law). It says that Jesus is now our high priest and that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. There is no hint anywhere in the New Testament that Christians had anything like the Jewish priests who stood between man and God.

              Just because the Greek word used for local church leaders has arguably evolved into “priest” that does not mean that the men called by that name are today the same thing as the men called by the Greek name.

              • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                Of course their functions, in the New Testament church of a few thousand souls, are not the same as those found in the twenty-first century, or even, say, the twelfth. Nor are they the same as those of an Elder of the Church of Scotland or of a Baptist pastor. So what? My point was that the very word “priest” is used in the New Testament of the leaders of Christian churches. It is not a translation. And you are quite right that it is not the same word used of Jewish or pagan priests (that would be “hiereus”, from which we get “hierarchy”). This is perhaps a hint that their role was not seen as identical with that of the Aaronic priesthood, either, which seems to be part of your objection.

                • Comment by docrampage:

                  My point was that the very word “priest” is used in the New Testament of the leaders of Christian churches. It is not a translation.

                  Well, your point is wrong. The word used in the New Testament that Protestants translate as “elder” is not “priest” and is not very similar to “priest”, although it may have evolved into “priest” over time (I haven’t seen any evidence to this effect, I’m just acknowledging the bare possibility).

                  But even if you were right, it would not make any points for you in the discussion. It would prove only that there were people who were called by the label “priest” in the New Testament, not that there was anything like Catholic Priests in the New Testament. It would be like me saying there were no cars in eighteenth century and you responding, “Yes there were! They used to call the horse-drawn carts that ran on tracks in mines “car” in the eighteenth century!” Since by “car” I am referring to an automobile, your comment is not relevant to my point; it is just a word game.

                  • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                    You admit that you know no greek, and I guess that you know no linguistics, but you are able to tell me that my point concerning a greek word is wrong?

                    “Elder” is not a “protestant” translation. It is just what the word means. If it were a protestant-specific translation you should be deeply suspicious of it – believing that it is, why are you not, I wonder? Where did you think the word “priest” comes from?

                    If you do not translate the word, but just use the greek (transliterated into latin characters), you have, with the sort of phonetic shifts that occur in language all the time the word “priest”, which is also used in English to translate “hieraus”. The two usages should not be confused, which is what you are doing. It is not a word game, but a correction of a misunderstanding on your part of a translation.

                    So when you wrote “they didn’t have priests”, you meant “the people they called priests did not do exactly the same job in the church then as the people we call priests now”.

                    If that is what you meant, then of course I agree with you, but so what?

                    Likewise, if you write “in the eighteenth century they didn’t have cars”, and mean “in the eighteenth century they didn’t have petrol engines”, I would agree with that too.

                    Since your words are what we read, not your thoughts, you need to be careful of your words, and when you misuse them you might accept correction.

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      and I guess that you know no linguistics but you are able to tell me that my point concerning a greek word is wrong?

                      Your guess is wrong, and I don’t have to know Greek to know how translation works. When you translate a word W from language 1 to language 2, you look for a word or phrase in language 2 that means approximately the same thing as W means in language 1. This is often a complex (or even impossible) task for various reasons such as that a word can be used in a cultural way that would not be understood by readers of language 2. For example, some translations of the Old Testament translate “those who urinate against the wall” as “males”. In translating ancient texts there is the additional difficulty that the meaning of a word may not be known with certainty and may be controversial. That is why it makes sense to talk about the “Protestant translation” and why there is no reason to be “deeply suspicious” of such a thing –no more than one would take any controversial assertion with caution.

                      What you don’t do if you are a competent translator is replace W with a word W1 in language 2 just because W1 has some lexical relationship to W even though W1 means something different in language 2 than W means in language 1. This is what you would be doing by translating the Greek word as “priest”. I thought that Catholic translations did translate it this way, which is why I referred to the “Protestant translation”. If Catholics translate it as “elder”, then I am happy to hear that this point, at least, is not controversial.

                      If you do not translate the word, but just use the greek (transliterated into latin characters), you have, with the sort of phonetic shifts that occur in language all the time the word “priest”

                      I did not dispute this claim, I only pointed out that I hadn’t seen any evidence for it. I still haven’t. Not that it is in any sense relevant to the discussion of whether there were first-century Christian priests.

                      The two usages should not be confused, which is what you are doing.

                      This is rich. I explained that the two usages should not be confused and you somehow read my explanation as me confusing the two usages. I’d like to know how you did that.

                      In any case, it now looks as if you are saying that Catholics do indeed translate elder as “priest”, meaning that Catholic translators are the ones confusing the two usages.

                      So when you wrote “they didn’t have priests”, you meant “the people they called priests did not do exactly the same job in the church then as the people we call priests now”.

                      No, I meant that they didn’t have priests. First-century Christians didn’t call anyone “priest” because they didn’t speak English. Since I was writing in English, I expected you to understand the word “priests” as it is understood in contemporary English. If I had meant to make a comment about the history of the word “priest” then I would have tried to make it clear that I was changing the subject from religion to etymology.

                      Since your words are what we read, not your thoughts, you need to be careful of your words, and when you misuse them you might accept correction.

                      I did not misuse any words. When I write words, I assume that we are speaking a common language and that you understand the common and contemporary meanings of common English words like “car” and “priest”. Without such an assumption, communication would be far more difficult. You would, for example have to have carefully qualified what you mean by “words”. Do you mean English words? Greek words? Words in any language? And then you would have to qualify what you mean by “language”. What about a formal language? If one is inclined to be childish, one can pretend to misunderstand almost anything.

                      The common contemporary English meaning of the word “car” is an automobile and when someone someone says “there were no cars in the eighteenth century” any competent contemporary listener can be expected to understand his meaning despite the fact that other meanings are possible. This is especially true given that such a sentence would doubtless be spoken in a larger context that made the referent even clearer.

                      Context is key. When a Protestant, in a religious argument with Catholics about the legitimacy of Catholic priests, says that there were no first-century Christian priests, any competent English-speaking listener knows that the word “priest” refers to a particular sort of religious office.

                      If you genuinely failed to understand me then you must have thought that I was saying that the first century Christians didn’t have any office with a name that is etymologically related to the modern English word “priest”, because that is the statement which your talk of Greek words would refute. Maybe instead of trying to refute a statement involving such a puzzling change of subject from religion to etymology, you could have looked for a meaning that would fit the context better.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      Sigh. I guess we won’t get much further here. One last try:

                      It is not a question of translation. The word “priest” (= “presbyter” – the identification of the word is entirely uncontroversial) is the word used in the New Testament itself. The NT refers to people with special offices in the Christian community – apostles, bishops and priests – all distinct from the lay community (which you refer to as such yourself in discussing the election of bishops) and with special duties, responsibilities and authority. Feel free to argue that their roles differ in significant ways from the way the words are used today. You can do that. What you cannot do, without abandoning the New Testament, is to assert that there were no such offices. Your words were:

                      There were no priests since God had rent the veil in the temple…

                      which can certainly be read as an abolition of the Jewish office of priest (“hieraus”). The Christians, a couple of decades later, were using an entirely different word (not a word translated as “priest”, but a word that is “priest”), to describe one of the offices they used among themselves. There were priests. They used that word. This is not a chance resemblance or an etymological curiousity.

                      To say that because God abolished the Jewish office of hieraus (=Heb. kohen) therefore the Christians cannot have an office called priest makes no sense. Pointing out that they did have such an office, which is the same office used by the church continually since that time, is not a change of subject.

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      It is not a question of translation.

                      No, it’s a question of meaning. A meaning that I think you fully understood but you thought you could in a childish gotcha like when mom says “We don’t have any fruit” and her obnoxious 11-year-old says, “We have TOMATOES

                      The word “priest” (= “presbyter” – the identification of the word is entirely uncontroversial) is the word used in the New Testament itself

                      No, it isn’t the same word. It isn’t spelled the same, it isn’t pronounced the same, and it doesn’t mean the same thing. It isn’t the same word.

                      And even if it were, why would you be so insistent on making a point of it since it has nothing to do with the conversation? Is is just that you think you got in a childish gotcha, like when

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      It is not a question of translation.

                      No, it’s a question of meaning. A meaning that I think you fully understood but you thought you could in a childish gotcha like when mom says “We don’t have any fruit” and her obnoxious 11-year-old says, “We have TOMATOES! An TOMATOES ARE FRUIT! So you were WRONG, huh mom!”

                      Only with you it was “There were TOO priests in the first century because the word used for elders is “priest”! Ha Ha! Score!”

                      The childishness is rendered even more pathetic by the fact that it isn’t even literally correct because “priest” is not a Greek word, it doesn’t sound like the Greek word, it is not spelled like the Greek word (even after replacing Greek with Roman letters), and it doesn’t mean the same thing as the Greek word. There is no sense in which they are the same word.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      But the word πρεσβύτερος in greek means “elder” or “priest.” Look it up in your Liddell and Hart:

                      http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3D%2386306&redirect=true

                      If you don’t know who Liddell and Hart are, don’t argue Greek with those who’ve studied Greek.

                    • Comment by docrampage:

                      “Elder” and “priest” do not mean the same thing, so even without knowing Greek I can know that you are pulling a fast one by suggesting an equivalence. I won’t repeat my reasoning, which I detailed above.

                    • Comment by Andrew Brew:

                      If you are prepared to argue that black is white, and call “childish” someone who points out that the black thing is called “black”, I don’t think there is anything more I can do.

  5. Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

    It occurred to me that there’s an even simpler explanation than the one you propose with the Dark Lord and whatnot. I propose that most of human history is explained by the hypothesis that the average human is thick as two short bricks.

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      That hypothesis does explain a lot (it certainly explains me), but I don’t think it quite explains everything. For starters, to riff on Lewis, if we were all as thick as two short bricks none of us would know we were.

      (Then again….)

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        Yes. But I did not say everyone is as thick as whatever. I said this was true of the average human. (I shudder to think of the mental capacities of those in the bottom deciles.)

        • Comment by Stephen J.:

          True enough. I just always prefer to add a few grains of salt to the notion of the “dumbness of the average person”; I’ve noticed that nobody ever brings that up who isn’t already personally convinced they’re on the top half of that bell curve.

          (Not that I would disagree with anyone arguing that John C. Wright fans already have empirical evidence for that presumption. But I digress.)

          I prefer to think of it as a riff on the old size-of-the-wand theory: It’s not the complexity and speed of the brainpower that’s important; it’s the reliability and correctness of the answers you get out of it.

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            I’ve noticed that nobody ever brings that up who isn’t already personally convinced they’re on the top half of that bell curve.

            I would suggest that anyone who can express the idea grammatically and without spelling errors, much less take pleasure in discussing abstract ideas on someone’s blog, is already in the top half of the bell curve. That average is really depressingly low.

            • Comment by Stephen J.:

              “That average is really depressingly low.”

              Granted; but almost everyone thinks they’re above it.

              I’m just paranoid because in my own life, it’s been my experience that it’s precisely when I’m most certain of something I’m most likely to be wrong about it. I can still recall with painful clarity the experience of walking along the street with some friends and boasting about never having had my I.Q. formally tested, because I’d never felt the need to nail it down. “It’s enough for me,” I declaimed pompously, “to know I’m smarter than your average bear — ” At which exact point I walked slap-bang into a fire hydrant I hadn’t noticed and bashed myself in the groin.

              My friends had to spend ten minutes holding themselves up on the walls of nearby buildings before they finished laughing. Pride wenteth before destruction that day, I can tell you.

            • Comment by lotdw:

              Averages aren’t low. They’re in the middle.

        • Comment by Kerry:

          Yes, the mental capacities of those at the bottom preclude them from our compassion. Perhaps we should stone them.

        • Comment by Kerry:

          Or brick them?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Even granting the theory that all men, including yourself, are stupid, your model does not explain why they all happen to be stupid in roughly the same way as repeated throughout the ages, namely, in ganging up on the Christians against their own mutual interests.

      If Christianity is true, there is an explanation for the hatred of the world against it. But if it is untrue, what explains the hostility?

      • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

        the theory that all men, including yourself, are stupid

        Again: I did not say that.

        why they all happen to be stupid in roughly the same way as repeated throughout the ages, namely, in ganging up on the Christians against their own mutual interests.

        You can hardly claim that the war of Islam against Christianity was against the interest of the Sultans; or that the Vikings gained nothing from raiding rich monasteries; or that the steppe tribes had no interest in subduing the rich agricultural lands of Russia. Who, then, was ‘ganging up’ on Christianity in 873, or 1492, or 1763? For that matter, even now Christians are a majority in the west; to complain of being ‘ganged up on’ by people you outnumber ten to one is cowardly whining. Indeed Hindus, Moslems, and the various American and Siberian animists might reasonably claim that any ganging-up has gone rather the other way.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          As you say, you are a few bricks short of a load. Nothing else could explain your response, which, as all your responses are, is rhetoric without logic, nickpicking and cherrypicking, verbal flatulence, halfwittery.

          Instead of denying that the Jihad has made a common cause with the Radical Left, which is the topic here, you point out that it was advantageous for Dark Age Vikings to raid England, as if a single contrary example were logically relevant to the general principle advanced.

          My Church just spent the last fortnight in prayer that we may be allowed under American law not to be forced to contribute funds to support the various sexual abominations required by your world-view (a world-view that you are too stupid to recognize as being a dogmatic religion in its own right), abominations that your worldview requires you to impose on those of us who merely wish to be left alone to live our lives and practice our faith as we see fit.

          Cowardly whining, indeed? This is a ironic time in history in which to make that claim. In two millennia of Christian history, about 70 million faithful have given their lives for the faith, and of these, 45.5 million — fully 65% — were in the last century. This includes Christians slain in the Molucca Islands of Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, East Timor, Cuba, the former Soviet republics, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries, Vietnam, China and others. The persecution of Christians is currently most severe in Sudan.

          The two currents that fuel the persecution of Christians today are Communism and Islam.

          So when you call 45 some odd millions who died for the faith cowards and whiners, you speak of better men than yourself.

          Or is it merely me you are calling a coward and a whiner? This is rhetorically convenient for you: it allows you to utter hostilities toward Christians, but also to mock any Christian who notes the existence of the hostility. Since the topic was how to explain the presence of the hostility, (and your own inability to explain it) obviously the topic cannot be discussed if even to say the hostility exists is defined as cowardly. Since you yourself are one of the hostiles — have you read your own blog, sir? — the accusation becomes Alice-and-Wonderlandesque.

          I am constantly amazed and disappointed at myself that I allow myself to react to your words as if you meant any of them. Perhaps you are what you pretend to me: a machine as mindless as a phonograph, which utters word-noises you neither believe nor mean according to programming you cannot change. You certainly act that way.

          • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

            You said that men are stupid “in roughly the same way as repeated throughout the ages, namely, in ganging up on the Christians against their own mutual interests.” To demonstrate this it is not sufficient to show that it happens today; you must show that it has happened “through the ages”. And further, you must show not only that there was ganging-up, but that it was against the interest of the ganger-uppers. These are strong claims. I gave three counterexamples; can you provide any examples other than the modern one you’ve already given? Do you actually read your own comments and think about what you are claiming, or do you just activate a Markov-chain imitation of your older posts? If you want to argue that something has happened “through the ages”, what the devil is the basis for dismissing the Vikings?

            When Christians complain about being persecuted in countries where churches are bombed and houses set on fire, I do not call that cowardly whining; but that was not the subject under discussion. We were speaking of laws enacted by democratically elected governments in countries with large Christian majorities. Your equivocation of the two is disgusting. It is true that democracy is in itself no safeguard against persecution of a minority, that’s what laws and constitutions are for; but when the majority complains about being persecuted I tend to get testy. Throw the bums out, then, if you’re so upset. If 80% of the population cannot muster an electoral coalition, then the alleged persecution can’t be so bad as all that.

            Since you yourself are one of the hostiles — have you read your own blog, sir?

            Certainly I’m hostile to Christianity (also to Islam, Hinduism, and Scientology) although I don’t recall saying so on my blog, which is mainly fiction; can you point to the post? I didn’t say there was no hostility. I said that we are not in the majority. If you had merely complained that there exist people who don’t like you, I could make no objection; that is manifestly true even if it’s rather weak sauce as problems go. But to say that they are in control of governments and actively persecuting you, that’s a much stronger claim; and to say that this has happened “through the ages” is to enter the realm of fantasy.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Certainly I’m hostile to Christianity (also to Islam, Hinduism, and Scientology) although I don’t recall saying so on my blog, which is mainly fiction; can you point to the post? I didn’t say there was no hostility. I said that we are not in the majority.

              You criticize the Church (or perhaps me) as cowards and whiners when the mere mention is made of hostility directed against us. You then say that the hostility does exist, and that you yourself are a hostile. This admission contradicts, or, at least, cuts against, the criticism. You then ask for a specific quote, which contradicts, or at least cuts against, the admission.

              Why do you need a quote from me to show that you are hostile when you while asking for the quote admit, nay, boast that you are hostile? The rhetorical trick of insulting someone and then criticizing him for his cowardice when he notes the insult is itself cowardly, because it attempt to win for yourself free reign to be as insulting as you like, without facing the alleged retaliation (which in this case is superhuman forbearance).

              • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

                You seem to have a gift for picking out the least important part of any comment, and making out that it is the main thrust of the argument; a happy gift, to be sure, as it enables you to ignore any argument you dislike. I’m prepared to believe that I may have, at one time or another, said something on my blog that was rather hostile to Christians; it is only that I cannot remember doing so. Thus I asked, from mere curiosity, what it was that made you ask whether I had read my own blog.

                You ignore the actual point, which is that Christians are a majority, and when the majority complains about what its own democratically elected government does, that is appropriately called whining.

  6. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Small province (7,5 million people), small country (34 million), small minds, and big politically correct power. In case you don’t know, there is no conservative party in Quebec since before 1970. They changed their name from Union National to Progressive Conservative Party, they chose another candidate than the one the late Prime Minister Daniel Johnson favored, and they died. There has been nothing from that time to prevent the absolute reign of the secular left and political correctoids, alternatively Liberal and Separatist (not very separatist anymore, but very politically correct).

    To give an idea of their deeds, I received a government publicity a couple of months after Climate-gate boasting about spending taxpayer’s money to fight climate changes. This is beyond Kafka, and probably beyond Huxley and Orwell.

  7. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    I do believe I have found a simpler theory to explain the curious unwillingness of humanists to confront Jihad. Let us postulate what I call –

    The Shostakovich Axiom: In order to sleep soundly, people will believe anything.

    Once I was tormented by the question: why? why? Why were these people lying to the entire world? Why don’t these famous humanists give a damn about us, our lives, honor, and dignity? And then I suddenly calmed down. If they don’t give a damn, then they don’t. And to hell with them. Their cozy life as famous humanists is what they hold most dear. That means that they can’t be taken seriously. They became like children for me. Nasty children – a hell of a difference, as Pushkin used to say.

  8. Comment by Patrick:

    I just want to go on record and say that this thread contains some of the worst forthrightly-given argumentation I’ve ever read. On any topic.

    We have all lost this one.

  9. Comment by Sylvie D. Rousseau:

    Gian says :
    “[...]Catholic philosophers have been having disputes on what constitutes lying [...] Catholic philosophers approach lying as a perversion of a natural faculty i.e. speech but all kinds of paradoxes entangle them because they neglect Love.”

    I don’t know what sort of Catholic philosophers you are speaking about but this doesn’t make sense at all. If you want to learn something really clear and consistent with Catholic faith and theology, read Thomists like Maritain. If you want to keep to moral theology and the Catechism, this is good, but you shouldn’t pronounce on moral philosophy then.

  10. Comment by John Hutchins:

    I mean no insult, but I do not believe you. If you read each purported scripture and prayed to know that it was true, it is unlikely that your judgment on these books is the same as the Protestant mainstream.

    This is bothering me, besides the part where I think you probably only read the half of my comment under a blockquote and not the half above it.

    You claim to have asked God on the subject of His existence and you claim to have received a response, a personal response. Why then is it so hard to believe that God would further respond on other subjects?

    The base of your knowledge of God does not come from philosophy, from history, from fruits, but from the one true and living God by way of the Holy Spirit. Other then for cultural reasons were it not for the miraculous power of God you would have no reason to suppose that Christianity was any better than Hinduism or pretty much any other religion. Why is it impossible to believe that God would not reveal more when He revealed things to you?

    The point of asking God on the subject of scriptures is not to establish ones own canon of scripture but to know that the scriptures are true. If one knows them to be authoritative based on the say so of a man or of a church then how does one know that the one saying they are authoritative is true if not by God?

    The Catholic church may say they are authoritative because of their interpretation of certain scripture, but then they can not then claim the scriptures as being authoritative based on their authority, at some point somewhere along the line there is either a circular argument or an appeal to God by means of the Holy Ghost. This appeal can not be that on the day of Pentecost long ago the Holy Ghost was felt by some, instead it has to be an appeal to something that is currently accessible to all, or else the argument falls into a nice circle, an untested axiom that is testable assuming one is willing to ask God.

    The purpose of asking God about scriptures is so that one knows them to be true. I may be able to explain things in the scripture to my children, but I can not give them a knowledge of the truthfulness of the scriptures. By knowing myself they are true I can teach my children that I know the scriptures are true, but still that does not give them their own knowledge that they will need to face the challenges of their times. However, by letting them know that I have received a witness from almighty God as to the truthfulness of the scriptures and that they are able to receive this same witness then they will also be able to know as I know. The purpose is not to establish their own canon of scripture but so that they can know the scriptures are true, something that appears to be a rare thing indeed even among those that say they are Christians.

    So why wouldn’t God respond to them as He has in the past responded to you or to me? Why shouldn’t they ask God to know that He is there and cares? If the danger is them being deceived then how do you know that you were not deceived about the very existence of God? If the promise is that a group that the Lord has made a covenant with can’t play the harlot and thus lose the greater blessings of the Lord then first, what is the Old Testament about then? and second, how do you know that and how do you know that those that tell you that have the authority to interpret it that way?

    • Comment by Rolf Andreassen:

      When others have followed the same procedure that you do, and have gotten different answers, then how can you claim that the procedure is accurate? Do you want to claim that everyone who gets a different feeling about scripture X is lying, either about how they prayed or about what they felt? If not, then what is the use of this form of prayer? It can clearly give wrong answers; how do you know that yours are right?

      • Comment by John Hutchins:

        The Holy Ghost has well delineated fruits which is a way of judging what is received, other spirits produce different fruits. Second, God responds to those that actually want to know and will act on the response, not everyone that asks really wants to know or is willing to act but, not having the gift from God in this regard, that isn’t something that I can judge. Third, God reveals to each “all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.” which means that He can give different answers to each, though they shouldn’t be contradictory.

    • Comment by Mary:

      “It is further written that you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

      To demand unmediated and miraculous illumination is presumption, like insisting on a miracle cure or any other form of miracle, if God has provided mediating means by which you may achieve the same end.

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