A Plague of Atheists Has Descended, and Catholics are the Target

Christopher Hitchens

Greg Craven, who is the Vice-Chancellor of Australian Catholic University (ACU), wrote a serious, yet funny, article.  The article comes from my favorite Australian newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald.  In the article, A plague of Atheists has Descended and Catholics are the Target, Greg Craven explains the rise of a new group of atheists that would rather engage in polemics and attacks on the Catholic faith than engage in serious dialogue.  These attacks are so vitriol that they descend beyond reason and become humorous to read, but they aren’t intentional.

It was written concerning the state of Catholics in Australia having to deal with such malcontents, but it is apropos for Catholics here in America, as well as in western Europe.

Here is the entire article (Warning: Some profane language and Australianisms):

Attacking Christians is not really clever, witty or funny.

FROM time immemorial, this world has been troubled by plagues. From bogong moths in Canberra to frogs in biblical Egypt, unwelcome and unlovely creatures have the awkward habit of turning up in bulk.

Just now, we are facing one of our largest and least appealing infestations. Somewhat in advance of summer’s blowflies, we are beset by atheists. Worse, they are not traditional atheists. These tended to be quiet blokes called Algie with ancillary interests in nudist ceramics, who were perfectly happy as long as you pretended to accept a pamphlet in Flinders Lane.

No, the new hobby atheist is as brash, noisy and confident as a cheap electric kettle. They want everyone to know that they have not found God, and that no one else should. Their particular target seems to be Catholics. On the surface, this is odd, as there are plenty of other religious targets just waiting to be saved from a vengeful, non-existent deity. Smaller herds, such as the Christadelphians or the Salvation Army, might seem more manageable. But the Catholic Church has two incomparable advantages as an object of the wrath of proselytising atheists. First, it is the biggie. Taking out the Catholics is the equivalent of nuking the Pentagon. Guerilla bands of Baptists and Pentecostals can be liquidated at leisure.

Second, the Catholics have the undeniable advantage that they do still demonstrably believe in something. Attacking some of the more swinging Christian denominations might mean upsetting people who believe a good deal less than the average atheist.

Mind you, the appeals of atheism as a diverting pastime are not immediately obvious to those of us who are on relatively easy terms with God. Why would anyone get so excited about the misconceptions of third parties as to the existence of a fourth party in which they themselves do not believe?

The answer is twofold. First, the great advantage of designer atheism is that you get to think of yourself as immensely clever. After all, you are at least much brighter than all those dumb-asses who believe in a supreme being, such as Sister Perpetua down the road, Thomas Aquinas, Isaac Newton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So satisfying.

The second factor has to do with wit. For some reason, contemporary Australian atheism seems to consider itself terribly funny. Its proponents only have to wheel out one of the age-old religious libels to lose control of their bladders. To outsiders, of course, it is a bit like watching a giggling incontinent drunk at a party. This is not to say that believers – and perhaps especially Catholics – do not get seriously irritated by atheists. They do, but not because atheists are fearfully clever or Wildely funny.

Frankly, the prime reason the average believer finds the common or garden atheist as appealing as a holiday in Birchip is because they consign them to that sorry category of individuals who spend their lives loudly congratulating themselves on their own intelligence without noticing that no one else is joining the chorus. Thus, as a Catholic, I do not normally sense in some tabloid atheist the presence of a supreme discerning intellect. I simply place him or her in much the same pitiable bin of intellectual vulgarians as the chartered accountant who cannot see the art in Picasso, the redneck who cannot admit of indigenous culture, and the pissant who cannot see the difference between Yeats and Bob Ellis.

It is not deep perception we encounter here, but a critical failure of imaginative capacity. It is a bit like the old joke: how many atheists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None – no matter what they do, they just can’t see the light.

The second wearying thing about the new atheism is that it is not new at all. It is so banally derivative of every piece of hate mail ever sent to God that I am amazed Satan has yet to sue for copyright infringement. No old chestnut is too ripe, rotten or sodden, especially when it comes to the Catholics as accredited suppliers of what apparently is the Christian equivalent of methamphetamine.

In an average week of atheistic bigotry in the Melbourne media, we can expect to learn that Catholics endorse child molestation, hate all other religions, would re-introduce the crusades and the auto de fe at the slightest opportunity, despise women, wish to persecute homosexuals, greedily divert public moneys for their own religious purposes, subvert public health care, brainwash children, and are masterminding the spread of the cane toad across northern Australia.

Applied to the average totalitarian dictatorship, this charge sheet would be over the top. Ascribed to virtually any ethnic minority, it rightly would result at least in public revulsion and quite possibly in criminal charges. But applied to Christians, it seems to be accepted as just another modern blood sport, like the vilification of refugees and the elimination of the private life of the families of public figures.

At the bottom, of course, lies hate. I am not quite clear why our modern crop of atheists hates Christians, as opposed to ignoring or even politely dismissing them, but they very clearly do. There is nothing clever, witty or funny about hate.

Greg Craven is vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University.

_._

To read the original article by Greg Craven at The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

For the latest edition of The Sydney Morning Herald click here.

To learn more about Australian Catholic University click here.

Note: The picture at the top of this article is not of Greg Craven.  Take a guess.

103 Responses to A Plague of Atheists Has Descended, and Catholics are the Target

  • He’s very funny–and spot on to boot. I’m guessing Hitch for the photog–not sure as there’s some distortion. But gawsh, you’d think a devotee of science would trouble himself to support his local dentist more often!

  • Apparently atheists don’t believe in flossing, either.

  • CMinor,

    Good guess.

    It is Christopher Hitchens.

    I have to say I actually like listening to Mr. Hitchens, though I don’t agree with him on his thoughts on faith at all. He seems to be the more civil of the “new atheists”. Unlike Richard Dawkins who goes out of his way to insult anyone showing a hint of faith without being provoked.

  • Ah yes.
    The last acceptable prejudice is alive and well Down Under.

    On our NZ Catholic blog entitled http://www.beingfrank.co.nz we have a couple of resident atheists who comment and criticise the catholics constantly.
    Have to give them a good serve on occasions to quieten them down. ;-)

  • Whatever happened to the old-school atheists who, quite ironically, were the ones responsible for such great religious films like The Song of Bernadette, Ben Hur and (I believe) even the much celebrated Man for All Seasons?

  • “Atheists” must attack the Church because [to quote Newman] it is the Ark of Salvation; the only true Church. Give them credit that they realize that. They know their enemy.

  • Gabriel:

    If you truly believe that atheists attack the Church because it is the Ark of Salvation, the only true Church; then why do you suppose Protestants attack it?

  • Because they disagree with the atheists on that point?

  • One wishes the chancellors of Catholic universities in the USA were as well-spoken and strong in their defense of the Faith. Indeed, one wishes the chancellors of Catholic universities in the USA were Catholic.

  • e. writes Wednesday, November 4, 2009 A.D.
    “Gabriel:
    “If you truly believe that atheists attack the Church because it is the Ark of Salvation, the only true Church; then why do you suppose Protestants attack it?”.

    Same reason. Who am I to disagree with Newman? He knew the problem from the inside out.

  • This article is bullsh*t. It is just a belligerent rant against “certain” atheists who have said “certain” things about the Catholic Church. First of all, using unruly behavior to go against unruly behavior is self defeating. You only proved that you could be just as stupid as the opposition. Second of all, who are these “certain” atheists? How exactly did they attack the Catholic Church? What did they say? Why not address the specific issue you have with the specific person you disagree with instead of generalizing & displaying elementary school-styled bigotry? Greg Craven is pathetic.

  • Jack,

    You just proved the point of the article with your diatribe.

  • What a load of nonsense. I like how you start off your biased and untrue article with a picture meant to invoke a negative response correlated with atheism- that’s a nice psychological tactic. Then you go and make irrational claims like Catholics have an advantage that they at least believe in something. I am an atheist and I believe in all kinds of things- I simply don’t believe in things that there is no proof of, like life after death, because death isn’t exactly what we all wish for. I am an adult and am more conserned with truth than fantasy, and you are somehow saying you have the advantage of believing in something regardless of whether or not it is true. So in your article you essentially brag about random belief as opposed to being proud of being a rational thinker that seeks truth over wishful thinking. I’m also sorry that you had to make it a point to say you don’t like atheists, but whether or not you like the truth, it doesn’t change what is actually truth. I became an atheist because I am an intelligent rational thinker that spend a large amount of years studying religion and the human mind- I can tell the difference between reality and superstition. I did NOT become an atheist to increase my popularity at parties. To me, finding what is real is more important than making superstitious people like me better. Truth is not about being a hit at parties- it’s about being an adult and accepting what there is evidence for whether or not we like them.

    What you said about an atheist’s interest in religion is also very misguided and an outright lie. Just because religions are games of make believe doesn’t mean I don’t know A TON about them, and I have very educated opinions on them. Have you ever studied religions in depth (not just Christian ones), read things like Joseph Campbell, questioned the claims people make about what they believe in? People are going around using fantasy to interact with the world, and thus they should be publically criticized for it. People like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine would do it, and people like me do it as well. I study cults and media based brainwashing as well, and I have lots to say on those subjects too. Your argument simply had no sense behind it.

    Now everything you said was very ridiculous, but I at least gave you the respect of going through your rant and addressing some of the claims specifically. I have nothing to hide and showed what was wrong with your claims in a rational manner- something you failed to do about atheists.

    I hope the propaganda you are spreading is ripped to shreds at the University though. I’m going to guess that the overwhelming majority of college educated people will easily see through the lies and logical fallacies.

    I will continue to study religion, cults, propaganda, public relations, marketing, and other forms of psychological manipulation, and promise to help discredit propaganda articles like the one you just wrote here in the future. Please continue to spread it though because articles such as this one helps the educated public realize just how irrational your claims are. I have no hate for you whatsoever even though you write nothing but blatant lies and misconceptions. Have a great New Year’s weekend!

  • Steve, you write “Have you ever studied religions in depth (not just Christian ones), read things like Joseph Campbell, questioned the claims people make about what they believe in?”

    What if the answer is yes?

  • Well at least that’s a start- I just think 99% of the time it’s not going to be so. This article was so over-the-top ridiculous that I can’t imagine it came from a person who is actually educated about religion.

    It’s possible that they’re so brainwashed that cognitive dissonance blinds them completely to reality, but most educated people will not be able to type out so many logical fallacies like this article writer did without either feeling like a really bad person who knows they are lying deep down inside.

    Even if there was a god (and I’m fully convinced that there is no reason to believe in one, and am also convinced that there is MUCH reason to believe that religions are all untrue fantasies built to help mankind cope with his psychological forces), the arguments the article writer made here would STILL be absolutely ridiculous, and not something a well educated person would be able to pull off (unless they were a con artist lying for a purpose).

    I’m gonna bet the article writer knows very little about religion though because that’s the highest probability. It’s possible I’m wrong, but just not very likely.

  • And I do want to add that it’s a HUGE shame that this kind of propaganda is coming from a person with a position at a University where education should be more valued then pushing lies down people’s throats. I hope for the students at that specific Catholic University that this type of brainwasher is not the norm.

    I myself went to Catholic school in gradeschool and highschool and got a great education. If I wrote an article such as the topic creator did for one of my classes, I would have been given an F. Luckily not all religious schools employ propagandists.

  • “I hope the propaganda you are spreading is ripped to shreds at the University though. I’m going to guess that the overwhelming majority of college educated people will easily see through the lies and logical fallacies.”

    ::begins laughing hysterically::

    Are you serious?

    Universities in the Western world have nothing to do with educating people about logical fallacies. They are about indoctrinating people in the false religions of secular humanism and political correctness with methods that become more fascistic every year.

    Don’t believe me? Check out Freedom for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

    Universities are no longer modernist, my friend. They are post-modernist. Modernists value reason and logic (sometimes to the point of religiosity, which is silly). Post-modernists do not believe in objective truth and view reason and logic as Western paradigms.

  • I’m sorry that you must have a poor experience with education, but I have not had the same problem. I was taught about logic and objective reality in schools. Science itself requires understanding of objective reality and that is exactly what the scientific method tests for unlike religion, which just makes up answers without any evidence. Philosophy is not the point of an education though- and I would agree that many people waste their minds away in philosophy classes instead of seeking what is real.

    Now of course there is no objective truth in things like morality and such (though of course our human nature will make some morals seem almost universal based on our agreed upon desires), but in cases of whether or not there is an afterlife, whether or not people leave their bodies during meditation or prayer or sleep, whether religions brainwash members as opposed to teaching them truth, how molecules interact with eachother, well then there is most definitely an objective truth.

    The fact that we are having this communication on an instrument built upon what we have learned about the objective reality through the scientific method is proof that the objective truth is real. I have never taken a class in college or even high school that would not agree.

    Maybe many universities in America are failures though, because there are still so many irrational people like the writer of this article out there, but I don’t think that universities are pumping out people that ridiculous at a high rate.

  • Steve,

    How about this thought experiment.

    Can you convince twelve of your friends to die for a lie?

  • Steve, ss regards your comment about propaganda, the Catholic Church invented it. It simply means propagation of the faith. Clearly, in your case, we failed. Please accept our apologies.

    I hope your relationship with your father isn’t damaging your relationship with God. I know, you don’t beleive in a god so you can’t have a relationship with him or her, right?

    The fact is that you do have a relationship with God because He made you and He gave you the brilliant, truth-seeking mind you have. He loves you and wants you to use reason and faith to come back to Him. All rationality must begin with an act of faith in something. You obviously beleive in truth and that is an excellent place to start.

    Just remember that understanding is given to those who believe, not the other way around. It seems illogical, but that is simply a symptom of the lie that we are all born into. You can get out, if you really want to.

  • Actually I shouldn’t blame America for the failure in this specific religious propaganda article, as it came out of Australia. Also I’ve never heard any of my teachers in catholic school make such huge logical fallacies, so I can’t even say all religious schools in America breed stupidity. Some of them are actually quite good. I think part of that is because I’m from a major city and not the south or something. I think religious people in major cities are less likely to be strongly brainwashed, and usually just use religion to cope instead of trying to use it as a total guideline for their lives, but that’s just my guess.

  • Hold on Steve. I was being charitable and you go and post bigotry, “. . .because I’m from a major city and not the south or something.”

    Those of us who live in the South find your bigotry displeasing, yet, as Christians, we still love you. We might have to give you a whoopin’ if you come down here though. For your own good, you understand.

    Hey Steve, do you think it is possible that you are blind to Christ because you come from a major (read liberal secular progressive) city. Geography doesn’t make one more or less intelligent, perhaps more or less arrogant though.

    It is a shame that you seek truth in a world that is confined by your limited senses and has no reason for being. it must be extremely boring and fruitless. Sad.

  • “Steve, ss regards your comment about propaganda, the Catholic Church invented it. It simply means propagation of the faith. Clearly, in your case, we failed. Please accept our apologies.”

    Propaganda means spreading lies by psychological manipulation. I agree that the Catholic church does this- that’s actually part of the reason it spread so well. But they certainly didn’t invent it. I’m not going to blame the Catholic Church for inventing lying.

    “I hope your relationship with your father isn’t damaging your relationship with God. I know, you don’t beleive in a god so you can’t have a relationship with him or her, right? ”

    Nope, my relationship with my dad has nothing to do with whether or not a conscious creator of the universe exists. Though you make a good point- much of the myth of gods comes from the human experience of their fathers- it’s just projected onto the universe through anthromorphization.

    “The fact is that you do have a relationship with God because He made you and He gave you the brilliant, truth-seeking mind you have. He loves you and wants you to use reason and faith to come back to Him. All rationality must begin with an act of faith in something. You obviously beleive in truth and that is an excellent place to start.”

    Well thanks for agreeing that truth seeking is a positive thing- I don’t agree that I can have a relationship with a being that doesn’t exist though, and I think you’re trying to avoid having to prove that he does by simply saying I have a relationship with him whether I believe in him or not.


    Just remember that understanding is given to those who believe, not the other way around. It seems illogical, but that is simply a symptom of the lie that we are all born into. You can get out, if you really want to.

    Well no, it seems exactly like it is- what you just said is an attribute of a cult. Understanding is given to those who believe means that something will seem to be true if you are brainwashed to believe it-
    I agree. Scientologists, Mormons, Christian Science cult members would all say exactly what you are saying to me, except they also think the same about you!

    I understand that position because it means that you must be brainwashed to believe in something that is a lie.

    It would be nice if a god existed, but I won’t brainwash myself into believing in a lie just because it sounds nice, and because brainwashing makes things feel true even when they are not.

    Thanks for not being like the writer of this article- you sound like a good person. Greg Craven sounds like an evil person, and I can assure you that you do not share his negative qualities.

    While I think you are deluding yourself with religion, I at least think that you are not harming other people with your beliefs, and I also think that you will probably live a very good life and have lots of friends and do a lot of good in the world, and I can’t fault you for any of that. If your beliefs make you happy, so be it.

  • No it’s not possible that the city I live in raised me to be blind to any god. I have studied religion in great depth, and have studyied how religion forms, the psychological forces that create religious myths, the psychological factors behind belief and spiritual experiences, etc. I have put more time into studying religion and the human mind than anybody I know.

    Now I guess I’ll appologize for the crack against the south. I don’t necessarily think I was wrong, but maybe was overly insensitive on that one. You’re a nice person so I don’t want to talk trash to you. I’m sorry.

  • “It is a shame that you seek truth in a world that is confined by your limited senses and has no reason for being. it must be extremely boring and fruitless. Sad.”

    Boring and fruitless? No way. I have taken multiple road trips all across America, seen mountains, met people from all over the world, stayed at hostels, drank in countless bars, seen all kinds of great bands play, hung out with friends of mine at shows they’ve had at famous venues, have lots of friends, have had multiple attractive girlfriends, have been in love, have had best friends for many years, still keep in touch with over 100 people from my high school days, etc etc etc.

    Life is beautiful. It is not all bad. I do see it as tragic that it is temporary, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the life that I have while I have it. I’d love there to be an afterlife- I’d especially like something like “what dreams may come”. But those are my dreams, and I have accepted reality instead of clung to only them.

    In my life I vow to meet many people, see many places, take chances, talk to the girl when my heart drops a beat, listen to my friends cry all night about their problems so I can be there for them, embrace music and art…

    I have many goals and many dreams, and I while I will be realistic about them, I will also shoot for the stars and be happy while I can be. Whether or not there is reason doesn’t matter- I give my life my own reason and have had many fun and happy experiences along with the sad ones.

  • AK,

    Never assume that an atheist doesn’t like their life.

    Not all of them are perceptive enough to have an existential crisis :)

    If you don’t think about anything beyond pleasure and pain, being an atheist is quite fun and quite liberating. Just ask the Marquis de Sade.

    “In my life I vow to meet many people, see many places, take chances, talk to the girl when my heart drops a beat, listen to my friends cry all night about their problems so I can be there for them, embrace music and art…”

    Now you sound like the lyrics to a cheesy pop music song.

    “I have studied religion in great depth”

    Until you study it from the inside, your knowledge is superficial. All the things you list are what a bunch of people who already agree amongst themselves tell one another to reinforce their beliefs – in the same sort of closed-circuit that small religious cults get trapped in as well.

    You seem like a nice young person who means well. I too was an atheist, a militant atheist, and a communist. But I never swallowed the post-modern pill and became a relativist. I was always firmly modernist in my thinking. But when you extend that into philosophy, you can only end up, not only at religion in general, but specifically in the Tradition of the Catholic Church.

  • By “modernist” I just mean, believes in objective truth. Not the Modernism denounced by Pius X.

  • “I have studied religion in great depth”

    Have you read the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas? If you haven’t, you haven’t studied religion in great depth. Here is a sample:

    “Article 3. Whether God exists?
    Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

    Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.

    On the contrary, It is said in the person of God: “I am Who am.” (Exodus 3:14)

    I answer that, The existence of God can be proved in five ways.

    The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

    The second way is from the nature of the efficient cause. In the world of sense we find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither is it, indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for so it would be prior to itself, which is impossible. Now in efficient causes it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all efficient causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause, whether the intermediate cause be several, or only one. Now to take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there be no first cause among efficient causes, there will be no ultimate, nor any intermediate cause. But if in efficient causes it is possible to go on to infinity, there will be no first efficient cause, neither will there be an ultimate effect, nor any intermediate efficient causes; all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

    The third way is taken from possibility and necessity, and runs thus. We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, since they are found to be generated, and to corrupt, and consequently, they are possible to be and not to be. But it is impossible for these always to exist, for that which is possible not to be at some time is not. Therefore, if everything is possible not to be, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence. Now if this were true, even now there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist only begins to exist by something already existing. Therefore, if at one time nothing was in existence, it would have been impossible for anything to have begun to exist; and thus even now nothing would be in existence — which is absurd. Therefore, not all beings are merely possible, but there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. But every necessary thing either has its necessity caused by another, or not. Now it is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by another, as has been already proved in regard to efficient causes. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself its own necessity, and not receiving it from another, but rather causing in others their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

    The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among beings there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicated of different things, according as they resemble in their different ways something which is the maximum, as a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest; so that there is something which is truest, something best, something noblest and, consequently, something which is uttermost being; for those things that are greatest in truth are greatest in being, as it is written in Metaph. ii. Now the maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus; as fire, which is the maximum heat, is the cause of all hot things. Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

    The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

    Reply to Objection 1. As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.

    Reply to Objection 2. Since nature works for a determinate end under the direction of a higher agent, whatever is done by nature must needs be traced back to God, as to its first cause. So also whatever is done voluntarily must also be traced back to some higher cause other than human reason or will, since these can change or fail; for all things that are changeable and capable of defect must be traced back to an immovable and self-necessary first principle, as was shown in the body of the Article.”

    The Summa can be read on line at the link below. Read it and think about it and get back to us.

    http://www.newadvent.org/summa/

  • I think everyone that comes to realize there is no meaning or no afterlife has the occasional existential crisis- I’ve had plenty. But do you think I sit around crying that I’m going to die all day? Nope. There is much to see and enjoy out there! Carpe diem! Seize the day!

    Reminds me of a quote from Dead Poet’s Society:

    “” They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – - Carpe – - hear it? – - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary!”

    And of course I have studied religion from the inside- I was raised Catholic. I have also joined other Christian sects on my path to truth. But that’s absolutely a ridiculous way to live life- thinking that you have to be a cult member to know truth. That’s not how we discover reality- it’s how we get brainwashed.

    I’m conserned with truth, so you don’t have to give me lessons on being a cult member, or use cult member tactics like saying “only ingroup members can understand our knowledge.” Sorry, one of my degrees was psychology, and I have also taken many sociology classes. I am not mystified by ingroup outgroup dynamics of cults. Plus I don’t think you realize how much time I’ve put into debating religion with scientologists and mormons online! Since at least I was a teenager in the early and mid 90s. You are not saying anything any cult member hasn’t been saying to me for years. Cults are so fun to study for me I even visited Clearwater Florida just so I could visit Scientologists in their natural habitat, and even gone to Salt Lake City, and entire city built around fantasy. I love that kind of stuff. One day I will visit the Vatican too I’m sure.

    I am not trying to be mean saying you are using cult tactics either- just pointing out the objective truth behind what you were saying. I bet you could spot the logical fallacies in what you are saying if you were listening to a Jehova’s Whitness or a Muslim or a Scientologist or Mormon speak.

    In the same way you can see through their fantasies, I can see through all versions of Christianity.

  • “Have you read the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas? If you haven’t, you haven’t studied religion in great depth. Here is a sample:

    Yep, I have read writings of Aquinas along with plenty of famous Christian appologists. I consider him to be a bad appologist (not that I’ve ever found a good one), because he specifically tries to define things into existence.

    Defining things into existence is not proof of the existence of the thing you are defining- it is simply proof that you can play word games.

    Aquanas is famous for starting with the premise of “god exists” and then twisting reality around to try and make it seem to go along with his assumption. Problem is he never was seeking truth, but was actually trying to find ways to wordily sound like his beliefs were correct without needing actual evidence.

  • From your wording of your reply Steve I am sure you have not read the entire Summa. That is my challenge to you. Read it and think about it. If you are going to claim you have studied religion in depth, you really need to do so.

  • Like I have said, he is famous for trying to define things into existence, like he was doing in your example.

    people use aquanas all the time discussing religion, and he’s easily refuted, since all he is doing is trying to define something into existence and not offer proof. That is not how you find objective reality. It’s how you waste time talking to yourself and patting yourself on the back for feeling like you know what you’re talking about, when really you have no evidence whatsoever that what you are saying is true.

  • Yes, you studied psychology at the university, that makes you an expert on people! Do you realize how you sound? No one cares about your credentials. Either your argument is valid or invalid, true or false.

    The Catholic Church is not a “cult.” I know because I belonged to a political cult – and those aren’t that different than religious cults. The Catholic Church built universities and observatories. Contrary to the stupid lies promulgated by communist liars, the Church has been history’s greatest patron of science and the arts, of the illumination of man’s consciousness and spirit. Cults do not do these things.

    You were “raised Catholic.” So was I, Steve. The modern Church has many flaws. The Catholicism I speak of is the 2000 year old Tradition, the Catholicism of Christ, the Apostles, the Church Fathers, the medieval Doctors, and so on.

    It sounds to me that your definition of “cult tactics” is so broad that it can be used to cover an argument for anything. What cult argument have I used?

    As for your Carpe Deim mentality, nothing prevents Catholics from living it as well. But we give thanks to the one who made it possible. In a universe that is 96% dark matter and dark energy that we cannot see or discern any purpose for, with only 4% comprising the matter that we take for granted, it is impossible for me to carelessly write off the question of a creator.

    If there is no God, there is no justice. And if there is no justice, there is no morality. And yet, we are as sure of the existence of justice and morality as we are of certain mathematical proofs and logical propositions. Inherent in the universe is order, is a comprehensible language that random chaos could never erect. This is why scientists who actually study it, such as physicists, end up believing in some kind of God – and if they spent a little time on philosophy they would recognize that it is the God presented by Church Tradition that they have found.

    What biologists, or for that matter, psychologists think is really of secondary importance. They work with matter, with DNA or brain chemistry, and become subsumed in materialism as a result. They don’t see the forest for the trees, they believe materialism is a credible explanation for what they observe. Step beyond working with mere matter, into the quantum field, into neuroscience, into quantum physics, where everything we take for granted about matter and the laws it obeys breaks down, and the universe suddenly becomes a great deal more complex.

  • The challenge has been issued Steve. It is up to you now, unless you are afraid that your cherished atheism cannot withstand a meeting of the minds with the Dumb Ox.

  • You can be upset that you are a cult member and I am correctly labeling you as such all you want, but you are using cult member tactics to debate me, so I will simply point out what you are doing. Saying that you have to see the truth from the inside to know about it is a very easy to spot cult member tactic.

    Most cults use that mind trick. It’s just incredibly easy to spot and discredit.

    And you being upset that there is no ultimate justice doesn’t mean that there is ultimate justice. Sorry, we can’t always get what we want. The universe doesn’t care that we exist. People and other animals suffer and die every day by uncarring natural forces. We will die too whether we want to or not, and whether or not people who hurt you are punished will mean nothing in the end.

    You’re just using really weak arguments to claim that there is a god and still offer no evidence of one. You just tell me that you want to believe in a god. I’m sure you do. That doesn’t mean that there is one- and it certainly doesn’t mean your specific god is more real than any of the thousands of others humans have invented to try and cope with life.

  • “The challenge has been issued Steve. It is up to you now, unless you are afraid that your cherished atheism cannot withstand a meeting of the minds with the Dumb Ox.”

    What challenge? I’ve already read aquainas and even told you why his arguments don’t work. I don’t see what there is left for me to do.

  • “As for your Carpe Deim mentality, nothing prevents Catholics from living it as well. But we give thanks to the one who made it possible. In a universe that is 96% dark matter and dark energy that we cannot see or discern any purpose for, with only 4% comprising the matter that we take for granted, it is impossible for me to carelessly write off the question of a creator. ”

    But here in lies your problem- you realize that we do not know everything- that is true- but then you make the HUGE logical fallacy by assuming that because we don’t know it all there is a god, and even moreso, your specific god.

    If you instead stopped at the part where you admit we don’t have all the answers on what the universe is or what its true origins were, then you would be on the right path to truth over fantasy.

    You’re using the god of the gaps argument- filling in what we don’t know with a magical answer. Just like people used to think Thor was throwing lightning or causing thunder. You are doing the exact same thing and I bet even you consider Thor to be a silly explanation.

  • Steve, the challenge is to read the entire Summa and think about it. Just judging from your inability to spell the name Aquinas correctly, and from your comments about him, you obviously have read very little that he has written. Read him Steve, every word. If you are going to be an effective atheist you need to become familiar with the works of one of the most effective advocates for the other side. The gauntlet is down Steve. Pick it up or walk away.

  • I have no idea how you think I don’t know those arguments. I have already told you that I have read his works and the works of many other famous appologists.

    His silly first cause argument is all over the internet for years, and is instantly destroyed by its own logic, as we could not rationally explain how a god could be a causeless first cause, without defining a god being into existence without evidence.d

    Yes my spelling sucks, and I have noticed many spelling mistakes, but I am doing the important thing which is giving you the reasoning why his logic fails- far more important than spelling every word correctly.

  • I see you are walking away Steve. Too bad. You are missing a chance to truly try to understand what was written by one of the greatest intellects produced by mankind. The Summa is waiting Steve, if you ever do feel intellectually up to the challenge.

  • Steve,

    I don’t know how to convey to you that I couldn’t care less that you think I am a “cult member.” I guess in order to validate your own position, you will necessarily assume that people are “upset” with you (when you have no way of knowing that through text). I usually make my emotions known to people – if I want to convey anger, I will use appropriate language and punctuation.

    In this case I am simply hearing rather, to use your word, “weak arguments” that we are cult members. It’s not even an argument, in fact, but a repeated assertion.

    “Saying that you have to see the truth from the inside to know about it is a very easy to spot cult member tactic.”

    Just because something is true of cults does not mean that it is exclusive to cults. I would say the same thing about any organization or discipline. That doesn’t mean you have to JOIN it – which is what I think a cult member would insist on. I don’t say you have to be a Catholic to understand Catholicism, but you do need to consult authentically Catholic sources.

    If that wasn’t clear before, I hope it is now. A cult would say knowledge of the cult’s truths requires initiation and progression through the various ranks. As a Catholic I say knowledge of the Church’s truths are readily accessible to all – but that they must be obtained from the Church, and not from people who hate it. That is a simple matter of fairness and intellectual honesty. Is it clear now?

    “And you being upset that there is no ultimate justice doesn’t mean that there is ultimate justice.”

    I never claimed that my dismay made it so. Let me put it differently; I believe that the sensation of hunger is a reasonable proof for the existence of food, even if I never see food. I believe that the existence of fear is a reasonable proof for the existence of predators, even if I am never stalked by one. And I believe that man’s overwhelming, universal desire for justice and morality, as evidence by every culture that has ever existed, is reasonable proof for a law-giver.

    I also realize that you have a desperate desire to make it all about me. If it is all about me and my wants and fears, and not man’s as such, you can play the psychological reduction game. But I am not simply arguing on my own behalf.

    What, in your view, is a strong argument for God?

  • “but then you make the HUGE logical fallacy by assuming that because we don’t know it all there is a god, and even moreso, your specific god.”

    No, you’re wrong. Our lack of knowledge about 96% of the universe is one of several things that I believe makes belief in God REASONABLE.

    I DO NOT – I repeat – I DO NOT say that it PROVES the existence of God.

    There is a difference between proving something, and establishing the reasonableness of a belief. Belief in God would be unreasonable if it conflicted with what we absolutely do know about the universe – it doesn’t. Belief in God is reasonable if it doesn’t contradict what we know, if it is a good or even likely explanation for what we see in the universe – it is.

    But I DO NOT claim that ANYTHING is PROVEN. Please understand that.

  • Steve,

    As a former athiest/agnostic I can tell you that studying religion is not the same thing as being a beleiver. I know more about religion than most people who believe – not an arrogant commnent, just a fact. Knowledge of facts is insufficient and that is all I had.

    My saving grace was that I was very interested in seeking truth and not being a hypocrite. I suspect that is the same for you. I would not become a beleiver because I felt that I would be lying and that was unacceptable. Why? I mean how odd is that?

    Why seek truth? Why be honest? There may not be a material advantage to such things. So why was I compelled to seek truth and be honest? It is written in our hearts by He who made us. You know this, we all do. Even back then I knew it, I just hated it. I hated it because it diminished me. It made me contingent and forced obligations on me and all I wanted to be was free! But that is a lie. I wasn’t free. I am now.

    What I have learned and what you have to discover is that faith must preceed reason. A rational mind cannot comprehend truth, it can only glimpse truth. You have faith – you believe that you can determine the truth and you believe that you can do it without God. The problem with that faith is that it is totally limited to the material universe. Matter is important and all of it was poured into the universe in the beginning – when God said, “BANG!”. How can you, a creature of the bang, ever know what caused the bang?

    There is only one way. The cause of the Big Bang must be revealed to you by the cause itself. You can’t reach out of the system to Him, so He will reach into the system to you. There is one catch though – you have to have faith in Him before wisdom or understanding is given. You can’t fake it. What are you afraid of? Be honest.

  • Well first off I was defining cult tactics as you were using as anybody else in the social science feilds would do so. I know cult has a negative connotation, but I am not beating around the bush there. I’m not going to agree with your position that the arguments you used could be used by non cult members.

    “I never claimed that my dismay made it so. Let me put it differently; I believe that the sensation of hunger is a reasonable proof for the existence of food, even if I never see food. I believe that the existence of fear is a reasonable proof for the existence of predators, even if I am never stalked by one. And I believe that man’s overwhelming, universal desire for justice and morality, as evidence by every culture that has ever existed, is reasonable proof for a law-giver. ”

    Ok, so now you’re using CSLewis’s argument. There is absolutely no proof in the universe that everything that is hoped for exists. That makes no sense whatsoever. It’s a pretty poor argument, and makes no distinction between all the hoped for things of all religions and cults.

    ” also realize that you have a desperate desire to make it all about me. If it is all about me and my wants and fears, and not man’s as such, you can play the psychological reduction game. But I am not simply arguing on my own behalf. ”

    religion is probably just a manifestation of our wants and fears- I’m not making it all about you- I’m making it all about humans in general.

    “What, in your view, is a strong argument for God?”

    I’ve yet to come across one.

    But it would obviously have to be something that wouldn’t be only believable if you undergo the same mental processes any brainwashed person would have to undergo. Saying that you need faith and things of that nature are akin to saying you need to play make believe. If there was a god, knowing him shouldn’t require you to do the same things people who play make believe do.

    I think faith in the christian religion is partial proof that there is no christian god, and that religion is only a coping mechanism. It seems silly to believe knowing a god would require the process of make believe, in which case you would never be able to prove your beliefs are true, but only FEEL that they are. Scientologists, Mormons, Chriastians- they all have faith they are correct, and to them, they all FEEL they are 100% right. But they still have no proof outside of feelings, and emotions are a clear path to lies and deception.

  • Steve,

    Joe wrote, “But I DO NOT claim that ANYTHING is PROVEN. Please understand that.”

    Pay very close attention to that comment. It is very, very important.

    There can be NO proof for God. Not that He cannot provide definitive proof if He desired but it would be self-defeating and then he wouldn’t be God would He?

    If God was a proven fact then there would be no need for belief. I do NOT beleive in things that I know are provable facts because they are provable.

    If God were a quantifiable fact by human ability then we would have no Faith in Him, we would simply accept him as we do gravity or Jello. In other words we would be compelled to accept him and therefore we would not be freely choosing to love Him. He wants us to choose to love Him becuase He wants us to freely desire to be with Him. That is why He is veiled in mystery.

    That doesn’t mean there are not proofs for the logic of believing in Him and I can tell you that I know He is real because I know Him. I have a personal relationship with Him and a communal relationship with Him and His Church. I can proove that I have this relationship because that is how I live my life. I can’t proove God becuase that would end the prologue to eternity and as much as Eternity with Him is my desire, I want to maximize my time here and now.

    I know you want to maximize your time here and now too. The difference is that you do it for yourself and I try to do it for His Greater Glory.

    Please understand that God loves you and wants you to be with Him. He wants to give you a true purpose for your life and all these gifts and more await you – but first you have to let go of your belief that you are an end unto yourself.

  • “No, you’re wrong. Our lack of knowledge about 96% of the universe is one of several things that I believe makes belief in God REASONABLE.

    I DO NOT – I repeat – I DO NOT say that it PROVES the existence of God.

    There is a difference between proving something, and establishing the reasonableness of a belief. Belief in God would be unreasonable if it conflicted with what we absolutely do know about the universe – it doesn’t. Belief in God is reasonable if it doesn’t contradict what we know, if it is a good or even likely explanation for what we see in the universe – it is.

    But I DO NOT claim that ANYTHING is PROVEN. Please understand that.

    OK, well I’m glad that you don’t think that argument proves there is a god. Many Christians do.

    I agree that the fact that we don’t know everything leaves the doors open for all kinds of crazy possibilities. I can never prove there is no creator.

    But until there is evidence of such a being, it is not reasonable to believe in one. Also, the fact that so much of spiritual experiences, religious passions and beliefs, religious mythology and setup, can be explained away by what we learned from psychology, anthropology, sociology, etc, we have much reason to believe that religion does not lead to truth.

    Whether or not there is a creator god though we might never be able to know. That doesn’t mean assuming one exists is reasonable, just possible.

    Let’s say there really is a god. If one existed, it would STILL not be reasonable to believe in it without evidence, and believing in one because of things that can be explained away as emotional feelings or coincidences or desires would still be irrational regardless.

  • “There can be NO proof for God. Not that He cannot provide definitive proof if He desired but it would be self-defeating and then he wouldn’t be God would He?

    If God was a proven fact then there would be no need for belief. I do NOT beleive in things that I know are provable facts because they are provable.

    If God were a quantifiable fact by human ability then we would have no Faith in Him, we would simply accept him as we do gravity or Jello. In other words we would be compelled to accept him and therefore we would not be freely choosing to love Him. He wants us to choose to love Him becuase He wants us to freely desire to be with Him. That is why He is veiled in mystery.”

    Come on. Me and you both know that is a cop out.

    The idea that this god wants you to believe in him by the process of make believe is ridiculous, and applies to all religions- even the ones you don’t believe in.

    What you are saying here is pretty silly.

  • And by the way, I love my parents and have loved girlfriends and friends, and I know they exist. The idea that love is not possible if you don’t hide is completely silly.

    It’s just a way to get around the fact that there is no god, and you have to pretend one exists, and you’re essentially trying to justify playing make believe by including it in your theology.

    Things like that are good indicators that religion is not true.

  • Has it ever occurred to you, Steve, that the FEELING that all of these groups have may be valid, but that their knowledge may be different and imperfect?

    To beat the horse you don’t like, every person in every culture feels hunger – but each culture might have different theory about how food works in the body prior to generalized scientific knowledge. This could be applied to dozens of other phenomenon.

    You, like so many other atheists, make the mistake of assuming that agreement on some matters negates truth in all matters. Catholicism, precisely because it is not a cult, recognizes that there are universal truths that virtually all religions tap into. Man has a religious instinct, a longing and a desire for the transcendent, for God.

    It is not a question of which religion is absolutely true, to the absolute exclusion of every tenant of every other faith. It is a question of which religion possesses the fullness of the truth. It isn’t a coincidence that the same civilization that discovered the fullness of logic also came to embrace Christianity as promulgated by the Catholic Church.

    The thing that you dismiss, that everyone feels, is real. Deny it in yourself if you must, suppress it, beat it down.

    What I find to be a “pretty poor argument” is your just dismissing of arguments as “pretty poor arguments” without explaining why. I’ve never even read C.S. Lewis, to be honest with you – it just makes sense. It is REASONABLE to believe that that which we universally desire, exists. I didn’t say that it proved anything. Understanding the distinction between reasonable faith and absolute certainty would be a big help for you, and many atheists I suspect.

    Finally, we are not Vulcans, but human beings. When you say “emotions are a clear path to lies and deception”, this is absolutely false. Raw emotions untempered with logic can lead to lies – but our emotions are a part of our human nature. Furthermore, the desire for God is not an “emotion” like fear or anger, but a sensation, like hunger or thirst. We feel it in an emotional way, but it is not itself an emotion.

    We are designed to seek out our creator, to know and to love him. We know him through studying the natural world and philosophy, and we love him through religion. This is simple.

  • Steve: “Scientologists, Mormons, Chriastians- they all have faith they are correct, and to them, they all FEEL they are 100% right. But they still have no proof outside of feelings, and emotions are a clear path to lies and deception.”

    “Let’s say there really is a god. If one existed, it would STILL not be reasonable to believe in it without evidence, and believing in one because of things that can be explained away as emotional feelings or coincidences or desires would still be irrational regardless.”

    Steve, I used to think juat like you. Your ideas are not original and neither one of us came up with them. They are reasonable ideas based on a flawed premise. Intelligent people will come to the same conclusions given the same lie to begin with.

    I want you to understand that I thought I was in control when I was athiest/agnostic. I felt like Spock. I kept my silly emotions in check and I pittied those fools who run around controlled by their feelings and desires. I was a frikin’ Jedi.

    The truth is I was completely driven by my emotions and disordered desires. Since coming back to Christ and His Church I have truly begun to understand what the interior spiritual life is about. It is about self-mastery, freedom to be what I was made to be and although not often enough and not nearly perfectly enough, my emotions are actually in check now.

    What you seek is real and it is available. You are going down a path that yields the opposite result.

    Godspeed on your sailing trip. Eventually you will discover the truth and you’ll find that it was right were you started. Discovering England is easy, we already know it is there. ;)

  • By the way, if I was going to take your “give up on yourself and just work for an unproven being you call god who just so happened to write a book through a bunch of people” attitude, which in your strange thinking assumes it’d make me have a better relationship with the supposed being, I’d have to believe in just any random nonsense anybody tells me just in case belief without evidence is the true trick to the magic.

    That means I’d have to become a Scientologist, Mormon, JW, buy things from every con artist, etc.

    If you have to just take a leap of faith rather than examine what is actually real based on scientifically derived evidence or even solid proof, then the world you would live in would be one of nonsense, no technology or medicine, everything said goes, insanity.

    One big game of make believe where everyone is right as long as they believe and have good feelings about it or think its making their lives change.

    Not sure we’d be having this conversation on a computer right now if that’s how people derived knowledge, though I am convinced that a large percentage of humans are living in such a delusiory world as we speak.

  • “Steve, I used to think juat like you. Your ideas are not original and neither one of us came up with them. They are reasonable ideas based on a flawed premise. Intelligent people will come to the same conclusions given the same lie to begin with.

    I want you to understand that I thought I was in control when I was athiest/agnostic. I felt like Spock. I kept my silly emotions in check and I pittied those fools who run around controlled by their feelings and desires. I was a frikin’ Jedi.

    The truth is I was completely driven by my emotions and disordered desires. Since coming back to Christ and His Church I have truly begun to understand what the interior spiritual life is about. It is about self-mastery, freedom to be what I was made to be and although not often enough and not nearly perfectly enough, my emotions are actually in check now.

    What you seek is real and it is available. You are going down a path that yields the opposite result.

    Godspeed on your sailing trip. Eventually you will discover the truth and you’ll find that it was right were you started. Discovering England is easy, we already know it is there.

    Basically you didn’t disprove anything that I said- you just reestablished that you are content with your game of what I would consider make believe.

    So we’re back to where we started- you have no proof that there is a god, and I can prove that you are “sure” that your god exists by the same process involved in any form of imagination.

    As far as I can tell that means I have won the argument.

  • “I agree that the fact that we don’t know everything leaves the doors open for all kinds of crazy possibilities. I can never prove there is no creator.”

    But it is not a “crazy possibility.” It is more crazy, more irrational, to assume that the universe just wished itself into existence, that the order and logic that scientists who study its very fabric observe, that mathematicians, philosophers, and even musicians experience, is the creation of random forces with no intelligence, no purpose, no will. THAT is a the “crazy possibility”, the possibility that is at odds with everything we know and experience as human beings in society.

    “But until there is evidence of such a being, it is not reasonable to believe in one.”

    Evidence is not required for reasonable belief. It is precisely when the “hard evidence” is lacking, and yet, we must make a decision, that the reasonableness or unreasonableness of something comes into play. It is more reasonable to believe in God than in nothing, given, again, what we know about the structure and order of the cosmos, from the galaxies and solar systems to the sub-atomic level.

    “Also, the fact that so much of spiritual experiences, religious passions and beliefs, religious mythology and setup, can be explained away by what we learned from psychology, anthropology, sociology, etc, we have much reason to believe that religion does not lead to truth.”

    These “sciences”, I really hate to tell you, are dominated by materialists who have absolutely no connection with what is going on in the world of actual science. I say this as someone with an advanced degree in political science. These disciplines are NOT where we learn truth. Psychology, sociology, anthropology – these ARE good for explaining a piece of the puzzle, but they are so far from being able to establish the truth about God that it is laughable. Steve, you cannot use these as your basis. I did. It’s how I ended up in Marxism and atheism myself. Once you move beyond these extremely limited social disciplines, I guarantee you will see a universe that is so much greater and richer than you could imagine.

    “things that can be explained away as emotional feelings”

    Again, the feelings are real – why do you think they can be “explained away”? I understand that there are people who have psychological problems, but if anything religion is the cure for that – objective studies find over and over again that religious people are happier, more content, more focused. They are psychologically more healthy because, honestly, we are designed to be this way, to live in an ordered, structured reality. The chaos of post-modern society has created psychological problems precisely because no one knows what is true or false anymore. It leads people around in endless circles, causes confusion, and I believe, mental breakdown. Religion is a part of a well-balanced psychological diet.

  • Steve,

    I agree it is a silly argument. I wasn’t arguing. I wasn’t trying to win. I was trying to help you win. Bear in mind winning is helping you become who you are supposed to be, not allowing you persist in a dellusion because it satisfies your ego and your emotions.

    I take this pretty seriously. You should know that. As a Catholic, I believe your soul may be in jeopardy. To you that is a fantasy, to me it is a reality. Either way you look at it, I am being compassionate toward you because I love you. I think we can agree that is a good thing no matter what the reason.

    I was simply telling you that I was where you are and I understand what you are stating. It is cogent and reasonable if you BELIEVE in an accidental universe – which is an illogical idea. Your faith is unreasonable. Before you get defensive, I am not attacking you as unreasonable – just what you believe.

    You were Catholic and now you are an atheist. I was an athiest and now I am a Catholic. I think perhaps you have the Catholic faith of a child and now you are an adult and it doesn’t sit well. I suggest you go seek the Catholic faith of an adult.

    As for my ‘argument’ that you have to beleive before you can understand – it isn’t mine – it is irrefutable truth. We all belive before we know. Religious or otherwise. Think about it, unless you know everything, you have to begin with belief in something – unless you are God ;)

    Did it ever occur to you that we are Catholics becuase what we believe is actually True?

  • Steve,

    I’ll leave it here for now.

    If you want, you’re welcome to contact me anytime. My email address in on my blog, which can be accessed by clicking my name. My email address is on my About page.

    All I will debate is the reasonableness of belief – not proof, not existence. That said, I think we can get somewhere. Because I do know your beliefs from the inside out, having held them all, fervently, for several years. I know that however strange belief in God and the Church might sound, materialism – especially a materialism derived from the social sciences – is completely bankrupt.

  • The atheist’s missionary zeal is impressive to me. What also is more impressive is the insistence that atheism flows from superior intelligence. It’s like a strange form of an argument from authority. “Believe me because I’m smart!”

  • American Knight,

    You are actually mistaken on a point. You wrote,

    “There can be NO proof for God. Not that He cannot provide definitive proof if He desired but it would be self-defeating and then he wouldn’t be God would He?

    If God was a proven fact then there would be no need for belief. I do NOT beleive in things that I know are provable facts because they are provable.”

    But the Church has always taught the contrary:

    “Our holy mother, the Church, holds and teaches that God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason.” Without this capacity, man would not be able to welcome God’s revelation. Man has this capacity because he is created “in the image of God”. (CCC #36)

    Faith does not make possible belief in the existence of God. Brains do that. The New Atheists have very successfully gotten the idea in people’s heads that belief in God takes some sort of wild leap in the dark – that it can neither be proven nor deduced, nor even inferred by common sense. That is all wrong.

    Faith does not make possible belief in the existence of God. Faith makes possible belief in God’s revelation of His infinite self to our very finite nothingness, specifically, His revelation of His infinite love for us. In a bruised and battered world that is very difficult to believe sometimes, to be sure.

    It is very important that we know our faith very clearly, or else we will never make an adequate defense of it, American Knight. You are right that God does want us to love Him, but far from veiled himself in mystery, He has revealed Himself to the point of nudity – dying on a cross emptied and bare of everything and anything that could obscure His love for us, or give us any other reason to want to be with Him. Sin obscures our eyes from seeing God clearly, face to face, and nothing else. The mysteries are not meant to hide God from us, but to present Him to us. Indeed, “mysteries” is what the Eastern Christians call sacraments, the greatest signs of His love.

  • Does “known with certainty” = proof?

    I may know something, but I might not be able to prove it.

  • Hey Joe, I think it does. The Church does hold that some of the arguments for the existence of God are valid proofs. It doesn’t tell us how far those proofs go. That is, how much of God’s nature is revealed to human reason alone. I think myself that they proved an extremely limited slice of who God is – namely, I think you can prove His existence and maybe a few other significant attributes.

  • Ryan,

    Thanks for pointing out what the CCC states. I think we are on the same page; however, we may be differing as pertains to semantics. Let me try to clarify.

    Ryan: “Faith does not make possible belief in the existence of God. Brains do that.”

    I agree with your comment and I don’t see a contradiction with mine. Belief in God is not only possible it is highly probable through reason; however, that does not constitute proof.

    As for the Church stating that we can know God with certainty by the natural light of human reason, I don’t doubt that. I take it to mean that reason is what provides a belief in a god but belief in the One True God requires first His revelation and second our receptivity trough an act of faith.

    It is perfectly reasonable to know that there is an uncaused first cause, but that doesn’t mean that we know that it is a god and even more unlikely that we would know that He is the God of Abraham. Human reason can determine the existence of God but not His nature. The Greek philosophers knew there was a prime cause, an unknown god – it took St. Paul to reveal Who that God is to them and it took Christ wrestling Saul to the ground of the Damascus road and blinding him to reveal the Father to Paul.

    Proof eliminates doubt, without doubt there is no act of faith. St. Paul tells us we need Faith, Hope and Charity here; but, in Heaven we only need Charity. Faith is no longer reqiured because we see God face to face, we have proof and beleif becomes unnecessary. Until we are in Heaven, God willing, God is veiled in mystery and requires us to choose to believe in Him specifically and through His Son; rather than some abstract first cause. Belief is not proof, it is an act of Faith.

    Additionally, no one has ever provided evidence of the existence of Our God wherein evidence can hold up in the court of human reason. Of course, no one has provided evidence that He does not exist either. We know that an intelligent creator exists but we have to believe in the Christian God before we are given understanding by the power of the Holy Spirit. Through the Sacraments (mysteries) we can know God, but first we have to believe and before that we have to reason that Jesus is the Christ of God and Holy Mother Church is His body.

    I think we are trying to state the same truth and we just needed to clarify semantics and context. I hope I have made progress toward that. Let me know.

  • American Knight,

    I am not so sure that we are on the same page. There’s a field of study called natural theology and it looks into what man can reasonably deduce regarding God from nature alone, unaided by revelation. Man can know his existence as creator, his unchangeability, his eternity, his intelligence, and a number of other attributes of his relationship to creation, that is, of his life ad extra, outward.

    The Church teaches that it is no act of faith, and no act of faith is entailed, to believe that God exists. None. Rather, it is a rejection of reason to believe contrarily. The Church teaches that God’s existence can be proven. I understand your reasoning – it is the very air of our culture, but it is not the teaching of the Church. If you believe it is, you have only to furnish a supporting citation.

    “Proof” does not mean that belief can be compelled. A light can be turned on to blinding brightness, and a blind man will still not see it. Likewise, God’s existence can be – and is, according to the Church – self-evident and provable, but there may still be people who willfully reject it, or whose sight, whose reason, is blinded unwittingly by sin.

    I take it to mean that reason is what provides a belief in a god but belief in the One True God requires first His revelation and second our receptivity trough an act of faith.

    Here you are getting closer to the mark. We cannot know about God’s life ad intra – the Trinity, the Incarnation, His perfect joy and love, etc. Those require revelation by God Himself, and an act of faith by us.

    Proof eliminates doubt

    Would that that were so, my friend.

    Faith is no longer required because we see God face to face, we have proof and belief becomes unnecessary. Until we are in Heaven, God willing, God is veiled in mystery and requires us to choose to believe in Him specifically and through His Son; rather than some abstract first cause.

    Faith is directed toward knowing God fully – intimate union with him. It is not knowing his existence with certainty, nor about knowing those things that can be discerned from his creation.

    By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation. Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, (CCC #50).

    These words of yours:

    Additionally, no one has ever provided evidence of the existence of Our God wherein evidence can hold up in the court of human reason.

    make me think that you either haven’t read the arguments or are confusing the dismissiveness of our opponents with a lack of conclusiveness on the part of our apologists.

    We know that an intelligent creator exists but we have to believe in the Christian God before we are given understanding by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Now you are getting to it. The knowledge of the existence of an intelligent creator is not an act of faith. It is not included in what the Church has ever meant by faith.

  • Ryan,

    Thanks for engaging in this discussion. Please forgive my ignorance and thanks for indulging me. I am trying to understand.

    “The Church teaches that it is no act of faith, and no act of faith is entailed, to believe that God exists. None. Rather, it is a rejection of reason to believe contrarily. The Church teaches that God’s existence can be proven. I understand your reasoning – it is the very air of our culture, but it is not the teaching of the Church. If you believe it is, you have only to furnish a supporting citation.’

    I think it does not require faith to believe in god, especially a monotheistic God – but, how does that translate to the God of Israel? I used to be an atheist and logically came to the conclusion that God exists, but I did not know Him. As a student of history I concluded that the God of the Old Testament is the one God and it goes to follow that the Catholic Church is his only Church. Yet, even when I came back to the Catholic Church I did not know much about God, other than He Is. The rest had to be revealed through His Church and prayer – but I did not know how to pray. If He had not revealed Himself to Israel and not sent His Son then there would be no ‘proof’ of Him and I would be left like a Greek – knowing there is an uncaused first cause and knowing little to nothing about Who He Is.

    I know Him now. I have seen and felt His work in my life. I can say with certainty, and I can pray for endurance in that certainty, that I know God through His Son – personally. I also, know that knowledge was preceded by an act of faith, I had to believe first and before I could even bring myself to believing I had to reason that the belief was rational. So I am not so sure how I would have gotten to know God with out first believing Him.

    Knowing that, it seems logical to me that I cannot prove God to an honest atheist although you and I can have a discussion about Him with certainty. The difference is we know because we believe, the atheist doesn’t know because he does not. Even if he accepts the rationality of a god that does not mean he believes in the, one, Triune God of Christ, just a god.

    What am I missing?

  • American Knight,

    You are a better man than I.

    I think it does not require faith to believe in god, especially a monotheistic God – but, how does that translate to the God of Israel

    You’re right – it doesn’t. But even without knowledge of God as the great I-AM, without his self-disclosure to Abraham and his sons, we might have deduced with logical certainty a number of things about Him. For that matter, the Greeks did.

    His very act of creation gives proof of his existence and evidence and examples of to his nature – much more than an uncaused cause or some sort of primal force. We can know that He orders things, and therefore is immensely intelligent. We can know that he orders not only the natural world, but also human relations. We can know that he leaves us freedom, though we cannot from the fact of human freedom deduce with certainty its purpose. All that is a good deal more than a mere uncaused cause. None of this requires faith to believe – most of it was believed by most of the founding fathers, who tried to make a creed of it to replace traditional Christianity. It is called Deism.

    Now, what he has revealed to us through the prophets, and finally in Jesus Christ, is infinitely more. The prophets hinted, and Jesus has finally revealed to us the interior life of love that is God: the love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for each other. He has revealed to us our purpose: eternal union of love and joy with Him. He has also revealed the non-eternity of the universe: that it had a beginning and will have an end. These are the things that far surpass mere Deism, and we call these things the core dogmas of Christianity. They required revelation because we could not have figured them out just by having figured out that God exists, is intelligent, etc. They require faith because the self-disclosure of God can be walked away from in favor of contrary evidence. People see all the violence in the world as evidence that God cannot be good and loving; they see how people can be broken as proof that we are not free.

    They are wrong, but it’s pretty damned hard to prove it because they have so much sin and suffering to marshal as evidence. But none of their evidence really speaks to the existence of God; they make logical fallacy after logical fallacy to try to show that it does.

    Knowing that, it seems logical to me that I cannot prove God to an honest atheist although you and I can have a discussion about Him with certainty.

    There are different degrees of honesty and sincerity. A man might never tell another person a lie, all the while being himself deluded about the truth. This phenomenon happens most often when we speak about ourselves and about our relationships. That is how one spouse can think his marriage is ducky while the other feels it to be hell. We see the things we want to see, and we rarely really want to see our own weaknesses. Seeing weaknesses requires that we either carry them around with us, or else work to correct them.

    We are unified creatures, and our hearts, minds, and habits will never stray too far from each other. And we, like all animals, are subject to laws of decay and inertia. That’s why it’s important to distinguish between proving and convincing. A person will downplay evidence that requires change. How many black men were proved innocent but hanged for improprieties toward a white woman? How many people deny the humanity of the fetus while knowing full well that it cannot possibly be a fish?

    A thing can be very well proved without anyone ever being convinced. To be convinced requires an openness of the will to being convinced, to changing one’s mind, and with it, one’s heart and habits.

    I think the missing link in our discussion has been the difference between a thing being objectively proven true, and a person being convinced. It’s a sad fact of human nature that the two are not always connected in our outlook.

    So rehash of the Church’s teachings:

    (1) There are some important basics of God’s existence that can be known with logical certainty unaided by faith or grace;

    (2) For a thing to be proven is not the same as for even well-intentioned, generally sincere and upright people to be convinced – there are shadowy forces at work in all our hearts;

    (3) There are plenty of things that we can only know by God’s self-revelation followed by his gift of grace to enable our faith;

    (4) People receive revelation in an act of faith precisely to the degree that they are willing to change, to be changed, just as a sees a lit bulb to the precise extent that he is willing to open his eyes and have a fresh look at things.

  • Steve,

    We appreciate your charity in engaging in a constructive dialogue.

    Please continue to engage us in this debate.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,

    Tito

  • Thanks for clarifying. I doubt that I am a better man than you. I think we are both sincere and I am glad we had this discussion. If we are to always be prepared to defend the faith we have to really know what He Who gave us our faith wants us to defend.

    I think you are right that we were missing the difference between proven truth and conviction. I suspected we were engaged in a semantic difference.

    So I think we can reasonably conclude that belief in God requires no faith because it is rational and that to not-believe in God is quite insane. We can also conclude that belief in the God of Christ requires faith and that once we believe in Him we are given understanding of His revelation.

    It seems to be the difference between reason, faith and blind-faith. It is reasonable to have faith in God and He rewards that faith with knowledge. It is unreasonable to have blind-faith that God does not exist, in fact it might be insane.

    Have I got it?

  • Lol. Yeah, American Knight, I wouldn’t go quite so far as insane. Mistaken should probably suffice most cases, though in the cases of some of the more rabid New Atheists, maybe insane isn’t so far off. Lol.

  • “So I think we can reasonably conclude that belief in God requires no faith because it is rational and that to not-believe in God is quite insane. We can also conclude that belief in the God of Christ requires faith and that once we believe in Him we are given understanding of His revelation.”

    What you guys are still saying is not true at all. It is not rational to believe in a god- the only rational position is atheism, as there is no good evidence of any gods. Moreover, there is plenty of evidence that god believe is simply a psychological coping mechanism people have been using to deal with the world and their mental states.

    Also, the idea that you need to believe before you can understand is simply the cult position I was talking about again. You don’t actually gain understanding from the believing, you gain feelings that your beliefs are correct.

    I already understand that and agree that that is what happens to a cult member- that’s called brainwashing. Brainwashing is why so many rational people believe in irrational things like God.

    Many people brainwash themselves with techniques such as prayer, speaking in tongues (hyperventaliation), chanting, etc. Those are all proven brainwashing techniques.

  • Hi Steve,

    I am glad that you are back.

    We need to make a distinction here.

    The belief in a single intelligent, super being is the only rational position for the existence of the universe as it is. This is not some blind leap of faith it is a belief based on the only logical, reasonable, rational line of thought. Your belief is a negative belief, it requires a suspension of reason. Your answer to the reason for existence is NOT God. Yet, you offer no positive alternate reason for existence. That is irrational.

    I agree that believing in the God of Israel goes beyond reason because it requires receptivity to His revelation. a single omni-god is reasonable, God, Our Father and Jesus Christ His only begotten Son requires faith.

    Why does this faith have to precede understanding? Not because the Catholic Church is a brainwashing cult, rather, it is because the Catholic Church is a messy institution made up of sinners yet Christ is her head. What He requires is for us to believe in Him and then He gives us understanding by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is impossible to convey. I knew it intellectually and I was still not a believer. Once I became a believer I was given the understanding, nor by any man or church, but by the Spirit through the Church. It is the most powerful experience and it is more real than anything you have ever experienced.

    This requires the religion of an adult and the faith of a child. You have the intelligence of an adult with the knowledge of a child and a lack of faith.

    What have you got to lose by embracing the religion of your youth as an adult and what possible ill can you suffer by loving God?

    Try praying – it is not brainwashing, you are not going to brainwash yourself. Jesus is not Tony Robbins. Praying is communing and communicating with God. If He isn’t real then nothing will happen, if He is real then He might answer you – how cool would that be? You must hope that we are right and that atheism is a lie, right? Give it a shot. He Loves you.

  • Steve! Good to hear from ya again!

    Also, the idea that you need to believe before you can understand is simply the cult position I was talking about again. You don’t actually gain understanding from the believing, you gain feelings that your beliefs are correct.

    You see, that’s exactly what I was NOT saying. There are lots of things we need to believe in order to understand – but the existence of a single, creating God is not one of them. Jesus and all that, I grant you, takes faith. But to believe that there is an intelligent being who created the universe? Anyone can understand and see it who is open to understanding it.

    See, the problem with this sort of conversation is that it short-circuits itself. Allow me to explain.

    I have no proof that you exist. No evidence, really. Oh, but you sent me emails. Sure, sure, Steve. I know. But ANYONE might have sent thoooose. Even a computer program. Or I could be dreaming. Or maybe American Knight is really schizophrenic and interested in arguing with himself, so he’s created a “Steve” identity. The possibilities are endless. You just can’t prove you exist.

    But then, such a conversation partner will never believe anything that he doesn’t want to believe, and will always be able to come up with an alternate explanation to make the evidence go away.

    Now, I have no reason to believe that “Steve” is a mindgame or a phony. I do believe that you exist. But there are powerful reasons not to want to believe that God exists. Has it occurred to you that just as there are psychological causes prompting people to believe in God, there are also psychological causes prompting people to doubt or disbelieve in God?

    But that’s not the actual question, is it. The actual question is whether God – whatever he is like – exists. That hasn’t anything to do with psychology any more than whether elephants exist.

    Incidentally, it is St. Anselm, not St. Thomas Aquinas, as you said, who defined God into existence. Anselm’s argument, called the ontological argument, is admittedly fairly weak. To his credit, he never believed it was a trump card.

  • Wait. I’m confused. Are you saying that I’m Steve?

    That makes a lot of sense. I felt like someone else was using my PC and IP address and it turns out to be me. I must suffer from MPD. What an odd combination, a fallen, arrogant and disobedient Catholic sinner who seeks forgiveness and the face of God in Christ and an irrational persona that wants to deny that God exists simply to enjoy an empty life of material and sensual pleasure. How Quixotic.

    I feel queasy.

    God help me. god’s not gonna help you, he isn’t real. Christ save me. christ isn’t going to help you, he was a revolutionary, hippie, pacifist, social reformer and he died 2000 years ago. Mother Mary pray for me. Mary can’t pray for you she’s dead and she wasn’t the virgin mother of Jesus. Come Holy Spirit and illumine my mind. We don’t need a spirit to illumine our mind, our mind is its own illumination. Why’s it so dark in here? It isn’t dark your eyes have been closed by the oppressive catholic church. Open your eyes. Ah, that’s better, hey, why the heck is it so crowded in here? Why do I feel so alone with all these personalities or whatever they are?

    Resistance is futile. There is no me. There is only Borg . . . . . .

  • Lol. No, I’m not saying you’re Steve. I’m saying Steve is you. At least, as far as you can prove to my unwilling mind. Lolol.

  • “The belief in a single intelligent, super being is the only rational position for the existence of the universe as it is. ”

    That’s absolutely ridiculous and wrong. You don’t seem to have any understanding of logic. Filling in gaps of knowledge with “a magic creator being did it” is the uneducated and primative person’s stance.

    Now you know why atheists come down on religious people so much- they make up answers when they do not know them all. That’s about as ridiculous as it gets. Rational intelligent people realize that they cannot answer every question, and intelligent people also realize that having a made up answer like “there is a god that created the world” is inferior to having no answer at all. If you cannot provide evidence for your answer, it should be immediately rejected as silly.

    You are no different than a person who thinks thunder comes from a powerful being flying around in the sky. Before we understood the process of thunder and lightning, primative people made up ridiculous answers as to what they thought it was. However, that is simply because they were not intelligent thinkers. It took mankind a long time to realize that being superstitious is not the way to find objective truth- that’s why the scientific method was eventually created. To limit human bias and things like “God did it” answers, that are absolutely baseless.

    We don’t even have to go into your faith based section because your orginal premise to even start that post was completely flawed.

    It is not rational to believe that there was a creator of the universe, and you have failed in your attempt to support the argument that it is rational to believe in a god. Also, you have shown that you have no real understanding of logic.

  • Steve,

    God, whose necessary existence is demonstrated by St. Thomas Aquinas’ five arguments, is not a “god of the gaps.” We are not saying, “We do not know how lightning happens, so we’ll call however-it-happens God.” What we are saying, in essence, boils down to a few propositions:

    (1) Everything we observe in the natural world has a beginning and an end.

    (2) Things are not created by something of the same sort, but by something of a higher order of organization. For example, we make machines that can build other machines, say cars; but the cars are simpler than the factory car manufacturing systems, which are still simpler than the humans who invent them. That is, the human has more parts in more coherent organization, operating as a more complete, self-sustaining unity.

    (3) Either the universe began at some point, or else it is eternal. If it began at some point, before which it did not exist, then something of a higher order must have begun it.

    (4) If the universe did not come into being at some point, then it just always was – but there is no evidence of that, and the view is as dogmatic as ever a belief in God was, but it explains less.

    (5) We are not saying, “We don’t know how it came about, so it must have been God.” We are saying that if it is not eternal, then only something of an entirely higher order could have brought it about – something that existed before it and was not at all part of it and not subject to any of the conditions that the universe brings about. If there is another possibility – of a self-creating universe – that is also entirely beyond our observed experience, because we experience nothing in the universe that creates itself.

    So, while the universe may be self-creating, we cannot show that, and have no experience of such a phenomenon. While the universe might always have existed, nothing in the universe has such an infinite experience: not eagles, not electromagnetic waves, and now, thanks to physicists, we are reasonably sure that even matter as we know it hasn’t always existed.

    What we do experience all the time is the creation of things by other things of a higher order: nests by birds, waves by stars, houses by men.

    Is it completely irrational to suppose that the universe – the sum total of all things – came about in a way similar to the way in which all of those things came about?

    It might not be true, but is it so irrational?

    I mean, granted, Richard Dawkins thinks aliens from another universe, but then, that only pushes the question back, doesn’t it? Because one still has to wonder whence they came?

  • “If you cannot provide evidence for your answer, it should be immediately rejected as silly.”

    There’s no empirical evidence either way. So this would apply to atheism as well – it should be immediately rejected as silly. We don’t know the function or purpose of 96% of the matter/energy in the universe.

  • Long before I was a Christian, I could never rule out God’s existence. The idea that the universe popped out of nothing and created itself, is well, irrational, and as Ryan points out goes against everything we know about how time space and matter behave in the universe. Could there be some self-existent proto-matter or substance that defies are knowledge, from which the universe(s) and life sprang up? I suppose, but then that’s an act of faith, because such a thing defies what we know about the universe and cause and effect.

    Knowing what I know now, how so often supposition and speculation are substituted for science and fact, we are not talking about a few gaps of knowledge, but basically a crater that alot of people don’t want to admit exists, and has only gotten bigger as time goes by.

  • Cupofwrath,

    “Protomatter” isn’t an irrational leap of faith any more than anything else is. But it doesn’t explain the question of where it came from.

    I have to repeat myself. I do not believe in God because he explains things I do not know. The Catholic Church asserts that God’s existence – at least as a single, superintelligent Creator – is definitively knowable from reason; and not because he explains things, big or small, that we cannot explain. God is not used to fill in the gaps, the lacunae, or the craters in our knowledge. That’s not what he’s for and it’s not why we believe in him or know he exists.

    The example of “protomatter” makes the point well. If there is/was “protomatter”, there would still need to be something before, outside of, and of a higher order than the “protomatter” that brought it into being, just as with Dawkins’ aliens speculation.

    Either that, or the universe is eternal… which very well may be – but there is no evidence for that.

  • The nature of the world itself and its tendency toward disorder, along with the fact that there are no known naturalistic processes or scenarios that can explain it, is and remains evidence in favor of the existence of a creator.

    That is what the bible tells us:

    Rom 1:20 For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things made, both His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse.

    It’s certainly not the only evidence, as creationism is not the root of salvation, but faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen. The point being that creationists are not trying to use God to plug holes in an almost complete theory, but creationism remains an alternative to mostly bad science and speculation.

  • Whoa, whoa, whoa, Cupofwrath.

    That’s fine. I want it understood here and now, though, that I am NOT arguing for creationism – nor does the Catholic Church.

    In fact, the Church (and I, following her) argue that the first chapters of Genesis are primarily symbolic. The Church always has read it that way. The Church DOES NOT CLAIM THAT THE BIBLE IS A SCIENCE TEXTBOOK. Any such reading is not Catholic.

    Nor does the Church use the Bible to discuss, let alone settle, issues of natural science. That’s not what the Church does. It’s not what the Bible does.

    You are right, though, in observing that the natural tendency toward distintegration and disorder, in everything from molecules to mountains, makes it hard to explain the presence of evoluntary processes without something outside and beyond the natural order guiding those processes.

  • The author of the article makes a good point in that it often seems as though these neo-atheists are driven by deep personal hatred, especially for Christians. Alot of them feel that their ideology and humanism is the solution to the world’s problems, and religion is the enemy. It is more ideological and political than it is intellectual and rational.

  • Well, i don’t read it as a science textbook, but I don’t feel it contradicts good science either, provided it is rightly divided.

  • Cupofwrath,

    The Bible doesn’t contradict good science because good science and it speak to entirely different questions. The first chapters of Genesis no more speak to the processes by which God created the universe than they speak to the processes by which you get dressed in the morning.

    It’s just not what those chapters are about. They do not address questions about the natural order of material reality – which is what natural science does address. Natural science does not address questions about the moral order or other spiritual reality. The two do not contradict each other; and in this case, they do not even speak to each other.

  • So what do you suppose that its talking about…sports gambling, feminism, asbestosis? I would agree if you said that there are multiple layers to it, and the time scale may not be as clear as some people say, but at the end of the day it is clearly about “origins”.

    Exo 20:11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all which is in them, and He rested on the seventh day

    Psa 33:6 Through the Word of the Lord the heavens were made; and all their host were made by the breath of His mouth.

    Isa 45:12 I have made the earth, and created man on it. I stretched out the heavens with My hands; and I have set all their host in order.

    All of these verses indicate that God played a direct supernatural creative role in the universe and the things in it.

    I know that the Catholic church took a fairly safe official position on this, but there are plenty of Catholics who are creationists, Michael Behe is a molecular biologist who has done work that absolutely embarasses evolution. Just like with climategate, so called “scientists” are just as susceptible to bias and dogma and paradigms as everyone else.

  • Absolutely, Cupofwrath.

    Genesis means “origins,” and that’s what it’s about. I never asserted that God did not play a direct supernatural role in creating the universe. The natural universe could never have come into being unless something above/outside (super in Latin, “supernatural”) had created it. That has been my central point in my posts to Steve.

    My point to you has been different – that the book of Genesis is not about the mechanical processes of those origins – it is not science, nor is it history. This statement would be troublesome if either the human author(s) or the Holy Spirit intended it to be such, but there isn’t real evidence that they intended us to read it like we read a history of the American Revolution. Moreover, there isn’t evidence that anyone read it that way before the Protestant Reformation, and really, before the late 19th century.

    It is about Whom is responsible for creating the universe (God), what He had in mind when doing so (His plan), the order that He has built into it (the natural Law), and what screwed it all up (the devil and our sinful complicity with him), perhaps among other things.

    The Catholic Church hasn’t taken a “fairly safe official position” on this issue. It has continued to teach about this passage what it has taught since the earliest Church fathers – since Irenaeus and Augustine. It understands the passage in the same way our Lord did when he quoted it to criticize divorce (); that is, we use it as a text about the nature of creation and the moral life, not a primer on geology, history, or cosmology. We use it the same way that the medieval and ancient rabbis used it. We use it, judging by the Hebrew, in the way that the authors themselves intended.

    Of course scientists are susceptible to bias and dogma. We all are. I haven’t argued that. Please try to understand what I am saying, and not lump me in with darwinists.

    And of course there are Catholics who are creationists, just as there are Catholics who are abortionists and Catholics who are nihilists. They are all less Catholic for it. So? We do not have “official positions” on matters of faith and morals. We have only the perennial teachings of Christ and the Apostles, those who submit to them, and those who rebel but cannot bring themselves to walk away.

  • fair enough,
    My position is simply this: I believe of course in a natural world that is governed by laws of cause and effect, established by God. I also believe in a preeminent supernatural reality, such as angels and Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead.

    My opinion is that the bible supports the latter as the “mechanism” or direct cause of much, but not all, of the natural world, and I have never found any plausible scientific revelation that otherthrows that. If I did, I guess I would have to reconsider things.

  • Cupofwrath,

    I share your concerns in this matter. And while I certainly do not accuse Ryan of this, I have mentioned before what I see as a sometimes exaggerated effort on the part of some Catholics to establish themselves as credible in the eyes of atheistic materialists, who have, through the same academic process that our co-blogger Zach has brought up, create a “consensus” outside of which there is nothing but mockery and ridicule.

    Thus even allowing a little bit of creationism in the door is the equivalent to wearing yesterday’s fashion to the latest awards ceremony – everyone will laugh at you. This is the degree of subjectivism that has seeped into the debate.

    If one is truly investigating the matter and one concludes that “creation science” is false, that is fine. If one is acting out of an a priori belief that one must conform to the “scientific consensus”, which is established by a psychological process that I have little to no confidence in, then I am not impressed.

  • Also, Ryan,

    “The Church DOES NOT CLAIM THAT THE BIBLE IS A SCIENCE TEXTBOOK. Any such reading is not Catholic.”

    I have to question this as well. This is not the interpretation of the Church, but is there some sort of ex cathedra statement declaring that no Catholic may accept biblical literalism? In other words, it is a sin?

  • Joe: I can see on some level why the church position is what it is, as the jury continues to be out on a alot of this.

    My past experience with Theistic evolutionists is that it is convenient for them to take whatever the scientific establishment says as being correct, and force the bible conform to it. If one takes the time to question, alot of what is presented and accepted as science is supposition and speculation, just another one of the world’s religions.

  • BTW, is that Christopher Hitchens rotten decaying mouth pictured up top. It seems like he is as opposed to toothbrushes as he is to Christianity. (if its anyone else I apologize in advance).

  • Joe Hargrave,

    Good question. There’s nothing ex cathedra against biblical literalism, but there are very few things indeed that are ex cathedra. The catechism’s discussion of biblical interpretation is very good – though it’s weakness is that it’s a bit vague sometimes, vaguer than, say, it’s teaching on contraception or the bodily resurrection.

    For starters, check out: CCC 105-119, paying special attention to the last half of 107, 109, 110, 115, and 116. They’re not ex cathedra, but they are authoritative.

    A note on 116 is that the “literal” interpretation, as the paragraph explains it, is not what modern people with our modern assumptions take it to mean at face value when we read it, but what the intended, original author meant to convey when he actually wrote the letters (litera, in Latin) on the paper to his intended audience. The term “literal” is therefore a bit unfortunate for contemporary speakers of English. I believe “historical” is probably a more useful and accurate term for us to understand the CCC’s intent on this point.

    A great second source is Dei Verbum, Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. Especially see #12 of that document. Vatican II’s declaration on the matter isn’t a break with tradition, either. In 1943, Pius XII wrote Divino Afflante Spiritu, an encyclical encouraging precisely the sort of scholarship I was getting at above. In that document, check out #38-43 particularly.

    A good fourth source is the Pontifical Biblical Commission’s 1994 document entitled, “Interpretation of the Bible in the Church.” It is entirely unread by many (most?) Catholic exegetes who, unfortunately, have for fifty or sixty years been trained in a very bad “school” of thought that has little philosophical or theological background and all the presuppositions first of the modernists and now of the postmodernists.

    Modernists and postmodernists read the Bible in exactly the same way as fundamentalists/literalists. They just reject the Bible (as thus read) whereas fundamentalists interpret it. The tradition approach of the Church is almost completely unknown to both groups.

    I don’t imagine there’s anything sinful about biblical literalism (e.g., God made the earth in 6 24-hour days), but it is certainly way outside the parameters of Catholic teaching. It is an erroneous attitude, though I suspect those in the Church who hold that attitude do so in rather too much good faith to be guilty of much other than inadvertently buying into the fundamentalism that is the other half of American culture.

    Thanks for trusting my good faith, Joe – that’s a rarity on the web. I hope God strikes me down before a mock a person for being mistaken, or even for being foolish. Much better gently and clearly to correct such people when prudently possible. And I am certainly not in league with materialists or atheists – but let’s not sign on fundamentalists’ dotted lines simply because we agree with them on some moral issues.

    Nuance, hairsplitting, careful thought – whatever you want to call it – that’s been the Catholic way since St. Justin Martyr. Heck, since St. Paul.

  • Cupofwrath,

    Right. What I was getting at is that according to Genesis, God is the “doer” of creation, and I fully believe that. Nothing else makes sense. But the world being created in 6 24-hour periods is not the point of the first creation account, nor is it the intent or the teaching of the first creation account.

    There are all different sorts of writing. We make a serious mistake if we read a particular sort with an approach suited to a different sort. For instance, reading the newspaper, I take with me the basic attitude that says, “I am looking for facts. Here I will find some, but they will certainly be cluttered with the opinions and biases of the reporter. Other facts, though relevant, will be omitted either from negligence, malfeasance, or oversight – so I must account for the likelihood that the article will leave omissions in my knowledge that it might not advertise.”

    Now, if I take that basic mindset with me to sit down with John Donne or e. e. cummings, two of my favorite poets, you can see immediately how my presuppositions will be not only incorrect, but irrelevant. They will be as irrelevant as instructions for operating my dishwasher. That’s because newspaper articles, poetry, and operating instructions – though all writing and all perhaps in English – are very different sorts of writing, even to the point of using the same language and words but in very different ways. Likewise, words change meaning. King James II, when he saw St. Paul Cathedral in London rebuilt during his reign after the Great Fire, remarked that it was “awful and artificial.” Those are pretty bad insults, right? But not in his day. In his day, they meant “awe-inspiring” and “the results of craftsmanship, or artifice.” So even over time language changes meaning – and King James II lived well into the “modern English” period of our language – that’s not “old English” he’s speaking!

    Much of what is needed in the study of the Sacred Scriptures is a deep awareness of the language, culture and cultural understandings, history, and styles of writing in use at the time the sacred authors were being guided by the Holy Spirit to write the texts. Very often, just like King James II’s comments, the text was not intended to mean what we take it to mean based on our own understandings.

  • Ryan, you are mistaken about a few things in your last post:

    1) “if either the human author(s) or the Holy Spirit intended it to be such, but there isn’t real evidence that they intended us to read it like we read a history”

    How is there not any real evidence for this? The “obvious and literal” meaning of the text is that it relates historical events.

    2) “Moreover, there isn’t evidence that anyone read it that way before the Protestant Reformation, and really, before the late 19th century.”

    This is incorrect. The majority view of the Church until the last century was overwhelmingly “creationist,” or literal, including most of the Fathers, Sts. Augustine, Basil, and Aquinas, as well as most of the popes.

    3) “The Catholic Church hasn’t taken a “fairly safe official position” on this issue. It has continued to teach about this passage what it has taught since the earliest Church fathers – since Irenaeus and Augustine.”

    Is it true that Augustine believed the early chapters of Genesis to be figurative? Yes. Did he believe the earth was created in six days? No, he thought it took only one. He also thought that the earth was around 6,000 years old at the time that he lived. Theistic evolutionists frequently cite Augustine because he took a figurative hermeneutic to interpreting most of the Bible. They conveniently overlook the fact that he thought the world was created in one day rather than six, and that the earth was young. Aquinas entertains both the literal interpretation and Augustine’s and ends up leaning toward Augustine.
    However it is true that the Church has not dogmatically defined the issue.

    4) “We use it, judging by the Hebrew, in the way that the authors themselves intended.”

    I’m not sure where you are going here. For instance, the Hebrew word “yom” (“day”) is used hundreds of times in the OT, and in the singular sense it is used in Gen. 1 it always means a 24-hour period. There are other examples as well, but one should consider the audience that Genesis was written to; a tribe of largely unlearned nomads who would likely have had a simple understanding of anything they read. Complex allegory employed in the text to communicate non-literal truths would have been more confusing than anything. Allusion is supposed to help the reader understand, not confuse.

    5) “And of course there are Catholics who are creationists, just as there are Catholics who are abortionists and Catholics who are nihilists. They are all less Catholic for it.”

    A bit of a low blow here. Lumping creationists in with abortionists and nihilists? Harsh man, harsh.

  • Oops, I guess I meant your second-to-last post.

  • Ryan,

    Thanks for all of those sources.

    One thing I must comment on, however, is this:

    “The catechism’s discussion of biblical interpretation is very good – though it’s weakness is that it’s a bit vague sometimes, vaguer than, say, it’s teaching on contraception or the bodily resurrection.”

    This ‘weakness’, this vagueness, is not limited to the Catechism. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn’s treatment of the evolution controversy also leaves one with questions.

    It seems to me at times that the Church is walking on a tightrope, performing a delicate balancing act, and that the real message is almost indiscernible.

    It’s not that I think theistic evolution is irredeemable – it’s that it needs more work. Even Pope Benedict has said as much.

  • Matt Glassman,

    If you are Catholic, please read the citations I provided for Joe Hargrave. Please also consider, in that case, reading the Holy Father’s book In the Beginning.

    If you are not Catholic then there isn’t much for us to discuss about what the Church teaches it. Why the Church teaches it is a whole different question, which I do not believe I have addressed, and which I will not address tonight. It’s too late.

    I was not lumping creationists, abortionists, and nihilists together – except inasmuch as their doctrines all appear among members of the Catholic Church, and that those Catholics who hold any of those doctrines are less Catholic for holding them. That’s a fact. The Church rejects creationism and has never taken a literal “face-value” interpretation of Gen 1-3, among others. You made my point perfectly with Augustine. He did not, as you say, take that text as factually true at face-value, but did not believe that it was intended to be taken as such. Believing the earth was young is aside from the point – at that time, there was no reason to believe contrarily. What else was he to believe.

    That does not mean that Augustine was reading the beginning chapters of Genesis and taking them at “face-value”.

    Please reread my post, if you haven’t already done so carefully. What we today take to be the “face-value” of a text was not the “face-value” at the time they were written.

    Do you read Hebrew? I ask because you have asserted that every use of the singular of yom is a literal twenty-four hour period. Can you demonstrate that, or anything like it, or even cite an article that does? If that is factually true, it seems a neutral enough fact that all sorts of scholars should understand it. If it is true that yom (I presume as distinct from yamim, since you said “singular”) is never figurative, then Genesis 1 gets pretty kooky pretty quickly. The day and night, both as a twenty-four hour phenomenon and as a visual effect, occur because of the earth’s rotation around its orbit to face at regular intervals toward and away the sun. But in the Genesis account, read at face-value, the sun and moon are created on the fourth day, after daytime and evening on the third. Moreover, before this cycle began, to speak of twenty-four hour days is literally senseless. Lastly, right off the bat, I can point out that in the wisdom literature, the word “day” doesn’t usually mean a particular twenty-four hour period, or a twenty-four hour period at all – but rather, apparently, a “time” at which something happens, e.g., “on the day of battle” (Ps 138:3; 140:7; Prov 16:4; inter al).

    Genesis 1-3 is not, as you put it, “complex allegory.” In fact, that’s its beauty. It is a very simple story that has embedded within it a wealth of truth about God and the human condition that become intuitive to people who have drank in the story. Those meanings are lost when we get caught up trying to prove that Hebrew nomads in 2010 BC understood the story in the same way that we do now, in AD 2010. If you consider the audience, you will see that simple tribesmen the world over generally use allegories for spiritual truths, and are much more interested in them than in cosmology or geology for their own sake.

    What I meant about Genesis’ author giving no evidence that he intended the text to be read in what you call the “obvious and literal” way is that it is different than what one finds in any ancient history texts. St. Luke, for instance, tells us his method for assembling an historical account (Lk 1:1-4). St. Matthew tells us that he is going to tell us the details of Jesus’ birth (Mt 1:18). Both of them go out of their way to give us the historical context surrounding the birth of Christ. The author of Genesis does no such thing. Instead, he has daytime coming before the sun – which anyone looking at the sky can plainly see makes no sense. But they didn’t think he was a liar, or stupid – they thought that wasn’t his point – or else they wouldn’t have bothered listening.

    Let me ask you, Matt, why Gen 1-3 needs to be historically, factually true just as described? I mean, I know that and why accounts of the Resurrection must be about facts – or else our “faith is in vain,” (1 Cor 15:14). And I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I believe that we will all be raised on the last day to be judged by God. That is the heart of the Christian faith. But why must the daytime have come a day before the sun’s light?

    Do you believe it somehow discredits the Bible if its author did not mean what we think he meant when we first read it, but if he actually meant something different?

  • Oh, Joe, I absolutely agree.

    I think the Church does too. And that’s precisely because the Church isn’t in the business of speaking about the natural causes of things, but the supernatural causes. The theory of evolution no more phases or interests her than the heliocentric theory of the solar solar system.

    Inasmuch as these things are used to advance ideologies hostile to the faith, they must be put back in their place or even (if they are false) debunked.

    Otherwise, what do I (or the Church) care about the theory of evolution? Great scientific theory. Fine. Explains lots of data. Leaves some questions. Just like every other scientific theory. But let’s not make an ideology about God from some old bones. Let’s certainly not pretend that the scientific method can explain everything or tell the purpose of life.

    On the point of biblical interpretation, I believe the Catechism’s vagueness is because it does not want to commit (or seem to commit) either a particular interpretation of a particular biblical passage – the Church very rarely does that. Much more often, she rules out particular interpretations of particular passages as being contrary to the apostolic faith. Consequently, the Catechism refrains from using a particular example. Without a particular example, it’s all gonna seem general and abstract, i.e., vague.

    The Holy Father’s book does very much the sort of thing that the Catechism discusses, and it does so using an example – Gen 1-3. I spent a few years in a conservative/traditional seminary studying for the priesthood. In the Beginning is one of the texts that we used for protology and Christian anthropology. I encountered it in our class on the Pentateuch.

    You’re a good man, Joe, and it’s a good blog y’all’ve got here. (Yes, I know I just double contracted in writing. I reserve that right.)

    It’s time for bed.

  • I don’t think I can comment on this thread anymore… that picture is really starting to gross me out.

  • Ryan,

    The language of Gen. 1 denotes the sun taking over the administration of the light as a type of governorship. Yours is a frequent objection put forth by theistic evolutionists which really shouldn’t give us much trouble. The light is distinct from the sun (a la Rev. 21:23), but the sun was created to rule over the light of the day.

    Augustine and the Church Fathers would have known nothing of the theory of evolution, but they would have been familiar with Greek Atomism, which posited an old earth, and they obviously did not choose to subscribe to it. Again, I’m not sure why you would choose to cite him- what he believed was even farther from your position than mine is.

    Why does it have to have occurred in 24 hour periods? I don’t know, I’m not the creator, ask Him. All I know is that that’s what the Spirit inspired the writer to communicate. He even went so far as to specify what kind of day he was talking about: “And there was evening and there was morning, one day.”

    The real question is this: Why would we read anything other than historical writing when that’s the genre of the text? What is there contained in Gen. 1-11 that suggests it is anything other than historical? If the writer wanted to communicate whatever you allege him to be saying then why did he not simply write that instead of giving us a sequence of events that reads just like a history?

  • Ryan,

    I never claimed that Augustine took Gen. 1 at face value. In fact I said he interpreted most of Scripture allegorically. By the way, the fact that the Church hasn’t dogmatically ruled on this issue means that is is untrue that “The Church rejects creationism.”

    In fact, every statement made by the Church herself, or prominent members of the Church has been either vague, or in explicit support of creationism, with opinions ranging between those two poles.

    Also, and please don’t take this as rude, but perhaps you should consult St. Ephrem or St. Basil’s interpretation of the matter before you make remarks accusing creationists as being Catholic only to the extent that abortionists and nihilists are.

  • Matt,

    I didn’t say that you said St. Augustine took Gen 1 at face value. My words were:

    He did not, as you say, take that text as factually true at face-value, but did not believe that it was intended to be taken as such.

    When I wrote, “as you say,” I might have more clearly stated “As you wrote, Augustine did not…” My apologies for the ambiguous phrasing. I didn’t say that he believed evolution or denied God was the Creator.

    I don’t deny that God is the Creator who made the universe from nothing. I affirm that.

    Again, I did not write that creationists are Catholic only to the extent that abortionists and nihilists are. I wrote:

    And of course there are Catholics who are creationists, just as there are Catholics who are abortionists and Catholics who are nihilists. They are all less Catholic for it.

    That’s different and it means a different thing that what you save I’ve written:

    creationists as being Catholic only to the extent that abortionists and nihilists are.

    In your (the second) statement attempting to recapitulate my statement, it sounds as if I’ve said creationists are no more Catholic than abortionists or nihilists. In fact, my statement said that creationism (perhaps I ought to have written “biblical literalism”) is just as much a defect in faith as those other ideologies. Now, granted creationists share many moral stances with us that abortionists do not; but so do Mormons.

    My statement means that, just as nihilism is alien to the Catholic faith, and so is abortionism (for it is an ideology), so is creationism. It does not mean that creationists are as bad as abortionists. By creationism, let us be clear, I do not mean that belief in God as the eternal deity who created the world at the beginning of time, sustains it throughout time, and will remake the world at the end of time. That is Catholic faith. I mean, and you seem to mean, a literalistic reading of Gen 1-3. Imposing a literalistic interpretation upon Gen 1-3 (among others) is foreign to the Catholic faith, and a novelty. It is an influence of fundamentalist Protestantism just as much as the creeping influence among American Catholics of rapture theories.

    I need to cut off this conversation because it’s getting heated and defensive. I don’t know if you’re Catholic, but if you are, I really recommend reading the authoritative church documents that I cited; they do a better job making the point than I can.

  • I’m sorry if I sounded heated or defensive, I never meant that (sorry, can’t type tone!).

    I have to say that I disagree with you that a literal (not literalistic…whatever you mean by that) understanding of Genesis 1-3 is not foreign to the Catholic Church, and is in fact what the traditional understanding of the Church has been until the advent of Darwinism and “Higher” Criticism. And while I haven’t read ALL of the documents you cited, I have read enough recent documents addressing the subject to guess what they might include: more vague statements about how we need to be open to new research, and how science doesn’t conflict with faith.

    I am Catholic, and I have taken the liberty of compiling a short list of statements made by various Catholic figures which I will include below:

    Exodus 20:11 “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it”

    Mark 10:6 “But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female.”

    185 “the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that.” –Origen, Against Celsus, 1.19, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 4:404

    ~350 “No one should think that the Creation of Six Days is an allegory; it is likewise impermissible to say that what seems, according to the account, to have been created in the course of six days, was created in a single instant, and likewise that certain names presented in this account either signify nothing, or signify something else. On the contrary, one must know that just as the heaven and the earth which were created in the beginning are actually the heaven and the earth and not something else understood under the names of heaven and earth, so also everything else that is spoken of as being created and brought into order after the creation of heaven and earth is not empty names, but the very essence of the created natures corresponds to the force of these names.” –St. Ephrem the Syrian (Commentary on Genesis, ch. I)

    ~350 “Although both the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, still both the day and the night of the first day continued for 12 hours each.” –St. Ephrem the Syrian (Comm. on Genesis, ch. I)

    354 “Some hold the same opinion regarding men that they hold regarding the world itself, that they have always been . . . . And when they are asked, how, . . . they reply that most, if not all lands, were so desolated at intervals by fire and flood, that men were greatly reduced in numbers, and . . . thus there was at intervals a new beginning made. . . . But they say what they think, not what they know. They are deceived . . . by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6,000 years have yet passed.” –Augustine, The City of God, 11.3

    ~360 “That Paradise was closed and that a Cherubim was commanded to prevent man from entering it by a flaming sword: of this we believe that in visible fashion it was indeed just as it is written, and at the same time we find that this occurs mystically in every soul.” –St. Macarius the Great (Seven Homilies, IV, 5)

    ~370 “There is nothing truer than this, that each plant either has seed or there exists in it some generative power. And this accounts for the expression “of its own kind.” For the shoot of the reed is not productive of an olive tree, but from the reed comes another reed; and from seeds spring plants related to the seeds sown. Thus, what was put forth by the earth in its first generation has been preserved until the present time, since the species persisted through constant reproduction.” –St. Basil (Hexaemeron, V,2.)

    ~370 “Those who do not admit the common meaning of the Scriptures say that water is not water, but some other nature, and they explain a plant and a fish according to their opinion. They describe also the production of reptiles and wild animals, changing it according to their own notions, just like the dream interpreters, who interpret for their own ends the appearances seen in their dreams. When I hear grass, I think of grass, and in the same manner I understand everything as it is said, a plant, a fish, a wild animal, and an ox.” –St. Basil (Hexaemeron, IX, 1)

    ~370 “The nature of existing objects, set in motion by one command, passes through creation without change, by generation and destruction, preserving the succession of the species through resemblance until it reaches the very end. It begets a horse as the successor of a horse, a lion of a lion, and an eagle of an eagle; and it continues to preserve each of the animals by uninterrupted successions until the consummation of the universe. No length of time causes the specific characteristics of the animals to be corrupted or extinct, but, as if established just recently, nature, ever fresh, moves along with time.” –St. Basil (Hexaemeron, IX, 2.)

    ~379 “That which reasons, and is mortal, and is capable of thought and knowledge, is called man equally in the case of Adam and of Abel, and this name of the nature is not altered either by the fact that Abel passed into existence by generation, or by the fact that Adam did so without generation.” -St. Gregory of Nyssa (Answer to Eunomius, Second Book, p. 299 in the English Eerdmans edition.)

    ~379 What of Adam? Was he not alone the direct creature of God? Yes, you will say. Was he then the only human being? By no means. And why, but because humanity does not consist in direct creation? For that which is begotten is also human. -St. Gregory Nazianzen (Third Theological Oration, On the Son, ch. XI)

    ~381 “They who make Unbegotten and Begotten natures of equivocal God’s would perhaps make Adam and Seth differ in nature, since the former was not born of flesh (for he was created), but the latter was born of Adam and Eve.” -St. Gregory Nazianzen (Oration on the Holy Lights, XII)

    ~386 “As of the earth He said only: Let it bring forth-and there appeared a great variety of flowers, grasses, and seeds, and everything occurred by His word alone; so also here He said: Let the waters bring forth… and suddenly there appeared so many kinds of creeping things, such a variety of birds, that it is impossible even to enumerate them with words.” –St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on Genesis, VII, 3)

    ~386 “When you hear that ‘God planted Paradise in Eden in the East,’ understand the word ‘planted’ befittingly of God: that is, that he commanded; but concerning the words that follow, believe precisely that Paradise was creted and in that very place where the Scripture has assigned it.” -St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on Genesis 13:3).

    ~735 “The earliest formation (of man) is called creation and not generation. For creation is the original formation at God’s hands, while generation is the succession from each other made necessary by the sentence of death imposed on us on account of the transgression.” -St. John Damascene (On the Orthodox Faith, II, 30)

    1215 “from the beginning of time and by His omnipotent power made from nothing creatures both spiritual and corporeal, angelic, namely, and mundane, and then human, as it were, common, composed of spirit and body.” -Lateran 4

    1860 “Our first parents were formed immediately by God. Therefore we declare that … those who … assert … man … emerged from spontaneous continuous change of imperfect nature to the more perfect, is clearly opposed to Sacred Scripture and to the Faith.” –Council of Cologne

    1870 “If anyone does not confess that the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and corporal, as regards their whole substance, have been created by God from nothing, let him be anathema.” –Vatican I

    1870 “God … who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human.” –Vatican I

    1880 “We record what is to all known, and cannot be doubted by any, that God, on the sixth day of creation, having made man from the slime of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life, gave him a companion, whom He miraculously took from the side of Adam when he was locked in sleep.” –Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum Divinae Sapientiae

    1909 “Whether the various exegetical systems which have been proposed to exclude the literal historical sense of the three first chapters of the Book of Genesis, and have been defended by the pretense of science, are sustained by a solid foundation? — Reply: In the negative.” –Pontifical Biblical Commission (Question 1)

    1909 “Whether, when the nature and historical form of the Book of Genesis does not oppose, because of the peculiar connections of the three first chapters with each other and with the following chapters, because of the manifold testimony of the Old and New Testaments; because of the almost unanimous opinion of the Holy Fathers, and because of the traditional sense which, transmitted from the Israelite people, the Church always held, it can be taught that the three aforesaid chapters of Genesis do not contain the stories of events which really happened, that is, which correspond with objective reality and historical truth; but are either accounts celebrated in fable drawn from the mythologies and cosmogonies of ancient peoples and adapted by a holy writer to monotheistic doctrine, after expurgating any error of polytheism; or allegories and symbols, devoid of a basis of objective reality, set forth under the guise of history to inculcate religious and philosophical truths; or, finally, legends, historical in part and fictitious in part, composed freely for the instruction and edification of souls? — Reply: In the negative to both parts.” –PBC (Q. 2)

    1909 “Whether in particular the literal and historical sense can be called into question, where it is a matter of facts related in the same chapters, which pertain to the foundation of the Christian religion; for example, among others, the creation of all things wrought by God in the beginning of time; the special creation of man; the formation of the first woman from the first man; the oneness of the human race; the original happiness of our first parents in the state of justice, integrity, and immortality; the command given to man by God to prove his obedience; the transgression of the divine command through the devil’s persuasion under the guise of a serpent; the casting of our first parents out of that first state of innocence; and also the promise of a future restorer? — Reply: In the negative.” -PBC (Q. 3)

    1909 “Whether, presupposing the literal and historical sense, the allegorical and prophetical interpretation of some passages of the same chapters, with the example of the Holy Fathers and the Church herself showing the way, can be wisely and profitably applied? — Reply: In the affirmative.” -PBC (Q. 6)
    note: To be fair, the other questions of the PBC allowed for the investigation of the possibility of “yom” meaning more than a 24 hour period, and also admitted that Gen. 1 was not written in strictly scientific language.

    1928 “the evolution of species is impossible, even as a hypothesis… it openly contradicts the sacred text, and the universal opinion of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.” –Cardinal Lepicier (De Opere Sex Dierum)

    1950 “How are we to safeguard the unmistakably clear biblical account or testimony telling us that the body of the first man became alive through God’s breathing upon it, if, as the evolutionists claim, it [that body] was already alive before this.” -Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini (Responsabilita dei paleoantropologi cattolici” in Osservatore Romano, June 3, 1950)

    1950 “Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion [polygenism] can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.” (Pius XII, Humani Generis, 37 and footnote refers to Romans 5:12-19; Council of Trent, Session V, Canons 1-4)

    1950 “The first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes…” –Pius XII (Humani Generis)

    Again, this is only a short list and is by no means exhaustive. However, it captures the “mood” of the Church concerning the theology of origins. And yes, before you say it, I realize that none of these are dogmatic, but it certainly is telling how specific these references are compared to how vague the selections are which theistic evolutionists generally use to open the window for evolution and old-earth.

    Hopefully this will finally settle things.

  • Uh, no, Matt, it doesn’t settle things.

    For starters, you didn’t get that all thought up and typed in during the ten minutes between when I posted and when you did. You clearly have a pre-fab list you carry around for the topic.

    Secondly, only one of your Vatican citations, numbered as 1909 (PBC Q.2) really supports your position – the one replying doubly negative. The others do not mean, I think, what you think they mean. For example, the question immediately following it, lists off and affirms what are clearly a set of “morals of the story.” It does not affirm the creation of the world in six 24-hour periods, you will note.

    Whether they are dogmatic or not is almost aside from the point. Some of them, I am thinking especially of the one that you number 381, are clearly irrelevant – the author wasn’t at all writing on our topic. Nazianzen is here arguing about the substance of the Logos. He takes Genesis’ account of creation for granted, and primarily because he is interested in differentiating creation from Creator, and putting Christ on the Creator side of things, whereas Arians had Him as a creature. He doesn’t take Genesis literally as creationists do – he rejects the idea of the eternity of matter/world – as all Christians ought – because that imputes divinity to the creature. I’ve read him, and not just a stray quote.

    I have to say that I disagree with you that a literal (not literalistic…whatever you mean by that)

    makes me think that you really do not understand the passages. “Historical/literal sense,” going back to St. Augustine, does not mean what you take it to mean. It means “the meaning intended by what the historical writer wrote.” It does not mean, and has never meant, “a literal history,” or else the psalms, among others, could never have a “historical/literal sense,” since they are clearly (for the most part) not intended to be histories, though they are set in historical contexts.

    I have consulted St. Ephraim modestly, both in translation and in Syriac, which I studied in graduate school. Basil I have only read in translation, because my Greek is painfully slow and his Greek is painfully elegant.

    Matt, I really suggest you read the documents I suggested, and consider the questions I asked. To wit,

    Let me ask you, Matt, why Gen 1-3 needs to be historically, factually true just as described? I mean, I know that and why accounts of the Resurrection must be about facts – or else our “faith is in vain,” (1 Cor 15:14). And I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and I believe that we will all be raised on the last day to be judged by God. That is the heart of the Christian faith. But why must the daytime have come a day before the sun’s light?

    These things are not easy. I am happy that you know yom in Hebrew. I also asked if you read Hebrew. I do. It is an important and relevant question. How can someone argue to understand a text when they cannot read it except in translation? Who would give ten minutes’ consideration to a Japanese “professor of Shakespeare” who couldn’t even read English, and only read Hamlet in translation?

    I ask you these things, not to demean you, but because there is a LOT of information out there – that you haven’t even read the foundational documents of the Church’s method of interpreting scripture – documents that liberals and progressives of all stripes ignore or hate, yet still want to lecture about how the Church interprets or should interpret the Scriptures… well, it’s a bit cheeky, to be frank.

    My background is that after taking a degree in Classical History, cum laude, I spent three and a half years in a seminary noted for its orthodoxy, which I loved. As of now, I am on break from doctoral studies in a leading Catholic biblical studies program – where I got myself into more than a little hot water for criticizing the Higher Criticism.

    On the other hand, you don’t get some basic distinctions – like between the literal sense and literalistic interpretation. You confuse historical (which is to say literal) with literalistic interpretation. You quote sources, the contexts of which you don’t seem to be aware, and in some cases whose authors don’t support your interpretation. For pity’s sake, you quote St. Ephraim who says the night and day were each twelve hours – which is much more than Genesis says – without even seeming to be aware that the man was a poet. A poet. An excellent theologian, and a doctor of the Church, but not a systematic one – certainly not an infallible one (and yes, the point is perfectly relevant and not at all trivial). I can email you, if you like, some of my translations of some of his poetry.

    Now, I apologize to you for sounding snooty, and I am sure I do. I am not hauling out my weak little credentials to try to settle some fight on the basis of my “authority.” I haven’t got any. But I have got reasons, and I’ve got authoritative Church documents that are only a bit vague, but not really so much – they just don’t agree with you, is all. You haven’t got so much though. I am irritated with myself for staying up late to reply to your cut-and-paste citations, when I have to work in the morning. That is my fault.

    Look, brother Matt, just because the Higher Critics were colossal asses and closet/open atheists – and they were – I know, because I studied under some of the last of them, doesn’t mean that all of their tools and conclusions were inimical to the Faith. Just like Protestant fundamentalists, though they be by-and-large monumental simpletons when it comes to theology, and they are – doesn’t mean that they are immoral or false in all their way of life.

    You have a real passion for these things that I do not. I admire that. I hope you will pursue it in serious study. Another book I can recommend that is very interesting, though technical and difficult, is Opening Up the Scriptures, edited by Jose Granados, including contributions by Joseph Ratzinger.

    Now I am going to bed, and I really don’t anticipate having time or energy to respond to this topic tomorrow. Maybe the next day, if you can answer the questions I linked above, or read some of the authoritative, if difficult, documents I’ve linked, and spare me the cut-and-paste. The whole thing has certainly derailed from the initial thread. I apologize for being a colossal ass. Good night.

  • I guess you can call the list “pre-fab” if you want. After all, I did put it together before tonight, and simply out of curiosity. I’m not sure how that discredits it though. And if you can’t see how they refute your position and prove that your claims regarding the Church’s position on creationism, then I suggest you go back and read through them again.
    The fact that the authors of the quotes were not speaking directly of evolution is also irrelevant. Enough can easily be discerned from the citations to undermine your claims. For instance, I’m baffled as to how Augustine stating plainly that the Earth is not yet 6,000 years old doesn’t contradict what you have said. You have obviously skimmed the list carelessly.

    “Historical/literal sense,” going back to St. Augustine, does not mean what you take it to mean. It means “the meaning intended by what the historical writer wrote.” It does not mean, and has never meant, “a literal history,”

    I understand what it means. It’s my position that “a literal history” is what Moses intended to communicate.

    “You confuse historical (which is to say literal) with literalistic interpretation.”

    No I don’t, see above.

    “For pity’s sake, you quote St. Ephraim who says the night and day were each twelve hours – which is much more than Genesis says – without even seeming to be aware that the man was a poet. A poet.”

    If Genesis doesn’t say this then I can’t imagine what “and there was evening and there was morning, one day” means. Moses used terminology to communicate the common notions of all of these ideas. And, if this is not what he meant then there is certainly nothing in the text to suggest otherwise.
    Whether or not Ephrem was a poet makes no difference, and I defy you to show me something from your “authoritative texts” to match the specificity of his (or St. Basil’s) comments.
    To suppose that a poet was incapable of effective scriptural interpretation because of his experience as poet would be a logical fallacy, one that is certainly below a scholar with such an extensive and impressive resume as yours (sorry, couldn’t resist). In fact, Ephrem, being poet, teacher, and deacon would seem like an ideal candidate to read the text from both the poetic (if you suppose Gen. 1-3 to be) and theological vantage points.

    “Let me ask you, Matt, why Gen 1-3 needs to be historically, factually true just as described?”

    It depends on what you mean by “need.” If you are referring to why God chose to create in this fashion, then I don’t know. If you are referencing my (and the Church’s traditional) interpretation of Gen. 1-3 then I would simply direct you to the text itself because that’s what it says.
    The burden of proof is on you to prove otherwise because you are proposing that it means something other than what the text says at face-value. Viewing the text as Augustine did (creation instantaneously a few thousand years ago) is one thing, but to simply read the text and then stretch it to include billions of years and an evolutionary development of the human body is preposterous. Finding anything like that in Gen. 3 is pure eisegesis. And to say that Moses didn’t actually comment on the issue in Gen. 1-3 is just as bad since he thought enough to include specifying qualifiers like “evening and morning,” and “according to their (its) kind(s) in the text.

    Also, I did not mean to imply that the tools of the historical-critical method were useless. Certainly they are helpful when one understands their limitations.

    I have read most of the Church’s documents on the interpretation of scripture and can’t find anything in them to rule out a literal interpretation of Gen. 1-3 I think you are confusing the Church’s willingness to entertain scientific research’s implications on scripture with an outright acceptance of current theory. I never meant to “lecture,” just wanted to correct your erroneous claims of the Church denying creationism. Again, I would be interested in you showing me an “authoritative” citation that does this in anything other than vagaries.

    Literal, literalistic, call it what you like, but at the end of the day you’re still the one who is faced with demonstrating how Moses meant something other than the words he wrote in Gen. 1-3. I really am curious to see how you do so, considering the specificity of the text concerning the events of Creation Week.

    Oh, and I do read a little Hebrew though I am by no means an expert.

    I appreciate the offer for some of St. Ephrem’s poetry. I must admit I’m a bit of a philistine when it comes to poetry but you can send it to mghansolo@hotmail.com and I will take a look.

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